Guidelines for Strategy Game Design

A functional and lightweight game design manual by Level 99's D. Brad Talton Jr,
on how to create tense, dynamic, decision-driven games.

§ 1.0 - Play delivers on the Pitch.

§ 1.0 - Play delivers on the Pitch.

§ 1.0 - Play delivers on the Pitch.

A game is successful if it delivers on the promise that convinced players to sit down and give it a try.

A game may not be fun, it may not be streamlined, it may not even be pleasant. But there are people out there who love Uno, High Frontier, Twilight Imperium, and Munchkin. You may find some of these games painful to play, but the people who love them swear by them. So there’s truly no accounting for taste.

The most loved games all deliver on the claim they make. They consistently deliver their target experiences.

So let’s forget about finding some mythical recipe for “fun” and instead focus on delivering what we promise. We’ll call that “success,” and we’ll let the players decide if they enjoyed the experience we delivered. But in any case, objectively, measurably, we’ll deliver it.

What is the pitch? The pitch is the experience that a game is proposing to provide to the player. What will they be doing, what will they feel, and what world are they entering? All of these elements combine together to make the pitch. Even if you’re building a simple trick-taking game, or an abstract, or something else completely non-thematic, the game still makes a pitch. Players are going to be doing something—experiencing something—at the table.

These guidelines will help you to understand what’s missing from either your pitch or your delivery. Remember that you can tackle an inconsistency from either direction. Adjusting the pitch is often easier than fixing a game, especially if the game is good—just not good in the way you’re pitching it.

Defining the activities and the feelings your game will deliver is a crucial first step of design.


  • Very interesting read so far! Looking forward to the rest of it.

    Khoo on

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