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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

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Scurra
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(Sorry about the delay in putting this one up.)

Here in London we are currently gripped by Olympic fever. Well, that's not really true: some of us are passionate about the Olympic bid, others are passionately opposed and the vast majority are militantly indifferent to the whole thing really.

So the game was inspired by the whole idea of how cities needed to build infrastructure to be able to hold the Olympics - and thus be able to hold other sporting events as a side-effect.
It is also an evolution from an earlier game design of mine that used the "cards as currency" idea. This game extends it to include an auction mechanic too.

In keeping with my GDW submissions which alternate between relatively straight-forward and ludicrously over-complicated, this is a fairly simple card game with no extra components. [edit: of course, this means that my next GDW game will probably be an insanely huge mess. But hey, it keeps me out of mischief...]

The rules can be found here: http://www.scurra.com/olympiad/olympiad_rules.pdf

Examples of the various card types can be found here:
http://www.scurra.com/olympiad/olympiad_cards.pdf
warning: this file is ~500k in size
This document also contains some additional notes on the cards and how they function within the game.

Brykovian
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Hi David ...

Fun little thing you have going there. ;) One question for you off the top ...

In preparation, you mention "Shuffle the Auctions cards and place them in a pile beside the Events deck." ... what makes up the auction cards? They are not menitoned in your components list, and you mention all of the card types listed (Stadium, event, support, inspector).

-Bryk

Scurra
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Well caught. That's what happens when you don't check *which* ruleset you are posting!
Of course, there aren't any Auction cards anymore. There used to be, but they got in the way and weren't terribly interesting. (It started out with 8 Events and 8 Auction cards, with one coming out at a time, but now there are 16 Events - excluding the Olympics card - and two Events come out at a time. It seems to improve the game flow a lot.)

(edit: new version now uploaded to fix that embarrasing oversight. Sorry for the inconvenience. Nothing else has changed.)

Hamumu
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

This sounds interesting, fairly easy, and fun.

What's with all the stuff you have to do when a Bid Inspector arrives? I gather that you draw cards such that those with more/better stadia and such will have more money to bid on events. Why discarding from your hand? And why toss a stadium? All of it seems like a clunky element that'll be one of those moments in a game where the players are all a little lost on early plays, but on later plays are always still a little confused and have to consult the rules occasionally, because they'll forget to drop a stadium, or to discard, or whatever.

Also seems like there's no reason for an Auctioneer card any more than you'd have a Dealer card in a game of poker - the Auctioneer is whoever is the guy flipping up the cards, right? On a similar note, or maybe just because I haven't seen the cards, why do players even have an actual Olympic Stadium in play? Is it because you can add Support stuff to it and all to make the actual Olympics worth more points? It is, I suppose, so that's good, and a nice default place to be working on when you get the chance.

And the real reason I had to post: what did you use to make the PDF? I always like to hear about this stuff, because I have nothing fancier than word, and this is very nice.

Oh, and lastly, I'm pretty sure that saying "I don't mean to infringe on you" isn't something The Olympics (R, TM, C, XXX, Q) will look upon kindly. Those guys are pushy about their marks. That's a problem with this game - to get it out self-published or real-published will require their consent. I have a feeling they license games rather tightly. If you got it, though, it would be quite a boon.

Brykovian
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Hi Scurra ... I'm baa-ack! ;D

Okay ... most of what I have in this post are little, picky, proof-readery things to help (hopefully) with clarity a bit ... but I do have a few questions as well.

  • Game Play - Phase 1 - Payment cards discarded from the players hands can only be support cards (based upon the "player may never discard Stadium or Event cards from play or from hand" statement at the end of that paragraph)? If so, then you may wish to state that in the first sentence of the paragraph to avoid confusion.
  • Game Play - Phase 2 - Just for added clarity, you might want to start the first sentence, "The player puts a stadium or structure card from their hand ..."
  • Game Play - Phase 3 - Draw Cards - Rewording the first couple of sentences: "The player always draws two support cards. Then they draw additonal cards from the Support deck according to the numbers indicated on all Support cards played face-up in front of them." Also a question -- if the player were allowed to draw, for example, 4 support cards and the 2nd one turned up to be a Bid Inspector ... does the player get to finish drawing their alloted number of support cards, or does the bid inspection take place immediately?
  • Game Play - Phase 3 - Hold an Event - It says, "If the player has an Event card in their hand, they may declare it." Is this done by playing the card face-up in front of the player, just like when building a structure?
  • Bid Inspection - If a player chooses to discard a stadium or event card, I assume it is removed from the game instead of placed into the support card discard pile. Is this right?
  • Bidding Rounds - To bid, players "place a number of cards from their hand face-down in front of them and announce the size of their bid". Can only support cards be used to bid? What is the "size" of the bid -- the number of cards, or some combination of the costs/values on the cards?
This looks like a fun-n-gun type "city-building" game (slightly stretching that genre, of course) ... having to pay for things with the support structures, which are needed to build as well is a nice centerpoint for tension and difficult decisions. It would be fun to take this one out for a drive.

Of course, Ham's points about the IOC's protection of their identifiers needs to be taken as good advice. Perhaps re-themed as a regional sports competition, or cities competing for professional sports teams?

-Bryk

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Scurra
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Brykovian wrote:
Payment cards discarded from the players hands can only be support cards (based upon the "player may never discard Stadium or Event cards from play or from hand" statement at the end of that paragraph)? If so, then you may wish to state that in the first sentence of the paragraph to avoid confusion.
Yes, that's a good point, it should be at the start.
Brykovian wrote:
Game Play - Phase 3 - Draw Cards - [...] if the player were allowed to draw, for example, 4 support cards and the 2nd one turned up to be a Bid Inspector ... does the player get to finish drawing their alloted number of support cards, or does the bid inspection take place immediately?
That does indeed need a clarification line. The player draws the rest of their cards and then the Inspection is done.
Brykovian wrote:
Game Play - Phase 3 - Hold an Event - It says, "If the player has an Event card in their hand, they may declare it." Is this done by playing the card face-up in front of the player, just like when building a structure?
It should be attached to the Stadium that is holding the Event, just like the Structure cards. I know that you can't hold them anywhere else, but it makes adding the score up easier.
Brykovian wrote:
Bidding Rounds - To bid, players "place a number of cards from their hand face-down in front of them and announce the size of their bid". Can only support cards be used to bid? What is the "size" of the bid -- the number of cards, or some combination of the costs/values on the cards?
Good catch. The bid can only be made using Support Structure cards (that seems relatively evident but probably needs noting. The value of the bid is simply the total number of cards played, and has no relationship to the value of those cards.

Scurra
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Hamumu wrote:
What's with all the stuff you have to do when a Bid Inspector arrives?
The idea is that if you had bid to hold an Event or had proposed a new Stadium, but hadn't actually got round to it when the Inspectors came by, that would count against you, hence it would cost you potential resources for later. Likewise, holding the Event that was bid for is rewarded with extra resources (which will eventually cover the original cost of bidding for the event.) Players thus have to decide if bidding for an Event is worth it, if they cannot hold it before the next Inspection.

Hamumu wrote:
On a similar note, or maybe just because I haven't seen the cards, why do players even have an actual Olympic Stadium in play? Is it because you can add Support stuff to it and all to make the actual Olympics worth more points? It is, I suppose, so that's good, and a nice default place to be working on when you get the chance.

In the first version of the game you built support structures and then later added them to Stadiums when you built them. That was not only bad game-wise but also thematically. So this time, everyone starts with an Olympic Stadium, but cannot hold specialist Events in those Stadiums - but it gives them somewhere to start from. And if you didn't build another Stadium, you could always save up and try and bid for the Olympics anyway....

Hamumu wrote:
And the real reason I had to post: what did you use to make the PDF? I always like to hear about this stuff, because I have nothing fancier than word, and this is very nice.
The real Acrobat fired through Word. Nothing terribly fancy.

Hamumu wrote:
Oh, and lastly, I'm pretty sure that saying "I don't mean to infringe on you" isn't something The Olympics (R, TM, C, XXX, Q) will look upon kindly.

Yeah, I was hoping to find time to rename the specific card at the end "Quadrennial Sporting Celebration" or something (as I did in another game to avoid this situation) but didn't manage it. And yes, I know they are protective of their trademark. I shall replace the file at some point (I need to do the same thing with the logo.)

jwarrend
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

David,

I'm sorry to say that I think this game crystallizes my opinion that you are a gifted game designer who writes lousy rulebooks! Before digging into my critique of the game, a few observations about why I found the rulebook difficult to follow:

-- No overview. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that every rulebook must begin with an overview. And I don't mean a paragraph of sappy flavor text; I'm talking about a few sentences that give some of the highlights of what the game is about, what the main elements of the game are (the different card types, eg), and how players will be manipulating those elements. It's no good to give a component manifest, and then the setup, and then off we go with the turn sequence!

-- More bullet points. I think you have a tendency to bundle unrelated instructions into paragraphs, when they'd be easier to follow if you gave them as a bullet point. It would make your rulebooks longer space-wise, but there's no prize for a 2 page rulebook anyway. Here's an example:

Olympiad Rules wrote:
Remove the Olympics card from the Events deck. Shuffle the Events deck and put the Olympics card on the bottom. Shuffle the Auctions cards and place them in a pile beside the Events deck. Shuffle the Stadium cards and place them in a pile beside the Auction and Events decks. Turn up the top three Stadiums.

This should read:

Quote:
--Remove the Olympics card from the Events deck. Shuffle the Events deck and put the Olympics card on the bottom.

--Shuffle the Auctions cards and place them in a pile beside the Events deck.

--Shuffle the Stadium cards and place them in a pile beside the Auction and Events decks. Turn up the top three Stadiums.

All right, enough quibbling about that, on to the game!

First, I'm pleased that the game doesn't revolve around bribing IOC officials to convince them to choose your site for the olympics! However, I don't think the mechanics exactly capture the feel of the bid process, even setting aside the lack of bribing... I believe the bid process is more about promising what you can have by the time your games come up, rather than appealing to what you've already got to make your case. (since it's rare that a city already has enough state of the art facilities to hold an Olympics, unless they just held one!) It's not necessarily bad that you chose to do things differently, so much as to say that I think you missed an opportunity to steer the game in a different and more thematic direction.

Instead of a fairly standard "I'll bid this much for this event" auction, it would be much more interesting if it was "I promise to have built X points worth of stadiums by the time I host", and tension would come either from advances that render certain previously played stadiums outdated (and thus worthless), or else the minimum X keeps escalating or something.

I think the "cards as currency" works fine, but I don't think you have enough cards/money coming in to the players to justify the "upkeep" rules, and the rule whereby you lose 2 cards per stadium or event in your hand is devastating and represents the real danger of the card/currency system. You want to punish players for X, but the only thing you can take away is cards. But, cards are everything in the game, meaning you've taken away their money AND their action potential. I think you'll need to think of a more modest punishment for that system.

I really like the idea of supporting buildings, and using events like World Championships to bolster your stadiums. That feels right; "Three world records were set on this track in the last year!"

If you haven't already, you should check out Joe's excellent game "Scream Machine". You game is actually quite similar, except that you have the auction and you have "cards as currency" where Joe uses action points as currency.

I like the restriction of only being able to build 1 stadium per color. It seems like this would be even more interesting if the deck was "stacked" so that the weaker stadiums tended to come out earlier, thus forcing you to choose whether to build cheap stadiums to try to win early bids, or to go long term and build valuable stadiums. I guess you have that in a sense, since the weaker stadiums probably cost less. But with the rule about the losing 2 cards per stadium, and the refusal to allow players to discard stadiums from their hands, you're basically forbidding players from engaging in long term strategizing, which seems odd.

The second game I ever designed was an Olympics themed game, and it went in a totally different direction than this one. It stunk, but this makes me want to polish it off and see if I can move it ahead. I think you have enough good ideas to pull off an interesting and fun game about the Olympic bid process, but personally, I'd be more interested in a version of the game that reenvisioned the entire scope of what you were bidding for. Having said that, I think you've got a game that's quick, punchy, has some challenging decisions, and will probably be fun to play. So making changes to improve the theming may or may not be worthwhile.

Good luck!

-Jeff

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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

jwarrend wrote:
I'm sorry to say that I think this game crystallizes my opinion that you are a gifted game designer who writes lousy rulebooks!
Yeah, that's a fair point. Then again, that's part of what the GDW process is about: I know what the rules are, and in general they exist for me to use to explain the game to others.

jwarrend wrote:
I believe the bid process is more about promising what you can have by the time your games come up, rather than appealing to what you've already got to make your case. (since it's rare that a city already has enough state of the art facilities to hold an Olympics, unless they just held one!) It's not necessarily bad that you chose to do things differently, so much as to say that I think you missed an opportunity to steer the game in a different and more thematic direction.
Well, that's sort of what I was aiming for. You are promising to be able to hold an event when you bid for it, even if you don't yet have the facilities. Hence the inherent advantage that if you bid for and win an event for which you already have the facilities, you can hold it immediately without having to waste an action later.

jwarrend wrote:
Instead of a fairly standard "I'll bid this much for this event" auction, it would be much more interesting if it was "I promise to have built X points worth of stadiums by the time I host", and tension would come either from advances that render certain previously played stadiums outdated (and thus worthless), or else the minimum X keeps escalating or something.
Now this is nice. I have no idea how to implement it, but it's much more akin to what I want. I had to settle for a "traditional" auction system precisely because I couldn't think of a good way to do this (at least not without introducing an additional component, such as counters.) Although the current "minimum support requirements" system could probably be revised to incorporate something a little like this (but it'd probably still need counters or something.)

jwarrend wrote:
I think the "cards as currency" works fine, but I don't think you have enough cards/money coming in to the players to justify the "upkeep" rules, ...
Oh that's certainly true - the tuning process is all about finding the right balance between points, cost and income. What I was concerned about was whether the concept worked at all; after all, hand refilling is an integral part of card games but if everyone gets the same it's a bit dull. The current card income may not be sufficient - the tough part is ensuring that it's enough to allow people to build, but not so much that they can effectively ignore upkeep costs altogether.

jwarrend wrote:
...and the rule whereby you lose 2 cards per stadium or event in your hand is devastating and represents the real danger of the card/currency system. You want to punish players for X, but the only thing you can take away is cards. But, cards are everything in the game, meaning you've taken away their money AND their action potential. I think you'll need to think of a more modest punishment for that system.
I suspect that if there are more cards coming in, then 2 cards will turn out to be the right "penalty". I am certainly aware that in the wrong circumstances a player can be completely crippled by this (it happened in the first playtest run!) but I was also caught in the bind that I didn't really want to introduce additional components.
And note that players also get to draw cards for their current resources. A player that has two Stadiums on the table will probably be able to cover the fine just off the "free" cards they will draw.

jwarrend wrote:
If you haven't already, you should check out Joe's excellent game "Scream Machine".
Who, me?
jwarrend wrote:
Your game is actually quite similar, except that you have the auction and you have "cards as currency" where Joe uses action points as currency.

Hmmm. I hadn't really considered that game as being terribly similar, but now you come to mention it... (buying public vs private rides especially.)

Scurra
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Playtest report

I had been hoping to give the game a run-out before the GDW but it didn’t work out. However, that may have turned out to be helpful, as it let me test out a change that Jeff suggested.

jwarrend wrote:
Instead of a fairly standard "I'll bid this much for this event" auction, it would be much more interesting if it was "I promise to have built X points worth of stadiums by the time I host", and tension would come either from advances that render certain previously played stadiums outdated (and thus worthless), or else the minimum X keeps escalating or something.

So I bit the bullet and introduced counters into the game, so that I could implement this. The idea is that the hosting stadium needed to have Y points (where Y is the value of the Event) plus X points (where X is the bid value) before it could hold it, with points coming from the Support Structures built onto the Stadium. The counters bid were then placed on the card (rather than the player having it in hand), and if the Event hadn’t been held when the Inspectors came round, the card acquired two more counters. That way you get an incentive to hold the Event asap rather than trying for spoiling tactics…
It turned out that this worked, but unfortunately the Stadiums didn’t; as soon as one player had got a decent Stadium they could always afford to bid more than the other players for an appropriate Event since anyone else would be unlikely to have a Stadium that was almost good enough to take the risk.
The auction system also had to be radically revised to use the Princes of Florence model (single point increments at a time) as otherwise it was too hard to establish a second-place position (since logically, if all the other players passed so there was only one bidder, the second Event ought to be discarded...)

Equally, one observation made was that the card drawing seemed insufficient. I don’t think it ever was, and now that players aren’t using the cards to bid in auctions, the card-drawing is far too high. A suggestion has been made that covers most of these aspects but I shall deal with that below.

The game itself worked out fairly well, even with only three players. One player took the only Football Stadium on offer and was rewarded when the remaining three were all Athletics, thus ensuring a fight between the other two players over Events. The Inspectors arrived and put two World Championships up for auction, co-incidentally the ones for Football and Athletics which ensured a bit of a bidding war went on. However, once the dust settled it became clear that the player with the x2 Stadium was always going to win as there was no realistic way of the others catching up as that Stadium would get more and more impressive Support structures added. We stopped the game once all the players were drawing eight cards a round and went into analysis mode.

The first fix was to restrict what could be built on a Stadium. At the moment, you can build as much as you like as long as there is nothing repeated. As there are 12 different Support Structures, this makes it too easy to create a mega-Stadium. In a previous version of the rules I had considered limiting a Stadium to one card of each colour; we concluded that this was the best solution as long as players were allowed to “upgrade” the structures during the game. That would help with the story-arc of the game as there would be a clear transition between initial card-drawing structures and later point-scoring structures. It also restricts things such that the most cards (using the current cardpool) that anyone could draw during a turn would be 8; with the right cards it’s possible for someone to be drawing upwards of 12 in the current system.

And the second fix suggested – rather more radical! - was to do away with the random Stadium draw altogether, and instead give each player one Stadium of each colour at the start – but with the restriction that they could only built two Stadia over the course of the game. The drawback here is that it affects the current scoring system (since you can’t use the Stadiums as multipliers if everyone has the same basic set) but hey, that’s what happens :-) The scoring will probably have to be related to the Events now, and will require some work.

But the key change to the auction system was a major improvement as it really added to the thematic feel without complicating the game-play. It’s annoying to have to add a component to a game that was envisaged as a straight-forward card game, but sometimes you have to accept these things for the sake of a better result.

I’d like to thank people for their comments; this one feels like it has a little more development work to go before I can feel happy with it, but it is clearly going somewhere and I am looking forward to seeing where exactly that it…

jwarrend
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

David,

Glad to hear my suggestion gave you something to think about, and it sounds like it might be an avenue you can play around with some more and try out.

However, I wanted to point out that what I was actually envisioning was quite a bit more radical. My vision of the game was to do away with the Events altogether (or mostly, anyway), and have the auctions be for Olympiads.

So, you could say "I'll have X points worth total of all my stadiums by turn Y when the Olympics are held (or when the Bid Inspector comes round, whatever)".

Presumably, each Olympics would have an additional set of Specs that a minimum bid must contain. Perhaps as the game goes on, the first Olympics only requires any 1 stadium, but later olympics require more. Or, the minimum values of the stadiums are specificied as "advances" come about. Like: "Athletics: Rubberized asphalt. All Athletics stadiums must have a minimum value of 4." This was what I meant when suggesting that something would be needed to keep people from cashing in on the same stadia over and over. And the choice to upgrade via support buildings would be a "press your luck" factor: do I spread my upgrades around, or really support this one stadium that's highly lucrative, hoping it won't go out of style soon?"

Also, it would remove the concern about luck of the draw driving the bidding. Everyone would be in competition every bid.

Obviously, you should do whatever works best for the game, just wanted to clarify what it was that I was actually suggesting. Either way, it sounds like the game is moving along. Keep us posted as it progresses!

-Jeff

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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

jwarrend wrote:
Presumably, each Olympics would have an additional set of Specs that a minimum bid must contain. Perhaps as the game goes on, the first Olympics only requires any 1 stadium, but later olympics require more.

Well that's effectively how it currently works: you can hold low-level events fairly easily but the top-level ones are much harder. You seem to be suggesting a semi-fixed progression of "Events" - we are actually talking about the same thing here - the only difference is with what the Events actually are. At the moment the Events in my game are generally focussed on just one Stadium type but there's no reason why some of them shouldn't demand different types.

jwarrend wrote:
Like: "Athletics: Rubberized asphalt. All Athletics stadiums must have a minimum value of 4." This was what I meant when suggesting that something would be needed to keep people from cashing in on the same stadia over and over.

This was one omission from the suggestions list: only the "best" event held at a Stadium would score. So if you'd already held a "world championships" there, then there wouldn't be much point in competing for a "national championships" later. There was some discussion about whether a Stadium should even be able to hold more than one event, but that seemed too restrictive.

jwarrend wrote:
Also, it would remove the concern about luck of the draw driving the bidding. Everyone would be in competition every bid.

I can see what you mean, and I suspect that I do want it to work this way ultimately, since you want everyone to be after the same cards. But there is certainly room for a wider variety of Events, and I may explore that direction next.

jwarrend
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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Scurra wrote:

I can see what you mean, and I suspect that I do want it to work this way ultimately, since you want everyone to be after the same cards. But there is certainly room for a wider variety of Events, and I may explore that direction next.

Sure, there's no reason you couldn't have a mix of Olympiads AND "less important" events thrown in the mix, with the Olympics events being somewhat more frequent than currently. My main point was that, in a game about bidding to host the Olympics, the game might be more fun if that was the main focus of the game on a recurring basis, and not just on a "building up to it" basis. But sure, you could have both kinds of events ("all-stadium" events like the Olympics and "single stadium" events like world championships). Indeed, that would probably be the more gentle intermediate design step.

-J

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Game #64: Olympiad by Scurra

Can I lobby for one of the events being Ultimate World Championships?

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