In the last year, I’ve had a change of opinion about how to make game choices and what aspects of game publishing are more valuable to me. Specifically, I’ve decided to follow publishers slightly more than designers. Rather than try to convince you that you should do the same, I’ll give you some feedback about why this was the case.
If you’re following a designer, you have to decide early on if the designers you like are consistently making certain types of games, or if the designer likes to spread their wings wide and produce many different types of games.
Bruno Cathala is a designer of high repute but he’s also a designer that spreads wide. He has worked on abstract games, light weight games, heavier games, usually all with some strong implementation of theme.
Vital Lacerda, on the other hand, tends to design games with a similar aesthetic. He stays primarily in the heavy game realm with multiple paths to victory and tactical options buffeted by bonus combinations with each player turn.
Making a decision about a designer speaks to what you’re looking to get out of gaming. Do you enjoy a variety of games with a similar external focus or do you enjoy similar play across multiple games?
You might also want to consider following a publisher. With publishers, you don’t usually have the same extremes as above. Publishers like repeat business and so they usually stay within one gaming niche similar to designers like Vital Lacerda. However, what also comes along with this is the use of the same artists and graphic designers over and over. This is great if you enjoy the art style and rulebook layout from one game to the next. A great place to see this is the What’s Your Game games Nippon, Madeira, ZhanGuo, Signorie, and Vinhos.
Following a publisher over a designer for me is an expectation of quality. You know what to expect from publishers because they make deals with game manufacturers usually for the long term. In addition, the value that publishers provide usually means that games enhance their quality though the publishing process without diminishing the core concept of the game.
The main frustration that brought me to follow publishers was the vastly different quality from one game to the next for the same designer. Often it feels like it’s a game from a different designer because the publisher introduces decisions about style and production.
Ryan Laukat and Jamey Stegmaier
The main reason that both of these guys succeed is the personal nature of their games and campaigns. Fans really feel involved for better or worse.If you’re looking for that next great game and have tired of looking through a designer’s game repertoire, consider browsing through a publisher’s games. For even more depth of understanding, take two similar games from the same designer but different publishers and compare the implementation differences.