James Wallis levels with you

Author Archive

The Elefantenparade in the Room —

Today (14th April 2017) I was on the radio documentary ‘Do Pass Go’ on BBC Radio 4, talking about board-games. I praised a particular 1980s board-game called Elefantenparade, which I love as an example of all the things that made German games so exciting in the 1980s. I want to make it clear that I […]

Nerdcon, authorship, and the problem with games —

So at Nerdcon, a convention about telling stories in early October, there was a game of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It was a programme item. It was played on a stage in front of a big audience, with big-name SF authors including Mary Robinette Kowal and Patrick Rothfuss—Nerdcon’s organiser—playing it. Nerdcon has just put the […]

Pandemic Legacy and the Dictionary of the Khazars —

For those not following hot board-game news, Spiel 15 saw the release of Pandemic Legacy, a combination of the best-selling co-op game Pandemic by Matt Leacock, and the Legacy system created by Rob Daviau for 2011’s Risk Legacy. A Legacy game is a board-game designed for campaign play: usually a set number of organised games with the same […]

The Essence of Essen —

Internationale Spieltage SPIEL, usually known as ‘Spiel’ or ‘Essen’, is the biggest tabletop gaming event in the world, with around 150,000 admittances over its four days. My first Spiel was 1995: I went with John Nephew of Atlas Games, showing off the almost-released second edition of Once Upon a Time. Then I didn’t go back until last week. […]

Cork Board Game Design Workshop —

I’m a special guest at Warpcon XXV at University College, Cork at the end of January (23rd-25th). I’ll be running a mix of Paranoia and Once Upon a Time playtests and probably some new Baron Munchausen material too, but I’ll also be hosting a session of my Board Game Design Workshop. The Workshop is a […]

A game narrative reading list —

Two friends with credentials (George Buckenham and Jurie Horneman) have posted recommended lists of books on game design, and as I’ve had a similar list knocking around for a while I thought I’d put it up here. Mine is more specific than either of theirs since it’s mostly about game narrative, and it overlaps with […]

Mountain Endings —

I am compiling a list of all the ways that a game of Mountain, the almost-a-game “ambient procedural mountain simulator” by David OReilly, can end: ‘You were killed by the Blood Pyramid’ ‘You are ruined by a passing giant sun’ ‘The Taker of Souls took yours’ ‘You were killed by a xyzzyx’ (triggered by playing the […]

Death and life in Scandinavia —

It is a church of modern design, its interior bright and wooden. About thirty people are listening from the pews as a man in his late sixties talks about death. Outside, nearby, there is a conference. Inside there is a magic circle, a temporary autonomous zone, a place with its own rules. He talks about […]