The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game (Part 1: Cooperative Murder Battleship)
Welcome to The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game! In these blogs, I’ll share a few of the details on how this project came together. I hope you enjoy this inside look at how the board game was designed and developed. Make sure to check out Dead by Daylight: The Board Game on Kickstarter!
In April of 2021, our team at Level 99 Games was getting into Dead by Daylight. The All-Kill chapter had just been released, and it was the video game that we talked about at board game nights. The gameplay sounded interesting, and I too got sucked into the game. Between matches, I started writing the first notes on what would become the official Dead by Daylight board game.
That game looks very different than what we would eventually create. The path we took to get there was an interesting one.
In designing a game, the first thing to nail down is the experience you’re going to create. A good place to start is to reverse the question you’re asking: If Dead by Daylight the video game were based on a board game, what kind of game would that be? That’s the game we set out to design.
I imagine that this primordial Dead by Daylight board game must be something like the horror version of Jumanji. Clearly a board game, but one with a dark tone and with somewhat old-fashioned mechanics which are familiar to anyone who has participated in a board game before. It has cards that are weathered and feature simple icons, dice with a slightly odd design, and figures that inspire a bit of unnerving terror.
We also needed to think about who was going to play this game. There are a lot of very large board games out there, and all the best video games especially seem to spawn large board game adaptations.
However, having participated in a few of these big projects from the outside, I felt that playability was more important than spectacle. We wanted a game that could hit the table. Something you could teach, play, and clean-up in under an hour. A game that would become a staple of late October nights, rather than a spectacle that collects dust on the shelf.
So rather than design a gigantic game for a select group of collectors, we set out to build Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game as something the average Dead by Daylight player would be interested in owning and playing with their friends. Furthermore, we wanted it to be something light-to-medium weight in terms of complexity—deep enough for players who enjoy the video game, but approachable even if your only board game experiences are Monopoly and Risk.
Early versions of the game were pitched as “Cooperative Murder Battleship”, in which Survivors and Killers used hidden information and false cues to confuse the other side while they pursued their objectives. After many trials and errors, these prototypes evolved into the final game that you see today.
Here’s a look at how some of the original components measure up to their final counterparts.
As you can see, some things changed quite a bit, while others remained quite a bit the same. Because we had a clear vision of the game’s experience and play style right at the start, many of the groundwork designs were able to carry all the way to production, despite changing mechanics.