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[GDS] AUGUST 2013 "Atomic Intelligences"

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

August 2013 Game Design Showdown - "Atomic Intelligences"

We have a winner!

Missile Dice took the gold medal position by very slim margin! Congrats!

Missile Dice: Gold x2, Silver x2, Bronze x1
Where's My Lunch?: Gold x2, Silver x2
Strange Matter: Gold x2, Silver x1, Bronze x2
States of Matter: Gold x1, Silver x1, Bronze x4
Nuclear Family: Gold x1, Silver x2
Atomic Goats: Bronze x1

I know everyone's at Gen Con right now, but let's go talk about these games anyway!

It's time.

The entries are posted!

Take a look - even if you didn't enter, but especially if you did - and then send your votes to mindspike via private Message by the end of Friday, August 16th.

Voting: Award a Gold, Silver, and Bronze (worth 3,2, and 1 points respectively) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Meal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

This month's contest is all about the future. Sort of; more like the 1940s version of the future when everything was about robots and atom bombs and death rays. Here's the breakdown:

Atomic: In August of 1945 the U.S.A. began the atomic age by dropping two atom bombs on Japan. The face of global war changed that day, and for decades afterwards people lived with the fear of nuclear annihilation. The tone of the word "atomic" has softened over the years, as it now also conjures images of accurate clocks, 1950's families, and robots.

This month you are challenged to create a game that uses the concept of atomic in some significant way.

Intelligences: In particular, artificial ones. In many popular game, like Pandemic or Arkham Horror there are actions taken by the board itself. Sometimes, like in the Dungeons & Dragons board game series game components have a small algorithm they use to react to the players.

In other words, there is some non-player controlled function that activates regularly and impacts the game play.

In this month's challenge you should have an "A.I." be a major mechanic in your game. This does NOT mean you need to make a cooperative game! It just means you should make the game change state on its own to work against, or in response to, the players.

Now the contest details:

Word Limit: Standard 500 word

Voting: Award a Gold, Silver, and Bronze (worth 3,2, and 1 points respectively) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Meal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

When submitting your entry: Please PM submissions to richdurham with the following subject line.

Subject: GDS - AUG - [your username]

  • Submissions: Friday the 2nd through to Friday the 9th.

  • Voting: Through to the the 16th. PM your votes to mindspike.

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!
    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.
    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.
  • Comments or Questions: Comments and questions about this Challenge were handled on the Comments Thread.

  • CRITIQUES: After voting has closed the entries will be posted for comments and critiques. Post constructive critiques and commentary about the entries to this Challenge in the [Critiques Thread].

  • GDS Details: For more details on how these Game Design Showdown Challenges work, visit the GDS Wiki Page.

Enjoy, and good luck!

-Rich and Mindspike

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #1 Atomic Goats

Atomic Goats

2-6 players

Your mother told you to never become a goat herder, and now you wish you had listened to her. Fallout from a nuclear power plant has transformed your herd into bleating glowsticks. Can you put all your goats through the scrubbing facility in time?


  • 6 Pasture Boards (marked with a 3x2 grid, grid spaces numbered 1-6)
  • 1 Scrubbing Facility Board (marked with 12 Goat-sized spaces)
  • 1 Fallout Track (marked for rounds 1-10) and 1 token
  • 216 Goat Meeples (72 brown, 72 yellow, 72 bright green)
  • 72 Player Tokens (12 per player, color-coded)
  • 1 Resource Deck (60 Resource Cards)
    • 6 suits (Bribery, Labor, Food, Favors, Medicine, Education), 10 cards per suit, cards are valued from 1-10.
  • 1 six-sided die


  1. Each player receives a Pasture Board, 12 Player Tokens, and 12 yellow Goats. Players place 2 Goats in each space of their board.
  2. The Scrubbing Facility Board and Fallout Track are placed in the center of the play area. The token is placed on the first space of the track.
  3. The Resource Deck is shuffled, and each player draws five cards.


Scrubbing Phase

The first player lays down a card from his/her hand. The next player must lay down a card that can beat the previous card. He/she can beat the card either by:

a. Playing a card of a higher value
b. Playing a card of a winning suit, as follows:

“Favors” beats “Bribery”
“Bribery” beats “Labor”
“Labor” beats “Medicine”
“Medicine” beats “Education”
“Education” beats “Food”
“Food” beats “Favors”

Note that a “10” card can only be beaten by another “10” card in the second scenario.

If a player cannot beat the previous card or has run out of cards, they are eliminated, and play continues with the next player. The last player not to be eliminated gets to place one of their player tokens and one of their yellow/green Goats on an empty space of the Scrubbing Facility Board.

Once a space has been filled, players discard their remaining cards and draw five new cards. Play continues until all 12 spaces are filled.

Irradiation Phase

Each player can rearrange their Goats on their Pasture Boards. A maximum of three Goats can occupy any grid space on the board.

Players take turns rolling the six-sided die. The die roll determines which grid space (1-6) the player must irradiate, using the following procedure:

  1. Green Goats are removed from the board.
  2. Yellow Goats are replaced by green Goats.
  3. Brown Goats are replaced by yellow Goats.

Clean-Up Phase

Players replace any of their yellow or green Goats in the Scrubbing Facility with brown Goats, remove their player tokens from the Scrubbing Facility Board, and return their freshly scrubbed Goats to their Pasture Boards. The Fallout Track is advanced one round if possible.


Green Goats are worth 1 point.

Yellow Goats are worth 2 points.

Brown Goats are worth 5 points.

The player with the most points at the end of 10 rounds wins.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #2 States of Matter

States of Matter (because State Matters)

Matter exists in three states: solid, liquid, and gas. Matter changes state when energy is applied to it and molecules may become more dispersed as they move from solid to liquid to gas.

In this game, collect molecules by trading them with your opponents. Be careful because the state of matter changes over time: You need fewer molecules in a collection to win as the state changes from solid to liquid to gas. Trading is the energy that causes necassary size of collections to change state. Score points by building collections in the proper state before time runs out.

4-8 players

Game Pieces

75 molecules printed on square plastic tiles. Molecules are represented by shapes (square, triangle, circle, star, diamond – 15 tiles of each shape).

Electronic timer/counter with a Stop/Start button and one button for each type of molecule. There is an LED beneath each molecule button that can display green, yellow, and red. The color represents the required state of the collection of molecules (green – solid, yellow – liquid, red - gas).

Game Play

  1. Players draw an equal number of tiles from a bag. There may be leftovers.
  2. Players arrange the tiles so only they can see them.
  3. Set the timer for a 1:00, 2:00, or 5:00 minute round.
  4. LED's are randomly set to different states (colors).
  5. Trading begins. See the Trading Rules.
  6. An LED changes color according to how actively its type of molecule is traded. States move from solid (green) to liquid (yellow) to gas (red). As activity decreases, molecules fall to lower states. Each LED has a randomly selected “growth” and “decay” function that determines how quickly it changes state.
  7. When the timer expires, trading stops and points are awarded based on Scoring Rules.
  8. A player wins when they accumulate 10 or more points.

Trading Rules

  1. Players may trade molecules with any other player.
  2. Players must announce what they want to trade (e.g., 2 stars).
  3. Players exchange molecules when a trade is agreed.
  4. Players involved in a trade press the button on the counter/timer corresponding to what they gave in the trade (e.g., the star button). This causes the “growth” function to increment.
  5. Trades do not have to be for equal numbers of molecules.
  6. Players may trade at any time. There is no turn order to trading.

Scoring Rules

Scoring depends on the state of each type of molecule at the end of the round.

  1. “Solid” state (green LED): Player with most molecules of that type gets one point.
  2. “Liquid” state (yellow LED): Player with the median number of molecules of that type gets one point.
  3. “Gas” state (red LED), Player with the fewest number of molecules (greater than 0) of that type gets one point. A player must have at least one molecule to score.

In case of ties, all tying players get points.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #3 Where is My Lunch?

Where is my lunch
In an old, but still operational, atomic reactor the workers must be careful with their lunch. In the reactor live a lot of mice, eager to eat the lunch. Each player plays a worker and controls one cat. When a cat comes close to a mouse, it will move, a lot. Mice can use doors (as cats) but can also go through holes. Each mouse that comes close enough to the lunch will move (slow) towards it, and finally eat it. Players should guard their lunch, or score points by moving a mouse into the lunch of an opponent.
The object of the game is not, for the cat to catch the mice, but to chase them towards lunches of the opponents.


  • Board, with square fields, 9-12 rooms and corridors (depends number of players).
  • A cat for each player
  • 10 mice, numbered 1-10
  • 6 lunch markers per player, valued 2-5 (2-3-3-4-4-5 points)

All mice are put in the reactor, evenly distributed. Every player places his cat somewhere in the reactor but not next to a mouse, then in reverse order, every player places two lunch markers. A lunch marker may not be placed in the same room as the players cat.
Mice move in 8 directions. Cats move in 4 directions (not diagonal).

During a turn a player:
A. Places a new lunch marker somewhere in the reactor (only first four rounds, all lunches are placed then)
B. Moves his cat up to three empty squares (not into lunches, not into mice) A cat move puts the mice into action! Every mouse that is in a square next to the cat (after every step - all 8 directions) will run away 3 squares, square by square decided by:
1. Through a hole (unless another cat directly on the other side)
2. Straight away from the moving cat
3. Into a lunch (that is the end of the turn). This scores POINTS (value of lunch) for the player of the cat. Even if the mouse runs into this players lunch. Lunch is removed from the board.

When the cat move is finished, every mouse, starting with number 1, will move towards the best lunch (highest number) it is close to. It has to be at most 2 squares (also diagonally) away. A mouse will not move next to a cat. If possible it will move around, otherwise stay were it is. Every lunch reached in this fase scores ONE POINT for the current player. Lunch is removed from the board.

When one player has no more lunch markers on the board, the game ends. The current round is finished.

Final scoring: Lunch points + points for lunches left on the board at the end of the game.

The central room of the board is the atomic reactor. Best to stay out… Cats and mice move double speed there (energy!) and lunches have double scores (nice for endgame scoring)

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #4 Missile Dice

Missile Dice

A dice placement game with cards.


Two countries at war, nuclear missiles are raining from sky and no one is safe. To protect your country, you will roll dice to take down roaming missiles before they reach your cities. If all of the opposing player’s cities are destroyed, you win.


Dice : 12
Missile Cards : 54
Military Cards: 16
Rocket Base cards: 4
City Cards: 6
Civilian Pawns: 6
Initiative Pawn: 1
Initiative tokens: 5

The behaviors of missiles are “automated” by the icons on the cards. Missile cards are double sided cards that show the path of the missile and the dice number required to blow it up. There are a variety of missiles. Stealth missiles require a die of 1 or 2 to remove; regular missiles require a 7 or 8 using multiple dice, a barrage of missiles may even require a higher number of 12 or 13. Certain missiles also have special abilities like dropping faster than normal or splitting into multiple missiles. Because the cards are double sided, the behavior and type of the missile could change and give an element of surprise to the player.

Military cards include cards that allow you to add more dice to roll, manipulate your dice rolls and produce harder missiles to shoot down for your opponent.

Set Up

To start the game, each player gets 9 missile cards, 3 cities and 2 rocket bases, 4 dice, 3 civilian pawns and 1 military pawn.

Players will place their city and rocket base cards horizontally. The 5 (horizontal) by 3 (vertical) area above the city and rocket base cards is designated as “air space” in which missiles will descend.

Game Play

The game has 4 rounds. Each round has 2 phases: a defense phase and a worker allocation phase.

Defensive Phase

The defensive phase has at most 5 turns.

Each turn you

  • Move all missiles in air space according to their path. If they reach a city or a rocket base then that city or rocket base is destroyed.
  • Place 3 missiles from the missile deck at the top lane of the “air space”.
  • Roll dice and assign them to missiles.
  • Remove all missiles that were “hit” A hit is when the sum of the dice numbers match the number on the missile card.
  • Use the remaining dice to roll for initiative token. if after 5 turns you have more initiative token than your opponent, then you gain an extra pawn to use in the worker allocation phase.

Worker Allocation Phase

Place your remaining civilians on military cards. Some of them build better missiles that goes into your opponents’ missile deck, others will add dice or allow you to do various dice manipulations in the next round.

Winning The Game

You win the game if all of your opponent’s cities are destroyed. If after 4 rounds both players still have cities, then whoever has initiative in the last round wins.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #5 Nuclear Family

Nuclear Family

A competitive game for 4-6 players

A nuclear accident has contaminated the Earth, mutating the entire population. Humanity will survive... in some altered form. Is your two-headed radioactive amphibian better adapted than your opponent's giant clairvoyant androids?


  • 6 Genetic Templates: A colored playmat with spaces for four gene cards.
  • Colored cubes in each of the six colors
  • Environment cards: Each describes a condition, situation, or event along with one or more Type indicators (Speed, Toughness, Wit, Battle, and Diplomacy). Examples:
    • Cosmic Rays (Toughness)
    • Martian Invasion (Battle or Diplomacy)
    • Giant Insect Attack (Speed or Battle)
    • Mad Scientist (Wit)
    • Radiation Storms (Speed or Toughness)
  • Gene cards: A deck of unique cards, each describing a phenotype and the bonus or penalty applied to an environment type. Examples:
    • Giant (Battle +2)
    • Scaled (Toughness +1)
    • 2-Headed (Wit +2)
    • Clairvoyant (Diplomacy +2)
    • Insane (Toughness +1, Battle +1, Wit -2)
  • Replication cards: Several copies of each Gene card, sorted for ease of access.
  • +1/-1 markers
  • Sequence cards: One Start and five blank
  • Six-sided dice


The players sit in a circle, and each player takes a Genetic Template and the cubes of the matching color.


  1. Deal a sequence of Environment cards in the middle, face-up, one less than the number of players.
  2. Deal four Gene cards to each player. Each chooses one, and placing it in the top empty slot on the Genetic Template, then passes the remaining to the left. Repeat until each player has four Genes.
  3. Randomly distribute the Sequence cards; the player with Start takes the first Environment card from the table and places it between him and the player to his left. Continue until there is an Environment between each pair around the table.
  4. Resolve Environment cards in order. Only the players on each side of the card are involved. If there is more than one Type, each player chooses which to use. Each rolls two dice and adds modifiers: higher total wins. The winner places a +1 token on each Gene used in the Environment; the loser, a -1.
  5. Breeding: For each gene slot, if neighboring player has 2 more points on that slot than you, and more than the other neighbor: replace your gene with a Replicated copy of the other player's Gene, marking it with a cube of his color and copying any other cubes on that Gene.
  6. Mutation: Each player rolls a die. On 1-4, replace the corresponding Gene (removing all markers on it) from play and replace with a random new one.
  7. Deal new environment cards atop the old ones, repeat from step 4.

The player with the most colored cubes in play at the end of three rounds wins!


This implements a genetic algorithm, a standard AI technique for finding the best suited features for an environment.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #6 Strange Matter

Strange Matter

Subverting the laws of physics



Manipulate the structure of matter by destroying and moving the sub-atomic particles in a shared set of various molecules. Use your quarky power (e.g Strange, Charmed, Top, Higgs) to create strange forms based on your current hidden goal. Score VP for achieving hidden or shared goals. Meanwhile the Laws of Physics will be trying to restore order.


The play area is a set of molecule cards from Hydrogen to Oxygen populated with electron,proton, and neutron tokens. Each player receives a Quarky power and a secret goal. They also get a proton, neutron, and electron piece in their color along with 3 action tokens (some powers may get extra pieces)

There is a Laws of Physics board that tracks what Laws are in effect and which are broken. The game AI has action tokens based on the number of players and will work each round to try and move pieces back based on what laws are available to it.

The Play

Use actions to move, destroy, or create particles. You can place onto the Laws of Physics track to either force a Law to stay in effect or to make it unavailable.

The AI will move in the player sequence and then change its seat one to the left.


The game ends when one player achieves enough victory points or if all molecules have been destroyed.

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