BG Choppers - A board game mechanics & design blog

Analysis of mechanics and their applications within Board Games. We look at specific systems within games and examine how they work and what they accomplish (or fail to accomplish) for the games that contain them.
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Brad Talton
United States
New Mexico
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In the past, I've done a couple of design articles in the Board Game Designer Forum, and it's been suggested that I collect these into a blog of some kind, for easy reading and linking.

So, with that in mind, I present BG Choppers

In this blog, I'm going to be talking about specific mechanics in games--why they work, how they work, and (at least in some cases) why and how they don't.

Before the first post later this week, I'd like to give a quick overview of the primary topic of this blog, mechanics. The two big questions to answer are: What are mechanics, and why do we care? Also, a quick introduction of myself, for those curious, is included at the end.

What are mechanics?
Mechanics are the individual ways that bits and pieces move within games. Whether you pay your auctions to the bank versus the auctioneer; whether you have to move as many spaces as the dice shows; who wins when combat starts? These are all mechanics that make up a game.

Mechanics are the building blocks of what I like to call Elements. An element is a larger game system with a specific goal in mind. The trading, collection, and spending mechanics in Settlers of Catan all work together to create a Resource Element. The connecting of roads and the way towns collect resources in Settlers of Catan combine to create a Spatial Element.

If mechanics are the nuts and bolts, then Elements are the individual pieces of the engine they combine to assemble. Sometimes mechanics will do double-duty and serve several elements. As in the example above, resource collection contributes to both the Resource Element and the Spatial Element.

The mechanics are at the core of the game, but they only really take shape within the context of the Elements they comprise. That is to say, the way we collect resources is pointless unless we also consider how they're going to be used. Only within the contest of the Resource Element is a specific mechanic (such as resource collection) relevant.

Why do we care?
No mechanic is fun in and of itself, just like a pot of paint can hardly be called a work of art. The skilled designer blends mechanics to create Elements that inspire a certain experience, just like the painter combines colors and techniques to form a work of art.

Each mechanic is included in a game with the idea of creating some element, and each element is implemented with the idea of creating a player-experience. A mechanic is good insofar as it supports the experience the game is trying to create. Whether a game is fun depends more heavily on the individual playing and the high-level vision of the designer than its exact implementation.

Long story short--good mechanics don't make a good game, but poorly implemented mechanics will ruin a game without exception.

A designer's command of the mechanics at his disposal will determine how effectively he is able to implement the vision he has for his game.

Introduction / Resumé
I'm Brad Talton, the owner and lead designer for Level 99 Games. Designing and analyzing game systems is my primary interest in board game design, and has been a constant study of mine for several years now.

My first published game was BattleCON: War of Indines, followed by Mystic Empyrean, and NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game. Kill the Overlord, Pixel Tactics, and Grimoire Shuffle are a couple of my games that are in post-production and will be released later this year.

Thanks for Reading!
I'll be attempting to make one big post per week, so please subscribe if you think you'll be interested in getting the first update.

Thanks for taking the time to read the intro, and Happy Gaming!
- Brad
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