I really love building communities. And, I really, really love tabletop games. After moving to a new area for my technology career, I wondered how I could meet other game designers, publishers, and playtesters. After reading Mike Selinker’s book, Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, I decided to create a game design workshop using the book as its basis. A lot has changed since the book was first published – Kickstarter, legacy-style games, and Kickstarter – to name a few. My workshop fills in the gaps with hands-on exercises and discussion using the very latest research and references. The workshop is live and in-person which I really like for board games since they exist in the physical dimension.
Through some mutual contacts, I got introduced to Eduardo Baraf’s work. Edo has built a community on YouTube and is always putting out fresh content. He is also publishing some really high-quality games and supporting a large community of backers on Kickstarter with Pencil First Games. We started talking about his efforts and my projects, and Edo decided to have me on his YouTube channel, Gaming with Edo. It was a blast and an honor to be a part of his show. My episode is called, Q&A: Hans Scharler – Game Design Workshops.
Thanks for having me on, Edo. I look forward to your new game and video releases.
I have been leading a 10-week workshop on tabletop game design near Boston, MA. Over 20 students have participated and several of them have created board game design prototypes throughout the course. This is really exciting to see! I gave a lecture last week to go over the entire course in one 30-minute session. I share a few of their game designs. Fortunately, the lecture was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing the content for the board game design course and release more supporting content.
I spend a lot of my time at my desk, in front of my computer, designing. I love using a notebook for generating ideas, doing research, game design, and software design. For me, the notebook helps me extend the ideas further without bounds. I have grown accustomed to bouncing between the digital and analog worlds.
When I saw the Kickstarter introduction video to a new product called Panobook, I thought to myself, “Here are some people who just get it.” (It is the love of notebooks and their utility.) My love started by watching my father collect different types of journals and Moleskin notebooks. He had many unopened ones, but the ones he did use were spiral bound and could fit in his pocket. He was often taking notes on the go writing his lectures and sermons. I typically design in front of my computer. I have been known to turn my notebook around and design particular to the lines.
I don’t need another notebook, but I have found that Panobook serves a purpose. I like that Panobook lays flat on my desk, it fits in front of my keyboard, it is spiral bound, it has a dot grid, and it is designed to be catalog on my shelf when I am done with it. Love oozes out of every design decision of the Panobook. Well done.
My friend Paul gave me a really great book for my birthday. The book is Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West. I spent the whole summer digging into this book and having regular conversations with Paul. There are many landmines in the book. Once you step on one, you find yourself searching the internet for more information and digging even deeper.
“One of the things that I have discovered in my talking with politicians and policymakers is that most people don’t understand what an exponential is.”
One small piece of the book is about exponential growth. I really liked his thought experiment on exponentials and I have applied his insight to game design and development.
I am developing a board game design workshop here in Boston that starts in September. I am really looking forward to facilitating the workshop and learning from the participants. In preparing the course materials, I came across my notes from a board game seminar that I took at Gen Con a few years back. The seminar was hosted by Jeff Tidball. Jeff is a creative executive and award-winning game designer. His class made a lot of great points, but he made one pint really clear to me. Game design is about doing the work. You have to have a lot of “butt-in-chair” time.
How much time have you wasted trying to choose the best salad dressing?
Jeff also mentioned the paradox of choice. He recommended that we watch a TED Talk from Barry Schwartz on the subject of choice and try to apply it to game design. Barry does not talk about game design in his TED Talk, but his message about choice can easily apply. A game with no choice is not fun. A game with too many choices is also not fun. You need to find a balance and do not overwhelm your players with too many options. Choice is central to the art of game design. You need to decide which choices to present to players and which ones that can be removed from your game.
I recommend that you watch Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, to get the full context and see how you can apply it to game design.
At the Boston Comic Con, I got to meet a comic book artist in the Boston area named Jay Kennedy. I pitched him my character named, “Dog”. Dog is the subject of some children stories and a board game that I have been working on in my copious spare time. I commissioned a color sketch drawn at the con based on the description from my pitch. Jay called me up a couple of hours later to show me what he had created. This is the first look at Dog… stay tuned. You probably are going to hear a lot more about this character in the coming months.
This week I have been reminiscing about all of my Gen Con experiences. Last year, I got to spend some time with Tony DiTerlizzi, author and illustrator.
He was really awesome to talk to and inspired me to get writing about one of my characters, named “Dog”. Thanks for the bag of holding!
The final match of the first annual Strife tournament at Gen Con came down to me and a guy that was in full cosplay of one of the characters from the game.
I lost… But, I got some awesome runner-up gifts and got to play an intense battle with a great player.
Here’s a last minute Kickstarter for you to check out… Strife: Legacy of the Eternals.
Strife is a quick, 2-player card game is designed by Christopher Hamm and will be released by Vision 3 Games in 2015. You can get in now and help produce the game. The game has gotten lots of great reviews and attention since it was demonstrated at Gen Con 2014 in Indianapolis, IN.
A strategic, 2-player, tarot-sized, card game combining open information and unique abilities with deep, combo-creating gameplay.
PS… I *almost* stopped backing Kickstarter games, and then I found Strife at Gen Con 2014. I backed a lot of games and had many disappointments. After seeing the game play, meeting the team behind the game, and seeing how well the Kickstarter campaign was being ran and updated, I decided to break my rule, and throw some cash towards this game.
Splendor is a light, abstract strategy board game that we got to play at our last board game night. The game is about matching gems and buying cards that are worth points. There is a small amount of defensive plays, but mostly you are trying to maximize your own position.
Splendor is a fun little game that you can teach others quickly between your epic games of The Campaign for North Africa.