Sunday, 1 December 2019

The Mid-Turn Slump in Megagames

Many players experience a mid-game slump in Megagames. These multiplayer, all day games are a bit of an endurance test. There are no breaks in the game for lunch or comfort, the game inexorably goes on. Players spend their time talking - a lot - thinking and sometimes moving pieces on the board. The megagames typically start at 09:30 and end sometime about 16:00 - 17:00.

The mid-game slump is usually experienced at 14:00, give or take an hour or so. Players report that the gameplay lags or that they have nothing of note to do, that they are tired and need to sit down, some go outside and have a smokers break, some go outside just to get fresh-air and some "me" time.

What are the causes of the mid-game slump?

  1. Learning the game. The first few turns everyone is learning how to play the game. We are excited and totally engaged not just with the narrative but with the requirement of learning the rules by playing them. Later in the game we have learnt the rules and only the game narrative / plot remains to engage us.
  2. Snacking. Do not discount the poor diet megagamers eat during the game. We bring lots of sweets, chocolate, cake and crisps. Really bad for endurance.
  3. Easy early problems. All the early targets have been achieved. The NPC baddies have been subdued / conquered.
  4. Stalemate. By the mid game most people have aligned to be on oneside or the other, lines have been drawn on maps / tables. Players might have tasted an early defeat in an unadvised battle and now everyone sits in big stacks and watches the other.
  5. Minor Players. The players who are totally engaged in the game seek each other out - usually in conversations, not mechanical game play, and the ones less engaged crank the mechanical game play handle and usually gossip rather than engage in game related conversations.

How the designer can address these issues? 

(5) Minor Players

This last point is the one the game designer can influence the most. Don't make minor player roles. As someone put in the Anerley Arms last night, don't give a brief that says "be loyal to", or "follow x". 

This will mean that some settings have to be handled with care - I suggest that Medieval scenarios have this issue - you have a king, some dukes and the rest are minor lords.

Choose your scenarios with care

My advice here is to choose your scenarios with care. One of my first actions when planning a game is draw up a list of player roles. If the player list has lots of minor players re-think the scenario you want to do. Should it be more political? Should it be more mechanical? Should it be a smaller game? Don't be pushed into accepting more players than your game can accept. I have heard this is a pressure some designers encounter.

I will not re-run my two megagames "Shameless and Impudent Lords" again as I first did designed them. I will eliminate minor Lords. To do this I have to either run a very small game of about 10 to 20 players and control or to make real teams.

Real Teams

What do I mean by a "real team"? I suggest that you physically arrange a team so that the players sit together, drink tea together and break bread together. There is a saying in megagames called "table teams" - this is when a group of players after several turns adopt a group think despite their briefings! This has occurred because of social pressures not because of their briefings. Use this to your advantage by arranging your players with team time and team tables. If you can afford it have team controls too.

Be loyal to

Avoid player briefs that advise the player should just be "loyal to" or "always support x". 

This advice might seem contradictory. I am advising have "real teams", but don't write briefs that say be loyal to. How can you achieve that?

I would suggest that when you form teams, give all the players on that team the same objective. Tell them they want their "faction" or their "unit" to achieve this. So give the team an objective. Then sit the players together and hopefully social pressures will bond the team. Also give them an intra-team rival or enemy. You don't like those Greeks, you are a proud Macedonian.

This will not work with all players and this is where the designer plays their trump card - casting. Make sure you cast players you know - or you know their reputation - are team players or followers of briefs. Put mavericks and conflict queens into those quirky roles. Casting is your friend.

(3) Easy early problems 

This has to be handled with care. 

A simple suggestion would be to add more events that will occur later in the game. To give a map control several cards to generate issues / problems etc. The problem with this is that it is artificial, and runs the risk of being seen as being artificial and imposed on the game. For me the great joy of megagames is that players generate their own issues and problems, and solutions - they own their narrative, they are invested in the game and they know why they do what they do. 

Probably a better suggestion is to make the early problems difficult to solve but not instantly deadly to the players. So early problems have to be hard to beat, and passive.

I remember play testing with Reiner Knizia and his mantra was he wanted to give the players two things they wanted to do, but only the possibility of doing one of them. So you have to restrict the resources they can deploy so they can only do a one or possibly two things. Maybe restrict the number of actions they can do per turn. Perhaps allow unchallenged NPCs to grow and spread if nothing is done about them. 

To solve the problem players need to learn how to work within the rules. So these early problems are like tutorials in computer games. Maybe they should learn how to collaborate with their fellow players to beat up an NPC. They might need to pool resources - treasure, blood and time - to solve a problem.

(4) Stalemate

This is a difficult problem and I think it is mostly related to the scenario used in the game. 

The obvious stalemate scenario is trench warfare in world war 1. If players sign up for this sort of game they come prepared for a slogging attritional game. The problem arises when the game scenario promises wheeling and dealing and delivers "big-stack standoffs". Players thought they were going to have an effect on the game but find they are at the bottom of the hierarchy doing the bidding of their master.

The answer to this is again structure. Ensure the solutions to the problems in your game cannot be easily solved with big stacks - unless that is how the historical scenario went. If you have to have big stacks, go for real teams. If the scenario enables you then distribute the tasks to several players who have to move to other regions / tables and will be gone for several turns.

But this is a difficult problem.

(2) Snacking

Everyone has their own pet theories about dieting and food. One suggestion I would make is that many people get dehydrated without knowing it. Perhaps you could provide free bottles of water on each table as well as a well stocked and friendly canteen.

(1) Learning the game

There is no easy answer to this. The known responses are to have a longer than usual first turn and to have an initial setup that requires a battle or conflict to be resolved so that all players can observe the walk through.

Monday, 19 August 2019

You know you are playing in a Megagame when...

I present this as conceptual tool to enable the befuddled masses to know if the game they are playing really is a proper megagame.

These tools do not require any definition and even a social media debate. You just need to ask yourself a few "yes" or "no" questions, and if enough of them are yes then you can be mostly certain you are indeed "playing in a megagame".

1. Are there a lot of players?

We might need to nail down "a lot of players" but really megagames involve more players than say a wedding, or a family party, but much less than a football crowd. But in general many more players are playing in one game at the same time than anything you have every experienced. Megagames are quite the biggest multiplayer games you will every play in.

Perhaps I should define what I mean multiplayer. I suppose this could get tricky, but if I said there have to be more than 2 players this will eliminate games like Chess, and most SPI boardgames. (There is a whole debate about if megagames are really just big boardgames, I just prefer to say there are a lot more players in a megagames than the typical boardgame.) 

However I think I can stick my neck out and say that if there are more than 25 players (I include Control in this too) then it is more likely to be a megagame than another type of game. 

2. Do some of the players refer to themselves as "Control"?

All megagames have a proportion of the players who call themselves Control. The Designer has taken a lot of time over "the ratio". The ratio, in this context, refers to how many Players there are to Control. Some like a low ratio, others like a high ratio. There is something of a debate about this. However, for our purposes - finding out if we are playing a megagame - just knowing that there are Control will suffice.

Control like to consider themselves as wise, self-sacrificing, and very worthy. This is mostly true. However they don't like to admit that they are really playing in a megagame. Don't be fooled, they are playing really, its just that they pay less and still feel morally superior.

3. Are there any breaks in play?

This can be quite difficult. For example when I play boardgames - like Puerto Rico, Carcassone or Settlers of Catan - my game group frequently has breaks in play. We generally forget about the game and throw insults at each other, go to the toilet or just chat shit about irrelevant things.

Now all the above things also occur in megagames, but they usually happen - apart from the toilet breaks -  and the megagame does not just stop! If a player indulges in a tea break, the game keeps going - though some argue that the tea queue is a great place to talk to players you shouldn't otherwise talk to. If you live vlog yourself, the game goes on. There are no breaks in megagames! This is quite a distinguishing feature.

4. Are there any ad hoc rulings?

This is very simple. If you play a game like Chess, or Settlers of Catan, there are occasionally disputes about the interpretation of rules. In non-megagames these are eventually settled by player consensus (or sometimes just throwing the board over and storming off). In megagames any disputes about the rules are taken to "Control" who quickly, and usually with no attempt to check the rules, tell you what the rule "really" means and to do that, and that you are just trying to "get away with it" and not to try it on again, and don't go and ask another Control for a second ruling, and just suck it up and get on with it.

Sometimes in really serious ad hoc rulings, the Control will secretly talk to the Game Designer and then there will be a quiet promulgation amongst the other Controls of what the Designer really intended by that rule. It's all a little confusing, and very ad hoc!

5. Are there any inconsistent applications of rules, from table to table or from Control to Control?

If this does not happen or if players don't whinge about "damned inconsistent rules "you know you are not in a megagame. Simples. Experienced megagame players expect inconsistent rules; they even take great joy in pointing them out to other players and control, sometimes during the game, but more often afterwards in some blog or vlog or social media post.

Some are a little disgruntled by this, others are more phlegmatic. But you cannot deny that it is part of one of the defining features of a megagame - inconsistent application of the rules.

6. Does emergent play occur?

Most players are not sure what emergent play is; its a little bit theoretical. In simple terms it's when something happens within the structure of the game that was not anticipated by the designer. By structure I mean the rules, the maps, the counters etc. I don't mean player behaviour, players are just downright unpredictable. A wise and experienced Game Designer will often mutter about "emergent play"; it makes them seem more in control if they expected the unexpected.

Anyway that's the theory. In a megagame you usually meet emergent play when a player or Control says they are "doing a wizard wheeze". I would go so far to say that if you do not encounter this at least once then you are not in a real megagame.

7. Are there rules about where the players can and cannot be?

Think about it. In most games the rules do not tell you that for 10 minutes you have to sit with a group of other gamers or that only a certain type of player can go to the map table etc. OK, in some boardgames there is an order of play thing going on, which more a seating order thing.

Anyway, you know when you are playing in a megagame if somewhere in the rules there is a section that stipulates where the players have to be at certain times or cannot be at other times. OK, games like Rugby Union have extremely complex offside rules which might be mistaken for megagame rules about player placement, but in Rugby the rules on cover temporary incidents. Megagame Offside rules have rules that require players to be present for regular recurring periods of times, so they're not much like Rugby Union offside rules.

8. Are the players organised into teams by the designer pre-game?

Let's face it why else would you be required to sit at the same table with a bunch of strangers if you weren't in a team. Megagame Designers reckon they can cast a bunch of strangers as a team to create that great megagame narrative experience. How many other games does such "casting" take place. Yes casting is central to films and theatre, in fact I think this is why some people like to think megagames are a sort of improv theatre for gamers, and there might be something in that.

9. Do some of the players dress up?

This is probably the most controversial thing I'm going to say. Perhaps it's because I played my first megagame in 1991 and count myself as a bit of an old grognard, but I remember the days when no megagamers dressed up or even wore hats.

These days, if somebody is not wearing something swashy or buckling then it's not really a megagame. But a good point is that many players don't dress up; perhaps this is how you can distinguish between megagames and theatre - in theatre all the cast dresses up, in megagames only a few really enthusiastic types do.


I hope this simple conceptual tool will be of use to all gamers who might be a little concerned that they might or might not be playing in a real megagame. Just ask and answer the above 9 questions and I would suggest that if you get 9 affirmatives, then you are playing in a megagame. If you get between 6 - 8 then it's probably just a messy gaming experience, like a club game at CLWG, which is not really here nor there. Less than 6 then I would suggest you should think about asking for your money back, as it is almost certainly not a megagame.

Final word

Actually.... this all started as a serious attempt to define a megagame by writing a set of necessary conditions. Yeah! I bet you wouldn't have read an article about fuzzy sets and crisp sets - well I know at least one person who would - but they've left the country now, so I'm safe.

I have a few other conditions - that upon further reflection - are less likely to always be found in a megagame but quite likely to occur... A simple list will suffice.

  • Roleplaying
  • Hierarchical teams
  • Friction between players
  • Players have personal roles
  • Player interaction drives the gameplay

10. Reading the rules

There is, of course, the final and very cynical definition of a megagame - you know when you are playing in a megagame when most of the players have not read the rules, sometimes, even Control haven't!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Consistency in Megagames

In a recent megagame I noticed that one of the "new" players was looking rather tired and despondent towards the later part of the game. I spoke to them "out of character" as I was surprised they were just nodding through decisions their historic character would oppose.

The "new" player told me about the inconsistent control decisions he had experienced and how this had "broken" the game for him.

And I thought of the discussions I had had with the Parry brothers and others about poor Control consistency. As a veteran of over 50 megagames, mostly as Control, I have learnt to cope and work around or with inconsistent "control decisions." I would rather it didn't happen, but it usually doesn't kill my game as I am invested in keeping the game and the experience going more than I am in adhering to a set of rules. But... when I see the frustration and lack of involvement through the eyes of a noob I start to wonder.

There must be a better way

I'd like to suggest a few things that could help bring consistency to a game.

Training Control 

In some games there is a long first turn or a quiet first turn where the players have to plan before the main operational phase starts.

This should be a great time for the Game Control or even the Map Controllers to get together and work through any issues they have with the rules, and even play a few combats or moves out. Issues will be dealt with, Control will have some practice and I don't think this will delay the game start much.

It might even be a good idea to embed Map Control training into all megagames!

Map Controls or Liaison Controls

One of the obvious choices for a designer is how and where you deploy your Control. These days we go for Control-lite games and for the rules to be embedded on the cards or the playing pieces used by the players and have open games where eventually Control can just push the players through the phases and make judgement calls in unseen or ambiguous circumstances. 

This usually means the designer goes for "Map Controls". I would argue that this is where some of the inconsistency will occur. You have hard-pressed Map Controls working either as a pair or on their own running a map. Differences in rules interpretation are bound to occur and will not be easily spotted.

In addition most games have one map that gets busier than the rest and Game Control has to step in a reassign a Control to assist. This overwork of Map Controls is a common problem.

My suggestion is that perhaps the designer - especially in games with big teams - should go to the older standard of Liaison Controls. For those not familiar with Liaison Controls, they collect orders from a team or teams, take them to the operational map and with other Liaison Controls process the orders and communicate the results to the player teams.

Of course there are trade-offs here. Liaison Control requires a lot more people. Also it means there is a lull in the game whilst the players wait for the turn to be processed. But as someone who has experience as a Map Control and a Liaison Control, I know that the Liaison Control are more consistent as rules interpretations are discussed and decided upon as they occur, often with the Game Control or Senior Map Control involved.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Recommended Reading for Games Design

So you are interested in game design and you want to know more? What should you read?

The following list is based on my reading in preparing to teach "Computer Game Design" to 16 to 18 year olds in a College in London. I am a life long boardgame, wargame and computer game player. For many years I have created face to face, boardgames, megagames and committee games as an amateur designer.

Boardgames or Video Games - are they really that different?

There is a divide between resources that focus on digital (video) games and those on analog (board) games. There is a lot of similarities between designing games for analog and digital. And there are a few, but important distinctions that seperate them.

Several designers suggest that you should design boardgames first. Their reasons are quite simple:
  1. Boardgames are easier create; you can quickly get bogged down programming or learning game engines and get distracted from game design.
  2. You can quickly make boardgame prototypes and get play-test feedback.

Costikyan, Greg "Don't Be a Vidiot: What Computer Game Designers Can Learn From Non-Electronic Games"

Game Design in General

Zimmerman, Eric & Tekinbas, Katie Salen  (2004) "Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals"

This is a book recommended to me by a professional boardgame designer and I have seen it recommended in selections of books for Computer Games Design. I have read it and I would also recommend it. If you read one book on games design, make sure it is this one.

It is a daunting size, 670 pages of small type. However, the book has a great saving grace in that it has a detailed summary at the end of each chapter. I read it by looking at the summary first and then flicking back to pick up ideas from the main body of the chapter that I wanted to read more about.

It is also a very thorough book covering all the aspects of games: what is a game, what do players want, what is emergent play, the social side of games, the cultural aspect of games etc. A great primer.

Hunicke, Robin, LeBlanc, Marc, & Zubek, Robert. (2004) "MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research"

I found this to be a very thought provoking read. It summarised the different aspects games design and game players have and how they interact. The idea of the MDA approach now appears in other works on games design.

Games - Social and Cultural

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by Johan Huizinga

This is a seminal work. It was one of the first books to examine the cultural and social impacts and uses of games. I found it a little too heavy on the literary study side of things, but still an interesting perspective on how games should be taken more seriously than they often are.

Computer Game Design

I would recommend this as a quick entry into why computer games are different from board games.

It has a very interesting take on what game genres are and the differences between game genres and the experiences gamers want. It also has an excellent diagram breaking down the different roles in the computer games industry.

I have only dipped into this book. Each time that I do I come away wanting to read the whole thing. 

It looks at games design from several different perspectives - lenses - each one enabling you to ask yourself how to make your game better. It is a game for established designers to improve their work.

This is a book on my order list as it keeps getting honourable mentions from many sources.

I read this as a specialist book to teach a course on narratives or story-telling in games. It is written by two experienced designers who write clearly on their subject. They break down story structure in films and why game's story structure is different. They give a very useful aid to writing scenes for computer games that asks three questions about each scene: "What can I do?", "Where am I?" and "Who am I?"

Further, further reading

Costikyan has an archive of articles on games and gaming. Well worth browsing for inspiring and controversial ideas.

A great website that has game reviews and articles on design and gaming issues. Well worth popping over and browsing.

** Note: I intend to pop back and update this list, as I read more.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Hill 70 - An Adventure Game

I designed this Interactive Fiction or Adventure Game as a summer project to learn how to use Twine and Sugarcube. I will teach a Game Design course at a Sixth Form College, from September 2018, and intend to use this software with the students.

The best way to teach something is to learn it first.

I used an old game design sketch I had made some years ago of a decision based card game idea. It lent itself to this Interactive Fiction or Adventure Game format.

Hill 70 - The Game

In this game you take on the role of Major Gause, an officer commanding a battalion of infantry in the Imperial German Army, in Lens, France, 25th September 1915.

You make decisions based on the problems the Major Gause encountered.

Your mission is to defend the German positions against a British and French assault.

One game should take 15 minutes.

Click here to play: Hill 70

Debugging & Testing

Several people have taken the trouble to test this game for bugs, spelling errors and errors in the storyline thread. Thanks to all for taking their time.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

New Players in Megagames

My intention is to write up my experiences in playing with new players in megagames.

New players are a great asset to megagames. Without them the genre would stagnate. They bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm that has driven the recent global expansion of megagames.

But I do worry that new players have a lot to learn in what is often a very confusing and fast moving event. Experienced gamers are aware of this and we do try to take the time to assist. But... it is a fast moving and confusing event

Red Dawn

The Blue Interventionists-without-intervening team.
In the recent game I played in - Red Dawn - I was on a team that consisted of four players playing their first ever game, one player on their second game, three players who have played at least five megagames and two players who have played in too many games to mention in polite company, one of them being myself. The umpire was the most experienced of all of us.

Game Play and the inexperienced.

In Red Dawn - I was in a team of two, the Japanese Interventionists, attempting to defeat the Bolshevik menace and cooperate with my fellow Allies, the British, French and USA teams. 

In my team was Bob [not his real name] who was a new player to megagames. Bob made an excellent start. He had read the rules, and was able to find relevant passages on his tablet. We checked our understanding of the game aims and how we might achieve them. After that we quickly settled down into our roles, he as the operational player and I as the diplomatic player.  

During the game I mostly let Bob get on with his game. I noticed that after the initial chat he needed no guidance from me. For example: he quickly understood that though the diplomacy phase might take longer than it should, he should go to the map and get on with the next operational move when the phase had started.

There were a couple of issues I want to illustrate and discuss; issues that relate to Bob's inexperience with megagames.

1. Drag your feet

The arrival of the Japanese army units came at an opportune point for the Japanese. We were the last fresh and substantial force to be deployed. The theatre for our deployment was Siberia. There was no dispute or debate that the Japanese should be deployed to Siberia. All the other Allies had to support the move even though they knew the Japanese had their imperialist eyes on that part of the world. My comrade Allies made it plain that they expected the Japanese to clear all Reds from Siberia. So I agreed to this caveat to their support and ensured that Bob heard this too as I passed him his shiny new units.

Later on the next turn, I visited the Siberian map and checked in with Bob. He happily showed me his units had disembarked in Vladivostock and were moving to the front.  I told him we wanted to hang on to Vladivostock and its hinterland. So I wanted him to move only half his force to the hand-over point with the French Theatre Commander, and I wanted them to move slowly, not at best speed, to find reasons for being delayed, lack of trains, lack of railway staff, lack of food etc. I told him that I didn't want the Japanese to die for the Allied cause. I told him to drag his feet.

Up until then, I think Bob, had been happily playing his game, maximising his troops deployments, making his logistics work efficiently and generally being a good operational commander. And there was I telling him to go slowly, only commit half his forces and not be an effective commander. In other words, think of his side's real aims and ambitions. And remember the dictum: War is the continuation of politics by other means. This is why I like megagames so much. Players new to megagames might have heard of this dictum, but they'd never really understood it. Not until they played a megagame. I remember learning it myself in my early megagames. I hope new players learn this lesson too.

2. How're you doin'?

About two turns later I visited the map again, and this time had a chat with the Whites, the Cossacks and the Reds - yes I know, I talked to the enemy! I kept the chat straightforward and jolly, a bit of banter really, "how's it going", "your forces look a but done in", "now's the chance to swap sides" etc. But of course, I was really gathering Intelligence.

The small corner of Siberia that would
keep the Red Flag flying here
The Reds told me that they were relieved to still be on the map and that their game aim was to keep the red flag flying in the last corner of Siberia. They sounded confident. I also noted they did not refer to the next map and how they might be receiving reinforcements. My chat with the Whites involved references to alcohol, loot and their confidence in reaching Moscow. In other words the usual White bluster and lack of real direction. In my chat with the Siberian Cossacks, I was told that they were going to win, but it would take a few more turns, and they were confident this. As I was leaving they mentioned that they could do with some more food and ammo, just to be sure they would win! I said I would see what I could do.

I checked the next map, which was Russia west of the Urals, and noticed stacks and stacks of Red armies recruiting, reorganising and no doubt being fed into other Theatres, including Siberia.

My assessment was that even if I committed the Japanese forces whole-heartedly we were just going to get chewed up. The Red menace had been contained at best but looked united and centralised as opposed to the disparate groupings of Whites, Greens, and Blues fighting them. The fighting should be left to the locals with logistical support from us. Any further involvement of my forces might mean I would not get to seize Siberia and Vladivostock in any strength.

I checked with Bob about his view of the map and he didn't really seem to have a picture like I had. He told me about the deployment of our units and what he had seen of the fighting, but not what was in the minds of the commanders. I told him what I had found out from chatting to the players and asked if he could afford to spare some supplies for the Cossacks. We had earlier promoted their self-rule and got it recognised by the Allies. I had judged them too difficult to fight and they would form a useful pool of mercenaries and guard dogs for later Japanese Imperial expansion in the area. Getting them on-side, supplying them, whilst getting them to do the dying, meant they would owe me a favour and weaken themselves too.

The lesson here is to talk to the players. New players might be nervous talking to new players, they might be unsure of the etiquette, and not sure of the game mechanic. I was confident that in an open map game with turns a season long, my character would be able to receive and digest a lot of intelligence reports and attend a lot of cocktail parties that would give them a good picture of what was on the ground and in the mind of the opposition. The game would've been designed differently if this was not possible. 

Megagames are mostly conversational games with a few mechanics that pin down some of the game facts. 

Learning to talk to other players is an essential part of playing megagames, even for operational / map based players, though to a lesser extent than the politicos.


My conclusion is that megagames have been for me a great learning experience. I have learnt lessons about the complex nature of operational warfare, the never absent influence of politics and how to work and cope with a stressful human activity that involves more than a half-dozen people. 

Some would suggest that megagames only teach you how to play megagames; and they have a point. Games are not simulations or models, they are games. But I like to think my megagaming experience has enhanced my understanding of history and my experience of working in a team.

Perhaps this goes someway to tackle the allegation that some players make that megagames should have more structure, less ambiguity, more precision in handling rules interpretations and Control adjudications. My suggestion is that megagames are not about giving you a structured gaming experience; sometimes you will experience inconsistencies. This might spoil your game if your world-view is that games should not do this. The golden circle of the gaming experience can be a place to experience consistency and adherence to rules. Which is all the more apparent because the world is not like this.

And this is my point. I hope that players new to megagames gain a playing experience that enhances their appreciation of the real world of politics and warfare, in the contemporary world and in history. And have some fun along the way.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Post play-test blues

There must be a word for post play-test blues.
After all the effort I put in to my game design, especially over the last few days, all the final printing, cutting and ordering of paper and bits. Then all the little failures of my design during the play test. Not really balanced with the smaller joys of players actually engaging with the game - little breadcrumbs that are easily swept away. Followed by a long evening and night of going over the improvements, or half writing the After Action Report (AAR) in your head, waking at 3:30 and thinking NO NO did I get that wrong... Should I change this.
And then the next day you wake up and think. To hell with it. I'll put it all back in the folder.
I think I have always gone through this personal post-game blue-debrief.
And you know what. The solution is simple. Write about it. Write your AAR as soon as possible. Use it as therapy to get it all out of the system. Use it to wrap up those wallowing thoughts of nagging failure and go through to the uplands of the NEXT TIME.
Creativity is difficult. And very rewarding.