Pax Robotica Retheme vs. The Cringe Rule

by Gil Hova

Hello again.

After BGG.CON, I thought Pax Robotica wasn’t playing right.  It had some minor issues, but its biggest problem was that it wasn’t playing like a robot fighting game.  It really played more like a typical Euro cube-grinder.

Publishers and designers don’t like Euro games with American themes, so I decided that I’d American-ize Pax.  But I liked the game as it was.  So I figured I’d split off the current version as a generic Euro city-building game.

I just had my first playtest of the game this weekend.  And it broke the Cringe Rule.

What’s the Cringe Rule, you ask?  Simple.  If I cringe while teaching the rules, even a little, something’s wrong.  All game designers know the cringe.  You’re up at a point of the game rules you’re not 100% confident about, and you figure that if you speak a little faster, or maybe mumble that bit, the players will just nod and you can move on.

More likely than not, they’ll ask that you repeat the cringeworthy part, and then you’re stuck in a positive cringe loop.  Nothing worse than that!

So I cringed a whole bunch during the game, and I decided midway through the first round to go back to some kind of war-profiteer theme.

Now I’m not sure what to do.  Do I continue with the American-ization of the game (which seems to have stalled, out of typical lack of time)?  Do I go with some silly fantasy war theme for the game currently known as Pax?  It is possible.

We shall see.  For now, I’m happy going back to fighting robots.  It’s a better theme.  People like it.  And I promise you, folks: I will never again think of designing a game about city-building, or constructing a castle or cathedral, or trading silk in the 16th Century Mediterranean Sea.  I promise.