Gearing Up For BGG.Con

As the winter chill of November reaches Texas, the minds of gamers turn to their favorite  holiday: BGG.Con.

For my part, I’ve been working steadily to get several games ready for your enjoyment.

It’s difficult to be present for the duration because my classes are closing in on the end of the semester but I’ll be rolling in Thursday evening and fully ready to enjoy the 72 hours of gaming which remain.

Any readers in attendance, please grab me for a game.  I’d be a pleasure!

Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee Get Their Names Up In Cardboard

Design partner Luther and I have been hard at work on Dragons Tides.  Luther will be present for the duration and running demo sessions throughout.  Make sure to drop by the Greenbrier booth and sign up for one of our scheduled events.


This is the first board game to feature Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee.  It’s important to give these cinematic figures the treatment they deserve.  Dragon Tides was already under development when we came onto the project at Gen Con.  Since joining this project, we’ve been able to streamline play, add a RPS system to get the players working to outwit one another, and give the game a scenario-based plot we know you’ll love.

Dragons Tides is be our second major collaboration–the first being Sentinel Tactics–and we’re both eager to see how this one is received.

Head to Head Duels

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with my two-player card game Duel.  The full playtest set will be with me, including all nine decks currently in development.  Plays generally run 15-25 minutes.  Duel will be with APE Games in the demo area throughout the con.  Grab Kevin Brusky or me and throw down!

Napoleonic Empire Building

Those of you that enjoy longer, meatier affairs like Rolling Freight should make sure to give Muster and Battle (working title) a try.  M&B casts you as a major figure from nineteenth century Europe.  your goals will depend heavily on the leader you play.  Mechanically, this is a civilization-type 4X game with elements of worker placement and deckbuilding.  Like Dragon Tides, this will be the game’s first trip into the public eye and I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

Next Time…

With any luck, my next post will be a progress report from BGG.Con itself.  I’ll let all of you know how these games are being received and which games caught my eye.


What Chefs Can Teach Us About Game Design

Since the emergence of the celebrity chef concept, we all have a high level of exposure to many of these ideas.  Names like Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse and Gordon Ramsay invoke associations in the masses in a way they never did before.

Because I grew up up in the Cajun food Mecca of southern Louisiana, relocated to the fusion Mecca of Houston, it was inevitable that I’d be a foodie.  Its aromas, texture, flavor, science and preparation all intrigue me.

Watching a program on chefs recently led me to wondering how food science could inform game design science.  The concerns of chefs and game designers align in three major areas–Spicing, Coursing, and Presentation.

(A) Control Your Spices

Spices are meant to enhance, not overpower.  Spices stimulate the palette.  Spices make a meal memorable.  Master chefs control and balance each flavor.  They know that overspicing leads to a confused palette and a poor experience for the diner.

We must be the chefs of our games.  Dice, cards, bags of chits, cubes, our own mechanisms–there are so many elements at your fingertips that the urge to add all of them can be almost irresistible.  Remember always that overspicing leads to a poor experience.  Control and balance each element.  Add twists, turns and variation only where variation is needed.  Add exotic mechanisms only where they lift the game experience and stimulate play.  Keep the other elements simple and familiar for your players.

(B)  Plan Your Course

Is your game an appetizer?  Or is it a dessert?  Or should it serve as a main course?

Appetizers should be light and spicy.  They should build anticipation.  In other words, appetizer games will tend to be lighter, shorter, and feature prominent random elements.  A list of appetizers would easily include Easy Come, Easy Go, Can’t Stop, Cthulhu Dice, or TransAmerica.

Main courses can be spicy–featuring multiple new mechanisms–or mild–focusing on the perfection of classic mechanisms–but they must be solid and filling.  They are the center of the day’s gaming and they should be memorable.  Main courses can be longer. They can heavier rules.  They can have deep gameplay.  My list of main course favorites would feature Tichu, Ingenious , and Power Grid.

Desserts should be tranquil and pleasant.  They bring the meal to a close and provide opportunity to reflect.  they feature little, if any, spice.  Dessert games should feature familiar mechanisms and play.  The best ones often include a strong social element as well.  Carcassonne, Say Anything, and 6 Nimmt! are all good dessert games.

(C) Presentation

“You taste with your eyes first” is a common adage among chefs and they are absolutely right.  This means that the dish should visually announce what the diner will experience.  This is why modern American chefs layer ingredients on the plate; to foreshadow the layers of flavor to come.

Our games can similarly announce their flavor.  When elements like the timing track, scoring chart, turn order, or placement effects are prominently labeled on the game components, our players will have a good idea of the game to come well before the first rule is taught.

Eurogames have been particularly good at this kind of foreshadowing. Because language-independent components have remained as a major design objective throughout the last 20 years, their designers and graphic artists are extremely skilled at offering game components which strongly imply their function.
Designers interested in good component design should take a look at Eine Gegen Eine, Ticket To Ride and A Castle for All Seasons.

What do you think of the analogy between chefs and game designers?  What analogy might you have chosen instead?  Why?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.