Thursday, May 19, 2011


All rules need reasons for existing. If you can't pin down a good reason for a rule to exist, it should be pulled out of the game. In fact, I'd almost go as far as stating that the rules need to have a mechanical reason for existing; if a rule solely exists for a thematic reason, it probably needs to be re-thought.

And then there's another step deeper, where you have to decide if the reason itself is important enough to warrant the reason being there.

And this is one of the things I hate about chess. Just what the heck is the reason for the en passant rule there for? Remember, all pieces have their own set of moves, which are strictly followed, well except, in the one special case...

(I'm willing to give the "pawns can move 1 Space forward, EXCEPT ON THEIR FIRST MOVE THEY MAY MOVE TWO SPACES exception," given that there are a few good reasons for that to exist: It speeds up play at the start of the game, and it does offer, I think, a few more strategic choices.)

Anyway, rules without reasons just clutter the game. Rules with poor reasons should be given better reasons or removed completely if you want a tight game that flows. Rules that provide for multiple reasons are even better.

There's probably some interesting way to analyze games by looking at the reasons. Of course, reasons are pretty subjective. Here's a sampling of reasons things exist, or in some cases removed, from My Little Vineyard.

Spoilage - Originally existed as a reason to include weather/seasonally effects...was removed to due "player reset" symptoms and made the game too restrictive.
Research Books - Currently probably one of the stronger rules/reason sets as they are currently implemented. They are used as a fallback option, when there is nothing else available to do for the player. And they provide for a general "growing machine" bonus over the course of the game without directly scoring.
Fertilizers - These are thematically very strong, but on first glance, they are a weak choice. However, while they typically don't provide many points, they are very strong in removing options for competing players.
Wine Cellar - Thematically strong, provides strategic options as to score now, or hope to score better in the future decisions.
Market Place - Thematically okay, provides tactical options and some screwage against other players.
Dice Pools - Flexible way of having a group of stuff meaning one thing to one player, while meaning something else to another. Also, it's the unique feature of the game
First Round Dice Roll exception - Yeah, I'm not to happy with the first round requirement of hacing players being FORCED to roll multiple dice, as opposed to letting them decide. But the reason is very strong why it exists; the dice pool needs to be seeded somehow in a somewhat balanced fashion.

Of, course there's a lot of weaker of stuff, too. The current variety of fertilizers have pretty reasons to exist; in fact, I could probably get rid of either wood chips and volcanic ash without missing much. On the other hand, variety is always nice to have.

Thers something to be said about the potential of drafting different sets of grapevines that a player can use to spice up the variety even more, just to be sure that there isn't one clear path to victory. I'm not sure I want to add that complexity to the game at this point...and that would entail all sort of other balancing issues, I think. Which is a good enough reason to leave it alone for now.

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