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What do the game of the year nominees and highly recommended say about direction of game design?

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lewpuls
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The German Game of the Year award nominees and "highly recommended" games average only 30 minutes playing time, though many are for more than two players. And all are difficulty 1 or 2 (max is 4).

What does this say about where game design is going?

Corsaire
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Having recently bought 7

Having recently bought 7 Wonders, I am in awe of the elegance, depth, and balance in that thirty minute game.

At a first glance you might think a dumbing down for mass market, but I suspect it represents a trend in elegance and science in design with the lessons learned from the billions of dollar video game market getting the A game out of board games.

Difficulty is also deceptive, and a single number is inadequate. What's needed is an ease of use score and a score representing upside challenge. And if reviewers also gave games an "end game" tactical flavor, that would be sweet. A number of easy to play games get challenging as record keeping, calculating games, ewww. Some turn into RPS, others degenerate to dice offs because the optimal strategy caps too early in the curve. Tactical, strategic with some head games is the holy grail I look for.

devaloki
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All it says is that if you

All it says is that if you want to sell a lot of games then you have casualize yourself to new lows sometimes

jwarrend
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It may say something about

It may say something about where the SdJ is going, but I doubt it says terribly much about where "game design" is going in general. For one thing, there is of course the Kennerspiel des Jahres. For another, there is no rule that says that the composition of the SdJ shortlist dictates what games an individual designer is permitted to work on in the comfort of his own home.

Some Random Dude
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Not really sure what to make

Not really sure what to make of this. The Spiel des Jahres always picks "family weight" games - light to medium games without a lot of rule complexity. This isn't to say the games are easy to win, but they are easy to grasp. They have depth to them without overloading players with a lot of rules. If you like convoluted, long games, then that's great for you (I enjoy them too). But it takes a certain amount of artistry to make a complex game that only takes a few minutes to explain and plays in under an hour.

I should ask the OP, how many of this year's Spiel nominees and recommended games have you played? How many of winners of the last 20 years have you played?

I haven't even heard of Camel Up, but Splendor and Concept have been receiving a lot of attention for their great designs. Let's look at the last 20 years of Spiel winners:

Hanabi
Kingdom Builder
Quirkle
Dixit
Dominion
Keltis
Zooloretto
Thurn and Taxis
Niagara
Ticket to Ride
Alhambra
Villa Paletti
Carcasonne
Torres
Tikal
Elfenland
Mississippi Queen
El Grande
The Settlers of Catan
Manhattan

None of those games are terribly complicated really, and even though I might not like all of them, I can definitely recognize that their designs are pretty dang solid. What sort of games would you like to see German, Swiss, and Austrian board game experts to put on these lists?

devaloki wrote:
All it says is that if you want to sell a lot of games then you have casualize yourself to new lows sometimes

This statement seems absurd. New lows? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, and if so please explain in more detail. If you're talking about this year in particular, then I'm not sure what to tell you (I have limited personal experience with the actual nominees, but SOS Titanic and Love Letter are definitely great games), but let's look at recent history. Are you going to say that Hanabi, Dominion, and Ticket to Ride are lows in gaming? Those are from the last ten years. Dominion was revolutionary. TtR has actually made a bigger splash then Settlers of Catan, something I never thought would happen, and it's probably the simplest game on that list (one action per turn and only 4 actions to choose from). Hanabi was just last year and addressed one of the big issues with cooperative games, something that not many games have done.

devaloki
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I was using hyperbole.I

I was using hyperbole.
I guess it's just personal tastes of mine in a way. I find a lot of people that game are only interested in light games that play fast and don't have much depth to them. I'm not advocating for games to have to go back to the complexity of Avalon Hill games, but I would like to see more of a focus on games that aren't so casual, fast, and lacking in depth. I'd like to see more games like Mage Knight. But games like Mage Knight unfortunately aren't very popular with most gamers.

By "new lows" (hyperbole) what I mean is that it seems people overly simplify games in order to appeal to the changing temperament of gamers. They try to make every game like Dominion, 7 wonders, etc.

"Are you going to say that Hanabi, Dominion, and Ticket to Ride are lows in gaming? "
Never played Hanabi. Dominion is great (though dry after awhile without expansions), but I don't want to see every game light as Dominion. Ticket to Ride I completely hate, that game is sooo boring it's just draw, draw, draw and the theme is really lame too imo.

larienna
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I don't want to hijack the

I don't want to hijack the thread, but I wanted talk about an impression I had recently.

During th weeknend I played caylus (which I hate) with 2 new players. And I checked their reaction.

I am have an impressions that it does not matter if a game is good or bad anymore, the only thing that matters if it works. It should then be able to entertain people.

It's like movie crititcs, critics could give a movie a bad score, but in the end the audiance will love it.

So when you are targetting for a larger audiance, it seems to be the same syndrome. Not sure if what I say make senses because it is hard to express.

--------------------------------------------

Like listed in my other thread, I think the optimal conditions for board game design are:

Quote:
- Low depth, level of details and components: Makes the production of prototype easier and reduce play time. Also reduce production cost, it could be a good reason why Micro games are so popular recently.

- Play time of 1 hour or less: First because people have short attention span, but most importantly, the longer is the game, the more time it takes to play test. So it require more time investment to design. I saw a funny comment for a war game that lasted 100 hours, they said that there are rumours that the designers never actually finished a game. Also testing a game requires almost twice the time of the duration of the game due to setup and note taking (especially when solo testing).

- Based on mechanics: Like explained in the previous thread, it needs to have a good pool of mechanics previously seen as functional that can be adapted to your game.

- Social aspect is more important: Board games makes it easier to perform certain type of mechanics especially when it involves social aspects like negotiation. Even if the social interaction is not part of the rules (bragging rights, role play) it should be considered as if it does make a difference. For example, playing stock ticker with real players is really not the same thing, even if the social aspect has not influence on the rules.

- Limited Thematic Span: Like explained in the previous thread, make sure the theme does not cover too much making it very hard to implement it as a board game without cutting stuff.

In the future, I might do board game design efforts in priority to such kind of games.

Koen Hendrix
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Let's not talk about the

Let's not talk about the "best" properties of a game as if there's some one-size-fits-all perfection to be attained here. The "best" type of game will always depend on the context -- who are you playing with, how long have you got, how much alcohol have you all had, etc.

The spectrum of available games is very broad, which is great, precisely because sometimes there's 6 dedicated wargamers in an attic for a whole weekend, sometimes there's a few kids who need to be entertained for half an hour at the family gathering, and sometimes you're in the pub with your mates and you like to keep your hands busy while talking. All we designers need to do is make a decision on who our target audience is. We can make that as narrow or as broad as we want.

The Spiel Des Jahres is very explicitly a family game award, so don't take it as an indicator of board game design as a whole. If you're playing with more avid board gamers, the Kennersspiel Des Jahres is probably more for you.

So yes, if you want to win a SdJ, you should probably be making under-an-hour family-friendly games. But you don't have to. We can design any game we want, and if only a niche group of gamers enjoy it, that's absolutely fine.

Masacroso
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Exactly... The same work for

devaloki wrote:
All it says is that if you want to sell a lot of games then you have casualize yourself to new lows sometimes

Exactly... The same work for all the market of anything, if you want a lot of sells.

The key, for me, is transform the mass of people with something that seems casual but, indeed, is really deep after all.

Attraction, seduction... the key of any sell.

Why you think the best artists, from all history, generally live in extreme poverty? Musics, writers, painters, director films, etc...

So if you want to create something good you must cheat people a bit to seduce them to your creation.

devaloki
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Hendrix,I agree with you for

Hendrix,
I agree with you for the most part BUT
a lot of the time some designers limit their game with its depth/complexity/play time in a false bid to try to appeal to casual gamers and, in effect, sacrifice the spirit and feel of their game.
So yes, it is VERY important to know what type of game your's is about and also your audience.
Making a game with a light theme that appeals to casuals yet then it has very deep and complex gameplay is not a good idea; just as it is to have a game that has a dense and mature theme to have too light of rules.
A lot of the casual crowd and attitude comes out and they try to trash talk games that aren't rules light and short length and they act like the only games that matter are those types. But not all of us gamers want every game to be short, rules light, and casual.

Look at the world of video games for example. Resident Evil started off as a pure survival horror series that was quite scary and tough. But as time has gone on the people who make Resident Evil want to try to attract more gamers to their game; they look at how massive the Call of Duty playerbase is. Call of Duty players and games have a totally different mindset than Resident Evil does. So what did they do? They made Resident Evil 6 and tried to casualize it so much and focus so much on action over horror in order to try to appeal to Call of Duty type of players that they ended up sacrificing the spirit of their game and they alienated their core player base. So what they ended up making a game that was only lukewarm to the Call of Duty type of people and repelled their core fans.
So too is it with board games where designers limit themselves and how great their games could be by trying to appeal to players that would only feel lukewarm about their game to begin with.

In short, what I'm saying is not every game has to be 7 wonders, dominion , or ticket to ride even if a lot of casual gamers think that every game that isn't as short as those games isn't worthy of attention or being designed.
There's a place for both casual and heavy games, I enjoy both of them personally.

devaloki
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Masacroso wrote:devaloki

Masacroso wrote:
devaloki wrote:
All it says is that if you want to sell a lot of games then you have casualize yourself to new lows sometimes

Exactly... The same work for all the market of anything, if you want a lot of sells.

The key, for me, is transform the mass of people with something that seems casual but, indeed, is really deep after all.

Attraction, seduction... the key of any sell.

Why you think the best artists, from all history, generally live in extreme poverty? Musics, writers, painters, director films, etc...

So if you want to create something good you must cheat people a bit to seduce them to your creation.

So true with all your points!

ruy343
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Elegance

I think that the point about it being a family games award is key, but I think that the award is also conditional on the simple theme of rules elegance.

Elegance in programming is using as little code as possible to complete the same function. If you can have few rules, but create a game that is enjoyable, your game has elegance.

However, many programs aren't "elegant", and have lots of rules about them, but provide a more powerful application. Microsoft Excel comes to mind. Similarly, a game like "Power Grid", with as many rules as it has, provides a very enjoyable strategic experience, but the ratio of rules to fun is more slanted towards rules than, say, "Love Letter"

That's my $.02

danieledeming
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*flips two pennies into the pot*

@devaloki - I think calling them 'new lows' is going to be taken as demeaning no matter how you color it, but there is definitely some truth in what you're getting at. I think complexity and depth are being sacrificed to a few epidemics of the times we're in: attention span, free time, and the pursuit of money.

Shorter, 'family games' are not only going to reach more people, but it plays to the limited attention span and free time of the average person these days. Hell, I don't even have 10 or 12 hours in any given day to spend at a board game, and I'd love to. People either don't have the time, or don't make the time.

Because of that, less of those games are going to get developed. Not to mention that longer, deeper, more complex games require more resources, playtesting, etc. They take longer to get to market and typically cost more, all things that add to the rise of something shorter and cheaper.

Is it better? Who's to say? I like them all, personally. And as far as this year's nominees, I've played splendor. It might be short, but the entertainment and reasoning are there. It's a tough game for as simple a concept as it is.

On that note, some of the most classic games - go, chess, othello - are not extremely complex games to learn, but the strategy and decision making is, and I'd argue that that's what makes a game lasting and great.

Lowpass
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Very light, relatively short

Very light, relatively short playtime, family-friendly... weren't these always the criteria for the "Spiel des Jahres"-award? (with only few exceptions)

Before the "Kinderspiel des Jahres"-subcategory existed, even kid's games won it. Like "Enchanted Forest" in 1982 or "Top Secret Spies" in 1986.

There were some exceptions, but these were just exceptions. "Spiel des Jahres" always adressed casual gamers as well as non-gamers. I can't see any "direction". In fact, I find this award quite consistant over the more than 30 years it exists.

lewpuls
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I ran across the Kennerspiel

I ran across the Kennerspiel (which I'd never heard of, and which goes back just a few years) after posting.

No, I don't play family games, never have.

Quote: "I am have an impressions that it does not matter if a game is good or bad anymore, the only thing that matters if it works. It should then be able to entertain people."

Most younger tabletop gamers (in my experience, at any rate) also play video games. And a great many video games amount to time-killing. (Jakob Nielsen pointed out that the "killer app" in mobile was killing time.) Perhaps time-killing is more common in tabletop games now, meaning if a game works, it can be used to kill time. It's not really entertainment, though; the other players are the entertainment, in this case.

devaloki
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danieledeming wrote:@devaloki

danieledeming wrote:
@devaloki - I think calling them 'new lows' is going to be taken as demeaning no matter how you color it, but there is definitely some truth in what you're getting at. I think complexity and depth are being sacrificed to a few epidemics of the times we're in: attention span, free time, and the pursuit of money.

Shorter, 'family games' are not only going to reach more people, but it plays to the limited attention span and free time of the average person these days. Hell, I don't even have 10 or 12 hours in any given day to spend at a board game, and I'd love to. People either don't have the time, or don't make the time.

Because of that, less of those games are going to get developed. Not to mention that longer, deeper, more complex games require more resources, playtesting, etc. They take longer to get to market and typically cost more, all things that add to the rise of something shorter and cheaper.

Is it better? Who's to say? I like them all, personally. And as far as this year's nominees, I've played splendor. It might be short, but the entertainment and reasoning are there. It's a tough game for as simple a concept as it is.

On that note, some of the most classic games - go, chess, othello - are not extremely complex games to learn, but the strategy and decision making is, and I'd argue that that's what makes a game lasting and great.

I still stick behind what I said about "new lows" because it's pretty much true. A lot of games compromise themselves to try to appeal to people that don't really give a shit about games to begin with or treat it only as a party type of game or to try to appeal to "the wife" who would really rather be doing something else than playing boardgames.
My point is, know your core audience and base the complexity on what you're trying to do with theme; don't sacrifice your art to try to appeal to people that don't really care about it

Some Random Dude
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devaloki wrote:I still stick

devaloki wrote:
I still stick behind what I said about "new lows" because it's pretty much true. A lot of games compromise themselves to try to appeal to people that don't really give a shit about games to begin with or treat it only as a party type of game or to try to appeal to "the wife" who would really rather be doing something else than playing boardgames.
My point is, know your core audience and base the complexity on what you're trying to do with theme; don't sacrifice your art to try to appeal to people that don't really care about it

A) Please, use the word "spouses".

B) People that don't really give a crap about games... don't even play THESE games we're talking about. Remember, they don't give a crap.

C) "Know your core audience and base the complexity on what you're trying to do" - What if your core audience is people that enjoy these games? What if your core audience is parents and kids? Would we be dumbing things down because we didn't care about the hobby and only wanted to sell stuff, or because we want to make sure that ALL PEOPLE can enjoy this hobby we love?

Sorry, but your post was one of the most ill-informed, elitist, insensitive things I've read today.

devaloki
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A) 9 times out 10 it is

A) 9 times out 10 it is indeed "the wife", go look on BGG there are TONS of threads about guys going on about "how can I get my girlfriend/wife into games?" , in fact isn't there a whole forum dedicated just to that on there?
Don't get me wrong though. I'm not saying that that's always the case or to stereotype everybody. It's just a generalization.
But I'll keep in mind your advice for the future

B) No, they do play them. When their friends and/or partner introduces it to them mainly. Some designers, it seems, try to keep that in mind and limit their game's design by keeping in mind those players.

C) If the core audience is indeed for a casual base then there is no shame at all in making a casual, quick, easy game. If you make a game about a light theme such as bumblebees then you have to keep in mind it will mainly attract casual players; you shouldn't have a theme like that game and then make it into a really deep game like Mage Knight. That would be the reverse problem of "dumbing down" a game, that problem would be "making it too complex."
"or because we want to make sure that ALL PEOPLE can enjoy this hobby we love?"
People have different tastes and likes, everyone deserves to have games out there that appeal to them. Games shouldn't be made to try to appeal to some nonexistent universal standard is what I'm saying. It feels to me there is a definite trend going on where people think a game is bad if it lasts for over an hour in length or if it's not as simple as Dominion or 7 Wonders

ChowYunBrent
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I don't think people think a

I don't think people think a game is bad if it is over an hour or particularly complex. Its that by its very nature it wont appeal to as many people as a short easier to play game. Its not a question of quality (which is largely subjective anyway) its a question of pragmatics.

Short easier games are easier to get to the table and likely to appeal to more people.

Lowpass
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The "Spiel des Jahres"-award

The "Spiel des Jahres"-award always was for families and non- or casual gamers.
The very first winner (in 1979) was "Hare & Tortoise", which has a BGG-weight of 1.27!

The games always had to have relatively short playing times, had to be suitable for at least 4 players and had to be very easy to understand. There were some exceptions to this - but these were exceptions.
And since they introduced "Kennerspiel des Jahres", they found a bit more back to these roots.

It seems that there are some misunderstandings about this since the award became more popular in other countries.

Here you can find an interview with Tom Felber about the award and its meaning: http://tandgcon.com/business-of-play/an-interview-with-tom-felber-jury-c...

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