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BG Design Concepts - #2 The Issue of Balance

The Issue of Balance

We have all heard game designers talking about balancing their games. This is a very important issue and one that is by no means easy or quick. So, what is a balanced game? And also, how do we know if we have balance issues in a game? Or better still, how do we balance a game that has balance issues? But what about, is balance necessary in order to have a fun and successful game? Let’s take it one question at a time:

A Layman's Thoughts on Game Design - #1


Terms & Definitions

In order to talk with someone about any subject, there needs to be common ground when it comes to the words or phrases they use. If the two people think about the same word in different ways they will not be on the same page. This will lead to confusion and they may not reach an understanding in their communication. I feel like in the discussion of game design this is a real barrier to people how want to become part of the hobby. Game design, like many other subjects, starts in the mind with the way we think and form ideas. There is a tendency among designers to use terms interchangeably when talking about design ideas. This is not done with any evil motivation but instead, comes from the fact that designers… well, they are just people who need to form words in order to express the ideas in their heads. To start us out on the right foot, here are a few definitions that should help to keep confusion to a minimum. Please keep in mind that the author is also just a person, and you might not find all of these definitions in a dictionary.

BG Design Concepts - #1 Power & Control

Power & Control
"relating some to area control in games"

To make a game “effectively” using the "Power & Control" as a design concept you will need to understand the relationships and differences between power & control and also what types of force can be used to affect (or influence) those two concepts. “The power to force control onto the power and control forces.” The factors of power, control, and force are central to the idea of area control and many other aspects of game design.

For you as a board game designer, another main factor in this mix is player motivation. Keep in mind that these concepts will be presented only briefly in this article. You may have to go out and spend some real time researching, if you want to fully comprehend, the web that connects these concepts.

BG Mechanics - #2 Area Control Basics

Area Control “The Basics”
On the surface, this mechanic might seem like a large abstract concept used in games more than just a simple mechanic. If you feel that way then you are not alone. Some game designers (and most people) use “terms for ideas” interchangeably or use the same term for several different ideas. This can muddy the waters when those terms are discussed. Mechanic is one such word.

Therefore, Area control is a mechanic made up of other sub-mechanics working together. While the term “mechanic” does describe things that are simple ideas like “Roll & Move”, as discussed in my article on Dice Rolling. It also gets used for bigger ideas like “Area Control”, and in some games, area control might mean several seemingly independent mechanics all working together to form a “system” of area control. So, is area control a system or a mechanic?

BG Mechanics - #1 Dice Rolling

Dice Rolling
There are many uses for dice in games that extend far beyond the need for one random element. One of the main uses of dice rolling is to have an impartial "third party" mechanic determine the outcome of an action or event. Dice rolling can also be used to choose or select things for us (provide a random pick). They are the cornerstone of many complicated formulas in numerous game mechanics.

While dice might be the most versatile single component in game design, this article will not go deeply into the many ways dice can be rolled in combinations to achieve statistical probabilities or how to use dice to select a narrow range of predictable results. Instead, I would like this to focus more on how they are used to build interesting game mechanics...

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by Dr. Radut