PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Review: Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design

BBTGDcover.jpgGeoffrey Engelstein and Isaac Shalev, Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2020). 491pp. USD$63.96 paperback.

 

Engelstein and Isaac Shalev have put together what is, in essence, a very useful encyclopedia of the main mechanisms in tabletop game design. The volume outlines no fewer than 194 different approaches, broken down into thirteen different categories:

  1. Game structures
  2. Turn order and structure terminology
  3. Actions
  4. Resolution
  5. Game end and victory
  6. Uncertainty
  7. Economics
  8. Auctions
  9. Worker Placement
  10. Movement
  11. Area Control
  12. Set collection
  13. Card mechanisms

For each they provide a description and graphic representation of the mechanism and a summary of its strengths, weakness, and game consequences. They also discuss  some representative games in which the mechanism is used. Entries are typically 2-3 pages long each, as shown below.

The descriptions are clear and readily comprehensible, even for gaming neophytes, while the discussions offer insight that more experienced game designers will also find useful.

Were this excellent volume a little cheaper I would certainly use it as a supplementary text for my conflict simulation design course at McGill University. I will, however, certainly be using it as a course resource. It is also available as a much cheaper e-book rental format.

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