Sunday, March 23, 2014

Generic plastic/wood game pieces you can buy for prototypes (or for full production?)

Generic plastic/wood game pieces you can 

buy for prototypes

(or for full production?)

Many game designers need 3D pieces to use in their prototypes, and some game publishers may want to make games with 3D pieces yet are not prepared to create custom components.  I don’t know whether EAI makes their own stuff, but one way or another, if the pieces can be bought by individuals at these prices, they must be available for much less at very large order prices.

I get most pieces from  They are a school supplies seller.  I’m looking at their latest “Spring 2014 Math” catalog (they also sell online, of course).  I use quotation marks around the names EAI uses.  I have listed their largest quantities, many are available at smaller quantities though higher cost per item.

“Stacking counters”. p. 15.   These are excellent, and I’ve already seen them being used in published games.  2,500 in a tub (10 colors, .75") $49.95.   So 2 cents each.

Plastic 1 “centimeter cubes”. p.22.  (10 colors).  5,000 for $79.95.  So 1.6 cents each.  (Cost more in a tub.)
They also have “interlocking centimeter cubes”, same page, more expensive.

You can also order single-color sets of blue, yellow, orange plastic cubes on p. 34, 1,000 for $19.79.

1 inch square “plastic color tiles” p. 21 (large enough to write numbers on) in four colors. 
4mm thick, 2,000 in a tub $64.50.  I use these a lot for prototypes instead of cardboard counters.
2mm thin slightly translucent, 400 for $10.95
They also list transparent, 48 for $3.95.  I haven’t tried these.
You can also get 4mm foam versions(“quietshape color tiles”), haven’t tried them.

“Two-color counters” p. 77 (red on one side, yellow on the other), 3/4" 1,000 in a jar for $22.25.  I use them for sites that must be explored, writing on the yellow side, sitting red side up.
You can also get 1" magnetic ones, and transparent ones (single color, I think).

“Double-sided black and red counters”, 1", p. 121, 200 for $5.95.

“Black and red counters”, 3/4", not double-sided, two separate colors.  480 for $8.95.

‘Plastic, 1", four color transparent counters’ packed in a sturdy plastic container.  5,000 for $73.95 (missed it in the catalog, online)

“Game pawns”.  P. 15.  300 in a jar for $8.95 (colors may vary, 5 shown).  These are classic fat-bottom skinny-top game pawns.  So 3 cents each.

“Blank playing cards”, decks of 54, $1.55 each of 36 decks for $39.95.  P. 77 2.25" by 3.5"
Also transparent and colossal and normal cards available.

‘1" wood color cubes’510 in a tub, $45.95 p. 3

“Hardwood cubes in six colors” 2 cm, (blue, green, orange, white, yellow and red). Packed in a tub.  510 for $43.95 or 102 for $8.95.  Also missed in the catalog,

Another way to provide 3D pieces is to use wooden blocks with stickers.  You can buy blocks individually from Columbia Games.  A more economical source is GMT, who often sell big bags of blocks very reasonably priced at conventions (such as PrezCon, WBC).  The blocks above can be used the same way typical wargame blocks are used, though they’re twice as thick as wargame blocks.

They have spinners, sand timers, plastic coins, dice (polyhedra), blank dice ( and so forth as well.

EAI doesn’t sell chips.  I get small ones from Rolco games, who make their plastic stuff themselves but sell direct to the public.
Rolco even sells blank game boards and boxes:
You can also get bulk rocket ships, tanks, and lots of other small pieces.

You get bulk pricing on orders of 5,000 or more.

YouTube Game Design channel: 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Categorizing Board and Card Games by Use?

Categorizing Board and Card Games by Use?

Those who have read this blog for a long time know that I am a categorizer.  I try to organize things into categories in order to better to understand them and their relationships to each other. Recently it’s occurred to me that within the context of a game club meeting or even a smaller game session, different games have different uses, they fit into the session in different ways. This often is reflected in different price points, different lengths, different effort requirements, and so forth.

So the following are categories organized by how games are actually used at game meetings.

I’m sure other people must have done this at some point, although a simple search for “destination game” on BoardGameGeek yielded very little. Perhaps readers will let me know about other efforts to categorize games by usage.

First we have destination games. These are games that people look to play, or occasionally organize to play beforehand, when they go to a game session. These are usually games that take quite a while to play and may take some effort as well. Many of them are 2 to 3 hour games, while the ones that are just an hour are often serial destination games, that is, you expect to play two or three times consecutively, possibly the same game, or other serial destination games, in one game session. You expect destination games to be more expensive than many other games because they’re offering you more hours of use, and they’re often “more involved” if not “more complicated”.  If the term “weight” is used to indicate the effort involves, destination games are often heavier games (though the special occasion games, below, are usually the heaviest).  Serial destination games may be lighter.

Most destination games are for more than two players. Two player wargames are often serial destination games, two people get together and play the game two or more times, switching sides.

For serious chess players chess is a destination game although for some it will be a serial destination game.

Special occasion games take so long (or have such unusual requirements) that people schedule meetings just to play the game, enabling them to recruit players specifically for it. Sessions are organized days or even weeks beforehand, especially if a large number of players is required, for example Diplomacy with seven, History of the World with five or six, or Civilization (the boardgame) which requires a large number of players to work well.  Many RPGs are of this category, as they require both quite a few players and a referee as well as a lot of time.  For many people Britannia is a special occasion game (especially if players aren’t experienced, then it can be 7 hours instead of 3.5-5), though if your game club runs many hours it might fall into the destination category. A two player “monster” wargame is also a special occasion game - sometimes several occasions before you can actually finish it.  Miniatures wargames are often special occasion, though the smaller ones can be destination games.

At the other end of the spectrum we have filler games. These games almost always allow for a widely varying number of players because the purpose of the filler game is to let people play something before everyone has shown up for the destination game, or to play something after the destination game is finished. You never know in those circumstances exactly how many people you’re going to have, or how much time you’re going to have. Consequently filler games need to be relatively short, frequently under an hour and sometimes as little as five to 10 minutes. Some of the shorter serial destination games may be usable as fillers in the right circumstances.

I reserve the term “flexible filler” for games that can be played for 30 to 45 minutes but can also be played for as little as 5 to 10 minutes. These are often point games so that you can set a particular point target, or simply play in the amount of time available and then see who has more points.

Filler games are usually lighter games, ones without a lot of strategy to them.  People often use the term “beer and pretzel” games in this context, but I prefer to avoid that term.  It’s not unusual for a filler game, especially a longer one that can also serve as a serial destination game, to be a “screwage” game. (See “Competition, direct conflict, wargames, and screwage games,”

A subcategory of filler game is a convenience game. These are games that can be played in tight spaces (such as a vendor booth at a convention or in a car), or in unusual circumstances where it’s inconvenient to play most other games. Much of this is about the physical conformation of the game of course.

You’d expect fillers to cost significantly less than destination games, even though, in the end, you may play a filler for more hours during it’s “lifetime” than you will many destination games.  Given the “Cult of the New” that is so strong in the hobby, people tend to focus their attention on destination games but then only play them a few times before moving on to something else.  Popular fillers can actually last much longer.

Where do the old “micro” games fit? The micro category seems to have been virtually wiped out by CCGs like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. Keep in mind that most micro games, and most CCGs, are two player games. Each individual play of a CCG can be quite short, but players tend to play several games consecutively, often for several hours.  So these might best be characterized as serial destination games - lots of people come to a game meeting specifically to play their favorite CCG over and over again.

Gateway games have come to be popular to introduce people to hobby game playing. Settlers of Catan is the most well-known, but Ticket to Ride also fits this category. Originally these games were serial destination games or long fillers (and again can be treated as both). Gateway games tend to be simpler than destination or special occasion game.  They also tend to be shorter because “the unwashed” often aren’t accustomed to sitting and doing something for long periods.

Sometimes what ought naturally to be a filler game becomes a destination game. For example, Munchkin ought to be a fairly short game if designed properly, but when played by serious gamers it becomes rampant leader bashing as everyone goes up to level 9 before somebody finally is allowed to reach level 10, and the game takes a couple hours.

In general, party games are filler games, the party is what's important, not the game.  Few people take party games seriously.

I’m not strongly in touch with game prices, though obviously they’re going up.  (I recall FFG’s Britannia in 2006 was $40, in 2008 $50.)  Destination games cost much more than fillers, and special occasional games probably cost more yet.  Serial destination games may be the cost of destinations or of fillers, or anywhere in between.  Gateway games, because of their large print runs, should be close to filler game price even though they often amount to serial destinations. 

So where does this get us as game designers?  It will probably help you to be aware of what kind of game you’re designing when you’re still in the conception stage.  It certainly won’t do to market your game as a destination game when it’s really a filler, or vice versa.  Also, a destination game may justify more expensive components than a filler, because the former is likely to sell for more by virtue of being a destination game.

Consideration of game usage may also affect how many players you design a game for.  Though nowadays, given the social nature of tabletop gaming, you’re limiting yourself anytime you design a game that cannot be played by at least four.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Avoiding Player Elimination in Multi-player Tabletop Games (video)

I've just added this to my Learning Game Design course, and in my video blog experiment here is the link  to the video.  It applies mostly to tabletop games where there are more than two sides, each with a human (rather than computer) in charge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Future of (Tabletop) Wargames? Getting out of the wargame ghetto . . .

    “I didn't realize how out of my element I was until I had to listen to guys talking about their retirement and/or how they were retiring soon. Made me wonder if the hobby as I know it is going to slowly evaporate over the next decade or so.... (But no wonder I couldn't find players for wargames all those years...!)?
 - Jeffro Johnson (who is approaching 40 himself, as I recall) about his experience at PrezCon ’14

(Lest anyone have any doubts, I am one of those Baby Boomers who grew up with Avalon Hill games, and am more or less retired. )

I was asked more than once during my PrezCon talk (by a publisher of hex-and-counter wargames, no less) where the future of wargames lies.  The Charles S. Roberts/Avalon Hill originated hex-and-counter game style is a Baby Boomer hobby, and Baby Boomers are a shrinking group.  Tabletop wargames now sell 1,000-2,000 copies, typically, whereas in Avalon Hill’s heyday they could sell over 100,000. Even in 2004-5 when I came back into the hobby it was easy to see that there was a wargames ghetto (as I call it). People in the ghetto were okay with that but it did not and does not appeal much to people outside.  And it gets smaller over time.

So what is the future of hobby wargaming?  Practically speaking, the traditional market is disappearing.  What can replace it?

Video Games?

Tabletop wargames not only have to survive vis-à-vis other tabletop games but vis-à-vis video games. We always have to keep in mind the greater popularity of video games when we talk about any kind of tabletop game. Video games are easy to play, with the tremendous advantage that you don’t need to read the any rules, and video games are also becoming quite cheap with vast numbers of free to play and $.99 games available. Most video games that appear to be about war are actually closer to sporting events, as top RTS (Real-Time Strategy) game players must execute 200 actions-per-minute to succeed. But the capability to make two-player games primarily requiring thinking to succeed is there, and there are turn-based video games involving war (most notably, Civilization).

Yet the future isn’t video games, at least not the kind of simulation-like video wargames that have been produced so far by companies like Matrix Games.  These sell hardly better than tabletop wargames (3,000 is a number I’ve seen, minuscule for video games requiring that much effort to produce).  I don’t think video games are a threat or a salvation for tabletop wargames.

Multiplayer (Multi-sided) Games and “Losers”

The future of all kinds of tabletop games is in multiplayer (more than two player) games, because a great attraction of tabletop games that video games cannot reproduce is the social interaction.  Whether that interaction occurs within the game rules or not, it comes from people being in one place seeing, hearing, and sometimes smelling and emotionally (and sometimes physically) feeling other people.

Another advantage of multiplayer games is that they don’t put “the loser” on the spot, they don’t involve the ego nearly as much.  In a two player wargame, there’s a Loser with a capital L.   In a game for five, there are four losers, but an average player is only going to win 20% of the time anyway (assuming there are no draws), so you can lose and not feel “failure” - you’re in the same boat as almost everyone else, and “I’ll get ‘em next time”.  You can also feel that you were the best player but people ganged up on you.  At some point, there’s nothing you can do about that. (In the case where both/all the players are against the game, that’s OK - the humans are all in it together, essentially a single player game, and all lose or win together, no stigma involved.)

These games should not have player elimination, something that can unnecessarily bring out those feelings of failure.  Practically speaking, too, a game without player elimination is likely to be shorter than one with elimination.

Video games achieve this through single player games/campaigns that are often puzzles that you will sooner or later solve if you’re persistent. With save games and respawning there is no way to Lose.

SPI’s surveys indicated that 50% of play of their games was solo.  People who are inclined to solo play often like two-player, detailed wargames.  I think the solo player is much more likely to play video games these days.  Solo play is a mostly-dead-end for tabletop games.

So games that allow for the social aspects of face to face gaming, and don’t put the loser on the spot, are where wargaming has a chance to succeed.

“Peaceful” Semi-wargames

Games that allow for the possibility or even likelihood of war but recognize that peace is a better way to succeed are more broadly appealing than games that are out-and-out, cut-throat war. These games can be less directly confrontational. For example, a game about the Italian city states in the era of the Crusades can allow players to prosper if they can peacefully take advantage of the trade from the Far East and develop influence in foreign places, but can provide the ability to go to war. If a player can stay out of a debilitating war, or win a war very quickly, he or she will have a good chance to win the game. (I speak of this as though hypothetically, but my prototype Seas of Gold does just this.)

Sometimes games of this kind are given funny names that imply a cross between Eurostyle and wargame. But there’s a big difference between wargame and Eurostyle that I think needs to be preserved in the semi-wargames, as they might be called, that many wargames allow for great differences in playing style, whereas many Euro games assume a formalistic style where certain paths to success are well-known and blocking those paths is a common activity, where there are “generally accepted moves” that you’re expected to make, that you may even be criticized if you don’t because “that’s not the way to play the game!”  (I have to interject here, those who have decided that “Euro” only means certain heavy-strategy games that they like are going to disagree with me, because I use the older, broader meaning of Euro.)

To my mind, good multiplayer wargames are like open world video games, and Eurostyle games are more like closed world or linear video games. That open style is often lost in “simulations”, but simulations that force certain outcomes as the old SPI games often did are not going to survive on the tabletop - if only because they’re boring to most people and anathema to historians, like myself, who believe that what happened in the chaos of history is often not what was most likely to happen.  (And also because that kind of simulation is almost always a two-player game.)

Grand Strategic Wargames

I think we’ll see more grand strategic wargames rather than tactical games. First, grand strategic games are more believable for more than two players than tactical games. You can easily think of entire nations as competing in a multi-sided way, whereas battles with more than two sides are almost unheard of.  Second, tactical games in the wargame tradition are littered with nuts and bolts and details that hold much less interest for people in our fast living, imprecise century than they did in the glory days of Avalon Hill and SPI. There are lots of tactical games involving fighting, but they are individual skirmish games like Heroscape and many RPGs, not “nuts and bolts” games. Another aspect of grand strategic games is that ultimate success usually depends on building up your economy, as it does in almost any war. Games that build up have proved to be more attractive to many people than games that tear down. A grand strategic wargame can be one that combines the tearing down that’s involved in taking economic value from another player along with the building up that people seem to like, a combination of negative and positive. In contrast, a battle game, one without an economy, where the objective is terrain-based or simply killing lots of the enemy, is purely negative.

Visual and Tactile Appeal

It almost goes without saying that wargames need to be more visually appealing. Wargames with traditional half-inch counters aren’t even a starter except in the wargame ghetto. If you must use cardboard counters, they need to be a lot larger.  Three-dimensional pieces provide a tactile pleasure and feedback that you cannot get from video games, but it’s hard to get that from half-inch counters.  Some larger counters feel and look (and even sound) more like tiles, and that may work - I have in mind the FFG Britannia pieces.  3-D pieces and cards provide a visual appeal that standard wargames do not.  (I was told that Command & Colors was getting no traction for GMT, before publication, until they introduced the use of blocks as 3D pieces (not for “fog of war”).  Then it took off, and has proved to be very popular.)

Games with multiple numbers on each piece don’t have much appeal.  Players don’t mind having lots of information on cards, but not on pieces.  (NO lookup tables, either.)  3D makes it harder to put numbers on pieces, as well.

Stacks of counters are also a bad idea, though less so if only the owning player is allowed to look in the stack.  A good decision I made decades ago in Dragon Rage (which is a hex-and-counter wargame) was to prohibit stacking.  With the larger pieces in the 2011 edition, I’ve avoided the old problems of stacks of half inch counters.

Perhaps a reason for the popularity of “block games” beyond the fog of war is that they avoid counter stacks, and often have less information on them than do traditional counters.

Fewer Significant Decisions

The fundamental experiences people want in games have changed, too. People are much more interested in variety than in gameplay depth. They like lots of choices but they don’t like many difficult/significant choices.  They tend to rely more on intuition than logic, a reliance that’s often encouraged in the schools and society (“use the Force, Luke”, don’t depend on the computer to aim that torpedo). So a game with lots of choices but few decisions that make a significant difference tends to be preferred to the older kind of game, where there is not only lots of choices but lots of decisions, and decisions within decisions. (I’m sorry if that’s not entirely clear but my spiel about gameplay depth and other kinds of depth in games is something like 10,000 words.  This will have to do.)

This trend is already enormously clear in video games.  Players want to be rewarded for participation, they don’t want to have to earn their rewards by making good decisions.

Hobby wargaming often involves studying the games. People don’t study games much anymore, especially casual gamers. Between cheap or free video games and the proliferation of many hundreds of new tabletop games each year, people are accustomed to playing a game only a few times before they move on to the next one in a kind of “Cult of the New”.  I know people who have played Britannia more than 500 times, but nowadays you’re going to find few newly published games that anyone will ever play 500 times, especially not one as long as Britannia.

I think wargames are still going to be a haven for people who want old-fashioned gameplay depth as opposed to simple variety, but if you want to reach a larger market you need to recognize that the number of significant decisions has to be reduced.  I’m put in mind of a young lady who used to attend our university game club. At age 18 she was exceptionally intelligent and focused, and when she played games she really put her brain to work (more than most), but because she was playing games to relax she did not want to play anything like a standard wargame where you have bunches of pieces to move in each of your turns. That was far too many decisions to make.  She liked tactical video games, where you have just a few characters to control. That’s the kind of person who can be attracted to strategic multiplayer games that involve war, but only if they are designed to be broadly appealing. 

Be sure your wargame doesn’t have a player moving dozens of units every turn!

Personal Stories

Gamers are also much more interested in personal stories and avatars in games than they were 40 years ago.  RPGs are an example, and many kinds of video games, both just coming into existence back then.  Wargames by their nature tend to be about nations and large units, though there are many games with individuals as the primary units (squad level games). The word “story” is in “history”, but the history of warfare tends to be impersonal. The kinds of personal stories people like aren’t about the Military, by and large.  I’m not sure how this is going to pan out, as the grand strategic games I recommend are not well-suited for the “you are there” mentality (think History of the World or Diplomacy).

People Games, not Math Games

What wargames need to focus on is the other people playing the game, rather than on the details of the game system. Britannia has some detail in it but it’s essentially a simple game to play, and the really good players are playing the other players, not the game system. You have to master the game system but that’s not the ultimate mastery, as opposed to chess and so many two-player wargames where mastery of the system is all that matters. (Oddly enough, mastery of real generalship is much about psychology, but wargames rarely reflect real warfare.)  That’s the kind of game we need, though Britannia is not the best example because it’s much too long for most players. One of the new versions of Britannia I’ve created can be played in 90-120 minutes and has been played in 84, even though the players were not hurrying.  Yet it is still clearly Britannia.

Games where “Yomi” is needed, discerning the intentions of other players, reading their minds, are popular for many reasons (think poker, Werewolf, Resistance).  Wargames need to make Yomi more prominent, and the details of mechanical play less prominent.  Multiplayer, of course, immediately puts Yomi to the forefront in highly interactive games.

On the other hand, you can’t remove a fairly high degree of interaction from a wargame and still have a wargame, instead you have something that begins to approach a puzzle or multiplayer solitaire. I don’t see this as a route wargames can take because then you have a major disadvantage of a wargame - the tearing down - without the compensating advantages of high interactivity.

Where there’s a place for two player wargames is on tablets and PCs, so that those who like this kind of ultimately confrontational math-like game can find opponents, and can play in short sessions even if the game itself is quite long in aggregate.  For examples, see

Shorter and Simpler

Finally, all games are noticeably getting simpler and shorter (especially video games).  Wargames must as well. That’s quite a challenge for multiplayer games simply because the more players you have, usually the longer the game. I have pursued a quest for a “one hour (multiplayer) wargame” for many years, and while I usually end up with 2+ hours I do have one game that has been played in an hour by three players.  But that will remain exceptional, except in wargames that use cards rather than a board.

Card-based wargames are another possible route out of the “ghetto”, but when you use cards you usually (though not always) abandon maneuver, which is one of the salient aspects of war.


I’ve briefly alluded to where “simulations” are going. The kind of simulation that values the model before the game, that tries to force a particular outcome to match history, is rapidly going down the tubes. The kind of model that Phil Sabin calls a simulation - though I wouldn’t - that helps one understand history will still be around. If you’ve read Sabin’s book Lost Battles you’ll know that his simulation to help understand what really happened to during ancient battles is pretty simple, not at all the kind of highly detailed simulation we used to get from SPI.

On the other hand, wargames can never approach the abstraction of the typical Eurostyle game. Wargames have to be models of some reality, and anything that happens in the wargame ought to correspond to something that happens in reality. That’s rarely the case in Eurostyle games, which are frequently abstractions with some kind of atmosphere tacked on (yes there are exceptions). Eurostyle games are designed to have particular paths or actions that can be easily blocked by the opposition (without any actual destruction), and that’s not even close to the nature of warfare.


Will the “grognards” of the ghetto like these wargames? Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter, because they’re gradually going out of the market for games and publishers have to look at younger markets.

Having said all this, I’ve described one of the kinds of games I like to design, so maybe I’m prejudiced. Or maybe I saw the need years ago and have been working on it ever since.

When I started this I intended to write something fairly brief, but many of the trends in games in general have come into the question of the future of wargames.  I’ll stop here before it grows any further! 


I will be a speaker at the East Coast Game Conference, April 23-24 in Raleigh, NC.   Exact time or day as yet unknown.  The topic will be “On the Horns of a Dilemma” (Game Design).

I now host (through Fedora) my online audiovisual courses at . They are still on at higher prices.  They include “Learning Game Design”, “Brief Introduction to Game Design”, and “Get a Job in the Video Game Industry”.  I will very soon be opening a course “How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games”.  Some time after that I’ll open “How to Write Clear Rules (and Game Design Documents)”.

YouTube Game Design channel:

Monday, March 10, 2014

PrezCon 2014

PrezCon 2014

The first game convention I attended after my long hiatus from the hobby was PrezCon 2004. I used to go alternate years but I’ve been going consistently at the end of February for several years now.

[Justin wanted me to photograph the schedule posted on the wall. Virtually every line there is a tournament]

PrezCon is a relatively small friendly board and card game convention in Charlottesville Virginia at a Doubletree Hotel. There are no RPGs, no miniatures to speak of, no CCGs, no video games. Most of the players are gray-haired Baby Boomers, although there is a smattering of younger players as well. It uses the same format as the World Boardgaming Championships, you pay a single fee and play it in as many tournaments as you can squeeze in. There are not quite as many tournaments as at WBC, and they are generally smaller because the attendance is about 3/8 of WBC attendance (for example 15 in the Britannia tournament in a good year compared to 40 at WBC). But there’s lots of competition. There’s also an auction, an auction store (where I bought a 2008 copy of Risk for four dollars for the peculiar arrow pieces), and a large open gaming area. Where WBC offers half a dozen or more talks, there is only one at PrezCon (that I give, and that gets about half a dozen in attendance). 

[Some of the plaques awarded for tournament success]

[Part of the main tournament room. The vendors are also in this room, to the left. There are also several subsidiary tournament rooms, and a large room (ballroom) for open gaming.]

There are game vendors as well, some of them publishers such as Worthington Publications, GMT, and Mayfair Games. Two of those three are wargame publishers and that’s reflected in the tournaments and open play, with many more wargames and you would see at GenCon. The vendors are set up from Friday through Sunday though they are packing up by midday Sunday.

[Vendor area]

Justin Thompson and company have PrezCon running like a well oiled machine in its 20th year.  When Justin was temporarily laid low by illness his partner Grant Dalgliesh took care of things.

Owing to work reasons my friend and I arrived Thursday night instead of Wednesday night this year, and I miss the extra day to talk with people. (I don’t play games at conventions and never have: I can play games at home. And as some of you know I’m not that big into playing games other than D&D, which we definitely don’t see at PrezCon.) We usually stay until Sunday mid-afternoon because he usually plays in the Roborally finals (which he won for the fourth time). Just as at WBC and Origins, by that time almost everyone has left and it’s quite dead. I think GenCon stays alive somewhat longer though I have had to leave before noon because of a very long trip home. It’s a great contrast to the UK Game Expo a few years ago, where I had a talk scheduled at 1 PM on Sunday and the audience filled the large room, as well as for the talk after that. I suppose because Great Britain is relatively small and train travel is common, people don’t feel the need to leave as early as they do at American game conventions.

At one point I recruited a friend who had played the game the year before to playtest one of my prototypes with a publisher. He asked me privately whether he should go easy on the other player. I wouldn’t tell anyone to do that as it is slightly disrespectful to the other player, and in any case the publisher needed to see what the game could really do, so I told him know do the best you can. And he won the game fairly easily, showing that there’s something worth learning in the game (as opposed to some transparent games where experience doesn’t seem to make much difference).

[Britannia tournament]

[Playing my prototype Doomstar]

As I have observed at other conventions, especially those that are strictly board and card games, there are striking cultural differences if you take the time to notice. Non-white gamers are very rare at PrezCon, just as they are at WBC. They are much more noticeable at conventions that include RPGs, CCGs, art and written fiction, and so forth.

One friend saw a lot more “friction” in the game playing this year, though I noticed a lot less than last year. Friction as in rule arguments and even one occasion of possible cheating. Yet when a friend of mine played his first game of Britannia in the tournament he found that the players gave him genuinely good advice rather than trying to con him with poor advice, and he won the game. The wargamers are not quite like Eurostyle players who often seem to be collectively solving a puzzle and discussing what the best move would be, but they do want new players to enjoy the games.  I have a friend who doesn’t go to PrezCon because he doesn’t want to tangle with the “sharks”, the really good players, nonetheless I think it’s a pretty friendly and mostly laid-back group considering the level of competition.

My talk this year was about strategic wargame design. There were lots of comments and questions that my recorder couldn’t pick up so I need to edit it before I post it on my website for anyone who wants to listen. The PowerPoint slides that I made for it are already posted at  Don’t leave out that 1.

I now host (through Fedora) my online audiovisual courses at . They are still on at higher prices.  They include “Learning Game Design”, “Brief Introduction to Game Design”, and “Get a Job in the Video Game Industry”.  I will very soon be opening a course “How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games”.  Some time after that I’ll open “How to Write Clear Rules (and Game Design Documents)”.

YouTube Game Design channel: