We started our Video to Tabletop series in 2019, looking at how some franchises transition from video games to the tabletop. In this article, we’re going to look at The Secret Neighbour Party Game produced by Arcane Wonders, which is based on the video game franchise Hello Neighbor. We’ll look at what the product is and also talk to Juliana and Ariel the games' designers and Robert Geistlinger Director of Sales & Marketing at Arcane Wonders, about how they handled bringing the Hello Neighbor feel to the tabletop.
In our Video to Tabletop articles, we look into the development process of making a video game into a tabletop game. We’ll talk about why more and more IPs are moving into the tabletop genre. We’ll look at video game IP tabletop games and talk to development teams about the difficulties of bringing a video game to life on the tabletop.
The Secret Neighbor Party Game
The Secret Neighbor Party Game is a social deduction game for 5 to 10 players. Players randomly allocate roles using character cards and are either kids trying to stop the unusual going's on, or the neighbors, trying to stop them. There are 2 neighbors if there are 5 to 7 players and 3 neighbors in an 8 to 10 player game. Once roles are allocated, players deal out object cards and the game begins.
The Secret Neighbor Parrty Game moves between 2 phases, Trading, and Powers until the game is won by either side. The kids team wins if their players use all 3 keys to unlock the doors. The neighbors win if anyone on their team uses a key. The kids can use objects to try and find out who among them is a secret neighbor, but to use them, they must have a matching set of 3. Players are allowed to trade cards they have, 1 for 1 during the trading phase, and attempt to get 3 of the same card to use during the power phase.
There are 5 different items, all with different abilities that can be used during the Power phase. The Magnet for example lets you take a key that hasn't been claimed from the central pile yet, or steal a key if they've all be claimed. The Flashlight lets you look at another player's hand of object cards and steal one, and the Lever card lets you stop another player using their set of 3 object cards, and you get to use it instead.
Once all of the keys have been found by players, the group can vote for each player holding a key at any time during the Power phase, to use that key. If a majority vote in favor of using the key, and that player is on the kid's team, play continues until all 3 keys have been used by kids. If that player is a Neighbor, they refuse to unlock the door and that team wins.
As there is a lot of voting, discussion, and noise during The Secret Neighbor Party Game, a leader is nominated to keep control and enforce timings on different rounds, along with being in charge of the votes. Playing the Secret Neighbor The Party Game can be a boisterous, and rowdy affair as players seek to stay hidden from the kids, or prove their innocence and loyalty to the team.
The Secret Neighbor Party Game Developer Interview
We spoke to Juliana and Ariel the designers of The Secret Neighbor Party Game and Robert Geistlinger, the Director of Sales & Marketing at Arcane Wonders, about the development process and difficulties in bringing a video game to the tabletop.
TechRaptor: Welcome to TechRaptor. Talk us through the design process for The Secret Neighbour Party Game. Where did the idea come from? Was it always a Hello Neighbour board game or did the mechanics fit the IP?
Juliana/Ariel: We have always loved social deduction games, that's actually how we met. So when Joe LeFavi at Genuine Entertainment learned that Tiny Build was looking for such a game, he immediately approached us. Plus, Hello Neighbor is such a fun world. We brainstormed on the best way to do a social deduction game that was true to the spirit of the video game series while also being a game with interesting mechanics that any tabletop gamer would have fun playing.
TR: In the design brief, what were the most important elements to get across?
J&A: One of the most satisfying elements of the video game series is being able to collect and use objects in order to accomplish a goal. We loved that idea and made it one of the core mechanics of the game. Then, of course, the locked door looms so large in the video game, so it was a very seamless transition to make unlocking that door the main goal of our game for the Kids, and making sure it never gets unlocked the main goal for the Neighbors.
TR: What were some of the must-haves for mechanics?
J&A: Trading. One of our perennial frustrations with some social deduction games is that we always want to be someone with special powers, but often don't get those roles. With the introduction of the objects and the trading mechanic, everyone has a chance to have special powers, regardless of their role. But of course, you can also gather more information about players and their roles based on the objects that they are trying to collect and who is trading with who. So we loved that trading brought in a whole new layer of information for all players. Plus, the use of trading and objects brings some players who might otherwise stay quiet and hide in the shadows into the forefront. It's a great way to keep all players engaged the whole time.
TR: Were there any changes from brief to production in terms of mechanics?
Robert Geistlinger: None that comes to mind. We were blessed that the designers brought us the game almost completely as you see in the final production. We were able to take their game and add the artwork without any changes to the mechanisms. It was a real pleasure to work on this game from start to finish.
TR: What was the biggest change during development?
J&A: A huge change in the development was parsing out the information. In games with 6 or more players, there are multiple keys that must be acquired and used on locks. Originally, players had to maneuver keys into the hands of people they trusted and then vote for everyone to use their keys all at once. Playtesting helped us realize that dividing up the unlock votes to happen one at a time gave players way more information with which to speculate, making the game far more satisfying.
TR Were there any difficulties during development and production? 2020 and 2021 have been interesting years.
RG: First, production has seen the largest paper price increase in more than a decade. This has left a situation where paper-based products are costing more now and that cost will continue to increase until the market stabilizes. While we expected some increase the market is definitely pushed a little higher. Second, in an attempt to avoid losing money during the same period, the shipping industry reduced its capacity to ship. Unfortunately, this has led to a price increase in shipping and longer delay times as the ports are lacking the manpower to process the shipments in a timely manner. These challenges have led to us researching alternative manufacturing and logistics.
TR: How difficult was it to capture the feel of Hello Neighbour on the tabletop?
J&A: The Secret Neighbor video game series is basically a social deduction game. Bad guys (neighbors) are running around masked as good guys (kids) and it's up to the kids to figure out who is good and who is bad based on the events that unfold over the course of the game. So it was a very easy transition to tabletop.
TR: You've got a mixed audience with tabletop fans and Hello Neighbour fans. Was there difficulty in balancing it for both audiences?
J&A: The concept was created specifically for the Hello Neighbor game, so we felt confident that we were hitting a lot of the familiar and beloved notes of the series. However, when playtesting, we tested the game under a skin called "Save the Circus" since Tiny Build did not want the information released too early that they were planning a tabletop game. That helped us ensure that we were creating a satisfying game for players, regardless of the brand.
TR: The Secret Neighbour Party Game has a 5+ player count, which can be quite difficult for some players currently. Were there any thoughts or plans for lower player count modes?
J&A: The good news there is that we have released Video Chat rules, so players who are not in the same household can all play together. That should make it a lot easier for players to get the necessary player count and allow people to connect with friends and family all over the world. Beyond that, if you look at the vast majority of social deduction games, they do have a 5+ player count. With some players attempting to hide who they are, it rarely works well at lower numbers. So we hope people will set up those video chats, as the more players the more fun.
TR: Had you played Hello Neighbour prior to the project?
J&A: We began playing when Joe approached us, so we did have an opportunity to play and learn the game before deciding if we wanted to sign on to the project. We always want to work on properties and projects that we are passionate about.
TR: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.
The copy of The Secret Neighbour Party Game used for this article was provided by Arcane Wonders.