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The Fate of Atlantis by David Brain

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Anonymous

The Fate of Atlantis by David Brain

Theme: (10 points) A doomed civilization game about Atlantis??! Who would ever have supposed... Ok, sarcasm server off. Obviously the game fits the theme, although going the "Atlantis Route' in this contest shows a certain lack of imagination. Funny things is, I do feel that David's angle on, that of 'figuring out how it was destroyed' IS fairly imaginative, and I gave him a few points for that. I did, however, penalize a bit as it seems that the 'Doomed Civilization' aspects of this game are somewhat painted on, and are not integral to the game itself. Still in all... it is topical.
8 points.

Originality: (10 points) Atlantis! Originality! Oxymoron! Sorry, I did mention that the sarcasm server was being shut off. The backstory of this game is not terribly original, and the mechanics are, in general, Gin Rummy... but a point or two for honesty as the author (David) admits this in his rule set. I do, I think, give David more credit than he does himself as I found the 'card interaction' aspects that he engineered both innovative and quite different from Rummy.
...but I still have a hard time calling this original beyond that aspect.
3 points.

Cohesiveness: (15 points) Cohesiveness to me means several things: Rules reflect the game theme (not necessarily the contest theme), Rules have no holes (like a single piece that when acquired by a player basically mean that the game is over for the other players), Game is consistently fun throughout beginning, middle, and end game, AND that the rules are explained both concisely and well. The Fate of Atlantis accomplishes some of these quite admirably, and some not so well. To a game designer, the rules are easy enough to understand, but to the uninitiate, they can be a bit lacking in explanation and example. In other words, the ruleset is currently TOO concise :-) (not usually a problem). The rules also lack the ability to generate the 'exploring the death of Atlantis' feel... they are not cohesive, as it were, to the game theme. The game IS free of holes, and IS consistently fun from beginning to end... which earned it quite a few points, although its drawbacks stood in the way of a perfect score.
13 points

Components (5 points): The cards are both evocative and well done... David has obviously some graphics as well as design skills. I was impressed with them to the point that I did a two-pass print of them and laminated them for play... and they looked really good. There is no other packaging however, and I had to print everything myself... :P . With a box cover (just a graphic) added to the mix, I'd probably have given this a 5... as it is:
4 points for David, 1 point for me (For all my work).

Fun (25 points): Okay, so I show up for our standard game-test session and announce that we'll be playing another contest entry, and that its a card game.

"Another card game?" is the most common reply.
"Yeah, and it looks like Rummy..." I say.

Everyone then adopts 'I'm-going-to-be-bored-aren't-I' face #6, and we start to play. Cards are dealt and paly begins, and we all start REALLY reading the rules as we all get confused. After three passes we all decide that we now 'get it' and that we should start over. Players begin declaring sets and planning strategies. By the third round pass we're all playing 'screw your neighbor' while maximizing our own self interest, and it dawns on all of us:

This game is a blast! We played three more games before moving on to other business, and everyone wants to know if I want to keep the prototype or if they can take it home! If the mechanics had matched the game theme a tad better (so that he players felt more like they were exploring the ruins of Atlantis), I'd have given this a perfect score... but still, WAY up there. Kudos to you David... and with this caveat: We liked your changes to a far greater extent than we enjoyed the Rummy aspects of the game.
22 points for fun.

Side Note: With better development of a backstory, and slightly better-explained rules, I could see this getting some raised eyebrows at a LOT of companies when submitted as a proto for possible production. Keep this one in your 'active' bin David, and redevlop the 'marketign package (game theme and whatnot) for it. If this had been more original, I'd say you could rename it, "The Nemesis of Frog God's Pond" :-)

Personal Prediction: We'll see this in a different wrapper, for sale at the gamestore, and hopefully with David's name in 24-point bold type on the cover.

Total score: 50 points

Scurra
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The Fate of Atlantis by David Brain

Thank you for your perceptive comments about the game.
As you noticed, it was a bit of a stretch to claim that it fitted the theme perfectly - but I liked the concept too much not to use it.
I have to admit that I have hardly looked at the game since it was submitted (last March!!) but I have had one or two ideas about how to develop it a little. (Maybe I will have some more thoughts about a different backstory for it as well.)

It's interesting that you commented on the changes vs the rummy thing. All I think it proves is that there is still a lot of life left in the Rummy format (as the Mystery Rummy series also shows).

The comment about the rules is right on the button. They are indeed too concise as they stand, but I was concerned about length (and was perhaps a little too keen to submit the game early!) Again, I've got someone else looking at my rulesets now, which helps a lot.

I am really glad to hear that you had fun playing it. In the (brief) playtest sessions we had it generated good reactions too, and that convinced me that it was worth entering.

Reminder: the game can be downloaded from my website (in the form that it was submitted to the competition) at:
scurra.com

Anonymous
The Fate of Atlantis by David Brain

Its funny that you mention the "Rummy has a lot of life left in it" argument...

When designing rpg stuff, both Gary and I have a philosophy we call "links to the familiar".... for instance, his world setting for the Lejendary Adventure is an alternate Earth... much that can be recognized... and much that is unexpectedly different.

Why does this work?

1) Because players can more easily form a mental image of what's going on. The have the familiar as a starting point.

2) Because the differences tend to stand out even more than they would were the entire world 'different'. You expect the great African Kingdoms to be peopled by advanced Muslim civilizations, or at least by blacks... and so it truly pops when a group of Asian-based peoples is found to have a vast kingdom in Africa!

.....here's why I thought I'd mention it...

In spite of your "too-concise rules", we picked up the game via play very quickly, a phenomenon I believe that can be attributed, in part, to the similarities the game has to "Rummy". ...and ease of learning IS a good selling point for any new game.

I just never thought of applying Gary's and my philosophy to other than rpg materials before....

So I'm glad I bumped into YOU this lifetime Scurra :-). Once again I have learned something new as a side-effect of hanging out on these boards :-).

XXOOCC

Scurra
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The Fate of Atlantis by David Brain

Hey, always glad to help :)

Actually, Mike Fitzgerald seems to have made a good games designing career out of Rummy variants (look at the Mystery Rummy series, Histories Mysteries and most especially at Wyatt Earp.)

But your point is true - if you want someone to hook into a new game easily, then a good way to do it is to make the game sufficiently similar to a known entity - but then throw them for a loop by making the strategies of the known game not work in the new one...

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