Hollandazed: Thoughts, Ideas, and Miscellany — game design

DESIGNING THE TOLEDO WAR (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Comments 1 Tags game design, Toledo War

DESIGNING THE TOLEDO WAR (by Tom Russell)

As you probably know by now, every year I design a "freebie" game that is given away during our annual end-of-year Hollandays Sale. This year's game is The Toledo War, a card game about the 1835-36 border dispute between the State of Ohio and the Territory of Michigan. This conflict is quite obscure, and even Michiganders and Ohioans are unlikely to regard it as more than a piece of trivia. The broad outlines of the conflict are as follows: both Michigan and Ohio professed a claim to 468 square miles called the Toledo Strip. I'm going to say that Michigan's...


DON'T ROLL DOUBLES (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Tags game design, Westphalia

DON'T ROLL DOUBLES (by Tom Russell)

The big idea behind Westphalia is that while y'all are negotiating to end the war, y'all are still clobbering each other, because success on the battlefield makes it easier to get what you want in those talks. This meant the game needed to have a bifurcated structure, one that alternated Diplomacy Phases and Military Phases - carrots and sticks. You would think that a designer with over three dozen wargames to his credit wouldn't have any problem with the stick part of that equation, but it's actually the thing that gave me the most trouble. And until the military stuff...


FROM THE ARCHIVES: ONE STACK TO RULE THEM ALL, AND IN THE DARKNESS BIND THEM (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Tags game design, playtesting

FROM THE ARCHIVES: ONE STACK TO RULE THEM ALL, AND IN THE DARKNESS BIND THEM (by Tom Russell)

Playtest, playtest, playtest. Even folks who only play games, and never make the transition to designing, know that playtesting is an integral - maybe even the integral - part of the process. A common refrain when a game disappoints us is, "Did they even bother to playtest this?" There are various reasons why we playtest. First, to make sure the game works as intended; second, to make sure the game is fun; third, to catch and eliminate ambiguities; fourth, to make sure that there's some decent amount of replayability; fifth, to ensure the game's balance isn't broken. And there is...


FROM THE ARCHIVES: 2P (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Tags game design

FROM THE ARCHIVES: 2P (by Tom Russell)

I came to wargames somewhat sideways. I had initially operated under the delusion that I was the designer of mid-weight eurogames, only dipping my toe in the hex-and-counter pool as a lark, only to find, to my surprise and delight, that these waters were more agreeable to my peculiar talents. One wargame sold, and then another, and soon I stopped trying to hawk my eurogames altogether so that I could focus on wargames exclusively.  Do I miss the euro-style games? Not really. I wasn't very good at designing them, to be honest. Partially this was because I spent considerable time...


THE BAND-AID (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Comments 1 Tags game design, gameplay

THE BAND-AID (by Tom Russell)

One of the most curious things about making weird games on purpose is that there are folks who don't seem to think that it was on purpose. I couldn't really mean for the game to do that; somehow it snuck its way into the design when I wasn't looking. I get this a lot with Table Battles and its mandatory reaction loops. There are folks who feel this is a huge flaw, and they can't believe how obstinate I am in refusing to admit it. But the mandatory reactions aren't just an aspect of the game, they are the game...