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Classic Arcade Challenge Winner

Our judge, Peter Jackson, has determined the winner of our Classic Arcade Challenge. Here’s what he had to say:

After several long nights of play-through sessions with a small army of friends, a clear winner has emerged from The Game Crafter’s Classic Arcade contest: Galaxy Dice. It wasn’t the prettiest game in the stack—CardCraft, Burger Blitz, and Battle at the Arcade all had great art, and Global Thermonuclear War had some really evocative card designs and layout choices. It also wasn’t my favorite name, nor my favorite mechanic. But three things set GD apart: it was the only game that inspired me to download an old arcade game emulator, it was the only game that caused shouting, and it was the only game my friends asked to play again after finishing a round.

And that, to me, sums up the joy of a classic arcade game.

To be fair, there were some really fun games in the pile of semifinalists. My wife and I really enjoyed Burger Blitz (she won, handily, by exploiting some well-chosen cards), and several friends complimented the art. I had a number of folks comment on CardCraft—its art and gameplay made a number of us think fondly of childhood hours spent hacking our ways through 8-bit dungeons. Fissile commander was a fun, quick game that really captured the old Missile Defender end-game panic. Global Thermonuclear War created a really vibe for scheming and plotting against each other, and often ended in surprising, hilarious ways. But when we wanted to take a break, Galaxy Dice kept coming out of the box.

A really stellar aspect of Galaxy Dice is its utter simplicity. If you’ve played Yahtzee, you’ve played a less exciting version of Galaxy Dice. Roll seven dice, try to match one of several showing combinations, and occasionally get blown out of the sky. Rinse and repeat until someone has beaten a bunch of the really tough combinations, then count up your victories and declare a winner. Easy to grasp, with a light touch of strategy here and there to keep your brain invested. Should you go for the boss, or keep collecting stages? Should you use a boss dice you earned, or stick to your normal guns? Is it time to keep yourself alive by pumping tokens into the game, or should you tap out and admit defeat? These are the kinds of fun little choices that make retailers like Starbucks and McDonalds billions of dollars every year: would you like fries with that? Would you like a Grande or a Tall? How exactly would you like us to prepare this? We like to make these little choices in our everyday lives, and we like to see the consequences. And Galaxy Dice lets you make those choices about a hundred times in twenty minutes.

The more levels you win in the game, the more opportunities you’ll have to go up against the big baddies at the end; but if you lose a level, you gain a few tokens for your troubles. After a few mishaps, it’s easy to wind up sitting on a small pile of these tokens—and that’s when the most innovative connection to playing an arcade game blossoms in full, as players begin pumping tokens into each level to keep themselves alive for one more roll. The tokens lend a certain gravitas to the dice you’re rolling—you’ve invested something here!—and the mechanic really hooks players into the game. This is where the shouting comes in: you need two plasma bursts, you’ve put your last token into this roll, and you’ve only got three dice to throw…yep. You bet there’s some yelling.

Overall, I had a blast (oh, the puns) playing Galaxy Dice. So did my friends. I’ll be honest: in my opinion, the art needs to be overhauled, and the rules need some clarification in a few spots. The game needs to come in a bigger box (the components simply overwhelm the poor box). But if I’m looking through my stack of games and I want to play something that takes me back to the late 1980s in a dim mall arcade, I’m honestly not looking any further than Galaxy Dice.

We want to congratulate David Sheppard and all our finalists. Thank you all for participating.

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blog | by Dr. Radut