The Village Square: April 20, 2015


Hey everyone, I made a flowchart. It helps you decide what game to play. Then you play Roll For The Galaxy. Some people are saying it’s pretty much the best flowchart ever. Go check it out

If you’re into that sort of thing!

You mean, like, everyone?

Not exactly.

Well, I’m just going to assume that’s what you meant.

Community Talk

Welcome to town, there’s a lot of great conversation going on this week!

I have some thoughts on branding, naming, and pitching your game to others that have been culminating for some time. Though this is a specific case study, I think what I’ve learned here will apply to your project as well, so give this a read and tell me what you think.

Sayest Thou Poker?

Why does TableTop Day matter? This weekend, thousands of people attended TableTop Day gatherings around the globe. According to Wil Wheaton, the day’s events spanned locations on every continent —including Antarctica.

To a skeptical observer, this all sounds great for Geek & Sundry. After all, the little, geeky internet channel that could got stores — for three years running — to engage in a massive marketing event for the network.

But TableTop Day has broader value to the board gaming community. And here’s why.

As a design decision, the amount of parts in your game should be a pretty important one.  Having so many pieces and cards and doohickeys that the game takes as long to set up and break down as it does to play creates a kind of mental equation for potential players: do I want to do that much work to play this game when I can just bust out another game that’s easier to get started?

How Much is Too Much?
Epic Slant Press

Instead of analyzing every conceivable option on each and every turn, instead I’ve tried to develop a sense of the game. The majority of strategy advice can be boiled down to relatively simple instructions. In most euros it’s economy first, points second. So, when presented with a choice, do that. In dudes-on-a-map games, it’s consolidate power, then strike. Again, do that.

Overcoming Ap – Developing Heuristics
Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Choices are made meaningful by their consequences, but choices are made interesting by their options. So when designing a game, special consideration must be given to how players evaluate those options. One of the most basic questions to ask is whether players will be able to evaluate their options at all. This may seem like an obvious question, but it can be subtle at times.

We, that is to say designers and people who are interested in design, need to change the message. It’s vital that we move away from

“You can’t make a new mechanic”

and towards

“You can make an innovative game.”

Room For Innovation
3DTotal Games

Do you really want to be a game designer?

Do you want to spend night after night playing a game that’s absolute crap just to find out what’s wrong with it? Do you want to cut out 400 cards only to find out that they didn’t quite work like you intended and have to cut out 400 more? Do you want to write and document and version and test, test, test, until you’re so sick of the game that you put it away only to pull it out again the next day because you really, really, reallyneed to finish it?

Being a game designer isn’t fun and games. It has very little to do with having fun while playing games.

Games are a great opportunity for me to fail over and over and try things out every time I play a game. I think what games ultimately offer to my brain is a method to systematically organize and think about the options that are in front of me.

We all agree that the game designer designs a game, but, if we think about it, the game itself it is just an artifact. It is an artifact made to convey an experience, which is a combination of actions, thoughts and feelings. So, when we design a game, our focus, our goal, should not be the game in and of itself.

We don’t want to simply craft an object. We want players to live an idea. Our idea.

So, as designers we create an artifact, but we build it knowing that it is the way we’ve chosen to convey to our audience the desired experience.

Come on back next week and I promise to set something on fire. Or someone. Or both. Definitely both.

Games On Our Table

Ascension: Dawn of Champions – I’ve been waiting impatiently for the follow-up to last year’s excellent Ascension set, Realms Unraveled. In the past each large set has gotten a smaller expansion to complete its block but this time around we received another large set. Dawn of Champions has a lot in common with Realms Unraveled and they are indeed supposed to play well together.

I’ve only played once so far but really enjoyed what Dawn of Champions has to offer. Factions are incredibly important, as in Realms Unraveled, and each player actually has a Champion that “aligns” them with one of the factions right from the start. Multi-faction heroes return and are joined by constructs with dual factions. Even monsters now have factions which plays into the other new mechanic called Rally. Essentially it lets players automatically acquire or defeat the next card that enters the center row if it has a named faction. This reminds me a bit of Fate from earlier sets and, to an extent, the Soul Gem cards from Immortal Heroes due to the risk/reward structure. It can hit big and get you a string of free cards or whiff and get you nothing. I’m curious to see how it will affect the strategy once I’m more accustom to this set.

Play 2015-Apr-20 - Staufer DynastyThe Staufer Dynasty – Last week I threatened to buy this game because it was so good and I wanted to play it again. When I was at my FLGS picking up the newest Ascension set I spotted a copy on the bargain table. It wasn’t a tough sell and I was very happy to get a game in the very next day at my game group. We had 4 players and the game was very well received by everyone involved. I continue to be impressed by how smooth the design is, offering lots of interesting but straightforward decisions. The area majority aspect and turn queue in particular really shine with a large player count. I get the feeling like I’m only scratching the surface of this one, a great sign of great depth and many more plays to come.

Play 2015-Apr-20 - Power GridPower Grid Deluxe – I love Power Grid, it’s definitely a top 10 for me so I never turn down a game. This was my first time trying out the deluxe edition and I must say I wasn’t very impressed. I enjoyed playing a new map and power plant deck but the graphical design just didn’t strike me as what I would expect from a deluxe edition. I also didn’t really care all that much for the components, they weren’t bad just nothing special. Despite my misgivings about this edition I had a blast playing and was able to squeeze out an early ending after getting lucky with a 7 capacity plant showing up in the market at just the right time.

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.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games Issue #261 - Two Armies - Today in Board Games

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