The Tabletop Designers Association proudly presents:

Making better games

A blog on game design

Welcome to the TDA blog

What is the Tabletop Designers Association? Currently in the process of being established, the Tabletop Designers Association is a non-profit organisation found with the single purpose of bringing together and supporting designers of tabletop games*. This support, much like Chandler’s time in the box, is threefold: With the help of sponsors and donations, we will…
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Project management tidbits

In this article, I want to take a step back from the details of game design and instead look at the bigger picture of our games as projects. And where there are projects, there’s project management. This is an article that is very likely to be updated multiple times in the future, mostly because these…
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Designer’s glossary: Swingy (effects)

Swingy also swinginess/ ˈswɪŋi / adjective A swingy effect is any effect whose power varies wildly depending on external factors (e.g. current state of the game board or resources, number of players etc.) With swingy effects, the power levels for the best case and the worst case are too far apart, and because of that,…
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Designer’s glossary: Narrative mechanics (TTRPG)

narrative mechanics[ˈnær ə tɪv məˈkæn ɪks], [nar-uh-tiv muh-kan-iks] noun A bridge between the events that characters within the game are experiencing and the narration of said events by the players. Narrative mechanics are definitions for triggers that get activated when something happens in the narrative being described, linking that event to concrete game mechanics that…
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Designer’s glossary: design space

design space\ dɪˈzʌɪn speɪs \ noun Design space is a measure of how many meaningful* variations of a mechanic or effect can exist within a game. When applied to a game, it also describes the amount of mechanics that the rules can support. Often, testing out the different variations of a mechanic/effect is referred to as…
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Sidequest: too long; didn’t write

Welcome again to another Sidequest, which is consequently the first article of 2021 for me. And boy oh boy, after what an absolute shitshow of a year 2020 was, it’s only fair to start off with a Sidequest. I’ve touched upon a few different topics with the articles I’ve written so far, and as always,…
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Designer’s glossary: A+B mechanics

A+B mechanics also enabler-payoff mechanics/ eɪ plʌs biː / noun A+B mechanics are mechanics which are made of 2 distinct and separate parts, namely the enabler (A) and payoff (B). These mechanics require both parts to be combined to have any meaningful effect or benefit. Now, A+B is mostly a sliding scale, i.e. the individual usefulness of…
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To win, or to not lose?

In this post, we’re gonna take a look at a topic I’ve always found very interesting. It’s a thing that can be applied to any game’s mechanics, at (more or less) all levels of abstraction. Simply put, it’s the difference between mechanics which help a player win, and mechanics which help a player stay in…
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MOPED Lessons: Optimization

Welcome to the second of five articles where we take a deeper dive into the principles that make up MOPED. Last time we talked about Modularity, and how it helps to structure your project into easily-manageable chunks. This time, we’ll be taking a closer look at Optimization—why do it, how to do it, and finding…
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Designer’s glossary: Overhead

overhead also overhead cost\ ˈō-vər-ˌhed \ noun An amount of complexity or tracking in a game’s system that isn’t necessarily part of the meaningful decision-making a player does while playing the game. Overhead is never beneficial to gameplay, and as such should be avoided if possible, or at least mitigated otherwise. Usually, the overhead cost is…
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Levels of Testing

Testing your games is important. I’ve said that in a lot of different ways and context with my articles thus far. With interactive systems, the only time you can get useful metrics and input is when you actually go and interact with them. This time, we’ll take a bit of a deeper dive into testing,…
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