03 Nov

Never Make Your Players feel Cheated

I once played a full campaign of EuroFront Amazon . The whole shebang, maps stretching the whole 6 meters from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural mountains, hundreds of blocks on the table, a World War II nerd’s dream.

I started out hard with one major goal: I wouldn’t bog down in the Balkans and I’d go all in for North Africa, roll Rommel right through Egypt and take Russia from the south. I’d capture the Iraqi oil fields and get to roll for Spain to join the Axis. Then I’d use the Spanish troops to bolster the Atlantic Wall together with the Ost-truppen, withdraw the experienced Panzer divisions from the West and do a double hammer at the Rostov-na-Don area from both east and south.

Incredibly enough I managed to do that. I scraped, I scampered, I wasted resources like a madman to acclimatize the Panzer divisions to the African desert. Then I fought my way to Persia. Then I got Spain to join the dark cause. Then I realized that the game lied to me. Read More

16 Sep

The Proof is in the Details – How Theme Supports Mechanics

Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga - shipsThe writer John Gardner, in his now quite classical work on writing titled “The Art of Fiction” talks about details as being the “proof” that makes a reader believe in what the writer is telling him.

That’s the whole “show don’t tell” thing – if the writer tells the reader “the guy was lonely and didn’t like it” it’s not very convincing. But let the guy look around his empty apartment, flick channels on the TV, stare at his breakfast table set for one and sigh and we believe, we feel that he’s in a slump.

The same goes for games. When the theme supports the mechanics we believe in the game, we’re sucked into it, engulfed in the world and enjoy our play. But if they diverge, if they clash with one another or with our gaming styles, then our minds are jarred out of the game and leave the table disappointed. Read More

09 Sep

Gaming: Voluntarily Performing Impossible Tasks of Uncertain Value

Dice graphicImagine that someone forced you to complete difficult tasks of uncertain value while others were actively trying to disrupt your work.

Now imagine that you chose to do it of your own free will.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what we’re doing when we’re playing games. And the single word “chose” is the difference between fun and toiling under a sadistic taskmaster.

The rest is the same: the rules, the limitations, the work and the stress. But when we choose to do it it’s not bad stress, it’s good stress. Read More