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The Village Square: May 5, 2015

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Our fearless leader is on a much needed break and we’re trying our best not to run this site into the ground.

Too late! There are already naked people running amok

That’s it, time to fire Jason… again!

You can’t fire me, no one’s in charge anymore!

Oh boy, what’s next? Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

Community Talk

Since we can apparently do whatever we want now I think I’ll take over the responsibility of chatting with the folks around here. There will only be a small sheep tax, of course.

The “Shattered Dream” is a 3-part article that will critique the 4X genre in a number of ways. Part 1 will focus on defining the 4X genre and relevant sub-genres. Part 2 will dig into what I feel is the primary tension in the genre: the desire to craft detailed simulations of other worlds and provide players with a deep strategic game. Last, Part 3 will look at how various tensions play out in the market space for 4X games and what promising avenues of innovation (and massive potholes!) lie ahead.

When I saw “The Imitation Game” it appealed to me as a film fan but also as a tabletop game fan. And, since we’re talking games, I’ll confine myself to that.

The film chronicles the efforts of Turing and his team to crack the German Enigma code that the Germans use to relay their strategic radio messages back and forth.

Effectively, the situation marked a sort of asynchronous game: the one side had to figure out the Germans’ code to win the war; the other side simply had to go about its surprise attacks with its technological and tactical advantages.

This week Broomstick Monkey games talked on their blog about innovation in game design, which is a subject that I’ve been discussing with my gaming friends and local designers recently. It seems as if there is a trend, perhaps taken from start-up culture, to pursue innovation in mechanics as one of the main focuses of game design. But is innovation really necessary to improve a product?

Does Innovating Improve A Game?
Across The Board Games

Creating a meaningful feeling of growth is rewarding and can enhance a game, but it creates the requirement for challenges that also scale in some way. It’d be no fun to start a game and be unable to progress due to a saturation of overpowered opponents, equally you want to see dangers that are sufficient to test the limits of a developed position. Plenty of approaches have been tried to tackle this problem and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Scaling Challenge
3DTotal Games

Project after project, teammate by teammate, issue upon issue, I’ve learned some key lessons on how to successfully design a physical, social-play game with a distributed team using digital tools.

Balancing a game is arguably the most difficult and time consuming phase of design. When refining the mechanisms and trying to reach an Alpha and Beta state, you can grab new testers, test once, and gather the data you need to progress. However, with final balancing, not only do you need your mechanisms to not move at all, but you need to attempt to create controls in a realm full of variables to isolate and identify what’s out of whack.

I managed to only eat two villagers and half the sheep this week! Come on back next week at your own risk. Hopefully there will still be a village left to visit!

Games On Our Table

Play 2015-May-5 - DominionDominion: Adventures – I played my first two games with Adventures, using about a dozen new cards and one event. I must say I am incredibly impressed with this set. Experience will tell but I’m tempted to predict it will end up as one of my two favorite sets (competing with Prosperity). That is if you’re willing to put up with the fiddly new tokens (which I am). This is definitely a set designed for Dominion lovers since it is the tenth entry in the series and it seems only the fanatics are still buying at this point. I would, however, encourage anyone that stopped buying expansions long ago to strongly consider Adventures. It’s that good.

Play 2015-May-5 - LanternsLanterns: The Harvest Festival – Last week I was able to unbox this beautiful game with my kids. This week I actually got to try it out and had a great time. The gameplay is very refined and smooth with interesting decisions between what colors to hand out and which dedications to grab. It’s a great example of simple rules and quick play that will make it ideal for families. That said there’s enough nastiness with card denial and depth with racing efficiency to appeal to gamers as well. I played with the full four players and look forward to trying it with less to hopefully provide more control.

Play 2015-May-5 - Hansa TeutonicaHansa Teutonica & The Staufer Dynasty – I haven’t played Hansa Teutonica is four years, that’s a real shame. This is partially because I didn’t own a copy until recently and partially because my main group is obsessed with newer games. Luckily The Staufer Dynasty reinvigorated my interest in designer Andreas Steding and helped get both of these excellent games played in the same day. I enjoyed my game so much that I dreamed about it the following night with all its glorious cube pushing! I’m hoping to pick up the Britannia expansion for Hansa Teutonica soon to ensure that this is a more regular occurrence.

I love optimization and engine games with tableau builders and card driven ones being my favorite. This usually means medium-heavy euros and medium-light card games.

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