Game designer tribal warfare

In the first post in this series, I described 4 (rounding up from 3.5) tribes of game designers, each tribe with a core value system that its members shared. Of course, like any categorisation, these tribes are somewhat arbitrary and necessarily forced, but I find putting things in boxes helpful, as it brings clarity to both the box and the thing you’re putting in it. This post, I’m going to take the concepts of the tribes and mix them together, not just because the real world doesn’t neatly fit into the 4 discrete boxes, but because this will actually be helpful. We’ll find that some tribes share values that interact harmoniously and that designers taking ideas from both of those tribes can create some really fantastic games, but other tribes have values that are mutually exclusive and that trying to design while adhering to the beliefs of both tribes can lead to troubled development and a troubled final design. Personally, I often find myself at the dark crossroads between two of these opposing tribes and thinking about this has definitely given me some clarity, and I hope this post will help you come to terms with your own game design tribal identity. Continue reading

Tabletop Deathmatch: Post-match Breakdown

The 2nd season of Tabletop Deathmatch has just wrapped up and, while I felt the first season was a little more genuine and less staged*, I maintain this is must watch viewing for all tabletop designers and cage fighters out there, but before we go any further: SPOILERZ! Watch the season and the finale before continuing! Or decide you’re too lazy to and just read my breakdown. Continue reading

3.5 tribes of board game designers

There has long been a deep chasm in the realm of board games. In recent years, the chasm has narrowed and even a few bridges have built, but there are still some gamers who will not leave their side of their rift for the land on the other side. In board games, the grass is always greener and much more fun on your side. I don’t have a name for the rift, but there is a name for the two sides, Euro games and Ameritrash. In this post I want to move beyond that simple divisive line by creating even more divisions. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to start a new board game cold war, this all has a point, but you’re going to have to trust for me now. Continue reading

PAXAUS 2014 Tabletop Wrap

I wrote a little about my PAX experience in the latest New News but I thought I’d share just a little more, with some different perspectives, more game and even non-PAX stuff!

PAX impressions

PAXAUS 2014 was a great fun time, but there was a lot more greatness and fun then there was time. We were run off our feet and out of our tables with demos throughout the weekend, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t get to play more games. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one at PAX, so I’ve collected some post-PAX impressions for all of you! In no particular order:

  • Kick the Table interviewed a bunch of designers at PAX using recording equipment, including yours truly, Allen Chang and Kim Brebach (whose game monstrous is mentioned below)
  • Action Points PAX Part 1 gives a general overview and Part 2 goes deep with interview with board game developers. In Part 1, Aaron talked a little bit about Dungeon of Mandom, a great little game that I picked up from my Japan trip, and that lives in my bag apart from when people borrow it, which is getting to be pretty often since Allen Chang’s been evangelising it to everyone he meets. There’s also a PAX post from Evan’s wife about attending PAX as a more casual game, and another article from friend of the show Sharona at Popculture-y – these are both definitely video game / pop culture focussed, but perhaps you, dear reader, have a broader interest than just cardboard games.
  • Al Caynes of Senyac Games also did a round up, and had a few kind words for Ragnarol. Not playing El Luchador Fantastico Grande was one of my big regrets of PAX. Unfortunately I can’t give you my impressions of the game, but check out the Kickstarter and judge for yourself!
  • Sean Carrol of 93Made Games wrote about his experiences as well, and his post includes a video of the board game funding panel. I believe you’ll hear the ocassional interjection from me and Allen Chang in the audience.
  • The Dice Men have also done a whole episode on PAX and it really does well to sum up how I feel about the Australian design scene right now – it’s about to burst! You can also hear me talk for a few seconds, and you can barely tell I’m completely exhausted and forgot how to use words.

Games I Actually Got to Play

PAX is the 3rd convention I’ve attended in 2014 and it’s great to see some familiar faces, as well as some familiar games. Thanks to a kind volunteer, I actually managed to unchain myself from the booth and play a few games throughout the con, including a couple of works in progress.

I finally got to play Monstrous from Kim Brebach. Kim’s been demoing this for over a year now and it’s been great to get to finally get the time to experience it for myself. I performed appallingly in the game, and just managed to squeak out a non-negative score, but still really enjoyed it. The game is looking super great and I’m looking forward to seeing it on Kickstarter early next year.

I also got to play Time Fight again. Designer Paul Sztajer tells me it’s progressed quite a bit since the Toy and Games Expo. It definitely feels to me like it’s flowing more smoothly but with no compromise on the core mechanic of gladiatorial combat across time and space. I’m really excited about this game, especially because I get to yell THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE! when I finally win (that’s not actually part of the rules).

Post-PAX Mini-Con with Vault Games

New online / pop-up store Vault Games put on a launch day the weekend after PAX, which turned out to be a like a little mini con tgat showed what a great concentration of designers we have in and around Brisbane. I didn’t get to play as many of other indie games as I would have liked as I found myself somehow forced into an impromptu Netrunner draft and X-Wing tournament later in the day (okay, so maybe I brought along my Netrunner draft packs and X-Wing army, just in case). If you check out the Vault Facebook page, you’ll find a post focussing on each of the designers, and you should see Dragonracer on Kickstarter in just one week.



The Asia-Pacific Solution

Last industry post, I talked a little about my experiences at TAGE but there was one thing I didn’t mention, mainly because it was part of an elaborate self-delusion. In the lead up to the expo, the organisers announced the attendance of publishers Indie Boards and Cards and Stronghold Games. Both respected and awesome game companies, and this got me more than a little excited. Number one, I really wanted the Lancelot promo for Resistance: Avalon, and number two, publishers were actually coming to Australia! Heck, maybe they’ve heard of a lost tribe of game designers and ventured to the Great South Land in search of the next Francis Drake or Sushi Go. This was not the case. As the show got closer and closer, more and more publishers were announced, and I started to sense something was wrong. I was short a few prototype pieces for Ragnarol and contacted Mayday, another announced publisher, about getting some of their very nice wooden resources for Euro games. They got back to me, and said they would have no representative at the fair. It finally dawned on me, I was living a lie. Continue reading

The Search for Community

About a month ago, I had someone ask me question on Twitter. Is there an Australian board game developers / designer community? And my answer at the time was, “Not really.” Now, there’s definitely Australian board game designers (let’s name drop Brisbanite Peter Hawes and the friendly and generous Phil Walker-Harding who gave a talk at the Protospiel at TAGE) and there’s definitely an Australian board game community (no references, needed!) but the convergence of the two just didn’t seem significant enough in my head to warrant recognising a separate community. Continue reading

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