Monday, August 20, 2012

Everything is an Auction

For my 2012 game, Nieuw Amsterdam, soon to be released through White Goblin Games, I returned to one of the staple mechanisms of modern board games: the auction.  The mechanism was a central part of so many games of the past two decades, and the most prolific designers of that time produced many of the classics of the genre that we still play today.  Reiner Knizia, in particular, used variations of the mechanism again and again with Modern Art, Medici, Ra, Amun Re, Money, and many more.  Even a look at the father of modern board games, Monopoly, reveals that auctions are central to the rules—when played correctly, of course.

The mechanism is so engrained in the language of game design, in fact, that auction games are being created without being recognized as such—even by their creators.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Theme and Mechanics in Party Planning

Last weekend, we experienced, for the first and last time, the Einschulung of our chidren (who happen to be twin sons). This is an enormous celebration for German children who are beginning elementary school. There is a ceremony at the school and parties for family and friends afterwards. The children receive paper cones filled with sweets and school supplies, along with gigantic backpacks that are so boxy and top-heavy, they resemble something the astronauts take with them on space walks.

The day for the Einschulung of our sons also happened to fall on their birthday, so we were celebrating two beginning-of-school parties (there really isn't any equivalent in the United States) and two birthdays at the same time, although we saved the birthday party for their Kindergarten friends for this Sunday.

As my wife and I were planning it, I realized partway through that we were both approaching it from different angles--in game design terms. My wife was looking at the mechanics of the party: what kinds of games, food and other fun elements we could incorporate, and what the schedule could look like.

I also participated in the brainstorming, however I soon found myself wondering aloud what the theme of the party could be.

"That doesn't really matter at this point."

"Yes it does"

"We first need to figure out what kinds of things we are going to do."

"Yes, but sometimes the theme can give me ideas on other things we can do."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

POSTCARD FROM BERLIN #22: Home Sick and Krankgeschrieben

By Jeffrey D. Allers 

Editor's note:  this was originally posted on December 1, 2007, on the now-defunct Boardgamenews website.  I am publishing the article again because it was during this time that the design for my forthcoming game, Nieuw Amsterdam, was born.

I apologize if this article sounds a bit nasal, but I’m home sick and, frankly, lucky to get in a complete sentence between sneezes. “Gesundheit!” you may say, as the Germans do without ever skipping a beat. The word actually means “health,” a subject my Berlin friends take quite seriously. In fact, most seem to have studied medicine, as they are never afraid to disagree with my doctor’s diagnosis and offer their own alternative treatment program.

I think that I’ve now received about all the health advice they can give me, as my 15-month-old twin sons have been sick for most of the past two months. My wife and I are averaging three trips to the clinic each week, in about every conceivable combination: Mom with son, Dad with other son, Mom alone, or the whole family. Our doctor is a wonderful person and all, but we wouldn’t mind seeing less of her.