TGDRT #56: SeaFall, with Rob Daviau

TGDRT

Episode #56 is live!

Jon and Dirk are paid a return visit by first-ever TGDRT guest Rob Daviau to talk about ‘SeaFall’, his new exploration legacy tabletop game, Rob’s company ‘IronWall Games’, and his hopes for further innovation in the genre he helped create.

Whether the red light is blinking or offline, conversations with Rob are always highly entertaining and this was no exception. This was the first time Rob really talked about SeaFall, and I have no doubt it’ll be just as unique and groundbreaking as Risk: Legacy. Hopefully Dirk and I can get him to sneak us one of those test kits in the mail…

The only discussion point that made me raise my eyebrows is that Rob seems to be specifically targeting consistent, long-term playgroups. It’s great when you have a few friends who can meet up regularly, but most of my tabletop gaming is characterized by people coming and going, around some weeks and gone others (a sin I’m guilty of as well!). The legacy elements in Rob’s Risk adaptation are important without being dominating, but it seems SeaFall taking this road quite a bit further.

Rob noted he isn’t leaving these folks completely out in the cold, but at the end of the day you have to decide what your focus is and lean one way or the other. Perhaps that’s the luxury of being in the ‘hobby’ space rather than mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms at all with the direction – hell, the more unique the game the better! It’s just an interesting decision that caught my attention and thought was worth commenting on further.

So how about you? What do your tabletop groups usually look like? Does Rob’s approach offer exactly what you’re looking for, or have your experiences been more like my own?

– Jon

New Thoughts on Victory

At times I’ve been “accused” of being a theme-first designer. While this is true to some extent, it’s not the whole story. My philosophy is that (most) games need to evoke a strong theme and build on it with mechanics.

With AtG virtually every idea started with “so what actually happened in history…” However, the enjoyment of a game is the result of interesting mechanics, and your theme is meaningless if you can’t translate it into something that’s fun to play. So I always start with and lean on theme, but only when doing so doesn’t get in the way of mechanics.

What this means for AtG is that I’m first and foremost looking for ways to make the experience of playing the game feel like forging a barbarian kingdom. Migration is a very cool, innovative feature, but it’s only included because, well, that’s what barbarians did.

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TGDRT #28: Scoring & Victory

Episode #28 is live!

The usual three-man crew discusses – debates, even – the ways in which we win games. The first half of the show is dominated by dissecting the pluses and minuses of victory points, whether they’re inherently arbitrary, and if they might even be a sign of lazy design. In the second half our hosts talk specifics, analyzing how victory does (and could) work in ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘At the Gates.’

Although it’s not something I’ve talked much about here on the site, anyone that’s listened to the show in the past should be very familiar with my dislike of victory points.

I don’t find the use of VPs to be inherently evil, as they do come with benefits and I’ve enjoyed many a game that’s included them. However, I find VPs to be so much of an abstraction that anything they’re associated with loses all connection to the “theme.”

Sure, you don’t need a great theming in order to have great gameplay, but without it you’re raising the barrier to entry and making it much harder to tell if you’re on the right path. As such, I try to avoid them whenever possible.

Of course, that’s just my opinion! Check out this episode to see what Dirk and David think.

– Jon