When Jay Goike and Scott Rumptz started telling me about the mechanics of their new game Nexus, I was a bit confused although I never told them that. After all, I didn’t want to look stupid. I honestly thought that it was going to be a game about cars or something with all this talk about mechanics this and mechanics that. I’m glad I never said anything. It’s our little secret /wink.
Ok, now that I know what mechanics are in reference to tabletop games –thanks BoardGameGeek— I decided to ask Jay and Scott about the origins of the mechanics behind Nexus. Everyone that knows me knows I can’t just come out and ask a question as simple as “what are the mechanics of your game?”–No, no. That would only tell half the story. You see, whenever I am facing a new topic, problem, or choice, sometimes I find it useful to think about what I don’t want it to be and go from there. Let’s see what our two heroes have to say about this approach of what they knew they didn’t want in Nexus mechanics.
But first, one thing you should know is that Scott is a chess player. He has been playing chess forever and on his desk you will find 3-inch thick books on chess strategy. Knowing this, his first answer was surprising to me. He said he didn’t want a game that was “pure strategy.” He explained to me that in pure strategic games like chess, the more experienced, educated, and overall better player wins the game almost every time. And let’s be honest, how much fun is it to play a game with your friend when he wins every time? — more on losing in the game of Nexus later. Scott continues that he didn’t want mechanics which would allow the player to engage in “systematic game play” where they would “find a routine that works more than it doesn’t.” This goes right along with the purely strategic games. If I know I can execute maneuvers A, B, and C, and I will win the game more than not, the game becomes stale and not much fun to play — this works well in puzzles such as the Rubik’s Cube –I love the Rubik’s Cube!—but these type of systems wouldn’t go over so well in a tabletop game. Jay had several reasons he chose which mechanics were important to him. And those reasons were his wife and kids.
One of the biggest things for Jay is having time to play. Like Scott, he’s married, 3 kiddos, a full time job — geez, it’s a miracle the guys have time to wipe their butts — they wipe their butts I’m pretty sure. When asked about time mechanics in the game, Jay said, “this is a personal thing since we each have busy schedules and three children a piece.” But Jay did not want to sacrifice complexity for time. He continued, “we wanted Nexus to have depth in its world and dynamic game play but we didn’t want a game that required three or more hours to play.” This makes sense. Being married with 3 kiddos myself, just like Jay and Scott, I understand it’s hard to schedule time to hang out with the guys for hours on end when there’s always Boy Scouts, piano lessons, baseball practice, a leaking sink, or a myriad of other fatherly duties to perform. Losing in a game is one thing, but losing at being a father and husband is just not an option. And speaking of losing–see, I told you I’d get back to losing in Nexus– let’s hear what Scott has to say about the origins of losing mechanics in the game.
When I brought up what Scott knew for sure that he did want in the mechanics of the game, he was quick to answer. Scott said, “I want excitement! I have nothing to prove when I play a game. I don’t care if I win or lose, I just want to feel the rush of excitement that competition brings.” See, this is where Scott and I disagree. I am an ok loser, but not a great one. Losing now and then is part of life and picking myself up after a big loss or failure is something I have always struggled with. When I heard Nexus was 1v1 arena combat, I was quite worried about losing. Scott reassured me by telling me, “we created a game that rewards you for playing, not simply for winning.” Now that is something I can get behind! Participation award anyone? Count me in. Jay was equally as reassuring, “Nexus is designed to grow with you. It is fast paced and easy to learn the core basic rules without being too simple. You can game for an hour or two and they build upon each other in a legacy format.” Simple to learn? We shall see about that — If I can learn it, anyone can. I’m not exactly sure what Jay meant by “a legacy format.” I think it has something to do with a leveling-type system where you grow after each game and you carry that with you to the next fight. One thing I found out is that in the Nexus, it is not just 1v1 like I thought it was. There are other variables at play that can quickly sway the outcome of the game at any moment.
When I asked the guys what they meant by these other variables, Scott answered me. He said, “I was inspired a lot by watching people gamble. We knew we wanted random events. People love to feel in control despite how random an event may be.” This made me think. Do people really feel in control in random situations? It made me think of the randomness of sports where all I can really control is myself within all the chaos and how it gives me a sense of power to somewhat control that randomness to an extent. If it can give a sports player a sense of power, then surely it can give the player of a game that same type of feeling. Scott talked about this sense of power within randomness. He told me, “I think that is why I have always loved dice mechanics so much. The random nature of it is exciting. I knew I wanted mechanics that rewarded you with heavy advantages for positioning and other things that were within your control, but at the end of it all it came down to the outcome of a random dice roll.” Ahh yes, the dice roll. Like I said, I am pretty much a total newbie when it comes to tabletop games, but I have played my fair share of Yahtzee back in the day. Everyone leaned in, hearing the dice rattle around in the cup, the way they flew out on the table in almost slow motion. One by one they settled and all the players yelled out an elated “awwwww!” as the player got their final roll to win the game. Yes, I can relate. It sounds more inviting the more I hear about it.
I have yet to play or even see a round of Nexus played. I am unraveling all of this as I am releasing it out to you all. Next time, I will ask the guys about the origins of the Nexus world.
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To learn more about the game of Nexus, go here: https://d-verse.com/nexus/