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The Game Genome Project

Stream-of-consciousness thoughts as I learn new games and use new insights to revisit, spotlight and refine certain aspects of my alternative classification of board games. Have the glossary open as a reference while you read the posts: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/581158/an-alternative-classification-of-board-games-long

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The Pillars of Modern Board Games

David F
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Emeryville
California
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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At any point when categorizing games, somebody is going to ask, "where and what is Euro / Ameritrash?". While that might sometimes paint too broad a stroke, these labels are here to stay, and my point of view on them is here: The Pillars of Modern Board Games - Eurogames, Ameritrash etc

Compare and contrast with Schools of Design and Their Core Priorities, the seminal work on this topic.
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Thu May 14, 2015 1:59 am
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A Disambiguation of Area Control

David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Before going any further, please respond to the following poll.

Poll: Entrance Poll
1. Which group of games do you tend to like more?
Risk, Nexus Ops, Axis & Allies, Cyclades, Shogun
Othello, Small World, Manoeuvre, Pandemic, Quads
I like/dislike both groups equally.
2. Do you think there is an overarching difference between these two groups of games?
Yes
No
      249 answers
Poll created by selwyth


There were two things that irked me enough to study and revamp the classification of games (as always, you'll need the master glossary to understand italicized terms): the abuse of the terms "economic game" and "area control". This post covers the latter.

Try asking for recommendations about area control games, and you'll ignite a storm of replies that "Game X is not an area control game", "No, Game X is", "BGG's definition is wrong", followed by competing treatises that suck the fun out of arguing.

This is a prominent area in which the BGG system has failed. The Area Control / Area Influence section encompasses a sprawl of games. Really, Area Control is too broad and not descriptive enough for a heterogeneous group of games. There is significant difference between an El Grande and Risk, that both cater to different sets of gamers.

So let's discard the overly broad "Area Control" label and dig into what matters. At the very best, Area Control should only be used as a general term to refer to the following group of genres.

Quote:
Area Enclosure: Surround off areas; you own, or score VPs for, all the areas you enclose. e.g. Blokus, Domaine, Fjords, Go, Hey! That’s My Fish!, Through the Desert

Area Majority: Have the most (or 2nd/3rd/etc) # of pieces in multiple arenas of competition in order to score VPs. e.g. 1960, Age of Empires III, El Grande, Kreta, Stephensons Rocket

Territorial Conquest: Formerly known as Area Influence (War). Control individual areas/regions (often by leaving 1 unit or placing a control token), and gain advantages by doing so. There is a resource-management system of raising more armies using resources collected based on area influence. e.g. Axis & Allies; Hammer of the Scots; Nexus Ops; Risk; Shogun, World in Flames

Area Influence: Formerly known as Area Influence (Abstract) Control individual areas/regions (by leaving 1 unit or placing a control token). There is no resource-management system for introducing new units based on control of areas e.g. Manoeuvre, Othello, Pandemic, Quads, Small World


In reality, the lines can be blurred a bit.

(By the way, the entrance poll was to gauge if splitting Area Influence up into Territorial Conquest and Area Influence was a good idea.)

Shogun: Territorial Conquest for Area Majority

In Shogun, you try to control areas by being the last man standing in each area. These areas give you more options for placing further orders and harvesting them, making this a shoo-in for Territorial Conquest. But when it comes time for scoring points, players with the most castles/temples/whatever-they're-called-it's-been-a-while in each region of areas score points, giving it the Area Majority trait.

So which is it? I've decided to tag Shogun with both.

Twilight Struggle: Majority for Influence for Majority

Twilight Struggle might be the most interesting example.

There are individual countries in which you fight for a majority of pieces. When you have a majority (plus a couple more), you get control of the country ==> area influence improves.

Then when it's time for scoring, you look for some sort of majority of controlled countries in the continent.

It's an Area Majority game where Area Influence is formalized and itself derived from another Area Majority within each locus of influence.

Is the 'Area' in Area Majority Important?

I struggled a bit previously with 'majority' when the 'area' was much more abstract or not even defined. How to deal with games like Piece o' Cake, Biblios, Great Wall of China, Friday the 13th, Fairy Tale and Founding Fathers where you're trying to collect the most in a color/icon? I kept vacillating back and forth between generalizing 'Area Majority' to 'Majority' until the answer finally hit me: if the area is not well-defined and we're really only doing this scoring once at the end of the game, then this is a scoring system, not a genre!

So Area Majority must have a spatial component (i.e. there are adjacencies between areas), and the competition for majorities preferably needs to be abjudicated several times throughout the game (1960: The Making of the President might have the former but not the latter, it's still Area Majority EDIT: actually it might be Area Influence or Territorial Conquest, I need to check the rules again). When I went back to look at the ones that no longer fit in Area Majority, I was pleased to find they already had another Genre that fit a lot better (note to self: Risk Management and Risk Valuation are always candidates if I draw a blank on what Genre to tag).

In removing the 'Majority' label, I did unearth a group of similar games that share the concept of multiple arenas of 'battle' or tricks to take: Great Wall of China, Blue Moon Legends, Friday the 13th (yes, Knizia got a lot of mileage out of this design concept!), Warmachine: High Command, Omen: A Reign of War (any more examples?). I currently have them as a special case of 'Trick Scoring' where there are multiple tricks to play in (which is how I always explain the Knizia triumvirate to people), but I wonder if they should be in their own genre.
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Thu May 7, 2015 11:04 am
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Fun with Categorizing Games Part 2

David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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I approached the categorization of games as inferring a core list of descriptors/tags that influence the strategic experience of playing the game, then applying them to games.

ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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had a different approach in this thread, picking two from the myriad possible ways to describe a game, and sketching out what that would look like for games he knows. Not clear if 2 is the right number of dimensions to use here to amply describe a game; it probably isn't, but nevertheless, it's always a good exercise to start simple with 2 and visualize.

I'd like to think he doodled this on a napkin, then scanned it.

Part of me wishes he, as a friend, contrarian and deep theoretician, had told me about this sooner so I see his perspective (he had intimated this sometimes, but y'know, link or it didn't happen), but ultimately, I'm glad I found this now, years after the fact, because I didn't have the tools then to consider this in the manner it deserves. The sketch on the left represents the beginnings of a theoretical framework, so let's get out of the rabbit hole I dug and entered, consider it for its own merits, and formalize it a little bit. Let's also not worry about how to measure 'spatial element' and 'complexity', and take the points he listed as correct and representative (which I doubt even drunkenKOALA would agree, since he's learned a ton of games since). We care about the methodology, not accuracy, at this point.

Boiling down a ton of game features and dimensions into the two that intuitively matter to improve understanding and enable visualization is very common (Principal Component Analysis). The method of doing it is different (computing eigenvectors that maximize variance versus drunkenKOALA picking two features which he believes are the most important), but the idea is similar: pick two things that we hypothesize amply describe the entire data set, and... see if they do.

I reverse-engineered his 'data' into this Google Sheet, which you're welcome to edit or add new entries to and play with. I already did.

I first used a k-Means Clustering algorithm on this data, which spits back out what group each data belongs to by first randomly picking 5 centroids, calculating the distance of each point to the nearest centroid, then determining where the centroids should now be, rinse and repeat until convergence. The question was how many clusters to create, and 5 seemed fine both as something that looked like what he sketched out, and also my personal belief (Euro, Ameritrash, Wargame, Abstract, whatever you call that clump with 18XX, Chicago Express etc). The results are summarized in the plot below (or after the break, depending on how you're reading this):
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Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:56 am
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Game Genomes are Now Open Data!

David F
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Emeryville
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
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I only knew how to use Excel before, so I put all my theorycrafting in Excel form, which, I've learned since, is basically an eff-you-leave-me-alone. At best, the only people who could navigate to the right place in Excel were too similar to me, and I was missing out on the feedback generated by the limitless brainpower of smart people who don't bother with Excel.

So here we go, the data I generated is now in a Google Sheet. All my subsequent analysis will read from that as the source of truth. This was the most painless method of data entry I could find, and I'm sure I can export in JSON format if need be, but if you can recommend a better way/place to store this data and input additional rows, please let me know.

I'm excited to learn how YOU plan to use it, or what you agree and disagree with. Right now, anybody who clicks on the link is able to Comment (and export of course) only; if you or anyone you heartily recommend is interested in having edit permissions to this Google Sheet and be a de facto member of the mythical Game Metadata Tagging Committee, please let me know.

Also, can any of you recommend a simple version-control/wiki system where collaborators can check in changes to this master spreadsheet for approval, and a full history of changes exists to be reverted just in case? I'm looking for something simpler than a full-blown git repository (where learning the system is painful itself for new contributors), but with better table-edit/export capabilities than a regular wiki.
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Tue Apr 7, 2015 2:38 am
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Weep for Creep: Terra Mystica

David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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I don't want to do this too much. There are so many examples that it's an act of futility, and nobody likes to hear an old grump whine on about how this isn't really that, and you're just seeing it wrong, and thinking a subjective concept can be made concrete if you just say it is, and holding this up to his own pure standards, and blogging his diatribe, instead of, you know, doing something about it.

But... but... why does Terra Mystica have the Worker Placement Mechanic? cry

OK, I see the thinking here: the part of the game where you draft an economic and scoring bonus, what I would term Tile Drafting. And BGG doesn't have the delineation of Action Choice Drafting vs. Worker Placement.

But even by BGG's own definition, this fails.

More precisely referred to as "action drafting", this mechanism requires players to draft individual actions from a set that is available to all players. In a given round, drafting is done one-at-a-time and in turn order until all players have had a chance to draft individual actions. There is usually(*) a limit on the number of times a single action may be drafted each round. Once that limit is reached, an action can no longer be taken until a subsequent round or until the action space is no longer occupied by a worker. As such, not all actions can be taken by all players in a given round, and action 'blocking' occurs.

First reaction, wow, that was really long, a proverbial mouthful.

Getting to the heart of it, 1) you don't draft actions in Terra Mystica, you draft powers/bonuses, 2) the set is not available to all players, and 3) drafting is not done one-at-a-time and in turn order (instead, you draft from whatever's available when you pass on the round).

An actual action item though: I clicked on 'History' on the Worker Placement page, and found a list of users who are doing more than me recently by trying to salvage that monstrosity of a label. Let's see if mfaulk80, RichardBreese and rahdo, among many others, want a seat on the mythical Game Metadata Tagging Committee.

Glossary
Tile Drafting: Each player takes a turn in choosing or buying an asset or long-term special power (i.e. not an action) from a central pool, removing it from the menu other players can choose from. Minimal distractions should occur between each tile "draft".
– California, Coloretto, Factory Fun, Guillotine, Saint Petersburg, Thebes, Through the Ages

Action Choice Drafting: Pick an action from a set of options available to all players, and this action becomes unavailable, more scarce, or more expensive for other players. The action is resolved immediately after you pick it.
– Agricola, In the Year of the Dragon, In the Shadow of the Emperor, El Grande, Mr. Jack, Puerto Rico

Worker Placement: Claim/Reserve an action from a set of options available to all players, and this action becomes unavailable, more scarce, or more expensive for other players. All actions are resolved at a later time by a specific order, allowing for majority, tile-drafting elements etc and complicating valuations of each action.
– Age of Empires III, Caylus, Egizia, Nefertiti, Stone Age, Tribune: Primus Inter Pares
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Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:09 am
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BGG Category Facepalm

David F
United States
Emeryville
California
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
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A visceral look at how ill-fitting BGG Categories are: The Top Ranked Game in Each BGG Game Catagory, And The Game I'd Rather Try Instead. That motivated me to action 4 years ago and that it still bugs the crap out of me now makes me sheepish that I didn't keep banging that drum. Truthfully, general-interest merchandisers with much bigger fish to fry than board games at places like Amazon and Target are doing a far better job of classification than the hive-mind of BGG users and admins.

I will post again... in my long absence, I dove headlong into the world of interactive visualizations, data science and open-source collaboration. Now I want to surface/visualize the Genres, Mechanisms and Mezmorki's Game Format in a much, much clearer manner (with version-control) than an Excel spreadsheet, which is unwieldy and assumes you paid to have the right version installed if at all.
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Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:09 am
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Lacking in the 2v2 Game Format

David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Part of this framework is to start from a game-design 'theoretical' standpoint and point out gray spaces in design areas which are lacking or even unexplored (instead of the umpteenth incremental improvement of the civ or zombie game). There's some nice work generalizing what I called Inter-Player Relationships into the more theoretical (and much more catchy) Game Format framework.

Here's one of the game formats I think is lacking right now: Design Challenge: An Impassioned Plea for a 2v2 war-themed game
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Sat Oct 6, 2012 12:39 am
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Has Deckbuilding Arrived as a Genre or Mechanism?

David F
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
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The 3-tiered categorization I've put forth was never intended to be a Theory of Everything in board games. But even that Standard Model had some incompleteness, with the most obvious being lacking its own Higgs boson in descriptors for Dominion.

The Old Hybrid

This was 2010, or the year when Dominion copycats flooded the marketplace. With all these retreads of the same core engine, I was wary about creating a new entry to group together games which you know very clearly are peas from the same pod (Thunderstone, Ascension: Deckbuilding Game, Resident Evil Deck Building Game etc). Far more important to me was how to relate Dominion to the shoulders of other Eurogame giants. Hence, I attempted to deconstruct the "Deckbuilding" concept into the other descriptors I've laid out. Looking back, here's what I listed for Dominion.

Genre: EFFICIENCY ENGINE (Eurogame 101)
Mechanisms: TILE DRAFTING, DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION

Refusing to put any trace of deckbuilding into Genre was key, as back then, Dominion was so inseparable from "deckbuilding" that every person called it a "deckbuilding game", which confusingly blurs the line between genre and mechanism, like every single "auction game" out there (auctions are a mechanism, not a genre; there is no game out there where you try to win the most auctions, except maybe Trick Scoring, which is its own genre). I'm pleased to observe that the "Deck / Pool Building" BGG entry is rightfully placed under "Mechanic" and not "Category" (more on that later) - as opposed to "Auction", which is placed in "Category" instead of "Mechanic"..

This categorization of Dominion was my de facto template for all deckbuilding games. The EFFICIENCY ENGINE genome in Genre linked it to the large family history of Eurogames where you convert resources to VPs in an exponentially accelerating manner, while the mixture of those 2 mechanisms portrayed the "deckbuilding" mechanism: TILE DRAFTING because you are somewhat (albeit, very weakly) depriving your opponent of options with each purchase, especially at higher player counts (indeed, I'd like Dominion a lot more if it emphasized the tile-drafting aspect more by having the # of Kingdom cards scale with # of players); DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION, because of how weak the interaction of each purchase was, especially at lower player counts, and because buying treasure is a completely non-rival action.

The Catalyst

The next step came in the 2011 double-whammy of A Few Acres of Snow and Mage Knight Board Game, which crystallized "deck-building" as a mechanism, a means to an end, not the spirit of the game itself. This begged the question: can the previous categorization be melded into a single "deckbuilding" mechanism? Is "deckbuilding" different from a sum of its parts (TILE DRAFTING + DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION)? This creation of a new descriptor wasn't even conceivable before, because of my Rule of 3 -- to create a new descriptor, you need to name at least 3 examples -- which mitigates the creation of too many orphans without similarities to other games.

A difference in those two games pushes the case of a new mechanism. Where Dominion included both TILE DRAFTING and DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION, Mage Knight only has TILE DRAFTING in the "deckbuilding" process (usually 3 cards out at a time -- buy it and your opponent can't), while A Few Acres of Snow only has DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION (buy Empire cards from your private stash -- common pool elements like Location Cards and Native Americans are insignificant).* Yet it's firmly evident that Mage Knight and A Few Acres of Snow have more in common with each other mechanically than the former does with, say, Saint Petersburg and the latter does with, say, In the Year of the Dragon, canonical examples for TILE DRAFTING and DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION respectively.

* A better example is StarCraft: The Board Game, cited sometimes as the first game with "deckbuilding", which involves only DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION, since your upgrades are available only to you.

The New Mechanism

This only took so long, because it took me a while to try both games and confirm it.

DECK MANAGEMENT - Significantly, publicly alter the composition of your draw deck during the game.
- Starcraft: The Board Game, Dominion, Mage Knight: The Board Game, A Few Acres of Snow, descendants of Dominion

First, the name. I chose DECK MANAGEMENT instead of "deckbuilding", because the latter is too closely associated with customizable card games, a point further delineated by the clause "during the game". I remind you that customizable card/miniature games which are all about tweaking a deck beforehand and playing the metagame are not covered in my framework, since it's a form of game setup (like "modular board", which is also not covered); however, games with a well-defined setup phase and rules at the start of the game have their own mechanism, CUSTOMIZABLE DEPLOYMENT (e.g. Campaign Manager 2008, BattleLore, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation). Too many gamers have been confused by the bleeding together of Magic: The Gathering and Dominion, and wondering why people would lump them together (you shouldn't; Dominion being heralded as deckbuilding-translated-into-a-board-game was just a sales pitch). Furthermore, it's MANAGEMENT because it's not always about building your deck, but also about getting rid of bad cards to increase the density of your deck (value per card).

Significantly, to differentiate this from rare, routine game effects like shuffling discards to form a new draw deck, cards that allow you to shuffle into or retrieve from draw deck, and incidental additions to the draw deck (if only Middle-Earth Quest had incorporated more of what it hinted at...)

Yes, this turns out nearly identical to the "Deck / Pool Building" Mechanic, except with more careful wording. It doesn't always, but the important thing is to question if it makes sense, and I hope you're convinced that it does.

Fitting into the Existing Framework

Each time I put in a new genre or mechanism, it requires a reexamination of the existing framework to see what games should be moved back-and-forth, and what wording needs to be cleaned up. There was one obvious issue to resolve, which is why I underlined publicly in the DECK MANAGEMENT definition. Previously, I had used the TILE DRAFTING + DEVELOPMENTAL ACTION hybrid to cover "building a private deck" , and DECK STACKING to describe "building a public deck".

DECK STACKING (old) - Gradually alter a set of outcomes such that random events favor you more -- "stack the deck" -- usually through seeding and/or weeding a deck of common cards. The event outcomes can benefit you either directly, or through your partial knowledge of the deck make-up, which you use to prepare for the outcome.
- Battlestar Galactica, The Settlers of Catan, Shadows Over Camelot, Through the Ages

Too confusing (questions always arise for The Settlers of Catan) and it became evident that it's not the public/common or private deck that matters. It's the knowledge. In true DECK MANAGEMENT games, you and your opponents all know what ingredients you're throwing into your deck-stew; in the "sabotage" games listed above, it's your private knowledge of what you put in that gives you a leg up on your opponents. Hence, it has been amended to:

DECK SEEDING - Contribute cards face-down into a deck, such that you benefit directly from event outcomes, or indirectly through your partial knowledge of the deck composition (which you use to prepare for the outcome).
- Battlestar Galactica, Shadows Over Camelot, The Resistance, Through the Ages

Further Questions

Do you think Twilight Struggle should have DECK MANAGEMENT? The deck being built here is the discard pile, which is reshuffled twice in the game (but low # of shuffles doesn't detract, as seen in Mage Knight). The main sticking point is how significant the discard pile management is. You're not really deciding over what specific cards to leave in the discard pile (instead, you try to stick as many of your events there as possible instead of removing them from the game), but more tracking what specific cards have been removed from the game so you no longer need to worry about them.

You can see all the clarification of DECK SEEDING did was to omit Catan. Do you think The Settlers of Catan should have DECK MANAGEMENT (obviously, the definition would be slightly generalized to include non-card examples if so)?. This is arising from how you build your settlements on numbered spaces, and good things happen if that number is rolled on 2 D6s, so you want to try and cover as many #s as possible so more results of the dice roll favor you. I have always believed that Catan and Dominion are milestones of board game design because they tap into this shared Monopoly-influenced board-gaming consciousness, involving the mechanical similarity of building your realm up so random events favor you better. In one case, it's random events from dice; in the other, it's card draws. Whether you think they are equivalent depends on whether you think die rolls and card draws are meaningfully different forms of randomization or two sides of the same coin (and this comes up a lot in other mechanisms). The statistical answer of course is that one is draws without replacement and the other is draws with replacement (e.g. if you draw a '5' from a deck numbered 1-6, you know '5' won't come up again on future draws).

Do you have any examples of games like The Settlers of Catan where you systematically, through the course of the game, try to make a die roll or card draw -- some kind of random event -- more likely to benefit you?

That brought me to an idea for a new mechanism, which I'm hoping won't turn out to be too general. How about games where you "cover more space" like in Catan, but do so in order to make it more likely that players use your stuff (not to cover more space with the random event)? Your opponent has to pay you to do something -- think Monopoly, but with the active player being able to choose whether to land in your space instead of getting there through a random event (dice roll). Obvious examples include Caylus and Genoa, but can you think of more examples with this idea?

Tier 2 examples include Puerto Rico and the related card games San Juan, Race for the Galaxy, Glory to Rome etc. You set yourself up so that when your opponent picks the role you think they will, you benefit. Once again, painting your opponent into a corner. This is particularly attractive to me, because I've always thought ACTION CHOICE DRAFTING for Puerto Rico felt incomplete (with some users pointing out that the everybody-gets-something-but-I-get-extra dynamic is different from the more common I-get-something-and-you-don't). I think combining ACTION CHOICE DRAFTING with this new mechanism hits the nail on the head. It's definitely a lot better than the mess that is the BGG Mechanic associated with Puerto Rico, Variable Phase Order, which is so loosely and generally defined (I play this card before that card, I move this guy before that guy; hey isn't all this variable phase order too?) that it has resulted in all kinds of disparate games to be tagged with it, without a solid underlying thread. Variable Phase Order is the worst BGG Mechanic I've encountered so far. It's even worse than Hand Management when it comes to conveying information about the game.

Names I've been considering for this mechanism include Leeching, Help-You-Help-Me, Mutualism and Shadowing/Drafting. Definition is something along the lines of "Develop the board or your personal play area such that when your opponent picks an action, he/she is also forced to give you a direct benefit (e.g. money, VPs) according to the rules."

EDIT: added the "according to the rules, just to make clear this is a direct benefit. Not something like "you attacked him, so now she's safe".
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Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:46 am
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War of the Ring and the "Siege" Hybrid Genre

David F
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Let's start the first detailed post on this blog with the categorization of War of the Ring (first edition), my favorite game, which meant I was determined to get it correct. But WotR is a unique game, more pre-occupied with tiny rules and exceptions that add to the theme than lending itself nicely to fit in a conceptual box with other games. The closest genre descriptor was a "Siege" genre: one side pushes the action on multiple fronts while the other reacts and delays, but a game with this description would be a near-orphan in relation to other games. Were there really no similarities?

It's not purely a 2-player area influence game, because the Free Peoples can (and often does) go for moving the Fellowship instead of conquest, striving only to hold off the Shadow. How do you fit the hunt for the ring and the politics into your generic area influence framework? How do you differentiate this from other area-influence games, while maintaining the common heritage?

Two paths to victory. Two genres.

As always with Genres, start with the victory conditions. There are two for each side, suggesting there should be two genres: military victory and succeeding in the quest of the One Ring (either dunking it in Mount Doom or killing the Fellowship). The Shadow favors the military victory in general while the Free Peoples is disposed toward the One Ring, to lend asymmetry and thematic authenticity. The military victory component is classic Area Influence (War), recruiting armies, taking over areas in a piecemeal fashion, and adding to your recruitment base in the process (or in the case of War of the Ring, denying your opponent of recruitment bases). But how do you describe the quest of the One Ring, which involves cards, dice and chaos, and some kind of where-is-Frodo dynamic that isn't really a location-based deduction game in the vein of Fury of Dracula or Scotland Yard?

The closest I could match in my existing list of terms, without adding a new one just for the sake of WotR, was Breakout: Get your piece(s) to the other side. Your opponent actively tries to hinder your progress by placing obstacles, capturing your pieces and/or removing paths.

The Hybrid Genre

Breakout... really? The abstract-strategy dominated genre that characterizes games such as Chinese Checkers, Quoridor and Backgammon? Could War of the Ring really put one giant, iron-clad foot into this Zen pool?

Yes, because it's one foot, not two. The fact that War of the Ring is classed under 2 genres means that it's 50% Area Influence (War) and 50% Breakout, and is only a 50% match for both Risk and Quoridor. The 50% here works, making War of the Ring somewhat but not totally like the members in each genre. And the 50% fits with the 2 diametrically opposed sides and their different victory focus. This 50-50 of Area Influence and Breakout is an example of a hybrid genre, a genre that has similarities to (usually) 2 component genres, but combine to form something very different. I give the Area Influence (War) / Breakout hybrid the "Siege" label, loosely observing it as a hybrid genre where one side plays area influence for total conquest, and the other side stalls for time. In War of the Ring, it is to stall for enough time to dunk the One Ring.

The Rule of Three

What would be a 100% genre match for War of the Ring then? Right now, I can only come up with that game that actually attempts to simulate sieges. I have a Rule of Three I adhere to in my framework, in that new genres and mechanisms will only be created if they are at least 3 solid examples. This is to streamline the list and keep it manageable (instead of confusing others with multiple similar labels that probably do not matter to the average omni-gamer), and also to reduce the incidence of "orphan" games that have only 1 or 2 relatives (War of the Ring and Stronghold). So until another game is released or brought to my attention as embodying the "siege" spirit, the "siege" game will remain as a hybrid genre.

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As always, you'll need to refer to my master glossary of genres and mechanisms to understand the italicized terms.
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Fri Apr 6, 2012 10:35 pm
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Renamed and Relaunched!

David F
United States
Emeryville
California
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
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Somewhat premature to say this blog is back, when it was never truly here. After one blustery introductory post, I got sidetracked for a year on BGG by the noble pursuit of, er, playing PBF games. More importantly, my appetite for learning new games diminished, and I wanted the games I learned to be ones I liked, not popular ones that would add to the taxonomy. But new developments have compelled me to return from my sabbatical.

From the top
- Nearly 2 years ago, I drew upon the gameplay similarities and differences of 300+ games I knew to come up with a consistent, accurate classification of board game genres and mechanisms, culminating in An Alternative Classification of Board Games (long).

Since then
- Mezorki wrote a huge treatise on categorizing games, and helped set up the Game Genome Project Guild (here's the introductory post).
- Looks more likely that the proposed taxonomy is actionable, after I clean up some loose ends and get some consensus on certain gray areas. No longer about getting more games into the classification system (which handcuffed me from trying games I'm genuinely interested in), but to clarify and elucidate, so it may be outsourced to others who understand the nuances and how to apply the taxonomy.

That's what this blog is for: to highlight certain salient aspects and examples of the taxonomy, to clarify some of the more confusing and badly worded parts, and to get feedback on some areas of inadequate or bad coverage.

Let's get started! I've renamed the blog to coincide with the re-launch of this blog, exactly a year after that first post. Here's a selection of some of the items scheduled for the next few weeks.

- War of the Ring and the 'Siege' Hybrid Genre
- A Disambiguation of Area Control
- Setting Up the Board
- How Well is a Game Themed?
- Agricola vs. Puerto Rico: Siblings or Cousins?
- What is an 'Economic' Game?
- Cards, Tiles and the Card Game in Disguise
- Eclipse: Stretching the Definitions
- The Civilization Game Explained
- What is Elegance?
- Has Deckbuilding Arrived as a Genre or Mechanism?
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Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:00 am
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