Today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we were lucky enough to get to interview the developers of the X-Wing Miniatures board game, which caught our eye earlier this week thanks to its unique maneuvering and character-building systems.
It turns out that the current people developing the X-Wing miniatures game (Max Brooke, Frank Brooks, and Adam Davy) have a lot to say about the art of game design, and even were able to share some lessons that apply to the video game space.
You can watch our full conversation above for a deep look at these lessons, but in case you’re trying to make the Kessel Run right now in less than 12 parsecs, here’s a few highlights from our hour-long conversation.
3 useful design lenses: simulationism, gameism, and narrativism
Early in our chat, developer Max Brooke brought up three concepts that he says have helped him design mechanics in his board game design career: simulationism, gameism, and narrativism. He referred to the idea that simulationism is used to describe mechanics that simulate specific real-world (or imagined) concepts, gameism is a grouping of mechanics that emphasize flow and fun, and narrativism is a grouping of mechanics that aid in storytelling.
While X-Wing Miniatures is a game that relies on the former 2 concepts, all 3 help shape the game’s design in some way, and guide its developers to build systems and abilities pulled from the world of Star Wars.
In tabletop games, a lack of hard data means a different metagame emerges
Brooke and Brooks at one point, after discussing their love for MOBA games, talked about how X-Wing’s metagame hasn’t evolved in the same way digital comeptitive games have due to a lack of aggregated data to check win rates. They admitted that some fervent players are able to keep track of who wins during tournaments, but there’s still space in the analogue realm for unexpected surprises to happen at the drop of a hat. This is because a lack of clear data about all possible builds at a given moment means there's more builds and combinations lurking under the surface, ready to surprise even the people who make the game.
If you’re making tabletop games, physicality is your friend
After a discussion of “simple yet exquisite” mechanical design, one viewer asked the X-Wing developers what methods they used to refine mechancis that start out as raw ideas. While Davy preached the good word of iteration, Brooke explained that he likes to pay attention to how mechanics just feel when you’re physically performing them on a game table. If you have to place a lot of tokens, or draw a lot of cards, or do anything that just physically feels bad, it’s probably not a lot of fun, and thus a good mechanic to avoid.
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