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Subject: What's the best game design book you've ever read? rss

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Filip W.
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As it says, what's your favorite book about game design or game designers?
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Blair
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I keep hearing great things about Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games. Waiting for my order to arrive so I haven't read it yet.
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Blair46 wrote:
I keep hearing great things about Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games. Waiting for my order to arrive so I haven't read it yet.


That's from the 60's of the past century! Isn't that a bit old? I suppose that game design has undergone big changes in the past decade.

Sorry, I'm just judging it from it's age. I haven't heard about this title before.
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Dan Cassar
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From what I've read, game design books generally fall into one of two categories.

The first category is a collection of essays on design from different authors that generally provide food for thought on the topic, rather than a specific approach. In that group, I can recommend Tabletop: Analog Game Design (available as a free PDF) and The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design (also available as a PDF, but not free).

The second category of game design books are single-author works that try to present a coherent perspective. Along those lines, I'd recommend Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. It provides a number of questions to ask yourself about whatever game you're working on. These are a great vehicle for thinking about your work from lots of different angles.
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Philip Migas
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Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

other books listed at
https://sites.google.com/site/bogadesignandprototype/links-2...
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I like Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. It's non-digital challenges ostensibly for video game designers, but everything in there is useful and applicable for board game designers.

Rules of Play is less practical, but is great for building a conceptual framework for understanding game design, and includes great design diaries for games commissioned specifically for the book from major designers.
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Blair46 wrote:
I keep hearing great things about Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games. Waiting for my order to arrive so I haven't read it yet.

It's a wonderful book, but I wouldn't call it a book on game design. It's essentially a book of games, with a bit of insightful commentary.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Rules of Play for theoretic stuff. Lots of things quite interesting to read. It also inspired me to buy The Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic (several times mentioned in the book) which was really good and game-design-related.

I keep coming back to reread parts of Chris Crawford On Game Design. Most of the book are just about his old computer games (which I also enjoy reading about), but the chapters on game design are full of practical advise and well written (like his rants against people that have too many ideas and don't know how to filter out the bad ones; or how to find inspiration). His older game design book is available free online somewhere.

Dunnigan's book on Wargames, available online as well, has a chapter on game design that is good too. It's where you find his famous first rule on game design ("plagiarize") and many other things that are not really wargame-specific.

In the category of books that are collections of essays, this one is available both as a free PDF and a printed book, and contains many well-written texts by known designers:
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/etcpress/content/tabletop-analog-game...

But then again, from what books I have read so far, the by far most useful (and concise) text I have read is this one:
http://www.costik.com/nowords.html

Overall I think most texts/books on game design are more useful for academic studies than to actually learn how to design games. Of course reading about other games and think of how to catrgorize them etc can be good inspiration, but so can reading any other book on any other subject, so unless you want to get a degree in game design it might make sense to not spend too much things on those books. All imho.

Oh, "the best" book. No, I can't decide. It would be the "No Words" article I guess.
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I'll third Rules of Play but for a different reason. You might not get as much about actual game design from it, but for books that put your mind into the frame of exploratory thought that's required for design, there's none I prefer more!
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ender7 wrote:
I like Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. It's non-digital challenges ostensibly for video game designers, but everything in there is useful and applicable for board game designers.


Agree 100%. Got this for Christmas from my wife and found all the exercises fun and worthwhile.
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bno70_1 wrote:
ender7 wrote:
I like Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. It's non-digital challenges ostensibly for video game designers, but everything in there is useful and applicable for board game designers.


Agree 100%. Got this for Christmas from my wife and found all the exercises fun and worthwhile.


I have now ordered this and The Game Inventor's Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-Playing Games, & Everything in Between! because it is also cheap. $30 for both + shipping next week. woohoo.
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pelni wrote:
In the category of books that are collections of essays, this one is available both as a free PDF and a printed book, and contains many well-written texts by known designers:
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/etcpress/content/tabletop-analog-game...


I would say this is more about games and the game industry in general than about how to design games. The contributions also vary wildly in quality, from bland and/or posturing to personal and/or inspiring.

pelni wrote:
But then again, from what books I have read so far, the by far most useful (and concise) text I have read is this one:
http://www.costik.com/nowords.html


I approve of your linking, as I think the original 1994 version of this essay is much superior to the 2002 version.
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Joe Mucchiello
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Daily interaction with this forum works better than any book could. IMO.
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jmucchiello wrote:
Daily interaction with this forum works better than any book could. IMO.

Second
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Sam Mercer
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Ah yes but posting in the forum helps you communicate with other in the same situation you are - it;s hard to find a post that can really get into your mind and unlock that magic door that lets you step to the side and deal with game design from very abstract angles and look at your or others' games in a completely different light.

It is very easy when reading the boards to simply decide "Summoner wars is cool but needs more dice" for example this is completely true and would help you see what someones views are but at a shallow level. To really develop yourself and the best tracks of thought to use whilst approaching game design I really think one needs a weighty tome - crafted over loooong periods of time that say *just* the right thing about the kind of things you should be thinking about, which would be quite hard to find on the forums.

One of my books is Raph Koster - Theory of Fun. Which does a very easy and simple job of explaining what fun is. If we take this as an example - "more dice in summoner wars" apparantly would be more fun. But having this kind of further knowledge (bestowed ,I think, only by well written texts and essays) tries to explain a more higher concept of how that position was arrived at in the first place letting you see the "magical" golden roads to get somewhere as opposed to the very hands on approach that one can easily find in the forums.

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Pelle Nilsson
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Cogentesque wrote:

One of my books is Ralphe Kostes - Theory of Fun


(Raph Koster.) I like that book. I also follow his blog at http://www.raphkoster.com/. It's mostly about computer games of course, but there are at least references to boardgames now and then, and often things that are funny/interesting to read even if I never cared much for MMOs or social games or whatever the most posts are about.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Quote:
pelni wrote:


I approve of your linking, as I think the original 1994 version of this essay is much superior to the 2002 version.


I think I read the 2002 version once, but the 1994 is what comes up first on Google, and is a normal html page, so that's the one I have read several times and remember.
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Joe Mucchiello
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Cogentesque wrote:
Ah yes but posting in the forum helps you communicate with other in the same situation you are - it;s hard to find a post that can really get into your mind and unlock that magic door that lets you step to the side and deal with game design from very abstract angles and look at your or others' games in a completely different light.

There are abstract posts on here all the time. Maybe not this week. But as I said, daily interaction with this board helps with game design in many different way.

* Helping someone with a problem can "unlock" problem you are having in a completely different way.
* Just hearing what other people are doing can be inspiring.
* Never doubt the usefulness of repetition (or we need a FAQ) Answering the same question over and over is like rereading a good book. Even when the question is "what are the best game design books?"
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Philip Migas
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jmucchiello wrote:
Cogentesque wrote:
Ah yes but posting in the forum helps you communicate with other in the same situation you are - it;s hard to find a post that can really get into your mind and unlock that magic door that lets you step to the side and deal with game design from very abstract angles and look at your or others' games in a completely different light.

There are abstract posts on here all the time. Maybe not this week. But as I said, daily interaction with this board helps with game design in many different way.

Joe you took his post out of context.
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Lobster Mooch
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I am currently designing a board game which I hope to have out on the market in the next year or so should all go well.

I am no design expert, but when I design a game I tend to look at my theme and concept. What is the aim of the game, what can or can't the players do, what really brings out the flavour of my chosen genre. I then build rules around that, allowing those things to be possible and the core of the game.

I know some people design the game mechanics and system first and then add a theme onto it.

I was wondering what your opinions are about those two methods?
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Again, these are all more game history/theory books than game design books but are worth a look:

Elliott M. Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith (1971) The Study of Games, Wiley & Sons

Mary Flanagan (2009) Critical Play: Radical Game Design, MIT

David Parlett (1999) Oxford History of Board Games, Oxford

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Another one very much worth reading is Caillois' Man, Play and Games. More sociologically oriented than design oriented, this is an important book for framing the way we think about games and their role in peoples' lives.
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Georgio Pastrama
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Lobster, I think that is a really good way to design a theme integrated game. My game project "Realms" was based on simulation of a medeival manor as the main focus thematically. To represent the feel and interactions in such a scenario was the plan of the design for the mechanics. The mechanics were built around the theme, scenario, and context. And to add to that as the game developed both theme and mechanics progressed and evolved together in cohesively.

I was inspired by many computer game simulations for a basis then transformed for the board game medium.
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Level Up by Scott Rogers is great. Its focus is video games, but it is dead on and gets into a lot of detail.
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George Phillies
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I shall not claim "best" but Tom Vasel and I wrote two textbooks.

Design Elements of Tabletop Strategy Games

Contemporary Perspectives in Game Design

both available on Amazon. Search "George Phillies in books"
These are real textbooks, and they are focused much more on design than on abstract theory.

Yes, there are a pair of my military SF novels there too.
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