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Feature: 'Four Days In The Center Of The Board Game Universe'

Board games are surprisingly influential in the video game world, both in terms of raw design and video game conversions - which is why Gamasutra correspondent Ward Batty
November 07, 2007
While they don't have much direct relevance to the video game market, the design ideas introduced in board games do evolve into video game mechanics. Further, popular board games like The Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne may end up digitized and popularized on gaming consoles. Gamasutra's Ward Batty attended the Essen Internationale Spieltage in Germany -- the biggest board game show in the world, and explains the "Eurogames" distinction that helped popularize Settlers of Catan: "What distinguishes a Eurogame from a typical American board game? Unlike many American games which are net sum (you gain by taking directly from other players) in Eurogames players are generally competing against the game itself. They may compete for limited resources or the best action, but rarely do the spoils come directly from an opponent, but instead from the game itself -- usually in the form of victory points." Board game sales have declined in Germany in recent years -- and this might actually benefit the game industry, because everyone's hoping to build the next Carcassonne, as Batty explains, along with some ideas that have potential: "The upside of a light game catching on would appear greater to the big companies that coming up with the next Carcassonne -- which is also available for Xbox Live Arcade. That said, there were a number of games that, at least at first play, look very solid. For the most part there was nothing that was truly groundbreaking. Right now the mechanic that has all the designers excited seems to be finding new ways for players to select from a group of actions. The variable role mechanic goes back at least to Cosmic Encounter, where players have one or more "alien powers" that change the rules to their advantage. Puerto Rico made novel use of a similar mechanic, where a player may choose roles such as to Produce or Ship goods or Build, but the other players also get to do that action. The player who selected the action goes first and gets an extra benefit (to produce or ship one extra good, for example). Caylus expanded on this idea by having the actions on the board and allowing players to place pawns, in turn, on different game actions." You can now read the full feature, which contains Gamasutra's complete report on the influence of board games direct from the biggest game show in the world (no reg. required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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