This week I read a wonderful article, an interview with Bruno Faidutti (Citadels, Red November, The Queen’s Necklace, the list is enormous) by ‘AndHe’ Games. Bruno answers with such honesty in his replies to the interviewer questions, and I just can’t get his final statement (about life not being a game, but a mess) out of my head.

He also made some very powerful statements about game design in general. His process for example. Bruno states that having a clear system of how you want to design a game may in fact be so stifling as to increase your risk of failure.

He’s also quite unorthodox in that he tends to write the rules to the game first, then build the prototype. This is incredibly alien to me, as I always keep the early rules in the old brain box, waiting until I absolutely have to write them down (I have a bizarre love/hate relationship with rules writing; hate to start, love to finish).

In theory though, I suppose writing the rules early can give you a clearer idea of what may or may not work in the finished prototype, avoiding those moments in playtesting when someone asks ‘the awkward question (you know the one, some variation of ‘what happens here now?’).

He’s also a leading authority on Unicorns… no seriously!

One part that did surprise me was his attitude towards playtesting. In the vast (read: all) majority of articles I’ve read on the subject, playtesting is so vital that it should take up nearly all of the prototype’s life span before publishing.If you haven’t played a game over 100 times, you haven’t played it enough.

But Bruno takes a much more relaxed approach, going so far as to say it he is happy after a dozen playtests, he calls the game good and moves on.

I thought this was a beautiful statement. Too often you hear ‘Thou shalt throw away your first designs because they must be terrible’ and ‘Thou shalt playtest til thee vomit upon thine design in boredom and loathing’. It’s as if the concept of a game being ‘just right’ from the get-go is so anathema to the design process that to entertain the idea is to waste everyones’ time.

I’m not saying you (or Bruno) are saying everything you drop on the design table is going to be gold, but every so often the stars will just align and your game will be ready virtually from the get go. Be discerning about your designs, but don’t think that you have to reinvent and retest something that works simply because that is what is expected of a designer.

His final statement about trusting people was again beautiful. I’ve met so many people through this wonderful industry, and I have to say, hand on heart, the good guy to bad guy ratio has been stellar. On the rare occasion someone has been a plonker, it’s been very easy to just spin round, take two steps and run into one of the ‘good’uns’ as a panacea of good gaming.

So some lessons learned and a deepening respect for the designer Bruno Faidutti. How about you?

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3 Responses

  1. I think it’s a different story if you’re self-publishing. If working with a publisher, then maybe they will develop it and refine it to be as best as it can be. This won’t happen if KSing.

    But whilst a simple game could be made without much additional development, I do feel like any game with strategic depth (unlike the simple party games I’m making) need to be really stress-tested.

    Of course, things like Citadels become as much about the second-guessing as they do about the relative strengths of the cards.

    And Bruno is also very clearly a very smart guy.