When in the midst of an intriguing board or card game, the thought may flash through one’s mind as to what makes the game so exciting and interesting. If this has happened to you, then likely it was a particular moment or mechanic in the game that presented a conundrum, an unusual challenge, or a difficult decision. Perhaps it was which strategy to focus on in Race for the Galaxy, or whether to risk taking that long route in Ticket to Ride, hoping you can complete it and not lose all those points at the end. Whatever your experiences like this have been, it’s these types of which-way-do-I-choose-they’re-both-good-or-bad decisions that provide nail-biting experiences to remember in our favorite games.
Grant Rodiek posted an article for Hyperbole Games that addresses board game design from this perspective, one that emphasizes the importance of providing tension in games to promote a more exciting and dynamic gameplay experience. He explains why a game’s design should constrain the players within a box to provide structure, but not too narrow as to create monotony and boredom.
You can check out Rodiek’s interesting article here at Hyperbole Games’ website.
Quebéc’s board game design contest, Plateau d’Or, is underway. Now in its eighth year, Plateau d’Or has seen many notable releases take top honors including Québec and Richelieu. With Les Journées ludiques de Québec partnering with publishers who have represented past winners, this year promises to be the biggest yet.
Designers must be attending the event to quality, and designs are due no later than April 3rd. For more information and complete contest rules, check out the Plateau d’Or website. Good luck to all the participants!
The Inquisitive Meeple is a unique board game blog that began on BoardGameGeek, but has recently branched out to its own domain. What sets this site apart from the myriad of other gaming blogs is its focus on the design side of the gaming industry.
“The Inquisitive Meeple is a blog that is dedicated to interviewing board game designers.”
In 2014, they interviewed the designers of 88 different board games. So far their planned 2015 interview queue is just as ambitious. Luckily their new site offers several options for subscribing to new content so you never miss an interview.
Check out The Inquisitive Meeple’s new home and stay tuned for the next designer interview.
Image from Connected Digitalworld
Oliver Roeder over at the political and social trend site, FiveThirtyEight, set out to discover why heavy political game Twilight Struggle, among all the classic standbys like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, maintains the top spot on BoardGameGeek.
“We may now find ourselves in the middle of a golden age of serious board gaming. The number of titles, and their average ratings by players, increase each year. Impressively, amid this renaissance, Twilight Struggle maintains its No. 1 spot despite having been published in 2005.
His exploration reveals an interesting series of changes in the industry, notably the increasing dominance of strategic games, and the decreased influence of simpler luck-oriented games.
“Games in this broad category are typically characterized by deep strategy, an emphasis on skill and the lack of player elimination. In other words, they’re not Monopoly.”
Roeder’s research brought him to Twilight Struggle’s co-designer, Ananda Gupta, currently working for video game studio Firaxis Games. Their discussion ranges from Twilight Struggle’s early days as a Spanish Civil War game concept to Gupta’s frustration with historical war gaming’s unnecessary rules complexity.
“Simplification, to Gupta and [Twilight Struggle co-designer Jason] Matthews, was the name of their design philosophy. Rather than overwhelm players with a fat rulebook at the start, the designers spread the information required throughout the gameplay, on cards.”
Gupta’s theory on Twilight Struggle’s enduring popularity is similarly simple. He points out the advantage a two-player game has in both length and player downtime, as well as the balance of skill and luck inherent in Twilight Struggle’s design. Gupta plans to bring to his next project, Imperial Struggle, and provides a bright outlook for historical games to come.
“Ninety-five percent of human conflicts are not covered by games. We’re seeing more games that are less focused on America. We’re seeing more games focused on struggles that are not of interest primarily for their aesthetics.”
Make sure to check out the full article for more of Ananda Gupta’s insights and to see Oliver Roeder’s industry data analysis.
Bruno Faidutti is known for games that pair social interaction with a looser game structure. Games like Mascarade and Citadels (a.k.a CITADELLLLS!) rely heavily on the meta game of players bluffing, misleading, and jockeying for position. These game structures can be very exhilarating and memorable, but can also be highly unpredictable earning Mr. Faidutti the moniker “Master of Chaos”.
“I’m not that fond of being the ‘Master of chaos’. I’d rather be described as the designer of games in which players cannot hide themselves behind the rules, games that are eventually played with – and against – players and not against pawns and cards.”
In his latest blog entry, Faidutti addresses this classification of his game designs and draws an important distinction between terms that are often used interchangeably: chaos and randomness. It’s a fascinating glimpse into design theory and Bruno Faidutti’s own philosophies. Next time you sit down to play a game with seemingly random elements, you might just look at it a little differently.
“What makes the game uncontrollable is the fact that all players are trying at the same time to control its many interlocked and convoluted elements.”
Head on over to Mr. Faidutti’s blog to learn more. It begins in French, but the content repeats in English right after. Fair warning, the article does compare playing games to a certain intimate adult activity, though in a completely non-graphic way.
Designer Grant Rodiek has written “Asymmetric Beginnings” over on HyperboleGames.com. Focusing on goals and using examples from Rodiek’s upcoming game, Sol Rising, Rodiek builds on his previous foundation of asymmetric design and delves into where to start. Rodiek states that:
…every asymmetrical component should have a very clear purpose or theme. If it doesn’t need to exist, if it doesn’t have a purpose? Cut it and move on. In fact, if you can’t justify the exception at an early phase, and asymmetry is just that — exceptions — you should focus on a symmetrical design.
Designer James Ernest of Cheapass Games (Pirates of the Spanish Main, Light Speed) provides the basics of probability theory in a recent article, “Probability for Game Designers.” Ernest goes into some detail on odds, serial probabilities, results, events, and “the gambler’s fallacy,” stating that “a well-known misconception about random events is that their results tend to ‘even out’ over time.“
Also, if you’re attending Gen Con, Ernest will be conducting a lecture on probability and basic math on Saturday at 5pm. The game ID for this event is SEM1465794.
Designer Ed Marriott (Dam It, Scoville) talks about editing your game in a recent article on boardsandbarley.com, ‘Coarse vs. Fine: Editing Your Game.’ Mariott discusses design for those “who start big and remove the unnecessary components.”