Our group’s annual “pick the next game” exercise is in full swing. These tend to be a mixture of enjoyable, exhausting, and frustrating but, ultimately, lead to a good choice that satisfies everyone. It’s a process we’ve discussed  at the Stew before  and every group tends to have a variation that they favor. This time I took note that our decision-making process was driven primarily by two methodologies, each with their own pros and cons.
This one, admittedly, isn’t the one that I necessarily favor but has a couple of key elements. The first of which is that it leaves little confusion as to the “what” you will be playing. By defining the system upfront—while other items may still be in the air or in flux—you’ve established a foundation for the game. Some games are so tied to their systems—D&D for example—that once you’ve established your system of choice, a vast majority of what the game will entail is also defined. This promotes consensus, eliminates confusion, and can also lead to a faster resolution. That, in turn, means getting to playing faster! 🙂
The downside readily apparent in having a setting- or genre-neutral system is that you’ve focused on perhaps putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Do you really want to play a system at potentially the expense of the game? Now the two are not mutually-exclusive, but if you limit yourself to a narrow view of systems with no criteria beyond a preference for that system, aren’t you then wedging the game into that form, be it for better or for worse?
On the other side of the coin is likely the more traditional path that many of us take, defining the “game” portion of the exercise, or the setting, first. That, in turn, helps define the system to be used. Essentially picking the right tool for the job. The downside is that reaching consensus in this area is much more difficult.
For us this is where the stacks of books, descriptive game idea pitches, and PowerPoint presentations come into play. If that sounds like a lot of work, it can be – but the end result tends to be a very firm idea of what *game* we want to play. After that—or very closely in parallel—comes the system selection.
The disadvantage of this method, beyond its ability to take longer to coalesce into a firm idea, is that the system selection piece can also take a fair bit of effort and time. However the selection isn’t being done in a vacuum, it’s now guided by the campaign premise.
Ultimately both methods—or even a variation thereof—can get you where you want to go: a fun gaming premise that everyone will enjoy. It’s interesting to see how different folks approach this task. What does your game selection methodology look like? Let us know down below!