Around the Web, Board game design

Brilliance is forever!
I’m a big fan of board game design blogs. I love reading other people’s thoughts, to complement or contradict my own, or as a source of inspiration.

When I read something that I find striking in one way or another, I save it for re-reading. And of course that’s a great source for having things to share with other people as well.

So I hope you also find something interesting in the articles below. Happy reading!

Oh the drama!

I love getting enmeshed in a game, to really feel I’m there. For me this links mostly to storytelling, but Nick O’Leary from MostDangerousGameDesing.com (the site seems to have been abandoned – unfortunately!) makes a connection to tension and three mechanics that can induce this “dramatic tension”. While the last two options are sortof common (hide who’s ahead and engine building), the first one struck my attention as something worth a further ponder: Reducing the amount of resources that are available, so that players have to “fight” over them.

Read the full article here: Three mechanics that create dramatic tension

Time for another lesson

How many lessons can you come up with regarding game design? From the top of my head I’m sure I can come up with 10 or so. And if I really sit down I might get to 30.

But then, I’m not Talen Lee, who came up with a staggering 260.5 (his count, not mine)!

Some insightful, some inspiring, some banal, some funny. But they’re all short and great for some light reading. Here is a random selection:

188: Deck builders give up a painful amount of space to your starter cards, and that’s PER PLAYER
11: There is no game idea too small to be worth trying to make interesting
49: Puns are SURPRISINGLY USEFUL for keeping people remembering game information, or expressing the core of a game idea. Murder Most Fowl is my favorite example, but it’s hardly alone.

The link is to the first ten, just follow the rabbit hole to get to all the rest: 2016’s lessons of gaming

You’re such a loser!

A lot of people play board games to win. But with more than 2 players (and a player vs. player game) the number of players that win will be lower than that number of players that… don’t. So in a sense losing is a more important aspect of games than winning.

In this article Gregory Carslaw gives 4 pointers on how to make losing fun (or at least, as painless as possible): Losing is fun

One thing I’d like to add to this: I’ve been playing Seafall (legacy player vs. player game) and I’m finding that losing a game there is way less bad than losing a “normal” game. There is something about it being just a “small step” in the bigger scheme of things that makes it easier to take? Of course, I can imagine that for the final game it’ll be much bigger…

Agency: Randomize!

Randomness is used a lot in board games. In some games it adds to variety and tension, in others it feels more like a stone being thrown in your face.

This article from No Hidden Info is geared towards computer games, but it is just as applicable to board games. It talks about player agency in the face of randomness: Agency and Randomness

Part of this was already known (input and output randomness), but the important addition to me is that randomness can be “closer” or “further”, meaning that you have less or more time (turns) to “respond” to it. An example that comes to mind is the “random event cards” from Robinson Crusoe. When they are first drawn they immediately do something (usually bad). Then they move to the bottom of the board. The following random event card pushes the first card one to the side and the next one pushes it off of the board, causing a second bad thing to happen. The first random event is “close”: There is nothing you can do about it. The second one is far: You have at least 2 turns in which you can “fix” it.

What other interesting ways are there to push out the results of randomness further down the line?

Traitor!

Player interaction is one of the strongest drivers of depth – other players are both smart and unpredictable and as such you can add a lot of “game” without adding any further rules.

Isaac Shalev from Kind Fortress takes a look at one particular player-interaction element: Distrust. This comes to the fore in coops that allow traitors (e.g. Dead of Winter and Battlestar Galactica), and just about any social deduction game.

I can imagine using this in other settings as well. Imagine a game where trading is possible. You trade cards from your hand and these can be both beneficial and detrimental. Cards are traded closed and to each side of the trade one (also closed) card is added from the general deck. Then if you get one bad card it could be because of bad luck, but it might be because your trading partner screwed you over as well…

Here is the article: Everything you do is the reason I don’t trust you

Final remarks

I hope you enjoyed reading these articles (and my thoughts about them).

What articles did you read that really struck a chord with you and why? I’d love to hear them for my own learning. And perhaps they’ll end up in a next version of “Other people’s brilliance”?

Further reading

In case you want to read more of other people’s brilliance, here is my first post with curated articles from around the internet: Other people’s brilliance: 6 great articles about board game design.

About the author

Bastiaan_smallHi, I’m Bastiaan. The goal of this blog is to learn about game design. That’s hopefully for you as the reader, but just as much for me as the writer.

Help me to learn? Leave a comment (below) or connect with me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog (see the sidebar) or like it on Facebook, to get updates when I write them.

And perhaps you know of others interested in learning? Share this post using the buttons below:

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Personal

It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new life…
All things must come to an end, even (or especially!) games.

Last week I had an ending of my own: I spent my last day at my permanent job (working as a risk manager for a small bank). And in some ways it was even more of an ending; for over ten years I made my living in financial services, but no more.

Endings make space for new beginnings.

Playing two games at the same time is hard and frustrating for most. So we tend to not start a new game until we finished our last. Ending a game creates the opportunity to play a different one. It might be more fun, or less. But you won’t know until you play it.

Ending a job creates the opportunity to start a new one. I didn’t quit my job to sit on the couch and do nothing, while slowly (quickly!) seeing my saving fade as snow in the sun. I quite because I got an offer for something that seemed like it would be even more fun than what I was doing before.

As of now I’m working for a company called oneUp (yes, that’s the right way of capitalizing). What they do is run projects within big companies as though they are startups.

Big companies and startups have things in common (they want to make money, they hire people), but there are also a lot of things quite different in how the two are run. And it’s not easy to convince a corporate manager that she should throw away the project plan, fail fast and break things. But these are essential ingredients if you want to copy the stellar rise of Snapchat, Spotify or Uber.

Boxart for the Startup Thinking Game (v1.0)
So oneUp wants something that helps them explain these and other concepts in a fun, engaging and interesting way.

”Fun, engaging and interesting you say? That sounds like….”

Yes, it does. It does sound like they should be using a board game!

And that is exactly what their thoughts were.

Which is where I come in.

I’ve been writing this blog for my own entertainment and educational purposes. I’m happy that other people seem to enjoy reading it as well and that I’ve gotten some very nice compliments (thanks all!). But I never thought it would actually lead to anything.

I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong!

It turns out that writing about board game design can put you in the searchlight of a company that is looking for a local designer, eager to have you help to create a truly unique educational and marketing tool.

So… As of now I am an official (in the sense of getting paid for it(!)) game designer!

So now what?

I know the gist of what oneUp wants to have created and I know some of their ideas around this: I’m to build them a board game that explains how startups function. It should be fun, engaging and interesting. And it should play in half an hour or less.

That should be easy right? Piece of cake, walk in the park… Right? Right?!

Yes it’s a challenge. But one I’m very happy to be taking on. One I’m excited to take on!

And I’m looking forward to taking everybody along in the design process. That might be on this blog or I might start up something new specifically for the project (I’ll have to discus with my new paymasters on what their preferences are. Getting paid is awesome, but it does put a bit of a dent in your freedom to do whatever you like… 🙂 ). Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Closing thoughts

Step by step – and with a little help from others – anything can be achieved
I never really had a concrete plan, but I had sortof been hoping to be able to slowly scale up my game design work while I scaled down my “actual” work. That slow process got jump-started with this incredible opportunity.

I’m not spiritual, don’t believe in karma (even though Los Buenos makes heavy use of it!), have always thought that the law of attraction was nonsense. But I can’t deny that the job came to me because I write this blog. And it’s all completely logical: I go out there and share what I do, so of all the people who are doing something similar (or more awesome!), my work shows up more easily. Still, it feels like a reward somehow…

So perhaps two take aways that will hopefully inspire you:

  • Good things sometimes really do come to those who do good
  • It’s not impossible to turn a passion into a job

Further reading

This is a blog about game design, even though the above isn’t that much. Luckily I have two old posts that sortof makes sense:
All in-game resources are temporary (which is because games end!)
The time value of resources

About the author

Bastiaan_smallHi, I’m Bastiaan. The goal of this blog is to learn about game design. That’s hopefully for you as the reader, but just as much for me as the writer.

Help me to learn? Leave a comment (below) or connect with me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog (see the sidebar) or like it on Facebook, to get updates when I write them.

And perhaps you know of others interested in learning? Share this post using the buttons below:

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