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If you’re interested in going deep on this sort of thing, a couple friends wrote a book that is basically a whole lot of this: Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms
I think anything by Days of Wonder (five tribes, small world) for how well their rulebooks are laid out.
And Scythe for it's board/art design that helps you remember the rules with it's very layout.
Tigris and Euphrates, for how it flips your preconditions of strategy on its head.
And I would recommend Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1138365491/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apan_glt_i_AGR7XHFH4Q3S01KD8AAE
You can find a bunch of his stuff on BGG, and even just the iconography is helpful for thinking about mechanics and how to describe them in a rulebook.
You should check out Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms. It’s impressively comprehensive
There's certainly a lot more in-depth analysis in the book, including tips and traps for the mechanisms, variations in usage, etc. Close to the entire first chapter is available as a preview on Amazon. That should give you a pretty good idea of what it contains, and whether or not you will find it valuable.
Here's the Amazon link - just go to "Look inside" or get a kindle sample.
I've always found Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms useful. It's ostensibly for board games but there's a lot of relevant content.
I also always recommend Uncertainty in Games by Costikyan as a great resource on adding uncertainty in, well, your games.
> Building Blocks of tabletop Game Design
Your comment got me curious so I checked Amazon. It looks like a very large percentage of the book is available for preview Here https://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Tabletop-Game-Design/dp/1138365491. Gonna definitely read some myself!
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design is definitely the one you want. One of the authors was running the Ludology podcast for many years until retiring not long ago.
This book is also the basis for BGG's revamped and more-granular Mechanics section.
It is available for pre-order on amazon right now. https://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Tabletop-Game-Design/dp/1138365491/ref=sr_1_1?crid=377LW4Y59O3ZG
Here you go. Enjoy!
Which is taken from and missing a lot of detail from: https://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Tabletop-Game-Design/dp/1138365491
That expensive book occasionally goes on sale, which is how I got mine.
Game design diaries are not good as learning tools. They're more like literal diaries. Like reading the diary of a sailor to learn how to sail. Sure there might be some interesting details, but none of the day-to-day stuff.
Generally when I've talked to people about getting into this you want to distinguish one thing up front. Do you want to:
If you want to make one game, just dive right in. Make mistakes. Go too far. Figure things out. It might take longer than expected, but at some point you'll have a game.
If you want to make many games, then it would benefit you to learn more about the craft. I spent a year or two in 2011-2012 studying game design. Reading articles, watching videos, reading rulebooks, GDC talks, etc... Doesn't have to be tabletop, digital is good too (just understand that the medium is VERY different).
My general understanding is that you'll need to practice. Make bad games, little side projects, make an expansion for an existing game, write up a document with all the improvements you'd want to see in Monopoly. And playtest! Playtesting is one of the most valuable things you can be doing as a designer, seeing your game in action lets you verify whether the work you've done is going in the right direction, and what the problems are. There is also some skill to playtesting effectively, I could talk about it, but there are also resources online that do justice.
From there I became somewhat active in my local community, going to game design meetups, entering contests, forums, etc... Absorbing info from being around others who've been doing it for awhile. I happened to be a little lucky in this regard; I'm in NJ, there is a NYC playtest group, Philly Gamer's Guild, and sometimes game design meetups happening in NJ too. If you can't find people IRL there are a dozen online communities that meet up all the time. Join them! Sit in on playtests. See what other people are working on, play the game, give them feedback. You'll learn a good bit of the "craft" just by being around others trying to do the same thing you are.
As far as Textbooks go I don't think they are that useful overall. Maybe they'll help if you are completely green, but it sounds like you already have some design experience under your belt. Google says this is a start: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/97442/top-3-books-board-game-design
There's also this book as an encyclopedia of game mechanics: https://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Tabletop-Game-Design/dp/1138365491
I haven't had a chance to read the books above, but I recall looking through them at some point. I don't think that you could just read and memorize them to "know kung fu" at the end. Game design is a practice, an artistic practice. You need to go out and make things that have never existed before, and to a books that only talk about things that already exist will have limitations in that regard. These could certainly help supplement that by giving you a better formal knowledge of the craft, but you need to be hands-on to really get there IMHO.
Something that might be good for you is this: https://twitter.com/TabletopMentor?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
It's a program made by Mike Belsole that pairs up students and people in the industry to help them make some progress. Skillsets vary WILDLY, both between the students and the mentors. There are mentors who are like, 10 year professional veterans, but also who are like me, passionate serious amateur hobbyists. Also some of the students are brand new and others have some pretty good game design chops, but feel like they need some help reaching their goals. Anyways, you might try kicking your name in there are see what happens. I'd recommend you do it ONLY if you have time to commit at least a handful of hours to game design each week. I was a mentor 3 times and got a little frustrated when my students never made any progress in-between sessions. Working with passionate students who DID put in some time and made good progress was very rewarding tho.
I think the first step with a new game design is trying to concretely visualize the game in your head. Spreadsheets and Miro can help can help with this by keeping track of your ideas, and how they fit or don't fit together. But its not like A + B + C + D = designed game. It's more like you're trying to solve a puzzle or create a new kind of origami, examining all the different components and trying to come up with something that makes cohesive sense.
So your question then might be: how do you do that? By learning about all the puzzle pieces / folds and learning how they fit together, and by looking at what other people have done, and then trying to come up with something yourself. I don't know if it makes sense trying to formalize this process; in my experience its so contextual and nonlinear that all I would end up giving you is the equivalent of a designer's diary. Which, mind you, would be helpful! It's a shame we don't see more of those.
Resources I can recommend:
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses which I would consider essential reading for any designer.
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design is an encyclopedia of board game mechanics, which it would be good to familiarize yourself with.
What Games Are is a bit old at this point but I certainly learned a lot by reading it when I was younger.
Cardboard Edison is a great resource (https://cardboardedison.com/) as is Board Game Design Forum (https://www.bgdf.com/).
I'll also humbly suggest my books:
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design (https://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Tabletop-Game-Design/dp/1138365491)
Game Production: Prototyping and Producing Your Board Game (https://www.amazon.com/Game-Production-Prototyping-Producing-Board-ebook/dp/B08NC57B7T)
Achievement Relocked: Loss Aversion and Game Design (https://www.amazon.com/Achievement-Relocked-Aversion-Playful-Thinking/dp/026204353X)
Board Game Design Lab is a fantastic website with a wealth of resources to help you out with each step of the creative process. I also highly recommend listening to Ludology, a podcast with Gil Hova and Geoff Engelstein (previously, I haven't listened in a bit so I'm not familiar with who took his place). Geoff, in particular, has taken a very scholarly approach to game design (I believe he teaches a course at a university in the US) and has 3 published books which are also fantastic resources. It sounds like Building Blocks would be useful in your situation, but boy is it pricey!
Nice video! I too am one of those "theme first" developers - which has its advantages, but it does probably mean more iterations on mechanics ultimately. For that I highly recommend this expensive book:
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms https://www.amazon.com/dp/1138365491/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_gcJCFbB02DG84
Very useful when you start play testing more and need inspiration on mechanics that best fit your theme.
Speaking of theme...as an Expanse fan I have to share this one:
What I like about this scene is it's showing off "hard world building" within the space battle trope. Instead of energy shields, warp drives, and particle beams, it's stuff we as the audience can understand and find plausible - high G maneuvers hurting people, weapon slugs penetrating the hull of the ship, precautionary spacesuits for the crew...
Not that you have to do a hard worldbuild, but I find it an intriguing take on the trope because it draws us in as something plausible in a hundred years or so (and overall the Expanse does this very well as a hard sci fi show)
I could just as easily see something intriguing with a softer worldbuild (a la star trek). Overall it is a fascinating topic that I'm still grappling with for my own theme - a really good discussion about soft worldbuilding can be seen here:
Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design by Geoffrey Engelstein is a books that lists a lot of common rule structures for board games. Its useful to reference when design board games. Each chapter lists a number of ways other games tackle design problems and mentions numerous examples of games and their specific implementation.
Here's a podcast where they talk about the book!
Building blocks of Tabletop Game Design.