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Triptych 12: Three subjects in one blog post

Triptych 12
Three subjects in one blog post

• Yomi vs minimaxing
• Changes in habits from Corona/Covid-19
• Solo and Co-op Games

Yomi vs minimaxing

I realized recently that what I’m trying to do in my block games is to emphasize the uncertainty of warfare by offering opportunities to use Yomi rather than the typical wargame minimaxing. Yomi is a Japanese word referring to reading the opponent’s intentions that has been adapted to games. When you rely on Yomi you’re attempting to read or guess or divine your enemy’s intentions and take advantage of that. It is a riskier, more romantic way to do things. But it’s absolutely necessary in real warfare because there is insufficient information.

In a wargame, where typically a great deal of information is known, it’s possible to use a minimax strategy, that is to play the game as a game rather than as warfare. You can calculate what to do to maximize your minimum gain, assuming that your opponent is a perfect player; if they prove to be a less than perfect player you will do better than you expected. (This all flows from the mathematical theory of games.)

By using the hidden identity and hidden strength possible with blocks I try to move the game towards Yomi and away from minimax.

Which is all a bit strange considering that I’m a minimaxer rather than a Yomi player. But I design games for other people, not for myself.

Changes in habits from Corona/Covid-19

The coronavirus affects games because most game shops are closed. I’m told by one of my publishers that money from the typical hobby distribution through distributors to the game shops has dried up, though webstore sales are okay. But it all makes for precarious cash flows.

I hear that in the comic industry, where everything is distributed by one company (Diamond), things are precarious. Diamond has already suspended shipping to comic shops because they’re not getting paid by comic shops (most of which are closed). This lack of payment has also led them to suspend payments to comics publishers. Comics publishers aren’t nearly as strong as they used to be, in fact superhero style comics have been in decline for a decade despite the success of superhero movies. I don’t think Marvel any longer make any money from the movies, as the Marvel movies are owned by Disney. Whether publishers will be able to survive the lack of payments is unknown.

Diamond is a distributor for some RPGs as well as comics. Alliance, the main distributor for hobby tabletop games (and the same ownership as Diamond), has closed down temporarily.

I wonder if our local game store is likely to survive the hiatus. It was struggling as it was, as the local area has a smallish population for a game store (250,000 for the entire county), mitigated by the presence of 70,000+ college students. But in my experience, few college students actually buy games.

(Minor calculation: if there are 330,000,000 people in the US, and 3000 games stores (I believe that’s much higher than reality), each store serves on average 110,000 people (about the population of Gainesville without students). If there are 1500 games stores then each would serve on average of 220,000 people. Someone started a second game store in Gainesville, but it lasted only a year.)

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to recognize that habits will change for some people after the pandemic. The pandemic has forced people to do things remotely, and to do digital rather than physical (for example in comic books and RPG books). How many of those people will continue to do things digitally rather than physically after the pandemic? This puts even more pressure on local game shops, even if they’ve survived the pandemic itself.

As I discussed this with my wife she said that if game shops fail then after while there will be other entrepreneurs who try their luck at running a game shop. But if the comics collapse, it will be that much harder to run a game shop, as many game shops rely on comics sales as well. And many people are aware of the old joke, “how do you make a small fortune in game retail?” Answer: “Start with a large fortune.”

Solo and Co-op Games

How much demand is there for tabletop games that only offer solo play? One of the major strengths of tabletop games is their socialization aspects, yet it’s well-known that many people play military games solitaire for lack of opponents.

Solo and cooperative versions are increasingly popular even for games that are designed to be competitive. I have designed three or four co-op games lately, and I’ve been putting solo versions into my games (as in my latest, Stalingrad Besieged, as best I could (that is, without increasing the cost).

But the typical co-op game is rather Euro-like, whereas mine are wargame-like.

Latest (free) videos on my YouTube “Game Design” Channel:

What causes exceptions to the rules?
https://youtu.be/QBgyBBO_4AU

Exceptions to the rules make a game more complicated, Even in a video game, where the rules are enforced by the software, the players have to learn what the exceptions are. So what causes a game design to have rules exceptions?

Pros and Cons of RPG character ability generation methods
https://youtu.be/KpvQC6dNqYw

What are the pros and cons of the two fundamental methods of RPG character generation, the stochastic (dice rolling) and the deterministic (point buy)?

"Yomi" versus Minimax
https://youtu.be/QLjpS7ZwctY

Some people play opposed games (such as historical representations of warfare) according to game theory notions (minimax), others act as many generals have and try to read the intentions of their opponents, then act accordingly. Yomi is closely related to intuition, minimax to logic. I've discussed intuition and logic in another video, https://youtu.be/M63j6_8D6iI

Getting started: World-Building
https://youtu.be/DIJMCeMdNiY

Some questions to ask yourself, and an admonition that it's the game (or novel) you should spend most of your time on, not the world.

21st century gamers are usually deficient in military strategy
https://youtu.be/AHthjFxbVoU

In my experience (mostly with tabletoppers), 21st century gamers are poor at military-style strategy. They don't think in long-term, don't see in long-term. It is, after all, the Age of Instant Gratification. It's not different in video games, because video game "wargames" are usually resource management games, not wargames. And video games encourage the "instant gratification" point of view.

10 "need to knows" about level and adventure design
https://youtu.be/9mIG0wl2Lao

Level and adventure design is related to game design, but not the same thing.

Comments

Thanks for the post! I'd say

Thanks for the post!

I'd say that most game stores rely on Magic cards to stay in business, rather than comics, but otherwise..

Magic for the older crowd, Pokemon for the younger folks

But it's true that comic stores used to sell cards too... I remember going to comic stores to collect Star Trek TNG white border cards. I even got two (2) Captain Picard cards of which one I put in a sheek solid plastic sleeve to have as a conversation piece on a coffee table (I was still a youth back in the day...!)

However nowadays cards games such as Magic and Pokemon are the life bread of many game stores. Especially true as Magic stores (only sell CCGs and TCGs) divest into Board Games too... (Our local Magic shop started with a nice Tuesday Night Board Game Night where 2 tables were for the board game crowd) That eventually expanded to having some game staples on the back wall...

Pretty cool too... I mean there is a Board Game Store ACROSS the street! So they must not be very happy with the Magic shop...

Shops

In my town (in Florida) we have a game shop (that may sell a few comics), and a combo comics and games shop. A lot for a population of 110k, but that doesn't count students at a HUGE university and Huge community college. Yes, Magic cards are a big part of game shop sales. Where I used to live there was a card shop that also sold comics, and a game shop that also sold plastic/resin models. Combo shops are just practical in many markets.

Life has changes A LOT since the 80s

I remember as a teen, we (me and some friends) used to pass newspapers around the neighborhood. The monies we earned from doing this, we would PRE-ORDER the next month's comics (a month ahead)... Basically would sink all our monies into comics.

Nowadays the paper boy is an adult with a car and does the job that us teenagers used to do as spare monies.

It's really amazing to see how things have changed. The volume of people has also grown (more people living in Montreal). It's so bad in the CITY that you can't find ANY parking BECAUSE of all the people parking on the streets leaving nothing for visitors to that area... this is especially true in the HOT new development areas.

The other thing about "downtown" is there are no Grocery stores. You literally need to go to the suburbs or outlying neighborhoods to buy food for home. TBH it's quite ridiculous!

Anyway my point is ... Things have changed since the 80s and A LOT.

60s

I was a teen in the 60s. Believe me, things have changed even more since then. I first saw a color TV in the very early 60s, e.g.; no computers then, either, most people couldn't even type.

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blog | by Dr. Radut