Game Design

Game Design blog posts.

Outdoor Dexterity Games: Tossing and Turning on the Lawn

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While my focus in most of my articles is on tabletop games, with the advent of summer comes the desire to play outside. There are many such games and activities, but the games of interest here are ones that involve rolling or tossing objects at another/other object(s). I think for most in the US, this is associated with Horseshoes or Bocce, but there are several variations on this theme – more than I realized – that are popular primarily based on the country or region of origin. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Missing Mechanics: Many Hands Make Light Work

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I haven’t been a video gamer for several years, so I can only speak about the games that I played – the ones “everyone” played – 10-20 years ago. A common mechanic in video games of that era (think Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, etc.) was to assign a worker to build something. That’s not so different from Worker Placement in board games, right? Well, maybe…

Mechanics Focus: Card Drafting

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In the Low Player Count BGG guild, one of the podcasts that I enjoy, a series of questions was asked about the “card drafting” mechanic. I have incorporated card drafting in Picky Packrats and am working on other designs that have card drafting as central to the game, so I have been thinking about this mechanic already and have some thoughts to share. The link to the BGG glossary entry for Card Drafting, my responses to the questions posed in the BGG guild, and some additional thoughts follow.

Game Design: Delayed Play Testing

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It has been over 8 months since I “completed” design work on Picky Packrats and discontinued regular playtesting. However, my friend Mike and I continued to play it fairly regularly during lunch at work for the entertainment value alone; that is, until late October when his FMLA for a newborn and then the holidays and then the early-year work pressures all got in the way. We finally played Picky Packrats again this week after a 3 month hiatus. Was the game as fun as we remembered? Did we discover anything new about the game or validate any previous conclusions? Let’s see.

So each player starts with a 3 x 3 grid of cards…

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Listening to a recent podcast, I heard that a certain game design contest had received quite a few entries for which “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” was a main feature. Those discussing this event sounded derisive to those designers who presented these designs. Now, maybe that was just my impression, but that impression was the seed for this blog post. So let’s take a look at “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” as a game feature. Note: I was not one of those designers entering the contest, so this is not a case of sour grapes; just an observation.

Mechanics Focus: Dexterity Games

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Definition

The BoardGameGeek Glossary defines Dexterity Game this way: n. A game where the major skill needed is a physical action, such as flicking (Crokinole), balance (Topple), or deft manipulation (Jenga).

General Appeal

Many people of all ages enjoy dexterity games and since they generally require skills that are not necessarily acquired with age, people of all ages can usually enjoy them together. Usually the “smarter” adults can’t stomp on the younger players just because they have more gaming experience. In fact, young players often have the dexterity necessary that can deteriorate with age, so in a dexterity game they may have the upper hand, as it were.

Give Them the Right Tool

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In a couple recent articles on the League of Game Makers Seth Jaffe has made the point that “the designer should strive to ensure that a player cannot make a choice or series of choices that will lead them to a state where they’re not really playing anymore.” I agree whole-heartedly with Seth and encourage you to read his articles (“YOU’RE PLAYING WRONG!” – GOOD PLAY EXPERIENCE AND THE DESIGNER’S RESPONSIBILITY and “HEY, LOSER!” KEEPING PLAYERS ENGAGED, EVEN WHEN THEY’RE BEHIND). I have tried to cover similar ground in my article, Eliminating Player Elimination. Just as Seth has published a follow-up article to make his point clear (there were some who misinterpreted his intent), I’ll also add a few words more from an angle closer to Seth’s perspective (though, it is from my perspective also which some have described as other-worldly).

Pick A Player, Any Player

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Recently on another game design blog there was a debate about whether a designer should accommodate poor player decisions in the game design. Although it was not the topic of the original article, the discussion veered into new territory (as they often do). I pointed to my article Eliminating Player Elimination where one of my points is that the designer takes on a higher challenge and risk by keeping players in the game (rather than eliminating them) because those players need to be engaged in the game to the end. The idea that the designer is responsible for prompting this engagement was challenged by one of the commenters and, in particular, my light-hearted description of behaviors that bored losers will exhibit was criticized with the following. (Paraphrasing…)

Resource Focus: Board Game Hour

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Board Game Hour is a little difficult to describe within my limited categories for resources. It is a weekly meet-up on Twitter to discuss board games and board game design. The meet-up is hosted on Nurph and moderated by the Minister of Board Games himself, Nate Brett. The “Hour” of interest is every Monday at: 7pm GMT (which I mention first since the Minister is in the UK). This translates to 2pm EST, 1pm CST, 12pm MST (which works great for me so I can join on my lunch hour), and 11am PST. Note: The time gets a little wonky at the time changes since the UK observes Daylight Savings Time differently than the US.

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