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:

Facebooktwitterreddit
Around the Web, Board game design

2 heads know more than 1. And 10 know more still! So instead of thinking about everything myself, I’m very happy to share with you some of the insightful, brilliant, thought-provoking or otherwise interesting articles that other people wrote about board game design.

Happy reading!

It’s what you don’t notice that makes the game

Sparkly articles too!
For me an important part of board games is “immersing” in them, being to where the game transports me instead of at the table. Andy van Zandt (Twitter) made me realize that what really helps with this is making the playing experience as “smooth” as possible, letting the game flow without interruptions or “clunkiness”.

If you want more than just my take away, go here: Hidden Structure

It’s not the size of your mechanics, it’s what you do with it!

Related to the previous article: Mechanics are a means to an end. Having a really cool mechanic isn’t enough, it’s about the experience you get through that mechanic (and the rest of the game).
Mark Major (Twitter) touches upon the subject, and I would love for him to go much deeper into it.

Take a look at: Experience vs. Mechanics

Limits

Jay Cormier (Twitter) and Sen-Foong Lim (Twitter) write about how limitations can be good for your game design. I fully agree with this, in that reducing the size of your design space (all the possible options you could potentially explore) allows you to go much deeper into what is left.

I wouldn’t go as far as they do though (seriously, 25 tiles and that’s it?!).

Check out their thoughts: Design Tip: Constraints are Good

Could there be something beyond winning?

As a player of a board game you get your components and the rule book. From those you can figure out what you can do, but not what you should do (or even better: What’s fun to do). For most games there is nothing beyond “winning”, but why wouldn’t there be? Personally I enjoy beating a previous record, building the largest whatever, winning in a different way (or even losing in a different way!).

The article below touches upon these items from the perspective of computer games. It might be trickier to do the same in board games, but in no way impossible. Something to ponder…

This is what there is to ponder: Achievements as Communication Between Designer and Player

Cats or dogs?

…That’s the question!
Randomness is an important part of many board games. The two most common ways of introducing randomness are cards and dice. But which is better? Teale Fristoe (Twitter) might just have the answer…

Take your pick here: Dice or Cards

Interesting tension you’ve got there…

I believe that interesting decisions and tension lie at the core of good (board) games. So, I was very happy to read Michael Ardizzone’s (Twitter) article about exactly those subjects (albeit in the context of computer games).

Particularly interesting are what he believes is required for tension (i.e. indirectness, exclusivity and situationality). Especially “indirectness” is something I had never thought about (but should have): We never simply “win the game” (no tension, boring!). Instead we take some resources to be able to build a building, which generates different resources, so that we can build a second building… Only very far down the road does any of this (hopefully!) lead to victory.

Does more indirection lead to more tension? Would that make more “strategic” games more tense? I don’t have the answers, but I’m very happy I now know to ask these questions!

Don’t keep yourself in tension and read the article: Tension and Interesting Decisions

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:

Facebooktwitterreddit
Around the Web, Board game design

Introduction

This blog is about learning about game design. A very important part of that is reading about it (which is why I hope you visit this blog!). I’m however far from the only one who has something to share about the subject. Below are a number of articles that I found insightful, though-provoking or otherwise worth the read. I hope you do too!

Some lesser used mechanics

Both the roundel and deck management are not used in many games. Shannon Applecline from Mechanics & Meeples shows that there are intriguing similarities between the two (something I never would’ve thought). Examples and some theory might give you some inspiration to use these mechanics in your game?

Read all about it at: Deck management is the new roundel

Interesting question…

“Well begun is half done.” Nat Levan (twitter) from Oakleaf Games goes into the questions you should ask before you start working on a game. I especially like “What’s the player’s fantasy?”. One of the most important reasons (for me) to play board games is to be / do / feel something I can’t in real life.

I do however feel that sometimes it’s better to begin before you have something fleshed out entirely. Games evolve with creating and sometimes it’s as much a “discovery” what a game is about as it is a plan.

Check it out: Questions to ask before making a game

A strategic read, for tactical reasons

“Tactics are small, frequent decisions in which there is often one or several right answers (that are often determined through analytical reasoning), whereas strategic choices are large, infrequent decisions that are often chosen through experimentation and intuition.” In this older post Max Seidman (Twitter) from Most Dangerous Games gives examples insights in both tactics and strategy. Especially his ideas for adding either to a game when they are lacking are worthy of further thought!

Read it here: Designing for tactics and strategy

Favorite mechanics

This is getting a bit meta, but Pini Shekhter (Twitter) from Board Games Hate Pini rounds up his favorite mechanics. Now I really want to play Mombassa!

Don’t let the silly title distract you, here is the link: More elegant than a cat in a tux (Seriously?!?)

Food for thought

Another one from Max Seidman (Twitter), Most Dangerous Games. This one is about digital games, but it gives food for thought: How would the “instant gratification” translate into board games? You’d need something where you take an action, the result is not certain, but the potential pay-off is significant. Certainly it would be possible to create something like that through randomness, but is it possible through skill alone?

Get gratified: Instant gratification

When world building and games collide

As a designer, you have the world in your hands!
My favorite article of the bunch (always save the best for last!). Matt (I’m sure he has a last name and I feel sortof bad about not remembering because I’ve met this great guy… (Twitter)) from Creaking Shelves usually does board game reviews, but I’m very happy he’s also delving into the design aspect! He argues that what great new games do is that they build a “world” that extends beyond the game that is played. This is something near and dear to my own heart, as I love story driven games, which work so much better if they feel like they’re a part of something larger.

Absolute recommendation! Designers should build worlds

Feedback please!

I’m very open to your ideas and thoughts, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter if you agree or where you think I completely missed the point?!


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 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:

Facebooktwitterreddit