Tabletop Games: Don't Settle for Catan!

From a game of mahjong in the park to a 5-hour wargame in a residence hall den, tabletop gaming has provided a lifelong hobby for people all across the globe. This NEXUS experience will explore why games are so endlessly fascinating, from art and design, to mathematical principles, and interpersonal motivation and behavior. We will meet once a week to learn from faculty about an aspect of games that intersects with their expertise. Then, in small groups, we will spend time learning different types of games, including: cooperative, asymmetrical, team-based, solitary, and non-competitive. At the end of the semester, in addition to new knowledge about the theory and design of gaming, students will have been introduced to a variety of specific games and a deeper understanding of what makes them so compelling. Sessions will include:

  • Mathematical model of games
  • Games as illustrations of various mathematical principles
  • Introduction to micro-economic theory
  • Introduction to computational psychiatry
  • Intrinsic motivation (why do people play games?)
  • Information theory and artificial intelligence
  • Game design and marketing; design thinking; studio-based teaching
  • Field trip to Fantasy Flight Games for board game design and production
  • Guest lecture by a professional game designer
  • Play and critique of a variety of tabletop games


Activity Period: January–April 2020

Meets: Tuesdays from 3:30-5:30pm

Students Admitted: 25