Games Design - Play as you Read

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Feb 25th 2010

Well February has been a lot busier than I would have liked, but I have finally had a chance to sit down on start work on the final version of Reel Adventures. I ran a couple of sessions at Conception and they convinced me that the game is finally done. What I need now is some pointers as to the layout and style of the final text.

Since Reel Adventures is meant to be very light, I want to write the game such that it can be read and played at the same time. I picked up a copy of Penny for my Thoughts at Conception, and it has a nice way of doing this. Basically there are Read Aloud bits of text that are written as if a doctor is explaining the procedure to the patients (players). I think the read aloud text is good, but I am not sure if the narrative style of 'Penny for my Thoughts' will work with Reel Adventures.

So, if you were to design a game such that it can be played as you read, how would you do it? Are there any books you would recommend I look at? I am looking at boardgame rules as well to see how they do things, but many of them feel like you have to read the whole thing first before beginning play.

Once I have some examples of what I am working on I will post them up.



Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Feb 26th 2010

For me, I'm not sold on "Penny"'s utility for being read and played as you go directly from the book. I think it probably works most well when a facilitator has read it in some depth beforehand.

Two game texts that do have good read/play utility are S/Lay w/Me and the ashcan of Mars Colony. I'm sure there are others, but those are the two most recent ones I can think.

Oh, Breaking the Ice too, of course (and not mentioning any of our games that do this well).

Posted by: Rich Stokes On: Feb 26th 2010

We did PfmT from the book, pretty much without anyone having read the book and actually it worked fine. Playing it with Iain was the 3rd time, but I still haven't read the book "properly".

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Feb 26th 2010

Cool, Rich.

So, what were the bits you skipped and how easy to skip were they? When I went through PfmT I really liked the conceit of how the book was done. It doesn't present itself as a game (and I think for Iain, RA should present itself clearly as a game), and I guess if you know Paul Tevis it's quite strange to see him in the photos but it still worked for me in helping create this fictional document.

Any boring down on what was essential and how that was flagged up would be very useful.

For S/Lay w/Me the text is presented as you need it in game, and generally the info/rules are one single pages faced by art (if you only need to do one thing at this stage of the game), or are on facing pages where you need to read both pages before progressing.

Mars Colony was fairly similar, though a bit rougher (it is an Ashcan, after all), and some of the options stretch over more than 2 pages (and sometimes things are introduced that you need to hold in your head for a moment or two as they'll be fully explained in a few pages from now).

BTI walks you through the game from the get go, a page or two at a time.

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Feb 27th 2010

Cheers for the recommendations Gregor, going to check those out and then have a ponder. I like the idea of having rules faced by art, that is nice. I may go for rules on one side, and then example of play opposite for further clarification. Must ponder. I'll post some ideas up once I have them.



Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Feb 28th 2010

I guess the heart of it is that you can't present the rules like you would present background/setting info.

It's the big struggle in games today to communicate how to play the game clearly and logically.

Good luck!

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