Overflow Design Goals: Simple, less rules

As I mentioned in the introduction post, before I started design on Overflow, I wrote out several design goals. One of the pieces of advice I heard from other game designers (both video game and tabletop), was that many first projects are overly complex and can jam up a first-time game designer. Heck, even some seasoned veterans probably struggle with keeping things simple too.

The thing is, even though I knew this piece of advice, the game I originally designed before Overflow was too complex and had too many rules.

I kept getting tripped up in its intricacies and boundaries. I thought these were helping me but were actually too large for me to really pinpoint good ideas. I eventually scrapped the idea and that led me to the first Overflow design goal; simple, less rules.

I think it’s important that I lay out some context too since it might beg the question, “simpler than what?” or, “less rules than what?”

Here’s a shortlist of great games that are more complex and have more rules than Overflow:

  • Zombicide
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Puzzle Strike
  • Pathfinder

Now, here’s a list of great games that are either as simple or even simpler than Overflow, with equal or less rules:

  • Escape: Curse of the Temple
  • Boom-O
  • Bang!
  • Apples to Apples
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Dixit

Overflow is in the middle of these two lists. It of course has a rulebook, but can easily be taught by an experienced player from memory, without ever referencing the rulebook. I drew a line in the ground and never allowed myself to cross it.

-PT

Overflow – An Introduction, Part I

Hey everybody! So what exactly IS Overflow?

Prototype Flip Flop card from Overflow.

Prototype Flip Flop card from Overflow.

Before I get into the details and gameplay overview, I wanted to write a little bit about where it came from and what my goals were when I started.

If you’re impatient and just want to read the official intro, it’s at the bottom. But I hope it’s interesting enough that you’ll scroll back up and read through!

Overflow started out as a project to satisfy my itch to design a game. Rather than learn a programming language or game development software on top of using newly found game design muscles, I decided to go tactile and design a card game. I fondly remember my brother teaching me how to play Magic: The Gathering on my grandma’s carpeted floor and that transitioned into a love for the Pokemon TCG. Fun fact, I am actually a West Coast semifinalist in the Pokemon TCG tournament from way back in 2000!

Anyways, while Overflow started out as a game design exercise, it’s now morphed into a game production exercise. I knew I could create a game, but it ended up better than I could have ever expected and now the real challenge is to produce it.

Overflow wasn’t my first game idea, but the moment the idea came to me, it immediately felt like the game I should be designing. The entire concept came to me in one sitting and while it’s gone through many iterations, the core has remained the same from that one moment. I was inspired by classic games like Tetris, Bejeweled and Uno, but also drew elements from Puzzle Strike, Puzzle Quest and a long-time favorite in my group of friends, Boom-O.

Before I ever put any game ideas down, I wrote down a couple game design goals. These were things I wanted my game to incorporate or avoid. Here’s the list:

  • Simple, less rules
  • Deep strategy with combos
  • Comeback-ability
  • No lameduck, no kingmaker
  • No pre-game alliances
  • No empty turns

I’m pretty confident Overflow does a good job at addressing each of these in a couple different ways. I plan to post about each goal separately (or where appropriate, together) and go in-depth into why it’s in my goals and how Overflow addresses it.

With that said, without further ado, here’s the introduction straight from the latest draft of the Overflow rulebook:

Overflow! is a card game that simulates a stacking puzzle game (i.e. Tetris, Bejeweled etc.). In this puzzle game, blocks will fall and be added by players into the shared stack. Whoever overflows the stack will lose 1 Hit Point(HP) and the winner is the last one standing. Players are able to clear rows of blocks by matching 3 of a color and to help, players can play actions that will allow them to rearrange the stack in various ways. Other actions will build or destroy the stack, relieving or adding pressure. As players are eliminated, more and more blocks fill up the stack.

-PT