3. ANALYSIS OF TRADITIONAL TABLE-TOP GAME DESIGN

Rough Draft
Please note that this thesis paper is just a rough draft and is currently a work in progress. The content on this page will probably be modified and may not be representative of the final version. Sources notes and references may not be final and placeholder text may be used and will later be replaced.
Outline
  1. Simple designed games out, and complex games are in
  2. The European invasion: The Euro Board Game
  3. Comparing Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan
  4. Player vs Player and Co-operative games
  5. Complex system designs with the intention to provide emerging gameplay

Analysis of Traditional Table-top Game Design

The current trend in modern table-top game design is to provide an immersive experience that will lead to emergent gameplay.  Gone are the days of simple dice and card based games like Yahtzee, Chutes & Ladders, and UNO.  While these games are timeless and are still some of the most popular games sold in retail, these games are not representative of the modern-table top games that include an open style of gameplay, plethora of rules, mechanics, components, and often non-linear detailed game boards.

This current trend started in Europe, specifically in Germany, and the invasion of the euro style board games.  While Americans where content with the traditional board and card games like Monopoly, Germans tried to push the design aspect of board games in new and interesting ways.  Nicolson explains says that "Germans have embraced a variety of games as family and adult activities for decades. In the mid-1990’s, games from Germany began to make their way over to the U.S. shores and have made a significant impact on game design and the number of interesting board games currently available for play. At the same time, the games focused on combat that have been developed in the U.S. have traveled elsewhere. The result is that a growing number of game companies are producing games either imported from overseas or developing new games inspired by both an American and a European perspective." (1)

Daniel R. Nelon states that "a Euro-game has little to nothing in the way of chance mechanisms, so there's very little luck involved. They tend to stick to wooden pieces over plastic, it's their preference. There's very little text on the board; only the rules have text on them, so you can actually play with people who speak other languages as long as you both already know how to play. They tend to value economics [themes] over military, and one of the most interesting things about [this style] is that there's no player elimination, so when people are playing the game, everyone is in it until the game is finally over. So nobody's sitting around waiting for the game to end." (2)

Nicolson defines the difference between American and Euro-style games based on the following (1):

  1. The focus is not on Player Elimination
  2. There is not as much Down Time
  3. There are more Interesting Decisions
  4. There are Multiple Paths to Victory

To explore Nicolson's four points, a compare and contrast between one of the most popular Euro-style games, Settlers of Catan, and one of the most well known American board games Monopoly.

Source: https://www.catan.com/game/catan

Player Elimination and Mulitple Paths to Victory

Both in Catan and Monopoly players compete against each other.  In Catan, the objective for each player is to own and build up parts of the game board like establishing settlements, creating cities, and connecting their areas with roads.  To build up their areas, players need to collect resources.  The game is won once a player attains ten victory points (VP) which can be earned through settlements (1 VP), cities (2 VP), longest Road (2 VP), largest army (2 VP), and getting special cards (1 to 2 VP).

Similarly, in Monopoly, players try to own parts of the board by buying properties and utilities and then building up the properties with buildings.  Player's have to pay rent, fines, and taxes depending on if they land on another player's property or receives a card that activates an adverse action on the player.  The objective for the players is to accrue more property and money than the other players.  Players can be eliminated if they are unable to mortgage their properties for cash or go bankrupt.

In Catan, while players can create advantages during a game over other players,  individual players cannot be eliminated.  It's also advantages to for the winning players to work with the other players that aren't winning because the resource trading mechanic is essential for all the players. The player's path to victory in Monopoly is more narrow because the ultimate goal is to financially eliminate the other players from the game.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_(game)

Player Down Time and Interesting Decisions

In both Catan and Monopoly players have interesting decisions to make during their turns.  However, the difference between the two is that in Catan there are more exciting and enjoyable decisions to be made during other player's turns as well.  Both Monopoly and Catan have a bartering mechanics where players can trade in the game.  Catan bartering system is around resources which are beneficial in the game.  Monopoly's trading system is a financial transaction between two players that usually benefits one player more than another and could also lead to the eventual elimination of a player from the game.

Navigating the board is also more interesting in Catan.  Monopoly's board is a linear path of tiles that go around the board.  These tiles never change from game to game.  Catan's board is made up octogonal tiles that are randomly selected before each play session. This randomly generated board gives the player's a unique play experience each time and will lead to more interesting decisions for the player.

 

 


  1. Nicholson, S. (2008). Modern board games: It’s not a Monopoly any more. Library Technology Reports 44(3). 8-10, 38-39. Accessed April 27, 2018 from http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/modernboardgames.pdf.
  2. Nosowitz, Dan. "PopSci Primer: The German-Style Board Game Revolution." Popular Science. February 10, 2012. Accessed May 25, 2018. https://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2012-02/popsci-qampa-primer-german-style-board-game-revolution.

Thesis Work

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About Me

My name is Mark Koberlein and I have been a professional web designer, app developer, and instructor for about 13 years. I live in a small town next to Allentown, PA with my wife 2 daughters. My wife and I are avid gamers and movie watchers. I am currently a tenure-track Instructor in the Communication Design department at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem PA, where I teach courses in general computer graphics, web design, mobile applications, interactive design, server-side programming, and animation. I started this journey as an undergrad at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. For the first 2 years, I studied Computer Science and then changed my major to Religious Studies to finish my under-grad studies with a Bachelor of Arts. After college, I decided to not pursue the reli... Read More