Kasper Lapp on the origins of his Spiel de Jahres-nominated Magic Maze, a game played in total silence

Kasper Lapp
Kasper Lapp’s first published game is a unique proposition.

Titled Magic Maze, the co-op game sees players step into the roles of a mage, a barbarian, an elf and a dwarf who are forced to go rob the local shopping mall for all the necessary equipment they need for their next adventure, and then escape the mall together.

Each player boasts their own exclusive action (one may only be able to move a character north; another may only be able to move a character west). Complicating proceedings is the fact that most of the game is played in silence, and players are largely not allowed to give each other any visual clues. So if one character needs to move north to escape, but the player with that ability is busy, much squirming and tension arises.

Magic Maze is Lapp’s first game, but it’s already been nominated for the sector’s most prestigious accolade: the Spiel de Jahres. We caught up with the Danish designer to talk about how he turned his very complicated first prototype into something more suitable for a broad audience.

How did you break into the world of game design?
Magic Maze is my first published game, and also the first one I tried to get published, but I have developed a lot of games before as a hobby.

I didn’t want to publish before I was sure I had a game worth publishing. With Magic Maze, I finally felt I did, and luckily there were a group of Danish board game designers who could guide me through the next steps to find a publisher.

Can you give us an insight into the development process behind Magic Maze?
I just wanted to make a silly game for a design competition and I thought ‘what if the players had to move some pawns in co-operation?’ Then I realised that to make that challenging, it would have to be done in silence. And when I tried it, I found that it wasn’t just silly, but actually a lot of fun.

The first version of the game was very complicated. It was about robots on a spaceship that had to defend themselves against aliens. It was fun, but way too complex to reach a broad audience. Sit Down made me aware of this and asked me if I could make a simpler version. So I threw everything away except the core concept and designed a new game from scratch.

Magic Maze
Magic Maze is up for the Spiel de Jahres award. How does it feel getting this kind of recognition for your first published game?

Surreal!

What games do you currently enjoy playing? And do you play your own game much?
I enjoy co-operative games the most, especially the real-time ones, and all kinds of small games. I seldom play games that last more than half an hour, unless there’s something very special about it.

I currently play Magic Maze a lot because I’m working on an expansion. I have actually never been very good at the game, but I have improved somewhat over time!

What do make of the current state of creativity in the world of game design? Are we in a good place?
I think we are in a very good place. Board games are going in a lot of different interesting directions at the same time. There’s so much creativity and innovation – and so much fun to be had.

I also feel like I am in a good place in Copenhagen, where a lot of energetic board game designers are making wonderfully creative games at the moment.

What advice would you give to anyone out there with an idea for a game but no idea what to do next?
Make a prototype and get playing as soon as possible. You’ll never know if your idea works, before you play. And don’t waste a minute trying to make your prototype beautiful. Make it ugly, but functional. It’s much easier to make changes to an ugly game, than to a pretty one.

When you design, your most precious tool will be the scissor (metaphorically speaking). You need to cut, cut, cut, and that is so much harder to get yourself to do when you have spend a lot of time on the graphics.

Also, keep the game as simple as possible. If you have a great idea, don’t add twenty other great ideas – that will just make a mess. Only add what’s absolutely necessary to make your core idea work.

Can you give us any details about the next game we’ll be playing from you?
Hopefully the Magic Maze expansion should be out in time for Essen. Apart from that, I’ve currently signed three other games coming out next year:

  • A real-time cooperative game where you’ll be talking (or shouting) a lot – the complete opposite of Magic Maze.
  • A very simple party deduction/bluffing game. Anyone can play within a minute, but it still has depth.
  • Hivemind, which is the original version of Magic Maze – the one on a spaceship with aliens. It’s going to be “Magic Maze for hardcore gamers”.

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