The Once and Future Format

After spending so much time among strategy gamers, and falling under the influence of people like Troy, Julian, and Bill Abner, I have become a convert to board gaming and it’s now one of my favorite pursuits. However, I’ve also become fascinated by the potential for board gaming to help revitalize strategy on electronic platforms. The Escapist let me explore how board game sensibilities are infiltrating the casual game market. That piece went up yesterday.

My thesis is that there are elements of board gaming that might well be the cure to what ails modern strategy and wargaming, and that modern networking provides the ideal platform for employing mechanics that were formerly only possible with board games. I set out to prove my case, and along the way, I chatted up Soren Johnson, Brian Reynolds, Iron Helmet’s Jay Kyburz (Neptune’s Pride), Petroglyph Community Manager Mathew Anderson (regarding Panzer General: Allied Assault), and Muzzy Lane’s Dave McCool. Go give it a read, and by all means leave comments over at The Escapist.

  1. The great thing about board games (I’m going to include games like Dominion in that category) is, as you say, it lets me sit around with my friends in a social environment and interact with them in new and interesting ways. Oddly, I have more than once been in a situation where my friends and I wanted to play L4D, but couldn’t– we were all in the same room.

    To me, this gets to the heart of “why I game”; games serve 1 of 2 functions. Either they let me inhabit a role I wouldn’t otherwise fill, or they let me interact with my friends (or strangers) in new and interesting ways. I think you’re right to note that games took a wrong turn into simulation, and I’m happy to see this is changing…

    • karl spork
    • July 30th, 2010 12:51am

    You must must must play Cosmic Encounter

  2. I’ve recently started to realize how sad it is that strategy games, board and digital, are rarely considered as one design spectrum, but more often as two wholly different realms. In my mind, the true beauty of wargaming is the ability to capture historical patterns through simple rules interactions. In other words, let historical truths emerge out of the design of the mechanics rather than through explicitly stated exceptions.

    I wish that more digital game designers realized that, while having a computer manage the mechanics of your game allows for increased complexity, too much complexity and detail can fog the clarity for the player. Since cardboard game designers have to fold history into the nooks of their designs to retain simplicity, we get some really interesting innovations: the multiple usages of cards in Combat Commander; the sense of espionage encoded into hand management in Twilight Struggle; fog of war and unit strength in block games; or, command structures in an impulse driven game like A Victory Lost.

    I rarely feel such cleverness emerge from ubercomplex video games where every last detail can be hard-coded into the game. I think that’s why I have been unable to get into games like EU or HoI. I’m happy to see the regression that you point out, like how Civ V will be going in a cardboard direction (albeit fully taking advantage of the allowances a video game brings), or the wonderful ingenuity of Vic Davis’ games.

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