Cross-Platform Game Design, Part 2

The Story So Far

Luther and I were recently approached to design a boardgame to enhance an existing RPG product line.  This project got me started thinking about cross-platform game design.

To engage players in your crossover, it must give players new experiences while staying true to the parent game.

Today, we take on the main traits of conversions between board games and minis games. There will be exceptions to every case I present but we are going to focus on the broad trends.

Converting a Board Game Into a Minis Game

Board games tend to be more abstract than their pewter and plastic counterparts.  Thus, when you make this type of conversion, plan to make the play experience more concrete.

 

Sentinel Tactics-mainCombat in the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game contains no information of location, no concept of maneuver apart from hand management.  Location is the foremost way in which the the board game made these super-powered battles more concrete.  Information of location let us highlight the kinds of details we don’t fret over in the card game.  Line of Sight could now become important, as could range.

Minis games tend to have more variability than board games.  Consider adding subsystems where the parent board game had fixed outcomes.

ST_Battle_ChessMy high school gamer buddies loved adding subsystems to board games.  When we tried Battle Chess on our PCs, several of us were keen to bring that experience to the tabletop.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Battle Chess, its claim to fame was the animations it added.  Digital wizards and soldiers bashed one another across our 8×8 battlefield.  It preserved 100% of the rules of traditional chess, however.  In came our version.  We preserved all movement rules but also gave each unit its own combat ratings.  When a piece moved into an enemy space, a quick die roll determined who captured whom.  Because our delicate Kings could now defend themselves–however meekly–checkmate was removed in favor of a rule requiring capture.  A fixed outcome–piece entering the space captures the defending piece–was replaced with the variable outcome of a die roll.

Adding detail and variability comes with a price, of course.  They tend to add complexity and with complexity comes increased play time.  There are a couple of ways you can address this issue.  The first is to simply acknowledge that your game will take longer to play than the original, to tell your players that longer play time is part of the price of entry to a richer game experience.  Another way is to reduce the scope of your game.  Where the original board game might cover the globe, your minis game might focus on a single battle.

Converting a Minis Game Into a Board Game

So what about the inverse conversion?  Should play become more expansive, more abstract, and faster?  Yes.

Chaos in the Old WorldWarhammer is probably the best known miniatures battlefield game in the world.  Eric M. Lang’s  adaptation Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World abstracted individual battles, making Chaos closer to an area control game.  Play time remained close at two hours but the feel of the game is much more epic.  Lang also gives each player a checklist of objectives.  Satisfy these objectives to win the game; a nice way to round out this board game conversion.

Vlaada Chvátil’s sprawling Mage Knight Board Game takes the battle maps of the eponymous game out of the dungeon and into the wilderness.  Rather than controlling a team, each player controls a single hero who explores the map, defeats interesting monsters, and takes their stuff.  Combat is similarly condensed down; it has multiple phases but damage is streamlined and defeated enemies are immediately removed.
Mage Knight Board Game

A Bit of Both: Board/Minis Hybrids

Titan BoardsMy friends and I were conceiving our version of Battle Chess in the late 1980s.  We did not know it at the time, but Jason B. McAllister and David A. Trampier had already taken our idea the rest of the way in the Fantasy Monster Slug-a-thon Titan.  Titan plays very much like a board game and minis game in one package.  Armies recruit units by travelling across the main map.  This part echoes resource gathering in your favorite eurogame.  When two armies encounter one another, they jump over to a tactical battle map.  You maneuver and sling dice on the battle map as you might in any other minis game.  If you’re interested studying in the strengths of each design type, Titan is a good place to start.

This crossover approach is not uncommon in the historical minis community.  Two players might be using the main map and rule set from We the People or Axis & Allies to govern global actions but disregarding the enclosed combat system in favor of a richer battle with their favorite minis ruleset.

Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit is another interesting hybrid.  The battle on the Naboo Plains and the battle inside the castle are both wargames but Anakin’s flight and the Jedi battle are much closer to timers in a boardgame.  Supporting the boardgame side are the game cards.  Each one can be played two different ways.  Supporting the wargame side are the dice, or rather that buckets of ‘em players get to roll in the battles.Star Wars Queen's Gambit

 

Closing Thoughts

Boardgames tend to have greater scope but less crunch than minis games.  Minis games tend to have heavier rulesets but smaller scope than board games.  Each can give a great gaming experience to our players.

In the next column, we will tackle minis game/roleplaying games conversions.  Until then, keep on designing!

 

What do you think of boardgame: minis game conversions?  Did I miss any features?  Have you written any yourself?  How did you approach it?  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.

 

Advertisements

Cross-Platform Game Design, Part 1

ADnD Players HandbookYou know Dungeons & Dragons.  You probably encountered it first in school.  Perhaps you played.  Perhaps a boyfriend/girlfriend played.  My first exposure to was in the fall of 1980.  Attending a new school and knowing no one, a classmate and I became fast friends over classic dungeon crawls and the occasional wild west shootout.  Roleplaying games are still a geeky passion.

Luther and I were recently approached to design a boardgame to enhance an existing RPG product line.  We are not currently free to discuss this specific project.  However, it got me started thinking about cross-platform gaming.  

220px-MechWarrior_1st_edition_1986
We’ve seen a few board game tie-ins to RPGs like
Dungeon!  and card game ties-ins like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.  We’ve seen tabletop tie-ins to Minis Games like Chaos in the Old World. We’ve even got a fair number of RPG tie-ins to minis games like Mechwarrior or GURPS Autoduel.  Making these conversions must have been challenging.  Changing game platform tends to hit you with a shift of pace or tone. Fans of the original game are likely to judge every element–how well does your design measure up to their precious? You can be certain that they’ll tell you.

Why go to the trouble?  Why work on a conversion when you know your work will be judged as much by its faithfulness to the original game as by your own work?  Why work so hard when you know you’ll be scrutinized for your efforts?

Sentinel Tactics-main
The biggest and best reason to cross platforms is brand recognition.  Would the same number of people look at
Chaos in the Old World without its tie-in to 40K?  Would we be playing 1977’s Dungeon! were it not tied to the biggest Fantasy RPG of all time?  It was certainly a big part of the plan that Sentinel Tactics bring fans of the original SotM card game to our table.

Another good reason reason to cross platforms is to expand player experience.  Autoduel enabled Car Wars players to expand their relationship with SJG’s setting.  Chaos in the Old World  shows players the world of Warhammer from the perspective of a god.  Sentinel Tactics let Sentinels of the Multiverse fans see their battles play out across the spires of Megalopolis.

 

Considering Player Types

To make a cross-platform successful, it helps to think about what brought players to the original game.  Most gamer folk have experimented with board, minis, and roleplaying games.  Many gamer folk define themselves by their favorite category.  This is interesting when we consider that the mechanical distance between them is pretty small.  Each allows players to choose from a set of available actions and include rules for interpreting the results of those actions.  Want to build a University in Puerto Rico?  Want to lob a grenade at those MERCS?  Want to trick the super villain into monologuing in Mutants & Masterminds?  Each game has rules to cover its actions.

What separates players?  Why does one gamer identify as wargamer, another as boardgamer, and another as roleplayer?  As with many areas of design, it all comes down to core experience.  Roleplaying games are best at providing engaging social experiences and engaging settings.  Minis games are best at offering engaging tactics and engaging strategy.  Boardgames can expediently show off engaging mechanisms.

Preference in core experience motivates choice of game type.  Does this make writing a cross-platform game a fool’s errand?  Not so!  Plenty of minis games have an engaging setting.  Roleplaying games often draw on engaging knowledge.  Cross-platform boardgames simply require cross-platform engagement.

Player Engagement

Earning player engagement requires that the game highlight elements common to its counterpart.

OOTS

Order of the Stick is a webcomic about a meta-aware D&D party.  Most of its humor comes from references to its genre conventions.  When Kevin Brusky developed the OotS board game, he mirrored the first story arc–an extended dungeon crawl–and included lots of original humorous art from the comic’s creator.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a game of collaboration.  When we developed the board game, we made sure that characters were complementary.  Each character had particular strengths and weaknesses.  Success in the SotM game would then require players to collaborate and cover each other.Star Wars Epic Duels

 

Star Wars Epic Duels proclaims its appeal on the the box.  “Did You Ever Wonder…” Yes I did, Mr. Daviau.  Yes I did, Mr. Van Ness.  And thank you for helping us all find out.

 

Closing Thoughts

In future columns, I will take on the main traits of conversions between board, minis, and roleplaying games.  Until then, keep the main points in mind.

Taking a property across platforms can be difficult.  Changes of tone and player expectations are both traps any designer could slip into.  But if you identify our target players and we find opportunities to give players a new experience, you will write a great cross-platform games, perhaps even exceeding its parent.
What genre or setting would you try in any game type?  How would you write any such a game?  What did you learn from the experience?  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.

Designing My First Cooperative Game

So I’m working on a cooperative game.

The game did not start out cooperative.  Life can be surprising that way.

Like parents, we designers must listen to our designs when they’re young, give them a chance to show what they want to be when they grow up, and do everything we can to help them get there.  Parents who force their children into the wrong career create dysfunctional adults.  Designers who shove their games in the wrong direction get equally dysfunctional designs.

This design already had an “everybody loses” condition.  As it developed, it became increasingly clear that the game wanted to be focused on that condition. With Luther firmly steering me away from the awkward compromise a semi-cooperative design, we shifted all the way over and made the game wholly cooperative.

 

Cooperative Game Essentials

In a competitive game, the other players are your antagonists.  In a cooperative game, it is the game itself who is the antagonist.

Cooperative games come in many flavors but they all share the same two-part ethos:

  1. There are lots of ways to lose.
  2. The only way to win is by not losing.

Cooperative live in perfect contrast to their competitive counterparts, which tend to offer many paths to victory.

 

Setting the Difficulty

PandemicThe hardest part of cooperative game design seems to be in getting the right difficulty.  Players expect to lose but they don’t expect to always lose.  It’s our job to find that balance.

Difficulty can be adjusted by limiting (or expanding) the resources given to the game.  If your game has an A.I. like Pandemic, you can adjust how many cards the deck flips each turn.  If your game has troops or money, you can adjust how much it starts with.

Difficulty can also be adjusted by limiting (or expanding) the resources given to the players.  You can give players more (or less) movement, action points, hit points, or starting resources.

Since different groups will have different levels of skill, the best approach I’ve seen is to specifically incorporate multiple difficulty levels in the rules.    Let your players decide the challenge they wish to take on.  This approach addresses the issue of balance and empowers your players a the same time.  Bonus–many players will be familiar with this practice before even opening your box since variable difficulty is common to video games.

 

Game Roles: Generic Protagonists and Specialists


Some co-operative games give each player the same options as any other.  This casts your players as
Generic Protagonists with equal ability at any circumstance. This is absolutely appropriate for a lighter co-op or one aimed at younger kids.

For oldstar wars angriff der klonkrieger set uper or more sophisticated players, each player should be a Specialist with unique bonuses and handicaps .  Specialization adds an extra layer of depth to play.  The medic in your co-op commando game might not be at the front of the raid but is sure handy to have around after an engagement is over.

For a look at specialists in a cooperative game, I recommend Star Wars: Angriff der Klonkrieger and Pandemic .

 

Collaboration: Generals, Secrecy, and Traitors

A common concern about cooperative games is that one assertive player can easily become The General.  The General is that player who tells people how to take their turns.  The folks in my regular group are all pretty assertive.  We don’t have much trouble with generals.  Some players are more demure.  They prefer to battle only the game and not the other players.  A run-in with particularly rude generals has caused players to completely give up on co-op games.  And that’s a shame.

Friend and all-around spiffy guy Carl Klutzke offered his simple solution for addressing generals; “don’t play with them.”  I appreciate this attitude.  And I respect it.  But as a designer, I feel that Carl isn’t going far enough.  Game designers are curators for their players’ fun.  We owe our players to consider every approach possible.

One response to The General is enforced secrecy.  Limit how players can communicate.  When our general isn’t wholly aware of the other players’ options, our general cannot realistically command the other players’ actions. I like this solution so long as the game setting supports it.

Shadows Over CamelotAnother design response to The General is its opposite number The Traitor.  The Traitor is any player whose objective is for the other players to lose.  The presence of traitors neuters any would-be generals at the table.  How can I follow your commands when you might actually be working against me?  My first exposure to The Traitor was also my first exposure to cooperative games in general–Shadows Over Camelot.  Battlestar Galactica offers us a similar traitor mechanism.  As in the case of enforced secrecy, I like this solution so long as it is supported by the game’s tone and setting.

 

ResistanceCrossover Traitors

Recent attempts at Werewolf-without-elimination strongly resemble cooperative games with one or more traitors. The Resistance and Secret Hitler each split players into two teams, offer each team an alternate agenda, and conscript one team (the traitors) to the critical minority.  Although I continue to defend player elimination in Werewolf, I do also appreciate the psychotic glee of continually sizing up every other player throughout the entire run of the game.

 

What do you think of cooperative games?  Did I miss any features?  Have you written any yourself?  What did you think of the experience?  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.

 

Dramatic Structure For The Modern Game Designer, Part 1

Good writers know that stories need good pacing.  They also understand that there is no one correct pace. Each story requires its own pace.  Think about the best movies you’ve seen, the best television shows you’ve watched, the best music concerts you’ve attended, the best standup comedy you’ve heard, the best meal you’ve eaten.  Each of them has a pace which maximized your experience.

Good game designer is the same.

A Brief Overview

Our understanding of dramatic structure begins with Aristotle’s observations in his text Poetics.  It was here that he asserted tragedy must have a beginning, a middle and an end.  The beginning–prologue and parados–is for exposition, to introduce the major players and their interrelationships.  The middle was filled by alternating short scenes–episodes–and songs–stasimon.  The end–exodus–brings resolution to the story.

A modern view of the three-act structure uses the first act not only for exposition and introductions but also to confront the protagonist(s) with a major event.  The protagonist is now moved (or even forced) to respond.  Big Jake’s grandson has been kidnapped.  Walter White has cancer and no way to pay for his treatment.  Alex Parrish has been framed for a terrorist attack.

Three act

Image from Lydia Kang

The second act is filled with rising action.  Will Luke rescue princess Leia?  Will Ellen kill Herod and thereby avenge her murdered father?  Will Inigo find and defeat the six-fingered man?  Will Simon steal the statue or will Nicole’s father’s forgery be detected?  The protagonist usually begins the second act unable to resolve this issue.  She must learn new skills, build new alliances, or find new strength within herself.

Resolution arrives in the third act.  All forces are brought together into a focal point.  The protagonist faces her greatest challenges.  Dramatic questions from the second act are answered.  The protagonist achieves a new sense of her abilities and her identity.  Cage has defeated the alien invasion by becoming the hero the world needed him to be.  Rocky Balboa has lasted 15 rounds with Apollo Creed and embraces his beloved Adrian.  Batman defeats his surrogate father Ducard and rescues Gotham City.

Kenneth Thorpe Rowe justifies the three act structure beautifully in Write That Play (1939) by asserting that it is “clearly more basic to the fundamental structure of a dramatic action than Horace’s five. There is an attack, a crisis, and a resolution. . . . There is a natural symmetry and balance with adequate flexibility inherent in the three-act form, with the first act introductory and springing the attack, the second act developing the action to the crisis, and the third act for the resolution.

Extending the Three-Act Structure to a Game

In a game, the player is the protagonist.  This makes every part personal.  It is you who is confronted with challenges.  It is you who must learn new (in-game) skills and build new (in-game) alliances.  It is you who must overcome your greatest challenges (often in the form of the other players).  

Is a three-act structure a useful model for games?  I believe that it is.

DOOM consumed many hours of my college life.  Its play was more compelling than any action game I’d seen before.  And its play follows the three-act structure fairly closely.

DOOM Act 1 (exposition and introductions, you are forced to respond): What is that? Hey–it wants to kill me!  Hey–everything wants to kill me!  Hey–even the green water wants to kill me!

DOOM Act 2 (learn new skills, finds new strength within yourself):  I see better and better weapons.  I’m learning to strafe.   I’m pushing forward and defeating all of these nasty and disagreeable creatures!

DOOM Act 3 (final conflict and resolution):  That is one nasty level boss!  This is the moment I’ve been playing for.  I have bigger guns.  I have sharper skills.  Either I will destroy that monster or it will destroy me!
Zong Shi is a worker placement game I began developing in 2004.  My design skills were less sophisticated than they are today but I happened to stumble my way to a three-act structure.

Zong Shi Act 1 (exposition and introductions, you are forced to respond): Players draft starting material and event cards. Players decide which projects to build first.

Zong Shi Act 2 (learn new skills, finds new strength within yourself): Completed projects give each player special powers.  Secrets of alchemy enable players to trade one material type for another.

Zong Shi Act 3 (final conflict and resolution):  Players push for endgame.  Any player with a sixth project completed triggers the endgame but final victory is in the point value of those projects.
So some games do exhibit a three-act structure.  And as time goes by, I find it increasingly useful to look at each design from this point of view.  Must every game fit this structure?  I don’t think that’s necessarily the case but if a game does deviate from this structure, it should do so deliberately and thoughtfully.

In part 2 of this article, we look at how to maximize the impact of your game by mapping its tension.  We will also look carefully at maximizing the quality of playtime in games.

What do you think of the three-act structure in games?  Would you pace games differently?  Did I miss a step?  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.

Great References

This series been one of the most effort-intensive articles I’ve yet written.  Three sources were particularly valuable.  Jennine Lanouette wrote an excellent summary of the history of the three-act form for a post on Screentakes, her defense of the form in this later post, and Wikipedia’s article on the three-act structure was also a valuable resource.

Taking It Further

Valley of the Kings AfterlifeTodd Rowland of AEG did a video at Gen Con 2015 with W. Eric Martin, showing off  Valley of the Kings: Afterlife. In describing the game, he called it an “expandalone.” This term was entirely new to me but what a delightful compound word it is–a perfect description for game expansions which can also be played without its core set.

Ava Jarvis and I begin discussing this concept and through this discussion, we came upon a range of ways to build upon an existing game.  In the industry, we generally lump all of these ways under the generic term “expansion” but palpable differences exist between the types. Today’s article is an attempt to begin codifying those differences and to assign a term to each.

Caylus Premium EditionReskins

Because they involve no rule changes or new components, reskins are the lightest type.  Most reskins are fan projects and there are some great ones out there such as the 8-Bit Mario version of That’s Life. Some are official versions, as in the case of Mike Doyle’s gorgeous Caylus Premium Edition.

Rethemes

What about the case in which a designer revisits an earlier work, changes the theme, and also introduces new components or rules?  These are the rethemes.  

A retheme is more than a reskin because it offers new play through new rules or new components. Rethemes are not extensions because they are ready to play out of the box.  Rethemes are not expandalones either; they are not cross-compatible with their forebears.

Let’s take Reiner Knizia’s Schotten Totten as an an example.  In 2008 he rethemed Schotten Totten into a movie tie-in for Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  Each game stands alone.  Each is clearly built on the same engine but they are not cross-compatible.

Michael Schacht’s China is similarly a retheme for Schacht’s earlier Web of Power.

Another good example of retheming is in the many licensed versions of Risk.  Its core mechanism has proven flexible enough to support Star Wars, Doctor Who, and even Plants vs. Zombies.

Extensions

Extensions are small additions to an existing game.  This could be a couple of new cards to play, a new character to play, a new treasure to collect, but no fundamentally new ways to play. A single booster pack in a Magic: the Gathering set would be an extension for that set since it extends that set without introducing introducing any mechanisms unique to it.  The expansions section of the BGG Store is filled with further examples of extensions.

Expansions

For me to be willing to call something an expansion, it’s got to offer a new way to play the game.  There don’t have to be a large number of bits but there needs to be a great deal of play.   It is weight of play caused by these changes which makes them expansions, not the weight of the box in which they arrive.

vEXATION eXPANSIONThe Vexation expansion for Transamerica/Transeuropa consisted solely of 18 wooden links in player colors and a small set of directions–but what a difference this modest addition made!

The first expansion maps for Rolling Freight introduced multiple new mechanisms–canals, caravan routes, and dropping prices.  If these were new maps without correspondingly new rules, they would be extensions.

Expandalones

And now we return to the beginning of this piece, the awesome expandalone. Like the pop idol on any teenager’s wall, expandalones are what all designers dream of creating. And why not? It is at the same time an expansion of gameplay for experienced players and an introduction for new ones, marketable to fan and neophyte alike.


Valley of the Kings Afterlife
coined the term for me but other expandalones immediately come to mind; Dominion: Intrigue, Ascension: Heroscape MarvelDawn of Champions, and any preconstructed theme deck for Magic: the Gathering.  Card games utilizing deck construction clearly lend themselves to to the creation of expandalones but the list needn’t end there.  The Heroscape Marvel tie-in is a wargame expandalone, for instance.

It’s a big world of boardgames.  that world is multiplicatively bigger when designers and publishers expand, extend, recycle, and repurpose their games.  And this was an attempt to codify these works.

What do you think of this spectrum?  Would you classify game expansions differently?  Did I miss a category?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress (https://wordpress.com/) and follow this blog.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

Seen and Heard

Hello everyone!  Today, rather than taking on any one specific topic, it seems like a nice time to dance around a bit and look at everything that’s passed through recently.  

Primal Games–the Meme?

Reader Reed Berkowitz took my post on primal games one step further by creating a meme pick to support it.  Here’s the picture and you can check out his twitter feed here.

Primal Game Design

Tuning In To Kickstarter

Most everyone I know has hit some form of Kickstarter fatigue.  Despite that, this week saw two you should definitely check out. I playtested both and found both to be loads of fun.

Take Out The Papers and the Trash

Garbage Day first landed on our game table a few years ago.  Shane Willis had a delightful dexterity game and was sure to do well if it could only find a manufacturer that could fabricate its plastic garbage can.  He found that manufacturer in Mayday Games. If dexterity games are your thing, be sure to take a look at this one.

Garbage Day Proto

Television Programming: the Home Game

Regular readers know I first saw The Networks about 18 months ago.  It was a solid game then and in the interim, Gil Hova only made it better.  It’s a hoot!  It’s a game by Gil Hova.  Is there really anything else to say?

The Networks

Well, I Made the Big Time At Last.

Although I knew negotiations were in the works, I had no Idea Barnes & Noble had moved forward.  Game Developer and all-around snazzy dude John Eyster spotted duck! duck! SAFARI! on the shelves and sent this pic by way of proof.

duckduckSAFARI

I’ve been trying to break into a mass outlet for some time and making it to B&N is the first breakthrough.  Now to extend this inroad…

How about you?  What exciting games have you seen lately?  What wonderful tales do you have to tell?  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.

Primal Games

Primal games are so clean, so clear, that they seem ancient even when they’re new.  

Go is primal.  Its rules are immeasurably concise while its components are simplicity itself.  So are Blokus, GIPF, and Qwirkle–AKA Scrabble for cavemen.

Chess is not primal.  Its rules are littered with patches–en passant springs to mind.  Furthermore, its components fail to justify their existence–consider how many equally good abstract games start by changing the pieces of chess.

Primal games needn’t be trivial or simple however.  Consider for instance that while Deep Blue defeated Yuri Kasparov in 1997, organic Go masters are still undefeated by their silicon counterparts.

It can be difficult to overcome the desire to add a twist here or a wrinkle there.  Nobody But Us Chickens has been my best attempt so at this style far and even it has a few too many twists to truly call it primal.

Or is it that no one truly creates primal games?  Have they truly always existed?  Are their designers uncovering them rather than creating them?  Modern artists in the twentieth century faced such dismissive accusations as well.  Elegance is hard work.  It’s even harder work to make things look easy.

So where do we begin?  Where does a person begin when setting out to create primal games?  Dominic Crapuchettes once asserted that every rule in a game should fight to justify its existence.  What if you took that attitude further–to insist that every game element, every rule, every component–justify its existence?  I believe this would be right way to start.

Adopting this mindset can be a major challenge.  Us designers generally start charmed by game structures.  We want to create our own structures, to impress other game aficionados with our clever mechanisms, to spread our flourishes across the hobby like magic dust.  But to create a primal game is to deliberately step into the background, to create an experience so pure that it feel more as if it always existed rather than being a contemporary product.

I’m absolute rubbish at writing primal games but I enjoy playing them and admire the style of any designer that can pull them off.  Please show me how it’s done.

How about you?  What’s your favorite primal game?  What game came close but didn’t quite make it?  Have you created a primal game?  what was your process?  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.