Archive for May, 2014

Stealing From Existing Games: Part 2 – Great Artists Steal

In part 1, I talked about how stealing an existing intellectual property (IP) by using it as a whole. But there is a second part to the discussion, about taking bits and pieces from many different places and using them to create something new.  The sharing of ideas by “stealing” parts of games is absolutely crucial to the health of the industry.

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Stealing From Existing Games: Part 1 – Good Artists Copy

A while ago, I saw a post on BoardGameGeek about whether to use existing characters and setting for a game that was to be entered in a design contest. My initial reaction was “Absolutely not!” To take someone else’s hard work and use it for your game is stealing. When you ask someone to judge your design, the it should depend solely on itself, and it adds a lot of complications if you go to publish it.

But, as I started to think about it more, I found that there were a lot of very good reasons to use existing intellectual property (IP) when designing a game. And I realized that variants, which I discussed in a post last year, are another side of the issue. This is my attempt to rectify the two points of view.

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Background Music in Board Games

To take the idea from video games, background music is a song that will typically play on a loop for a long time. This is different from a soundtrack which can be more cinematic and grand, and really speak directly to the events occurring. Background music instead stays just out of focus, and plays repeatedly. Board games don’t (except for a few rare gimmicks) include actual music, but they do have actions that players will have to perform repeatedly. There are several things game designers can learn from background music.
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Notes from New Bedford – Part 9: The Theme


It has been a long time since I posted some notes from New Bedford. Not because I’ve had nothing to say. It’s been a busy few months, getting New Bedford closer to publication. Today I wanted to talk about how I chose the overall theme of whaling in the 19th century. Read the rest of this entry »


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Retro Review: The Settlers of Catan

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of interviews with game designers lately, especially the Inquisitive Meeple. One of the recurring themes is that a lot of the current generation of game designers got introduced to the hobby through an obscure game called Settlers of Catan. Well, not that obscure. Hard sales information is hard to come by, but a recent New Yorker article gives 18 million as the number of copies sold since its release in 1995. It is reaching the pop cultural status of Monopoly and Risk, appearing on TV shows as itself and in parody (30Rock’s Colonizers of Malaar and The Simpsons’ Emissaries to Byzantium). Although it still has a way to go to reach Monopoly’s 250 million copies sold, it is starting to show up on shelves in Walmart and Target, instead of just specialty stores, so that sales number is poised to keep rising.

Settlers of Catan, or Catan for short) was one of the two games that introduced me to boardgaming (the other was Empire Builder). And although I wrote a review of the Helpers of Catan expansion scenario for the base game, I haven’t talked about the base game. This month, the Dice Tower Network has named Settlers of Catan the game of the month, so it seemed like a great time to return to the basics, and talk about why Settlers of Catan is still such a great game.

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