Idea Byre

We can design a game from theory first: start with a premise, decide on major goals, and then design systems and mechancis that will function, while meeting all the goals, and still adhering to the premise.

One trouble is drift. Goals tend to accrete, making the project more elaborate. We fall in...

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In a computer game you can have numerical variables that span any range, that are even non-linear, and otherwise very complex. But in a tabletop game, the players have to do the math themselves (or consult tables) and must track everything too. Tracking if variable states is especially tough with mi...

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Here I give my thoughts on The Banner Saga: Warbands, a cooperative board game by Megacon Games, in association with Stoic and Versus Evil.

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For a game to be about a certain idea or topic, it must focus on that idea. Focus can be created in a few ways. One is through detail: with charts, tables, die-types, modifiers, etcetera, you can cause more time and thought to be centered on one aspect of the game. (It is easy to unintentionally focus to much on the wrong things, by adding too much detail to them.)

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In tactical fantasy RPGs, characters can be sorted into major roles like tank, healer, etcetera. Most of these specialize in one tactical pursuit during combat, like ranged damage; a few blend more than one pursuit, such as the off-tank support role; and in particular, magic users often employ several tactically-distinct types of magic -- mixing up those types will be the focus of this piece.

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There is an interesting possibility of designing tabletop games that are tru hybrids of the RPG and strategy genres. But to do so, we must appreciate the kinds of rules such games use, so we can see how to carefully combine them.

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Tabletop games can often only handle a narrow range of physical (or other) scales, but for some concepts, widely varying scales are relevant. WEG's old Star Wars d6 used different scales -- so people, speeders, and ships could all come into play -- using one method we'll look at.

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What does it take for a game to be good and also centered around an abstract dynamic?

For instance, can we have a game that "explores" or is centered around the idea of allometric scaling? (This is where relative strengths and weaknesses change disproportionately with changes in something's size.) Such an idea seems promising, but how can a game be made from it?

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The fighters launch from their carrier! They jink and turn -- shooting bogeys down as they go. Finally, they approach the enemy capitol ships. They fly close, fire torpedoes -- and escape, leaving behind billowing fire. Wait. Is this World War II or a space opera confection?

In this article, we'll consider how the size of ships affects how they can fight -- and come to some surprising conclusions.

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Anaxis

Published Games

Anaxis is an approachable space wargame, played on hex grids with ship counters. Its rules were designed for minimalsism and elegance, allowing tactical depth without overwhelming detail or complexity. It features unique die mechanics that speed things along, and there's little to write down, so a l...

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