There are a lot of factors to consider, but I once received really useful advice that stuck with me. It was, basically, “think about what you want the game to emulate, and then build the mechanics around that.” I think this is solid advice.
You don’t see anything about balance. There’s not a word about genre. Nor is there anything about the simplicity of the rules. (The whining about “crunch” in rule-system is awful. I’ll get to that in a different post.)
Basically, build a system that makes the game feel like it revolves a certain concept, or set of concepts.
That’s it. I think this is really accurate as well. When I think about successful game systems, they all work around a very tightly crafted system that orchestrates the game. Warhammer Fantasy Role-playing, all of the White Wolf games, hell, even D&D are all examples how a mechanical system can be very different, but work to facilitate the objectives of the game.
Developing a system with relative ease and finesse is no small feat. In part, because many tabletop games have come to rely on polyhedral dice as a canonical prop for gameplay. Gaming without dice almost seems like heresy to some people. That means that dice, in some capacity are going to play a part in the game design, and will do so in what will probably be a meaningful way.
To that end though, all of the other components need to elicit that same effect that using the dice will, even if you’re not dealing with some feature that is probability based.
This just goes to show that, there are components of a game that are probably taken for granted by a lot of people, and that’s ok. Until you want to start thinking about building your own game. Then this stuff matters, and I’ve (briefly) outlined why this stuff is worth thinking about. I’ll pick this back up tomorrow.