The art of mixing games

PICTURE ME AS A TEENAGER AT STRATEGICON. Before I started working at gaming cons I used to go to as an attendee with a HUGE stack of games.

I would pick a central table in the Open Gaming room, pile my games up to a ludicrous height, and sit there waiting for looky-loos.

When a curious gamer stopped by I’d say, “Wanna play a game?”

When they started looking at the stack, I’d say, “Oh, not one of these games. Two of these games. Pick any two and I will combine them into a playable, never-before-seen NEW game.” Then I’d assure them that I didn’t have combinations in mind and that these were random games I picked to bring that day.

It’s been an itch I’ve always needed to scratch, making new things out of other things. Which is not to say that games, as they are designed and intended, aren’t great on their own. Many of them are! But there are also so VERY MANY games that are not quite ready for prime time. And yet there they are… begging to be improved.

My approach to combining games is to take two games and — before I even acknowledge the insanity of the random combo — reciting the mantra “There’s a game inside of everything.”

  • Inside the meeting point between two games — that congruent point where the two of them clearly share a common idea of theme.
  • Inside the spirit of one game and the form of another — where one game becomes the feeling and the goal and the other game becomes the format or the arena of the new game.
  • Or even inside a mundane daily activity combined with a game’s components — like cooking while standing on a Twister mat in the kitchen.
  • Or perhaps just a one-of-a-kind, lightning-in-a-bottle moment where you find yourself itching to do one game while in the middle of another.

The goal of this website is, among other things:

To discover the game inside of anything. To dig into what makes us struggle to win when there is no Victory Track. To delight in whimsy when confronting the mundane. To gamify, heighten, find the nugget of truth, and codify the rules of engagement for any moment of life. And to bring together like-minded jokers in the pursuit of adventure.

Back to that fateful day at Strategicon ’90 where one of the first requests I ever got was Wiz-War plus Risk, which is insane… Impossible, one might think. But in the words of William Shatner, “I think I could do it!”

And we tried it and it was playable! (the rules are somewhere else on this site)

Truth be told we played it for almost an hour until, I think, the Red Wizard holed himself up in Madagascar with three Magic Stones, a Sudden Death, Amplify and half a dozen number cards.

And there’s a lesson somewhere in that. It’s probably: “Don’t dare me to combine two games unless you are prepared to sit down and play the monstrosity for an hour.” But it could just as easily be: “There’s a game inside anything.”

And to combine games.

Don’t make me prove it unless you’ve got an hour to kill!

Next recommended article:

Recent Games on Gamurgy

Gamurgy Defined

1. The science of discovering, creating and combining games.
2 . The art of finding the game in anything.

Like metallurgy, it has to do with making alloys of games. Coming up with something new from two previous game ideas, or creating something out of a game mechanic and something in nature or culture.

Like thaumaturgy, it is a magical art. It creates magic and quite often has to do precisely with the themes of then magical world.

Like dramaturgy, it is literary in nature, it often invites acting and make believe, and it is enjoyed by both the spotlight-seekers and the engaged viewer.

1. (To) turn something into a game that is not normally considered game-like..
2 . (To) find a way to combine two unrelated things (or games) and create a game out of both which honors both ideas.


If you look at the online definition for “gamify”, It’s all about video games. And don’t get me wrong, I love video games, but that’s a whole different website. But let’s not stop with the definition.


For extra credit, whatever new game is created needs to be fun or at least educational. It should to speak to the individual elements that were combined. It should evoke the feeling or the experience of playing both elements.

And like zymurgy, it should go well with beer.

Next recommended article:

Recent Games on Gamurgy

The history of Gamurgy

Gamurgy logo

Gamurgy is an idea I created in 1999.

By that time I had been playing and creating games for over 20 years. As I looked back on all the types of games I had created, one thing was pretty clear: I liked to combine games and I liked to make a game out of either A) the last thing you would expect, or B) something I was dared to use as source material.

In 1989 I made a game in which playdough creatures ran around a pit made out of a trash can lid with a hole in the middle. The players had to maneuver around the pit wielding light sabres and the attacks themselves involved squishing and cutting the playdough creatures in half.

In 1991 I made a game in which my sister’s Barbie doll accessories were used as weapons to fend off waves of (again, playdough) zombies using a copy of the board game Mall Madness.

I even made a copy of Settlers of Catan — at six-times size! — in which each player wasn’t just a different color, they were a different set of 70s childhood toys. There was a Tinker Toys player, a Lincoln Logs player, one with Legos, one with Erector Set, one using a Richard Scarry Playskool set and one using Micronauts.

By the mid 90s I was making games for one-off uses mostly. If anything survived until a second playing, it was a miracle. And generally speaking, I was much more in favor of NOT replaying games. Why do the same thing a second time when you could make something brand new again. Not that I threw anything away… I just became a game hoarder.

And not just a physical game hoarder, but a digital hoarder as well. My ideas were filling up hard drives (they were smaller back then), so I figured i would start a website to feature my game ideas.

The first website name I came up with was “Gamergy”, a combination of “game” and “synergy”. And since I was on AOL at the time (as was everyone else) I tried reserving an AOL site with the name “gamergy”. Not allowed. So I tried “game mixer”. Also restricted. Who was taking all these names? I tried “game synergy”, “game combining”, “game bartender”… none of them were allowed. Eventually it became clear that AOL was barring anyone from creating any sites with the prefix “game-“, probably so that they could use them at some future date.

But “gamurgy” worked. I reserved, and then poured all of my ideas onto “” on December 31, 1999. Somewhere out there the internet remembers my AOL member Hometown Site. But good luck finding it.

If I can find a printout or an ancient floppy with the files, I will upload them again to, but in the meantime it’s all new games, baby!

So, welcome to “”!

“A game site in existence since last century!”


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