Move Along Home: The Board Game
I think it’s fair to say that Star Trek never really understood games or why people play them. Watching Starfleet officers spit nonsense rhymes while playing hopscotch wasn’t exactly the high point of Deep Space Nine. Another time, The Next Generation introduced a free-to-play app game to the crew of the Enterprise. After the adults displayed all the willpower of a kid with a Fortnite addiction and unfettered access to his mom’s credit card, Wesley Crusher saved the day. Probably because he was the only youngster. Desensitized little goblin.
Fortunately, Geoff Engelstein didn’t adapt either of those episodes for his third outing of Super-Skill Pinball.
Space-Cast! #18. Game Design Wizard
For the first time ever,* game designer, instructor, writer, and overall wizard Geoff Engelstein appears on a podcast to discuss a trio of his games, along with some insider baseball. Join us as we discuss getting an author’s permission to treat a protagonist like a doofus, what it’s like to gamify a peace conference, and why “gravity” is one of the greatest gaming metaphors of the decade.
(*Not the first time ever.)
Listen over here or download here. Timestamps can be found after the jump.
Revenge of the Pinball Nerds
Last year’s Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade by math nerd Geoff Engelstein was a probabilities superstructure. What first seemed simple — picking which of two random numbers your pinball would hit next — was in fact a long con of ever-deepening regrets. But in a good way. It was a take-backer’s nightmare, a niggling reminder that the human brain has proved inferior to a rodent’s at assessing basic likelihoods. It also felt weirdly like real pinball.
Engelstein’s second stab at the system, Ramp It Up!, is better than the original in every regard. So instead of describing Super-Skill Pinball at its most elemental, let’s take a look at those four new tables.
When it comes to modern roll-and-write games, one of the system’s most effective tools is the possibility of a shared roll between players. It’s the sharing that matters. Chance still dictates your opportunities. The roll may even be “unfair.” But because it’s shared alike, everybody is on equal footing. At least, until players apply the roll in different ways and begin reaping the effects.
Super-Skill Pinball uses the same trick. Two dice are rolled and everybody makes do with the same results. But two things set it apart. One, it was designed by Geoff Engelstein, the guy who formalized the idea of input and output luck in board games. No surprise that it’s brimming with clever applications of chance. And two, because, again, it was designed by Engelstein, it feels way more like pinball than it has any right to.