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Hourglass design model

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

When explaining an idea to one of my friend, I accidentally called the concept hourglass design, and I am going to explain what I mean by that right now. Look at the attached picture.

When designing games, most of the time people do what could be called abstraction design.

At the beginning there is a concept taken in real life. In order for this concept to be placed in a game it needs to be simplified.

For example:

Concept: Army composed of people, personel, equipment, tents, etc.

Once you made abstration of these concepts, you end up with:

Players can have 4 type of units: Infantry, artillery cavalry and ships which are each represented by a different miniature.

So it could be summarized as:start large, end simple.


In and hour class design, things are different, it could be summarized as

Start large, shrink it to extremely simple and than expand it again to average complex.

For example:

Concept: Same as above

Extreme Simplification: An army is represented on the board with a pawn.

Expansion: When the army enter a battle, you use unit cards that are going to detail the composition of your army. These cards are ignored if the army is not in a battle.

In the design above, when you extremely simplify, everything disappears: the cavalry, the artillery, etc. Then when a combat occur, everything complexify itself. But still, the level of complexity is lower that the original concept to make it used in a game.

By using a design like this, it allows to add more complexity more easily to a board game where normally it would have been impossible to manage. The idea is that the complexity only show up in a certain situation rather than all the time.

What do you think?

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
I didn't know it was called like that

I use this mind frame all the time. I didn't actually put it in such smart words. How did you came out with this? I will surely quote you.

genericm's picture
Joined: 08/11/2009
This is exactly the concept

This is exactly the concept that originated my current design here:

Rather than have a player decide what units he has in each fleet, I decided that that information really wasn't relevant until battle so why not allow the players to make that decision when battle comes instead of managing individual units throughout out the entire game. I hope this will lead to a simpler , faster moving game with all the 'feel' of a more complex logistical war game.

Let me know what you think!

Most players have thus far said that while the more abstract nature of the rules makes the game harder to initially conceptualize, after the first few rounds they begin to see that strategic depth and enjoy the system.

(BTW. larienna I have often enjoyed the objective, conceptual nature of your posts, you're an asset on this forum. Keep up the good work!)

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote:(BTW. larienna I have

(BTW. larienna I have often enjoyed the objective, conceptual nature of your posts, you're an asset on this forum. Keep up the good work!)

I am happy that my ideas can help people.

red hare
red hare's picture
Joined: 11/09/2009
sounds good

I agree. Calling that design process "hour glass" sounds quite good. I used it on a game involving exploring buildings within a city. Most of the time a simple map was used for the players to travel between the buildings. When a player entered a hosptial, for example, we went to a more details map which was randomly generated.

I liked my design mostly because of the "hour glass" feel to it.

So I think it's a useful phrase to describe that kind of design...

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