If you were to scroll down to the previous entry in this blog, you would see that it was written over a year and a half ago, so I still have some way to go getting used to this blogging business (obviously).
But this morning I got inspired. Inspired to start anew, and to try and contribute to the wealth of excellent board game design content (and more generally, game design) I enjoy reading every day. This reboot post is going to contain two main strands of thought – an introduction to the crazy plan which I hope to follow for the next 8 months or so, and a shout out to some of the people who actually inspired me in the first place. Of course, this is not the first time that someone has wrote plans in the ink of the internet hoping to stick to them…but I may as well try.
If you’re an avid fan of a certain German board game designer like me, you would have noticed that this is going to be a very good year for us. In the past two weeks, we have been lucky enough to hear the announcements and previews for not one, but four (!) new games from Feld. The first two, Bora Bora from Alea Spiele and Rialto from Pegasus Spiele, are scheduled to be released in the next month or so, with Brugge from Hans im Gluck and Amerigo from Queen coming later in the year.
As both a gamer and a designer I am constantly amazed by Feld’s games, especially the way in which he is able to construct the always varied and ingenious engines at the heart of the design. I think this is what truly makes a Feld game tick; as a gamer you are constantly both constrained and invited by the system to make difficult decisions on both a broadly strategic and tactical level. Every game presents with a new system for you to learn and master – getting to terms with its parameters and their influence upon your eventual performance is part of the path you take as you play the games over and over again.
As a designer I am also very impressed not only by the creativeness in coming up with these many varied mechanisms, but also for Feld’s way of never trying to add too much to his games – to be able to create a game world that is just the right size for his chosen engine to function. Reoccurring features such as clearly defined game lengths and a focus on designing systems rather than content help to achieve this goal.
How does this all relate to my plan? I think I just want to try and think a bit more like Stefan when I am designing if possible. In particular – I hope to focus on designing games with clear boundaries that focus on systems and engines to create the game experience. I think I often get caught falling down a rabbit hole, turning a simple feature into a deck of 30 unique cards that in turn require another 3 mechanisms in the game to interact with. This in turn makes the early design process muddled and longer, and you can’t get a good look at the heart of the game you are trying to make.
Brett is a British board game designer and editor, who designed the excellent game Divinare published by Asmodee, and who writes a similarly excellent game design blog. I had the good fortune to first meet Brett at Essen in 2011, when I had just moved to the UK, and had the even greater fortune that we both lived in Cambridge. Shortly after we first met we started meeting in a pub once a week to bandy about some game design ideas, and now over a year later we have weekly playtesting sessions that have sometimes recorded a double digit game designer attendance!
Brett relates to all of this in two main ways – firstly he is an excellent sounding board for all things game design, having an excellent grasp of how a player will interact and create the gaming experience for themselves based on what you present to them. I most certainly wouldn’t have been able to design the games I have over the past year without his help and advice. In fact, last year we even finished our first game design collaboration (an experience which I will endeavour to expand on in a future post) which has now been submitted to several publishers, and this last month we have begun a new project together.
Secondly, his writing and analysis with regards to design and games on his blog is an exemplar for the amazing resources that budding game designers such as myself have access to on the internet. I can’t hope to write as well as Brett, and nor will this blog have the same aims as his, but I do hope that through my writing I can add to the veritable wealth of game design discourse.
I have never met Daniel unfortunately, and my knowledge of him is only through Twitter and his blog. If it weren’t for some videos of him on the internet I might even suspect that he is fact a robot in disguise for the mere reason that I cannot fathom how one man comes up with and explores so many new game design ideas, themes and mechanics every week. The fact that he is generous enough to share this varied and interesting thoughts with us all through his writing only adds to his awesomeness.
The main inspiration I’ve gained from Daniel (without him even knowing it) is that I want to try and be as open with my ideas as possible, and I hope this blog can be a vehicle in some ways for this openess. Too often I read posts from new designers who are scared that other people will steal their ideas, and only give out the vaguest of details while simultaneously asking for advice from the community.
I want to see what happens when you go the other way, when you try to share your ideas and problems as intimately as possible, in as close as a way to I experience them myself. The small parts of the board game design community I have come into contact with, mainly in the UK, have underlined the fact that for the most part the people in this small industry are exceptionally generous in the advice and support of each other, and it is a community that I want to become more involved with.
The Crazy Plan
I want to complete four new game designs by October this year, in order to take them with me to Essen in the hopes of presenting them to publishers. Thankfully, I’m not starting entirely from scratch at this point, with three games in their early Alpha stage (and some thoughts for the fourth). I want to challenge myself to stick with these first three ideas and finish them, as I think they have made it through that initial period where it is still possible that they are complete rubbish.
Linking into my game design goal is a goal for this blog to document as much of that experience as possible, and to see if it can act as fuel for some discussions and ideas for the rest of the game design community. I also want this to be a diary of sorts that aspiring game designers can look at to get some idea of the real nitty gritty that goes into the process of designing a game. Therefore not every post is going to be like this (and by that I mean long and moderately well thought out), but I hope to update this blog at least every other day (in the vain hope that this means I will actually do some designing at roughly the same frequency).
So that’s it. Let’s hope this rebirth flames brighter and for longer that any previous incarnation!