TGDRT #67: Game Phases & Pivots

TGDRT

Episode #67 is live!

Rob joins Jon and Dirk to discuss phases (the early game, the late game, etc.) and ‘pivot points’, which are moments when focus shifts from one aspect of a game (such as economic engine building) to another (scoring points). Some of the titles brought up during the conversation include Chess, Monopoly, Dominion, Lords of Waterdeep and Zimbabwe, the game that got Rob thinking about this topic.

Pacing is one of the great dark arts of game design where you have to work almost entirely on gut feel. Should a game wrap up in a 60 minutes or 30? Should the ‘end game’ comprise the last quarter of a game, or simply the final turn? It’s almost entirely personal preference.

We also got touched on one of my favorite punching bags: victory points. It’s certainly possible to have major pivots without them (e.g. an RTS where you build up economically in order to craft an invincible army), but their extreme abstraction often leaves a bad taste in players’ mouths.

The most poignant example I brought up during the episode was Dominion, which is particularly bad. Once you shift over to the ‘grab as many points as you can’ phase the whole strategic fabric unravels pretty quickly. Because points rarely have any gameplay value a point chase for its own sake is rarely very interesting.

I do admit that VPs are probably necessary in certain types of games, but I’ll still always be attracted by the design purity of victory conditions.

- Jon

TGDRT #12 – CCGs & Dominion

The TGDRT website is back up, with a brand-new episode #12 along for the ride!

Jon and Dirk are joined by designer David Heron to discuss his work on the Legend of the Five Rings CCG (Collectible Card Game). Along the way, they examine the business side of building a CCG. The discussion then shifts to deckbuilding and drafting games, with a particular focus on Dominion and 7 Wonders and the design flaws that prevent Dirk and David from enjoying them. At the end of the episode Jon teases a big announcement that will be made next week.

We had some scheduling difficulties, so it was great for David to come on with short notice. Despite that, the episode turned out great, with some really interesting discussions.

And yes, I have some exciting news dropping next week. Stay tuned!

- Jon

Randomness & Quarriors

Quarriors is a tabletop game that I’ve only played a half-dozen times, but it’s really sunk its teeth into me. Not in the sense that I love playing it, but because it tickles a certain part of my designer brain. For the large number of you that I’m sure haven’t heard of it, the game is basically a deck-builder (like Dominion or Ascension), only with dice instead of cards. It’s fairly simple, but brings many interesting design topics to the table.

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