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Found a dictionary of Game Design Terms (Patterns)

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Joined: 12/31/1969

While browsing my university's library for books on computer patterns, I came upon a book titled "Patterns in Game Design" (2005).

It looked like another book on video games. But it is NOT! Although it's heavily geared toward them, it's about games in general, ie: Board games too! It's written by game designers from Sweden.

The authors use a lot of examples to explain the patterns. It's usually videogames but sometimes they refer to classic boardgames such as Chess, Go, Poker, Simon, Monopoly. Surprisingly, there's a few examples using Setters of Catan, TransAmerica and Ticket To Ride.

It's a sort of dictionary of game design terms, so I was finding all the stuff we talk about: Cards, Goals, Handicap, Replayability, Balance, Bluffing, Bidding, Betrayal, Memorizing, Luck, Randomness, etc.

Here's a bit of the Randomness pattern, everything in italics are other patterns that you can refer to:


Randomness can be introduced into games to lessen Predictable Consequences and give players Limited Foresight and Limited Planning Abilities. This is usually done for two reasons: either to simulate events in the real world that are chaotic and unpredictable or to generate essential Asymmetric Resource Distribution or Imperfect Information in the games.

I think resources such as that book will help our hobby a lot. It could also be a very good base for defining the mechanics in the (wiki) like we wanted to do.

Yogurt's picture
Joined: 01/09/2009
Found a dictionary of Game Design Terms (Patterns)

It looks like they're drawing on Pattern Language, the book/movement about designing living spaces.

I'm glad to see they include PDF versions of the text, because this approach really cries out for hyperlinks.

The game pattern authors have a related site here, btw:

(It links to BoardGameGeek and the Games Journal.)

I'm not a huge fan of taxonomies, but I hope my local library has a copy all the same.


Joined: 12/31/1969
Found a dictionary of Game Design Terms (Patterns)

I bought the book and I love it. The electronic version that came with it on a cd is even better. It's all hyper-linked which make very useful and fun to browse as yogurt suggested.

As a follow-up, I present you this.

For fun, on a bus trip, I identified patterns in micropul. I'm certain I missed a bunch but still, it was an interesting experiment.

identified patterns

cognitive immersion
requires problem-solving and attention to form groups and to activate effect.
grouping of micropuls
elements must be orthogonally adjacent to activate
micropul come into contact with catalysts and activate
freedom of choice
choose between 3 actions
place a stone on an uncomplete group of micropuls
gain ownership
by placing a stone, the player gain ownership of that group
tiles are used and gained during the game, they are depleted
define success of the player at the end of the game. can compare score to previous scores.
player collect tiles in their supply stack and hand
shared rewards
players with a stone on the same closed group score points together
card hands
each player have an hand of tiles
drawing stacks
the core is a stack used by all. also, each player have a supply stack
tiles drawn from the core and supply are at random
when you get that tile you need, you feel lucky?
game mastery
as you gain skills, your regular solitaire score augment by a lot
consistent reality logic
secret resources
in two-player game, the hands are hidden
limited planning ability
cannot plan too far ahead because of number of tiles known is limited. actions of other player will change the configuration of the board. in solo, can plan more
non-renewable resources
once a certain tile is used, you cannot draw it again

And more patterns but without justification because it's self-explanatory.

symetric goals
tied results
analysis paralysis

This last pattern is also found in micropul

irreversible actions
once a tile or a stone is placed, it cannot be moved,removed or affected in any way. when a tile is drawn from supply it cannot be put back into the supply.

I found this pattern interesting. Here's a snippet of what the book has to say about it:

Every Irreversible Action performed is a closure, and since there is no Reversability to their effect, they do not promote Experimenting and make Puzzle Solving more difficult. Rather, they promote Stimulated Planning and may cause Analysis Paralysis.

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