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Subject: No writing! Evar! rss

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Eric Jome
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If you are designing a game, you must never, ever include as a core game mechanic a situation in which players write down anything. No hidden orders to troops on the board. No secret deals between players lovingly scribed by hand. No secret mission assignments passed to another person.

Never.

This is never a good idea. If you'd played any amount of Diplomacy you'd know what a colossal train wreck this will always turn out to be. Unintelligble hand writing, mistakes, miscommunications, do-overs, arguments, and resolving illegal plays after the information is revealed are the things that will happen. They'll ruin the game, disrupt the strategy and action. And that's only the mechanical failures. There's an ocean of subjective failures too in this bad practice - time consuming, heavily biased by table talk, complicated timing, and "accidental" revelations.

I know. This is very tempting isn't it! Simultaneous, creative orders without regards to annoying limitations on form and function... surely, educated people with sophisticated tastes like gamers can handle this basic task, eh? No! It is a seductive plan that cannot survive contact with reality. It only appears good. It is not actually good.

Do not make games that require players to write! Bad! Make something else! You have been warned.

...

Still don't believe me? Find any success in the hobby game market that has this feature. None. There are no games with written orders that are successful. The only maybe is Diplomacy - the game no one will play because it is reviled as full of bad practices... one of the main ones being badly written orders!

Whole games have been made making fun of how awful it is to write things while playing - Pictionary, for example. If it were easy to communicate successfully by writing, games with writing would be commonplace... but they aren't. Because it isn't. There's a reason that simultaneous action selection was invented - to replace this crap mechanism!

Just. Don't. Do. It.
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August Larson
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Okay okay, I believe you! What game triggered this outburst, I wonder.
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Eric Jome
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3XXXDDD wrote:
Including tracking hit or ability points?


Good gods, no! Especially not that! What do you think this is, a role playing game?

I don't know what sort of alien board game universe from which you hail, but here in the normal Material Plane, we use counters. Monies. Bits. Tokens. Civilized folk have a track or pile to mark such things. Heathens from the uncouth regions write. Or they try to until their pencils break and they discover there are no sharpeners in the building.

Take your golf course paraphernalia away, scribe.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Just to add to the OP, lots of people have reasons to not like writing durign a game. In my own case, I get to play most on shabbat and yom tov, when writing is one of a few specific tasks one refrains from for religious reasons; those games I have which require writing simply get played a lot less. Then there's the fact that is the writing is doen on special pads made for the game, then they're going to run otu eventually and won't be easily replaced.
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DuckOfDeath V
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Would you not allow for the humble score pad as an obvious exception? Assuming it is limited to numbers and check marks?

Also it seems that many deduction games necessitate the use of a sheet to track secret information.
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Aaron Bohm
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So...

Diplomacy
Battletech
Hero Quest
Clue
Scotland Yard
Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan
The upcoming Leviathans
A lot of wargames....
A lot of dungeon crawlers/rpgs...


You sound just a tad biased toward this mechanic and, given, things can get written down wrong and there are cooler ways to do it nowadays aside from pages and pages of spreadsheets. But to dismis this mechanic completely is to deny yourself a tool as a designer and any tool is worth considering provided it is used for the right job.
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Eric Jome
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colmustard21 wrote:
What game triggered this outburst, I wonder.


I refuse to name names. I don't want to besmirch the names of folk who could yet redeem themselves by changing their misbegotten ways. But I've had to read I think 3 different proposals today for things that needed writing...

Bad!

People don't even know how to wield stylus over clay tablet any longer - we all type it all at keyboards in this Information Age, friend.
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Timothy Yordy
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My printer is broken, so I'm writing all of this down.
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Eric Jome
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JoeC0 wrote:
Would you not allow for the humble score pad as an obvious exception? Assuming it is limited to numbers and check marks?


Bah I say! Bah. Give unto those people a pile of tokens, a stack of bills, indeed, even may they have a track around the edge of the board for such things. Hail to the Cribbage board, says I.

Quote:
Also it seems that many deduction games necessitate the use of a sheet to track secret information.


See Clue. Or Alibi. Half the "fun" of these games is when you fail to write properly... wait. Did I call that "fun"?
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Aaron Morgan
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cosine wrote:
Still don't believe me? Find any success in the hobby game market that has this feature. None. There are no games with written orders that are successful.


Magic Realm
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Never Knows Best wrote:
So...

Diplomacy
Battletech
Hero Quest
Clue
Scotland Yard
Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan
The upcoming Leviathans
A lot of wargames....
A lot of dungeon crawlers/rpgs...


You sound just a tad biased toward this mechanic and, given, things can get written down wrong and there are cooler ways to do it nowadays aside from pages and pages of spreadsheets. But to dismis this mechanic completely is to deny yourself a tool as a designer and any tool is worth considering provided it is used for the right job.

Diplomacy and Scotland Yard are among my favorites games ever, but they just don't get played so much anymore for the simple fact they involve writing.
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Eric Jome
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Never Knows Best wrote:
But to dismis this mechanic completely is to deny yourself a tool as a designer and any tool is worth considering provided it is used for the right job.


This is the write tool for the write job when you are going to shoot yourself write in the foot.
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Eric Jome
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EitherOrlok wrote:
cosine wrote:
Still don't believe me? Find any success in the hobby game market that has this feature. None. There are no games with written orders that are successful.


Magic Realm


I lol'd. Yes, yes. Magic Realm is the very picture of success and good design. I stand deflated before this most puissant of examples.
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Aaron Bohm
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Another problem is that for the games you mention, writing isn't necessarily the problem.

Take diplomacy for example. You could have some convoluted wheel or bid-like tokens or cards played to represent the similtanious action of an army or fleet moving or supporting from this place to that. You would argue this would be better, seeing as it is NOT using a writing mechanic however you'll still see the same screw ups of "OH crap! I ment to do a support from there, not to there!"

Or in clue you could somehow secretly grab colored cubes denoting what evidence you have seen or can rationalize out of other players but if you forget to grab a cube or make a bad deduction you're still as bad off as with a spreadsheet.

It is not the writing mechanic that is at fault in these games but the fact that the game itself makes you prepare or deduce outside the knowledge of the game and it's other players so there is no check to make sure you are doing it "correctly."
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Aaron Morgan
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cosine wrote:
EitherOrlok wrote:
cosine wrote:
Still don't believe me? Find any success in the hobby game market that has this feature. None. There are no games with written orders that are successful.


Magic Realm


I lol'd. Yes, yes. Magic Realm is the very picture of success and good design. I stand deflated before this most puissant of examples.


Still popular decades after release, fan redesigns, commands high prices on the secondary market, people constantly asking about a reprint. And you never mentioned design as part of your criteria - stop moving the goalposts.

Hyperbole is a liability when it comes to arguments.
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Matt Davis
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I have to say that writing allows for some interesting bluffs in Diplomacy - you can "accidentally" write an order incorrectly to try and convince your former ally that it was totally an accident that your error of omission just let your new ally stab him in the back. Now, we can argue over whether that makes the game better or more fun, but writing is a bigger part of the game than just as a way to choose orders simultaneously.
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Brook Gentlestream
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No more Battletech...? Evar?
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Eric Jome
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lordrahvin wrote:
No more Battletech...? Evar?


It may be possible to have special dispensation for the venal sin of checking boxes. But the writing of text knows no such absolution.
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Nate Straight

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cosine wrote:
If it were easy to communicate successfully by writing, games with writing would be commonplace... but they aren't. Because it isn't.


By George, golly gee whillikers, you're right... I don't have the foggiest idea what you just said. Writing is hard.
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Jeremy Peet
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Agreed.

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James
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cosine wrote:
lordrahvin wrote:
No more Battletech...? Evar?


It may be possible to have special dispensation for the venal sin of checking boxes. But the writing of text knows no such absolution.

All the same, the next time I play Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age I'm going to feel positively norty.
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Tim
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I think I have found a solution to the problem! Play games with literate people! Seriously, many of my favorite games require writing. It's rarely an issue. I too would be interested in knowing what brought about this anger.
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Zach Rey
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Agree. To emulate the desired effect, I prefer giving players tokens that can be hidden and simultaneously revealed, i.e. Revolution! or Dungeon Pets. Though these are blind bidding games, the bids also produce an action.

Or, in a game I'm working on, a double-sided token is hidden by a card, then revealed to determine which side's action will be used.
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Andrew Rowse
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Scattergories would be a bit tricky without writing, as would any other language-based game where the system needs either memory or secrecy.
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Sam Mercer
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Pictionary ?
 
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