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Subject: What are some must have games for aspiring designers? rss

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Peter Ward
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Hello all,

What are some must-have games an aspiring designer should have, preferably ones that exemplify a particular mechanism better than others or do it in an interesting way? Thanks for any and all responses.

 
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Mark Jackson
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largely this would depend on what you are designing yes?
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"What do you mean, I can't pay in Meeples?"
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Quantity is more important for a would-be designer than quality. It sounds weird but hear me out; you can learn as much, or more, from poorly made games as you can from the good and great ones. What's important is being able to identify what works and what doesn't, and you can't do that if you're only playing the 'greatest hits' list.

The more board games you play, the more games you dig into, pull apart and try to figure out why the designer made the choices they did, the better.

Play all the games!

A computer-based game hosting platform is your best bet if you don't have a large collection of your own or local friends that do. You'll miss out on the tactile component, but it opens up a large library of titles that won't break the bank to try out.
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Peter Ward
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Ah_Pook wrote:
largely this would depend on what you are designing yes?


That's the issue I'm running into. I design games I want to play so I look at games that are similar. I think to be a more rounded designer I need to look at games/genres I wouldn't otherwise consider. I think I will learn more from games different than my design goals/personal preferences.
 
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Peter Ward
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Fire_Forever wrote:
Quantity is more important for a would-be designer than quality. It sounds weird but hear me out; you can learn as much, or more, from poorly made games as you can from the good and great ones. What's important is being able to identify what works and what doesn't, and you can't do that if you're only playing the 'greatest hits' list.

The more board games you play, the more games you dig into, pull apart and try to figure out why the designer made the choices they did, the better.

Play all the games!

A computer-based game hosting platform is your best bet if you don't have a large collection of your own or local friends that do. You'll miss out on the tactile component, but it opens up a large library of titles that won't break the bank to try out.


very much this. My hope is to develop a collection of games with unique mechanisms and themes for variety. Unfortunately, I don't know what those games should be just yet. Android games are helping but as you said, the tactile component is vital.
 
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David SL
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Cortez527 wrote:
Ah_Pook wrote:
largely this would depend on what you are designing yes?


That's the issue I'm running into. I design games I want to play so I look at games that are similar. I think to be a more rounded designer I need to look at games/genres I wouldn't otherwise consider. I think I will learn more from games different than my design goals/personal preferences.


What kind of game are you designing?

It’s difficult to recommend anything without knowing what you want to learn from games! I would have thought playing similar games will teach you a lot more than playing a bunch of unrelated stuff. But I could be wrong.

For what it’s worth I’d say seek out simple games. Games with incredibly simple rules and mechanics but great depth of play. Also filler games. Learn about economy of design. My favourite games seem to almost always have incredibly simple rules but offer depth beyond their limited mechanics. As a game designer, that stuff would be useful to know.

Phil Walker-Harding is a big inspiration to me because of his simple rules, and always fun gaming experiences.
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Peter Ward
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DavidSL wrote:
What kind of game are you designing?

It’s difficult to recommend anything without knowing what you want to learn from games! I would have thought playing similar games will teach you a lot more than playing a bunch of unrelated stuff. But I could be wrong.

For what it’s worth I’d say seek out simple games. Games with incredibly simple rules and mechanics but great depth of play. Also filler games. Learn about economy of design. My favourite games seem to almost always have incredibly simple rules but offer depth beyond their limited mechanics. As a game designer, that stuff would be useful to know.

Phil Walker-Harding is a big inspiration to me because of his simple rules, and always fun gaming experiences.


My first game is at the "waiting for final art stage" and is an abstract strategy. I think it went through over 200 editions and major changes but the pieces fell into place when I started branching out my personal collection of games. For instance, my game has nothing to do with cards, resources or economies but playing Splendor gave me ideas I wouldn't have had otherwise. Playing other abstract strategies for inspiration seemed to force me into a way of thinking that other genres broke me out of.

This is what I want to capture as I start on my second to fill the time waiting for prototypes. That and I work better on one project if I have a second to fall back to when I hit snags or issues.
 
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Mark Jackson
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my general answer is look at classic knizia designs.
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Not all of these may work for you, but there are many ways of getting to play more games beyond simply buying a bigger collection at retail.

Join a local boardgaming group. Alternatively, Set up a local gaming group if one doesn't exist in your area.
Thrift for board games.
Play games on VASSAL, Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, Yucata, etc.
Print and Play, esp. work-in-progress games where you can follow the development through updates.
Designer/developer blogs.
Try improvising games using only your existing games components. Can you do so at all? Why or why not? What does that teach you about the design choices that were made for the original?
Play some truly 'awful' games - what makes them terrible? What can be done to make them better? Is there a reason this game is popular despite being objectively poor in some way? Eg. most people would consider Candy Land an objectively bad game, yet it remains popular with its intended audience.

There are also lots of 'best of' lists out there, such as:
Jones' Theory - A best of each Genre
Top boardgames for each player count and genre
The BGG Contests Top 100s [Metalist]
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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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Cortez527 wrote:

Hello all,

What are some must-have games an aspiring designer should have, preferably ones that exemplify a particular mechanism better than others or do it in an interesting way? Thanks for any and all responses.



In the area of Area Control mechanism, I'd say:
El Grande
It's all about the Area Control in this one, distilled into a genius design.
It's still ranked #53 twenty-three years after publication, so it must be doing something right.
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    Acquire
    Heroscape
    Coloretto
    Settlers of Catan
 
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World's Fair 1893

Implements area majority in an interesting way and combines that with set collecting and card drafting.
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Ama Perera
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Rather than any particular game, I'd suggest you have a look at anything by Reiner Knizia.

While you could argue his go-to mechanism is the auction, the man had put out hundreds of titles (of varying quality), so you could perhaps buy games at various points of his design history to see how his approach evolved.

One of the main things I find interesting about him is his treatment of theme. His games are often accused of pasted on theme, but he apparently puts in a lot of background research into his designs. And I think it shows... if you pay attention to the theme and actually scrutinize what's going on and why. Not for everything, of course, but for many of the titles of his I've played.
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No One
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504

~V
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A few games that impressed me with their elegant or clever design:
- Glen More
- Ginkgopolis
- Targi

- Omega Centauri
- Race for the Galaxy
- Twilight Struggle
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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I would also recommend studying games by Reiner Knizia. His designs are very clean with a few mechanics, simple rules and nothing unnecessary. Yet, he manages to create a gameplay greater than the parts, in contrast to many later boardgames that are overloaded by convoluted mechanics and special rules.
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Greece
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Hmm.. Not exactly must have but more like must play, before designing something.
I'd say at least 20 different games (/types) with a BGG rating greater than 7.5 and more than 2k ratings.
Then add another 5-10 games similar to what you're interested in making so yours can be more refined and unique!
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Aeon's End to see how to write a great rulebook and streamline a system such as deckbuilding and make a game such as Sentinels of the Multiverse fun and accessible, while still maintaining a single resource that can be used for many things.
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Robert Henley
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There are many ways to approach this question. Here are couple that I haven't seen mentioned:

Hobby Games: The 100 Best is a book of 100 essays by board game and RPG designers, each espousing why one game (not their own) is "the best." It has a sequel, "Family Games: The 100 Best," that follows the same format. While not covering recent games, these books list some really solid, varied games and give interesting reasons for liking them.

Open Browse > Mechanics from BGG's home page navigation bar. This lists 51 different game mechanisms, each linked to a page describing it with a sortable list of games which use that mechanism. I know there are still some game mechanics on that list that I don't yet understand; it might inspire you too.

Enjoy!
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Peter Ward
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Thank you everyone for the suggestions and guides so far. You guys are great .

I've created a small list of (mostly) cheap and diverse games to explore different mechanisms. Here it is so far:

To Start

- Star Realms Deck Building Game
- The Fox in the Forest
- Kingdomino
- King of Tokyo
- Love Letter

Near Future
- Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
- Formula D
- Android: Netrunner

I'm lacking American-themed games and Area Control but I don't have much experience with them besides Risk 2210 A.D.. Are there other obvious gaps in my list? I also have Viticulture, Plague, Inc: The Board Game and Splendor in my collection. Thanks again for the help.
 
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David Janik-Jones
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Speaking as someone whose collection once cracked 1,100 (and is now well under 100), and started serious gaming back in the early 1970s with Avalon Hill titles, I'd suggest getting several different games that each share a specific similar mechanic (and their main mechanic) and compare them. And make sure to look at both newer implementations as well as the classics. Get a handful each of area control games, auction games, deck builders, choice/action denial, asymmetrical, dice, trick-taking, cooperative, rondel, etc.

Compare and make extensive notes about how each game has implemented the mechanic, how the usually multiple mechanics in each one combine with other mechanics and gameplay, etc. This might often require playing each game probably 10-20 times before the true depth (or lack thereof) of the mechanic reveal themselves, you're not going to truly understand games like Brass, El Grande, Agricola, Tigris & Euphrates, Twilight Struggle, etc after just one or two plays ... so ... a few years of research to get a complete, well-rounded sense of things.

Use the top 100-200 lists here on BGG to filter each genre type, get buying, to select the games/mechanics, and have at it.
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