Game Design Blog

Welcome to the Design Blog!

This section is a continuing, open discussion about game and design ideas - ideas that I have either had or heard - that are burning calories in my brain. If any idea is more than a temporal interlude, I will try to codify my thoughts in the Design Notebook. Although this forum is intended to be short form, I don't want to be restricted to Twitter-length, so I will link some entries through Twitter that fit the limitations and hopefully get comments there.

Game Design Posts

The 4Xs of Expansions

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Expansions come in many varieties and those variations can be described in various ways. While researching my article on Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014, I had to decide whether or not to include expansions in my data. This decision caused me to consider the question, “What is an expansion?” One categorization criterion is what the expansion does to the original game – how it expands the game. Keeping in tune with game descriptions, I’ve categorized expansions into 4 X categories.

Game Design and Development: 2014 Review

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The New Year is an obvious time for reflection, so please excuse the navel-gazing.

This was the first year that I had any specific goals related to game design that I set out to achieve. Sure, there were several times in my life that I tinkered with game design and even constructed substantial prototypes, but I built those to play with friends or to train my mind. In December 2013 I decided that I was going to make an honest attempt at completing some of my game designs. By “completing” I meant making multiple thorough ideation-design-build-test iterations with the intent of developing a quality, marketable game. Having been supportive of several games on Kickstarter by that time, the power of possibility had grown enough that I was going to make the investment. By that time I had a couple new game ideas and one that I had iterated through 3 or 4 prototypes.

Community Focus: League of GameFakers

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In a recent post on the League of GameMakers, Michael Domeny challenged his cohorts and readers to the “League of GameFakers” Game Title Challenge. The rules are as follows:

  1. Take the title of a board game.
  2. Remove any one letter.
  3. Replace it with a different letter to form a new title.
  4. Write a description and pitch your game in the comments below!

The gang at League of Gamemakers and their readers had many clever contributions that are worth reading. This was my entry:

Eliminating Player Elimination

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In modern hobby board games player elimination has largely been eliminated. That’s a good thing, right? Probably, but it depends on the implementation. Let’s take a look.

Current Norm: Generally, most recent games avoid player elimination unless the game takes less than about 30 minutes and any player is unlikely to be out of the game for more than about 10-15 minutes. (Note: These statistics are based on a quick summary of games I have played recently and are not scientific, but you get the idea). The modern designer doesn’t want any player left in the cold for more than about 10 minutes and presumably that is based on the fact that most players don’t want to risk being out in the cold for more than that either.

As a designer working on a game design, you may ask yourself, “How do I keep all the players in the game to the end?” Depending on what you mean by “in the game” you may be asking yourself the wrong question. If your first thought is to let the player stay in, but without any real chance of winning (probably by some brute force method of basically starting over) then you are not only asking yourself the wrong question, but getting the wrong answer. Better to let them go jump into another game or Tweet on their phone for the rest of the game than to patronize them with a false sense of belonging in the current game. At least they will be Tweeting about how they sucked instead of how your game sucked. Maybe.

Resource Focus: Building the Game Podcast

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With the first two posts in this blog going to long-time veterans in the gaming and podcasting world and several others available, I am pleased to give the honor (such as it is) of posting #3 to Building the Game Podcast. All I have to do is listen to their latest podcast to be reminded of how much I appreciate the tenacity and courage of Rob Couch and Jason Slingerland to put their game design ideas on the line week in and week out.

Resource Focus: On Board Games

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One of the first podcasts that I got hooked on was On Board Games with Donald Dennis, Erik Dewey, and at the time, the venerable Scott Nicholson. The trio provided three different perspectives on board games, game design, and the hobby game industry. Unfortunately, Scott has moved on, but Donald and Erik continue to provide different insights and opinions into the hobby. They also provide regular game reviews with their simple and reliable stoplight recommendation.

Resource Focus: Ludology

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There are so many great resources for table top game designers and enthusiasts that it is hard to decide which to spotlight in this first Resource Focus blog entry. I have enjoyed many over the year or so that I have been actively searching, but one that I discovered early in my search and always eagerly anticipate the next episode is the Ludology podcast with Ryan Sturm and Geoff Engelstein. Geoff’s Game Tek segments are also a highlight on the Dice Tower.

Resource Focus: Introduction

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One of the great characteristics of the board game hobby is the willingness of veterans and experts to share their experience and insights with others who are eager to know. This generosity is often talked about among hobby enthusiasts and may sound like tales of rainbows and unicorns. No group of people is without its ogres, but in my experience this spirit truly spans from fellow gamers at a convention to successful designers and publishers. Perhaps someday others will include this blog and website among their fairy tales.

At this point in my design journey I can only share what I am attempting to accomplish and what others are doing that informs and inspires me. In that spirit I will periodically include a blog post that features just such a resource that I have enjoyed and appreciate. The title of these will lead with “Resource Focus:” and they will all be categorized under the Resources tag.

As it will take a while to feature each of these resources, you can find a more comprehensive list on the Resources page.

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