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Looking at game design as ways of introducing asymmetry

In many “natural” games, such as sports, and in many traditional board and card games, every participant begins with an equal position and prospects to every other. This is symmetry. We can look at game design as devising interesting ways to break up symmetry, to introduce asymmetry. Some of these are achieved through player choice, some through randomness, some through uncertainty, and some through choice or caveat of the designer.

How many dice (to include with a game)?

Those who like dice games are going to answer this question with “lots”! But game designers can’t think that way. Every item added to a game increases the retail price of the game very roughly six times the actual cost. So if you put in some extra dice that cost $.15 altogether the price of the game rises by at least a dollar. If you add a dollars’ worth of dice the price of the game increases by roughly six dollars.

Two military (more or less) problems for historical game designers: pushing barbarians, and tribute

Two military/political aspects of the ancient world hold a fascination for me, because I've not found or seen a really satisfactory way to represent them in games. These are the problems of "the bump" and of tribute.

Six words about role-playing games

According to tweetdeck, one of the trending:worldwide topics on twitter not so long ago was 6 word stories. In the past few months I've asked people to say 6 words about game design, programming, wargames, stories in games, casual games, zombie games, chance/randomness in games, innovation and plagiarism in games, and game sequels.

This time the challenge is this: say six words about role-playing games.

The economic production cycle in games

This is a discussion of how some games include a cycle of converting resources through some means of production such as factories or agricultural facilities into assets that are usable to help succeed in the game. These assets are often physical things but can be capabilities or even victory points themselves.

November 2012 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

Can we characterize tabletop game publishers? Hard to say.

This post was precipitated by a question from a reader regarding how often or how persistent he should be in trying to get an email response from a publisher, after initial contact.

What it has become is an attempt to describe, up to the point of my limited knowledge, what tabletop hobby game publishers are like and how they work. I don’t know all the publishers, of course, and in particular I’ve never had any contact with German publishers. Yet I think I can tell new game designers some things that might help them understand how the industry works.

Intentions versus Actions (in Game Design): a warning for new game designers

“[The road to] hell is paved with good intentions.” Traditional proverb

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." Henry Ford

One reason why so many aspiring game designers “never get anywhere” is the confusion between intention and action. Different generations view this quite differently. Older people recognize that it’s what you do that is most important, not what you intend or what you say you’ll do or what you wanted to do. They're in tune with Henry Ford. Young people tend to believe that intention is so important that it can excuse a lack of action.

Maintenance based economies vs. “accumulation” economies OR, Economic “Limits”

“War” games are fundamentally different from “battle” games, although most people would call both wargames. In the former there’s an economy and the war is essentially about controlling a better economy that ultimately gives you the preponderance of force. The focus tends to be strategic rather than tactical with maneuver contributing to gaining or keeping control of economic locations.

In a battle game you have an order of appearance that rarely changes, and no economy. Then the focus tends to become tactical, finding better ways to butcher the enemy before they butcher you. There may be objectives that are locations on a map, but if you slaughter enough of the enemy you’re likely to take those objectives. Maneuver then contributes to killing the enemy (or scaring them off) not to capturing/controlling economic resource/production locations.

“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.

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by Dr. Radut