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Self-Restricting design by components

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

There is one thing that I realized is that I am better at doing variant design for other games than designing my own game.

I think one of the reason is because when you make a variant, you are stuck with the components that the games gives you. So the manipulation you can do are very limited compared to when you design your own game where you have full control.

Since most of my design start by a theme, I generally do not have really ingenious mechanics, I just shop for mechanics found in other games, tweak them, fusion them and use them in my game.

So one of my ideas was that When I am trying to design a mechanic I need, I design the components first according to what I would like to have. Then I force my self to design something with the designed components. In this way, it reduce a lot the possible permutations available and might make it easier to design like if I was making a variant for another game.


I one of my world war 2 game, I know that:

- I want ships to be represented on cards.

- Some cards will have more ships according to their type: 1CV, 2CVL, 1BB, 1DBB, 2CA, 3CL, 5DD, 3SS, 8AP

- Cards will have and Anti-air and anti-ship value I can borrow from a video game I know

- I'll add some icon as ship options: ex: anti-sub attack, ground bombard, planes, etc.

Now that I know the information on the card, I need to force myself to design a combat mechanic with these cards.

So I think it works like in a math formula, you place the known information and try to find the unknown information.

I am not sure it this type of design would work every time.

what do you think?

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008
Sounds like one of the many

Sounds like one of the many processes that should be undertaken when considering a design and revisited if one gets in a rut. I personally am a bit too broad at first, and I am sure this process will be of use to me.

I'm sure it won't fit every game, but it will definitely benefit others.

jasongreeno's picture
Joined: 07/31/2008
Me too.

I'm guilty.

Too many possibilities and I clam up, spend too much time researching, or revamping the concept.

I think your technique for limiting yourself is a good one. I try to give myself some limitations early on to spur creativity. I've found that it's okay to then expand in areas that need it rather than start too big and need to start carving out pieces.

Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008

Well, some considerable time ago, I ran a GDS contest in which I gave a list of bits and the sole condition was that the game had to use all of them in some fashion, including paper money, counters, cubes and some nice oddities like a set of wooden elephants. (Has that idea been used again in more recent contests?)
There were some fantastically creative ideas - one I remember used the paper money as the Start Player mechanic (throw the money up in the air and see who catches the highest value note!)

So yeah, sometimes having the components helps concentrate the mind.
One of my most fun design projects of the last few years involved designing a set of three games, all of which used the same board, cards and component set but which felt completely different to one another. (I did cheat, and allowed myself to have a very few "unique" components for each game but not very many.) I genuinely don't recommend it as a project to anyone else though - it didn't feel like designing three games it felt more like designing about six. At once. :)

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
The only advantage in using

The only advantage in using exactly the same components for many game would be able to sell many games in 1.

Or it could comply with my idea of selling bits pack and selling PDF games that match a bit pack.

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008

Stonehenge was that new attempt at that... here's the components and 5 games were made around it (with expansion for 5 more games + bunches of internet games posted).

It was supposed to be the deck of cards for board games.

Some designs were good, but mostly they weren't well thought of... games are just such creatures that very few can operate from the same component list. While many have similarities, they just need to be given their own voice and path that must be followed. Once you find the voice, it might be a good idea to stay within your singing range... by restricting the components.

I remember the Sri Lankan competition earlier and was inspired by the stories of the history and the odd looking components to make a game, so I felt I had to come up with something. It wasn't an ideal game, but one that translated the heart of the game I would like to make had I not been restricted to the components. I am grateful for that opportunity to test my design skills... but that competition had to get extended because there was only 1 entry initially. I was pressed for time and threw my ideas into form to be the second.

That's my only GDS victory - a 2 person competition with restricted components. I think it says a bunch about game designers because we generally have very specific ideas about what they want their components to do... but that's what's great about the GDS and wish I competed more often. It truly does stretch your design capabilities and every month it will restrict some facet of the design process.

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