Having something for players to collect or gain or make and then consume or use or spend adds interest to a game and can enhance a game’s theme. It can also quickly drive up the amount of complexity in the game. As designers, we need to understand when to add resources to a game and how to make them fit within a game’s flow and theme. From the most simple infinite bank to the most complicated economic simulations, knowing how many and what kinds of resources you need for the game you are working on, can be a challenging issue.
Fitting the resources into the theme has more to do with what the resources are named and what they are used for. When it comes to fitting them into the flow of a game, we are talking more about how the resources are produced and used turn-to-turn and how those things might change throughout the game. As long as things make sense to the players you should be fine. Just remember, wood should not become spaceships… (unless you are Russian)
Building multiple balanced tactical pathways to victory
This is a mouth full, a challenge all board game designers face, and a goal to aspire to! Game design is a complex process. The type of game you are trying to make might have just one easy goal or path to victory and there is nothing wrong with that type of game. However, some game designers are trying to build grand strategy games. These are not better only different from other games. The main difference between these games (from one point of view) is, there target audience! Players looking for a challenge in tactical strategy building.
Plan your actions vs. Your plan of Action
In games, players need to make decisions about what to do next when it is their turn to take actions. These decisions or choices are based on what they know about the current state of the game on this turn and knowledge they might have about how the game needs to be played in order to win (along with many other factors). This is most often called a player’s skill level at the game. Among gamers, players that have a high general level of skill across many types of difficult games are called Tactical or Strategic thinkers. These two terms are commonly used interchangeably but actually have very different meanings when we use them for game design.
In game design, a random element or random mechanic is not always desirable. Randomness in some circles is even looked down upon as a cheap mechanic that degrades the strategic or tactical elements of a game. The phrase luck based, has been used to label the random element of games to showcase that the skill of the player cannot be fully expressed in that type of game. On the flip side, many games hinge solely on a central random mechanic and in some circles luck based or random games are considered more fun or more inclusive of all players regardless of skill level.
We have all heard game designers talking about balancing their games. This is a very important issue and one that is by no means easy or quick. So, what is a balanced game? And also, how do we know if we have balance issues in a game? Or better still, how do we balance a game that has balance issues? But what about, is balance necessary in order to have a fun and successful game? Let’s take it one question at a time:
Terms & Definitions
In order to talk with someone about any subject, there needs to be common ground when it comes to the words or phrases they use. If the two people think about the same word in different ways they will not be on the same page. This will lead to confusion and they may not reach an understanding in their communication. I feel like in the discussion of game design this is a real barrier for people who want to become part of the hobby.
Game design, like many other subjects, starts in the mind with the way we think and form ideas. There is a tendency among designers to use terms interchangeably when talking about design ideas. This is not done with any evil motivation but instead, comes from the fact that designers… well, they are just people who need to form words in order to express the ideas in their heads. To start us out on the right foot, here are a few definitions that should help to keep confusion to a minimum. Please keep in mind that the author is also just a person, and you might not find all of these definitions in a dictionary.
On the surface, this mechanic might seem like a large abstract concept used in games more than just a simple mechanic. If you feel that way then you are not alone. Some game designers (and most people) use “terms for ideas” interchangeably or use the same term for several different ideas. This can muddy the waters when those terms are discussed. Mechanic is one such word.
Therefore, Area control is a mechanic made up of other sub-mechanics working together. While the term mechanic does describe things that are simple ideas like Roll & Move, as discussed in my article on Dice Rolling. It also gets used for bigger ideas like Area Control, and in some games, area control might mean several seemingly independent mechanics all working together to form a system of area control. So, is area control a system or a mechanic?
The short answer is they are both correct ways to describe what area control is. In the world of game design mechanic is just a big word. This means sometimes you just have to try your best to decipher how the word is being used in context.