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

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Citius, Altius, Fortius and All That: The London Olympics and an unexpected hanging


I am no sports fan, but I have been enjoying the Olympics — and not just out of a sense of patriotic duty. As a games designer it’s fascinating and salutary to reflect on how different sports choose to codify and enforce the rules that surround their athletes’ endeavours. The ‘Olympic spirit’ speaks to the romantic notions of sportsmanship and fair play, but in the arena of international competition that spirit isn’t enough. It’s practical application has to be translated into a written rulebook, and that’s when things start to get complicated.

There have been lots of examples in the past two weeks of how the the romantic spirit of true sportsmanship interacts with the classical application of sporting law, but the most striking was the controversy surrounding the disqualification of eight badminton players for “not using one's best efforts to win”. I shan’t rehearse all of the arguments here; fortunately others have done that for me: London-based game design studio Hide & Seek handily put the two key positions in a single tweet:

The question is this: Were the athletes right to play to lose individual matches so as to better their overall chances, or were the judges right to disqualify them on the grounds that they were breaking the rules by doing so? David Sirlin’s classicist view is that the athletes didn’t break any rules: they were ‘playing to win’ all along, and knew that their best chances of winning the tournament was to lose those matches. Pat Kane’s romantic opinion is that not only did the players break the rules, but they broke something more fundamental and more meaningful too: the social contract of the Olympic ideal.

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Divinare: 3 months later


In April, my game Divinare was published by Asmodee. How have things been going since then?

The graph above shows one measure of the game’s success: it’s performance in the BoardGameGeek rankings. I wouldn’t want you to think that I have nothing better to do than obsessively monitor the game’s stats, but unless I had done exactly that, I would not have been able to bring you this information! (Many Bothans died, etc., etc.) I’m not sure what the graph really means, but compared to other 2012 releases Divinare is doing pretty well, and remains, for now, on a slowly rising trajectory.

The reviews are in!

Gratifyingly the feedback from players has been overwhelmingly positive. Tom Vasel gave it a very enthusiastic reception in his video review for The Dice Tower, and elsewhere there were two thoughtful and entertainingly well-written reviews from Matt Drake (Drake’s Flames) and Robert Florence (Rock, Paper, Shotgun). The game has also been reviewed in German by Guido on Tric Trac, and in French on SciFi-Universe.

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Everything Old is New Again


Today BrettSpiel is reborn, so if you’re reading this via the RSS feed, take a moment to click through to see the transformation.

The new design, in keeping with current web design trends, is more expansive, much less cluttered, and uses nifty new CSS tricks and snazzy typefaces courtesy of Typekit. There’s now room for much larger images and videos, plus space for additional content: just click the About or Archive links top-right. It’s very pleasing to leaf through the old posts and see them all looking so fresh and new.

I have also upgraded to the widely used Disqus comments system. This means you can easily sign in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google account, so if you’re passing, do feel free to say “Hello!”

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