Ludology is a term that encompasses not only the academic discipline of game theory, which focuses on strategy, but also game design, game variants, the study of mutators and operators, and so on.
Mutators (also known as operators) are rules that you can apply to just about any game to transform it into a game variant. Consider the misère mutator: in misère chess, the loser is actually the winner, and the same holds for misère backgammon, misère checkers, misère Cosmic Encounter, and so forth. The mediocrity mutator states that the winner is the player with the most middling score. Other mutators allow for handicaps in the game, or extra players. Mutators is the first page we know of on the subject. If you know of any more, tell us.
Zillions of Games is an interesting commercial project that functions as a sort of software toolkit for designing board games and game variants. You use a simple scripting language to tell the software how to play your game, then the program's artificial intelligence routines analyse the game and can play against you. The software ships with some 200-300 games out of the box, from checkers to abstruse chess variants, and users have uploaded many more to the company's web site. (The CLS is considering developing similar software that will be free.)
There are a few packages for developing game variants out there that do not require computers, for example Fergus Duniho's Chess Construction Set. Fergus has some interesting ideas, but if you want to see a really amazing system for constructing chess variants, consider Meta-Chess by John William Brown. This book contains a complete, integrated system for generating chess variants, with its own aesthetic philosophy and game notation. Reading it, the author of this page was struck by how similar it was in spirit to his own project, the Kennexions GBG; in fact, every chapter of Meta-Chess begins with a quotation from The Glass Bead Game. You can find a review of Meta-Chess with ordering information for the book at The Chess Variants Pages, which are well worth a visit themselves.
"I Have No Words & I Must Design" is an excellent essay by commercial game designer Greg Costikyan on the various factors that make up a good game. Costikyan states his thesis in a concise, entertaining, and edifying way.
Be sure to read the rec.games.design FAQ. It contains many tips for game designers and a great bibliography for same.
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Maintainer: Ron Hale-Evans, firstname.lastname@example.org
Page last updated 20 June 2000.