Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

The Kobolds did it again: They've released another Kobold Guide. And offered me a free PDF to read.

The previous Guides had loads of solid information on writing and publishing RPGs and RPG Adventures. How to approach publishers, various models of design, and so on. I really loved them - enough that I purchased print copies after reading the free PDF copies.

The new one, however, hit me in a particular weak point missed by the others: Board Games.

The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design is structured similarly to the three RPG-flavored volumes - that is, there is one "core" author, who does the interstitial work as well as an essay or two.  This time, it's Mike Selinker who fills this role. There are also essays by Richard Garfield, James Earnest, Matt Forbeck, Jeff Tidball, Andrew Looney, and several others - all of whom I recognized (which says something about me).

It's divided into four parts: Concept, Design, Development, and Presentation.

Part 1: Concepting is just what it sounds like - working on coming up with an idea for a game, and it includes some thoughts about game design in general. I especially recommend reading Richard Garfield's essay in this section, in large part because I agree with him. I don't always like his games, but I do like what he has to say more often than not.

Part 2: Design overlaps a great deal with Part One. It does include the first thing in the book that made me actually laugh out loud - Andrew Looney's chart detailing his creative process.  It ends with PUBLISH and then START FAQ FILE. It was an excellent reminder that publication is never done.

I particularly enjoyed Rob Daviau's essay from this section, where he discussed how a small rules tweak can clear out multiple paragraphs of rules text and make a game easier to learn.

For those of you who don't know, Mike Selinker has a Livejournal account dedicated to the "most beautiful" things.  Each time he posts, he picks a category, and discusses what he finds to be the most beautiful example of that category. So it was not a surprise to find an essay here called, "The Most Beautiful Game Mechanics."

Part 3: Development has (no surprise) some overlap with the previous section. Rob Daviau's essay could easily have fit into this section. It's all about taking your game and then polishing it some more - generally it's polish that is out of the hands of the designer, too.  Dave Howell's essay could easily have fit into Part 2, as it outlines a series of design rules.

Part 4: Presentation is all about that final coat of polish and what to present to potential publishers.  Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games) has the first essay in here, with a long list of "This is a bad idea and why." It's written interestingly, and demonstrates a solid understanding of gaming and gamers. Having been in business for as long as he has, it should come as no surprise that he has this depth of understanding.

Michelle Nephew's essay in this section seems to my (unpublished) mind to be the most useful. It summarizes much of the rest of the book, and does so clearly and concisely.

Even if you aren't thinking about designing a board game, I would still pick up a copy of this book - the sneak peek into the mind of some truly excellent designers is well worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

  1. It's good to know the design perspective involved in board games. This gives you an inspiration to make your own craft as well.