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

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Nestortiles: Little Bits of Gaming Goodness

Nestortiles is something new from Spanish publisher Néstor Romeral Andrés: not just a game but a game system in the form of packs of these funky foam panels that can slot together to form not only customizable dice, but also elaborate 3D structures. The panels look like a really neat way to quickly prototype custom dice for game design projects and the standard pack of 60 panels would allow for a massive variety of different combinations of colour and number to tried out. Plus, you get a fun building toy at the same time! What’s not to like?

More information is available on the nestorgames website and on the product’s BoardGameGeek listing. [via BGDF]

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No-One Eats Cake to Taste the Flour

For a while now I have been struggling to make progress with some of my game designs. I have plenty of ideas, and many prototypes, but when a particular design doesn’t quite cut (which is, on sober reflection, most of the time) it can be difficult to see the path ahead.

Gil Hova, a game designer from New Jersey whom I met in New York a couple of months ago, recently tweeted that one of his own designs wasn’t working, and that “it just doesn’t have that pop”. I thought at the time that this was a particularly eloquent and efficient description of a sophisticated problem. All I can say is: I know the feeling.

A game is not — cannot be — merely the sum of it parts. Take a box of components, a few mechanics, a little, or a lot, of theme; add some choice, or some chance, or mix the two to your pleasing; throw in a helping of tactics, or maybe a slice of strategy. Shake, stew, blend, bake or even leave in a warm, dark place for a few hours covered with a damp tea-towel, and what have you got? Well, 9 times out of 10 — if not 99 times out of a 100 — you’ll get something that looks exactly like its constituent parts. Only more messy. Which is to say you’ve got something only a mother could love.

The only question that counts, of course, is to ask of the game: “Is it fun?”

“Is it fun?” (bellows the incredulous and imaginary designer). “Didn’t you notice how clever it was? Didn’t you stop to admire all these hand-picked, top-quality ingredients! Or marvel at my cunning for putting all of them together with such subtlety, novelty and elegance? Did no-one ever tell you that a definition of genius is the ability to connect the unconnected?”

“Yes, I noticed all of that” (whispers the patient, implacable and equally imaginary playtester). “I’m not an idiot — and you, I hope, are smarter than you look — but you have created an experience that I don’t enjoy. And this isn’t the first time. Did no-one ever tell you that a definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?”

So I would say the following, principally because I think I need reminding: if a game isn’t fun then it isn’t much of a game. The point of creating it is to entertain, and not to demonstrate either the ingenuity of its construction or that of its designer.

Like I said, no-one eats cake to taste the flour.

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A Couple of Cubic Curiosities

This excellent set of laser-cut dice coasters from designer Philip Morrison are available from the Ponoko website — the so-called ‘world’s easiest making system’ — and would cut quite a dash under anyone’s wine glass, although they would be a little cumbersome in your next game of Settlers. For that you might consider a couple of these hansom handmade — or should that more precisely be hand-engineered? — dice from self-styled Dicecreator Abraham Neddermann.

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