# Board Gaming needs a Flappy Bird I've been thinking about board game mechanics since watching [this fascinating talk](http://vimeo.com/82383614) from the creator of Risk Legacy. I applaud Daviai's willingness to experiment with new mechanics, but the legacy design is exactly the opposite of what appeals to me in gaming. Games are almost by definition a circumscribed activity: you fight viciously while the contest is ongoing, but eventually someone wins, someone loses, and you put it back in the box and go back to being friends. Early cultures developed games as a substitute for fighting, and this was probably the key reason: they create a kind of liminal zone in which you can compete with each other while at the same time knowing that it's only a game, your true friendship remains unshaken. Some of the most enduring games even have multiple levels of this: one might play *knucklebones* for an evening and that's a game. But each toss of the bones is also circumscribed even within the game, so the game's actually a sequence of much smaller games; *Poker* or *Mahjong* hands are similar. *Go* doesn't make this kind of explicit distinction, but it can feel similar: the game itself is a composite of hundreds of smaller battles, and the strategic choice of which regions to contest is just as important as the tactical choices of how to do so. *Keyflower* is one of the more interesting titles of the present golden age. With its colonial-pastoral theme and indirect competition through auctions, it's like the distilled essence of the "eurogame". For those who subscribe to the notion that board games are about evaluating, making tough choices, this is perfection: what this game does is make you decide, turn after turn, what certain things are worth to you[1]. Every action is the small contest of bidding on a single tile, slotting into the wider contest that is the game. Indeed the usual criticism of *Keyflower* is that it's "too euro"; the physical components are on the cheap side (though thankfully the cost benefit is passed on to the customer), and it's a purely economic game; while there is some hidden information it would take very accomplished and subtle players to make bluffing worthwhile, and memory or varied tactics don't come into it at all; once you understand auctions, you understand the game. But perhaps the biggest practical problem is that of a runaway leader; sometimes, it's clear by summer that someone has cornered the market in some vital resource, and the game will be theirs; even a dedicated "spoiler" player has no real way of stopping them[2]. What we really need is the opposite of a "legacy" game: a game that "resets" partway through, where an advantage in the early part of the gamhe doesn't lead to an advantage in the later part of the game. A game where you get better at playing, but still have to work your way up from zero every time. A game like *Flappy Bird*. Followup: since I started writing this piece we've seen a rise in short-round party games that are intended to be played repeatedly - the likes of *Love Letter*, *One Night Ultimate Werewolf*, or *Skull*. To a certain extent this is what I asked for, and I enjoy some of these games. But it would be nice to see a game that wove smaller rounds into a larger whole - but without making it too easy to gain an overwhelming lead. <br /> <p /> [1] Players each secretly know some of the scoring tiles that will be available in the final, winter turn - on some level the whole game is an expression of the economical dictum that markets function as a price-discovery mechanism. But unlike the straightforward hidden scoring mechanisms of e.g. *Archipelago*, *Keyflower*'s purity is such that even these scoring tiles will be put up for auction. [2] One of the reasons *Tanto Cuore* remains my favourite game is that it offers that; [Home](/) <div id="disqus_thread"></div> comments powered by Disqus