Game Design 2017


I’m back to work for the year and ready for a whole new year of game design blog posts. I’ve started out the year with a little housekeeping to get the Scandinavia and the World: A Heap of Trouble webpage up to date, over the next week I’ll update the Tabletop Simulator mod and BGG page for it too. We’ve got some new art for it, so it’s fun to share that.


The game makes more sense than that image, I swear!

Before flying boldly onwards into a new year, I thought it’d be good to stop and take stock. Reactions to my game design posts can be pretty variable – sometimes there are dozens of likes and showers of geekgold and exciting conversations in the comments – other times nobody cares and there’s nothing to say. That’s fine – they can’t all be winners – but I’d like to try to get a better picture of what people enjoy reading about so that I can write things that are exciting 🙂

A good rule of thumb is “Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t be happy to do” so these are my favourite posts from last year:

Balance is stupid and boring

Not the original title of the post, but what I called it in the index and while provocative it’s a better title 😉 Everyone wants balance but can be vague about what it is and when they get it can complain a game feels flat, it was a good topic to think about and something I bear in mind still even if I don’t adopt a hardcore approach of “death to all balance”.

The realism excuse

This is really handy to refer back to every time someone tells me that they have to do something because it’s realistic. I don’t care if they’re trying to justify some personal prejudice or just trying to keep some mechanic that they really like but every playtester says is dull as ditchwater – it’s an excuse that gets used a lot so I saved myself a lot of typing out the same things by having this post to refer back to.

Dice: Rolls, totals and pools

A lot of game design work is finickity, messed in human emotions and downright awkward to get right without lots of playtesting and development work. Sometimes it’s nice to run into a problem with a mathematical provable answer in which you can sit down, crunch the numbers and say “A dice pool system has these properties compared to a dice total system.” That made me find this one relaxing to write.


I note that none of these are about the games I’m actually developing. I write a lot of posts that are explicitly about projects I’m working on – this seems important. To an extent it’s why I can justify taking time out of design work to write things on the blog – it’s meant to be a medium for sharing these. It does bother me that they don’t seem to come out as interesting though. I’d love to hit on a way to make stuff I’m working on more exciting to write and read about.

So – what are your favourite posts that I should try to emulate or develop through this year?

Can you pass me a link to someone who also writes about games and totally nails something that I don’t, such that I might improve as a writer by reading their stuff?

Happy new year all – hope it goes fantastically 🙂

3 thoughts on “Game Design 2017

  1. Greg, I don’t often comment on your posts, but they are nearly always interesting to me. Thank you for writing them!

    As for recommendations:
    * I assume you are already following Cardboard Edison. I think that’s how I found you in the first place.
    * Justin Gary has written some interesting stuff on his blog.
    * Jonathan Woodard wrote an interesting series last year applying User Experience design to game design.

    I find though that I’m getting more game design info from podcasts now rather than blogs, because I can listen to them while I commute. Favorites include:
    * Ludology
    * The Game Design Round Table
    * Magic: The Gathering Drive to Work (Mark Rosewater also blogs, and even though everything he writes is through the lens of M:TG, there’s a lot of great general insight.)
    * Design Games

    • Thanks for the recommendations 🙂

      I vastly prefer written to podcasts because everyone talks sooo slowly.

      I did read Mark Rosewater’s blog, there are loads of wonderful ideas in there. The player profile stuff is very helpful, not every game has a Timmy, Johnny and Spike, but having an idea of what people are getting out of your game and what elements mean things to different types of player is really strong.

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