The most fun you can have in bed

I’ll start with a quick personal note: I’m recovering nicely from my injury. I’m getting really sick of being in bed and not seeing the outside (I’m told the weather’s nice) but I’m no longer in pain all of the time and can sit at a computer for an hour or two before I need to lie down again. This is a stark improvement in my quality of life and from your point of view means I can move from “Do the minimum necessary to make sure current projects don’t explode” to “Answer the odd email and write a game blog once in a while”. Things are likely to remain slow for another few weeks as I finish recovering, so please bear with me.


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Bloat and Refine

I’m trying a new process with my latest game. It’s quite a simple idea:

  1. Take something with a lot of elements.
  2. Duplicate each element.
  3. Modify each new element into something else.
  4. Test all elements.
  5. Delete the weakest half.
  6. Finish up with something that’s working even better.

Let’s talk about how that’s gone and the strengths and weaknesses of the approach.


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Dice: Rolls, totals and pools

It’s going to be a mathsy one this week, I’m interested in thinking about different ways to interpret dice rolls and what they mean for game design. It’s not going to be as off the wall as I was in 6, this isn’t about considering stuff like the position of the dice relative to the other dice, but even within those constraints there are still a lot of ways to interpret the number showing on the dice.


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Optional Complexity

When watching a set of new players try a game and comparing their experiences to advanced players, it seems apparent that they’re not really playing the same game. I’ve been playing a bit of Legendary Encounters: Predator recently. The experience of someone who’s worrying about deck thinning and average damage curves is having a very different experience to someone who just hits the biggest thing they can and then buys the biggest thing that they can. While one is obviously more effective in terms of winning the game, I don’t think that it’s necessarily more fun. Both seem like valid ways to enjoy the game.


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Don’t tell me the odds

So there’s this cool psychological effect whereby if you ask people “What are your odds of drawing a full house?” you get higher numbers on average than when you ask “What are the odds of drawing a full house?”. People are almost universally aware that the cards drawn off a deck does not change depending on who is doing the drawing, but when asked – on average – will assign themselves higher odds. How do we use that?


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Adult Content

I don’t really shy away from any particular type of content in my game design, I like to stick to whatever the game feels like it needs. In 404 and Wizard’s Academy that didn’t produce anything particularly out of place. Thematically they’re both funnier than they are dark. There are hints of bad things in them, of course, but ultimately I’ve had more comments that the dead monkey token is “cute” than people complaining about the objectives like turn a human into pie and feed it to another human (colloquially: The Sweeney Todd objective).


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Storytelling vs Mechanics

Last night we played Firefly. I wound up as an arms dealer and on my first turn recruited Jayne and bought a gun. We set off to do some mission or other, but kept running into traders. Being who we were we shot everyone we met and looted all of their things, skittering across the black as space pirates. Meanwhile another player was trying to recruit a mechanic, failing to do so but accidently gathering most of the original Serenity crew. The other two players had slower starts, one in particular was searched three times by customs inspectors (who repeatedly found that she was legit) as my pirate ship zipped through adjacent sectors blowing up traders and merchantmen way gay abandon.


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SatW Prototypes

I wanted to update a few people on my progress on the Scandinavia and the World game, but realised it’d be easier if I could embed pictures of prototype cards into the email and eventually came to the conclusion that I’d do well to write a blog post instead and direct interested parties to that. If you’re reading this as someone who generally enjoys my thoughts on game design, welcome, I hope you enjoy any insight this offers into the process – but please be aware that this post isn’t really intended to be illustrative in the way that the others are.

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