Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Tiles

In first thoughts, role-playing games on August 31st, 2006 at 12:50 pm

Dungeon TilesDuring the weekend tour of Metro Halifax FLGSs, I wasn’t the only one buying. Both of my friends picked up copies of a new Dungeons & Dragons product, Dungeon Tiles. I have to say that I was surprised and impressed.

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Do Mega-Conventions Hurt Game Quality?

In boardgames, game design, role-playing games on August 29th, 2006 at 10:45 pm

Publishers have taken to heart the lesson that buzz sells. If this had no effect beyond achieving greater sales, I would say “kudos” to the publishers. Instead, I am writing this article.

The problem is that many—dare I say most?—publishers take a rather simplistic view to the generation of buzz. The thinking to be something like “The bigger the event, the bigger the buzz.” This leads, inevitably, to the idea that the product should debut at the largest possible event, probably GenCon or Essen.

The effects that this has on the gaming industry are myriad, and many of them deserve some thoughtful consideration. For now there is only one I want to pay attention to, though. Many games get rushed to completion in order to be ready “on time” for release at a large event, rather than staying in development until it is as ready as its publisher can make it.

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Colossal Arena Addenda

In appraisals, boardgames, elegance, mechanics on August 28th, 2006 at 1:15 pm

After I went to bed last night, I realized that I forgot about a couple of points that I wanted to make about Colossal Arena from my last post.

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Fantasy Flight + Reiner Knizia = Two New Purchases

In boardgames, first thoughts on August 28th, 2006 at 12:17 am

I did a tour of the Metro Halifax Region’s FLGSes yesterday with two of my best friends (and gaming buddies). Over the course of six stops, I made two purchases, both Fantasy Flight releases of Reiner Knizia designs, one a classic and one brand spanking new. I also got in a couple of plays of the classic. Here are my early impressions.

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The Michaelangelo Principle

In role-playing games, techniques on August 22nd, 2006 at 1:10 am

In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.


In every role-playing session, there is fun to be had. You have only to hew away the uninteresting “realism,” the pretentious storytelling, the combat for combat’s sake, or whatever else your group includes because “it has to be there,” not because it is fun.

Gerald Cameron

[Heavily influenced by the writings of Chris Chinn and Levi Kornelsen, with a dash of flavouring from Mike Mearls, among others.]

GenCon 2006 Podcasts Repository

In boardgames, gaming society, role-playing games on August 19th, 2006 at 5:26 pm

I intend to keep straight ahead linkblogging to a minimum, but, once in a while, something too good not to mention shows up. This is one of those things.

The good folks over at The Dragon’s Landing podcast are maintaining a centralized archive of podcasts that were created live at this year’s Gen Con Indy, called Gen Con Live.

It can’t be 100% complete, but there’s still plenty of podcasty goodness from all corners of the gaming hobby, as well as a little all around geekery.


In elegance, miscellany on August 15th, 2006 at 1:58 pm

A few thoughts parenthetically related to my just started series of articles on elegance, plus one item that’s not related to anything in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

An Introduction to Elegance

In boardgames, elegance, game design on August 14th, 2006 at 11:32 pm

This article is second runner-up, 2006 Board Game Internet Awards, Best Industry ArticleElegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.

-Gabrielle “Coco” Channel

Prior to 1995, there was little tradition of elegant design in the North American gaming industry. Hex ‘n’ Counter wargames that had 20+ page rulebooks were still thriving, and, while block wargames had been invented in the mid ’70s, they were still a niche within a niche. Quasi-RPG wargames like Car Wars, Battletech and Star Fleet Battles, which had their heyday in the ’80s before petering out during the first half of the ’90s, were almost an order of magnitude more complicated than the standard hex games.

A few oddballs, like Illuminati and Cosmic Encounter, had digestible rulebooks, but they relied on chaotic wackiness, including a healthy dose of Take That, to provide fun. Most hardcore boardgamers are no longer interested in Take That games (although Cosmic Encounter still has a loyal following), preferring light or heavy strategy games of various stripes. The primary market for that sort of chaotic game is now crossover buyers from the comic book and RPG markets. Judging by the number of Munchkin and Chez Geek sequels that Steve Jackson Games has published, it’s a winning strategy.

Don’t get me started on role-playing games. This was the era of Rolemaster and Palladium and Torg.

There were elegant boardgames around, of course. Aside from two player abstracts, which have been elegant since the beginning, hobby boardgames like Dune, Empire Builder, the 18xx games (which actually date back to the mid-’70s), and the designs of Sid Sackson were all pleasantly compact designs. They were few and far between, though, and except for the Sackson classics like Acquire and Bazaar, these gems also suffer from playing times in excess of 2 hours.

Then Settlers of Catan came to North America, and everything changed. The idea that you could have meaningful choices and a rulebook that is shorter than 10 pages (ironically, the layout of Settlers rulebook obfuscates that) started to spread. Soon, other games followed that offered greater depth of strategy and tactics than Settlers, but still had rulebooks short enough to be understood in a single reading. The German Boardgame Invasion had begun, and elegance— meaningful decisions coupled with compact rules—was along for the ride.

Even though elegance lies at the heart of the German boardgame revolution, in-depth discussions of elegance and boardgame design are hard to find. Even the most basic definition of elegance seems to be assumed. Thi Nguyen nibbles at the edges of a concrete understanding of elegance in this GeekList, but doesn’t quite get there (through no failing of Thi’s—that’s not what he was aiming for). Yehuda Berlinger takes more direct aim at a definition of elegance and a rough way of measuring it in an article he wrote for the group blog Gone Gaming in his article Elegance in Games (which he pointed out to me in comments below after this article was first posted). Based on the comments to that article, though, I think it is fair to say that there is still room for further exploration.

This article is the first part of a series whose aim is to clearly explain what elegant game design is, why it is important, and how it is achieved. I will focus on defining elegant design for the rest of this article, with an eye toward tying the definition to other uses of the word elegant. Other aspects of this subject, including why elegance is important and how elegant designs are created, shall be examined in later parts of this series. Read the rest of this entry »

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Dontanville!

In miscellany on August 8th, 2006 at 7:29 pm

I just saw that game designer (see my last post) and my long time GeekBuddy, Morgan Dontanville, just got married over the weekend.

Morgan is a great guy, and I know how happy he has been lately, so this is great news.

And, yes, she is a gamer 🙂

Congrats, buddy!

Forthcoming Hotness

In boardgames, role-playing games on August 6th, 2006 at 6:48 pm

Gamers are addicts. No matter how many ultra-fun games they already have, they want more.

Let me help you get your fix.

Below is a list of forthcoming or very recently released games that are on my radar. Five role-playing games and five boardgames, with brief comments on why I’m interested. RPGs will tend to lean towards indie (but not just Forge-related) stuff because I am more tuned in to the indie buzz machine, and I am more interested in indie games right now due to their simpler and, for me, more interesting mechanics. Read the rest of this entry »