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Agile is so last year...

Interview 4: Corey Sanders


For more information about Corey Sanders see the experts page.

A recording of the interview is accessible here.


For the most part, Corey reiterated a lot of the things we have heard from interviews with other experts. The attributes he suggested are:

  • Mechanics
  • Easy to Learn?
  • Gateway Game?
  • Rank (from BGG)
  • Play time
  • Age Group
  • Availability – How easy is it to buy this game in a store?

Corey agreed that player skill might also be important and thought that using most difficult game played might work as well as the number of unique games played.


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Interview 3: Jeff Kayati


For more information about Jeff Kayati see the experts page.

A recording of the interview is accessible here.


Beyond reiterating significant attributes we’ve heard from previous experts Jeff also suggested that the user be able to specify whether or not they want to learn a new game or not. Although we are not tracking user plays we could return more varied results in this case.

Jeff also suggested that we allow the user to access the similarity engine directly. That is, a user can query for a game with specific attributes or he or she can enter another game they like and get a recommendation from that.

Since the published playtime of a game is often far shorter than actual plays to new board game players Jeff suggested adjusting playtime based on player skill level.

Similar to Jeff Horger’s suggestion that we filter by publisher, Kayati also suggested we allow filtering on designer. Also like Jeff Horger, Kayati though allowing the user to exclude certain attributes is very important.


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Interview 2: Jeff Horger


For more information about Jeff Horger see the experts page.

A recording of the interview is accessible here.


As with most of our experts we asked Jeff a few basic questions:

  1. How do you pick what game to play?
  2. How do you determine what game to suggest to another player?
  3. What attributes do you think are important to consider when selecting a game to play?

1. Choosing for Self

Jeff selects games to play far in advance and has a rotation set up with fellow players. Thus he always knows what he is going to play. Foremost Jeff considers those he is playing with when selecting games in this fashion.

Here are some attributes Jeff specifically mention he though of:

  • Mental or Fun? – Does the game require a lot of thinking or is it simpler than that.
  • Hard or Easy (i.e. weight)
  • Complexity

2. Suggesting to Others

Jeff always asks leading questions before making a suggestion. He takes into account the likes and dislikes of the other player. He plays special attention to theme. He also strongly regrades exclusions made by other players. If some one hates games published by Fantasy Flight, then Jeff certainly will not suggest one that was.

Jeff also suggested that we put default to placing simpler games before more complex ones since that’s what most new players would prefer.

3. Attributes

(Besides those listed in 1)

  • Play time
  • Gauge skill by the hardest game the client has ever played.
  • Difficulty to learn will correlate highly with number of metrics.
  • Publishers typically produce games for audience at a certain skill level so they can be mapped to difficulty to learn.


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Interview 1: Raymond Chandler


For more information about Ray see the experts page.

Unfortunately, our recording device failed and so no transcript is available.


After explaining our initial ideas and design to Ray he gave us some input. Lot’s of input. Primarily our initial screening should consider the following:

  • Number of Players – An allowable range
  • Complexity – How many ways are there to win the game?
  • Age Group
  • Gateway Games – Games that are good for those new to a specific mechanic, theme or genre or to board games in general.
  • Mechanics – Aspects of a game that describe atomic elements of gameplay (e.g. dice rolling, card management)
  • Genre – What type of game is it (e.g. empire building, tech building, pure strategy)
  • Theme – The setting and style of a game (e.g. 1800’s Britain mystery, or a futuristic role palying game set in space)
  • Light or Heavy – Does the game require the player’s full attention or is it more relaxed?
  • Tactics or Strategy – Does the game require more on the spot decisions (i.e. tactics) or does it more heavily involve long term plans (i.e. strategy)
  • Average Player Skill – Measured in number of unique games played.
  • Ramp – How quickly can the game scale?
  • Tempo – Inverse of the time between turns.


Many of the aspects described above do not exist of simply binary choices. They describe continuous spectra. To best capture the user’s preferences a continuous slider must be provided with understood endpoints. These include:

  • Tactics to Strategy – Checkers → Chess
  • Light to Heavy
  • Complexity
  • Player Skill
  • Ramp
  • Tempo


All aspects are important but some will weigh more heavily than others for any given user. However since the system we are aiming to design has the constraint that users cannot be tracked, it will be difficult to determine the proper weightings. For the best possible user experience these weights must also be determined easily. Asking the user to eight the significance of either of their inputs might be overkill.

Ray suggests that we use player skill as a base to indicate the relative significance of the other fields. He suggests that the function comparing significance of complexity to player skill is Gaussian. Furthermore the acceptable number of standard deviations on complexity compares to player skill like a well curve. Thus a novice player, who has less experience with games might not be very good at gauging complexity and thus this rating should not be highly weighted. Conversely, an experienced player is often impartial to complexity which also explains why they would allow a greater number of standard deviations. This sort of trend could be used on other fields as well with more expert input.

Types of Designers

There are three types of board game designers:

  1. Thematic Designers – Considers what the theme of the game they want to make first. From there the designer begins to consider mechanics and the rest of the game.

  2. Emotional Designers – These designers choose what they want players to experience first. Diplomacy type games often come from Emotional designers because of the focus on interacting with other players that leads to emmotion.

  3. Systems Designers – Often these designers start with the mechanics they want in a game before considering other elements.

Thematic and systems designers represent opposite ends of a high touch to high concept spectrum. High tocuh, which is sometimes referred to as right brain, is used to describe individuals who are more artistic, visual and theatrical. High concept, conversely called left brain, describes individuals who are logical and think about process more than style. Thus a systems designer prefers the logical, process driven approach to game design that involves combining mechanics first while a thematic designer is more concerned with the feel of the game. Emotional designers are somewhere in the middle. They start with mechanics and theme as a tools to illicit emotion.

Ray, being a systems designer, suggested we also talk to a thematic designer. Ray specifically suggested we talk to Jim Harmon.


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