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Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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"You Said This Would Be Fun", a book about game design, available at Amazon and DriveThruRPG
Come talk design at the Jeff's World of Game Design blog!
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It is my pleasure to announce that our March Madness victor is ...

sugarindigocorncoffeeThe Chronicles of Narnia!coffeecornindigosugar

Kudos to Adam for taking home the ultimate prize. Please have a look at Adam's chosen charity, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.

I'm a big fan of Lewis's work. My favorite is The Great Divorce, well worth a read (only 100 pages). It's sort of Lewis's take on Milton and Dante or something like that.

Congrats are also in order for Cube, for defeating Icosahedron for 3rd place. The venerable d6 is a workhorse but the d20 is a lot more flashy. But the cube as a form finds so many uses in so many games, it's tough to go against that, and so no great surprise that it held steady for 3rd. Kudos to Russ for bagging two of the coveted slots in the final four.

And with that, our tournament comes to a close! Thanks to everyone for submitting entries and voting. I hope it was fun.

Should we do this tournament again next March?
      46 answers
Poll created by jwarrend


For today's post, here's a discussion that started on Twitter and that made me do a calendar check, but sure enough it was not, in fact, April 1 on the day that it happened.

I've mentioned before that in college I played guitar in a 3-piece jazz/funk combo. We were pretty good. Or rather, the bassist and drummer were prodigies and I was mediocre, so we averaged out to pretty good. Anyway at that time I was listening to indie jazz/funk groups, and since we talked about obscurity the other day, here are two jazz-funk groups worth remembering. The first was a four-piece that happened to be playing in front of the T stop in Harvard Square one day. Called Soulwork, they had everything our little group had AND a great vocalist. Then there was a CT-based female combo, Swivelhips. My favorite song of theirs was called "Candyland". You can still find it, sort of, at their website, though it requires a download.

As for Soulwork, it looks like it's possible to buy their CD at Tower Records, and I guess their singer Skip Jennings is now a spiritual instructor or something.


Last week, NOT on April 1, game developer John Brieger started a twitter extoling the virtues of Candy Land, a game that was originally created as an amusement for kids in polio wards. The kids loved it, but it's not much of a game, not really. But John takes the view that the specific design choices made by its creator, Eleanor Abbott, are vital to its success, and are worthy of study and emulation by designers to understand what great game design truly entails.

Brieger is right up to a point. As I've argued here, there is a place for situational design: a game that's perfect for a particular audience or person or setting. My game "Disney Fairies" may or may not be a good game but as a gift for my daughter's 8th birthday it was perfect. There's a place for this.

But Brieger sticking up for Candyland isn't the absurd part. A few people, myself included, pushed back against his argument (note to self: don't ever do this, it's not worth it). I observed that Candyland, while commendably responding to the needs of kids at a time of great stress for them, was nevertheless maybe not something designers should study, in particular because of the fact that it's possible for the game to never end. If you draw a card that sends you backward, backward you go, and this can go on (for what feels like) forever. Same thing Chutes and Ladders.

Well, the level of apoplexy this triggered was astounding. At least a half dozen people, none of whom I know in the slightest, took issue with everything I said. The looping is part of the fun. Adults like me can't understand the mind of a child. I don't know what an axiom is. And so on. And a dozen more people besides upvoted all of these rebuttals. I never anticipated Candyland would have such a stalwart fan base. I somewhat despair for the future of boardgaming if this is a hill so many are willing to die on!


But it brings up the perennial question, what is good game design? But maybe there's a more relevant question we can sometimes ask, which is, is this particular thing a great game or a great product?

Developers like Brieger will say there's no difference (in fact, he did say that). To me, the difference is quite simple: if you stripped away all of the "product" aspects of the thing, just played it in its prototype form, would you say "that's a great game!" or not? If not, then its success might have more to do with its production than its gameplay. Of course some games are both.

Since we love polls, let's think about some popular games along these lines:

Great game or great product?
  Great game Great product Both
Puerto Rico
Race for the Galaxy
Ticket to Ride
7 Wonders
Disney Villainous
Magic the Gathering
      83 answers
Poll created by jwarrend


Finally, the obligatory game design idea of the day.

I suggested in John's twitter thread a variant of Candyland whereby, each turn we reveal a card and everyone bids, high bidder claims the card and moves to the next space of that color.

Ties are friendly, but whoever of the involved players is furthest back gets to claim the card. And then you can trade in sets of cards to claim a "conveyance" card (ocean steamer, hot air balloon, elephant, whatever) to access the shortcuts (i.e. you don't have to land on them if you have the right conveyance card).

To play quickly, the bidding probably wants to be simultaneous, but maybe it's done via giving everyone a wheel numbered 1-6 (no abstaining?) so you can't get yourself in trouble with overbidding too much, which is probably important if it's a kids' game.

Since there's apparently a push to make games about obscure Disney properties, my first instinct is to make this one a game based on the Adventurer's Club. You're trying to travel around the world and have interesting adventures and be the first to return to the club to share your exploits. I don't know, maybe.

It's a simple enough game to mock up, we'll see if anything comes of it. Kungaloosh!

From gallery of jwarrend


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