Design Dichotomies: Opposing Ideals In the Quest to Create the Perfect Game
Ben Stanley
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Some principles of good game design are always true. There are things that simply work and things that do not.

But sometimes there are issues that are a matter of taste and subjective preference. Some aspects of game design are as different as every one of us.

I want to analyze the areas of game design where some people only seem to enjoy games on one extreme, and others on the opposite extreme: the Dichotomies of Design, if you will.

So here is how the list works: if you are going to add entries, add two (2) of them, each a quintessential example of ways in which people totally disagree about what makes a great game. I'll get things rolling with a few examples.
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1. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Ben Stanley
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Richly Themed

Some people only play games for the new world, realistic mechanics, and deep backstories the game offers.
 
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2. Board Game: Hex [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:2560]
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Pure Abstraction

Others feel that a game is all about the mechanics, and they will actively strip away any theme to achieve a more pure and elegant game.
 
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3. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:15341]
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Luck

Some folks want a game with a lot of randomness, where new players can win and the only benefit of strategy and experience is controlling the probabilities.
 
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4. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:123]
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Predictability

Others want zero random chance. The only thing they want to be surprised by is their opponent's moves.
 
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5. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:45]
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Open Information

Some players want the information out in the open, so they can plan and play knowing everything that's going on in the game.
 
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6. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:172]
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Player Screens

Others want to hide the progress of the players. It reduces analysis paralysis and keeps players focused on the game, but it also rewards strong memory, sometimes over strong strong strategy, or encourages players to take notes of trackable information.
 
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7. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:14644]
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Winning Momentum

Some players want a game that ends quickly when it is clear who is winning, with momentum building and increasing reinforcements to put the folks who are losing out of their misery so a new game can start. They celebrate a run-away leader in a game, especially if they are that run-away leader!
 
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8. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:29]
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Balancing and Catch-up Mechanics

Other players always want the person trailing to have all the advantages and hundreds of opportunities to catch up and get back into contention.
 
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9. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:202]
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Randomized Starts

Some players find their replayability in a game that follows consistent rules, but always has a totally different and random start.
 
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10. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:421] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
 
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Opening Books

Other players always want the game to begin from the exact same position.
 
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11. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.85 Overall Rank:15418]
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Total Equality

Some gamers want both players to be as equally positioned as possible, with all their pieces following the same rules and everything practically identical.
 
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12. Board Game: 2 de Mayo [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1036]
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Fascinating asymmetry

Other players find it far more interesting when the opening odds couldn't look more different, as long as there is still a careful balance in the design.
 
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13. Board Game: Space Hulk (third edition) [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:224]
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Direct Conflict

Some players want direct conflict with their opponents and to crush their enemies.
 
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14. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
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Co-operation

And of course, others would like their conflict to be indirect, parasitic, or would simply rather all be on the same side.
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