How to Build a Game #86 Tutorials

Learning games is hard. Reading a lot of text, trying to teach other people who learn in different ways. Someone needs to read the rules before they get to play the game. All of that and no one has played your game. As a designer, I worry about this space in the game because it is not fair to the game. The game could be great, but it could have a learning curve (nothing wrong with that btw) There are a lot of games that look like they are a bull, but their turn by turn actions are quite simple. How do we get players from through this part of the fall in love with the game process?

Something Aidan and I have been thinking about is adding tutorials to the front of our games. We are not entirely sure the best way to go about including a tutorial. One way we are thinking about is to include mini games inside the box that teach just the main mechanic. Yes, it would add to the cost, but it is the kind of think that could be given to a friend who might want to sample the game before they make a full purchase. Another way, and I think this is already done, is to include guided play in your rule book.

Honestly, thats all I have so far. I really wanted to this post to be a place where we can share our ideas about what to do with tutorials, and videos do not count. The kinds of players that watch play through videos are the kind people people that research the game and read about it before they get it. What I am talking about, and most interested in, are the casual players who have a friend or family member in the hobby who rave about your game and now want to pick it up based on the raving and recommendation. These are the people that will grow the hobby and we as designers have to make sure they are not turned away from the hobby before they even get play the game for the first time, regardless of a game depth or complexity.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Cardboard Architects Podcast Episode #8 Design Styles

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode Eight Design Styles

Today we try to define our own design styles and discuss how we go about using those styles.

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/episode-8-our-design-style

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep008_Complete.mp3

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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 #85 One Card Face, Many Functions

Cards might be the most useful tool for a designer. Cards can be hidden information, cards can perform more than one function at the same time. Cards can save on the cost of components and allow for the game to benefit from all kinds of actions. Cards are a platform for art. Cards are awesome.

What I would like to focus on is the ability to segment cards. We played Kanban recently and the game used segmented cards so well I wanted to write about it.

Segmenting a card can provide incredible flexibility. Just because a card is printed one way, doesn’t mean it can’t be oriented in multiple ways. In Kanban, the segmented card was used to add parts to the game board that players could collect. Depending on how players oriented the card, they had access to different kinds of parts. It was a small part of the game, but a small part with a lot of flexibility will provide overall flexibility to the designer.

I encourage you to check out the way Kanban used this mechanic and if you know of any other games that do the same, please let us know. How can you play with what part of a card is active or turned off? Does your card need to effect a single region of a board, or can it have different effects in different areas?

This concept is new to me so I don’t have any good examples to share. If you use segmented cards or card orientation in any of your games, please share what you do and how it is working for you.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Cardboard Architects Guest Interview #1 Doug The Board Game Baker

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Today we have our first guest interview. Doug, the Board Game Baker joins us to talk about game design, the games he is working on and his pending trip to Unpub 2016

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/guest-interview-1-doug-the-board-game-baker

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Doug_Complete.mp3

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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 #84 Look For Dead Space

Be on the lookout for what I like to call dead space in your games. I consider dead space to be a spot in the game that is being underutilized or being utilized in a way that could be accomplished in another way.

That was a bit clunky and I don’t have the words right now to make that sound better so let me use an example from a game we are working on to explain. In our trading/colony building game, Harbor Master, we have cards that represent the weather conditions on the ocean. As ships are coming into port, bad weather will reduce the number of goods a player can collect, or there might be a hurricane and no one gets to collect any goods. The card I want to use as our example are the smooth sailing cards.

When we were playtesting our game for the first time, every weather card had some kind of effect on the market. All except the smooth sailing cards. When we were done, I was thinking about that card and thought we could use the space on the smooth sailing card for something. I don’t know what that something is at this point but the point is, be on the lookout for cards, spots on the board, other side of a token, that could be used to supplement a mechanic.

Now, I don’t want you to start filling every nook and cranny in your game with a thing. It is possible that the smooth sailing card could be removed. The fact that the card only performs one function at this point, means we need to look it over and figure out should it be added to, taken away from, or is it a singular point where we need the card to stay as is.  At least we know we have spent the time looking at the dead space on this particular card and we can feel confident it performs the job we want it to perform to create the user experience we are going for.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Cardboard Architects Chats with Pete #1 Go is Life

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Welcome to a new series where I talk with my buddy Pete about the larger meaning in games and talk about some crazy game ideas. Today we talk about Go and how it applies to the game world in almost every game and how Go has meaning in the game of Life…..no, not that game of life. I mean life itself.

Today we talk about the things that make us inspired to make more games.

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/chats-with-pete-1-go-is-life

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/CWP_Ep001_Complete.mp3

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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 #83 Designer Challenge: Score Tracks

I would like to issue a challenge to myself and all you designers reading this. I would like to see score tracks become something more interesting or more versatile. I play a fair number of games that use score tracks and I always felt like these were underutilized. They take up board space and seem to only have one function and always leave me feeling dissapointed.

I would like to see some score tracks that have a little bit more flavor than vanilla. I am not asking for a reinvention of the wheel, I am asking for some vanilla ice cream with a spoonful of crushed Oreo or sprinkles.

I can think of one game that had a little flavor, that was Aquasphere where players were not allowed to pass a certain point on the score track if they did not play a crystal. (I think that was the mechanic) I am also sure there are other games out there I have not played, but the games I have played all have a vanilla score track.

Since I am issuing the challenge, I will start with what we are doing with a score track in one of our games. The working title of the game is Bounty Hunters. We are using the score track as an initiative track and as a score track. We are also dividing the players movement and their attack action on the initiative/score track. Players will have the option to roll a die during their turn and depending on what they roll, they can allocate that number to their move and attack action. So in theory, a player could pile all their initiative into attack and always move last. Something to consider are the npc characters that get to move and attack on the same turn.

So, before I get too deep into the weeds of a game Aidan and I have only talked about once. We use the score track for scoring, initiative management and npc actions. If there are games you know of that so something similar, please let me know. I would be excited to check them out.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Cardboard Architects Podcast Episode #7 Sharing Ideas

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode Seven Sharing Ideas

Today we talk about how we share our ideas and who we share them with.

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/episode-7-sharing-ideas

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep007_Complete.mp3

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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 #82 The Power of Choice #2

There are a lot of traps to fall into when it comes to game design. One of those traps is the kind of choices designers allow their players to make. Combine that with what a designer thinks is a lot of fun vs what is actually a lot of fun and we are in a danger zone. Which brings us to today’s topic:

Calculations are not choice, they are math.

I am going to start with an example using one of our own games. We were working on a Soccer GM game a few months ago and we loved it. We came up with a way to play a full season with each team playing each other. Every team would have a home and away game. We had a way to simulate injuries and give teams a home field advantage. It was great, but none of that was the special sauce of the game. The awesome of this game, was in the roster construction. I am not going to cover the particulars, but what you need to know is that the players on the roster were used to fulfill stat requirements of various soccer formations. If your roster’s combined stats met the different requirements, your team would get bonuses during the season. When Aidan and I played this game, we had a blast. Roster construction was by far the most fun thing in this game. An yet, it was the mathiest thing in this game. Looking at the rest of the game, it was die rolling. There was no compelling decisions for players to make in the game. This was a math min/max game that was tucked nicely into a soccer theme.

This game will not be a lasting game. It might be a hit at the table for a month, but there is nothing in this game that will make players want to come back because they made choice a instead of b. Players will never ask what would happen if they had picked the other thing?

Games based in the realm of calculation, like our soccer GM game, will appeal to a small group of gamers but we want our games to appeal to a wider audience. Who wants to spend their game night calculating after having been at work all day? What is your game going to do about the calculation gap between players who are experience with your game vs new players?

Digging a little deeper, calculations can be figured out. Once a player knows what they can or can’t do with their set of players, all choice is removed from the game. At that point, using Soccer GM as an example, the game turns into a dice rolling game. While there are plenty of games that are dice rolling fun, that is not what we want to game to be.

There is a place in gaming for calculation, but beware about how much that calculation means to the awesome of your game.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

How to Build a Game #81 Rules Are a Sales Pitch

We are about to embark on the journey we have been putting off. We are going to spend the next few weekends putting rules together for the games we have completed the design. I have been reading up on what makes good rules and looking at good and bad rule books to give myself some bearings. Along the way, I’ve had a few thoughts. One of those thoughts is…Your rules are part of your sales team.

Let me explain.

The ease with which your rules can be consumed by player A, means that player B, C and D will have a better first experience with your game. Lets assume that player A is a regular at game night and player C is relatively new to game nights. Player C had a great time playing your game, awesome. Player A was able to clearly explain to a new-ish gamer how the game was played and everyone had a good time. Player C enjoyed the game so much they want to show the game to their friends or family. Lets say a major holiday is around the corner and family will be getting together. Player C goes to their FLGS and they pick up your game, double awesome. It may have been several weeks since Player C played your game but they know they liked it and they want to show it off.

Here is where we can go down two very different roads:

Was Player A able to decipher your rules because they are experienced with rule books and have the ability to fill in the gaps? Can player C fill in the same gaps? Will the family members of player C get the same experience?

or

Was Player A able to explain the game clearly, find reference material easily and provide the intended experience without having to put any extra work into learning the game or using any preexisting knowledge? Is your rule book accessible to players of any skill level?

I don’t want to oversimplify what a rule book is, how it is written or ignore the unknowable variable of who is teaching your game. The only thing I want to accomplish with this post is to plant the idea with you that rule books are an extension of your sales team. Rule books are there when people are most open to playing your game. Rule books are there when people have a quick reference question because they haven’t played your game in a little while. As designers and gamers, we all know the importance of a rule book, but I think rule books are MORE than a booklet of instructions and reference material. I am not sure if that would change the way you approach your rule books, but it is something I will keep in mind over the next month or so while we work on the rule books to our various games.

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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 have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.