GameDesignTheory.org

Keith Burgun, Fabian Fischer and I have started curating a site of game design content (blogs, videos, podcasts and whatever else). The goal is a) to promote more of this writing to take place and b) to show how game design principles inform actual games as they are made! 

You can check out and subscribe to GameDesignTheory.org here.

Mechs vs Minions GDC Talk

Very cool, personal talk about the design of the Riot board game “Mechs vs Minons”. Really enjoyed the candidness here. Some nice nuggets about specific targeted play-testing as well. Cool unexpected slide cameos of Tom Vassel and Quinns from Shut Up and Sit Down as well. 🙂

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1024383/Board-Game-Design-Day-Mechs

Interview On the “Clockwork Game Design” Podcast

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I was interviewed yesterday by Keith Burgun of Clockwork Game Design. The episode ended up being over 90 minutes long (!) and covered a ton of interesting game design ground, focused around the BrainGoodGames Commandments and each of the BrainGoodGame releases up to this point! I enjoyed it thoroughly and through it turned out really well.

You can check it out here:
http://keithburgun.net/brett-loweys-game-design-commandments/

GDC Talks from Board Game Design Day

Obviously I’m much more of a fan of strict match based play than the legacy stuff, but I’m sure there are some interesting nuggets contained within! Paul Dean and Shut Up and Sit Down basically do the best reviews of any kind ever with their board game reviews.

You can watch them for free on the GDC Vault website. Link courtesy of Polygon here:

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/14/14921754/gdc-vault-pandemic-legacy-mechs-vs-minions-daviau-lang-cantrell-dean

BattleCON Print-n-Play

My girlfriend and I are major Print and play fiends, so we decided to check out BattleCON today (I think I heard Tom Vassel say he really liked it, which makes sense because it has variable player powers 🙂 ).

Anyway, after a couple plays seems like a pretty interesting lightweight system. I really like how the two card attack combos give a good amount of emergent complexity in a very intuitive way. Interested to play some more.

“Random Parallel Learning Talk”

Interesting talk about how mastery is maybe the fundamental driving factor behind long term player engagement. The speaker raises points about how if you include potential mastery over several skill-sets (execution, strategy, teamwork, knowledge, etc) you can allow “Random Parallel Learning”. This basically means that players are able to jump back and forth between improving on different axes at will, and often subconsciously. It also raises the potential of an “aha” moment during a match (or in the case of execution the realization of a growth in proficiency).

Another point raised is that rouge-likes set up failure as part of the natural state of play, so it doesn’t feel so harsh. Keith Burgun has advocated that a 50% win-rate is ideal for learning, and I wonder if 50% is in the realm where failure is expected. (I sort of anecdotally think the loss rate might not be high enough to remove a lot of the sting at this level).

Thoughts on “Hawaii” Board Game

Just played Greg Daigle’s Hawaii for the first time (2-players), and wanted to jot down a few of my thoughts on it. In the game, players are given a certain number of “feet” tokens each round, and you can accumulate more by taking certain actions (it’s a worker placement game). The feet allow you to “walk” between action spaces, which gives the game a unique spatial element to the worker placement; now you have to take into account the distance between two worker placement tiles as part of your analysis of the best move. Very cool and simple to understand. During randomized setup, you arrange the different actions around the board as well, which scrambles your distance math for the next time you play. Awesome! 

Walking around the island for fun and profit!

It also features a mechanic I very much like from a bunch of games where players compete in small contests, where the first player to do a thing gets the most reward (in this case directly VPs), the second player gets the second most and so on. It’s nice for players to be able to experience little “victories” throughout the game whether or not they win the overall game in the end. (I’ve seen this also in Troyes with the event cards and Dungeon Petz with the pet judging contests, among perhaps others).

I also like the way that each action is assigned random costs (and a random number of purchasing opportunities each round) as a nice form of inter-game ambiguity!

Something I’m NOT so fond of is the way the “wild” resource system (fruit) works. You can choose to use fruit to pay a cost, but not mixed with the original resource cost. This does lead to some interesting decision making, but it’s quite fiddly and in my opinion too easy to end up in a situation where you feel like you should be able to take an action, but don’t have the right MIX of resources. I prefer when wild resources help to “grease the wheels” and allow you to massage your plays to be more optimal while circumventing upfront calculation. In this more restrictive system, you really should be calculating more upfront to avoid messing yourself up.

Overall it has some cool ideas and I expect I’ll be playing it again soon! It’s super convenient to play it on BoardGameArena, which helps!