Board games can be harder to design than digital games. There. I said it. I leave it up to everyone else to tell me whether that’s an unpopular opinion.

When I reflect on my learning in this course, one major thing stands out: the importance of a rulebook. The rulebook defines the tabletop gameplay experience in many ways. It not only sets the tone for the player when they first encounter your game, it defines the way they will play — or not play — your game thereafter.

For example — in one of the playtests of Awesome Saucers™, the playtesters spent half of the session reading and understanding the rules, and the other half actually playing the game. We could see the players leaning back, looking at their phones, and generally becoming more disengaged as the process of reading and comprehending the rules went on. Though they reported enjoying the game once they got the hang of it, and indeed they did seem more engaged during gameplay, it was clear that their initial experience with the product, the onboarding experience, had colored their experience of the game as a whole. …


Games are reflections of the world. This makes them ideal environments for learning real-world actions and living real-world experiences. Players learn experientially through the actions they take and the feedback the system provides. This phenomenon has given rise to the phrase “the mechanic is the message”; if you want a player to truly learn something, you’ll create a game such that they can learn by doing. This begs the question — when the mechanic in question is permadeath, or alternatively, immediate respawning, what is it teaching the player?

This question can be examined in the context of two serious games: Peacemaker and Knights of Astrus. …


Our team created the game Awesome Saucer™, a game intended to model socioeconomic disparity in the context of education. Players play as aliens attending the Space Academy, attempting to maintain their academic standing while caring for their families. What I experienced most strongly during the designing of this game was the effects of balance and the importance of the metagame experience.

Game Balance

Our creation of this game was greatly focused on the balancing act of stabilizing the relationships between character attributes, planned events, and random events such that players would be unlikely to succeed if they played solo, but highly likely to succeed if they played collaboratively. This process was arduous — a few point values here, a mechanic there, and the player experience was drastically altered. …