Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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BBBB 158: Value of Familiarity with Mandela

Bez Shahriari
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To better absorb/recap information after my daily streams, I've started writing down some notes. I hope this will be useful to you.

If you do want to watch any of my BBBB shows, note that the first 30 minutes are more about daily positivity/silly questions/getting to know the person, before we spend a while on the main topic.


=====================

Mandela notes:

Porridge is brilliant. Paul Grogan wants to be asked about it.

Familiarity allows for greater connection. E.g. ticking things with another person. Or with a game.

Using something we're already familiar with short-cuts that.

Familiar is not about # of encounters but understanding.

Learning. Nostalgia. Teaching other games. Building up (standing on shoulders of giants).

We can assume knowledge when it doesn't exist.

Different ethnicities are starting to be represented amongst designers, but not folk of different socioeconomic BGs. Mandela and I are not truly Scottish but we kinda are. This gives us an advantage. No obvious solution to this problem.

Give credit.

========================


https://youtu.be/PefFdExW1uM
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Tue Oct 6, 2020 12:43 pm
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Bez Day shenanigans 2020

Bez Shahriari
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Since 2015, I've tried to do something special on 1st August.
• Releasing a new game.
• Art requests.
• Competitions.
• Setting up a special event in a pub, BGCafe or shop.

Given the state of the world, that last part is impossible. But I still wanted to try and capture a bit of the joy of 'Bez Day'.

So I'll have a 3 day extravaganza of streaming and activities starting on the 31st of July (UK time) and finishing the 2nd of August (UK time). Because it'll still be 1st August somewhere in the world even if it's only in Kiribati or Baker Island. But I do have to give a time zone, so please note that all times below are UK time (currently BST, or GMT+1, ET+5, CET-1, PT+8)

• A PHOTO COMPETITION - CLOSING SOON!
• IN A BOND - EVERYDAY AT 2pm!
• PRIZE DRAW - EVERYDAY AT 3pm!
• EXTENDED LIVE-STREAM!
• #ArtRequests DRAWN!
• NEW ELL DECK GAME - PUZZELL!


It's also the 5-year anniversary of In a Bind (now Yogi). So I'll be doing a few special things for that!


========================
SPECIAL PHOTO COMPETITION
========================


https://forms.gle/7dkvJq7u1zHLfvGU7
If you go to the above form, you can submit a photo. Maybe a photo of you playing In A Bind/Yogi. Or if you have neither, you can use the free PNP that you'll find on the form . Feel free to get creative. Maybe you can interpret the binds using a mannequin, incorporate some other household activity, or get quite abstract.

On Friday/Saturday, I'll pick a favourite, who will then get drawn in the original style used for In A Bind.


========================
IN A BOND
========================


On 31st July, I am going to unveil: IN A BOND! - An economic subversion of In a Bind (now Yogi).
A few people contort their bodies. They represent companies. Other folk play a stock-market game, making sure to sell their shares before the companies collapse. Perhaps literally.




========================
TIMES FOR EACH DAY
========================


Every day between 1pm and 7pm will be chatting, In a Bond, then more chatting. With some special guests.

• Friday - Streaming will begin at 10am, with an unboxing and a talk about In a Bind.

o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Alan Paull, James Cook (comedian), and several other exciting guests.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories

• Saturday - 10am, unboxing of in a Bind expansions.
o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Tom Coldron, Rose Atkinson and other great people.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories, finishing with a winner being picked for the IAB Photo competition!

• Sunday - 10am, unboxing of a French Yogi. Bad French pronounciation.
o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Kathleen Mercury, Dave Wetherall and other wonderful folk.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories

You can join in the fun here https://www.twitch.tv/StuffbyBez


========================
#ArtRequests DRAWN!
========================

I will be trying to draw every art request given (within reason). You can join in on twitter, by typing "#BezDay #ArtRequest @stuffbybez" and then say what you want drawn.


========================
NEW ELL DECK GAME - PUZZELL!
========================

I will be sharing the rules of PUZZELL!

Puzzell is a fun solitaire style game in which you have to form cards into runs by arranging letters to make ‘runs’ of three consecutive letters in alphabetical order. You will be picking up and dropping cards to form your ‘runs’. The aim is to set yourself up for the end game, when you must use all the cards left in your hand to win!
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Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:18 pm
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ELL game design competition 2019/2020 - closing soon

Bez Shahriari
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This is a reminder to submit a new ELL Deck game by 31st July 2020. 23:59 UK-time.

Previously known as ‘Wibbell++’, this is the 3rd annual design competition for the deck. Previous winners were Categorickell (now on track to be published) and Unfinishabell.

Everything will be deeply considered. I will playtest and give feedback on as many as I can.
Everyone in the top 5 will get consultation time and a package of games.
The winner will also get £100 cash, and be entitled to demo their game during UKGE 2021 and Essen 2021. (I will pay for space and set aside a table just for you, if you wish.)

The intention is that the top game will become the 10th 'core game' for the deck. If that happens, a standard contract (on par with what I would personally accept) will be offered for a special edition of the deck.

To see the full rules and enter, visit the page below and fill out the form.
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdKb3ow_1NjDhw0WmuV...

You may enter up to 3 submissions per year.
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Thu Jul 9, 2020 12:41 pm
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Black Lives Matter. Origins cancelled.

Bez Shahriari
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https://kotaku.com/board-gamings-industry-body-refuses-to-sa...

I was looking forward to Origins. Even though it's a continent away, I was going to be able to attend for the first time. I was going to do a solo talk about instilling hope within games. I'd been invited to talk with other amazing people about party games. I had 8 playtests scheduled for 'Seize the Power'.

I was excited to be part of a big US convention in some way.

Shortly before bedtime, I read that folk were dropping out of Origins. I didn't understand why and asked.

Waking up to see a bunch of explanations, links to further reading.

I understand that key people (specifically black folk) on 'Origins TV' were being asked to make a timid statement at the start of their shows. They asked for some changes in wording and that was refused.

What I know for sure is that an increasing number of folk stepped down (tbh, we only have 2 'prominent' black folk - Mandi and Eric Lang, which kinda speaks to the problem).

Having pondered it, I think it's important, if we don't understand what's going on, to listen to black voices.

We all need to learn to listen more.

For too long have black voices been ignored.

It's always tempting to folllow those with more power because that way you can get a tiny bit of their light. But by banding together, we can truly effect change.

If several folk tell you that an organisation is toxic, take their words seriously.

If people are walking out, maybe now is the time to follow them.

In the end, Origins cancelled.

https://www.facebook.com/originsgamefair/posts/3343035985749...

Emma here makes the point that in their cancellation they have tried to wash their hands of wrongdoing.

https://www.facebook.com/eklarkins/posts/10105508219620523

It wasn't the death of a black man at the hands of the police that directly caused them to cancel, but the walking out of an increasing number of people (as colllected in this twitter thread).

https://twitter.com/elizhargrave/status/1270859753334484993

By ignoring the responsibility of the walkouts, GAMA is trying to change the narrative.

It feels akin to casting themselves as a benign saviour, ignoring the struggles and the power of the people who walk out.

Remember, we can work together to effect change.

Some have celebrated the cancellation of a 20k-person fair. That the big gaming organisation - GAMA - made such a move. But this is bigger than gaming.

And yet it is inextricably linked.

This is about the lives of millions upon millions of people who have been downtrodden, discriminated against, and brutally beaten for centuries.

This is about wanting to effect change.

To those who might say that 'politics' has no place in gaming, fuck you.

When you get a choice of characters. When love is represented. When any sense of culture, family structure, or organisation is represented.

The game is making a political statement. 90% of games make assumptions about the lives of those who play.
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Thu Jun 11, 2020 8:51 am
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Dear diary. I'm live-streaming a lot.

Bez Shahriari
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So, recently, I've found any writing a bit more difficult than usual.

Whether it's a blog post, a KS update, or rules for a new ELL game that I really want to share.

I've been doing a lot more live-streaming to compensate. Since Airecon, I've live-streamed games on Tuesday/Thursday evenings (8:10pm UK-time) that folk can either just watch, or join in with.

Stuff like Say Anything, Giftabell, Q for U, or How Much Money. Social party games.

Tuesdays are now about trying/testing new games, whilst Thursdays are about the games we already love.

Since the start of the month, I've bee doing a 'Bezzy Breakfast Boardgame Blether' at 10am UK-time each day. Before, this was around the time I would get up. Now, I am getting up earlier. It's a tiny bit of joy, connecting to folk and having a couple of folk who pop along regularly.

I'm starting to have guests - tomorrow, I'll be chatting to Alan Paull of Surprised Stare Games. Probably about designing, Essen, and other things.

Over the weekend, I'll be chatting to Richard Denning of UKGE/Medusa Games. Probably mainly about the 'Virtually Expo' event.

Anyway, I guess I'm writing this post mainly to let you know I'm still alive. Not great. Not terrible.

To let you know I'm still making stuff and inviting you to watch my livestreams.

And if you want to pose any questions for Alan Paull/Richard Denning then please do so.
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Mon May 18, 2020 1:13 pm
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AQs: How do you think “beyond” the game when designing your game?

Bez Shahriari
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A few things come to mind.

A game system like the ELL deck can be all about encouraging other folk to make their own games. I do this via competitions, and making time to give real feedback and help to folk who really wanted to work on a game. Categorickell was originally a competition submission. But it was so good that it's become many people's favourite games. Beyond that, the notion of what is an 'official' game, or a 'fan' game becomes blurred. The notion of a game system is inherently about building a game library - far more than within a single game.

Within one game, you can have - or even encourage the creation of - variants. Categorickell has 19 suggested categories to choose from. By the time I list a few, folk are often suggesting their own categories, whether that's about personalised niche knowledge (2 people played a whole game with the category of MAC cosmetic products), or a strange convoluted linguistic rule.

You bring worlds into the game. Parody or real-world quotes. For Kitty Cataclysm expansion cards, I parodied several folk, from Mewry Pawpins and the Purrnce of Purrsia to Catleen Mewrcury. This can allow folk to appreciate the wider world, from fandoms to the people around them. MtG used to have a lot of quotes from Shakespeare etc.

By contrast, you can try to bring the world into the game. When your world is full of wonderful characters, quotes or other traits that folk can bring into the real world, that's a wonderful thing.

Finally, you have the 'metagame'. The time spent deckbuilding, pondering your tactics, or doing anything else to do with the game when not actually playing. CCGs are all about this. But you could work to encourage strategy articles, etc. Make the game something that generates stories and memorable moments. Include key decisions that will have folk pondering afterwards, thinking, 'what if'. I was very gratified to hear one review saying how Coupell 'lingered in their mind' long after the game was done.
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Sun May 3, 2020 5:53 pm
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Pondering a name/naming system for a game/gaming system.

Bez Shahriari
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A new ELL-powered RNW that requires no printer (just pen(cil) and paper) has been 'finished', I think.

It's about creating short words - only 1, 2, or 3-letters long. But you have to 'grow' the words left to write, working on up to 3 at a time, and you are trying to balance how many of each length you create.

I don't know what it should be called. Any ideas?

Also, I am not sure what the naming convention should be for games that require paper/pencil.

Currently, the system is:
Games that require the ELL deck and nothing else are given a single-word title, that is intentionally mis-spelled, and ends in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Phrasell,
Faybell,
Alphabetickell,
Categorickell.

Games that require multiple ELL decks and nothing else are given a multiple-word title, intentionally mis-spelled, ending in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Many a Mickell makes a Muckell,
Epic Wizard Spell Battell.

Games that require an ELL deck, as well as some custom components, are given a muiltiple word title that is CORRECTLY spelled, ending in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Trucking Hell
Flip and Spell

During the next few months, I predict a growing number of games that require pen(cil)/paper, but do not actually need any printed sheets.

I've already got 2 original games (and a variation on Muckell) that I made to fit the format of video-conferencing boardgames.

Pondering the above 3 things, the obvious omission is single-word titles, ending in ELL, that are correctly spelled.

But there's not a massive number of potential titles, when I look at this list:
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/words-that-end-in-ell

Maybe if I make good use of hyphens, then it'd work.

Maybe the game about drawing 5 grids to fill is called 5-cell. A hypothetical game called 'Show-and-tell' would require paper/pencil or other common household objects, but 'Show and Tell' would need extra bits to be printed.

I think I like this distinction. But, as always, I'd appreciate any/all feedback.

So that brings me back to the original question.

Assume that the name has to be spelled correctly, end in 'ell', and somehow allude to the game. Tiny words (1-3 letters). The main focus is on making lots of sets (each word scores points equal to the number of letters, but there is a bonus of 4 if you have a set of all 3 lengths, making it a total of 10 pts rather than 6pts).

What would be a good name for this game?
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Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:28 pm
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Quick thoughts on some games that work well via video chat

Bez Shahriari
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In the past 200 hrs, I've run 4 online gaming sessions (via FB live) and attended 2 others (playtest UK, and Monday night, both hosted by Ellie).

Some quick thoughts.

Just One works well. I wasn't ever the guesser, as I had to show the cards whilst the guesser closed their eyes, but I had fun giving clues. I guess I could have possibly 'remembered' where the camera is. Honestly, this is one of the best games for the format imo.

15 words (from The Big Taboo) works well if one person just 'hosts' and PMs people lists of words.

Yogi* works OK, but the purple wildcard idea didn't work as well as I expected. I'd try it with just the basic Yogi deck next time.

RNWs all work OK if folk have printers.

If you don't have the ELL deck, get the PNP version for £1.*
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bybez/categorickell-a-t...

Then I'd suggest:

Phrasell* (works about as well as normal, requires player creativity)
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dm7BYyOzl8NQOXgMeLGRism98KJ...

Faybell* (works almost as well as usual, requires creativity)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=15C4TMflu0bgcr0ruywkzkdLyFH...


Muckell* (RNW edition):
was adapted for the situation in the last week.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/13nTvUkQ4qSM1EpWGZSoBknwSLPZ...

I'll be working on more rando-write games in the next few weeks that don't need printing.


(*Notice of bias.)
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 11:39 am
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Reasons to house-rule a game.

Bez Shahriari
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YOUR GROUP IS UNIQUE


A game is (usually) made for a large number people. Not you. Not your individual group. During the design of ANY game, there will be choices to make that don't have a clear answer. Either answer leads to a good game. A choice must be made. Do you want to prioritise simplicity or strategic possibilities? The opportunity to be sadistic, or the ability to play without interference?

We all have different preferences. Maybe even different ones on different days.

I often enjoy superfluous complexity in my speed games.

Your group dynamic is unique.

The point is that the game is not made specifically for you. If you think that you'd prefer the game if you were able to run your engine for another 4 turns, then try it out.


YOU WANT VARIETY


One way to accomplish this is by buying new games, expansions, or variants. I own both Ticket to Ride: London and Ticket to Ride: New York.

But maybe you have played XXXXX a whole bunch of times, and want to try something different. If you love the basic framework, why not change the scoring system or something and enjoy the slight change?


CURIOUSITY


Maybe you're a little curious. What would Settlers of Catan be like if you were to play to 15 pts with 3 players? Probably terrible, but it might be interesting to experience it first-hand.

STARTING GAME DESIGN


Maybe after raising the goal of Catan, you decide that you want to add another building. Maybe make it a building that sits on a road, and grabs a resource from each adjacent hex. Or maybe you want there to be a card that allows you to jump around the map.

Fairly soon, you'll find that you're making a new game. This is how game designers can start - first learning about the ramifications of different design decisions. Once you've gained confidence in house-ruling games, maybe you'll start a brand-new game.



RULES ARE NOT SACROSANCT


Designers dont present this immaculate conception to the world, in such a pure state of perfection that it would be a sin to change a single detail.

If you want to try a houserule, and your playgroup agrees, then you are allowed to change the game. Maybe it'll be better for you. Maybe worse. Maybe it'll be better for your group, even though it's the worse decision for the market as a whole.

The best way to find out is by trying it!
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Thu Mar 5, 2020 8:27 pm
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Reasons to not blind-test early.

Bez Shahriari
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Writing rules takes time and effort. This investment might make it less likely that I am willing to change the rules after 10 minutes. That would be a problem.

Initially, you're going to learn the most. Part-way through a game, you might well realise that some things should be changed. To maximise your efficiency, I think it's useful to make a change, add in something, or even throw out or completely change half the game, as soon as you realise it is working against your intended experience.

More importantly (arguably), having someone read the rules and teach a group takes time and effort for your playtesters.

Given that I am not so lucky as to have folk clamouring to playtest whatever I design (and probably won't ever be), it's important that I value the time and opportunities I get to playtest my things. I would rather teach my game, then have extra time to play a 2nd time, or maybe even make mid-game changes.

I think that it's more important to first ascertain if a game has any value. Does it provoke laughter, introspection, or whatever you're trying to provoke? Does it accidentally provoke another interesting and worthwhile thing you can pursue instead?

I think that writing rules is super-helpful and rules should absolutely be tested (at least once if pitching, far more if self-publishing). But that is just not a priority to me early in the game design process. (Or, indeed, anywhere in the game design process - I'd only start when I get to what I consider 'development'.)
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Thu Mar 5, 2020 2:09 am
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