Every now and again someone comes either to some gaming forums, or directly to Kickstarter, and says that they are going to revolutionize modern tabletop gaming, just to follow it up with a roll and move game, or with a groundbreaking invention of a six-sided die with symbols instead of numbers. Gamers always get a good laugh out of such individuals.
There is no better way to prove that being familiar with some of the modern classics of board gaming is essential to becoming a designer – and a publisher. If you know what tabletop gaming is today, you’ll also instantly know that your revolutionary idea to make a game where you collect sets of cards and roll no dice (balsphemy!), is not as revolutionary as you’ve thought. That will allow you to save some time – and save yourself some grief. But what about designers and publishers who already know the world of boardgaming?
Well, if you’re business is publishing new games, you should know new games. You should know what’s going on. You should know who won the Spiel des Jahres (congrats, Colt Express!) and Kennerspiel des Jahres (congrats, Broom Service!), you might even want to know who received the Spiele Hit Fur Experten award (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Progress!). You should go to conventions to see what people enjoy the most now, check the BGG Hotness… and still find the time to play the classics.
Seriously, if you missed Goa and you’re design/publish Eurogames, go play it now! Go play Ticket to Ride, fall asleep over Caylus (oh yeah, I went there), sit down to a game of Puerto Rico and see what the original game of role selection is all about (or even try the famous corn strategy). Make your buddy put that old copy ofStarCraft on their table and see where Forbidden Stars (and possibly a few dozen other Ameritrashy-wargames) takes its mojo from. I think you already get the gist.
Because, seriously, sometimes going back to the roots gives you a perspective no new game ever will. And I’m telling you this as a fan of deck building, as a designer of a game that uses deck building mechanisms (Mistfall, if you had any doubts), and as a person who goes back to Dominion regularly to bathe in the glory that is the fluidity, the speed, the unique dynamics of a simple and yet refined game another deck builder is still to achieve (with Ascension being the only one that ever came close – but trading in some of its depth for theme).
The truth is that no matter who you are – a designer, a publisher, “just” a gamer – you really should not only follow the new, but also get down with the old. And it’s not because of some silly idea of paying one’s due, not because of some nostalgic fad, but simply because you might find some really good things you’ve been missing on as a player – and some pretty damn inspirational stuff perfect if you are a creative.