I’m meeting my neighbor for an afternoon of Maria. I’ve spent the morning reading the rules (I missed Sivel’s earlier Frederick) and they seem pretty clear cut.
The first thing I did, though, was turn to the design notes. One of the constant themes of both Flash of Steel and Three Moves Ahead has been a desire to understand how game designers transform history into rules and what those rules say about the designers’ understanding of history. I love design notes.
For Maria, a game on the War of the Austrian Succession, Sivel faced a lot of problems and dealt with them in rather dramatic ways. He ripped the Italian Front out (it doesn’t start in earnest till the war is half over, so why bother?), he struggled to capture the allied tension between Austria and her “Pragmatic” allies (Holland, Britain, Hanover), and he surprised himself when the introduction of another mini-system solved all of his other problems with defining victory.
One of the side benefits of design notes is that they confirm in my mind that, though I am a passable critic, I have no real future as a game designer. It requires the sort of sideways thinking that neither me nor my Stoic logic are especially good at. Yeah, games are logic and math and all that, but there’s a creative spark that’s required – a spark that lets you make the leap from understanding a history to translating that history into a rule set. I don’t have that spark; I can see when a system is not working or when it misses something integral to what it is trying to capture, but I’ll be damned if I can just think up a new one on the spot.