Board game designer Tom Lehmann joins Jon and Dirk to talk about Race for the Galaxy, co-designing on existing games, and his design methodology.
Race for the Galaxy is one of the most interesting card games I’ve come across. The copious iconography is a major hurdle to those playing for the first time, but it’s well worth the effort as Race for the Galaxy is deep, varied and unique.
Dirk and I actually brought up the game’s tricky symbology and learnability about halfway through the episode, and I enjoyed hearing Tom’s perspective on the issue, if only because it’s clear that this is a topic he’s given real thought to – and that’s certainly not something you can say about most games.
One of my favorite gameplay elements in Race for the Galaxy is how it asks you to choose between a few big, meaty strategies and forces you to make extreme trade-offs to pursue them. This certainly isn’t Agricola, where your goal is to be the most average and dabble in everything. In Race for the Galaxy the cards in your hand aren’t just the planets you can colonize and developments you can build – they’re also the resources you spend to do so. Translating one opportunity into reality requires you to literally trade away several others.
I know this pains some people, but as both a designer and a player I personally love it. Games rarely put the screws to players, instead telling them (true or not) anything is possible, and that every last one of us is a perfect, beautiful snowflake. Tough decisions are the core of the strategy genre, and I honestly can’t think of many games that require me to make tougher decisions (particularly ones where you can pound out a playthrough in under a half hour!).
Now then, if you’ll excuse me. I just finished unwrapping presents and have a couple of new Race for the Galaxy expansions to give a ride, and I can’t wait to see what new goodies Tom has added!