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April 26, 2017
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Lewis Pulsipher's Blog   Expert Blogs


Dr. Lew Pulsipher started playing boardgames more than 50 years ago. He designed his own games, then discovered strategic "realistic" gaming with early Avalon Hill wargames, and ultimately earned a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history. His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish” was published in July 2012 by McFarland. He contributed to ETC Press' Analog: Tabltop Game Design.  Formerly contributing editor to several role-playing game magazines and author of over a hundred game magazine articles, he is designer of Britannia (UK, US, and Germany in separate editions), Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Swords and Wizardry, and Diplomacy Games & Variants. Britannia (2nd edition) appeared in 2006, with foreign editions (German, French, Spanish, Hungarian) in 2008. It was described in an Armchair General review of a 2006 edition as "ready to continue on as one of the great titles in the world of games".

Latest published game, Sea Kings (2015).

Latest published book, Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish, 2012.

Online audiovisual courses at :

  • Learning Game Design (parts 1 and 2)
  • Brief Introduction to Game Design
  • How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games
  • Get a Job in the Video Game Industry
  • How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents)
  • The Joys of Game Design (hobbiest game design)
  • Brief Introduction to RPG design
  • Playteseting: the Heart of Game Design
  • Conceiving a New Game: Tips for Aspiring Designers (free)
  • Prospering at Game Conventions and Conferences (free with coupon)

Discounts and current projects are at PulsipherGames.Com.

YouTube "Game Design" channel:

Game design blog:




Expert Blogs

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:21:00 EDT in Design
Harmony and its opposite, the kludge, are fundamental to good game design. Games that lack harmony or have in-harmonious aspects have a handicap, though some succeed. Fortunately, most of the in-harmonious games are never published, or only self published

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:19:00 EST in Design
Many aspiring designers, and some who ought to have enough experience to know better, design by trial and error (guess and check) rather than by using an efficient method related to engineering and science. I illustrate this and try to explain why.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 09 May 2016 08:06:00 EDT in Design
Computer RPGs (especially MMOs) appear to be a "grind" aimed at rising in level. †People don't enjoy the journey, they only enjoy the destination ("I'm 80th level!"). †That's why there's a big market for sale of items and gold and even entire accounts.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 03:16:00 EDT in Design, Console/PC
Party games, and to a lesser extent family games, have always been reward-based (you're rewarded for participation) rather than consequence-based (winning and losing is important, plus more), but hobby games were usually the latter. Not any more.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Tue, 29 Mar 2016 08:39:00 EDT in Design
What is the "natural" format of a game? You can program a boardgame on a computer, or vice versa, but the physical format difference is more cosmetic than real. A man dressed as a woman is still a man, a boardgame on a computer is still a boardgame.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 21 Dec 2015 01:42:00 EST in Design
Creativity in game design may amount to about 10% of the whole. The rest is more or less engineering/project management. Some people rely on trial & error (guess & check), throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. Find a more efficient method!

Lewis Pulsipher's Comments

Comment In: [Blog - 04/24/2017 - 09:21]

I think kludges are much ...

I think kludges are much less visible in puzzles, and most single-player games are far more puzzle than game. Also, those video-game conventions that amount to huge kludges from a modeling point of view are so visible that other kludges can pale in comparison.

Comment In: [Blog - 03/14/2017 - 11:09]

Hidden assumptions that I believe ...

Hidden assumptions that I believe are wrong shape this post. One is that a game will be played once, or at most a few times. In that case, RNG can be quite annoying when used in certain ways. When a game is played many times, RNG becomes less annoying and ...

Comment In: [Blog - 02/07/2017 - 07:49]

An excellent description of the ...

An excellent description of the state of affairs, thanks. r n r nThe trend in video games generally is away from consequence-based play you have to earn what you get to reward-based play you 're given things, rewarded for participation . CRPGs are part of the trend. F2P and now ...

Comment In: [Blog - 12/14/2016 - 09:22]

Thank you for the impressive ...

Thank you for the impressive research and thinking that went into this article. I try to teach game design as a practical skill based on understanding why you do what you do education, not training , and rarely have the occasion to think purely in terms of theory. r n ...

Comment In: [Blog - 05/13/2016 - 01:45]

Every battle should feel like ...

Every battle should feel like a boss fight. But then every boss fight feels just like fighting any other monster. r n r nGood pacing requires highs and lows, or the highs lose much of their feeling. r n r nNow if you mean something like, a battle should feel ...

Comment In: [Blog - 04/29/2016 - 03:16]

Bart, your comments are as ...

Bart, your comments are as succinct and illuminating as ever. r n r nWhat we call games is a vastly greater spectrum than in the distant past, when board games such as chess, go, nine-men 's morris, checkers, were very much consequence-based, where your every move had to be predicated ...