In a recent blog post, S John Ross tries to articulate the sense of warmth that he looks for in "a game's systems, worlds, adventures, cartography, typography, illustrations, page design, themes, philosophies, morals, politics, history and resources." Ross doesn't give a definition of 'warmth' so much as he gestures to it and points at it. It is, he writes, "one of the stars I steer my work by: a core design ideal."
And I think it is for me, too. The Decktet is more something that steeped than something that crystalized. It has an abstract structure that underlies the mathematics of many different games, but the structure is woven together with art and implied context that makes it more open-ended than just the formal structure itself. Warmth is closely related to what Nate Straight calls the ambiguity of the Decktet.
The best Decktet games are infused with the same warm glow, and the cards don't just feel like a modular component which could be traded out for something with isomorphic marks.
This is part of what makes designing the capital deck hard and why it's literally taken years. The capital cards need to be something new, but they need to capture the same ineffable warmth that the classic cards have. They have to both work as a deck on their and look at home next to the classic deck.
Without any grand design, the capital Courts rank has a bit of a nautical theme.
You can't sail a ship in Drydock, but without it there can never be a ship at sea.
The Stranger is a puzzle with missing pieces. As the story goes, the Stranger on the beach might kill you for no reason at all.
Having settled on a design for the card back, I'm trying to settle on a colour.
The Capital Decktet is an ongoing project to create a counterpart to the classic Decktet which will have the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names. The preview here are works in progress and may not appear in this form in the final thing.
P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.
Archive for kinds and theory
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Some people try to divide all boardgames into Euros and Ameritrash, but I think that kind of manichaean debate is tiresome. However, I think that thinking about what "eurogame" could mean is helpful for me as a designer and consumer of games.
In the 1990s, the boardgaming hobby as we know it became possible. Catan was a critical turning point. It was clearly different than games that people were familiar with. If you read accounts from that time, people struggled for a label. The new games were billed as "German boardgames", "designer boardgames", and "European boardgames". The latter term got shortened to "euro".
In the 2000s, somebody coined "Ameritrash" as the contrast to "eurogame". Absent such an opposing term, one might naturally think that eurogames were in contrast to a whole bunch of different kinds of games that had existed before. Even though lots of discussions of euros are framed as euro versus Ameritrash, I think that's a terrible mistake.
Consider an anology: Thai cuisine is different than many other styles of food. If you've never had Thai before, the first experience can be a revelation. But it doesn't make sense to ask what the opposite of Thai food is, even if we coin a word like "Ameriburger" to mean the opposite of Thai food. Other food can be Mexican, French, Ethiopian, typical diner food, flat-crust pizza, or any of countless other genres. It would just be wrongheaded to pretend that any plate of food is either Thai or Ameriburger.
In a similar way, I suggest, it doesn't make sense to ask what's the opposite of a eurogame. There are lots of features that games like Settlers of Catan have which are a revelation to people raised on Monopoly and Ogre, in much the same way that noodles in peanut sauce is a revelation to someone raised on tacos and pizza.
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