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[GDS] December 2010 Game Design Showdown - "Time to Captcha that Holiday Spirit!"

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

Due to a recent rash of spam posts here at BGDF, I tried to improve everybody's experience by playing with the CAPTCHA settings. As it turned out, despite it turning into a very annoying hurdle for the regular users of the site, somehow it did not seem to deter spam posters in any way! I apologize for that inconvenience and have turned off the CAPTCHA stuff (I think!)

However, it's given me an amusing idea for the December installment of the Game Design Showdown...

Voting on the Game Design Showdown is now CLOSED!

Congratulations to this months winner, a landslide victory with 9 votes:
Completely Automated Public Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart: Holiday Edition 2076
by James Ryan (williamj35)

Other entries and votes. NOTE: I missed a vote email earlier - this is the corrected tally: CAPTCHA CAPTURE - 5 votes
It's Beginning to look a lot like Spammas! - 3 votes
Wi$hl!sts - 3 votes

Thanks for playing, have a happy holiday season and I'll see you next year!
- Seth

December 2010 Game Design Showdown - "It's Time to CAPTCHA that Holiday Spirit!"

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.

Main Design Requirements:

  • Theme Restriction: This month's showdown entries must feature The Holiday Season, as well as something that all too often is associated with the holidays - Spam! Spam forum and blog posts to be precise.

  • Mechanics Restriction: This month's Showdown challenges you to use CAPTCHA (alleged protection from spam bots) as a game mechanism. 2 Bonus votes will be awarded if your entry also includes a significant Dexterity element, but it is not a design requirement for this contest.

Please follow the established guidelines for formatting and submission of your entry.

  • Submissions: Tuesday, 7-December-2010 through Tuesday, 14-December-2010.
  • Voting: Through Sunday, 19-December-2010.
  • Voting Format: Each person has 6 votes to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:
    • You may not assign any votes to your own entry!
    • You may not assign more than 3 votes to any single entry.
    • You need not assign all 6 votes.
  • 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, especially the details around the word count and graphics limits, visit the GDS Wiki Page. Enjoy!
sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #1 - CAPTCHA: Holiday Edition 2076

Completely Automated Public Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart: Holiday Edition 2076

by James Ryan (williamj35)

Many folks today complain that its getting harder and harder to tell computers and humans apart. Now that we're all using net-connected cerebral implants to augment reality, and computers can draw on our neural data to create very humanlike representations of themselves in brainspace, some have called this the age of the post-cyborg. We're all computers now, they say.

Of course, this sort of fearmongering is especially concerning during the holidays, when we all just want to sit down around an augmented fireplace with holographic live-chat avatars of our loved ones and share the holiday spirit. This holiday season you wonder whether you’re getting the real thing.

The fact is: you might not be. Have you noticed any of your loved ones talking about gift purchases? Did they start humming seasonal songs before Thanksgiving? Do they tell you about sale items and wear funny looking sweaters? Have they been baking and acting unusually cheery? All these can be signs that your loved ones have become worm-infected members of a spam-launching zombie network designed by devious ad firms to ruin your holiday season. Grandma's avatar may not really be Grandma at all, but a holo-clone generated to promote holiday themed nicknacks and wrapping paper.

Fortunately, CAPTCHA's here to ensure you can relax and have fun this holiday season. Our easy test will help you sort out the augmented reality projections of actual loved ones from the walking, talking spambots. Just follow the directions below at your next family gathering and dismantle the image feed of any avatar who fails. Celebrate, the 100% human way, with this simple, free screening process.

Now, limber up your fingers and get ready to do the one we can still do better than computers: rapid dexterity-puzzle solving!

What you’ll need:

  • Playing card augmentation file.
  • CAPTCHA’s trademark holo-puzzle block set, holiday themed to suit your traditional holiday.
  • Several one-meter segments of augmentation-sensitive holiday gift-wrap ribbon.
  • CAPTCHA’s patented desk call bell.
  • An even number of loved ones.

Set up:

  • Place the unique puzzle block (usually shaped like a Christmas tree or Menorah) in the middle of the table next to the bell.
  • Pair up all players. Each player puts their arm closest to their partner on the table. These pairs of arms are tied together at the elbow with the holiday gift-wrap ribbon.
  • Each tied pair gets a set of puzzle blocks and places these on the table in front of them.
  • Place the stack of playing cards face down next to one team.

Conducting the test:

The procedure for this screening process is simple: one player flips over a card with their free hand, all players rush to complete the task on the card as fast as they can and then ring the bell. The first player who rings the bell after successfully completing the task will be rewarded the number of points shown on the card.

Some tasks are for tied pairs to complete, some are for individuals, and some require that each participant team up with another participant to whom they are not tied. When one member of a team rings a bell after the completion of a team-based task, both members of the team are awarded the number of points on the card.

Important: All tasks must be completed using only arms that are tied at the elbow. Participants caught using their free hand will loose five points and should be considered spambots until they prove otherwise.

After all the cards have been flipped, and all tasks completed, points are totaled. Any player with thirty points or more is not a worm-infested spambot bent on destroying Christmas. Any player with less than thirty points should be unfriended immediately and dismantled if necessary.

Sample tasks:

Build a snow fort with the player next to you to whom you are not tied for 4 points.

The individual player who grabs the unique puzzle block wins 8 points.

Make the tower shown with the player tied to the player sitting directly opposite from you for 10 points. Notice that this shape will require more blocks than one set will allow. You’ll have to collaborate to get your bricks together somehow. (And you’ll face quick competition from the players you both are tied to!) Make sure you redistributed the blocks evenly after this task has been completed.

Thank you for reading this important holiday text alert. Please paste this alert onto all your textual media hubs and share with everyone in your contacts lists. We hope you enjoy this season with CAPTCHA, ensuring human-to-human contact since 2000.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #2 - It's Beginning to look a lot like Spammas!

It's Beginning to look a lot like Spammas!

by Benj Hamilton (yamahako)

Santa has been getting spammed with procedurally generated spam letters to Santa! He has decided to fight back. You know, for the kids! Santa now requires all of his letters to be submitted electronically, and generates Captcha phrases based on the items in the Christmas list. You, as a spam bot, have to try and beat the system. Muahahahahahaha!


1 Captcha Board
1 Deck of Christmas list cards
Transparent Bingo Chips.


Be the first Spambot to successfully send 5 letters to Santa.

Game Play:

Deal 5 cards to each player.
Each player chooses 1 card to pass to the right, and tosses a chit onto the Captcha Board.
Continue handing a card to the right until a player completes a Christmas list and has their chip on the corresponding Captcha.
The first player to complete a Christmas list and have their color chip on the right Captcha gets a sucessful letter sent to Santa filled with SPAM!
The first player to declare completion of the submitted list gets the points. If two players claim a Christmas list at exactly the same time, the player with the most chips on the board on their Captcha takes it, if both players only have one, the player with a chip the closest to their captcha takes it.
Then collect all the cards, reshuffle the deck and repeat this process until someone has successfully sent 5 letters to Santa.

Component Details:

The Cards have a picture and name of a Christmas wish item, a list of two items they match to complete a list, and a captcha on the bottom.
There are 50 cards, with 5 each of ten items, each card has a different combination of Primary Item, and 2 item list.
Captcha Board is a 5x5 square board with 1.5" squares. Each square has a 6 character number/letter combination that corresponds to 2 cards in the deck.

Ending the Game:

The game ends when a player accumulates 5 successful sent letters to Santa. They win the game.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008


by Evil ColSanders


1 Game Box
1 Cloth Dice Bag
1 Complete Set of Scrabble Pieces
1 Set of 50 White-painted Popcicle "Captcha" Sticks
1 One, Two, or Three minute sand timer


Place the Scrabble Pieces in the Dice Bag.
Mix the Captcha Sticks inside the Game Box.
Setup the Sand Timer and choose your first player.

A Player's Turn and Instruction:

(Normal Game)

One player should be designated to be the Time Watcher. The Active player starts as soon as he flips the sand timer. The player then grabs a Captcha Stick from the box and places it in front of him. The Captcha Stick contains the word which must be spelled out. The player must attempt to retrieve the appropriate letters from the bag. Letters may be retrieved however you like (looking inside the bag, taking out handfuls, etc) but, the letters may only be put on the table one-at-a-time (as fast as possible, I might add. You ARE timed, after all). Letters that are needed are placed below the Captcha Stick. Once all the letters are found, the Captcha Stick is captured and set to the side and all the letters are placed back in the bag. A new Captcha Stick is then drawn and the player must complete Captcha Stick in the same manner. This player's turn continues until time runs out.

If at any time the active player does not wish to capture a Captcha Stick, he may say "Refresh" and select another stick. As an additional optional rule, at any time, the active player may grab the sand timer and turn it upside down and place it on the table. When he does this, he must say, "Captcha Capture" quickly, three times. After this is said, the player returns the timer back to its original position. This gives the player a few precious seconds to find the letters they need.

The Time Watcher announces, "Time" as soon as time has run out. The player must immediately pull his hands from the table or receive no points for the current Captcha Stick. The next player will now start his turn. Once all the players have had a turn, the Round is over. There are 3 Rounds. The game ends and scores are tallied.


Next to the Captcha Stick word, numbers are printed. These indicate the total worth of the Captcha. Add up the captured Captcha Stick points. For every Stick completed, add an additional 5 bonus points. Points are marked on the letter tiles. Add the points from the letters of any incomplete Captcha.

(Advanced Game)

Instead of one Captcha Stick, the players play with two Sticks.
The Player may place letters under both Captchas. Letters may not be shared.
"Refreshing" exchanges both words.
When a player completes and captures one Captcha, the other Captcha is returned to the box and zero bonus points are awarded for the completed Captcha.
When a player completes one Captcha, he may opt to not capture it. If he does, he may attempt to finish the second Captcha. If both are completed, they both may be captured and the player is awarded 15 bonus points. When captured, place one on top of the other to indicate this.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #4 - Wi$hl!sts


A holiday game for 2-5 players
by Isaiah Tanenbaum (ilta)

Ho, ho, ho, thank goodness you’re here, my elfin assistants! Ever since we set up the North Pole Wishlist Server, we’ve been getting thousands of e-requests from little boys and girls every day. But I’m not sure all of them are, ho ho, kosher. The elf that sends me messages from good little children, while deleting messages from bad little spambots, gets a delicious cookie!


Players are elves arranging automated Modules into Systems. These will weed through the Wishlists that appear, rejecting Spam while allowing Genuine lists through (hopefully!). On Christmas, players tally their results; the highest score wins.


  • A deck of 120 square cards, divided into three months (October, November, December). Cards are either Modules (more in October) or Wishlists (more in December).
    • Modules determine the path letters take through the system. Each module has an input (inbound arrow on its edge), a test, a Frustration Rating (representing how annoying its test is), a “pass” output, and a “fail” output.
    • Wishlists are letters, marked either Genuine or Spam. Each list contains various “red flags” (spelling errors, repeated or unlikely items on the list, an unconfirmed email, etc.), and the Frustration Tolerance for the child/bot writing the list.
      • NOTE: Even genuine letters contain some red flags. Additionally, spammers improve each month.
    • There is also a Christmas Eve Card, which ends the game when dealt.
  • 5 large Initial System Mats (one per player), each showing a single output and a Frustration rating of 0. There are areas for a “forwarded” pile and a “deleted” pile.
  • Result Tokens: a green “check” on one side (forward to Santa), and a red “x” on the other (delete). These are placed at ALL open outputs in players’ systems.
  • Starting Player Marker.


  1. Each player sets out an Initial System Mat with a single “pass” token at its output. Remove extra ISMs from the game.
  2. Shuffle each month separately, without the Christmas Eve card.
  3. From each stage, remove 10 cards from the game, face down.
  4. Shuffle the Christmas Eve card into the December pile.
  5. Place the cards face down in the center of the table; December on the bottom, November in the middle, October on top.
  6. Place the Tokens within easy reach of all.
  7. The player whose birthday is closest to Christmas takes the Starting Player Marker.


Each turn, the dealer (beginning with the Starting Player and moving clockwise) quickly lays out the top N cards from the deck, where N is the number of players. As soon as these cards have been dealt, players may select them by slapping their hands down on them – first come, first served! In this way, each player takes exactly one card per round, even if he doesn’t want to. Players who slap before all the cards are down must go last, taking an unchosen card at random.

If your card is a Module, add it to the end of your system by replacing a Result Token with it. Take Result Tokens as needed and add them to your system, so that each open output has a “pass” or “fail” result.

The new module, and its tokens, must fit on the table without covering up any others in your system. If there is ANY legal spot in your system, you may not discard the module, although you may choose to place only identical Tokens to render the module’s test “moot” (such a module will still add its Frustration value). If all players agree there is no legal spot, discard the module.

If your card is a Wishlist, take it through your system, following each module in turn, adding the Frustration Ratings as you go. Wishlists that reach a “check” Token are placed on your “forwarded” pile; lists that reach an “X” are placed on your “deleted” pile.

If the wishlist’s Frustration Rating is reached or exceeded, the child/bot gives up: the wishlist is deleted.

Round End (Reprogramming)

After play has proceeded clockwise all the way around the table (i.e. the Starting Player has dealt and completed two turns), players may re-arrange their systems as they see fit, including discarding modules. The next player takes the Starting Player Marker, and play continues.  

Game End

When the Christmas Eve card is dealt, players MAY immediately claim any other cards dealt this turn, after which the game ends.


For each card, players add (or subtract) points:

  • Forwarded Genuine: +1
  • Forwarded Spam: -3
  • Deleted Spam: +2
  • Deleted Genuine: -4

The player with the highest total is put in charge of Santa’s IT department (compensation: tasty cookies). Merry Christmas!

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