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Subject: Is 504 a game system? rss

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M. C. DeMarco
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I stumbled across 504 on a geeklist of game systems, and I wasn't sure it belonged there. I love game systems, but I feel that they're more open-ended than 504, which feels quite restricted by the interlocking tangle of rules that somehow, Kal-toh-like, resolve themselves into a single one of the 504 games.

Has anyone made up their own rules for game number 505 (or beyond)? I don't think dropping the third module on occasion or playing the meta-game makes 504 a game system, since you could do something similar with any game. But I could imagine working in a fourth module per game for 2520 extra games, making a massive, 9-module game (called 123456789, of course), or adding a tenth module with my favorite mechanic (216 extra games).

I get the feeling that the wealth of games already in there stifles the imagination, so that I don't even think up minor variants, never mind new modules or arrangements.
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To my mind it is. I mean, it comes with an enormous amount of pieces, many of which are not used in any given game, it has rules for playing a wide range of games that can play very differently, and take very different lengths of time.

It even comes with a token that is not used in any of the pre-existing games (the Boat) which Friese has encouraged players to come up with a use for.

This implies to me that FF intended 504 to function as a game system, not just a preset box of inter-related games.


Just because very few people seem to be using it that way doesn't mean it's not.


(One day, I may even get around to fleshing out my idea for using the Boat...)
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I had a half-way thought through idea of replacing the combat module with Risk-like rules, but never implemented it. It's just ... 504 is already so very very huge, it is daunting to modify it. Perhaps if it had been 6 (3 modules in 3 positions) to start, there would have been a number of variant designers who made different 4th modules. But if you never play all 504 games (or even the 72 major games, ignoring the specific 3rd module used), where's the motivation to create variants?
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fiddly_bits wrote:
I stumbled across 504 on a geeklist of game systems, and I wasn't sure it belonged there. I love game systems, but I feel that they're more open-ended than 504, which feels quite restricted by the interlocking tangle of rules that somehow, Kal-toh-like, resolve themselves into a single one of the 504 games.

I agree with you.

To me 504 is very obviously not a "game system". It's a single self-contained complete game with (radically) variable setup. It's no more a "game system" than Dominion or Kingdom Builder is a "game system". A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.
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russ wrote:
A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


It seems like a matter of perspective to me. If you throw out the 504 rulebook and re-title the remaining box of bits to "The EuroPack System" is it then a system?

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fogus wrote:
russ wrote:
A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


It seems like a matter of perspective to me. If you throw out the 504 rulebook and re-title the remaining box of bits to "The EuroPack System" is it then a system?



Only if every single boardgame (or at least every one with lots of bits) is a system.
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fiddly_bits wrote:
fogus wrote:
russ wrote:
A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


It seems like a matter of perspective to me. If you throw out the 504 rulebook and re-title the remaining box of bits to "The EuroPack System" is it then a system?



Only if every single boardgame (or at least every one with lots of bits) is a system.

I guess I'm just confused then: aren't the "systems" Russ mentions just a lot of bits that are intended to be used in different ways? What else is there in those systems that makes them more than just bits but not a complete game?

I think Mike raises a good point: If the bits on their own are sufficient to be a "system," then why does adding 504 ways to use them make them no longer a system?
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dommer2029 wrote:
fiddly_bits wrote:
fogus wrote:
russ wrote:
A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


It seems like a matter of perspective to me. If you throw out the 504 rulebook and re-title the remaining box of bits to "The EuroPack System" is it then a system?



Only if every single boardgame (or at least every one with lots of bits) is a system.

I guess I'm just confused then: aren't the "systems" Russ mentions just a lot of bits that are intended to be used in different ways? What else is there in those systems that makes them more than just bits but not a complete game?

I think Mike raises a good point: If the bits on their own are sufficient to be a "system," then why does adding 504 ways to use them make them no longer a system?


The bits on their own aren't sufficient to be a system, in part because they aren't intended to be used in different ways. They're used in pretty much the same way whenever they're used in one of the 504 games. Compare to Looney Pyramids, where sometimes a pyramid is a chess pieces and sometimes a pyramid is a set of properties in a Zendo koan, and many other things besides. Or a lowly playing card, where sometimes ace is high and sometimes low.

I think the confusion here is between whether the bits in 504 would be enough for some enterprising young Looney to invent a system out of, including a bunch of unrelated games (probably yes), and whether that has already happened (observably not).
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fiddly_bits wrote:
fogus wrote:
russ wrote:
A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


It seems like a matter of perspective to me. If you throw out the 504 rulebook and re-title the remaining box of bits to "The EuroPack System" is it then a system?



Only if every single boardgame (or at least every one with lots of bits) is a system.

Exactly. You could similarly throw out the rulebook for Chess and call it "The Medieval-Looking Wooden Pieces System", and throw out the rulebook for Catan and call it "The Hexagonal Tile System", and throw out the rulebook for Carcassonne and call it "The Square Tile System", and hypothesize that the bits are intended to be used in a variety of games which a hypothetical community hypothetically creates for those bits. In reality, no one has created any game using 504 bits other than the published game by Friedemann Friese, which comes in the box, and there is no evidence that the bits are intended to be used that way, nor that anyone buys the bits to use them that way.

So if that's one's (very low) bar for something being a "game system", then indeed every game is a "game system".
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russ wrote:
So if that's one's (very low) bar for something being a "game system", then indeed every game is a "game system".


Again, I do think it's a matter of perspective. The Icehouse pieces were not a system at first either but rather a game called Icehouse. It wasn't until the Looneys needed to change their perspective (based on sales) did they start marketing it as a system. I find it interesting that you use Chess as an example because it absolutely IS a system as the existence of chessvariants.com shows. Finally, something like Carcassonne is not billed as a system, but there is a rich ecosystem of expansions, house rules, spin-offs (e.g. The Discovery) and the like. So while it's not billed as a system, Carc is definitely a pliable "medium" for building Carc-like games. So yes, maybe all games ARE systems in disguise, but some game are more amenable to system-ness than others. 504 is such a game IMO.
 
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russ wrote:
... A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


Where did this definition come from?

Asking because I disagree with it - to me, a game system does not need to provide unbounded variety, nor include games from different authors. I'd also strongly question whether independently created rulesets are necessary, as long as the games being played with that system are significantly different from one another.

Saying that games in 504 merely offer "(radically) variable setup" isn't sufficient. Clearly, more than just the setup can be affected when modules are swapped out - goals, mechanics, components in use, and more can all change.

I feel that 504 provides a collection of different games that can be played with a common set of components. For me, that sounds much closer to a "game system" than the restrictive definition you provided. But that's just my opinion. Maybe the bigger question is why the labeling really matters. Is this an attempt to better define what a game system is, or just a change to argue semantics?



The examples of Chess and Catan and Carcassonne not being "game systems" are interesting as well - because I'd suggest that Chess and Catan could be. Both have component sets that were used to design variants and/or other games unrelated to the original release. If you were to throw the rules for some of those other games into a single box, then I'd consider that to be a game system instead of a single game. On a similar note, a Go-ban with stones would definitely qualify. (I haven't seen Carcassonne pieces co-opted in a fully playable, distinct game... but it's possible that's happened and I just haven't seen it.)
 
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fogus wrote:
So yes, maybe all games ARE systems in disguise, but some game are more amenable to system-ness than others. 504 is such a game IMO.

FWIW to me 504's pieces seem really rather specific and concrete (very explicitly representational roads, dudes on a map, 5 types of terrain tile, factories, 5 types of resources, shares of stock, privilege cards with clear iconic meanings, etc) compared to the more abstract/generic flexible variously usable Looney pyramids or Chess pieces. That makes 504 seem clearly less flexible and less like such a general-purpose "game system"-type game to me. It would seem like trying to use a specific-purpose wargame like The Russian Front as a generic "game system" kit.

In any case, if 504 were a "game system", or even close to it, then I would expect that some independent games would actually exist for it.

Since no one else has made any separate independent games using 504's bits, and AFAIK its creators has never expressed any expectation that anyone else would make such games, and it is marketed and sold as a self-contained game with a single concrete complete rulebook, rather than an open-ended "game system", that says (to me) that it's clearly not a "game system" but simply a "game".
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oneiric wrote:
russ wrote:
... A "game system" like Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet, etc has (and encourages) an unbounded variety of independent games, by many various authors, with many different independently created rulesets.


Where did this definition come from?

Asking because I disagree with it - to me, a game system does not need to provide unbounded variety, nor include games from different authors. I'd also strongly question whether independently created rulesets are necessary, as long as the games being played with that system are significantly different from one another.

Fair enough - I was speaking about what usually happens in practice with successful / popular game systems.

Quote:
Saying that games in 504 merely offer "(radically) variable setup" isn't sufficient. Clearly, more than just the setup can be affected when modules are swapped out - goals, mechanics, components in use, and more can all change.

But the goals are part of the setup. Do you similarly think that Kingdom Builder is a "game system" instead of simply a "game"?

Quote:
I feel that 504 provides a collection of different games that can be played with a common set of components.

Do you consider Kingdom Builder to be a collection of different games?

I can see that point of view, but it seems to water down the notion of "game system" to almost tautological meaninglessness. Each random setup of Caylus or Concordia or Catan is also a different game (which can play out significantly differently and feel significantly different) in a similar technical sense, too, after all.

I would say rather that 504 and Kingdom Builder and Dominion are all single games with variable setup, and that setup can significantly influence what rules happen to be relevant during a single session.

Quote:
For me, that sounds much closer to a "game system" than the restrictive definition you provided. But that's just my opinion. Maybe the bigger question is why the labeling really matters. Is this an attempt to better define what a game system is, or just a change to argue semantics?

I'm not sure what you mean by that question (the 2 options you list sound similar to me, except that the second has a dismissive tone), but I see a clear difference between the many games which exist for Looney Pyramids and the "games"/worlds/setups of 504. Looney Pyramid games really are independent with arbitrary independently created unrelated rules, and they are open-ended - none of them depends on anything which has been previously created, and more of them are created (by many different people, though I grant your point that this is not seemingly not a requirement, just a typical attribute).

In contrast 504 "games"/worlds/setups are not at all like that. They are all defined by a single rulebook which clearly lists all the rule modules, and there are, well, exactly 504 possible combinations of those modules. There is no concept of open-endedness here.

Do you really not perceive any difference?

Quote:
On a similar note, a Go-ban with stones would definitely qualify.

I agree that a Go set functions as a game system.* Lots of truly independent games with no common rule DNA shared among them -- unlike 504.

*Which raises another "typical" attribute of what I observe people to often have in mind about "game systems" -- they are explicitly identified and marketed as such by their creator (Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet), rather than being an old traditional single-purpose game which (much later) got new games created using its bits. But I would agree that this intentionality on the part of the original creator (who is now lost to the mists of time in the case of Go or Chess) seems inessential and rather merely typical, since a Go set does seem to function as a "game system".

PS: FWIW a Chess set seems rather less "game system"-ish to me in practice, because all Chess variants I've ever seen are still very "Chess-like" - each player has their own army of the standard pieces with standard movement abilities (perhaps with some removed, some duplicated, and some new types which work in a similar spirit), the goal is to mate the opponent's king, pawns promote, castling, etc. I.e. Chess variants (pretty much by definition of "variant") are all Chess with a twist. So in practice, the "independence" among Chess variants is extremely low compared to independence among games playable on a Go-ban (which are mostly NOT all "Go with a twist"), or games playable with Looney Pyramids (which are mostly NOT "Icehouse with a twist".) To me, calling something a "game system" is a much stronger claim than just saying "it has lots of variants" or lots of optional/advanced rules, etc.
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I'm not going to belabor the point, but it does seem that we're talking past each other. My whole point about perspective is that I believe that system-ness is not necessarily defined by the original designer, but instead by the actual use as a system.

Just because 504 has not yet been used as a system does not mean that it cannot be nor should not be. I suspect that if FF had released the game as a system qua system then a number of games would have been invented that were quite close to #433, #123, #322, etc. (just picking random numbers here)

This is just speculation though -- which is the ultimate in meta-gaming 504!

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Hmm...

I haven't played Kingdom Builder and don't really have enough knowledge to provide any comment there. This is unfortunate, because it's a game you are using heavily for comparison.

I have played Dominion, and don't think it's a game system. The overlap of components between different sessions is too small (edit: as in, each type of cards has a single possible use printed on it, and that card type can be either in or out of the game; there is no abstraction where the same components can be used for different purposes), the changes to base game rules too limited, and changes to end goals and scoring aren't significant enough for me to consider it a different game.

By contrast, I feel that games in 504 can be much more varied. You could separate out one or more of the games here, box up just what is needed, and sell that without people feeling they were buying the same thing twice.

I also think that 504 is much more expandable with components found inside the set. Just because someone hasn't created a specific set of rules to add worker placement or role selection to one game with 504 components (or created a full module for the system that adds these mechanics) doesn't mean it can't or won't happen - only that we haven't seen it yet due to limitations in time and/or interest. The fact that one specific component is included in the box but not used in any of the games as published suggests to me that more games are/could be coming.



My comment regarding arguing semantics was dismissive. I'm really not sure whether the point of this argument is to come to some kind of wider agreement about what "game system" means or for someone to prove that one specific view is correct.

I understand your position, accept it, and just happen to disagree with it. Feel free to do the same (or not) with my opinions.

(second edit: Probably also worth noting that you do have more experience playing 504 than I do. That doesn't necessarily make your opinion better, but it certainly doesn't hurt.)
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oneiric wrote:
I haven't played Kingdom Builder and don't really have enough knowledge to provide any comment there. This is unfortunate, because it's a game you are using heavily for comparison.

Bummer; I recommend trying it! It's a good game.

Quote:
I have played Dominion, and don't think it's a game system. The overlap of components between different sessions is too small, the changes to base game rules too limited, and changes to end goals and scoring aren't significant enough for me to consider it a different game.

By contrast, I feel that games in 504 can be much more varied. You could separate out one or more of the games here, box up just what is needed, and sell that without people feeling they were buying the same thing twice.

I guess this is untestable (unless someone does that expensive-sounding experiment). But to me personally/subjectively there is a clear commonality and "shared DNA" among the 504 combinations. They are all clearly "variations on a theme". Even combinations with no shared modules, e.g. 345 vs 678 or whatever, have a lot of commonality, not only in terms of physical bits, but in terms of basic sequence of play and other rule concepts (hex map made of the same tiles in a small number of possible arrangements, the same terrain types and movement rules for them, earn income, spend money to buy residents and trolley upgrades, activate and exhaust residents, carry resources or residents in trolley, win always determined by victory points, etc). There are significant differences between each pair of worlds of course, but the 504 "worlds" are extremely similar among themselves compared the very diverse variety of Looney Pyramid games which exist (Icehouse, Martian Chess, Gnostica, Drip, Zendo, Armada, RAMbots, Twin Win, World War 5, ...). Once I'd played each of the 9 modules, I found that each new world of the 504 felt nonetheless very familiar.

FWIW the Dominion family has been sold in separate independently playable boxes (Dominion, Dominion: Intrigue).

Quote:
I also think that 504 is much more expandable with components found inside the set. Just because someone hasn't created a specific set of rules to add worker placement or role selection to one game with 504 components (or created a full module for the system that adds these mechanics) doesn't mean it can't or won't happen - only that we haven't seen it yet due to limitations in time and/or interest.

Do you have any thoughts about my earlier remark that the 504 pieces are very concrete and explicitly representational, compared to Looney Pyramids or Chess pieces or Go stones? To me, that makes 504 less expandable and flexible as a "game system" for creating truly new independent games (as opposed to mere variants).

In any case "expandable" in that senseof new modules / expansions are like new maps for Age of Steam or new cards for Dominion etc -- they are simply expansions to an existing game! They are not a truly new and independent game (in the way that e.g. Slither and Connect6 are truly independent from Go, even though they are playable with Go bits). If the potential for people to add new stuff to an existing game makes it a "game system", then surely every game is a "game system".

This makes me wonder if perhaps by "system" you mean the core game concepts and rules (e.g. in the way that Combat Commander and Advanced Squad Leader and Neuroshima Hex and Dominion and Power Grid and many games are "systems" which get continual new expansions adding new rules, units, maps, etc to them), and not only the physical bits (which is how I understand the expression "game system" in this sort of context, e.g. Looney Pyramids, Piecepack, Decktet)?

But no, because you've mentioned a Go set, and the many games playable with that equipment are not merely variants of Go or expansions to Go, but truly independent of Go, sharing nothing in common except the physical bits. And you said that you don't consider Dominion a "game system".

So, hmmm... I guess we are going in circles not grokking each other's take on the thing... Ah well, such is the internet.
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fogus wrote:
I'm not going to belabor the point, but it does seem that we're talking past each other. My whole point about perspective is that I believe that system-ness is not necessarily defined by the original designer, but instead by the actual use as a system.

Just because 504 has not yet been used as a system does not mean that it cannot be nor should not be. I suspect that if FF had released the game as a system qua system then a number of games would have been invented that were quite close to #433, #123, #322, etc. (just picking random numbers here)

This is just speculation though -- which is the ultimate in meta-gaming 504! :)


I don’t think anyone has claimed that 504 couldn’t become a game system (regardless of your definition of game system), but so could almost every other game that isn’t a game system already.

Insofar as I speculated about its prospects, I was only thinking about why it hasn’t become a game system yet and is unlikely to do so, not to rule out future developments by some semantic proof or other.

For the record, 433 and 322 are not legal worlds, though one could attempt to expand the rules to cover doubled modules.
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To me, a game system is just a specific set of rules that are used in various games. It is not tied specifically to components or to a single title really.

As in, The game system behind the original Doom boardgame was used later on in Descent, Descent 2 and them imperial Assault.

4 games with the same "system".

Similarly, Carcassone's game system has been used tons of times in various incarnations.
Relic uses the Talisman game system.
... and so on and so forth.

A box with components that can be used for different games is not a system. It's just a game creation toolkit.

Every game more or less has a game system behind it. A game system is merely a bunch of game mechanics used together in a specific way.

504 has a game system behind it. The game system is used to create it's 504 variants.
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russ wrote:
...
So, hmmm... I guess we are going in circles not grokking each other's take on the thing... Ah well, such is the internet.


Probably so. It doesn't help that my personal definition tends to rely on the "I know it when I see it" test.
 
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deedob wrote:
To me, a game system is just a specific set of rules that are used in various games. It is not tied specifically to components or to a single title really.

As in, The game system behind the original Doom boardgame was used later on in Descent, Descent 2 and them imperial Assault.

4 games with the same "system".

Similarly, Carcassone's game system has been used tons of times in various incarnations.
Relic uses the Talisman game system.
... and so on and so forth.

A box with components that can be used for different games is not a system. It's just a game creation toolkit.

Every game more or less has a game system behind it. A game system is merely a bunch of game mechanics used together in a specific way.

504 has a game system behind it. The game system is used to create it's 504 variants.


I guess I can see the game system in 504 under that definition, but I still don't feel that 504 inspires new games the way other, simpler game systems do; it's a bit overdetermined for that. FF clearly went through a lot of effort to get the modules to work together smoothly and I don't get the feeling that there are other paths of that sort to explore, except by incorporating new modules (which no one has done, either).
 
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fiddly_bits wrote:
deedob wrote:
To me, a game system is just a specific set of rules that are used in various games. It is not tied specifically to components or to a single title really.

As in, The game system behind the original Doom boardgame was used later on in Descent, Descent 2 and them imperial Assault.

4 games with the same "system".

Similarly, Carcassone's game system has been used tons of times in various incarnations.
Relic uses the Talisman game system.
... and so on and so forth.

A box with components that can be used for different games is not a system. It's just a game creation toolkit.

Every game more or less has a game system behind it. A game system is merely a bunch of game mechanics used together in a specific way.

504 has a game system behind it. The game system is used to create it's 504 variants.


I guess I can see the game system in 504 under that definition, but I still don't feel that 504 inspires new games the way other, simpler game systems do; it's a bit overdetermined for that. FF clearly went through a lot of effort to get the modules to work together smoothly and I don't get the feeling that there are other paths of that sort to explore, except by incorporating new modules (which no one has done, either).


I think if they made a new 504 game with american-style game modules instead of the current euro-style it currently uses you would more see the game system?

Module 1: combat module
Module 2: reinforcement module
Module 3: magic spells module
Module 4: vehicle module
Module 5: equipment module
Module 6: base building module
... and so on and so forth.

Then the game "system" would be more obvious as it would be shared amongst 2 different games.
 
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deedob wrote:
fiddly_bits wrote:
deedob wrote:
To me, a game system is just a specific set of rules that are used in various games. It is not tied specifically to components or to a single title really.

...

504 has a game system behind it. The game system is used to create it's 504 variants.


I guess I can see the game system in 504 under that definition, but I still don't feel that 504 inspires new games the way other, simpler game systems do; it's a bit overdetermined for that. FF clearly went through a lot of effort to get the modules to work together smoothly and I don't get the feeling that there are other paths of that sort to explore, except by incorporating new modules (which no one has done, either).


I think if they made a new 504 game with american-style game modules instead of the current euro-style it currently uses you would more see the game system?

Module 1: combat module
Module 2: reinforcement module
Module 3: magic spells module
Module 4: vehicle module
Module 5: equipment module
Module 6: base building module
... and so on and so forth.

Then the game "system" would be more obvious as it would be shared amongst 2 different games.


I don't think the original 504 sold well enough for "them" to make a sequel. And the rulebook couldn't really be shared the way an RPG rulebook might be, because there's no single methodology for combining one module with another. 504 feels very hacked together--not in a bad way, but in a you-just-have-to-reread-the-rules-every-time way.

If someone did it again, I think they would be more likely to establish a genre of modular games in general rather than a 504 game system in particular.
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deedob wrote:
Every game more or less has a game system behind it. A game system is merely a bunch of game mechanics used together in a specific way.


OK, the phrase "game system" could be used like this to mean the core underlying mechanisms of a game. Call that a mechanism-system. There are lots of games that use Carcassone's mechanism-system but which have their own components.

As Martin points out, every game has an underlying mechanism-system. So 504 is obviously a mechanism-system.

Note that a standard deck of cards, Looney Pyramids, and the Decktet aren't mechanism-systems. There are Decktet games that have no rules at all in common with some others. These are collections of standardized objects that can be used for indefinitely many games. Call that a component-system.

I say "indefinitely many" games, because (as Russ notes) there are lots of boxed games which can have different configurations. Almost everything by Donald X Vaccarino, but also every game with modular expansions and every wargame with multiple scenarios. Whether we want to call the various configurations "different games" or not, all of the possible combinations are spelled out in the rules. So that kind of variety doesn't make the parts a component-system.

504 has a defined rule book, and all the combinations are spelled out in advance. They even enumerated them in the title. So it's not a component-system.

Of course, we can imagine the bits in the 504 box becoming a component-system. But that would require them inspiring novel games. Then "504" would become ambiguous between the original game and the bits as a system. This actually happened with Looney Pyramids. The original Icehouse pyramids weren't a game system, but instead were parts for a specific game. When more games were invented, "Icehouse" became ambiguous between the original game and the system. Looney Labs decided to rebrand them "Looney Pyramids" to clear up the confusion, a move that's been partially successful.

To sum up: 504 is either trivially a game system (in the sense every game employs some mechanism-system) or not a game system (in the sense of component-system).
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Martin Larouche
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pmagnus wrote:
deedob wrote:
Every game more or less has a game system behind it. A game system is merely a bunch of game mechanics used together in a specific way.


OK, the phrase "game system" could be used like this to mean the core underlying mechanisms of a game. Call that a mechanism-system. There are lots of games that use Carcassone's mechanism-system but which have their own components.

As Martin points out, every game has an underlying mechanism-system. So 504 is obviously a mechanism-system.

Note that a standard deck of cards, Looney Pyramids, and the Decktet aren't mechanism-systems. There are Decktet games that have no rules at all in common with some others. These are collections of standardized objects that can be used for indefinitely many games. Call that a component-system.

I say "indefinitely many" games, because (as Russ notes) there are lots of boxed games which can have different configurations. Almost everything by Donald X Vaccarino, but also every game with modular expansions and every wargame with multiple scenarios. Whether we want to call the various configurations "different games" or not, all of the possible combinations are spelled out in the rules. So that kind of variety doesn't make the parts a component-system.

504 has a defined rule book, and all the combinations are spelled out in advance. They even enumerated them in the title. So it's not a component-system.

Of course, we can imagine the bits in the 504 box becoming a component-system. But that would require them inspiring novel games. Then "504" would become ambiguous between the original game and the bits as a system. This actually happened with Looney Pyramids. The original Icehouse pyramids weren't a game system, but instead were parts for a specific game. When more games were invented, "Icehouse" became ambiguous between the original game and the system. Looney Labs decided to rebrand them "Looney Pyramids" to clear up the confusion, a move that's been partially successful.

To sum up: 504 is either trivially a game system (in the sense every game employs some mechanism-system) or not a game system (in the sense of component-system).


I've never seen anyone (outside this specific thread) refer to a "game system" when talking about it's components. It's always about it's mechanics.

As in, Imperial Assault uses the Descent game system.
Terra Mystica does not use part of the Catan game system because the same settlements, cities and roads components are in both games.

... just sayin.
 
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deedob wrote:
I've never seen anyone (outside this specific thread) refer to a "game system" when talking about it's components. It's always about it's mechanics.

Although you personally don't recall seeing it, I can assure you that the component-oriented usage is frequent at BGG (and elsewhere).

E.g. look at the description of BGG's category Game System:
Quote:
A Game System is an item whose components are not a game, per se, but are used to play games. Examples include Piecepack, Decktet, and Shibumi.

Items that describe a single game or a game that has a set of scenarios are generally not regarded as a games system.


Or e.g. the description of BGG's family Piecepack Games:
Quote:
Piecepack is a Game System developed by James Kyle.

and Decktet Games:
Quote:
The Decktet is a game system, a deck of cards that can be used for many different games.

and Shibumi:
Quote:
The Shibumi set is not a single game but many games; it is the simplest of game systems. The set includes a square board with 4x4 holes and 48 white, black and red balls (16 each).


(To be clear, I agree that the rule-oriented usage is also frequent, e.g. the Combat Commander system.)
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