Game Analysis and Design

This is a tentative schedule that may be changed based on the needs of the students, the needs of the instructor, or any unforeseen events that may occur during the semester.

Week 1: Labor Day (no class)

Notice there are tasks to complete for next week!

Week 2: Mechanisms

Due today #. Watch Extra Credits: A case for boardgames #. Complete the Gamer survey
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 1 - In the beginning, there is the designer - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 3 - The experience rises out of a game - *A Theory of Fun*, Ch 3 - What games are - [Wierd Giraffe Games: Starting points]( - [Magic the Gathering: Ten things every game needs]( - [Kobold Book of Game Design Project: Design intuitively]( - [Shut Up & Sit Down: A feast of friends! (video)]( - [Vsauce: Why do we play games? (video)]( - [Weird Giraffe Games: Things you wished you knew when you started designing]( - [The Games Journal: What is a game?](
  • #. Writing assignment #. (optional) Try Game definitions, hit refresh a few times Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. syllabus scavenger hunt #. what is a game? #. The goal of a game is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." –Knizia #. win gracefully, lose gracefully, take notes #. aesthetics/theme vs. mechanics - Loco! - Diamant - Botswana - Incan Gold - Thor #. discussion question (readings)

    Week 3: Psychology of games (fun survey)

    Due today #.
  • Readings (required) - [MDA: A formal approach to game design and game research (Hunicke et al.)](
  • Readings (choose two) - [Ludology: Thinking beyond mechanisms, ep 6 (audio)]( - [@BreakMyGameG: Favorite playtesting questions]( - [WIRED by Design: A game designer explains the counterintuitive secret to fun (video)]( - [Magic the Gathering: Twenty years, twenty lessons learned]( - [Game Developer: Gamification - Framing the question]( - Game Developer: Cognitive Flow - The psychology of great game design - [Games Precipice: What motivates us to play games?]( - [Pulsipher Game Design Project: Why we play games]( - [League of Gamemakers: The right type of fun for your game]( - [3DTotal Games: Motivations for gaming]( - [Creaking Shelves: Can games be bad?]( - [Quantric Foundry: The primary motivations of board gamers, 7 takeaways ]( - [Sid Meier's psychology of Game Design Project: Everything you know is wrong (video)]( - [Gaming with Edo: Game mechanics or rules that ruin board game! (video)]( - [Gaming Indoors: How to capture the game mechanics of any game! (video)]( - [GameTek: Colonoscopies and board games, the peak-end rule]( - [The Games Journal: What makes a game good?](
  • #. Writing assignment #. Plan 1-2 questions to analyze "Fun" in board games, the word "fun" is not allowed Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. discussion question (readings) #. develop Fun Survey to analyze games - cannot use "fun" - identify "good" questions - use previous survey to add/subtract questions - compare questions and consolidate #. how to teach Carcassonne (online: BGA-premium) #. modify Fun Survey? #. minimum viable product?
    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Eight tips for productive prototyping (p. 86-90) - [Stop reading this and design your own game (Herkewitz)]( - [Prototype priorities (Major)]( - [Jamaica: a pirate-themed tactical race game with player interaction and side goals (Pauchon)]( - [Step 1: Create a prototype quickly (Slack)]( - [Wingspan - board game breakdown (Elizabeth Hargrave & Candice Harris)]( - [The "make it" design method (Hitt, 2020)]( - The Leap From Imaginative to Creative. Making a Prototype (Loot Bag Games)
  • #. Writing assignment #. Prepare a "print and play game" (make components, learn game, practice playing). Game must be different from other group members and ~30 minutes long. Be prepared to teach fellow students. Possible sources: - PNPArcade's Prototype Zone - PNPArcades' free games - Jellybean print-and-play - JackD free games - Asmodee Print & Play (requires free account) #. (Optional) Bring craft supplies like paper, scissors, markers, crayons, etc. just in case they are needed Class overview [πŸ“‹]() #. test PNP games #. test Fun survey #. modifications to Fun Survey? #. (if time) modifications to PNP? #. fail faster (with Hans Kishel?) #. discussion question (how to build PNP easier/faster?)

    Week 4: Prepare to playtest roll-and-writes

    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 25 - Playtesting (Schell) - [Valve's "Secret Weapon"]( - Weird Giraffe Games: Playtesting Goals - Extra Credits: Fail faster (video) - [Raph Koster: On getting criticism]( - [One Thousand XP: First playtests (video)]( - Brandon the Game Dev: 7 subtle player behaviors you should notice when play-testing - Gnome Stew: How to get the most out of playtesting - Weird Giraffe Games: Breaking your game - How to lead a playtest w/ Emma Larkins (video) - Playtesting: How to find people and what to do once you have them (video) - Board Game Design Course: Getting good feedback (and what to do with it) - Board Game Design Course: Playtesting questions to ask - Shell Games: Definitive guide to playtest questions
  • #. Writing assignment #. (optional) Read rules for games listed below New groups (please wait to sign-in) Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. roll-and-writes - Railroad Ink (online) - demo: Qwixx - demo: Voyages #. flip-and-fills - Welcome To … #. what are polyominos? - Cartographers - demo: Second Chance - demo: Patchwork Doodle #. revisions to Fun survey? #. discussion questions

    Week 5: Playtesting practice

    Due today #. Read [BGG: Advice on how to be a good playtester]( #. NO writing assignment #. Prepare Roll-and-write prototypes for group members Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. teach, playtest, Fun Surveys (30 minutes each) #. assign Roll-and-write playtest journal #. Fun survey
    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch. 12 - Game mechanics support puzzles - Game design chat: Puzzle games with Rita Orlov (Kopp, video) - Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities (Nicholson, 2015) - Creating engaging escape rooms for the classroom (Nicholson, 2018) - Ask why: Creating a better player experience through environmental storytelling and consistency in escape room design (Nicholson, 2016) - Escape room puzzle design workshop | Renegade Con 2020 (Wild Optimists) - Thematic solitaires for the spare time challenged: The automa approach (Pedersen, choose one of multiple blog entries) - Escape the (remote) classroom: An online escape room for remote learning (Vergne, Smith, & Bowen, 2020) - Designing puzzles and escaping the room (Comic-Con Museum, video) - [Mechanics roundup: Roll & write]( (ShippBoard Games)
  • #. Writing assignment #. Play Unlock! Demo "Tutorial" (via Space Cowboys or Asmodee). Note: color is often important. Complete Fun survey. #. Prepare (print, cut, color) Sprawlopolis pnp to play in class. Note: game cards are intended to be double-sided, but can still be played if single-sided. #. (optional) Hogwarts Digital Escape Room Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. game analysis - Unlock demos (Elite cards) - Sprawlopolis - recap: Carcasonne - demo: Silver & Gold - Grand Austria roll and write? #. discussion questions #. Fun survey

    Week 6: Themes

    Due today #. Roll-and-write playtest journal
  • Readings (choose two) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 5 - The elements support a theme (Schell) - *A Theory of Fun*, Ch 4 - What games teach us (Koster) - [Shipp Board Games: So you need a theme]( - Extra Credits: Mechanics as metaphor, part 1 (video) - Extra Credits: Snakes and Ladders: How meaning of a game changes over time (video) - [League of Gamemakers: The themes, they are a' changing](
  • #. Writing assignment #. Rules explainers with assignments given below
    (note: rules explaining has a high priority, let the instructor know if you need an extension on other assignments) #. Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. game analysis - Century: Golem edition with Ray N - Jamaica with Jagar S - Mysterium with Blake W - Quacks of Quedlinburg with Alyssa Y - Zooloretto with Steven D -! Fresco #. discussion questions #. how much does theme impact the game? how difficult would it be to retheme the game? #. goal: mechanics and theme should support each other #. Fun survey

    Week 7: Cooperation

    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 21 - Some games are played with other players (Schell) - 5 problems with co-op game design (and possible solutions) (Kumar) - [Reiner's approach to game design (video)]( - North Star Game Studio: How to fix the biggest problem in cooperative games - Leacock: Cooperation and engagement (video) - Board Game Design Lab: The two types of cooperative games with Peter Hayward - Kim: Opening keynote presentation - The player's journey (video) - [Boardgame Design Course: How to create an amazing co-op game]( - [ShippBoard Games: Defining conflict](
  • #. Writing assignment #. rules explainers, see assignments below #. New groups (please wait to sign in) Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. game analysis - Castle Panic with Thomas D - Flash Point: Fire Rescue with Nguyen N - Forbidden Island with Ben D - Hanabi with Kyden T - Pandemic Hot Zone: North America with Jinxxy J -! Horrified #. Just One (player boards) #. discussion question #. co-op issues #. Fun survey
    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - *Art of Game Design*, Ch 10.6 - Chance - [League of Gamemakers: Game Elements: Uncertainty]( - [League of Gamemakers: Probability for game designers]( - [League of Gamemakers: Game Elements - Scoring]( - [League of Gamemakers: Stealthy math]( - [@KelvinWilson42: "let's talk about using math in game design"]( - [GameTek 183: Input Output Randomness]( - [@ammourazz: Swinginess vs randomness]( - [@KevinWilson42: Underlying math for a game]( - [Board Game Design Lab: Removing math from games with Dan Peterson (audio)]( - [Board Game Design Lab: Using math to design better games with Emerson Matsuuchi (audio)]( - [GameTek: Your friend the hypergeometric distribution]( - Randomness, and β€œRandom Value Absorption Thresholds” (Burgun)
  • #. Writing assignment Class overview [πŸ“‹]() #. today's slides #. expected value, probability, counting, using spreadsheets, game theory? use familiar games! #. randomness in games - Can't Stop - Catan - Space Base #.

    Week 8: Player psychology and strategies

    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - Tom Lehmann on opportunity cost (video) - BoardGame Country: Board game strategies - A comprehensive guid to winning more games - Gamer's Guides: Strategy vs tactics board games - [Bartle: Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players who suit MUDs]( - University XP: What are tactics? - University XP: What is strategy in gameplay? - [GameTek: Staggered goal engagement theory]( - [ShippBoard Games: Theming player strategies]( - [Ludology GameTek Classic 61: Choices [audio]]( - Gilbert: Why we make bad decisions (video) - Sagan: A new way to think about rules to live by - Shut Up & Sit Down: How to win games and manipulate people - Reddit/r/boardgames: Is there a single strategy in any one game that you know about that, if others realized it, they would probably like the game better? - Reddit/r/boardgames: Improving strategic thinking - Applecline: A theory of game - Psychology & the Prisoner's Dilemma
  • #. Writing assignment #. rules explainers, see assignments below Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. game analysis - Bohnanza with Ellah O - Downfall of Pompeii with Eljah W - Stone Age with Valarie S [note: remove 3 huts per stack] - Ticket to Ride with Maddie M - Tikal with Carl L [note: remove F & G tiles] -! Dominion with ??? #. strategies? #. discussion questions #. Fun survey Assign Design Documents (due two weeks)

    Week 9: Game balancing

    Due today #.
  • Readings (choose three) - Art of Game Design, Ch 11. Game mechanics must be in balance (Schell) - [Ludology: Thinking beyond Mechanisms (audio)]( - [GameTek: Telling Fibs]( - [GameTek: Balancing act (Englestein)]( - [GameTek: Balance part 2]( - Level drain and loss aversion in D&D (Madigan) - [Pulsipher Game Design: How to improve replayability?]( - [Designing fun (Ernest, video)]( - [How to make game easier (@emmlarkins)]( - [BoardGameGeek's Table talk: That's overpowered! (video)]( - The psychology of scoring in solo cartographers (Cardboard Mountain) - [Jeff's World of Game Design: Winning at game design by designing at winning]( - [BoardGameGeek: First player advantage and game balance]( - Czech Games Edition: Playtesting Lost Ruins of Arnak - Expedition Leaders, part 2 - [BoardGameGeek: Types of 'Market' mechanisms. Any favourites?]( - [How to prevent runaway leaders in board game design (Porter)]( - [Turn order advantage]( - What is a bidding game? (Dix)
  • #. Writing assignment #. rules explainers, see assignments below #. New groups (please wait to sign in) Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. balancing: turn order advantage, double or halve, down time, auctions, feedback, numbers #. game analysis - For Sale with Aubrie V - No Thanks with Piper E - Point Salad with Kyle H - Shifting Stones with Caleb S - Wits and Wagers with Clara B -! #. (if time) Rhino Hero, the irony of game balancing #. discussion questions #. Fun survey Reminder Design Documents (due next week)

    Week 10: Evergreen games

    Due today #. Game Design Project: Design documents
  • Readings (choose two) - [Stonemaier Games: Evergreen Games - What Do They Have in Common?]( - [Game Trade Magazine: The history of Ticket to Ride]( - [Stonemaier Games: Designer Diary - Wingspan]( - [The Genesis of 7 Wonders]( -! [JonGetsGames: Rondels & what they do!]( - [Cardboard Mountain: How Lords of Waterdeep was balanced]( - [Dominion Strategy: The secret history of the Dominion](
  • #. Writing assignment #. rules explainers, see assignments below Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. game analysis - 7 Wonders with Jack R - Azul with Evan R - Lords of Waterdeep with Lindsay B - Wingspan with Sam W - Horrified with Prof. Hlas #. discussion questions #. prototyping tips: - Hans examples - board for Flash Point: Fire Rescue - 100 cards vs. 10×10 (see Engelstein's never the same deck twice) #. Fun survey

    Week 11: Education, equity, ethics

    Due today #.
  • Readings about education (choose one): - Jesse Schell: Gamifying work (video) - Jesse Schell: Design outside the box (video) - Dan Meyer: Video games & making math more like things students like - Medium: 12 big ideas from game design you should know - Amy Jo Kim: 7 Gamification myths, debunked - Mindset board game (Leow) - Thoughts and conversations: I made a game about anxiety - Thoughts and conversations: I made a game about depression that isn't depressing - [Luminescence design diary #1 (Lorenc)]( - Using board games to teach and communicate science: Covalence (Critchley)
  • Readings about equity (choose one): - [Space-Biff!: Our house is a very very very Molly House]( - Reconnecting the dots: A response to the King of Average about Frosthaven (Shelf Stories) - [The Dice Tower: Lack of diversity and representation in the hobby (featuring Rodney Smith, video)]( - An analysis of gender-inclusive language and imagery in top-ranked board game rulebooks (Jones) - How games approach sensitive & controversial themes (Stegmaier, video) - Assessing gender and racial representation in the board game industry (Pobuda) - Supporting blind gamers (Reed)
  • Readings about ethics (choose one): - Jesse Schell: Visions of the Gampeocalypse (video) - Brenda Romero: Gaming for understanding (video) - [The prototype that was banned from Halfbrick (explicit)]( - Extra Credits: Humane design - Games must be good to their players (video) - [Cogito Design: Morality and mechanics, part 1 (video)]( - Mrwhosetheboss: How mobile games are designed to SCAM you - No Pun Included: Colonialism - The board game struggle (video) - Gabe Barrett: Can board games end homelessness? (video)
  • #. Writing assignment #. NO rules explainers! #. (optional) Read BoardGameGeek descriptions for Carcassonne expansions listed below #. (optional) Trolley problem or Universal paperclips or Parable of Polygons Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. education: learning, chunking, groking, gamification #. game analysis - Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals - Carcassonne: Traders and Builders - Carcassonne: Princess and Dragon - Carcassonne: Star Wars - Carcassonne: Tower #. equity/0diversity: discuss characters in Roll Player, One Deck Dungeon, Pandemic Hot Zone #. discussion questions #. time to meet with group #. Fun survey

    Week 12: First playtest

    Due today #. Prototype 1
  • (optional) playtesting tips: - Board Game Design Course: Top 5 components you need for making prototypes
  • #. NO writing assignment New groups (assigned for playtesting) Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. designer leads first playtest #. reminders #. playtests #. discuss Designer's Diary #. Fun survey

    Week 13: Second playtest (A/B)

    Due today #. Prototype 1
  • (optional) playtesting tips: - Playtester Feedback: a Carcassonne parable for game designers (Adam in Wales) - How to tell when play-testing feedback is useful or not (Rollins) - [What is your biggest game design/playtesting secret?]( (@BreakMyGameG) - [Write down results]( (Rollins) - 7 subtle player behaviors you should notice when play-testing (Rollins)
  • #. NO writing assignment Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. developer (or game designer) leads A/B testing #. Fun survey

    Week 14: Third playtest (blind)

    Due today #. Prototype 3
  • (optional) rulebook tips: - League of Gamemakers: Watching people use your rulebook - Brandon the Game Dev: 8 signs your game is ready for blind play-testing - League of Gamemakers: Instructions - a game's gateway - League of Gamemakers: Following rules is hard, writing rules is harder! - Daniel Solis: Tips for rulebooks - It's Complicated: Writing board game rules
  • #. NO writing assignment Class overview [πŸ“‹]( #. graphic designer (if available) leads blind playtest #. Fun survey #. discuss faculty night

    Week 15: Final playtest (Faculty night!)

    Due today #.
  • (optional) read
  • #. Bring internet connected device for professor evaluations #. Project reminders - Game Design Project: "Final" prototype (due) - Game design diary (due final exam time) #. Class overview [πŸ“‹]() #. design team chooses explainer, explainer has option to also play - Session 1: 4:10-5:10 - Session 2: 5:15-6:15 #. Fun survey optional #. Wrap-up, evals, discuss final class + exit ticket

    Final class

    Due today #. Designer diaries to Canvas #. if you cannot attend the final class, please see the Exit ticket in Canvas #### Class overview #. Exit ticket - complete What game designers do (in 6 words or less) - Complete Board Game Motivation Survey, explore your results and share with the class #.! Postmortem (example) #. Q & A