Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

A blog about solitaire games and how to design them. I'm your host, Morten, co-designer of solo modes for games such as Scythe, Gaia Project and Viticulture.

Archive for Game design

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How to make AI difficulty levels feel satisfying

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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I try to make my Automas (artificial opponents) so that playing against them feel like playing against a human player, but as mentioned in a recent blogpost there are exceptions to this. One such exception is related to simulating the skill level of human opponents.
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
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Don’t let your artificial opponent be a random number generator

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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One of the goals of my “Automa Approach” for making artificial opponents (AIs) is that playing against an Automa should feel as much like playing against a human as possible while keeping the rule complexity and workload for the player as low as possible.

My main way of achieving this is to mimic the core player interactions in a game. There are exceptions to this, though, and somewhat counterintuitively the exception I’ll discuss today relates to games with low player interaction.
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Sun Jul 7, 2019 2:31 pm
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Voluntary and forced pivot points

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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A core concept in many games – particularly engine builders – is the pivot point and understanding it is important for both game designers and gamers.

So, let’s talk about the pivot point and its evil twin.

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Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:49 am
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Guest post by Scott Allen: Automa Alternatives in Solo-Only Games - My Experiences

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Automa Alternatives in Solo-Only Games - My Experiences

Morten has done an outstanding job creating automa opponents that allow us to solo-play many games originally designed for multiple players. And Morten’s blog posts in this space have educated and entertained many of us who are interested in solo games and the design of solo games.

I think when designing a game from the start to be a solo only experience, the design process is a bit different. So, in this post, I will take a bit of a random walk (as opposed to Morten’s somewhat scientific approach) ”behind the curtain” on a few of my solo game designs in hopes of providing maybe a small bit of wisdom to this community, or at least maybe start an interesting discussion.
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Wed Oct 10, 2018 1:43 pm
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Almost 4 projects I’m backing on Kickstarter because I work with game design

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Because I work with game design I regularly study game designs that do novel or interesting things, follow what’s hot in current board games, and do design exercises.

Lately there’s been some Kickstarters, which seem to help me do all three of those things and I’d like to tell you about those Kickstarters and why I think they’ll help me.
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Tue Jun 19, 2018 3:20 pm
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Pivot points, VP clogging, and catchup mechanisms

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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I’m a big fan of the Board Game Design Lab podcast. It has taught me a lot about game design and if you’re into game design, you should go subscribe to it and go through the back catalog - some of the episodes are pure gold.

In the latest episode on catchup mechanisms, however, there was an important point made that I disagree with (and a lot I agreed with). That disagreement got me to write this post on pivot mechanisms. A topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, because it’s important if you want to understand and design engine building games. It also ventures into the territory of catch-up mechanisms, which is a topic I also find interesting and useful in my work.
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Thu May 31, 2018 3:38 pm
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The Artificial Opponent Simulation Scale – games in the gray areas of classification

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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In my previous post I introduced a system for classifying artificial board game opponents based on how large a part of a human player they simulate.

Let me start by saying that in that post I wasn’t sufficiently clear that I intended the scale to handle only bots that replace human players in the game, that is it must be a multiplayer game where a bot can take the seat of one of the humans.

As any other attempt to fit from the real world into neat categories there are games that refuse to be neat and instead insists on sitting awkwardly between categories. It’s rather impolite of them, but what can you do apart from stare disapprovingly at them?
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Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:48 pm
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The Artificial Opponent Simulation Scale – a classification system

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Over the years I’ve been refining the definition of what an Automa (the kind of artificial opponent that I’ve helped make) is, but they’re just one type of artificial opponent among many and I think that it can be useful to have a classification system that organizes them all in order of increasing fidelity in simulating a human player.

Having classification systems help us communicate, discuss, and think about game design – I’ve previously argued that a good game design vocabulary is the best tool in a game designer’s tool kit.

So, let’s go create such a classification system or at least have a first go at it .
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Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:57 am
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Exploitable behavior of board game bots and agents

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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As mentioned in my previous post the kind of highly simplified bots I recommend making for board games carry risks of degenerate and exploitable behavior. Yesterday I talked about the former and today I’ll talk about the latter.
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Sun Mar 25, 2018 10:24 am
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Degenerate behavior of board game bots and agents

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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When designing bots (artificial opponents) for board games I put a lot of emphasis on making them as simple as possible to make it faster for the player to learn the rules and to run the bots. This simplicity carries risks, though, one of which I’ll talk about today.
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Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:20 pm
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