What Games Mean to Me #13 Help me Exercise

Before I got into game design, my daily routine was to wake up really early, go to work, drive home, lay down on the couch and nap until my wife got home, make dinner. Then games came along and while I wanted to get work done before my wife got home, I did not have the energy levels required to continue working the way I wanted to when I got home from work. Try as I might, I still took a nap more often than not, but I was able to start getting some work done on games in the evening. However, that was not enough to really think I was taking the board game design hobby seriously.

I realized that I needed to change my routine and get my energy levels back up so I could have two full time jobs at one time. I started running again and I started to do some yoga on my own. If I am honest, I have been on again off again with the exercise and yoga for about a year now, but my overall fitness has improved, and more importantly, I don’t take naps as soon as I get home from work anymore. I get a lot more work done and I finally feel like I am taking the board game business building and designing seriously.

Not to mention the “side benefits” of being in better shape and not feeling like a couch potato all the time. When I am on a longer run and I feel like garbage, rather than use some standard motivational line you would hear from a gym coach, I think to myself that I want to be able to stay up late and get up early the next day to work on games and I need to be able to have the energy and get better rest so I can design and build the games I want to make.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #51 How to Fix Things (#3)

Down Time….

In one of my gaming groups we have a player that is constantly on their phone in between turns and we have another that will read a book in between turns. As annoying as I find this as a gamer, I think this is the fault of the designer to allow for their players to be engaged with something else when the game is being played. As a designer, I want to have my players engaged with the game and/or the people playing the game as much of the time as possible. Not only does it make for a better overall experience for everyone, it removes the potential for your games longevity to be penalized because there was one person one time that took forever to take their turn because they were doing something else.

Make the Board Activity Worth Watching

One way to help with down time is to make the action on the board integral to everyone’s actions. Players will need to strategize for their upcoming action and if they are not paying attention to a card being played or a movement of a piece, they will be making decision with incomplete information. The hope is that players will learn that they need to pay attention to the game at all times so they can make the best and most well informed decision when it comes to their action. This also applies to player interaction. If you have a lot of player actions that directly affect another player (this doesn’t have to be hit points), the chances of one player taking time away from the game to focus on something outside the game are fewer.

Never Let Players Stop Playing

We have talked about the idea of splitting up the turn phases to reduce the chances of Analysis Paralysis. Another benefit of this strategy is that plays are constantly engaged with the game. Just an example off the top of my head. If you had a game that supported 2-6 players and there were 4 action phases to a turn. You could split up each action and have it represented by one token. Those tokens would be moving around the board and every time the token was in front of a player, it was that players turn to take that action. If you had more than 4 players, there would be two people that were sitting there, not taking a turn, but they would not have the same amount of down time as they would if they needed to wait for 5 players to take their entire round of turns.

Aggressive Streamlining

Part of good design, IMO, is a streamlined game that does not take a long time in between turns. When you are testing your game, ask the players if they felt like they had to wait too long. Watch the players when it in now their turn and assess if their attention wanders off because they need to wait so long to get a turn. A lot of down time issues can be taken care of with good streamlining and this is by far my favorite way to take care of down time because there are other benefits that come along with streamlining and there are some themes and mechanics that don’t take well to being split up.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.

What Games Mean to Me #12 Help with Housework

Really, board games help keep my house cleaner than it normally would.

Stay with me, I will explain and it is quite simple.

I spend a lot of time working on game related content. Reading, writing, designing and building a business around board games takes up a lot of time. My wife gets to watching me on my computer everyday when she gets home from work. I am working on something that has to do with games. I need to be able to justify the time I spend working on games and one way I show is to keep up with the housework. I need to make sure that I do my share around the house and the way I do it is to do little bits at a time everyday. That might be to vacuum or to get some dishes done or wet wash the floor. You could say that I have added chores to my daily routine of game building.

Not only is the house more tidy than it used to be, my wife is happy that things are getting done around the house even when I am spending several hours everyday working on board game related stuff.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #50 How to Fix Things (#2)

Luck…Love it, Hate it or somewhere in between, I have never been a big fan of what I call direct contact luck. Mostly because I tend to not have any when it comes to games built around luck. When it comes to game design, I feel like there are better ways to have random/lucky forced affect players. Therefore, we try to introduce luck or randomness into our games in as many different ways as we can.

Die Face Modification

Perhaps the easiest way to mitigate luck is to allow players to change die faces. Depending on the theme and mechanics you have surrounding your die rolls, you can allow players to play cards, use abilities, spend actions points in order to alter their die rolls. What I like about this method that it is easy to incorporate the alteration methods into your game but you are still taking something away from your players in order to mitigate the luck of the die. The opportunity cost of taking away a card or action point so the player can alter their bad roll can frustrating, but it is not as frustrating as feeling helpless when you roll a 3 with 2d6 and all you needed was a 5 to do that cool thing you have been trying to set up for the last three turns.

Luck that Affects Everyone

The tool we used the most to apply luck or randomness to our games is to use event cards that effect everyone in the game. No one knows what the conditions of the next round could be because of the random event draw. However, since everyone has to deal with this random element at the same time (during the same round), there is little room for players to feel like they are being singled out by the random forces of the game. Not to mention, the designers can control the distribution of random in the deck of events. So if testing shows you that there are times when the randomness of events could tend towards hitting one player more often than others, you can make changes in order to fix this issue.

Ultimately, what I really don’t like about luck is that it can ruin a game for one person in a group. I won’t play the original version of Settlers of Catan because a long run of incredibly bad luck has left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to SoC. One might like to point out that I am a huge fan of Star Realms, and I would counter with the fact that I can play a ton of games in a short amount of time and the social connectivity with the use of the Star Realms app gives Star Realms an extra tick of a box that SoC does not offer to me as a gamer.

My hope for designers out there is that they can avoid traps of design that might cause a player down the line to not want to play their game because one time several years ago, their player was mistreated by the random events of their game and they no longer want to play.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #14

Update of Current Games

No update for current games this week. This weekend was all about setting up our long term content projects.

Designer Google Hangout

This weekend was our first designer hangout and it went very well. We met and talked with a couple other designers (Thank You Scott and Ben for joining us!) and learn where they were in the process with their games. We talked a little more detail about the games we are working on currently. We also talking about some of the resources we use to give our prototypes some art and some of the programs we used. It was great to meet some other designers and talk shop for an hour on a Saturday morning. We are going to host our second hangout two weekends from now on Feb 7th at 10am Pacific. If you would like to join, please let us know and we will send you a link to join.

YouTube Speed Plays

We are going to start shooting speed plays of board games in the spring time. Part of getting ready for this is to build a table that will allow us to play on a nice surface and not have to use the kitchen table. We need a dedicated playing table where we can spread out and play the games. One of our friends is a retired wood shop teacher and he has offered to help us build the table. This weekend we sat down and we talked about what we wanted on the table, and we are really excited about what we are going to put together. More details to come, but we are on our way to making YouTube Speed Plays a reality.

Those are the big updates from the weekend. Next weekend we are going to jump back into refining the projects we are working on and getting some more testing finished.

TGIK Games

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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What Games Mean to Me #11 Gives Me Focus

Being part of the Millennial crowd, I have stereotypically little in the way of attention span. I was (and still am) a terrible student because school was boring on a scale of “there has to be a better way.” I took me into my late 20’s to get into reading books because I could not focus long enough to get into the story of a book.

Along comes board game and game design.

The best way I can describe it, is that my brain is wired for board games. Whether I am playing or making a board game, I am in constant problem solving mode with elements of creativity and fun thrown in. Because of this combination board games offers, I have found I am able to focus on designing a game for a days at a time. I am able to write a regular blog with almost daily content.

When I was in school, I figured out how to get straight B’s without trying. I would watch the kids in the higher level classes and wish I had the same level of focus they had. Thinking back, I wonder how far I could have taken my education if I had had the focus for school that I have now for board games.

Now that I have board games to carry my focus, I have a new found excitement for the process that is making games, building a community and building a company around a subject that makes me and my brain happy.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #49 How to Fix Things (#1)

Let me start by saying, I don’t think the things I write about in this part of the H2BaG series are wrong, I just view them as something I like to minimize in the games we design and I think there are others out there with the same feeling. So I am going to offer up our point of view on how to mitigate various subjects we like to minimize in our games.

First up….Analysis Paralysis, referred to going forward as AP.

My experience in games where AP is part of the game is that my overall opinion of a game will suffer because of AP. If one wants to argue that AP has more to do with the players and not the game itself, I would listen. However, I feel like designers have tools in their toolbox of many things to help out with AP.

Spread Out Turns

If there is a game where one player needs to go through some number of steps in order to complete their turn, AP has a ripe opportunity to rear up and take over. I think a designer has the opportunity to spread out the steps of a complete turn. Think of creative ways to break up the phases of a complete turn. When the phases of a complete turn are broken down into smaller parts, there is a lower chance the AP can grip the game.

Along with breaking a complete turn into pieces and spreading out the turn, have your players taking actions at the same time. The danger of this strategy is that there could be actions on the board that players will miss because they are working on their turn, but these are really general suggestions and designers can add and take away from these suggestions to fit the mechanics of their game as best as possible.

New Information

Limit the amount of new information you provide to players in the lead up to their turn. At least, limit it as much as possible if you game allows. New information is “code” for players to think and analyze what is going on. If players have spent their down time thinking about what they want to do on their turn and the game gives them new information just as their turn is about to start, the time the game spent letting players plan is now lost.

This is by no means a complete list of the tools available to help limit AP in your games. If I sat down and thought about it, I am sure I could generate a list of more tools. These are the tools we like to use for our games and in the interest of clarity, AP isn’t a bad thing, we just don’t like it in our games so we take steps to make out games as streamlined as possible.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.