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Lewis Pulsipher's Blog   Expert Blogs


Dr. Lew Pulsipher started playing boardgames more than 50 years ago. He designed his own games, then discovered strategic "realistic" gaming with early Avalon Hill wargames, and ultimately earned a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history. His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish” was published in July 2012 by McFarland. He contributed to ETC Press' Analog: Tabltop Game Design.  Formerly contributing editor to several role-playing game magazines and author of over a hundred game magazine articles, he is designer of Britannia (UK, US, and Germany in separate editions), Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Swords and Wizardry, and Diplomacy Games & Variants. Britannia (2nd edition) appeared in 2006, with foreign editions (German, French, Spanish, Hungarian) in 2008. It was described in an Armchair General review of a 2006 edition as "ready to continue on as one of the great titles in the world of games".

Latest published game, Lew Pulsipher's Doomstar (Steam, 2016)

Latest published book, Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish, 2012.

Latest Kickstarter: Hastings 1066, Feb 2018

Online audiovisual courses at :

  • Learning Game Design (parts 1 and 2)
  • Brief Introduction to Game Design
  • How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games
  • Get a Job in the Video Game Industry
  • How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents)
  • The Joys of Game Design (hobbiest game design)
  • Brief Introduction to RPG design
  • Playteseting: the Heart of Game Design
  • Conceiving a New Game: Tips for Aspiring Designers (free)
  • Prospering at Game Conventions and Conferences (free with coupon)

Discounts and current projects are at PulsipherGames.Com.

YouTube "Game Design" channel:

Game design blog:




Expert Blogs

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 05 Feb 2018 10:39:00 EST in Design
Almost always, when I talk with groups of people about game design, I quote Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery:"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." How do we achieve this?

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 27 Nov 2017 11:28:00 EST in Design
Why would it bother anyone that a game is too hard for them to play? The notion that it's "wrong" to make a game "too challenging" is another instance of Rampant Egalitarianism, trying to make everyone conform to the lowest common denominator.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:21:00 EDT in Design
Harmony and its opposite, the kludge, are fundamental to good game design. Games that lack harmony or have in-harmonious aspects have a handicap, though some succeed. Fortunately, most of the in-harmonious games are never published, or only self published

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:19:00 EST in Design
Many aspiring designers, and some who ought to have enough experience to know better, design by trial and error (guess and check) rather than by using an efficient method related to engineering and science. I illustrate this and try to explain why.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 09 May 2016 08:06:00 EDT in Design
Computer RPGs (especially MMOs) appear to be a "grind" aimed at rising in level. People don't enjoy the journey, they only enjoy the destination ("I'm 80th level!"). That's why there's a big market for sale of items and gold and even entire accounts.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 03:16:00 EDT in Design, Console/PC
Party games, and to a lesser extent family games, have always been reward-based (you're rewarded for participation) rather than consequence-based (winning and losing is important, plus more), but hobby games were usually the latter. Not any more.

Lewis Pulsipher's Comments

Comment In: [Blog - 12/03/2019 - 10:46]

I 'm reading Jon Peterson ...

I 'm reading Jon Peterson 's magisterial Playing at the World which discusses Gygax 's game designing in detail in connection with the origins of D D. r n r nWhile GG did get to one-figure-is-one person, it was Dave Arneson who provided the I am that one person , ...

Comment In: [News - 01/04/2019 - 10:24]

I don 't know about ...

I don 't know about possible cooperation between Stardock and the designers, but on the subject of copyright the designers haven 't a leg to stand on. As a game designer and writer I 've looked into this, and game ideas and mechanisms specifically are not protected by copyright you ...

Comment In: [News - 07/06/2018 - 09:41]

This does seem very harsh, ...

This does seem very harsh, especially on the person who came to her defense. However, she is known in tabletop gaming as a toxic person who has a very high opinion of herself and a low opinion sometimes that 's an understatement of anyone who disagrees with her in any ...

Comment In: [Blog - 02/05/2018 - 10:39]

That 's a hard question. ...

That 's a hard question. I can only offer my discussion of harmony in games and the Kludge in Game Design.php . Bad complexity is going to make for bad harmony. r n r nBut being able to identify is doesn 't tell you how to make it, does ...

Comment In: [Feature - 02/15/2007 - 08:45]

How can you have mastery ...

How can you have mastery if you cannot fail it 's impossible, false productivity or achievement . That 's the thinking of K12 where everyone is special and self-esteem without accomplishment is emphasized that 's contributed so much to the mess the USA is in. I understand the British have ...

Comment In: [Blog - 05/24/2017 - 09:57]

I was surprised by your ...

I was surprised by your description of MDA. I thought that Dynamics were the interaction between player s and mechanics, not how the mechanics work together with one another. Hence the Dynamics are not solely a System function. but both System and Psychological. I don 't refer to Story because ...