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Hump Day Dump: Tree-hugging Elven Archer? You're doing it wrong…

Hump Day Dump is a mid-week recap of the best blog posts from the last 7 days

I’m still behind on my work (and I didn’t even go to GenCon) as the fallout continues from my vacation a week ago. What’s making it hard to catch up is the great amount of good writing I’ve been poring over.

Let’s count down the Four Fab posts of the week!

4. Should Games Have a Catch-Up Mechanic?, League of Gamemakers

3. Board Games: Are They Really Shared Experiences?, iSlaytheDragon

2. The Economy of Choice, Games on Tables

 

AND AT THE TOP OF THE CHARTS…

This is Why You Don’t Know How to Design an RPG
Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog, August 14, by Jeffro
see also…
Ten Books that Can Change the Way You Game
Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog, August 13, by Jeffro

No matter what kind of blog reader you are – Meta or Mini – Jeffro has a great post for you. His specialty is writing 2,000-word essays on groundbreaking Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. So he can speak authoritatively about the literary origins of our most beloved RPGs.

Yet Jeffro can also zoom in on specific aspects of adventure gaming and show us how we can become better role-players. In his August 14th post, Jeffro reassures us that it’s okay for our characters to die, telling Dungeon Masters that

Character generation … followed by a player-character death within two hours of play is utterly essential if you’re going to introduce people to what role playing games are really all about. … You have to communicate quickly that failure is possible, success is not guaranteed, and choices matter…. And no, I have no idea what the people doing “everybody wins; nobody dies” at the next table are getting out of their game. There can be no glory if there can be no failure. Their players have nothing to boast about after a session. But the guy that died in my game falling off the side of a volcano… he still talks about it. Something happened.

 

THE REST OF THE BEST

The Economy of Choice
Games on Tables, August 15, by Keith

Keith introduces the topic by talking about the difficult decisions consumers are faced with when they have too many choices, such as purchasing a digital camera.

He then applies this is a game design standpoint. Offering players a wealth of options every turn is not doing them any favors.

In effect, it’s no longer okay to just throw hundreds of meaningless decisions at a player for the novelty of putting out a game in a detergent sized box. … You need to create a true economy within your games in which choices are presented to drive narrative, and in quantities that can be consumed by players.

 

Board Games: Are They Really Shared Experiences?
iSlaytheDragon, August 15, by Jonathan Wolf

How do we share our great gaming experiences with fellow – or potential – gamers? Jonathan argues that we can’t, at least not like book clubs share their reading experiences.

How can we talk this way about board games? We can’t. No matter how much theme you pour into a game, there is no game I can think of that lends to a deeper conversation about meaningful themes or ideas.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try…

…If we want to grow our hobby, to bring more people in, we have to understand what engages people, what interests them. If we can’t sit down at the dinner table and say something to the effect of “I read this book recently, this idea was portrayed like this, what do you think of that?” (I suppose it might read “I played this game recently, it presented a choice like this, what do you think of that?” if we could do that), and engage them with a game before they even play it, how can we get them interested?

Jonathan lays down a difficult challenge:

I dare you to bring up board games in a conversation in a way that draws non-gamers in, and that you engage them with your hobby so that they become interested in trying out the game.

 

Should Games Have a Catch-up Mechanic?
League of Gamemakers, August 15, “The League”

Nothing forces a game to the back of closet more than a runaway winner on the first play. Especially when it becomes obvious early in the game that other players have no chance of winning.

The League, in their collective wisdom, explore the option of adding a mechanic to mitigate that enthusiasm-dampening possibility. Splendor is one game where this often happens. Christian argues that games like that don’t need a ‘fix’ but a redesign.

Steve has a pretty clever alternative to the “Catch-Up”…

Coming at it from the other side, I’ve been experimenting with a multiplayer mechanic I call an Accelerated Ending. The idea is not to give a losing player a chance to take the lead; instead, when there is an overwhelming loser, make sure the game ends quickly.

We used to play a variation of Monopoly where the game ended as soon as one player was eliminated. Everyone else counted their money + rent levels and the highest total won. Other games allow eliminated players to ‘buy-in’ but they usually start at the bottom, so what’s the fun in that…

 

 (The above four blogs earn consideration for the BGA Blog of the Year Award. One point is awarded for inclusion, with an extra point given to the Post of the Week.)

 

6 OTHER POSTS WORTH A READ

Game-Defining Concepts – The Doubling Cube
Games Precipice, August 19, by Alex Harkey

Alex talks mostly about Backgammon, but the concept can apply to any 2-player abstract, especially more complex ones (like The Duke), or those with some randomness (like Ingenious).

 

Divergent and Coherent Characters
Playtesting, August 18, by Filip W.

Filip argues persuasively for breaking the bounds of archetypes when creating our RPG characters.

 

Game Design Merit Badge in action!
Board Game Family, August 19, by Trent

Wow, Scouts can get badges for Game Design!? Suddenly, I’m filled with hope for our hobby’s future…

 

Top 10 Lessons Learned and Highlights from GenCon 2014
Stonemaier Games, August 19, by Jamey Stegmaier

Normally I avoid “Top Ten” lists, but the Stonemaier team always posts articles that actually inform as well as entertain.

 

Nantman
Every Man Needs a Shed, August 14, by Tony Boydell

Another top-notch session report. Like someone with a heavy accent, Tony’s local flavor becomes easier to follow the more you listen to him.

 

Gaming With Kids
Ministry of Board Games, August 16, by #BoardGameHour

The weekly live-tweeted exchange about boardgaming is now re-capped in Q&A format for our reading pleasure.

 

Which one of these posts did you enjoy? Are there any blogs that I missed last week? Let me know in the Comments section!

  • Drew is a contributor to the Board Gamers Anonymous podcast. He's a curator by nature, compulsively reading and obsessively organizing what he's read. He's also been a gamer since the age of 3, which means he's been playing board games for... let's just say more than 40 years, and leave it at that...

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