2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #2: 11-20

11. There Is No Game Idea Too Small To Be Worth Trying To Make Interesting.

The Botch is 24 cards. Pie Crimes is 20 cards. Love Letter is 16 cards. You don’t need a lot of cards to make your game worth playing. Good ideas can pack a lot of fun into a small space. Think about what you can do with a small amount of space, or if you can make a game that’s as simple as mods to another game.

12. Corollary To 11, At Drivethrucards, You Can’t Buy An Order That’s Less Than 20 Cards.

Games that are 1-5 cards can be good ‘filler’ then. Basically if you try to buy 9 cards DTC will say ‘hey, why not these products to fill your order out.’ If you like doing artwork, but don’t want to sell specific products, you can also put up say, Magic: The Gathering tokens you devise for people to use as filler.

13. You Can Patch Rules But You Can’t Patch Cards.

Players who buy your cards can’t get fixed copies very easily. If it’s on a card, you kinda have to stick to it – players who change their opinions. Write rules accordingly.

14. Oh My God Writing Rules Is So Much Harder Than You Think.

Programmers complain about their jobs but they at least get reasonably consistent interpreters. Rules is trying to code random humans. You will not be able to communicate them clearly in just one way. Text rules, diagram rules, video rules – every one of them you can make is useful.

15. Rules: Get Your Theme For The Game Down And Let It Come Out In Rule Writing.

Rules have a character voice, you can use it. The Botch is written like it wants to fight you, Middleware is written very precisely and technically. This helps with the tone of both games and at the same time can give players a feel for the rules and how precisely they need to track them.

16. Players Have Limits On What They Can Track.

Ideally, use boring things to track boring things. Counters and tokens are not particularly interesting. Having them track boring things like money or distance is fine. But if a player’s doing something super interesting like a live-or-die counter or a extra chance reroll kinda thing, put that on a card.

17. We Have Mechanics To Overcome Quarterbacking.

They are worth designing. Hidden information is the best start, BUT, Some players are just gunna quarterback and try to argue about rational actions with hidden information. Burn these players. More accurately, make it so the hidden information in anti-quarterback co-op mechanics can have a really distinct effect.

18. Moving Numbers Can Confuse Players.

try to make numbers move EITHER:

  • In one direction
  • Not Much

If your game has players tracking a value like 13+3+1+3+8+9+1 that’s awkward but okay, or 12-4+3, that’s fine too. But a value like 13+4-8+1+1+1+3-3+12 is asking players to do Harder Math and More Of It, it makes it easier to make mistakes.

19. Minimise The Opportunities For Innocents To Cheat.

In Love Letter, some cards give you actions you must do, and then react based on hidden information. An unaware player may not understand; You can design these places where a player might (for example) accidentally break the game by hiding a ‘wrong’ card. Try to avoid that.

Edit: Whoops, missed one:

20. Players Will Get Your Rules Wrong

With that in mind, try to make your game rules so they can handle some mistakes without falling into mush. In Magic: The Gathering, the game doesn’t break if you play lands over critters, or tap lands THEN pay costs. That kind of thing as acceptable ‘wrongs.’ That’s a game with a super tight set of rules, a really hard codebase for rules, and it can handle things being ‘done wrong.’ Make your rules robust.

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