Table of Contents

We’ve written a great deal of content since we started this site and we periodically receive requests related to the site’s navigability. We hope this page assists our game designers and enthusiasts to find precisely the topics they wish to see.

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Introductory Articles

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Who are we? Alex & Matt

What motivates us to play games?: A look at several different player types and how they might interact with various styles of games. We reference this article as a starting point to catering to the motivations of an audience.

Classifications of games: A breakdown of terminology and topics we use throughout this blog.

Balance in Game Design

ScaleIntroduction to Balance: Introduction and overview of our three categories of balance.

Internal Balance: False decisions, dominant strategies and methods to balance objects.

External Balance: Types of asymmetry in games, perceived balance.

Positional Balance: Runaway leader affects, catch-up mechanics.

Dimensions of Games

Player Count & Scalability: Effective player counts for various mechanics and improving how games scale.Utility

Complexity & Emergent Gameplay: Methods to improve the depth to complexity ratio.

Game Length & Maximizing Time Value: Improving the ratio of how much time a game requires and how much gratification it provides.

Conclusion – Utility: The benefits of manipulating complexity, player count & game length.

dog2smallDimensions of Games – Three New AreasA break down of our three intersecting areas.

Downtime: The Paradox of Choice plus causes and solutions for downtime issues in games.

Pacing: A series of methods on how to build player interest as the game progresses.

Player Control: A problem caused by large variations in experience or randomness.

Approachability in Game Design

Introduction to Approachability:  Improve the gaming experience for new players.Crevasse

Extending the Invitation: Our first two axioms of approachability: Familiarity & Purpose.

Captivate A Captive Audience (Part I): Our second pair of axioms of approachability: Clarity & Navigation.

Captivate A Captive Audience (Part II): Our third pair of axioms of approachability: Parsimony & Assurance.

The Learning Curve: Breaking down the affects of approachability and experienced players.

Teachability: Improving the experience of learning and teaching new games.

Building Game-Defining Concepts

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Introduction to Game-Defining Concepts: A look at primary sources of innovation in game design.

Game-Defining Concepts – The Doubling Cube: In-depth look at the Backgammon Doubling Cube.

Building Game-Defining Concepts: Common areas that can help you innovate your game design.

Theme in Game Design

themegradientsidewaysTheme vs Mechanics: Finding Common Ground: Breaking down the reality of the Theme vs. Mechanic debate and finding a productive starting point for your designs.

Integrating Theme with Design: Reflecting on the design strengths of games who have successfully integrated theme.

The Who, What, When, Where & How of Thematic Execution: An unorthodox and satirical look at theme in game design. The main content of the article is genuinely intended to help thematic execution. Additionally, there are intentionally vague references specific to popular franchises which may help mirror the situation of a new player unfamiliar with thematic subject matter of a game.

Satisfaction in Games

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Satisfaction Guaranteed: A list of enjoyable elements in games that can generate fun or satisfaction in games for players.

Dodging Dissatisfaction: Avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes that can detract from the player experience.

General Game Design Tips

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Vanity and the Downfall of Aspiring Game Designers: A series of common mistakes for new designers and how to avoid them. Most notably, why no one is going to steal your game idea.

The Role of Playtesting: A few design goals you may wish to prioritize in your next game design.

Game Design Structures

gdsearly[Early Game Structures]: Introduction & Resources: An introduction to our series on several of the foundational elements of game design including resource trends and incentives that can drive player motivations in decision-making.

[Early Game Structures] Turn Order: One of the critical design elements that shape the process of taking a turn and how the active player can transition during the round of a game.

[Early Game Structures] Decisions: A list of four qualitative criteria available for Designers and Developers to evaluate the variety and styles of decisions that players encounter in games.

midgamestructures[Mid Game Structures] Player Ecology: A look at motivations, incentives and penalties and how several psychology and economic principles can change the scope of a game.

[Mid Game Structures] Player Interaction: Our approach to understanding and graphing how players can affect one another, collaborate and compete.

[Mid Game Structures] Player Strategy: A graphical framework that groups games based on the strategic approach players are encouraged to take.

Mechanic Archetypes Series

wptitleMechanic Archetypes – Worker Placement: An introduction to the mechanic covering tendencies and interpretations of the term “Worker Placement”.

Worker Placement – The Perfectly Average Middle Ground Mechanic: High-level look at the mechanic that includes a few selected strengths and weaknesses of Worker Placement.

Worker Placement – Observations and Innovations: A look at more than two dozen Worker Placement games while covering various trends and approaches to the mechanic.

poolbuildersMechanic Archetypes – Pool Builders: An introduction highlighting the mechanics of Deck building, Dice building and Bag building collectively referred to as Pool builders.

Pool Builders – The Algae of Game Mechanics: High-level look at Pool building that focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the the mechanic.

Pool Builders – Observations and Innovations: A look at a wide range of Pool Building games while covering various trends and approaches to the mechanics.

Game Design Analysis Series

Our analyses of popular games that utilize the terminology and game design frameworks we use on this page.

Terra Mystica

Game Design Analysis – Terra Mystica: We look at Terra Mystica from the perspective of Balance, Complexity, Scalability, Approachability, and several other attributes.

Twilight StruggleGame Design Analysis – Bora Bora: We look at Bora Bora with a focus on Balance, Complexity, Scalability, Approachability and several other attributes.

Game Design Analysis – Twilight Struggle: We look at Twilight Struggle with an emphasis on Game-Defining Concepts, Theme, Downtime, Satisfaction and several other attributes.

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Game Design Analysis – Bohnanza: We look at Bohnanza with an emphasis on Player Control, Pacing, Satisfaction and several other attributes.

Dual Design Analysis – Concordia and Lewis & Clark: A special pair of analyses with a look at the comparative strengths of two 2013 games on the topics of Theme, Pacing, Downtime, Satisfaction and several other attributes.

Game Design Analysis – Power Grid: We look at one of our all-time favorites on the topics of Balance, Approachability, Game Structures and several other attributes.

Game Design Analysis – Keyflower: Keyflower’s blend of auctions and worker placement is remarkable and we look at some of our favorite attributes that make its gameplay so appealing.

Guest Interviews

Scott Almes (January 2014): Scott discusses 4x games, his design process, Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Bigfoot.

Jamey Stegmaier (March 2014): Jamey discusses the playtesting and development process surrounding Tuscany, his approach to design and some of his wine of choice. [Warning: Ripe with Wine Puns]

Vital Lacerda (September 2014): Vital discusses the design and development process of Kanban: Automotive Revolution. He also discusses designing with his love of complex games, his creative process and The Gallerist. [Warning: Assembled with Automotive Manufacturing Puns]

Tom Lehmann (November 2014): Tom discusses the origin of Roll for the Galaxy, his typical work process as a freelance game designer, his thoughts on collaborating on game design projects and several of his recent and upcoming games.

Professor Chris Hlas (January 2015): Chris discusses his approaches to teaching game design in the classroom, how students have responded and wonderful anecdotes from his experiences.

David Burke (January 2016): David discusses the “what goes around, comes around” design of Karmaka, unconventional themes and digital implementations of tabletop games.

Dominic Crapuchettes (March 2016): Dominic discusses the development and progression of Evolution: Climate and it’s thematic addition to the Evolution series. [Warning: Developed with Evolutionary Puns]

Mailbags

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Trial & Error (Mailbag #1): A mixture of clever, humorous and thoughtful reader responses.

Mid-Summer Mailbag (Mailbag #2): A collection of questions and ideas and three ideas for a thematic traitor game. Also, what was the best year in game design?

Influencers & Collaborators (Mailbag #3): A reflection on one of our favorite tabletop blogs and three polarizing decisions types in some of our favorite games.

The Return of the Mailbag (Mailbag #4): A brief mailbag prompted by readers and delivered for readers.

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