Anatomy of Three Conversions: Burgundy, Ra, and Galaxy

Games can be defined in a lot of different ways. They can come in different styles, from American take-that to Eurogames, from party games to abstracts. They can can in different fictional genres, from science-fiction to history, and in different mechanical genres, from worker placement to auctions. Finally, games can also be parts of different mediums, primarily including board games, card games, and dice games.

Gaming mediums are particularly interesting because they seem to encourage conversions. Board games  become card games or dice games, and vice-versa. This trend seems to have been growing in the last few years, as Intellectual Property has become a byword of the eurogame community. Alea is currently be the poster child of IP conversions, with Broom Service (2015), Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (2016), and Broom Service: The Card Game (2016) all being conversions of this sort. The last is particularly notable, since Broom Service: The Card Game began life as Witch’s Brew (2008) … a card game!

So are medium conversions good or bad?

Too frequently they result in a game that’s a pale shadow of its originator. I know I’ve played Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings (2005), but I barely remember it, while Shadows Over Camelot: The Card Game (2012) and Bang! The Dice Game (2013) were more interesting, but in no way overshadowed the original. But, in some cases you get games that are quite exciting. San Juan (2004) is obviously the vest example of a game that managed to massively innovate its predecessor, creating something that was as good, in its own way.

This week I’m going to take a brief look at three games that were converted to new sorts of dice and card games: one of the newest entrants to the field and two that I think really worked.

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Psychology of Gaming: Loss Aversion

Game design can be influenced by many different fields. Among them, psychology is one of the most interesting, because it suggests ways that players might act that don’t necessarily go hand in hand with the actual mechanics presented in a game. Thus this week I’m kicking off the start of what I hope will become a series on psychology, with a look at loss aversion and gaming.

I found one of the best discussions of loss aversion at Usabilia, which describes loss aversion thus:

Loss aversion is a human characteristic that describes how people are intrinsically afraid of losses. When compared against each other people dislike losing more than they like winning. Thus losses loom larger than gains even though the value in monetary terms may be identical.

There isn’t much question on the existence of loss aversion. Instead, the modern scientific articles on the topic tend to focus more on why it occurs and what its boundaries on. I think some of those issues could be intriguing for a follow-up article, but for the moment I want to concentrate on the core of loss aversion as it applies to game design.

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The Alea Analysis, Part One: Ra (#1), Chinatown (#2), Taj Mahal (#3)

Over the course of 2009, I deliberately played through all 22 games then published by Alea, from Reiner Knizia’s Ra to the brand-new Alea Iacta Est. As I played each game, I wrote an analysis of it at my livejournal. If you wish, you can still read the original 22 Alea posts there.

Rather than keep all that material locked up on a non-gaming site, I’ve decided to bring it over here, where I’ll be revising and regularizing the content to make it into a more coherent series. So, here is the first of several articles on Alea, based on my thoughts from a couple of years back. I’ll be publishing more every 2 or 4 weeks, so as not to dominate the blog with this material. Continue reading

Auctions: Bidding on Fun, Part Two

Knucklebones: March, 2007This is a reprint of an article written in October, 2006 for first publication in the March, 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.

This article continues on from Part One, which discussed the various types of auctions found in games. This second Part highlights eight of the best auction games that were available for purchase in late 2006.

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Mathematics & Game Design, Part One

I’ve written more than once that I don’t like game designs that require me to do math. More specifically I’m talking about games like SantiagoPower Grid, and several others which have a strong mathematical basis and a strong ability to analyze that math during game play.

You see, I think games should be entertaining: it’s why I play them — to enjoy myself and to have fun. And, I don’t have a lot of fun when I sitting around adding, multiplying, and dividing (except, perhaps, in the case of a game of Primordial Soup).

Worse, I increasingly think that games which have a strong mathematical component have a core flaw in them related to victory. This flaw comes about because there are generally three types of players who might be playing these games: Continue reading

The Auction Grand Unification Theory

Over the years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about games. It’s led me to a unifying theory about how many games work—in part thanks to some comments from Doug Orleans. In short: many or most game mechanics actually have a common basis, and that common basis is the auction.

I’ll offer the warning that this article is more technical that a lot of my Gone Gaming articles, for reasons that I’ll discuss at the end. I’ve decided to post it, nonetheless, because I think it’s an interesting discussion of some core mechanics in eurogame designs. If it bores you, I suggest you hop on to the next article, as this isn’t entirely typical of the column.

Notes on Auctions

I’ve written some more detailed discussions of the mechanics of game design in my computer game design column, Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities. I discussed the basics of auctions in #144: Strategic Insights: Auction Games. In that column, my definition of auctions included the following specifics: Continue reading