If you’re designing a game, here’s a short list of five things that you shouldn’t do:
Don’t Reward the Last Man Standing. This is one of the things that Eurogames do right, so it scarcely needs to be said any more. However, it’s still an important point. Unless your game is really short, you shouldn’t allow player elimination, and you especially shouldn’t decide who wins your game based on the same. After all, what are the eliminated players supposed to do until the game ends?
Although, as I said, most Eurogames don’t use last-man-standing mechanics, there are nonetheless some that allow players to be effectively eliminated. Mare Nostrum is an example of this from the warfare side of things: you can get to a sufficiently bad state that you just don’t have the resources to come back. Likewise there are any number of games where you can look at your score and quickly realize that you have no chance of winning.
This is a reprint of an article written in June 2007 for first publication in the November 2007 issue of the now-defunct Knucklebones magazine. Because of its origins, this article is more introductory and (hopefully) more polished than many of my online writings. Despite the original source of this article, this blog is in no way associated with Jones Publishing or Knucklebones Magazine.
November 2007 was also the first month that Knucklebones opted to accept two different articles for me; the other was an article on pirate games, which was featured on the cover. I wrote it a few weeks earlier, in May.
Z-Man Games has been publishing games for eight years, but with their early focus on collectible card games and roleplaying games, many board game players didn’t know about them. That should now be changing, because in 2005 Z-Man Games burst onto the board game scene with a collection of high-quality Eurogames and American originals.
Over at Skotos I’m continuing my work on Xenagia, our new science-fiction, fantasy, and horror community. Thus these three genres remain foremost in my mind, and I’m continuing my series here discussing them. If you missed it, you should read my first article on this topic, which covered history and ten top games in the genres.
The interesting thing about the fantasy, science-fiction, and horror genres is how completely they describe hobbyist game production in the United States from the mid ’70s to the late ’90s. Aside from historical military conflicts, if a hobbyist game came out in the United States, the odds were at least 50/50 that it was a genre game. I still have about half a bookshelf full of Dragon Pass, The Riddle of the Ring, Dune, Kings & Things, Hacker, and other similar games from this period.
However there were always three games that really stood out to me as the definitive American hobbyist games, and which got much love and play over the years until I discovered Eurogames: Cosmic Encounter, Illuminati, and Wiz-war. I played all three for the first time in college and they largely defined my board game playing for a decade. They’ve now all fallen out of favor, especially by crowds won over by Eurogames, but they’re still worth a look, so here’s my thoughts on them: