Sleeping Gods is marketed as a “board game”, don’t get me wrong.
But it’s a hit, it has a story whose outcome is determined by player choices, players direct the actions of characters, who have health, attributes and statuses. The main activities are “challenges” (all with fail-forward outcomes), and (very innovative) “combat“. The game is played over multiple sessions, with a typical campaign taking 12-20 hours.
The success of this games is another signal that the imaginary line between “board game” and “role-playing game” is getting further blurred. The 7th Continent, Gloomhaven, and Sleeping Gods are eating away at the boundary from one side, while Ironsworn, Lady Blackbird, and For The Queen have been poking holes in it from the other side.
My opinion is that if you want to be designing the a game that will find a sizable audience the near future, you should be looking at this frontier. This is where you will find the most players who are looking for something new. What can you do to attract and impress them? It might be uncomfortable, but you’ll need to look at things from a board game perspective to get the attention of this audience. What do you bring to the table for them? If you’ve got cool character archetypes, how will they show up in visual and tactile components at the table? If you’ve got a compelling story, how will you tease that in a Kickstarter animatic?
Are you rolling dice in your combat? Why? Is the entire activity delightful? Look at how Sleeping Gods does combat. After a player plays that system, are they going to want to play your add-numbers-subtract-numbers system?