Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Legacy: Constructive, or destructive?

I recently read Lewis Pulsipher's reaction to the rules of Risk: Legacy.  By way of background, Risk: Legacy (designers Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis) is Hasbro's forthcoming variant on the familiar Risk line with an important distinction:  Over the course of each game, players will permanently modify board, cards, and rules with stickers and pens, so that each game modifies subsequent plays of that particular copy of the game.  I would not exaggerate to say that Dr. Pulsipher absolutely rejects this premise as merely destructive and, to some extent, commercially cynical.

I can certainly see his point.  In fact, the tone of the rules and the box art suggest that semi-random alteration and rejection of the status quo feed the theme of "making one's own legacy."  The word "Legacy" itself on the box cover is written in pseudo-graffiti fashion.  There is almost a counter-cultural, anarchical, nihilistic, "anti-rules" sub-text in the rules themselves.  Game alterations are referred to as "scars" and "marks."  The rules require that some components be "destroyed" - thrown away, permanently removed from that copy of the game, not to be used ever again.  Even from the very first game, when each faction is assigned a special power sticker, an alternative special power sticker will be disposed of, never to be used in that copy of the game.

This is a fairly jarring concept for those of us who treasure our games over a lifetime.  Why would I ever willingly deface or dispose of a game component, unless I didn't particularly care about the fate of that game (or had another copy that I intended to keep pristine)?

There is a school of thought among the boardgamegeek.com forums that suggest that Risk: Legacy provides an opportunity to customize each game copy in a semi-structured fashion.  Perhaps that's the appeal of the game - the idea that when I play the game, I leave my mark - my legacy - on its actual physical structure for future plays.  Part of the fun in playing a role-playing campaign is that players would alter not only the state of their own characters but the condition of the universe that the game-master had constructed, and those impacts would last from one stage of the campaign to the next.  One might consider each play of Risk: Legacy to be a "sequel" of the previously played game.  In that respect, this might be a boardgame that carries the "campaign" concept a little farther than other boardgames have, more literally into its own physical condition.

For all of that, however, I'm not convinced that Risk: Legacy is a game that I can embrace.  My objection comes less from Dr. Pulsipher's abhorrence at the destructive nature of the physical game - a legitimate gripe in its own right - than from my own fear for the soundness of the gameplay itself.  I have seen people tinker with rules in other games at the expense of sound game design.  All the playtesting and careful game design in the world can't prevent players from implementing a house rule that makes a game too random, too long, or too monotonic.  The latitude that the rules of Risk: Legacy provide for altering the gameboard and cards has no apparent self-correcting mechanism to preserve a game-designer's sense for balance and game flow.  How fateful might it be that permanent modifications to the board could render the game unplayable, predictable, or even boring?  Perhaps I'm too sensitive to the quality of an exquisitely crafted game that provides a rich option-space and keeps all players in the game while rewarding sound decision-making.  But my fear would be that player-imposed changes to the rules and components might inadvertently result in a degenerate strategy, or a game that depends too heavily on dice luck, or a perpetual push-and-shove war of attrition.

The aspect of physical change in Risk: Legacy got me thinking about the degree to which we alter games that we own and play for a long time.  Components like cards, counters, boxes, and folding boards can show considerable wear over many uses.  To me, this wear is a classic sign of a well-loved game.  I have a number of Avalon Hill games that show a lot of "love" from many plays.  And any game that has score sheets, record pads, damage tallies, or any similar written artifact leaves its own legacy of games for future reflection.  Games with written simultaneous movement leave a record of so much detail that the game could almost be reconstructed like a baseball box score.  So in a manner of speaking, some games have always left a trail of artifacts from past plays.  They don't necessarily alter the way future games are played, but they do constitute a legacy of an individual game copy, after a fashion.  And for a game that has been frequently enjoyed, there's a certain sentimental value to that legacy.

Wooden Ships and Iron Men "legacy":  ship's log from
World Boardgaming Championships 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gameplay vs. simulation

A favorite debate among my friends and me is the question of realism vs. playability.  Last spring I touched on this topic briefly in a post following a game of Rail Baron in which I reflected on changes in game design practices since the 1970s.  My friend Paul R. is a strong advocate for realism in strategy games.  He approaches a game as a model of real-world decision-making.  If you look at the Avalon Hill marketing from its heyday, much of the appeal came from the concept of putting yourself in the place of Napoleon, Lee, or Eisenhower to see whether you would be able to match or exceed the achievements of the great leaders of the past.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Washington Post reports on Scurvy Dogs' quest for venture capital

How seldom do we read about boardgames in major media, and yet in Monday's Washington Post, Monica Hesse's article "Pirate boardgame creator rolls the dice on a jolly good pastime"* features game designer Darren Gendron and his appeal for funding to launch his first game, Scurvy Dogs, via Kickstarter.

Many game-familiar readers may already know of Kickstarter, an internet phenomenon for generating venture capital for self-published games and other creative enterprises.  Kickstarter allows aspiring self-publishers to seek contributors in exchange for promotional interests such as copies of games, supplements, and other bonus paraphernalia at graduating levels of contribution.  (Kickstarter's scope extends far beyond games to a broad variety of creative enterprises, such as art, photography, dance, film, and fiction.)

Scurvy Dogs:  Anne Bonny
by Obsidian Abnormal
Monica Hesse finds Darren Gendron and his associates Alex Chambers and Ralph Pripstein in their playtesting laboratory, up to their elbows in pirate iconography, one eye patch short of a cliche.  Clearly they enjoy playing the game, honing its rough spots, and indulging in their tabletop roles as buccaneers.  Gendron intends to publish his creation himself once he has a finished product, but that will require some capital outlay, on the order of $20,000 by his estimate.  And it is through Kickstarter that he hopes to find that funding.

I'll add that I found Gendron's assertion, "We had seen a few games involving pirates before," to be either understated or naive.  A search for "pirates" on boardgamegeek turns up three pages - hundreds of entries - including the recently popular Merchants and Marauders.  Gendron sees a gap among pirate-themed games with respect to the land-based exploits of pirates and seeks to create something new in the pirate game genre.  Nevertheless, Brian Tinsman, author of Game Inventor's Guidebook, warns that a key failing of many new game designers is not adequately researching the market beforehand.  As much success as I would hope Scurvy Dogs to find, I'm not sure I would throw yet another pirate game onto the pile.  (Still, my friend Paul R. insists that market saturation is in the eye of the beholder; even if there are a hundred pirate games, the best game is still the best game.)

Monica Hesse betrays a certain naivete of her own regarding the boardgame world.  Early on, she characterizes Gendron's effort in the context of Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Sorry!, Pictionary, and Clue.  No regular gamer would take this comparison seriously.  Late in the article, though, she puts Gendron's game more properly in the realm of
"designer games" or "Eurogames," most of them published by smaller companies in Europe and North America.  While some have become successes - Ticket to Ride is closing in on two million sales; Settlers of Catan has more than 15 million - it's still a niche market, filled with hundreds of obscure games trying to land on top.
Gendron's Kickstarter campaign appears to have promise of success, even as it approaches its 6 September deadline.  At this writing, the game has over $15,500 in pledges, which is $4000 more than at the time of the Washington Post article just two days ago (and helped, no doubt, by that bit of publicity).

One of the most successful recent enterprises in this regard is Far West, a game set in "a fantasy world based on the tropes of the spaghetti western and Chinese Wuxia, mixed with steampunk elements."  Go figure.  This unlikely-themed concept attracted nearly ten times its $5000 goal in pledges.  At WBC, DiceHateMe featured Carnival, the set-building card game by The State of Games' own Cherilyn "Monkey238."  Carnival's funding currently exceeds its $5000 goal more than twice over, less than two weeks since its kick-off.

But Scurvy Dogs, Far West, and Carnival are not alone.  By my unofficial count, at least 83 games seek funding on Kickstarter at this writing.  There's an interesting question of entrepreneurial economy here:  Just how many games (let alone other creative enterprises) can the world of venture capitalists lift off the ground in a matter of weeks?

So here's to the success of pirates and carnivals and all other conceptions of game themes.  More to the point, here's to the broader exposure and acceptance of quality games among the general public (not just us boardgame geeks).  All the more to play.  Semper ludere.  

*At this writing, this link to Hesse's article is available at washingtonpost.com, but it is reasonable to expect that at some point the article will be archived and the link changed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tinsman on game design

On Lewis Pulsipher's recommendation, I read Brian Tinsman's The Game Inventor's Guidebook (Morgan James Publishing, New York 2008).  Tinsman, game design manager for new business at Wizards of the Coast, describes the book's target audience as "really just for one person...the lucky person destined to create the next category-defining blockbuster game."  In fact, though, his book addresses anyone who seeks to have a game published, one way or another, with valuable advice and insight toward making a game concept into a reality.

Tinsman opens with a series of anecdotes about four of the wildly successful games of our time - Trivial Pursuit, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and Pokemon.  These stories of blockbuster proportions are exciting to read, inspiring to imagine, and yet a little daunting to the hopeful designer.  What are the odds of coming up with the next Monopoly?  Is that too crazy to consider?

Perhaps, but Tinsman offers much more than just a review of the peak games of the age.  He follows with chapters on the nature of the industry, the considerations that publishers have when they consider a new design, and the motivations behind designing (or as he likes to say, "inventing") games.  I found especially interesting his description of the inner workings of a game company and the internal considerations that weigh on whether a game is published.

Tinsman spells out four "markets" for games, and here I could quibble with his taxonomy, but really, his classification works for the purposes of his book, which come down to the different ways to approach design, publication, and marketing.  He categorizes games among the following markets:
  • Mass market (what you'd find in a big box retailer like Target or WalMart)
  • Hobby games (roleplaying, miniatures, and trading card games)
  • American specialty games (a "catch-all" category for small print-run games like strategy games and "how to host a mystery")
  • European market (German boardgames, largely)
  • Others (unique market type games, such as sports games that might sell in sports-related retail outlets, etc)
Okay, that's really five, but he spends little meaningful text on the "Other" category except as an out for the types of games that he doesn't cover otherwise.  Although the average gamer might not break down games into these categories, they work for purposes of addressing the different ways that a designer would approach a publisher with a prototype and the different ways that a game would be published and marketed.

Tinsman provides considerable detail on specific games and companies that he feels the reader should become familiar with.  Many are familiar to the regular gamer, but a few gems emerge that are worth investigation.

Self-publishing had always struck me as a last great act of desperation, but that's not so much the case with the resources available to today's self-publisher.  Tinsman spends some time discussing the special considerations that have to be taken into account to try to bring a game to market yourself.  The upside potential and the downside risk are both staggering.

A nice aspect of Tinsman's format is that he intersperses the book with interviews of key figures in the game industry and "Insider's Views" on publishers, information that he is in a unique position to provide as a longtime member of the industry himself.  He provides remarkably insightful perspective on what designers and industry figures consider in bringing a game from concept to market.  These vignettes make clear that there is more than one way to skin the boardgame cat, and different people have different priorities and visions on what they hope to bring to the gaming world.

With all of this background, Tinsman walks the reader step-by-step through the process of conceiving and scoping a design, developing it, all the way through getting it on contract.  This final walk-through brings all the elements of the book together into a soup-to-nuts accounting of all the steps that a designer will need to follow to make a game concept into something that people can buy, take home, and play.  

Appendices include considerable resources - contact information for game companies, brokers, conventions, as well as sample forms for letters and agreements that the designer will find handy in conducting business with potential publishers.

Brian Tinsman's Guidebook came well recommended by Lewis Pulsipher, and I am not disappointed.  I hope my readers find it as valuable for gaining insight into the workings of the gaming industry as I have.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Revisit: Incan Gold and game theory

[I've been on business travel this week, so in the absence of original material, I'm reposting an article from last spring when I was first discovering Incan Gold.]

We had a family session of Incan Gold this afternoon [original post 16 April 2011].  An interesting development came up when my wife Kathy and I had bailed out of an expedition, and only my two sons Liam and Corey remained to explore the ruins.  One instance each of three different monsters had been turned up, which meant that there was a very real possibility that a second monster of one type would appear and scare the remainder of the party out of the ruins at any point.  But then an artifact showed up, and a very interesting stand-off ensued.  By the rules of the game, if there are two or more people in the expedition, neither gets the artifact, and it stays on the card.  In a subsequent turn, if exactly one of the remaining two people decides to return to his tent, he gets all treasure left on cards from previous turns - including the coveted artifact.  If both players turn back, neither gets the artifact, and the round is over.  If both continue on, both continue to share discovered treasure but risk encountering a monster and losing everything.

What followed was an almost comical staring contest between the two of them to try to figure out whether the other was going to stay or return, and therefore whether to return (in hopes that the other was staying, which would leave the artifact to the returning player) or stay (and keep any subsequent treasure for oneself).

The decision to turn back or to continue is simultaneous among remaining players, so the result is a fairly classic game theory problem, in which the outcome of a decision depends upon an opponent's simultaneous unknown decision.

Own decision  Opponent decides to stay  Opponent decides to go
Stay          Turn over another card    Opponent gets artifact
Go                  Get artifact          Nobody gets artifact

Since "Turn over another card" is mutually risky or mutually beneficial but in no case advantageous for one player over the other if both players stay, then game theory would conclude that the only logical decision would be to go.  But if both players decide to go, then neither gets the artifact.

The piece that's missing in my decision table above, however, is that if either player stays, another card will be turned over, to the risk or benefit of the player(s) staying.  So there might be an advantage to staying if a player perceives a potential treasure greater than getting the artifact.  But that's really unlikely, in fact, so the stand-off will typically end up in both players going back and neither getting the artifact. Having said that, however, the game actually plays unpredictably, and perceived risk and reward tend to rule over cold logic.

We've really come to like this risk management game.  I'm apparently way too conservative, however.  I came in last today, and Corey (10) beat us all.  (I seem to recall that he ended up with the artifact more than once, by the way.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Theme matters? Maybe for getting me to open the box

Last year, when Worthington Games first showed me the box art for Trains Planes and Automobiles, I wrote a post on the importance of a game's cover to getting me to open it and try it out.  Lately I've started thinking the same thing about the theme of the game.  Recent discussions with publishers, vendors, and others at game conventions have made me aware that there is a heightened industry interest in certain themes that seem to sell to American audiences - or at least that the publishers hope will capture interest.

Zombie games seem to be in vogue.  A search on boardgamegeek.com yields over a dozen independent titles related to zombies.  Some time ago, our good friend Grant G. gave our kids a copy of Zombies! (designer Todd Breitenstein, artist Dave Aikens, publisher Twilight Creations).  My reactions to this game have been mixed.  For me, the zombie theme does nothing at all; if anything, I find it a little off-putting.  But I understand that people are into the zombie thing.  Now, the gameplay is rather fun.  Players make their way through a gradually-revealed city trying to find the airport and escape or combat the somewhat-randomly emerging zombie horde.  The tension is quite reminiscent of the classic zombie movies, in which our lowly protagonist only has so many shotgun shells, and you never know when he or she will discover another zombie - or six - around the next corner.  But I have a hard time with the action card art, which is just a little too grotesque for our family's taste.  So we haven't played it nearly as much as the fun gameplay would suggest we might.

There's a whole vampire thing going in the film and book media, as some readers may have noticed, and that can translate to publisher interest in finding a vampire game that catches interest.  Again, a boardgamegeek.com search yields dozens of titles.  It's hard to tell if any of them is any good; I can't remember anybody saying, "you've got to play this great vampire game..."  On the other hand, if box art is any indication, BloodLust (designer Mike Wylie, publisher Worthington) has got an eye-catching cover.

Space games have been around a long time.  I think their numbers have waxed and waned with general public interest in science fiction movies.  I've posted here a couple of times about my concept-in-progress called "Gold on Mars," as just one example.  It seems a number of new games have come out based on a space theme lately, and I wonder whether it's part of a new trend or just a transitory fad.

If there is publisher interest in seeking designs based on certain themes - zombies, space, vampires - does that mean that people buy games based (at least in part) on theme?  Or is it true that a good game is a good game, and the theme is immaterial to gameplay?

(c) Dice Hate Me Games
Used by permission

Let's consider some unlikely themes - and by that I mean, games I'd never give a second thought based on the game topic.  I mentioned recently that at WBC I playtested a game called Viva Java (designer T.C. Petty, developer Dice Hate Me).  I had read about this game on Dice Hate Me's blog, and really had almost no interest in looking at a game about developing coffee blends.  But my friend Keith F. and I gave it a shot, and we were both surprised at how fun and innovative the game turned out to be.  So in this case, an unlikely theme might have masked a potentially really good game.  Dice Hate Me also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for Monkey238's design, Carnival.  Again, managing a set of amusement rides never struck me as a particularly engaging theme for a game, and yet the more I read about the nature of the game, the more I want to give it a try.

Sometimes a theme really gets in the way of my acceptance, even if I read a strong review on the gameplay.  The Opinionated Gamers recently posted Jonathan Franklin's first impression review of Perfect Stride (designers and artists Kay Darby and Jeff Timothy with T.K. Labus, publisher Fun League), which he describes as "meatier than Mille Bornes or Gamewright's Horse Show [but] lighter than Dominion or 7 Wonders ... an excellent family game."  As I read his description of the solid gameplay, I kept thinking that it would be a game I would enjoy playing - except for the fact that the game art and theme are obviously tailored to appeal to girls who love horses.  That's fine, and if I had a daughter, I'm sure I'd pick it up, but for some reason, in this case, I just can't get past the target audience.  It would be like playing Mystery Date, which could have the best gameplay mechanics in the world, except that I'll never know because I'll never play it.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
In another Opinionated Gamer review on an unlikely theme, Tom Rosen revisits an October 2008 look at Fairy Tale (designer and artist Satoshi Nakamura with Yoko Nachigami, publisher Z-man) in an exploration of games that seem to start simple but gain depth with subsequent plays.  To read Tom's description, the rules are very simple and the game very easy to learn, but as the players gain an appreciation for the card interactions, Fairy Tale becomes more interesting and complex.  For my part, I can easily accept a fairy-tale theme for a game with that kind of emerging depth.

Bruno Faidutti designed one of my favorite recent discoveries, Citadels.  He recently posted an interesting discussion of thematic consistency and the degree to which a poorly constructed theme can get in the way of the acceptance and enjoyability of an otherwise well-designed game.  Dinosaurs are an obviously appealing theme to some audiences, but Faidutti complains that they are terribly misapplied in Carl Chudyk's Uchronia, set in ancient Rome.  Dinosaurs in Rome?  Yes, Faidutti's point exactly.

(My friend Grant G. recently called my attention to a new series of miniatures involving World War II German troops mounted on dinosaurs.  Okay, whatever.)

So like box art, game theme serves as both an invitation and a filter to the potential buyer or player.  Some people will buy a title based on the theme with no other knowledge of the game.  On the other hand, there are some themes that I simply won't touch, no matter how good the game, for reasons that I can't entirely explain.  But in the general case, once I'm playing a game, the theme can become secondary to the gameplay depending on the nature of the game.

In a subsequent post, I'll explore the question of gaming vs. simulation and the role of theme in each.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Farmers: Farmers on the Moor

One of my acquisitions at WBC (has it been almost two weeks ago now?) was Farmers of the Moor, an expansion to my old favorite farming game, Agricola (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Z-Man Games).  FotM introduces fuel for heating homes, horses, 14 new major improvements, and two new decks of minor improvements.  A game that was already a fun worker-placement challenge and satisfying farm-building game presents a whole new set of challenges with this well-thought-out expansion.

Farmers of the Moor:  fuel tokens
Agricola already poses the problem of feeding the family at every harvest.  Now FotM adds the requirement of burning a fuel token for every room in the house at every harvest as well.  Fuel comes from cutting peat from the eponymous moors that dot the farm at the beginning of the game, or from trading in wood for fuel.  Clay huts provide some insulation and save on heating fuel; stone huts even more so.  Heating the hut is necessary to keep the family healthy; for every unit of fuel needed at harvest but not available to heat the home, a family member is "bedridden" in the next round.  The only action a bedridden family member can take is to go to the infirmary for the round; at the end of the round, that family member returns home with the rest of the family.

Farmers of the Moor:  Bedridden family members
In our first game, I took advantage of a minor improvement "Thicket," a major improvement "Forester's Lodge," and a horse to build up a big supply of wood.  Unfortunately I lost sight of the need for fuel, and at one point spent all my wood to build a room and build fences for two pastures.  Suddenly I was facing harvest with no fuel, and the entire family was bedridden for the next round.  It was a funny, if bone-headed, mistake, and we all got a good laugh at my family members making their way one by one to the infirmary.  Surprisingly, I won the game, but by the narrowest of margins - my 37 points to my wife's 36 and our friend Theresa's 35.  We were all astounded at how close the game was.

This evening, my wife and I played a two-player session, and we both thought that I was on my way to a strong finish with a stone house, stone oven, and full supply of grain and vegetables.  But my wife made up the difference with animals, the well, and the basketmaker's workshop.  We ended up tied at 46 points.  Again, we were both astounded at how close the scores ended up despite our perception of my lead.  What a fun game.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
And therein lies a clue to the mystery of the success of Agricola.  I am continually astounded at the balance of this game.  There are so many different ways to score points, so many different actions to take, different opportunity trades between one path and another - and yet scores can end up very close, where every point at the end can make a difference.  And FotM seems to have struck that balance even more finely.

What is it about the design of this game that makes it work so well?  Surely some decent quantitative analysis went into the unit cost and point value of the different components, but there's more to it than pure calculation.  The only conclusion I can reach is that it was thoroughly playtested and continually adjusted to refine the game play.  Every effort must have been taken to create a gap, a question, a balance among two or more choices, so that no choice was ever obvious.  Every good move meant sacrificing another good move.  Every opportunity taken meant leaving another opportunity open to the opponent(s).  In this respect, to me, this game is brilliant, and FotM just cranks up the candlepower.

If I can ever figure out how to capture that kind of design genius, I'll have bottled lightning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A vision of "Gold on Mars"

Hohmann Transfer Orbit  
For some time now, I've been giving a lot of "thought exercise" to my "Gold on Mars" concept for a space-mining game.  One thing that I'd really got stuck on was how to model interplanetary spaceflight.  I'm something of a physics geek but only an amateur astronomer, so I felt as though I had to reinvent the equations for Hohmann transfers from scratch.  (That's kind of dumb, actually, as the equations are relatively common knowledge and generally available online.  But, you know, I'm a mathematician, and I like deriving my own stuff.)

I had something of a breakthrough last night, and with the aid of MSExcel and some internet research on planetary distances, I was able to establish relative amounts of fuel necessary to travel from earth to each of the planets as far as Jupiter.  (For reasons of game scale, I've elected not to include Saturn or the other extremely distant planets in the game.  After all, I need to leave room for an expansion.)

Mars image courtesy of NASA
National Space Science
Data Center (NSSDC) 
The nice thing about having this kind of mental breakthrough and then getting it down in writing is that it opens a logjam of ideas.  So many possibilities start coming to mind - how to scale rockets for different applications, how to handle the business of contracting to build rockets, how to handle the return flight, etc.  So I'm at an exciting if still early stage in design, but the best part is that I'm starting to construct the skeleton about which the prototype will be formed.

I mentioned earlier that Dr. Lewis Pulsipher (designer of Britannia and Dragon Rage) led a seminar on game design at WBC last week, and he said a couple of things that stuck with me.

  • First, a game design idea by itself is worthless.  What is worthwhile is a prototype that can be played, and until a designer has one, he's got no more than anybody else with an idea for a game.
  • Second, whenever a designer does get ideas, he writes them down and makes them real.  He doesn't risk forgetting them, but captures them and puts them in his toolbox for future consideration as he assembles the prototype.
I could easily do these things and follow many other suggestions he had with a straightforward family game like Trains Planes and Automobiles, but "Gold on Mars" is going to be different.  I feel that it will be much deeper and richer, and so its design and development will demand that much more work and attention.

One last consideration:  If I try to incorporate all of the ideas I have for "GoM," it will be a big, complex, cumbersome game.  A recurring theme in Dr. Pulsipher's talk (and a quote that he cites on every page on his website) is
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery
Indeed, he very recently posted an essay specifically on a comparison between simple and complex game designs.  I have a feeling that a significant portion of late design work for "GoM" will consist of pruning, trimming, and cutting back all the baroque detail that I will be inclined to add in the early design phase.  My hope, my vision, is that what will remain will be a 24-karat ingot of a space game.