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Design Notes Again

March 7th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Board Games, Me

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.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Angry Gamer

    I may pick up Tide of Iron by FFG at this years GenCon….course I have no one to play it with but I beta test it. I miss board games…

  • Natus

    Troy, please let us know how it goes. I’ve been in rehearsal so much I’ve missed playing Maria with my group, but apparently they love it. I own and like Friedrich, but I hear Maria is even better.

  • Chris King

    I wouldn’t give up hope just yet Troy. You would be surprised where some of these design ideas come from. I do my best work down the pub.

  • Dirk

    Maria is a wonderful game, you’re going to have a great time playing it. Too bad there are only two of you though.

    For others interested, here’s a session report/review I put up on BGG about it:


  • Quinten

    I wish I had the time/people to play games like this. The people I go to school with consider Memoir ’44 complicated, which makes busting out something like this or Agricola a bad idea.