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New game: Epaulette

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henry flower
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I'm not sure of the protocol for posting game ideas. But I'm posting a link to the instructions (and components) of a game I call "Epaulette".

I would welcome any observations or suggestions, but I am concerned about the following in particular:

1. How well can the game be grasped from the instructions I have prepared? Can the instructions be improved?
2. How appealing is the concept? Is it boring? derivative? confusing?
3. How badly does the game suffer from the absence of an explicit theme and proper artwork?

Many thanks in advance,
Henry

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zb39las2bj0j446/AABt06RGPGMvbdbnW-IyAuOFa?dl=0

dcnole24
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Joined: 06/15/2015
I am far from an expert

I am far from an expert designer, but I do have plenty of experience as a gamer. In that vein, I do think your game suffers from an identity problem. Without even commenting on the mechanics of the game (I'll leave that to the people more expert than I), I spent 5 minutes looking at your BDGF post, your game board, and your rule book and I still didn't have any idea what your game is about, and what we're trying to do other than "score" something.

I didn't scour every line of the rulebook, but I did note that the introduction was not helpful. It gave me some information about the mechanics that the game features (cards...dice...moving tokens on a board...actions) but no hint of what the game is about and why I would enjoy playing it. This is where a lack of a clear theme becomes a real challenge. When you have a theme-weak game with an ambiguous name and a game board short of visual cues, my opinion is that you want the instruction book to QUICKLY give you something to sink your teeth into. Otherwise, you are really asking your intended audience to take a leap of faith by demanding that they sort through a long rule book just to figure out if this game is even for them.

Then, your rules start referring to terms like "Handler", "Recruit", "Captain" and "Deputy" without any real context for what those terms mean and why they matter. Captain of what? Recruit for what? Handler of who/what? I would strongly recommend trying to incorporate a stronger theme. Are these guys part of a steam punk gang looking for new members to fight a rival gang? Are you an alien military recruiters trying to recruit a neutral planet while stopping your enemy counter-part? Give us a story to give the game context.

I think your set up instructions and game play diagrams are well-crafted. But it's just so hard to understand them without some form of more remedial orientation. This could easily be improved with a punchier, more informative introduction.

Just my .02.

Soulfinger
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Dear Leader, who is a perfect

Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have, and Sun of the Communist Future,

It may very well be that I'm just tired, but looking over the rules doesn't compel me to learn them. The presentation makes the game look tedious, which is a shame, because I really like the minimalistic artwork on the cards. I hate the name. It puts me in mind of lacing a shoe or pinning a medal on a fancy military uniform.

henry flower
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Thanks, dcnole24 and

Thanks, dcnole24 and Soulfinger. I appreciate the comments.
My concern remains primarily to convey the rules as precisely and compactly as I can. And since I’m not much of a graphic artist, I settled on the current no-frills design. It’s a shame that the presentation isn’t compelling because I think the game is really engaging. I think of it as one of political intrigue set in a sort of military state. If I had some graphic arts chops I would have made the cards look as though the symbols were embroidered on fabric, maybe with tassels instead of stars. It would’ve looked very much like the game was being played, literally, with epaulettes, functioning (thematically and practically) to designate rank among the otherwise homogenous actors. I figure the current austerity of the design is at least thematically consistent, but I take your point that a more concrete theme would give the rules context. Are the guys part of a steam punk gang looking for new members to fight a rival gang? I had something a little more Stalinist in mind. But the epaulettes could easily be patches on a biker jacket (or alien symbols). In some ways, I was hoping for a grim universality, and that’s why I’m a little reluctant to impose a more explicit narrative. It is most disappointing to hear that the rules were unclear because clarity was my biggest concern. I’m hoping it was due (in some part, at least) to the fact that I hadn’t compelled you to read them all the way through – though at three pages (plus diagrams), I’m not sure that I can fairly be accused of foisting “a long rule book” on anyone!

wombat929
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Officers in the Military

henry flower wrote:
I was hoping for a grim universality, and that’s why I’m a little reluctant to impose a more explicit narrative.

Perhaps take that angle explicitly, then. Players are Officers in The State Military. You might glance at Orwell's 1984 to see how to borrow some good thematic language for this sort of place. If you're willing, you may want to look at the Jedediah Berry novel THE MANUAL OF DETECTION, which does a great job of building an environment in a place with a nonspecific (or seemingly nonspecific) locale. Your theme doesn't need to be very deeply developed. Two thoughts about how to develop this:

1. Look at Reiner Knizia games (LOST CITIES, for example). Knizia's games usually have a very light theme (they're really window dressing for the mechanic he's cooked up). Look at how he introduces the theme and rules.

2. Start your rulebook with some context. I always like to see two things near the start of the rulebook: first, a theme introduction, second a quick overview of the game so I know how it works.

Good luck!

dcnole24
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Henry Flower: It's not that

Henry Flower: It's not that your rules weren't clear in terms of each sentence being specific and concise. That part was very good as far as it goes, and I certainly appreciate that it is hard to make clear instructions and you put in a ton of effort to accomplish that task. The problem is that this is the instructions for board game, not the manual for a power washer or an IKEA bookshelf. Instructions to a game need to balance efficient information delivery with fun, intrigue, and familiar references. People aren't opening your instructions because they NEED to learn your game to accomplish an important life task. Rather, they're learning your game to have a good time. In my opinion, the best game instructions get you excited to read them. And there are many paths you can take to accomplish that. You don't need to have A+ artwork, for example. But you need something. Art, theme, story, a strong summary presentation of an original mechanic, etc.

The good news is that, in many respects, you've done the hard part. You've mapped out your rules at a granular level, and put them on paper in a solid presentation. Now just some more work to do....

Soulfinger
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Oh Glorious General, Who

Oh Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven,

dcnole24 wrote:
The problem is that this is the instructions for board game, not the manual for a power washer or an IKEA bookshelf.

Very true and well put.

I also really want to stress how much I like the look of the game cards. They do not need to be any more complex than they are right now. The simple aesthetic will look great on a nice linen stock.

henry flower
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Thanks again for all the

Thanks again for all the comments.

I have added an introduction that gives an overview of the game.

It probably doesn't go far enough for those who want to see a strong theme and it's still a work in progress, but it does give some of the context that was previous missing.

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