In the mind of a game designer

What is a good game? What is the history behind a good game? What does it take to design a good game yourself? With the intention to find answers to those questions, I set out on an exciting journey in the world of game design. The more I travel, the more I learn how much that remains to discover, and I cannot claim that I have found the answers yet. Nevertheless, I would like to send small post cards along the way, sharing my experience both with you and with my future self. All comments will help me on my journey because there is one thing I have learnt: no game is better than its players.
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Designing Politburo

Nicholas Hjelmberg
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This is the fifteenth of hopefully many blog posts where I reflect upon my first tentative steps as a game designer. If you find my games interesting, do consider backing one at

The inspiration to Politburo actually came from my professional work, where political differences often delays or even prevent work from getting done. The step to the totalitarian theme of my two previous micro games Comrade and Gulag was surprisingly small.

The initial idea was to have a project with three different priorities; time, cost and quality; and where each player would want to prioritize one or several areas to score most but where all areas must score something or the entire project would fail (causing all players to lose), resulting in a blame game.

This was eventually transformed into the totalitarian theme with the players turned into historical politicians and the prioritizations into ministry areas. The one-way scoring, where a priority may only score 0 or 1. was abandoned due to concerns that players would rather block the scoring and cause all to lose than let someone else win. Instead, the positive and negative scoring was introduced (or repression vs reform) to allow a more dynamic scoring. This also made voting possible, as more players would be willing to approve a plan (although with different intentions). Finally the blame game (or purge) was incorporated into the scoring to give alternative ways of winning (support the project or stop it and blame others).

Whereas my previous totalitarian game had used propaganda images to illustrate the cards, I now used actual photos with added sepia and brush filters to make them look painted, and clipart from, modified to match the color scheme of the game. Both ministry levels and influence levels got dedicated cards to be flipped and/or rotated to show the current score. Although the inspiration to Politburo came too late for it to participate in the 18 card Microgame Contest (, I still wanted to keep it in the same format as the other two totalitarian games.

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