Monday, October 18, 2021

Roll & Move: Ancient Egyptian Superpowers

Click above if you would rather listen than read.

Super heroes have taught us that everything has an origin story. For both games & gamers, those two journeys typically start in the same place – Roll & Move. The earliest game designers brought us games like Senet in 3500 BCE and as kids, most of us started with titles like Chutes & Ladders, Life or Monopoly. Humans advance by being exposed to an idea, building on it then sharing it again. Games & gamers improve in this same way; having seen a game mechanic before, we’re better equipped to understand what’s going on and how to get to the fun.

Where you come from matters; just like being from the planet Krypton, getting our gaming powers from the ancient world determines our destiny. Jump ahead to c. 700 CE, game designers from India created Snakes & Ladders. Where Senet was a demonstration of the pharaohs’ divine favor, Snakes & Ladders illustrates the futility of going against the divine’s plan. The same reason these two games use Roll & Move is why this mechanic is a struggle for some modern gamers – you are not in control of your destiny.

The British spread Snakes & Ladders to the rest of the World and Milton Bradley published their first version of Chutes & Ladders in 1943. In the English speaking world, Roll & Move is part of childhood. Paired with Monopoly, this mechanic embodies what everyday citizens’ consider to be board games. Even though Roll & Move is the homeworld, it is Kryptonite for some gamers.

Roll & Move is not Kryptonite

As you help new gamers unlock their super powers, remember the road from Smallville to Metropolis is filled with life lessons. Build up new gamers with kindness. There’s a whole universe of game Mechanics and this is a bridge to them (you don’t want to be responsible for creating anti-gaming, super villains. Let’s not drive people to the fortress of solitude…)

Good Gamers have titles in their collection for folks new to the hobby. Games everyone enjoys that help others discover our secret world. Pick a Roll & Move game for this part of your gaming library. Humans have an easier time understanding something they’ve encountered before. To this end, I would recommend games like: Mountain Goats, Jamaica & Camel Up. Once folks get comfortable, and want more, add other games with new mechanics. Remember you’re taking your non-gamer friends through 5,500+ years of innovation in board game mechanics. Take your time and enjoy their discovery.

Rating Roll & Move as a Game Mechanic

Approachability 4 – Roll & Move makes it easy for folks to picture what will happen next, it’s not hard to teach, but often you don’t feel empowered by your decisions which makes it a tougher sell for seasoned gamers.

Depth/Customization 2 – Often the mechanic is worked around rather than reinvented.

Utility 5 – There are 16,000+ titles on BGG that use this mechanic.

Uniqueness 0 – There are 16,000+ titles on BGG that use this mechanic. Sometimes you just need a hammer to be a hammer.

Next up in our Game Mechanics Blog Series, we’ll discuss Draft Mechanics.

About the Author

Jason Wright – Founder, Sovranti

Jason has been leading IT development organizations for 25+ years and “enabling” his weekly game night group for 15. His wife still hasn’t found all the places he hides the board games. These two great passions collide to form Sovranti, a new online board gaming platform.

This is a repost of original blog article for a wider audience.

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