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The God King by Don Bone

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Anonymous

The God King by Don Bone

Theme: (10 points) The God King is a game wherein the players compete for royal favor (and cash, lets be honest), causing the inevitable downfall of civilization due to the diversion of all resources to the building of a temple in honor of the king. Frankly, this one is the most off-topic I have reviewed thus far. It was fairly evident that Don has had this one percolating for a while, and did his best to create a means by which it would fit within the contest’s topic. The most damning part of this is the fact that the game play has nothing to do with the end of civilization, truly, and that the only actual link is in the back story.
It’s a shame, because the story is fairly well thought out, and not badly written. I would suggest that if the thrust of the game were changed to disparate groups attempting to create an ‘Armageddon weapon’ or something close to that, this would have fit nicely, as the mechanics are uniquely designed to fit this genre… but Don’s current story is, at best, a bad fit for the topic. Fear not Don, when we, as a company, review games for potential licensing, we don’t care what the topic of the game is… but this contest is not, unfortunately, geared that way.
So, it’s not really about civilization or being doomed… but a bit of credit for trying, in a single paragraph (well written, doubt not), to shoehorn it into the topic area.
2 points.

Originality: (10 points) The God King, as a game, revolves around the players trying to balance three unique aspects of a given production-based ‘business’ or ‘engine’; three aspects that are economically inter-related, but that do not work together other than in the most peripheral sense. I personally, as well as most (not all) of the rest of our gang thought this a unique process, and, if I may, “really cool”. This mechanic, which forms the structure for the entire game was well-thought of, and well executed. The mechanic of matching disparate tiles, and acquiring them via a market economy, was also well thought out, although less original, and also deserves mention. I would still change the thrust of the cloak it is played within – building a temple for a king with a giant ego is less fun than other treatments would perhaps be…
Still in all, huge points for the originality of the mechanics… minor detraction for the somewhat dull storyline that it works within.
9 points for ground-breaking mechanics.

Cohesiveness: (15 points) I really liked the game, but then I am easily able to ‘read between the lines’, as it were. Bearing that in mind, the rules need to be a bit more explanatory than their current state. It took about an hour for the other two company designers and me to figure out exactly how the game is played, and that the player relationships with different elements under their own control were no different than the relationships with the aspects controlled by other players. Having complained that Don did not explain this adequately, let me expostulate a bit. Each player controls three different craftsmen: the Builder, the Stone Mason, and the Farmer (Food Merchant is the actual game term used). NONE of these craftsmen, even though they are under the control of a single player, are able to inter-relate to each other in any fashion other than the same fashion that they relate to the other player’s craftsmen. In other words, as most commodities in the game are distributed via auction, a player’s craftsman MUST buy his commodities from other players rather than from his fellow (controlled by the same player) craftsman. I loved the mechanic… but the explanation of its working was less than plain. In addition, the players are doing their best to make money by building columns (composed of tiles for game-play purposes) which have patterns on both sides, patterns which are often different. In order to add a layer to a column, the pattern of the tile being placed must match the pattern of the previous tile of the column to which the player hopes to add his tile. These tiles are all of the same color, and simply have different patterns, even though the tiles themselves are four-color. Don… make the tiles different colors (rather than different patterns)… this will speed game play enormously.
Nutshell: Rules themselves are fine, but their explanation needs some work, or no ‘layman’ will be able to easily play, and the cohesiveness of the game componentry needs work as well. Even the Player Mats, while well-made from a presentation aspect, were a bit confusing to the novice player.
8 points

Components (5 points): The game was well presented, and Don obviously spent time making it look good. No faults here other than the fact that I do feel that the pattern aspect of the tiles should be changed to a color variation for both ease of player understanding and ease of play. Sorry to ding you for that in what seems like two areas… but I think it needs mention here as well. Other than that, gorgeous presentation.
4 points.

Fun (25 points): At least here I can be a bit less stratified; a bit more subjective. Overall, we all had a good time with The God King, but it suffered on a few points. It took us two full turns before any of us were positive we were playing right, and so none of the players were thinking of game tactics and strategy until turn three. This isn’t a terrible problem in most games, as two turns do not often decide a game, but The God King is a bit weak on the ‘middle and end game’. Our first game lasted a mere ten turns (and turns go quick!), and our second lasted nine. Both ended by having a clever player auction the food stockpile from his Food Merchant, and then use this money to buy out the royal food storehouse, thus ending the game (one of the end game conditions is that the royal storehouse be empty at the end of a player’s turn). The ‘my guys don’t work together?’ mechanic was a new experience for most of us, however, and everyone fully enjoyed the extra stage of planning one’s turn that this compelled. In other words, this game has a complex strategic-decision making matrix, without terribly complex rules. Bravo AND Kudos on that score Don. The only problem we found fun-wise was the lack of time a player had to recover from a poor decision made in but a single turn… in other words, the middle and end game are too short, and with no ‘big risk big return to power’ options for player’s that have made mistakes in the early game. Still, I think there’s potential here with some work.
17 points for fun.

Side Note: I think the unique mechanical aspects of The God King make it something to let sit and revisit from a fresh perspective (in a month or two) rather than something that will never amount to a blockbuster best-seller – this one could BE A BEST SELLER, but it has problems that must be resolved before it gets there.

Personal Prediction: Don will grab some other equally talented individual from this list, one that has talents that mirror, rather than duplicate his own, and take him on as a co-conspirator in this project. After some sweat and toil by this talented pair, this game winds up in a box for sale at Toys-R-Us within a couple of years, with about a $35 price tag, and reasonably good sales.

Total score: 40 points

Anonymous
Re: The God King by Don Bone

Thanks for the great feedback Chris. I really appreciate the time and effort you guys have put in to all this.

You are right of course it was a bit of a shoe-horn job. But it was not an existing game. I cobbled it together, so to speak, from some loose ideas that I had floating around and a design exercise that we ran within my design group to each make a game based on the old "masters and slaves" (AKA 'The Great Dalmutti', AKA 'Franks Zoo', AKA 'Gang' of Four') card game - although this is probably far from obvious from the final result. Initially I had not even considerd putting it in for the competition, but it evolved into something that looked like it might fit and and it was then that it was shoe-horned. I'm afraid my design process is rather too slow and I did not get it to a really satisfactory state by the deadline, but getting feedback from you guys was too much of an opportunity to miss out on.

It has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of months now so it is probably about ripe for a revisit and I will certainly make good use of your feedback when I do.

I plan to get a couple of prototypes of a revised version of the game together over the next few months. If anyone is interested in playtesting it, they should let me know. If anyone in this forum is interested in collaborating on it, I would certainly be interested in discussing it.

Anonymous
The God King by Don Bone

I will say Don that I found the "run three guys that are unable to directly inter-relate" is a fascinating mechanical concept for a game, and one that is bound to be a head-shrinker for most players.
...and, were it up to me, the "topic" would have little to do with the scoring.

XXOOCC

Anonymous
The God King by Don Bone

...forgot to mention... I'd be thrilled to collaborate on this with you... :-)
...the roots of the game ARE that good.
XXOOCC

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The God King by Don Bone

I'm always happy to collaborate on anything

- Seth

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