Deliberate Design Decisions
Have you ever played a game and asked yourself why a designer made a particular decision and really puzzled it through until you thought you knew the answer? It’s an amazing design exercise, and I encourage you to try it first chance you can.
Consider: everything you see in front of you is a deliberate design decision. Everything. Either a designer or group of designers decided it would be that way for very specific reasons or it happened over the course of play to the surprise of the designers who then decided to keep it. I consider it an archeological dig of sorts into a designer’s mind, and if you don’t happen to know the designers personally, this is about as close as you’re going to get.
This happened to me most recently with Ticket to Ride. If you haven’t played it, go buy it. It’s one of the five board games everyone should own. It’s endlessly replayable and fun for a wide variety of individuals. You can play for free online, but it’s something you’ll want in box form, too. It’s way more fun to play with friends in the same room. It’s designer, Alan Moon, set up the draw like this:
In drawing train cards to get new routes, the player may draw two per turn from either a pile of cards which are all face down or from a group of five train card which are all face up. The player is also free to draw one from each.
Why? It’s a matter of risk/reward and delayed gratification.
- Do you want precisely what you want now at the risk of revealing your plans to fellow players?
- Would you rather keep your plans private and hope that the deck gives you what you need?
In my current group, people tend to play non-aggressively and don’t deliberately do things to screw up the other players. This may have changed after the last session, though. I sort of, well, started something. Anyway, there are more layers to Moon’s decisions. Why 2 cards vs. one? Why five cards out?
In looking for a pic for this article, I came across a post on Soren Johnson’s site where he puzzled over Moon’s decision to apply a particular narrative. This is something designers do. You play a bunch, and then you start asking questions.