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[GDS] APRIL 2015 "Loser's Lounge" - Critiques

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mindspike
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We have a winner!

Drop In Drag Race

by anthiasgames

Followed closely by:
Jackpot by lonebluewolf
Roads, Rivers, and Railways by andymorris

A pretty strict challenge this month. As always, congrats to all our participants! Join us in the Loser's Lounge Critique thread for full results and discussion on this month's entries.

Game Score Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals
Drop In Drag Race 12 4
Jackpot 11 2 2 1
Roads, Rivers, and Railways 9 1 2 2
Colourific 8 1 2 1
5 by Five 5 1 2
Clockwords 5 1 3
Eternal Quest 5 1 1
Inevitable Ending 3 1 1
Have Sword, Will Travel 2 1

As usual we will be devoting a day to discussion of each entry, but don't feel you need to skip an entry if you miss a day's discussion. Join in!

Game Designer Discussion
Drop in Drag Race anthiasgames April 21
Jackpot lonebluewolf April 22
Roads, Rivers, and Railways andymorris April 23
Colourific Wyldewah April 24
5 by Five markgrafn April 25
Clockwords mindspike April 26
Eternal Quest shattentanz April 27
Inevitable Ending Hook April 28
Have Sword, Will Travel Werhner April 29
richdurham
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Congrats!

What a great finish for Drop In Drag Race! Impressive that a single entry earned four solid Gold medals without placing as silver/bronze for anyone else. Goes to show how tastes are different across players, and hopefully means that there will be some good discussion on why people did or did not vote for it.

Congratulations also to Jackpot and Roads, Rivers, and Railways for such a strong finish as well. Five medals a piece, and spread across the spectrum, means a lot of people saw at least something good in the concept - which at this stage is a game's "development" should be considered a huge seal of approval!

Remember during your critique to say things that you yourself are probably interested in hearing about on your own entry:

  • what did you like?
  • what do you want to see more of to make that cool bit stand out even more?
  • Why did you feel like it fit the contest restrictions or not?
  • etc.
anthiasgames
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Thank you everyone!

Wow! I am blown away by this result. Thank you all so much! I thought there were definitely some superior entries, and I can't wait to read all the critiques on all those wonderful games.

I will post a thread one day soon and show you how the prototype of Drop In Drag Race is progressing :D And rest assured all suggestions and critiques will be listened to :)

Thanks again!

pastej
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How to find these games in the forums?

Hi!

I recently started using bgdf again and realize that I do not know how to acces the different games mentioned in this thread. Please guide me! :-)

regards,
Erik

mindspike
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Feedback: Drop In Drag Race

He had me at "infinite drag strip."

(+) Instant playability with minimal decision making. The opportunity to build points over multiple races, rewarding extended play. The risk of losing all mods invested in a car in a single crash. Ability to continue to customize a car with mods over several races. Possibility for awesome race theming.

(-) Using a multiplier to compute dice(x)speed this way provides far too decisive a mathematic advantage; a car with dominant acceleration can only be defeated by event cards. Some details are missing, such as how many cards a player is dealt. There is a missed opportunity here to incorporate the starting light as a turn/card governor.

(=) I'd play it! I can see all kinds of Mad Max, Deathrace, and Laff-a-lympics theme possibilities. Definitely needs a leaderboard tracking top speed, most races without crashing, etc.

mindspike
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Main BGDF Challenge forum

The entries each month are posted underneath the challenge summary. You can always find it by going to the Game Design Showdown thread. Hope you find something you like!

andymorris
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Congratulations

Congrats on the win, great job!

Personally, I did not vote for Drop In Drag Race for two reasons. First, I didn't feel like the solo play would be interesting enough. Second, I was looking for something where the players coming in and out was more fluid within an on-going game. This just felt like a short game with a wide range of possible players.

Having said that, I think the idea itself is fine. The entry was well written and easy to understand. I didn't have any major questions or concerns. The only thing I wonder is if multiplying by the roll of the die puts too much emphasis on the roll. Maybe adding the roll would suffice?

One other thought: in drag racing (as I understand it) in order to allow cars of different speeds to race, you have to predict your time and then whoever is closest to what you lock in wins. I'd be cool if you could incorporate something like that where you have to predict your final score before the round begins.

wyldewah
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Well Done

That was a tough brief so a deserved win.

I'm afraid I wasn't one of your golden votes either. There was just too much of a random element for me. I could have the highest speed, the highest acceleration and roll a 6 and then be last because someone flipped the race order, did I accidentally drive the wrong way really, really fast? ;)

I do however like the concept. At its heart it seemed fun in a chaotic way and would likely cause a lot of laughs as cars backfire, explode and the like. I could also see the opportunity for a two (or more) part race, the first part relying on acceleration and the second on your speed. You could have the tension of being in the lead too early and being the target of people's actions.

werhner
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Same as the past 2 posts...

I thought the submission was well-written and clear. However, the game itself didn't seem to have a compelling solo feature. I understand the idea of playing against the game to get the maximum score, but I felt like I'd have about as much fun as just rolling some dice to find the highest score I could get.

I think the group setting would be more fun, but only for the novelty factor. I don't get much thrill out of rolling dice without being able to make meaningful decisions - like someone mentioned earlier, my best efforts to build speed and accel could be rendered moot by a bad dice roll.

The suggested "Track Inversion" card left a particularly bad taste in my mouth. It is literally an automatic-win card. A player would have to be incompetent to have that card and not win the round, it seems. Anytime you start letting people change the win condition that drastically and without any advance notice, players will be unable to form a rational gameplan.

At the end of the day, not a bad entry and obviously I am probably in the minority with my vote. I did terrible in this challenge, so take my $0.02 with a grain of salt anway.

Zag24
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Comments

*Drop In Drag Race*

Echo earlier comments: I think solo play is not compelling, and perhaps the luck factor is too high. The latter, though, I think would be eminently fixable through playtesting and tweaking, so I don't really consider it a significant criticism against games in this forum. I do think that the basic idea is pretty sound.

I wish I had thought of such an idea in time to enter the contest, but I think that andymorris's idea of racing against your own prediction of your result would be great for the fluid nature of the game, with people coming and going quickly. A problem that I had with all my ideas was that someone who has been playing for a while has could have a significant advantage over newcomers, making it not fun for those. My only ideas were coop games, and I had nothing interesting to add to the concept so I didn't submit an entry at all. But Andy's idea could work really well, especially if there is some small advantage to having a more souped up vehicle (perhaps you're harder to hit with attacks) but it isn't a huge advantage.

*5 by Five*

There doesn't seem to be much to do in this game other than roll dice. The decisions to make offer little tension -- only if you only need 4 points or less would you ever roll less than the maximum number of dice, and even then, probably not. It seems so hard to win that I suspect one almost never does, and instead rockets off to big numbers more often. On the other hand, the core of the idea is new and interesting, and I think that with a fair bit of tweaking, this game could be something fun.

*Clockwords*

The anagram-search aspect to this would be reasonably fun, as long as no one really cares about keeping score. But the winner would mostly be the person who spent the most time playing (i.e. the biggest loser in the "main" game), and not the people with the most skill. I'm not sure why you have players contributing letters from their names rather than just choosing some number of letters randomly. You could have offset the logging-time-equals-points aspect by having players have to draw additional letters if they are stuck, and that costs points to do. Also, by using letters of your own name, I immediately get to make ZA and ZAG on 2 and 3, for a quick 25 points, which doesn't seem fair to my friend Dale Herd.

I think with the small change that I've suggested, and you tweak the drawing cost such that it is challenging to score enough points to overcome the cost of drawing letters, this becomes the game that best fits the theme. You could drop in and out easily, personal skill would matter, and it would be meaningful to compare the scores of people with significantly different playtimes.

*Colourific*
This could be fun, but I didn't really see it as fitting the theme, especially. It doesn't seem to me that dropping in and out makes real sense.

*Eternal Quest* and *Have Sword, Will Travel*
Coop dungeon crawls need something innovative to be interesting, I'm afraid, and this forum does not really provide the opportunity to achieve that. They might be a good way to fit the theme, and maybe these are great, but I couldn't get into either.

*Roads, Rivers, and Railways*
This sounds a lot like Carcasonne, a game which is quite fun and I'd be willing to try out a variation if it offered something new. However, I don't see that it fits the theme at all, of players dropping in and out and still being competitive. The "dropping in" rule at the end really just seems pasted on, and would make for a big disruption every time a new player dropped in. Also, I suspect that it might even be a big advantage to drop in late and get to place all your meeples at once, assuming there are score multipliers available from combos, or at least ways to cripple your opponents' scores with a few well-placed meeples.

*Inevitable ending*
I think you might have gotten better traction, here, if you had led with what you call the Quick End. That is, if you described the game as "Players are added as they are knocked out of the main game. Once the main game is finished, that triggers the final round, when the Indians all attack." I think that the challenge could survive the idea that people do not leave the game unscheduled, only join it, and that could work well in this game. Somehow the Indians should keep getting stronger, more or less proportional to the opportunity the players have to build defenses, for one massive (but it has to be quick) battle at the end.

(I totally wish I had thought of this idea for the challenge) You might say that the last two players in the main game (that is, the winner and the final person knocked out) play the Indians side of the final battle, and all the players who have been preparing their defenses play out their side.

*Jackpot*
I'm not sure I followed this, but it seems almost completely luck. I'm willing to believe, however, that I simply misunderstood.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Jackpot

This one got my Gold vote because I felt it did the best job of allowing players to jump in and out. The use of dummy players made the fluidity work, but it could make solo play tedious. I'm not sure you'd play a full game solo, but it can see it working that you can play a bit by yourself while you're waiting for someone to join. The thing I feel that's missing is a Jackpot. There needs to be a pile building up somewhere that one player gets to claim as a Jackpot (and ideally other smaller pots up for grabs too). I'm not sold on the way the pile of cards in the middle dictates one colour to win the round. There's not enough control to give you something to guide your choices. Overall I think there's potential here. Something about it makes me think of Rummoli.

anthiasgames
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Jackpot

I thought this one had some real potential. While at first look it didn't appeal to me, as I considered its possibilities, I will admit the concept grew on me.

I was a little confused at first as to how the round would work if people could change positions, but once I got my head around the way the positions would work, it began to sound interesting.

It struck me that the game would be largely defined by the cards played, and therein lies the strategy, but that strategy could all come to nothing if the colour that scores differs from what you were hoping.

Careful strategy could pay off, but could also frustrate if you fail to earn stars! I thought the stars worked well, though they might work to hold players in the game, reducing the fluidity of players leaving and coming into the game.

I liked the abstract feel of the game, and would be curious to see how the rules developed over time with play testing.

mindspike
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Feedback: Jackpot

A fascinating abstract resource manipulator.

(+) I love the potential for manipulating your own chips and messing with other players chip stacks. With other positions being automated, players can drop in at any time and still be competitive. The ability of live players to swap positions with an automated player is very nice. The action is chaotic and can lead to big wins or big losses.

(-) There's a pretty severe theme mismatch here. Naming the game "Jackpot" implies a jackpot that is missing from the rules. Using the poker chips to represent guests makes this seem like it should have a hotel theme instead, but planning a resort experience shouldn't feel this chaotic. I'd rather have it straight-up themed like a slot machine. Losing points sucks, and will only serve to prolong a game that is supposed to play quickly. Counting votes for a winning color at the end of the payoff implies a level of strategy that's missing from the game play. Dropping out is a problem, as you seem to forfeit any chance to earn points.

(=) I think this is a great idea that needs to be developed further. I can see dropping in between games and attempting to win a quick jackpot. If the gambling theme is going to be developed further, I'd like to see a buy in cost and the ability to cash in your chips for points at any time.

pastej
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Thank you

Thank you Mindspike!

Regards,
Erik

mindspike
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Feedback: Roads, Rivers, and Railways

I didn't expect anyone to attempt anything quite this complex. Kudos for the effort.

(+) I love mapping games, and attempting to puzzle out the best combination of connections is very appealing. The theme is a natural match to the game play, it is very smoothly integrated. Game play could be very strategic.

(-) This rule set is fairly complex; players not already familiar with it will have to spend some time learning the game play and basic strategy. Since the board is continually expanding, it's going to have to be cleared at some point. Tracking the number of resources and connection points on the board will get exponentially more difficult as the game progresses.

(=) I like this idea, I just don't think it's a very good fit for this challenge; this should be a more traditional resource management game. I think the game needs an overall goal and ending criteria other than scoring points and deciding to quit. Some stronger themeing and a play narrative would increase player involvement.

mindspike
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Feedback: Colourific

Color and number matching. Deceptively complex.

(+) Oh the variations and movements. With hidden objectives and the potential for bluffing your opponents into moving your dice for you this has a great deal of strategic potential. Plus, it's very simple to explain. It's a dynamic puzzle.

(-) Simple is better. The process of trading cards and creating action stacks is needlessly complex. Especially in a game that should be short and sweet I see no reason why play should be more complicated than "play a card, draw a replacement". I'd like to see scoring handled a bit differently, such that any time a player matches an element on their goal card they can trade it in for points. The more goals met, the more points.

(=) This is very elegant and I'd play it in a heartbeat as a time filler.

lonebluewolf
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Comments

Drop in Drag Race: I was not one of the Gold voters for this game either. It would be interesting to hear from them!

I do like that this game has the same kind of light and casual feel as Mario Kart; by using random modifiers to keep everyone on a relatively even playing field, no one player can be too secure in the lead. However, to me, this month's theme needed simplicity and ease of entry/exit. I may not have given it a fair shake (especially since I don't normally mind some math myself), but as soon as I saw that there was more than just a little multiplication required, I decided not to vote for this one. The random modifiers are great for keeping it light and casual, but I also would have like to see more of an equalizing factor in deciding the winner; it seems like "most wins" would most likely go to whoever was playing the longest.

Jackpot: My biggest regret was having to cut a lot of what I felt like was "fluff" in order to meet the word count. The original concept was that each player is a hotelier running a casino resort, and that the movement of the chips is the movement of the guests between locations. The "Jackpot" is seeing what type of guest generated the most income over a set period of time, like when a big jackpot hits and it now it's time to pay out the winning guest. Losing hotel rating stars was like a penalty for attracting a demographic that turned out not to be very lucrative, but after Mindspike pointed it out, I can definitely see a problem with it prolonging the game. The idea behind using chips and cards was to reinforce the casino theme, but looking back, the idea really was just missing from the final submission.

Roads, Rivers, and Railways: I felt like this was an interesting variation on Carcassone, with that same kind of map building mechanic. Giving each person their own individual set of meeples and connections that they can sweep up or jump in with is nice, as well as being able to add "as many meeples as the least played by another player," but it seems like all the best locations would already be chosen -- I'd personally be reluctant to join into a game that had already gotten a ways in. Overall though, the main idea of forming connections between tiles is simple and easy to learn, with plenty of options for strategy.

Colourific: This one got my gold. Simple rules with a lot of strategy; fluid game state so that anyone could be in the lead at any time; and players who join in late aren't at a disadvantage. I'd like to see a way to track objectives that were met if players don't have to reveal exactly which ones they complete, especially if the board changes constantly and there isn't a way to verify objectives at the end. This vaguely reminded me of Quantum, but with an easy entry/exit mechanic and short, quick rounds. I'd really like to play this one!

andymorris
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Thoughts on Colourific

I voted bronze for this entry. I really like the setup and the way the goals are structured. However, adding sixteen numbers might be a bit much for some people, so perhaps the third goal could be modified slightly. I agree that the system for the action cards was more complex than it needed to be. What if you used action dice instead of action cards? You could have one more of each type of die which you roll to start your turn. You then decide with each one either to move one in that colour with the same number as you rolled or change the number of a die in that colour to make it match what you rolled.

Also I think you should be rewarded for how quickly you complete your goals. If you put the numbers 1-4 on the edges of the goal card, you could easily track up to four turns to achieve the goals by simply rotating the card. If you don't get it after four turns, you fail and must take a new one. You could then use the average number of turns to complete a goal card as your score (failed cards counting as a five). Low score wins. That would be perfect for player flexibility coming in and out.

Overall interesting concept nice job

wyldewah
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Colourific

Thanks for the comments everyone. It was my first time doing the GDS so I was really happy with the result.

It seems like the biggest point is that the action selection is more complex than needed. I think I was probably trying to force a bit more interaction and subterfuge than was strictly needed. A simpler, shorter game would probably suit the setup better.

Again, thanks for the feedback though and I'm looking forward to seeing what next month throws up!

andymorris
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Thoughts on 5 by Five

I think the basic premise of the game is pretty solid. I like idea of the risk/reward balance for deciding how many dice to use as you try to get back to zero. It could make for a quick and easy game that only needs dice and paper, but I don't think it would be interesting enough to play solo. I think the system outlined here still needs work. If I understood it correctly, it would be difficult to get down to zero.

mindspike
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Feedback: 5 by Five

I like dice.

(+) This is a very simple solo game that can kill some time between other games. Easy to pick up for a few minutes and drop out to come back later.

(-) Unfortunately, I just don't find it very interesting. There is no interaction with other players, and without a theme I find that hard to get into. Mechanically, the dice need a reroll opportunity to make scoring less problematic. With your score climbing by 5-10 points every turn, (1 point per die, scored both when you roll and when they are passed to you) getting the points down to 0 is going to be very difficult.

(=) Still needs a lot of mechanical work, and a good theme hook.

mindspike
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Feedback: Clockwords

This one is my entry. I like word games and anagrams.

(+) Linking letter selection to names means that players will have to seek out new players to get fresh infusion of letters when things are getting tough. Not a problem at a game night setting, and it promotes meeting new people. Scoring gets tougher as the game goes onto more boards. Group scoring promotes group play; reduced competitiveness means its easy to join in and drop out.

(-) There is nothing in the way of strategy or competition (except on the leaderboard). If you don't like anagram word games, this one has literally nothing else to offer.

(=) I've been doing variations on this word game for years at family reunions and with my Cub Scouts and youth group.

questccg
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Drop in Drag Race

This *infinite* race might lend well to the "Speed Racer" series...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_Racer

That franchise is all about racing, duels, drags, etc.

Anyhow when I saw "Drop in Drag Race" won, the "Speed Racer" theme just came to me... Obviously we all know how HARD it is to get Brand recognition from an existing franchise (like "Speed Racer") but it's not as popular a brand like it used to be...

Who knows, maybe they're looking to revive their franchise! ;)

andymorris
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Thoughts on Clockwords

I like word games as much as the next guy, so I like where you're going with this. I'm not sure about working together. I think this could work as a pen and paper only game. Everybody writes down all the names at the top of a paper and then you get a fixed time to try and come up with all the words for the clock.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Eternal Quest

For the purposes of the challenge I thought the setup and game play are too complex. Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with this type of game, so I don't have much to add. It sounds like there's some interesting stuff in there, but I have no frame of reference to say how it compares.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Inevitable Ending

This one got my silver. I felt the essence of the challenge was a solo game that others could join. I thought this idea did a great job of capturing that. I think it'd be a interesting dynamic. My biggest concern would be laying out such a large grid of cards. It could be a bit fiddly.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Have Sword will Travel

I felt like this was too complex for the challenge. I could be wrong as it's just a bunch of cards and a bunch of dice. It seems like a bit of a learning curve. Everything seems to make good sense, but as I said before I don't have much of a frame of reference for this type of game. I'm not sure the solo gameplay is strong enough for the challenge. I think the most interesting part of the game is choosing who to work with and balancing if you really want their help enough to give them gold.

Hook
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Thoughts on all entries

Big kudos to the winner. When I read that game as the first entry I knew it would be a hard challenge. The results got me a bit downcast since I only scored 3 - but the upside for my mood was that my gold,silver and bronze matched the result.

Everyone have said much of what should be said but I will just pick a few of my notes and repeat others:)

Drag Race: I also thought the events seemed too gameshifting. I was wondering if it should have a win condition.

Clockwork: Great idea. The game would be easier with more players? A problem could be the accumulation of points over time.? I really like the master track sheet. Quite difficult to play solo ?

Colorific: Seems quite clever. Though I am not sure if it will be never ending or luck if
you succeed.

Eternal Q: Almost got my vote ; The overall idea is great. Could be fun to have a simple eternal quest table you can join. But there is too much focus on specifics and not so much on why it would be fun/gameplay.

Have sword. Too me this sounded very fun. I like the different situations that arise from the card combos monster/location.

RRR: I was unsure about the ending - "tiles saying one more turn"?. Very smart with connection tokes - that can change the situation. I can't predict how often you should move a meeple from a good spot? Maybe there should be more stuff affecting the tiles already laid out.

Jackpot: This also grew on me when re-reading it. I think bluffing would play a central role - and I like that.

Inevitable Ending: I loved my own theme - and while reading the earlier comments Im very happy too see I at least got 1 silver. My own problem with the game is that it relies a lot on balance, especially when other players join. How does the indians get equal stronger. Another issue was what options should the Indian player have.

I would like to know if you think I describe rules too in depth or my rules are too poorly described?

Thanks @Zag24 for you comments - I like the idea with the winners playing Indians.

mindspike
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Feedback: Eternal Quest

I do like the idea of a quick and dirty RPG.

(+) This resembles the kind of JRPG video game that has characters wandering from place to place on an overhead map. The variety of terrain and quests can keep things interesting. Building the map dynamically sounds very interesting.

(-) I just don't see how any kind of story game can fit the requirements of this challenge; there's too much to do in the way of filling in the details of quests and characters. Investing detail in the characters reduces play time. This seems like a strictly solo game. I don't understand how multiple players would interact.

(=) I think there is a really good kernel here. I love the ability to pick up a quest in one location and dynamically build a map in an attempt to defeat the quest. I think focusing on emulating a traditional RPG is a mistake, and the game should be streamlined to focus on just the map.

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