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Subject: board game recommendations for an Intro to Game Design class rss

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Avram Dumitrescu
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Hi all,

I'm redeveloping an Intro to Computer Game Design class at college level and decided to work in a week of playing and studying board games.

What games would you suggest I buy that will help the students get a wide range of gameplay styles and hopefully help them in their paper prototyping game design projects later in the semester?

Oh, and I should explain that the class will be the first formal game design study the students will probably have experienced.

Over the 15-weeks we'll be covering topics such as

* conflict and choices
* reward and punishment
* balance in games
* level design
* strategy and luck
* rules... and so on.

No digital games will be made but the students will probably work their way up to complex design documents, simulated screen shots, etc.

Thanks!

 
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Carel Teijgeler
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Definitely a war game, one with the hex-and-counter approach, like the old AH games.
 
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Michael Berg
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I would go with a three-pronged approach, starting with light games, then heavy games, and then gateway games. With the heavier games, you can talk about the strategy and have a discussion while teaching the rules, and invite them to play outside of class.

There are a lot of micro games that learn and play fast, and focus on a particular mechanism. These would be easy to fit into a scheduled class time, and the students won't need a lot of direction:

Welcome to the Dungeon
Stellar Conflict
Hey, That's My Fish!
Skull
For Sale

Then the heavier games, which have interlocking mechanisms that take more study to learn how and why they tick:

Power Grid
Imperial Settlers

And lastly, a few modern classics, so they see the middle of the road, where the entry games have been built upon but not overwhelmed:

Airlines Europe
Yspahan

Hopefully ending with the gateway games will leave a pleasant taste in everyone's mouth.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
Israel
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Excluding level design, Evolution might fit your bill.

Heroes wanted might also interest you. It has an interesting mechanic and is whimsical enough for class yet has a lot of deep strategy into it.

The question is if you want to bring a single game and analyze it, or do you prefer more smaller games that each offer a complete unique mechanic?
 
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Avram Dumitrescu
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Thanks all for these excellent suggestions! I'm going to purchase as many of these as I can so the students can get a good range of game play styles.

In terms of the kind of game I'm interested in, quick and simple to learn is ideal - we have two 1hr 15min sessions a week (though I suspect students may stay past the end time if they're enjoying the games). Also, anything that can carry from board game to digital is good (and also a very nebulous statement).
 
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Avram Dumitrescu
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One other question - what suppliers do you recommend for purchasing games? We're a little limited in that, as an educational institution, the company needs to be able to accept a PO (purchase order).
 
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Michael Berg
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Avram_0 wrote:
One other question - what suppliers do you recommend for purchasing games? We're a little limited in that, as an educational institution, the company needs to be able to accept a PO (purchase order).
Where are you located? If you are in the states, I'd recommend checking out any of the following for the best prices:

www.cardhaus.com
www.miniaturemarket.com
www.coolstuffinc.com

I can't speak to which ones will accept a purchase order. I know CoolStuffInc's customer service is pretty zippy, and I suspect they'd work with you.
 
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Richard Roberts
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Avram_0 wrote:
Thanks all for these excellent suggestions! I'm going to purchase as many of these as I can so the students can get a good range of game play styles.

In terms of the kind of game I'm interested in, quick and simple to learn is ideal - we have two 1hr 15min sessions a week (though I suspect students may stay past the end time if they're enjoying the games). Also, anything that can carry from board game to digital is good (and also a very nebulous statement).
Yeah Yeah, I'm going to buy all of these games for... research......
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Avram Dumitrescu
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Sometimes, being a professor is truly excellent!

Yes, based in the States so will look into those three suppliers. Thank you!
 
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Jordan Booth
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In my Intro Game Design course we played Scotland Yard. The asymmetry works well to show balance. The rules are well written. Perhaps the best part for playing in class is that it is fairly quick so it can easily be taught and played in one session, and the teams nature means you can have everyone playing at once (maybe multiple games if you have a really big class).
 
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Chris Mcpherson
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Biblios - multiple mechanics in one small and short package. surprising amount of strategy and different ways to play at the various player counts.

Mr. Jack - might work good for level design and balance, among other things.

Hive - a new take on chess with a constantly changing board

Red7 - clever little card game where each card has multiple uses and affects that can take place on each turn.

7 Wonders - Longer than the others but it might be the fastest way to show off a lot of great strategic decisions, risk/reward, a little luck and everything else you said you would be covering.

oh man there is so many but I'll stop there!!!
 
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Phillip Harpring
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Yomi: Round 1 may be an interesting game to study. It's a card game based on the principles of fighting games like Street Fighter, where reading your opponent is an invaluable skill. The creator was a lead designer for the Super Street Fighter 2 remake and wrote a book (available free online) about competitive gaming called Playing to Win. In addition to ordering the linked box set, Yomi is also available to play for free at fantasystrike.com, should your students enjoy it enough to try it on their own. There's also an app version for iOS, and the four Round 1 character decks are free to PNP at sirlingames.com.
 
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Space Trucker
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A game that could suit well is Port Royal.

That's a great little fun game, played and explained quickly, but not trivial and definitly strategy/tactics in there.

There is stress your luck-mechanism (you can turn up cards to pick one from until your end condition is reached - which is the moment when you lose your whole turn). Taxes can hit you when you've piled up more than a a treshhold of money.
You can buy different cards that meam shortterm and longterm strategies - which need to be balanced. And many people, also non-boardgamers love it.
 
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Rabid Schnauzer
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Avram_0 wrote:
Hi all,

I'm redeveloping an Intro to Computer Game Design class at college level and decided to work in a week of playing and studying board games.

What games would you suggest I buy that will help the students get a wide range of gameplay styles and hopefully help them in their paper prototyping game design projects later in the semester?

Oh, and I should explain that the class will be the first formal game design study the students will probably have experienced.
You start with Tic-Tac-Toe and Nim, which are perfect information games solveable fairly trivially by lookahead. You discuss first-mover advantage. You then segue into more complex perfect information games, probably some sort of Hnefatafl game to introduce the concept of asymmetry. You then have the class discuss how first-mover advantage and differing forces / objectives interact in that game. From there you segue into variations on a theme and cultural traction in games and explain how Tafl games were largely supplanted by Chess, but how modern Chess (of the Mad Queen) is one small twig that has grown over hundreds of years and the whole tree includes Shogi and the world's most popular game Xianqi. Have the class discuss the similarities and difference's between the three main chess games and have them speculate why those three variations retain enduring popularity. If you have time, dredge out some more obscure chess variants like Dunsany's Chess or Chess 960 or Tishai or Chess 2 or Sceptre 1027 A.D. and such have the class speculate on why those haven't caught on to anywhere near the degree of the others.

Up next are Hidden information games. Poker is the general go-to here, and has a variant for everything. Stud poker with no betting is straight luck. Draw Poker with no betting is based on awareness of probabilities. Stud poker with betting (chips only, since this is a class not a casino) is about bluffing and reading at least as much as it is about probability. Draw Poker with betting adds the element of information leaks if discards are visible. From there, have the group discuss Texas Hold 'Em and speculate on why it is such a popular form of Poker currently. For modern hobby games, Coup is a very popular bluffing game, and you could have the class speculate on how it relates to and differs from Poker.

I suppose you need to cover dice games. You'll want to give an overview and sampling of dice-racing games like Pacheesi, Backgammon, Pop-o-Matic Trouble, and modern takes on the theme such as Formula D You'll also want to cover dice-assignment games like Yahtzee and the giant-monster themed contemporary hobby game variations: King of Tokyo / King of New York.

Word games should also probably get a nod. Scrabble, and Boggle are far and away the big names here, but aspiring game designers should take a look at how Bananagrams rebranded a public domain ruleset and made a go of it commercially.

You may or may not have time to emphasize variable player powers as a form of further asymmetry. If you do so, Cosmic Encounter is probably the most historically noteworthy game for this, although ideally you'd want something that played even faster. Ideally you have time to look at some of David Sirlin's thoughts about balancing asymmetrical powers in games ( I saw Yomi (second edition) mentioned above, but I can't see a one-week class having enough time to understand that game as much more than random ) and discuss how optimizing players may use a Nash Equilibrium and the ways that can limit the parts of a game which actually see play.

Next you'll have to cover co-operative games. A brief discussion of Dungeons and Dragons and the explosion of Tabletop RPGs and how that led to more complex hobby games, including Arkham Horror (which may be the earliest co-op boardgame). But if you want a game that students can actually play in roughly a class period, you probably go with Forbidden Island ( maybe Forbidden Desert or Pandemic ). Have them discuss how variable player powers are used to force teamwork and have them discuss whether co-op games with perfect information are meaningfully different from having a single player run all characters. Potenntially contrast Forbidden Island with limited communication co-ops like Hanabi or SHH.


That's roughly what I'd cover, although I'd regret leaving out:
"Wargames" - such as HG Well's Little Wars, Risk, Axis and Allies, Ogre etc.
Eurogames (especially the influnce of Catan on game development),
The immense money made by Magic: The Gathering pioneering the Collectable Card Game; and how the relatively recent Hearthstone has quickly become financially competitive with MTGO
A bunch of mechanics and game types: Worker Placement, Deckbuilding, Draft and Pass, Social Deduction, Tile Placement, Charades-Likes, Dexterity Games and more I'm doubtless forgetting at the moment.
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Sacre Bleu
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I'm going to suggest Dominion. Not only is the game a landmark in the industry, having popularized the deck-building genre which went on to spawn many games, but the best thing is that the designer, Donald X., has made many posts here and on dominionstrategy.com detailing his thoughts and process as he designed the base game and every expansion.

This gives a unique look into the mind of a designer. I highly recommend you make your students read this.

It helps that the game is an extremely carefully crafted puzzle. It's really a gem of game design.
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Edmund Cheow
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I'm pretty sure Cosmic encounter fulfills a lot of the requirements you are looking for. there's a reason why a 30 year old game still stays very relevant till today.

As for level designs probably a dungeon crawler like Descent and Star wars: Imperial assault?

While we are at it, since the star wars fever is strong right now, Star wars X-Wings miniature game is sure to capture their attention too.

ninja
 
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Joe Price
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West Hollywood
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I think you'd be pretty covered with these four:

Pandemic
Pandemic challenges the players to make tough decisions with limited actions. Some of the choices will be agonizing. Should I try and stop outbreaks in Los Angeles or do I build a research facility and try to cure a disease? Pandemic is also a cooperative thematic game and great example of a modern board game for students who may only be familiar with roll and move style games.

Dominion
Dominion is a landmark of modern gaming and has influenced countless other games. Mechanically speaking it is a masterpiece. Any student of board gaming should at least be familiar with it. It is a relatively easy game to understand but very difficult to master.

The Resistance
Social deduction should be introduced to any student of modern gaming and I feel this one is the most streamlined of the bunch.

7 Wonders
This introduces the idea of card drafting and set collection and plays really well (and fast) with up to 7 people at a time. It's really balanced and just plain fun.

If you're looking for some heavier extra credit games that really explore some more complicated mechanics look into Power Grid, Trajan, Puerto Rico, and Agricola. There are too many great games to name them all but these are a great start.
 
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