All Games Big and Small

One of the biggest challenges of designing games is scoping. We’re often inspired by big games and strive to make them ourselves, but bigger does not necessarily mean better. Today I’ll discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of big games and suggest methods to help you control the scope of your game.

The Path of the Game and the Path of the Designer

Last week I had the privilege of speaking to students at Cal Poly in beautiful San Luis Obispo. Many of the students are just beginning their journeys to become game designers, so I took the opportunity to share my own experience from consumer to creator. I also talked about how game designers of various skill […]

Board Game Design Basics: Atmospheric Pressures

When you’re imagining a new game, you’re probably thinking about its clever mechanics, its dynamic world and characters, and its gorgeous art. It can be easy to forget about your players. And I don’t just mean their experience with the game, because as a game designer, your responsibilities don’t end there. You should consider the […]

Board Game Design Basics: Playtest! Part II

Last time on Board Game Design Basics, I gave a theoretical justification of playtesting and discussed some of the types of playtests you’ll be running over the course of developing your game. Today I’ll pick up where I left off, getting to more practical matters like who should playtest and how to make use of […]

Board Game Design Basics: Playtest! Part I

As a game designer, you’ll probably spend more of your time playtesting than doing anything else. Awesome! What’s more fun than playing games all the time? While playtesting your game should be fun (why would you want to be a designer if you didn’t enjoy playing games?), you can’t forget that you’re working, so it’s […]

Board Game Design Basics: Engage

Alright, your latest design is a masterpiece. On each player’s turn, that player first allocates workers, then collects resources, then builds units and buildings, then advances on the tech tree, then secretly declares attacks against other players, then rolls to determine battle outcomes, then moves military units to conquered territories, then allocates experience points to […]

Board Game Design Basics: It’s about Time

I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to have three boards. One will contain the map of the world. This is where you’ll place your armies. One will have a detailed economic simulation. The last one will contain all the random information necessary for the game, like the weather simulation and the relative power of […]

Simulated Fun

Today, I want to talk a little about the relationship between games and simulations. You’re probably already aware that all games have at least a little bit of simulation going on. On the one hand, you have games that are very tightly connected to simulations, so much so that they start to lose some of […]

Iterative Design in Action: Deranged Fantasy Games

Open any book on game design and one of the first terms you’ll see is iterative design. The idea is simple: start with something basic, test it, refine it, add to it, and repeat until you have a complete game. Take this approach instead of, say, keeping your elaborate masterpiece hidden during months of production […]

Understanding Design

I realized I’ve been talking a lot about game design without explaining what it is. This probably wouldn’t be a problem, except design in general, and game design specifically, are relatively new concepts, and I believe many people have misconceptions about them. When people think about the design of something, they often think about how […]