Archive for category Game Theory

The Turn of the Cards

During our initial play of World’s Fair: 1893, we noticed that getting Influential Figure cards was an important part of the strategy, because it let you place more tokens on spaces. And with area majority, being able to place more tokens is a big advantage. But we observed that some players had fewer opportunities to collect these special cards, and were at a disadvantage when it came time to score.  That observation initiated a discussion over how random card draws can have a big effect on the gameplay of some games. This is a really interesting type of randomness to study because it’s not simply an input or output randomizer. It has some far-reaching and subtle effects depending on how it is used in the game. Read the rest of this entry »


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Design Philosophy

Three plus years into designing games, I’m starting to really find my own identity as a designer, and I’m ready to set out my design philosophy. I was initially inspired by a few posts last year by Grant Rodiek and Gil Hova, but I never quite completed writing my manifesto. I think I’m ready to try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gaming Glossary: Worker Placement

This is a post I’ve been trying to get written for about 8 months, inspired by a post over on the Hyperbole Games blog, in which Grant discusses how important blocking is to make a worker placement game operate well. That struck me as odd, because I didn’t see it as a very firm requirement in a worker placement game. But it got me thinking about what makes a game “Worker Placement”. Worker Placement (WP) is one of those standard Euro Game mechanics that everyone seems to mostly agree on, but everybody has their own criteria. What some people see as excluding a game from being WP, others see it as the “twist” that makes it stand out. I consider my game New Bedford a WP game, but others likely disagree. So I want to try and establish what makes a game cont as WP.

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Game Theory: Interesting Choices – Decision versus Selection

One of my key elements of a game is an interesting and meaningful choice. As I continue to play and design games, I have started to see that not all choices are equal. I don’t just mean that some choices are big and some are small, or that some are hard and others are easy, although these are subjects worth discussing. The subject of what makes a choice interesting is very subtle, though. Many things can lead to choices that aren’t interesting, and I think it’s useful to identify some of them and see how they impact the choices in a game.
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Structured Level Design and the Loss of Game Structure

I almost wanted to title this article “How Better Level Design Ruined Mario”. But that sounds much too harsh (and desperate for traffic). Still, that was my initial reaction after watching the latest video from Mark Brown, about the level design philosophy of Super Mario 3D World, summarized in this Kotaku article. The idea is that the last few iterations of Super Mario games (Galaxy 1/2, 3D Land, and 3D World) were developed with an increasingly structured approach by applying kishōtenketsu, a classic 4-part Chinese narrative structure. In this structure, each level breaks down into 4 parts, an introduction, a development, a twist, and a conclusion. And while I  think this is a fantastic way of developing a level, my initial reaction was that this structure was exactly why I have been enjoying Mario games less and less. Read the rest of this entry »


Gaming Glossary: Microgame

I dealt with a lot of big subjects in 2014, so I’m going to start off 2015 with a small subject: Microgames. The last two years were full of small games. There were a number of big Kickstarter projects for games that packed a lot into a tiny package. UNPUB 5 is right around the corner, and I plan on taking a handful (quite literally) of games I’ve been working on that I consider Microgames. Today, I want to look at what makes microgames unique and interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

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5 Game Design Debates Worth Having in 2015

I read an interesting article by Daniel Cook about some topics in game design that he was happy to have avoided in 2014. It’s a fascinating breakdown of some of the core debates in gaming. I spent a portion of my writing time last year examining several of the topics, and while I agree 100% that it’s time to stop viewing these as dichotomies with a single “correct” side, I don’t think the talking points are worn out at all. Game design requires active consideration on all levels of the concept at the same time, and I think revisiting those debates is an excellent way to practice the skill. Read the rest of this entry »

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