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“Is this game like Britannia?”

At the NC State Tabletop Game Club I attend five people were playing my prototype “The Rise and Fall of Assyria”. Someone came by and asked if the game was like Britannia. I answered no, because this game is much more fluid, is designed for 3 to 5 players, has less randomness in the combat though still using dice, has simpler scoring, and involves the rise and decline of empires rather than ones that can in some cases play through the entire game (as with the Welsh and Picts in Britannia).

But later I thought that compared with the other games that were being played in the room – we had over 50 people that day – the game is much like Britannia. Because they are both games that require “strategic thinking” (strategic in contrast with tactical, though also in the sense of having to make difficult choices about the best play) that are also games of maneuver and location. And they are both wargames. In contrast most of the games that are played at this game club do not involve maneuver and location nor are they wargames.

Sometime I’ll describe at greater length what I mean by games of maneuver and location, but briefly, if you think about traditional non-commercial games such as chess, checkers, Parcheesi, mancala, Nine Men’s Morris, Go, and Tic-Tac-Toe (Noughts & Crosses) they are all games where the spatial/geographical location of the pieces is important, and you either maneuver to arrive at locations, or you place pieces at locations in the case of Go and Tic-Tac-Toe. Traditional non-commercial boardgames are, without any exception I can think of, games of spatial location with either maneuver or placement or possibly both. In fact this is the essence of boardgames, until recently. (In contrast, the essence of card games is hidden information. See http://gamasutra.com/blogs/LewisPulsipher/20120219/91123/The_Fundamental... )

For example, one of the most popular games at the club is Red Dragon Inn. In this game each player is a fantasy adventurer who has just come back from a successful adventure and wants to spend his money gambling and drinking until comatose (or until he runs out of money). The player who keeps some money and is awake when others are comatose wins the game. Each player has a unique deck of cards that he can play plus some money tokens and so forth. Obviously this is not a wargame. Perhaps not so obviously, it’s not a game where spatial location plays any part, and that virtually always means that maneuver plays no part.

The game at the next table was Agricola. I’ve not paid a whole lot of attention to the game, because I’m not interested in pretending to be a farmer, nor am I in sympathy with Eurostyle games. But as I understand from talking with players and limited observation, location in the sense of location relative to other players’ assets - spatial location - plays no part in the game, just as is true of a great many Eurostyle games. In many Eurostyle games the board or what passes for one is used to keep track of information, not to show maneuvers or relative locations. Some of these games have “worker placement” but what you’re doing in that situation is recording which option you have selected. You could just as well use tokens or cards, and take a token or card when you “place” a worker. Many of these games are turn order games and the turn order might be represented on the board as in Last Will, but there is no actual location and no placement in the sense of occupying a particular spatial location.

In a sense they are not “real” boardgames at all. You can write down all the statuses on pieces of paper and still play the game, or you can use tokens or cards to represent turn order or worker placement and still play the game. While you can write down the positions of pieces on a chessboard those positions have no meaning except in relation to where the other pieces are: they have spatial locations.

Another way to look at this is that traditional strategic games and virtually all wargames are geographical/spatial games. One place is not the same as another and the relationship between the locations of those places is important. As this corresponds to the real world, it may provide a feeling of familiarity to some, and it certainly helps model real-world situations.

Magic: the Gathering is by far the most played game at the club. I’ve asked players specifically whether spatial location matters, and my impression from having watched Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh a lot over the years is that they are rarely if ever games where location is important and almost never games where maneuver is involved. The cards are placed on the table as record keeping markers. When you “tap” a land you’re recording that it has been used. There are different zones in Magic: the Gathering that indicate the status of cards but those are not spatial locations, those are record-keeping or status tracking.

Not all the other games being played at the club lacked maneuver and location. Probably the most popular game other than Magic is Betrayal at House on the Hill. A great many of the club members who play games other than Magic are essentially role-playing gamers who also play board and card games. Our meetings are too short and too loud to accommodate RPGs during the meeting, so people play RPGs at other times as arranged. Betrayal is a story driven game much as an RPG can be. It does have a considerable element of maneuver and location as the players explore the old mansion, drawing tiles to add rooms to the mansion and moving from one place to another. Once the “traitor” has been identified maneuver can become quite important as various characters are trying to kill each other off or find particular items or go to particular places to use particular items. I wouldn’t exactly call it a boardgame in the traditional non-commercial sense but it is a game where maneuver and location are important.

Another popular game is Dominion, and Ascension is another deck building game that is played a lot. Clearly Dominion is a game where the cards are used to keep a record of what’s happening, as well is to provide randomization. Information hidden from other players in the cards in each player’s hand is at least theoretically important despite the low levels of player interaction in this kind of game. That is, if you knew what cards the other players had you could gain an advantage in play.

It may not be surprising that many of the games, like Dominion, that have only atmospheres and not themes – that is, the so-called story does not actually affect how the game is designed and played – are also games lacking entirely in maneuver and location.

So in this sense almost all wargames are like Britannia, and all those other games I’ve mentioned that are played at the game club are not. Betrayal is the only one that goes in the distance toward Britannia and wargames in general.

Wargames also tend to be games of direct conflict, whereas many games played at the club are not (Magic: the Gathering being an obvious exception). That is more obvious, and we can talk about that another time.

I’ll have more to say about maneuver and location in contrast other kinds of games at another time.

**

My book “Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is now available from mcfarlandpub.com or Amazon (Books-a-Million has a PDF version).
I am @lewpuls on Twitter. (I average much less than one post a day, almost always about games, not about other topics.)
Web: http://pulsiphergames.com/

Comments

Quite an admission.

"The game at the next table was Agricola. I’ve not paid a whole lot of attention to the game, because I’m not interested in pretending to be a farmer, nor am I in sympathy with Eurostyle games. "

"Magic: the Gathering is by far the most played game at the club. I’ve asked players specifically whether spatial location matters, and my impression from having watched Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh a lot over the years..."

You've never played Agricola or Magic?

I have. I've played many, many, many different types and styles of games. I can tell you what I like and dislike about Britannia or Magic or Agicola or Twilight Struggle or Clue(do) or 'Hey that's my Fish!" for that matter _from having played them_. I have my favourites, certainly, but I'll play anything once. You are the first designer I've come across that revels in ignoring new ideas and experiences that are removed from their perceived genre and it certainly makes me take your opinions a lot less seriously.

Really GreenO?

I have never played Agricola or Magic either.

The main difference between a game DESIGNER and a game PLAYER is designers have little time to be playing games.

Another thing to consider is that just because an idea or concept is new to YOU, it doesn't mean it's new to everyone; especially game designers who have been around awhile.

If anyone is on this forum is looking for game DESIGN advice, it would be in their best interest to look to the experienced game DESIGNERS such as lewpuls. Game playing advice can be found on fanboy sites elsewhere.

*eyeroll*

Nice use of infrequent CAPITALS to reinforce your point. I love it when people do that. It reads like an inherent assumption that the author thinks that shouting their point makes it more valid.

You realise your argument is akin to saying that authors are too busy to read, right? If an author was to admit in a public forum they were not well read I don't think it would improve their sales. Want to argue with that point? That's the point I am making- the admission might not be in Lewis' best interest. I'm not saying he's a bad designer or that I hate his best known game (neither of which are true IMO), just that that was an inopportune remark to make.

By all means saddle up your white charger and defend him, but at least do me the decency of formulating a reasoned argument before you do.

Tob wrote:The main difference

Tob wrote:
The main difference between a game DESIGNER and a game PLAYER is designers have little time to be playing games.

Designing games does take up much of the time I would otherwise be playing. Even so I make an effort to play as wide of a variety of games as i can. Designing in a vacuum will lead to creative suffocation. There is only one designer I know that claims to not play other peoples games and I think Dr. Knizia’s work has suffered for it.

Cool

GreenO wrote:
Nice use of infrequent CAPITALS to reinforce your point.

I thought so too. I couldn't figure out how to do [i]italics[/i].

I have no need to defend lewpuls. I'm just pointing out that game players aren't game designers. Being a good frequent player doesn't make one a good designer. If someone drives a car everyday that doesn't make them a good car designer, regardless of the number of cars they've driven.

I doubt lewpuls "revels in ignoring new ideas and experiences". He didn't say that never plays any other games ever, he just mentioned he has never played Agricola or Magic (who considers Magic new? Almost 20 years old now).

Regarding your author analogy, I'd be fairly certain that even your favorite author hasn't read every book ever written. In fact, it would probably be safe to say that no author ever has read every book ever written.

If you, GreenO, have lost respect for a designer who has been published before Magic was even a glimmer in Richard Garfield's eye, then I feel sorry for you. You're giving up a resource of considerable experience.

GreenO wrote: You are the

GreenO wrote:
You are the first designer I've come across that revels in ignoring new ideas and experiences that are removed from their perceived genre and it certainly makes me take your opinions a lot less seriously.

You may not want to take the article so personally. I don't see him "ignoring ideas" but instead making astute observations about different types of games and their inclusion or omission of spatial aspects (maneuver and location). It seems he made an effort to observe these types of games and inquire about them from experienced players rather than ignoring them. Pointing out differences between game types doesn't necessarily infer superiority.

Like you, I will play games of many different styles, but the fact that the author prefers playing only one type doesn't make his observations invalid.

BGDF Rocks

Dralius wrote:
Tob wrote:
The main difference between a game DESIGNER and a game PLAYER is designers have little time to be playing games.

Designing games does take up much of the time I would otherwise be playing. Even so I make an effort to play as wide of a variety of games as i can. Designing in a vacuum will lead to creative suffocation. There is only one designer I know that claims to not play other peoples games and I think Dr. Knizia’s work has suffered for it.

Although I draw inspiration from several source, including my childhood when I played games *that I enjoyed*. I also enjoy sharing ideas and getting feedback for them. This is why BGDF is so great and unique.

This was posted in another topic and I argued the same: design a game you want to play.

When I design, I do so with the intention of playing and enjoying my game (with others hopefully). I am the first to critique my own work and admit to flaws or imperfections. That still does not make an un-enjoyable game.

So game DESIGNERS should play other people's games. Game PLAYERS ONLY play other people's games.

A friend (not so close) is a designer on this site. He has a *ton* of game ideas. But what always impresses me the most when I shoot a question to him is he will say something: "Go see game entitled X, or maybe game Y will give you some ideas". He always brings me back to earth and reminds me many things have been done, some well, some great and some not so good.

Thanks Eric (That's a pat on your back!).

Many thanks to everyone on this site for their openess, differences in opinions and candor.

GreenO wrote:"The game at the

GreenO wrote:
"The game at the next table was Agricola. I’ve not paid a whole lot of attention to the game, because I’m not interested in pretending to be a farmer, nor am I in sympathy with Eurostyle games. "

"Magic: the Gathering is by far the most played game at the club. I’ve asked players specifically whether spatial location matters, and my impression from having watched Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh a lot over the years..."

You've never played Agricola or Magic?

I have. I've played many, many, many different types and styles of games. I can tell you what I like and dislike about Britannia or Magic or Agicola or Twilight Struggle or Clue(do) or 'Hey that's my Fish!" for that matter _from having played them_. I have my favourites, certainly, but I'll play anything once. You are the first designer I've come across that revels in ignoring new ideas and experiences that are removed from their perceived genre and it certainly makes me take your opinions a lot less seriously.


I understand that Knizia generally plays only his own games (though he had a flirt with poker). I thought this was well-known, evidently not. I suppose that henceforth you won't take his opinions about games seriously.

I am old-fashioned. I don't need to hit my head against a wall to know it will hurt. Unlike a lot of people these days, I can read something and learn a lot. (Perhaps a generational thing, people of my generation weren't going to say "tl;dr".) After 50 years, I can figure out whether I'll like a game from observation and talking with players, and reading the rules, without needing to play. Why subject myself to something that's very likely to be unsatisfactory (and most published games are not very good, from my personal point of view). Moreover, there are so many examples of people who play a game and still don't understand it that I'm not impressed with people who play a game once and think they understand it. . . I have specific tastes, I don't "play everything". People who play everything have no taste. My favorite game is the game of designing games. With few exceptions, taking time to play a specific game does not contribute to that. My second-favorite game is figuring out why people like to play particular kinds of games. Which isn't served well if I'm playing.

Agricola is, *to me*, a godawful game by its very nature. I recognize that other people like it and I try to figure out why. Why would I play it? I do own a copy of Magic, and have watched Magic and even more Yu-Gi-Oh games, but I don't play two-player games any more, generally. Why would I play it?

I've heard a designer say "play as many games as you can". If you learn well by playing, OK. I learn better in other ways. Moreover, I know of designers who would design a lot more games if they didn't like playing other people's games so much. Playing games is not very productive.

Btw, I believe many SF/F

Btw, I believe many SF/F authors do not have time to read nearly as many novels as they would like. Moreover, many of them say they don't enjoy novels so much now that they're authors because, usually, they're noticing how the novel is constructed, and that gets in the way of enjoying the story.

The rules.

Ok ok, so if you do or do not agree with anyone, that's fine. But no hatred or slaggin' off or whatever on my boards please guys. You guys are doing a good job so far, but lets keep it civil and open for debate :)

Both sides of the argument are valid.

1. You learn more from things you do not know. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes better at doing the same things. I don't think one can design games effectively without "getting" other games. I know Knizia is famed for not playing others' games, but that is also the reason why it is quite easy to play any game once and pretty accurately deduce if it's a Knizia or not. Personally, I highly respect the man but find all his games quite dull. He sits in the same box and doesn't move. Perhaps this is because he doesn't play others' games?

2. The more you keep up with the others, the more you will tend to fit in with the others. If you play all the "current trendy" games. You will tend to head towards making games that are "current and trendy". the more games you play, the more ideas you will borrow from others. Is it a bad thing, is it a good thing? Who knows.

Personally I am in the belief that you are better off for knowing more, especially "classics" as they say, but everyone is entirely entitled to their opinions.

What I would say in regards to lewpuls original post:

You say that geographic placement and the applied resource of "maneuverability" is an important facet of games. What I would say in reply, is that there it would be hard to give a straight definition as "this does" and "this does not" use any kind of spatial placement.

Take a monopoly board - does that use maneuverability? How about tictactoe or Talsiman? Games with any kind of rondel system could be technicalities too.
Another one: King of Tokyo - it has two "zones". Being in one or the other is very important in how you affect and are affected by other players, there are boons and penalties for moving into / out of one to the other - but, there are only 2 zones, so surely this does not use any kind of maneuver and location?

I think an important thing to remember is that these kind of location based games (particularly war games) can only really effectively use these such systems if there is an advantage or a disadvantage to being in a certain situation. Eg: Tanks can be weaker from the rear - you could pincer your troops onto an enemy unit to have two sets of attacks on it, rather than one - you could get some kind of defence bonus from hiding in trees or upon a hill. This means that at some point, your maneuverable units will be attacking eachother.

I can't think of a situation that uses this kind of maneuverability that would not involve some kind of attack and defence.

My question:
Does that mean say that maneuverability = wargame?

I object strongly to the

I object strongly to the presumption that the only way, and the most effective way, to learn about a game is to play it. That depends on the person, on the situation, perhaps even on the game. There also tends to be a presumption in some that if you don't play a lot of games, you're not learning anything about games, which is clearly NOT true. And I do mean "presumptuous".

On BGG some commenters on this same post have listed many non-wargames that involve maneuver/placement and location in one way or another. In some cases, as in when you have a player layout/board and no one else affects what's there, the relative positions of things can be important, but there is no direct interaction, no attack or defense. In many of those cases there is no maneuver, only placement. Yet I know of games with no maneuver where there is a lot of direct interaction through placement.

I'd say maneuverability tends to reflect the real world, and real-world conflicts often involve maneuver. But I don't think maneuver equates to wargames. I can even conceive of wargames without maneuver (though there is placement). A wargame without maneuver or placement would be pretty hard to pull off, I should think.

Cogentesque, since you say

Cogentesque, since you say "my boards", this reminds me that I haven't been able to figure out who actually runs bgdf. I have a technical question about blogs that I need to ask of someone in authority.

Tic Tac Toe can be

Tic Tac Toe can be represented by "3 to 15". Players take turns choosing numbers from 1 to 9. no number can be repeated. The first player to have 3 numbers that add exactly to 15, wins. More complicated spatial games CAN generally be represented by numbers, words, and other things with just as much detachment, the spatial representation is just easier to parse for most people. Risk can absolutely be played using a spreadsheet. Using the board to do so is a matter of convenience (and thematic re-inforcement), not necessity, just like the board in Agricola is far more convenient (and thematic) than using scraps of paper.

truekid games wrote:Tic Tac

truekid games wrote:
Tic Tac Toe can be represented by "3 to 15". Players take turns choosing numbers from 1 to 9. no number can be repeated. The first player to have 3 numbers that add exactly to 15, wins. More complicated spatial games CAN generally be represented by numbers, words, and other things with just as much detachment, the spatial representation is just easier to parse for most people. Risk can absolutely be played using a spreadsheet. Using the board to do so is a matter of convenience (and thematic re-inforcement), not necessity, just like the board in Agricola is far more convenient (and thematic) than using scraps of paper.

Tic-tac-toe is indeed a very simple game, period. Do you think people - remember games are played by people - can cope with the relationships between, say, 42 spaces in Risk without being able to see the relationships? Some chess players can play without a board and pieces, but they are still visualizing the board to understand the spatial relationships.

Then consider games with far more spaces than Risk or chess. The idea that these can be played with spreadsheets only is absurd.

You could use a computer program to keep track of connectivity on simple boards like Risk and chess, and remind the players which spaces connect to which. But that still wouldn't let players understand the entire board. Nor would it any longer be a tabletop game.

Exactly. It's about

Exactly. It's about convenience and theme, factors which are shared by other games which use a board to facilitate. Glad we agree.

I entirely agree with your

I entirely agree with your last point there lewis, I think "being able to see the relationship" is a very good and central point. In chess and risk and similar such games - you need to be able to visualize the relationship between two distinct nodes. Where is my infantry in relation to the tanks, where is my knight in relation to his rook etc.
But picking up on a different point of yours: in a wargame there is some micro management needed (what is the exact formation of my cannon group) but moreover, you can discuss plans and actions of a wargame with a much much broader brush. "I will plan a pincer movement" or "We need troop relief from the west" or "reinforce the flank" or simply "attack from the north". Yet interestingly the game doesn't really allocate players these ideas or zones in which to utilize in their maneuvers , they are entirely invented by players eg: there is no "The North" zone in any rulebooks of wargames that I know of.

If I was playing devils advocate: Does this therefore mean that a key aspect to games with heavy maneuver and location mechanics, is that they require a very generalized overview? (I am imagining lots of broad red and blue arrows pointing in various directions indicating troop movement strategies).
If this IS the case, then can I argue that due to the number of possible single units that Connect 5 has, it encompasses a more visceral and detailed "relationship protocall" than something like Britannia?

((Seth Jafee is the owner of the site, and there are a few mods around but if you start up a thread in the side blog asking your question I'm sure someone will be able to help :))

truekid games wrote:Exactly.

truekid games wrote:
Exactly. It's about convenience and theme, factors which are shared by other games which use a board to facilitate. Glad we agree.

Dead wrong, the board is a NECESSITY. It won't work otherwise - not with people. Tic-Tac-Toe can work without a board, though it isn't as convenient. Agricola could work without any board, though it wouldn't be as convenient without the player layouts (which aren't quite boards, insofar as only one player can have anything there). Diplomacy won't work without a board, nor Risk, nor many other games of maneuver.

@Cogentesque I don't know

@Cogentesque
I don't know that I can answer your question, but I'll make an observation. Strategic thinking - as associated with tactical thinking, the kinds of thinking that are necessary in warfare - is very much tied up with location and maneuver. (No, I'm not using the sense of "games of strategy", which mostly means games that make people think and make decisions that significantly affect the outcome of the game.) Some of the typical "principles of war" identified by various general staffs involve maneuver and mass (of force, the mass must be located and moved). Strategic thinking is more or less (I think) what you mean by overview.

And I can also say, it's nearly a lost art among younger (adult) game players. Many of them, when they play a game that requires strategic thinking for success, fail pretty dismally. Probably it needs to be learned, like most other kinds of thinking, and perhaps they haven't had a chance to learn it.

Part of strategic thinking is recognizing which relationships are most important, which least important, and so forth. The number of them is not what counts.

Quote: Diplomacy won't work

Quote:
Diplomacy won't work without a board, nor Risk, nor many other games of maneuver.

This is entirely incorrect. Diplomacy and Risk, in specific, could absolutely be played, by humans, in their entirety, without having to memorize adjacency, on a spreadsheet. So could Go, Mancala, etc. etc. Again, look at the tic-tac-toe : 3 to 15 example. You can strongly divorce practically anything (aside from dexterity components) from its spatial element. Would it be fun for your average player? no. Is it possible? yes. Has it been done? YES. There are specifically plug-ins and VBA codes for Excel that allow for formula representation of different kinds of randomization, just so that people can set up the dice rolling/card drawing using a little bit less file space.

However, I also realize that you're not likely to admit you're wrong, even though the evidence is Google-able, so I'll just leave it at that, and leave this thread.

When I was a kid I was a

When I was a kid I was a determinist, thinking that if you had a good enough computer and enough data you could accurately predict everything that will happen anywhere. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle put paid to that even before the practical aspects of it, that we can't have a computer effectively larger than the entire universe in order to make these calculations (quite aside from the practical matter that computer software of any size always contains bugs, because it's written by people).

Chess is theoretically entirely calculable, and I understand someone has proved that a perfectly-played chess game will always end with the same result, but the proof could not show whether that result is a white win, a draw, or a black win. People, however, cannot calculate what, sooner or later, a computer will be able to do. So *practically speaking*, chess is a game, not a puzzle with a solution, not a deterministic exercise.

Similarly, you can blithely claim that everything can be done with a spreadsheet, but *people will not be able to do it*, even very capable people. People play games, not computers. Yes, a computer uses something like a spreadsheet to keep track of a "board", but people cannot. Your claim is a chimera, pointless and absurd. You may as well say "all games are math", as though people don't play the games. Ridiculous!

Welcome to the club, my game

Welcome to the club, my game "Fallen Kingdoms" is also inspired on Britania. The core concepts that I kept was scoring points for each territory and invaders coming in every turn. But I stripped out all the historical elements of the game. So the board is modular and players decides when to invade. Later, new stuff like technologies, gods and buildings were added.

So there is nothing to be a shame of, as long as your game is not a duplicate of Britania and offer something special or different than Britania, it should be OK. Many people complained during the early play test that the game was too repetitive. This is why technologies and buildings change the game as it progress to add variety. This is very unique compared to Britania.

More info about my game can be found here:

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/games/fallen_kingdoms/index.php

There is a section with the history of the game development. That could help you avoid doing the same mistakes that I did. Maybe you should take a look at it.

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/games/fallen_kingdoms/index.php?n=History...

Enjoy!

larienna wrote:my game

larienna wrote:
my game "Fallen Kingdoms" is also inspired on Britania. The core concepts that I kept was scoring points for each territory and invaders coming in every turn. But I stripped out all the historical elements of the game. So the board is modular and players decides when to invade. Later, new stuff like technologies, gods and buildings were added.

Torben M. (Eurobrit Britannia group) designed a fantasy Brit-like game that stripped out the history. As you found, without the history that provides asymmetry and context, you need something to replace those in a non-historical Brit-like game. Vinci and Smallworld use the characteristics of abilities and races (though the games as a whole are not satisfactory, for me, in part because leader-bashing is rampant).

Quote:Torben M. (Eurobrit

Quote:
Torben M. (Eurobrit Britannia group) designed a fantasy Brit-like game that stripped out the history.

Where can it be found, Is it a stand alone game or a variant for britania?

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