Building A Machine

I’ve made a few games now. The two that sit in the most prominence in my mind, in their difficulty to make work, the challenge of getting them to work well has been Middleware, which is a lot of moving parts and requires rules capable of conveying themselves cleanly and clearly, and The Botch, which is a little stranger to describe.

The Botch doesn’t actually have a lot of rules – its rulebook is reasonably short, and explaining it aloud, to a person, is pretty simple. The rules are, however, trying to set up a very complicated scenario, of people trying to work out likely paths of information, trying to guess do they have the gun? Do I? The complex feeling of watching people crashing into one another in ill-planned scenarios and making the best of it.

Today, I watched players play The Botch and I was struck by how much work the rules were doing without being super present. In the design of The Botch there is a segregation: I made the game, then you make your own game session’s game, by choosing what cards to include, and then, once that game has begun, a new game of working out what the game starts off. It’s incredible.

One of these machines is large and elaborate and tuned – and there are mistakes in that tuning. One of them is a box kite, mostly a few lines of structure, and relies on the pressure and systems around it to make it work.

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