BrettSpiel is a blog about board game design, written by game designer Brett J. Gilbert.

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The Tools of the Trade

A recent post on Lewis Pulsipher’s blog discusses the characteristics of the successful game designer. The article was first posted on the video game website GameCareerGuide, and Lewis’ focus is primarily on video game designers, although he bundles in ‘non-electronic’ game designers too; it is certainly true that many characteristics of the successful designer are common to both.

He points out that creativity, though necessary, is hardly sufficient; as in most things the successful designer must be persistent too. Successful writers and artists are successful principally because they are writers and artists 24/7; they have no ‘off’ switch. His thesis is to highlight the sorts of behaviour, both intellectual and practical, that can contribute to game design success.

Of all his observations, the one I think is perhaps the simplest and the most valuable is the suggestion that designers maintain a notebook of game-related ideas. And I would suggest that the important thing is to carry this notebook with you at all times, so that during those quiet moments in coffee shops, at airports or on park benches, the opportunity to record your latest brainwave or creative nugget is always there.

This is precisely how I operate, and I have been keeping just such a notebook (or rather, several successive notebooks) for the past 8 years, ever since my interest in designing games re-emerged. For me, many of my game ideas are direct results of this process; the notebook has been not just a way of recording ideas but also of generating them. The genesis of game designs are many and various, but my own approach is often primarily visual: a consideration of the physical arrangement or design of game components. I use my notebook as a way of capturing and organizing these fleeting and ethereal notions, and experimenting with their real-world, in-game application. And often I have gone back to ideas after weeks, months or even years, something that would be impossible without the discipline of using a notebook in the first place.

So, if you are a game designer and do not have a notebook, then I urge and implore you to go out right now and get yourself one! I have become rather particular about the sort of notebook and pen then I prefer to use.

My notebook of choice is a WHSmith spiral-bound A4 ruled pad. The spiral binding means that the pad can be folded back on itself which makes writing and drawing on it in different orientations easier. The A4 page size means a lot of ideas can be expressed together on a single page. The ruling is a useful guide, not for writing, but for drawing anything that has straight edges or is on a grid (such as a gameboard).

And as for a pen, I always go for the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner. This is, in my view, a pen amongst pens. The fine fibre tip allows for a great deal of detail and control when drawing and writing, and the barrel is thin enough for the entire pen to be placed into the spiral binding of the pad when the the pad and pen are put away, ensuring that I never reach for the pad to discover I don’t have the pen with me too!

Post scriptum

This post marks a milestone in my blogging history. This is the 50th BrettSpiel blog post, which is approximately 48½ more posts than I expected to write when I started BrettSpiel. I hope I can continue to enlighten and entertain, not only myself but also my readers — here’s to the next 50!

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Quotables #005

It seems impossible that this story is indeed anything but legend, but it speaks so loudly and perfectly of its topic that it deserves an audience, regardess of its historical veracity. [1099 via Build Internet! via undrln]

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded…

Madame, it took me my entire life.

Pablo Picasso

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The Adventure of the Unlucky Gamer

In which Holmes and Watson consider the solution to a most curious mystery, in an excerpt taken from Arthur Conan Doyle’s recently discovered collection ‘The Ludography of Sherlock Holmes’.

“And what do you make of these, Watson?” asked Holmes, taking his pipe from his mouth and tapping its tip on the paper scraps we had found at the abandoned house.

“Some sort of message?” I said. Holmes nodded. “An anagram perhaps?” But he seemed unimpressed with this suggestion.

“The question is, what is our unfortunate client trying to tell us? We now know, of course, that he has fled the country by boat.” He looked at me quizzically, his pipe back in his mouth.

I thought for a moment. “His destination!” I exclaimed. “Of course, Holmes! But how are we to understand his meaning?”

Holmes leant forward and placed his fingers on the scraps. “Each of these represents one of the modern parlour games that I believe are now quite the rage in the major European capitals.”

“So,” I said slowly, seeing Holmes’ mind at work and hoping I might keep up, “if each is part of the name of one of these parlour games, then we must first discover what those names are?”

“Indeed,” said Holmes, “and we can also surmise that those names must be arranged in a particular order before the message may be understood.”

“But what order Holmes?” I asked. “Alphabetical, perhaps?”

Holmes shook his head at this, and sank back into his chair. He turned his head deliberately toward the clock on the mantel and spent a short while considering the slow, measured movement of its hands.

I spoke again, suddenly remembering what else we had discovered at that wretched house. “And what are we to make of the number scrawled on the window pane? What can ‘13’ possibly mean?”

“Those digits are indeed a clue,” Holmes said slowly.

And then, quite suddenly, he sprang up. Brandishing his pipe at me he said “I have it, Watson! And I would wager that even you might fathom this particular puzzle if you spend even a little time thinking about it! Quickly Watson! The game is afoot!”

A most curious mystery indeed! Fortunately for Watson (and us!) there is a useful catalogue available containing details of these so-called ‘modern parlour games’ of which Holmes spoke. And it seems likely, does it not, that not only may the information needed to solve this puzzle be found there, but that the answer to the riddle itself is also present within its pages.

Holmes may already have realized the truth, but perhaps you can beat Watson?

  • What are the names of the parlour games?
  • In what order should they be placed?
  • How can the mysterious number ‘13’ help?
  • And where, finally, can Holmes’ latest client be found?

Please feel free to add your answers, notes and queries as comments to this post. There are no prizes I’m afraid; the reward on offer is a purely intellectual one.

I hope you enjoy the puzzle. Good luck!

And if you came all this way from one of Dale Yu’s column over at Boardgame News then remember to go back (February 12th column or February 17th column) to ask questions or post comments!

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Gifts for Gamers

In which I discover Etsy, and a few of its hand-crafted gaming goodies.

I’d never heard of Etsy until just a few days ago, but it turns out to be a treasure-trove of all sorts of hand-crafted, and hence totally unique items; some, all or none of which might well appeal to the gamer in you, or indeed to the gamer in someone you know. It’s kind of like eBay, but without the auctions and the fact that almost everything on eBay nowadays is pretty much over-priced Buy-It-Now rubbish.

Here are some items I liked; follow the links in the list below to check them out for yourself. (Note: I am in no way affiliated with Etsy or any of the makers!)

  1. Scrabble — Coasters made from fused plastic Scrabble tiles. Neat!
  2. Hnefetafl — A hand-made edition of the so-called ‘Viking chess’. The board is made of individual stone tesserae set into a wooden frame, and the game uses glass beads for men. An elegant, if hefty, coffee-table item.
  3. Clue — A cute spiral-bound journal that uses sections of a Clue board for the cover and has a weapon card on the ribbon bookmark. The maker has a range of other journals using elements from other board games too.
  4. Chess — A lovingly crafted hand-quilted chess set. Hardly suitable for tournament play, but a nice item for, say, a chess-playing cat.
  5. Political Capital — At $1000 this game is not going to get many takers, I think; and how many boxes of Trivial Pursuits did the maker need to get hold of to scavenge all those pieces?
  6. Carcassonne — Meeple keychains. That’s right: keychains with meeples. Need I say more? What part of ‘meeple keychain’ did you not understand?
  7. 221b Baker Street: The Master Detective Game — A really nice use of some vintage board game art. The clock is ticking; the game is afoot!
  8. Pegs and Jokers — The interlocking hardwood sections means the board can be built to cater for 2–6 players. Although I’m not familiar with pegs and jokers, I’m guessing it’s similar to that stalwart of my childhood, Sorry.
  9. Cribbage — As someone once said ‘People today aren’t pegging enough out!’ and therefore what the world needs is more perspex cribbage boards.

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Quotables #004

Chess is work. Checkers is play.

John Maeda

Twitter has just delivered to me this nugget of gaming wisdom. I appreciate that many people will disagree on exactly what consistutes ‘play’, but to me this statement sums up exactly why I do not enjoy many abstract strategy games: they simply seem too much like hard work.

Checkers is an abstract strategy game, of course, but one of a quite different order than chess. With checkers I feel that I am playing the game. With chess I feel as if the game is playing me.

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Game Review #006: Carpe Astra

Carpe Astra by Ted Cheatham and Jackson Pope is a middle-weight tactical game for 2–4 players that combines a pleasing mix of tile laying, card play, resource management and area control mechanisms in an attractive, well-produced package.

Yesterday I got a chance to play it for the first time and played two games at Inner Sanctum Collectibles in Cambridge who were hosting a demonstration day for the game’s publisher and co-designer Jackson Pope of Reiver Games. In my first game I started well, but ran out of money and options towards the end; in my second I was a little smarter (and luckier!) so had enough ready cash to engineer a slim victory. And in both games one of my competitors was Jackson himself, so I think I did pretty well!

See more: Game Reviews…

The compact game box contains a nice collection of components: two decks of cards, sturdy cardboard punch-sheets of tiles, tokens and coins, four sets of wooden playing pieces, and a full-colour rules booklet. The game set-up scales well for 2, 3 or 4 players, with the hexagonal tiles used cleverly to create a balanced initial layout in each case.

The array of components means there’s quite a lot going on; this makes for an engaging experience, if a mildly bewildering one for the newcomer. In my games Jackson did a very good job of explaining the game’s rules and revealing the relatively simple core idea, but it took a while for me to mentally ‘connect the dots’ and see how all the pieces fitted together (he said, mixing his puzzle metaphors). However, in play everything became clear after just a couple of rounds.

In a galaxy far, far away…

The conceit is that the players represent factions of an archetypical Galactic senate, and as is the case with almost all archetypical Galactic senates (as represented in various popular film and television franchises!) it seems a rather dysfunctional one. The players vie for influence in this somewhat bellicose political environment by creating temporary ‘networks’ of agents (their playing pieces) that connect their own leader, the senate or another player’s character (each represented by a single hexagonal tile) with specific factions, as represented by six different symbols on the main double-hexagon tiles.

Image: The players’ agents head out into the political landscape, looking for trouble, no doubt.

The game begins with each player already having two influence tokens of their own faction, two random ‘Network’ cards and a mere five coins, which, it turns out, is not much of a warchest. A player gets a couple of free actions each turn, but almost everything else costs (this is politics, after all) so running out of money or not having enough to compete effectively in the final few rounds is not a viable strategy. Look after those pennies, people!

Players gain the all-important influence tokens by creating networks that contain an instance of that symbol, and then playing a matching card. Each card shows 2 or 3 of these faction symbols and the cards themselves come in two flavours ‘Network’ or ‘Slander’. Successfully play a Network card and you may take a token from the common pool; play a Slander card and you may take it from another player and return it to the pool (if you want to keep it for yourself you need to pay a coin). When you draw cards you may choose to draw either variety, so the game begins with players drawing Network cards (and collecting influence from the pool) before necessarily switching mid-game to Slander cards (once the pool has run dry).

The tick of the clock

The game last just 10 rounds, with this timeline represented by 10 random ‘Event’ cards drawn at the beginning of the game from a separate deck. In each round, except for the first, one Event is in play, and these allow players to gain additional advantages (more money or extra cards) if they can successfully play Network or Slander cards featuring specific factions in that round. Since the only other way to gain money in the game is to play no cards in a turn (and hence gain no influence) players must try to take advantage of these events if they want want to do well. The events in the two forthcoming rounds are always revealed (the remainder are laid face-down) so it is possible to plan ahead to some degree.

Image: The Network, Slander and Event cards show off some of the game’s excellent artwork. The quirky, edgy style is a good choice for the space-opera theme and makes a refreshing change from the popular ‘magical realist’ style seen in many modern eurogames.

Although the tile layout can grow as the game progresses, this only happens if the players actively choose to pay to place tiles in their turn, so the board can remain very tight. Adding tiles can indeed make gaining influence easier at the start of the game but players need to be careful. Any tiles laid close to their own character will make slandering much easier for their opponents later on.

So, although this is a game with tiles, it is not a ‘tile-laying’ game in the sense familiar to, for example, Carcassonne players. The gameplay is not dependent on building and populating an ever-expanding landscape; rather each turn players have to manipulate and utilise the limited arena created by the tiles as efficiently as possible. In this respect the game can be a bit of a puzzler, with the possibility of downtime between turns while your opponents try to wrap their head round the various permissible permutations of the tile layout, their cards and their usually limited finance.

Once the slandering kicks off, however, any previously good relations between players are likely to become strained. There’s little a player can do to directly protect himself from slander, so in this case attack (and counter-attack) is the best and only form of defense. The final scoring is based on the influence each player has accrued (and kept hold of) at the end of the 10 rounds and this information is open. The leader, then, is likely to get a good bit of bashing, at least until such time that he isn’t the leader any more! The scoring, entirely dependent on the relative distribution of the influence tokens of all six factions at the end of the game is a little mathsy, but does set-up some interesting choices.

The art of the possible

I greatly enjoyed both my games of Carpe Astra. For me, it had the right mix of tactics and strategy (that is, more of the former and less of the latter) and enough options in each turn to allow me to feel as if I was making positive, useful choices, even if I wasn’t at all times keeping up with my opponents.

The inescapable luck of the card draw (and the ability to mitigate it by paying to swap cards in your turn) means that it may always be possible to overcome bad choices (or bad luck) in earlier turns, so hope is never completely lost. And being an inveterate puzzler, the problem of manipulating the tiles and my agents in each turn was an enjoyable exercise. There’s plenty of player interaction, with the game forcing the players to eventually confront each other, whether they like it or not!

The game’s unforgiving end-game reminded me of the oft-quoted lines from Thomas Hobbes’ influential political treatise Leviathan, which as luck would have it I was reading about on Wikipedia only the other day.

Hobbes argued that the natural state of men, stripped of the central political authority provided by an absolute monarch, was to lead a life that was ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, and that since everyone would have a right to everything, there would exist a natural and constant state of conflict, a situation he rather pithily summed up (in Latin) as follows:

Bellum omnium contra omes’ / ‘The war of all against all

Thomas Hobbes

Play nice children, play nice.

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LEGO Board Game Countdown

Hat tip to Huw Millington over at Brickset for alerting me, and the LEGO and board gaming community at large, to some recent developments at LEGO.com HQ. The flash animation (which at the moment is the only content available) is entertaining enough, but doesn’t tell us very much that we didn’t already know.

The given release date of July 1st is at least a whole month earlier than previously reported, so get ready to empty your piggy banks!

Update: A link in one of the comments posted to the original Brickset article points at a relatively recent (March 2009) Guardian article which discusses how well LEGO continues to do after all these years. And hidden near the end is some more information about the LEGO board games, namely that (the article suggests) they were developed en masse by a British designer called Cephas Howard (an ex-Guardian employee apparently, which perhaps explains the scoop).

I haven’t seen this name posted elsewhere, nor have I ever heard of him. Will the real Cephas Howard pleased stand up and make himself known? (I am assuming it isn’t this guy.)

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‘Diathogonally’

Ian Henry of the Tabletop blog has coined this rather useful gaming term (which somehow the apparently million-word-strong* English language has not yet thought it necessary to include). I just spotted it in his recently posted discussion of the abstract Ataxx, although Google tells me that he first used it last month.

In case his meaning is not immediately clear (although it really ought to be) he’s created what grammarians would refer to as a ‘portmanteau’ word: a combination of ‘diagonally’ and ‘orthogonally’. So, for example, a chess piece placed on a square somewhere in the middle of a chessboard could be said to have eightdiathogonally’ adjacent spaces. Handy!

Given how often this concept is used in all sorts of contexts the word really deserves more widespread adoption. And if you do indeed spot it cropping up elsewhere, well, you heard it here first second.

* Nonsense, obviously. More reliable sources suggest the total is more like 250,000 (still quite a lot, it must be said) of which roughly 1 in 5 aren’t even used anymore.

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Quotables #003

A mode of composition that does not assign itself limits becomes pure fantasy.

Igor Stravinsky

This pearl of wisdom comes from Stavinsky’s Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons — of which more may be read here — a publication collated from a series of lectures he gave at Harvard in 1939–40.

His sentiment — that creative freedom requires limits to be productive — seems counter-intuitive at first glance. Fortunately he goes on to explain himself…

And yet which of us has ever heard talk of art as other than a realm of freedom? This sort of heresy is uniformally widespread because it is imagined that art is outside the bounds of ordinary activity. Well, in art as in everything else, one can build only upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure, constantly renders movement impossible.

My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned to myself for each one of my undertakings.

I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the claims that shackle the spirit.

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Publish and Be Damned!

In which I consider the lot of the board game reviewer, and what a lot it is!

A confluence of recent postings scattered across the internet (board gaming division) prompted me to think again about the art (or otherwise) of the board game reviewer. Bruno Faidutti posted an editorial speculating whether, since literary criticism is seen as a legitimate literary form in its own right, could the same be said of board game reviews? Bruno named a single exemplar: that of Matt Drake, who posts his self-identified flames both on his own website and on BoardGameGeek (of which more later).

Matt’s writing is interesting (always a good start!) for its knowlingly quirky style and occasionally caustic sarcasm, and Bruno was perhaps suggesting we needed more of the same. (Well, I think he was; it’s possible this was an example of Gallic sarcasm at its most deadpan and Bruno was actually throwing Matt a trans-Atlantic slap-down.)

Anyway, very recently both Matt, in a post on Drake’s Flames, and W. Eric Martin, in an editorial on BoardgameNews, have tackled the business of being board game reviewers with two very different takes on the process, and I urge you to follow the links in this paragraph and go read them right away!

You can’t please everybody all the time

Let me say first, that I have the utmost respect for anyone who commits their own intellectual and emotional capital to creating and publishing anything. Anything at all. And within the board game community there are many individuals doing precisely that while at the same time committing their own financial security, and that of their loved ones and families. Good luck to them, I say!

And that sentiment applies just as much to the game designers and publishers as it does to the commentators, which only makes the thorny issue of board game reviews even thornier. Some people — and Matt mentions just one devilishly entertaining example (skip down to here and then read on) — get terribly exercised about them, which I would say is, on balance, probably a good thing, since it tells us the community is populated with passionate and extraordinary people. And better that than the opposite. As someone smart once observed:

I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.

Voltaire

Now, I do not wish to paint myself as either a selfless libertarian or an agent provocateur, and so I would suggest that a moderate reading of Voltaire’s slightly histrionic proclamation is this: We’d all be better off most of the time, if we considered most of what other people said as — to borrow one of the headings in Eric’s post — nothing personal.

Drake and his flamin’ flames of fire

To be useful reviews need, of course, to present some of the facts about a game, but they also need to present an actual opinion, positive or negative; and this is exactly what Eric and Matt do, albeit with markedly different language! Eric writes honestly and even-handedly about the games he reviews, looking from his own particular viewpoint at the success or failure of the mechanisms and gameplay. Matt’s style is — how shall I put this? — a little different, but it is no less personal.

Now for me, as a Brit, sarcasm is bred in the bone. The lowest form of wit, you say? Hardly. But if you are one of those people who don’t quite get sarcasm, then perhaps you would indeed be happier if you stayed away from Matt’s writings (and maybe, on occasion, mine) but I’d much rather you didn’t.

And I trust that Matt never gives up his ‘no surrender, no retreat’ policy. To be effective, criticism, like comedy, has to be fearless. It mustn’t be wrapped in craven caveats such as ‘Only joking!’ or faux ‘<sarcasm>’ tags. That would simply be the worst of all possible worlds.

The last word

As usual, I find myself reminded of poetry. It’s a character flaw. But first I shall point out that all this nonsense, all this light-hearted banter, bristling back and forth, and moderate ego bruising, is all in the service of board games. That’s right people! We’re not discussing world peace, the dismantlement of scientific endeavour by zealots seeking to deny the progress of reason since the Enlightenment, or even something as monumentally important as the minutiae of the new iPhone. It’s all just about the games! Here’s the poetry:

So leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
 And, in some corner of the Hubbub couch’d
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee!

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

And as for Matt? Well, more power to him and his flamin’ elbow.

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The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog: The Card Game!

I like this. Partly because it’s a card game; mostly because it’s a card game about typography. A long time ago I used to work for a publisher (of real books!) and part of my job was to source and manage the creation of text designs. Before my introduction to the subject I didn’t know my hyphens from my en dashes, my points from my picas (12 points to the pica, 6 picas to the inch!), let alone my Bodoni from my Baskerville.

However, once you get your head round the lingo typographic design is fascinating and a deeply sophisticated and subtle art. I have never looked at type the same way since.

This card game is the work of a Brazilian design firm, produced in a limited run as a self-promotional item (and therefore sadly unavailable to purchase). The game itself is nothing more than the traditional game of ‘pairs’, but it’s the overall design of the cards and their packaging that makes it such fun for the typophile.

Image: Can you spot the classic typefaces? Univers, Fruitger, Rockwell, Trajan and Times New Roman are all in there, along with some less familiar ones such as Centaur and Rotis Semi Sans.

The deck consists of 20 pairs of cards each representing a different typeface, plus four cards with some typographic information and additional graphics (including an actual fox leaping over a very lazy looking dog!). If you check out the photos on the company’s website you’ll see how the final decks were created: first collated from separate stacks of the different cards and then vacuum-packed by hand.

Image: I love the way that the individual decks were carefully fanned out prior to being vacuum-packed.

Typography and typographic design, like board game design, has its own set of conventions, fashions and techniques, plus a bulging lexicon of bewildering terminology. It’s also very easy to get desperately wrong in subtle ways that the majority of people will never, ever notice.

After I’d started to learn a little about typography and understand not just some of its language but also some of its more obscure technicalities, I began to see mistakes which had previously been invisible to me. I think this phenomenon exists in all fields of design, although typography is a particularly technical creative endeavour, and one with a much higher barrier to entry than many others.

Frederic Goudy, a famous type designer, is often quoted* as having said this:

Men who would letterspace lowercase would steal sheep.

Frederic Goudy

Now, to most people this sounds meaningless, and to most it literally is meaningless. Most people would neither notice letterspaced lowercase nor understand what might be wrong with it. But as far as Mr Goudy was concerned such carelessness was to be regarded very much as a high crime and not a mere misdemeanor; it was also very much the thin end of the wedge.

Here’s the rub: Just because most people don’t notice the difference does not mean that design makes no difference. The cumulative effect of bad design — thoughtless, lazy and all too common — is nothing less than a slow erosion of the human spirit. Good design, if we can find it, is therefore a thoroughly necessary medicine.

* In fact this is almost certainly a misquote. It seems that a more accurate retelling of Goudy’s reaction — when handed a typeset certificate at a typographical awards ceremony — was that he rather ungratefully (and more coarsely) observed that: ‘Men who would letterspace black letter would shag sheep’. To spare typographers’ blushes, and to render the quote a little more mainstream, the whole thing was later deliberately editorialized with the words ‘lowercase’ and ‘steal’, the general consensus being that letterspacing lowercase was just as bad. Of course, the stridency of Goudy’s original sentiment is somewhat diminished; it seems he regarded letterspacing as not just a more criminal act but also a significantly more perverse one too!

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O Reader, Where Art Thou?

In which I wonder aloud who all my readers actually are!

Starting a blog is something of an act of faith, of the ‘build it and they will come’ variety (to continue yesterday’s baseball theme). It necessarily starts off as a performance without an audience. And although my readship remains, shall we say, ‘select’, it’s been fun to watch how the numbers of visitors and feed subscribers have been trending very slowly upwards.

But curiosity has got the best of me! So this post is an open call to anyone reading it to drop by and leave a quick comment. If you can say who you are, where you’re from, and why you’re reading my ramblings on board game design, then I’d be (as us Brits say) chuffed to bits. (Being ‘chuffed to bits’ is, as painful as it sounds, a good thing, in case you were wondering.)

Perhaps, like Jackson Pope you are an adventuring game publisher, or like W. Eric Martin a tireless reporter of the industry, or like Dennis Hoyle an educator interested in applying board game mechanics in the workplace, or like Lorien Green a documentary film-maker interested in designer board games, or like me a hobbyist game designer with dreams of board gaming glory… or none of the above.

So, who, where and why are you? (With grateful thanks in advance for your time!)

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Quotables #002

Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.

Branch Rickey

There may be many maxims about design, but this one has the benefit of being both pithily short and highlighting an easily overlooked truth: that to achieve success in creative endeavours being smart, though necessary, is hardly sufficient.

Branch Rickey was an American baseball player and manager who, history records, following a somewhat mediocre playing career, was single-handedly responsible for redefining how Major League Baseball was managed in the States and is now regarded as something of a visionary of the sport. (Note that I am neither a sports fan, nor an American, so my knowledge and appreciation of the game and the cultural impact of famous baseballers is pretty much non-existant.)

The quote appears widely on the web, often in a sporting context and often in an even pithier form: ‘Luck is the residue of design’. The notion, of course, is that you can ‘make your own luck’ by being smart enough to engineer the possibility of success into both the things your create and your creative techniques.

Elsewhere I have found the same sentiment in other forms, such as ‘Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity’, which isn’t as pithy and is curiously attributed to Oprah Winfrey.

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