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Resources for Game Designers

Hanabi box coverYesterday I played Hanabi and, while it was too late in the evening for me, I enjoyed it immensely until I collapsed mentally and started doing stupid mistakes.

Yeah, the game is hard, especially if you play with a group that doesn’t have the meta-gaming down pat.

But one of the players said something I thought very curious at the time: that Hanabi is the only purely cooperative game out there, that there is no other game that is as cooperative as Hanabi. I smiled, looked at the backsides of my cards, nodded and thought “no way, there are lots of co-ops out there”. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more convinced I’m becoming that he is right. (more…)

Castle Panic review quoteI’ve been trying to include my children in my hobby (a fancy way of saying “I’m going to addict the little suckers so I have someone to play with when I’m in the retirement home”). They’re three and five years old and I’ve had various successes with introducing them to games. However, I recently found a game that worked perfectly.

That game was Castle Panic, a co-op with strong alpha player tendencies where you defend your castle from hordes of advancing monsters. Once could call it an extremely simple tower defense game, albeit it doesn’t live up to the tower defense requirements (for me). My kids, however, love it.

I’ve tried other games previously: Memory, Tempo Kleine Fishe, Connect Four, a couple of my own design but they always failed my criteria for a good children’s game as my kids either didn’t like them, liked them but couldn’t play them or could play them but got into fights over them. (more…)

Ticket to Ride box coverI love the elegance of Ticket to Ride.

Yes, it’s got a beautiful map and nice components to support its theme of building train routes across the USA (I believe that Ticket to Ride calls it collecting tickets for travel) but beneath it’s a great application of the push-your-luck mechanism. (more…)

Stonemaier Games logoI’ve never launched a Kickstarter campaign in my life. I can’t even begin to know what you’d need to do to in order to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.

But Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games does. He and Alan Stone have launched several very successful campaigns, funding Euphoria: Build a Better DystopiaViticulture and other projects via Kickstarter.

Not only that. Jamey, true to his own lessons, shares his experiences through a series of blog posts ranging from how to build a brand (tip: don’t try to sell, help others, and keep sharing) to the intricacies of shipping and fulfillment. (more…)

Through the Ages, tabletop game coverThrough the Ages is one of my favorite board games of all time. Yes, that is saying a lot – but no matter what new games come out I always come to the point where I’m in the mood for yet another game of Through the Ages.

On the surface Through the Ages is a 4X civilization building game. It’s like Sid Meyer’s Civilization on a board (no, I don’t mean the Sid Meyer’s Civilzation Board Game, I mean the real Civilization, the computer game that’s responsible for more lost sleep than coffee and sex put together). Except that it’s nothing like Civilization, not really.

See, here’s where it gets interesting from a game designer’s standpoint. Through the Ages is a game that manages to take a very bare-bone Eurogame mechanic and infuse it with an amazing amount of theme. I’ve played the game for about eight years now and while I can see what’s going on under the hood the theme still tends to grab me and get me to forget that I’m dealing with numbers and efficiencies (and that makes me lose to my hyper-optimizing, Euro-crazy friends). (more…)

5 Must Play Analog Games for Every DesignerIt happens. You look at your game and feel that, with all the bells and whistles already there, something is still missing.

It’s easy to simply shrug, thrown in another type of unit, another element, another dude with spikes on his huge shoulder pads. Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesn’t.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of, amongst others, the children’s classic “The Little Prince” said: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

It’s a wise way to look at it. Not what we can add, but that we can subtract. And the way to learn how to do that is to look for good archetypes, games where there is little, if anything, to subtract. And in the tabletop game industry paring down has been the leading star for the past 20 years (or thousands – see the end). So here, without further ado, are five tabletop games that every designer should play at least once. (more…)

Cardboard Edison logoCardboard Edison is a tabletop game design aggregator site run by Chris and Suzanne Zinsli (whose game Tessen is out from van Ryder games). And when I say run I mean “like an oiled horse on speed”. How they manage to scour all the top sources for game designer information, compress them into Twitter sized blurbs and publish the news Every Single Day is beyond me.

Simply speaking it’s impressive.

Of course, they do chose what to publish. And there are things that you won’t find interesting (possibly most things, depending on what you’re after). But since the layout is simple and aimed at clarity it takes very little time to scan Cardboard Edison. Thus you can rapidly sift through the dross to find the grains of gold. (more…)

Keith A. Meyers, Paid to Play, coverWhen I decided that I wanted to become a serious game designer (and isn’t that an oxymoron) I didn’t know where to start. The step between dabbling in game design and doing it systematically, accountably and efficiently seemed nigh on insurmountable.

I really wish that someone had given me Keith A. Meyers “Paid to Play” right about then.

Reading “Paid to Play” is the equivalent of spending a year or more perusing BGDF and the BoardGameGeek game designers forums. Everything you need to know about the basics of professionaly designing games is here, from finding your target market to the skills you need as a designer (persistence, persistence, persistence) to licensing and the dos and don’ts of submitting a query. Incredibly it’s all crammed into 87 quite airy pages. (more…)

The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian TinsmanI got Brian Tinsman’s The Game Inventor’s Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-Playing Games, & Everything in Between![amazon template=f_textamazon&asin=1600374476] thinking that it would be similar in scope and concept to Jessie Schell’s A book of Lenses[amazon template=f_textamazon&asin=0123694965] but from a business standpoint: something that would go through the different steps and hurdles of getting your game published and point out the things to look out for.

Not quite. (more…)