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Overspecialising mechanics and components for all your game ideas

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larienna
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Lately, I have been fascinated by "ED:Microcosm" which has a very small foot print and a good amount of depth. It generated many other variation and idea, to a point where I wonder if most of my game ideas could be implemented with similar mechanics.

In board game design, mechanic searching and high production cost are the 2 worst enemies for me. But now I am wondering if I could restrain mechanic searching by overspecialising the mechanics and components I use to make development easier.

Some "rules" ideas that I was thinking are:

- Design only cards games with max 100 cards.
- 2 player game only.
- Make sure each card have a multiple uses (3-4 usages), to increase depth, reduce the number of cards, etc
- There could optionally be other side components (cube, tokens, etc), but it must fit in a very small box. Still, I would prefer only cards.

I rechecked my list of game ideas and I could easily convert a dozen of games to a this restriction set.

Over specialization has the possible benefits of making games easier to design on the long run, but has the drawback of making games looks similar to each other. My best example is game made by "Philippe Keyaerts". Small world, Vinci, Evo and Olympos are all variations of the same core mechanics.

What do you think, is over specialization worth it?

questccg
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My opinion

Firstly designing games for ONLY two (2) players ... is not always a great idea. Why? Because it limits the amount of social interaction since there are only 2 players playing... You know either one of those players will be the victor.

But in four (4) or more player counts... adds a small yet important layer of strategy: Kingmaking. What I mean is that while a weakened player may be an easy target to "conquer" and remove from the game... This can sometimes result in a player choosing to "give" the game to another player because he/she is not on the same level as that remaining player. So keeping weaker players in the game, can sometime lead to team play and joint battles (whenever possible).

About the 100 card limit... This is one of those things where you consider if you can make the game as "least expensive" to make. And some smaller sized games are "FUN" fillers ... but it doesn't make it for a more "serious" game with card counts of 500+ cards. "TradeWorlds" is an example of SIZE (with over 500 cards) where the game is all about personal "deck-building" and can easily take over 60 minutes (sometimes 120 minutes) to play an average game.

Having additional components like dice, markers, cubes, tokens, meeples is all good in smaller sized games. I don't see the advantage of card-only games... especially when there are a multitude box sizes that are readily available (and yes formats larger than tuck-boxes and smaller that the average game box; like small pro or small stout). You can still have a very compact game box format... which might be slightly larger than a tuck-box.

Lastly the "multiple usage" concept. I know what you are talking about because I've played "Hero Realms" by "White Wizard Games". The cards often have a secondary ability IF you have a card of a specific type in your play area. There are a multitude of ways of implementing something more flexible and still use the basic concept/mechanic. I really don't have an opinion about this... OTHER than to say usually it's "Luck" that you already have a card in play which "sometimes" allows you to do something else with some of your cards. Is it all "strategic"??? I don't personally think so.

If you want to design a Micro game with a limited amount of cards and components in a small form factor with not too many rules... Go for it. Designing under these constraints is difficult and hard to yield a product which is marketable to a wide audience.

But don't do it to all your designs. I wouldn't design a game "X" for a specific format (or rules) unless there was a PERSONAL preference. But forcing the issue is another thing entirely.

Cheers!

Tim Edwards
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I think setting yourself

I think setting yourself parameters like that at the outset is a useful idea particularly with regards to quantity of components. I'm not sure I would make multi-use cards an actual rule though. It might be that you do in fact always create multi-use cards, but I can't see a reason for denying yourself the choice there.

Likewise, do you really want to restrict yourself to 2-player games? You might. I tend to. But if you're thinking of doing that in order to keep production costs down, that MIGHT be wrong thinking? Having more than 2 players suddenly opens up so many strategic possibilities that you might find its actually easier to make a small game for 3 or more people. One way to look at it is this: the players themselves are sort of very sophisticated components. And they are free and don't need to fit in a box or be shipped. Think of how many simple card games work well with 3+ players but are pointless with 2.

That said, the challenge of 2-player design is fun, and playtesting is SOOOOO much easier to achieve!

Mark Simulacra
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questccg wrote:
But in four (4) or more player counts... adds a small yet important layer of strategy: Kingmaking. What I mean is that while a weakened player may be an easy target to "conquer" and remove from the game... This can sometimes result in a player choosing to "give" the game to another player because he/she is not on the same level as that remaining player. So keeping weaker players in the game, can sometime lead to team play and joint battles (whenever possible).

I gotta say, this is the first time I have ever heard someone say that an *advantage* of multiplayer is that it allows kingmaking and I have to vehemently disagree. The possibility of kingmaking is something I think one ought to design around prohibiting if you want your game to be taken as a serious multiplayer experience, as otherwise it robs the sense of agency from the winner, makes 2nd place justifiably upset, and makes whoever was the kingmaker the loser but also the reason the winner was the winner. If you want to encourage teamplay, formalize (spontaneous?) alliance rules in the rules.

Card count and game length don't inherently make a game better either. They may be something you can hawk as a feature, but that's because they increase production cost.

Having only cards increases the number of options you have for producers and can reduce cost.

Also that's ... that's just one extremely narrow example of multi-use cards and it kinda feels like your argument is a strawman for that reason. I imagined something more like modal cards (ie. Choose one - Draw two cards, or gain 2 points, or your opponent...) It's my understanding Glory To Rome does something like what larienna proposed to high praise?

I do agree with you that limiting oneself to these constraints for all of ones games might not be the best idea, but as a way to produce games that can probably be developed cheaply and for growth as a designer I can definitely see why larienna would want to try it.

questccg
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Not good or bad

Mark Simulacra wrote:
I gotta say, this is the first time I have ever heard someone say that an *advantage* of multiplayer is that it allows kingmaking and I have to vehemently disagree. The possibility of kingmaking is something I think one ought to design around prohibiting if you want your game to be taken as a serious multiplayer experience, as otherwise it robs the sense of agency from the winner, makes 2nd place justifiably upset, and makes whoever was the kingmaker the loser but also the reason the winner was the winner. If you want to encourage teamplay, formalize (spontaneous?) alliance rules in the rules.

I'm not saying it's an "advantage"... I'm saying that it leads to deeper strategy with player counts four (4) or greater. And the reason is because you can't just figure out it I beat "Player X", I will win. There are two or more additional players to concern yourself. And I'm saying in some games, if you don't do this correctly, it could RESULT in "Kingmaking".

What it does is force players to consider MULTIPLE "outcomes". And with that, encourages players to "be more involved" with the game knowing that a bad decision might sway the victory into another player's grasp.

It's also a way of "not" doing some other player's "dirty work". Meaning if Player "X" will most likely WIN if Player "Y" is eliminated... The other players may not "engage" that player if they know this could lead to a victory for a specific player.

I'm not saying it's good or bad... Just leads to more "thinking" when playing such a game... With four (4) or more players in a competitive game.

Mark Simulacra
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questccg wrote:

I apologize for conflating deeper strategy with an advantage for the game qua game. What I'm trying to say is not that it is neither good or bad, but that it is explicitly bad, both for players and for a game and that minimizing its possible impact is something a designer should endeavor to do. I apologize if I am misunderstanding, but it seems perhaps you are suggesting that it is a necessary element of multiplayer games - I'll agree that in most such games it is a possible problem that can arise in certain game states and that maybe it is impossible too truly remove, but that steps can and ought be taken to minimize its impact.

A game, I would argue, necessarily has multiple outcomes. From that your argument in paragraph two is true of all games, including, in spirit, solo games - so paragraph two is confusing to me.

I think the reason I take issue with paragraph three is because I'm not sure what you are trying to say? By my understanding it sounds like your just describing what a multiplayer game is like. If it were kingmaking it'd be a player has to choose to bash someone, in which case a third player wins, or not bash them, in which case the not-bashed player wins. Every action, I would argue, should shape the game toward a victory for a specific player, and in a well designed game, that should always be primarily the player taking the action (or their team) the amount of degrees that this gets muddied by a game is, I think, an issue. If every action requires you help one opponent to the exclusion of other opponents, why is that a part of your game (excluding games that are closer to game theory problems which usually aren't good "games" anyways.)

As to whether it introduces additional decisions, sure it could, but as a designer, what's your justification for including such decisions?

questccg
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Player elimination

I think "Kingmaking" is only seen in games with "Player Elimination". Most, if not almost all, modern day Euros use Victory Points as a way to determine the winner. While this "avoids" Player Elimination, it doesn't mean that at some point in time, one player is so far AHEAD of the other players that even if you finish the game, it is not possible to catch up...

So my question is: "What's better? Playing knowing you are going to lose OR just being removed from the game once you 'lose'..."

And I don't agree with "Kingmaking" being "explicitly bad" either. IMHO it is part of the game and players should be aware of the consequences of removing players who may be a potential ally ... which could change the outcome of a game.

Lastly additional thought leads to additional depth in strategy. If it's not something you need to think about, it's not part of the strategy used to form a victory.

A two (2) Player game has only 2 outcomes: Either Player 1 wins or he loses. Both know their goal is to defeat the ONE (1) and ONLY competitor. For one thing you don't need to factor in OTHER Players in a two (2) player game. I feel that it radically changes the strategy and how players play the game.

Update: I would also say that "bridging" any sort of GAP with one player being in the lead ... would *frustrate* me as a player. Knowing you are going to lose and there is NOTHING you can do since many modern Euros don't have direct conflict, would just plain lack in *satisfaction*.

larienna
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Quote:Firstly designing games

Quote:
Firstly designing games for ONLY two (2) players ... is not always a great idea.

Personally, I think it's perfect:

- Easier to find playtester
- Avoid issues like kingmaking and down time
- allow having more depth without making the game too long (under an hour)
- Keeps the number of components small
- Allow using double sided components where each side match a player.

Quote:
And some smaller sized games are "FUN" fillers ... but it doesn't make it for a more "serious" game with card counts of 500+ cards

I am not aiming for fluff, but rather for deep and small game.

Well Microcosm is 33 cards and it's pretty deep. I don't think 500+ cards is really necessary. 2 players and multi usages requires less cards.

Quote:
I really don't have an opinion about this... OTHER than to say usually it's "Luck" that you already have a card in play which "sometimes" allows you to do something else with some of your cards

For multi usage, again refering to Microcosm, Duel Masters, Valley of kings, pixel tactics. Of course, Glory to Rome and Impulse could fit in that category too. For example, microcosm action cards has the following usages:

1- Gives an action text ability
2- Gives an icon to boost other actions
3- Gives a scoring method to make points
4- Gives a color to the card which can affect scoring.

Quote:
It might be that you do in fact always create multi-use cards, but I can't see a reason for denying yourself the choice there.

It's basically to avoid searching for mechanics and components. Like they say "Restrictions brings creativity". I have many ideas that wanders in limbo without any possibility of becoming a reality, because I have not found THE mechanics that is going to make the game work. So I need to play and learn new games for years before I can eventually stumble on that mechanism if it exists.

So the idea of restraining components and mechanism could be comparable to the exploration of inner space instead of outer space. You define your self a frame of constraints and explore all possible variations under those constraints.

Quote:
I do agree with you that limiting oneself to these constraints for all of ones games might not be the best idea,

I might not be able to implement all game ideas, but by simply browsing at my list I could easily find a dozen of fit. And as they say, 12 is bigger than 0. Still, it does not garanty me that those 12 idea will be successful, I could still have issues designing those game. But at least I'll be searching for a solution within the box instead of outside the box.

Quote:
I'm not saying it's an "advantage"... I'm saying that it leads to deeper strategy with player counts four (4) or greater.

The problem with 3+ games is that it leads to political games. So it's the relationship between the players that will decide the fate of the game. With 2 players, the losing player must have a way to overcome his opponent, he cannot rely on others. Therefore the game require more depth and path to succeed to make that kind of catch up possible.

Quote:
I think "Kingmaking" is only seen in games with "Player Elimination".

Nope, my father actually kingmaked in catan. It's present in all political games

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Political Game

I have just read in a book that political game is like giving each player a bag of 10 chips where each turn, each player chose a player to discard a chip. The game ends when a player runs out of chip, the player with the most chip wins.

Essentially, all political games have that same behavior except they are more complex mechanics that hides that behavior.

With 2 player games, I can actually avoid political games all at once.

Mark Simulacra
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questccg wrote:

How, exactly, do you define Kingmaking?

I would define it as choosing actions that explicitly lead to a games winner other than oneself.

wob
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hi. firstly i haven't read

hi. firstly i haven't read this whole thread so apologies if i am repeating what others have said.

specialisation is not a bad thing- it can give you a brand, which can help sell future ideas if people like your style of game.

design restrictions are not a bad idea- they help focus a designer, many great games have come from competitions that were quite strict on the conditions of style/componets etc.

over specialisation could be bad. i recently heard the board game design lab podcast with curt covert of smirk and dagger games. they make take that games-and are very successful at it. he goes into detail about this specialisation subject. it worked well for him but when he wanted to release a non take that game he basically had to make a whole new company because smirk and dagger just make take that games.

i think it comes down to how happy you would be only making 1 type of game. to take an analogy from another field. there are countless actors who have been type-cast as a certain type of character and spend there whole career doing basically the same role. some love it (bela lagosi was buried in his cape) others hate it (harry h Corbett hated playing harold steptoe but couldnt get any other job as the show was so popular)

larienna
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Quote:i think it comes down

Quote:
i think it comes down to how happy you would be only making 1 type of game

I can see your point. At most a game "collection" could be created to group those games together.

For now, it's the least of my worries considering I have so few games released.

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