Great GDC 2018 Board Game Presentations

In 2017 the Game Developers Conference hosted a number of board game designers and publishers for the first time to talk about tabletop games. Across the board the talks were wonderful, and you can see my thoughts about them here. Fortunately the people running the conference agreed and continued the board game segment at the 2018 conference a couple of weeks ago. I’ve watched them all and I’m happy to report that, again, they are all very interesting and worth your time. I want to highlight two in particular.

In the first, designer Tom Lehmann does a retrospective on his now-classic game Race For The Galaxy. I admit, I’ve only played this game once, back in college, and being new to modern games it was too much for me. Now that I’ve played and enjoyed Roll for the Galaxy and have learned my fair share of significantly more complicated games, this talk has me itching to try the original again. Tom brings up a lot of interesting points about his design process separating his game from Puerto Rico and San Juan (which he helped design). I love this stuff. As I’ve said many times before, when I play a game for the first time I love to get a glimpse of the designer’s thought process as he or she made the key decisions that form the game. Tom deliberately made Race with a few key design ideas in mind to “fix” some issues he didn’t like in Puerto Rico and make the game more variable and strategic than San Juan. This is my favorite talk from this year’s conference.

Geoff Englestein, who gave my favorite talk last year, is at it again with a nice insight into different kinds of randomness. I’ve never heard of white, brown, and pink randomness/noise before, but I’ve known the ideas. It’s nice to see an easy to remember label for them. I was particularly interested in his insight that pink randomness, where there’s a high chance of a small effect but a small chance of a large effect, seems to be what people inherently like best in a variety of contexts. While most of this except for the terminology wasn’t new to me, I found it to be a great reminder of how to categorize and think about randomness on a basic level.

Any talks you particularly liked from the board game GDC segment? Any from the rest of the conference I should check out?

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