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[GDS] DECEMBER 2014 "MSP-Games' Micro-game Challenge" Critiques thread

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thoughtfulmonkey
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Critiques 28th Dec

Gold on the Junkyard
A good use of a small number of cards. The idea was very interesting, but I was confused about the rules. How does a player remove "the type of junk from the spot" when each card has four types of junk on it?

HAMLET
A solid, straight-forward game that makes good use of the limited number of cards. Some complex combinations and outcomes to remember, but they could be included on the cards (which at credit card size would be feasible) - or use a system like I described in this post. A person familiar with the game has a huge advantage, but it's the same for any similar game.

Micro Battle Arena
There’s a little bit of rock-paper-scissors in action, and both players would need to be very familiar with the rules to play it within 5 minutes. But I found the idea of head-to-head combat interesting, and could imagine the reveals being quite exciting.

Triad
I thought that unbalancing the sides is an excellent feature. With games this short it doesn't really matter if someone gets an 'unfair advantage'. A little bit complicated in the rules but, as mentioned above, some could be printed on the tokens. Movement would give clues as to the unit type - which adds to the strategy - but there is a possibility of mistakes/arguments by moving them while hidden.

mindspike
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Notes on games 15-18

Notes on games 15-18

Gold on the Junkyard

(+) It's a rare cooperative game, in that the players can attempt to solve the puzzle together. Flipping and turning cards on the stack introduces a good deal of complexity.

(-) I don't feel I have a strong grasp of the card structure, and don't understand some of the rules regarding removing junk. Game play is not clear to me.

Hamlet

(+) The interaction between the cards is straightforward and very thematic.

(-) I don't have a clear understanding of the strategy of the game or the way in which players are supposed to interact. It seems to depend heavily on the luck of the draw.

Micro Battle Arena

(+) The slider trackers are very intuitive, and the elemental interactions can be nicely printed on the cards. The theme is strong.

(-) Game play lacks tactical depth and the elements lack differentiation between Defense and Health, or Attack and Energy. The game is less about interaction than about choosing the superior action, making it a more complicated Rock-Paper-Scissors without adding much else.

Triad

(+) Does a good job of putting large scale engagements in your pocket. The board is very complex and the interactions each have a purpose.

(-) I think there is too much complexity in these rules for the contest requirements. I'm not sure it can be played in just a few minutes, and it seems like it would take a long time to set up as well. The board seems to be too small for much tactical maneuvering.

DifferentName
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Gold in the hamlet arena... triad

Gold on the Junkyard
Your rules describe tapping a card to remove symbols from it. How would this be done? It sounds more like something you would see in a video game, but not something that can be done with a physical card.

That said, I'm not sure what players could do to help themselves win. It does make me think of a little con game I saw on Scam School, where there's a number of matches, and players have to remove 1-6 matches, and the player to take the last match loses. To the new player, it feels like it doesn't matter until you get near the end. You just pick a number at random because the end is so far away, how could you influence who will pick the last stick? But the person who understands the game knows that it's already solved, and that you just have to get it to a multiple of 7, +1, then pick a number depending on your opponent so the number is reduced by 7 each round leaving the opponent with the last match. Fun as a parlor trick, but without a solution you're just removing a random number of things until someone gets to the end.

Hamlet
This game has a pretty complex set of interactions which could feel somewhat random as a rock paper scissors mechanic resulting in the winner of each round. I can imagine trying to sway events in one direction or another, but then at the end, it could be the winner of the matches that loses? This makes the game feel very random, as the end is kind of a coin flip to say if the winner of the matches wins or loses the game.

Micro Battle Arena
A lot of the actions seem to be a wash, just matching exactly what the other player did. I attack for one damage, you heal for one damage. I attack for one damage, you defend to prevent one damage. I get energy one turn, just delaying that one point of damage until next turn. It's all equal unless someone gets lucky with an elemental advantage. I recommend reducing the number actions available since many feel like the same thing, and introducing some way to help predict what choice an opponent might be doing.

Also, I'm a bit unclear on the specifics of the elemental advantages. It looks as if nothing is better than melee, and ranged is better than nothing. I guess this was due in part to the word limit, but there were other areas of the rules that could have been explained in a more succinct way.

Triad
The face down strategy games are a bit tricky. If you don't have much way to deduce what's what, it ends up feeling like a random rock paper scissors match. That said, I can see some strategies happening in here, trying to position things to let an ICBM through, or seeing what unit an opponent moves to go after the one you just revealed.

The list of what beats what feels a bit complex though. While the ICBM sounds fun, I was a bit unclear on how it works. I could just throw a ship in it's way, forcing it to detonate on impact?

DifferentName
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Mini Haunted Joust Combat

Haunted House
I'm sure you see from other entries that more details about the game rules are needed for this contest.

Micro Play-Break: Combat
I like how the abilities in this game change based on the positioning and adjacency of units. I think there could be some interesting combos getting one thing to protect another. I wonder how much of your victory or defeat would depend on the luck of putting your damage in the correct column since you don't know what your opponent will do, but it still sounds fun. I like how the battalion variant extends the game like a best of 3, but with a twist.
I voted silver in round 2, and 4th in round 3.

Micro play-break Joust
It sounds at first like the game would require players to react to their opponents somehow, but in the end you just add up each players scores and compare them. I can see some reaction to my opponent being necessary if I've got them beat on the lance, and just need a little more shield so it's not a draw, but overall it feels somewhat solitary. I also wonder if it would come down too much to the luck of the draw. The mechanic of choosing which deck to draw from is interesting since you can see one of the sides of the card you're choosing.

The cards were described to be smaller than allowed in the rules, but you didn't actually use too many cards. I guess this was done because you can fit 14 1-inch cards along the diagonal space of a 10x10 board, but the board doesn't really feel necessary for the game. You could also fit the 1.5x2 cards in that space by having them staggered on each side of the diagonal line.

Mini Game of Life
I wasn't familiar with Conway's game of life, but looked it up and saw some interesting videos made from it. It seems tricky to learn how to make something from it. I wonder if using it in a board game might be too difficult to manage compared to a computer handling all those calculations.
Also, the components were cut smaller than allowed by the rules. With the size and number of components, and having to change cells by hand, it seems like something that would fit better as a computer game.

thoughtfulmonkey
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Critiques 29th Dec

Haunted House
Sounds interesting - maybe rogue-like, by choosing the order that you check rooms - but not enough details to make a full judgement.

Combat
Very interesting, but I imagine it could have limited re-playability - because the combat system is deterministic it could get to a point where people know who has won as soon as tiles are flipped. Ultimately it could come down to a rock-paper-scissors style, “my archer is here and your medic there so you win”.

Joust
Personally I don’t like theme text mixed with rules - not sure what to skip. Cards are a little smaller than were said to be acceptable in the comments thread. The theme is great, and an interesting mechanic; but there's a slight break in the theme since they should meet in the middle. Maybe need a simpler way of counting up (add up your side, and then subtract the other?).

Mini Life
The competing biology theme is engaging. I've played around with the game of life on a few occasions, and I wonder if it should stay in the computer realm; it would be tricky removing ‘simultaneously’. Quite a lot of pieces - losing a couple might not be a problem, but eventually it could be.

mindspike
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Notes on games 19-22

Notes on games 19-22

Haunted House

I like the haunted house theme combined with an exploration game. But we need more details. What kind of objects may be found? What monsters? How are the cards designed? Game design can be intimidating, especially if it's for a contest, but be encouraged and let your imagination run free!

Combat

(+) Uses a variety of card types to good effect and is conservative when it comes to table footprint. Interaction is very clear.

(-) This looks like it wouldn't last beyond the initial card flip, making it a 2-minute game. I think it would benefit from laying cards in stages, or perhaps a bluffing phase.

Joust

(+) This really does capture the feel of rushing forward to the point of impact. The joust theme is good, and the cards combine the theme well with the game effects. The hidden element on the cards adds a nice layer of strategy.

(-) Anything that makes the rules harder to read (like archaic speech) is a bad thing. The game lacks a point of impact, and the author doesn't use the terminology of jousting (setting your lance, etc). There is a disconnect between laying the cards and scoring the cards that breaks the momentum of the game.

Mini Game of Life

(+) A fascinating abstract game. There is potential here for some very strategic game play, forcing your opponent to make undesirable moves. Killing and isolating cells makes for a constantly fluctuating board.

(-) Game play seems unlikely to fit within a 10 minute window. Dying from growth is very unclear to me, as it seems like many cells would die off at once. Growing is also unclear, especially if growing causes cells to die from overpopulation. I don't have a good grasp of these elements.

kevnburg
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Critiques 9-22

Mediterranean Convoy: I did not vote for this game because I found it a bit more complex and component-heavy then the other chess-like strategy games in the competition, but I did find its use of temporarily-hidden information interesting, and it seems that properly maneuvering ships to reveal information, eliminate threats, and keep information hidden is the meat of gameplay. I'm not sure that the airstrikes need to be restricted to only the last two rows, though.I understand that it could be annoying for players if the strike was used defensively, though (e.g. a players' brilliant offensive play leads to his merchant ship being airstriked one space away from victory). Was your intention to limit the airstrike to offensive maneuvers?

Beasts: I found 5 different actions a bit much for this fairly simple game, and I did not consider the Constructs all that useful unless the player knows what the card that he is moving is. I would suggest cutting one of the races, and I see combining the Dragons with the Constructs as a good way to do that ("look at 2 cards, you may then move one to a different pile").

The Treacherous Pond: A very efficient use of the components. However, the way that the numbers on the front side and the back side interact is a bit confusing and I worry that new players will struggle to remember and grasp the high jump vs long jump concept. You might be able to think of a thematic change that makes these concepts more intuitive. If not, definitely prepare solid reference cards and make the design on the lily cards themselves as intuitive as possible.

Witty Engine: I really like the two win conditions idea where one player may win if at the time limit its cold but also win if its the hottest. I think the game would be even more intense if getting the engine to coldest or hottest automatically ended the game. If this change is made it might be helpful to add two additional temperatures -colder and hotter - to make ending the game with a change to hottest or coldest more of a challenge.

Micro Robot Rodeo: The robotics theme worked very well with the game mechanics. This game has interesting decisions with flag placement and seems that it can get very silly very fast. I wonder how well it will work on an 8x8 grid and if different dimensions (perhaps different dimensions for different player counts) may suit the game better.

Fences: Great job making the most out of the components restriction. In terms of theme: I thought the Fences theme was straightforward and helpful in getting me to immediately understand that the game was about enclosing a space in a fence. It works well.

Gold on the Junkyard: Incredible theme and an interesting puzzle but, as others have said, the rules on removing junk were confusing. Was the idea that the symbols get covered up by players' fingers (hence the "2 fingers" listed in the components section)?

Hamlet: Very good job with the theme, and I love the sole survivor mechanic. However, as others stated, the relationships between characters are very complex. Solid visual aids on the cards are going to be really important, and it would be nice if you could find a way to use symbols (color, weapons characters are holding, etc.) to make the interactions more intuitive.

Micro Battle Arena: My understanding of energy is that its only purpose is to increase damage, and I don't see a reason for a player not to use energy if he has it. I think energy should either be removed to cutdown on complexity or it should be made more dynamic and interesting. You could play around with alternative uses for it and players having different power levels depending on the amount of energy the player has stored up (higher = better).

Triad: Great theme. The idea of crossing an ocean to get to the opposing country is a fantastic thematic justification for the 5x5 grid. The random distribution of units makes unit balance very important, so definitely watch for ways to more perfectly balance the units when playtesting.

Haunted House: The theme is good, and it makes sense to use each of the 7 cards as a different room in the house, but, as others said, the short description did not give enough of an idea of how the game works for me to offer more feedback.

Combat: I liked the theme and the placement decisions. My main worry is that, if one player has a distinct advantage after the first flip, continuing the next few flips until one player has lost all his units may be an exercise in futility for the player that was disadvantaged by the first flip. Thankfully, the game plays very quickly, so this isn't much of a problem.

Joust: I really liked this game thematically with its jousting and the placement of decks on different crowds of spectators, but the end of each round should really feel more like a point of impact between the two jousters. One way to do this would be to change the round end condition to involve the tilt track (which you may need to make shorter): "When jousting cards from each player collide on the Tilt Track, the two jousters reach a point of impact! Check Shield and Lance card values to see the results of the pass!"

Mini Life: This is an interesting abstract puzzle, but I would not want to store 36 tiny pieces in my wallet, and generally playing with 1/6th business card sized pieces of cardstock would feel very fiddly. This game would benefit from a separate box/pouch and thicker components.

DifferentName
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Hazardous Waste This game

Hazardous Waste
This game sounds interesting, using the cards in the center to change the state of your mess cards. It seems like it would be really tough to get all 3 clean with the opponent being able to flip cards back onto their mess side, or simply move the card I need out of the way, but then you said the game ends when the play area is filled, so we don't actually have to clean all 3. Hopefully ties with 2 cleaned wouldn't be too common.

I had a little trouble understanding at first that one set of cards was the mess that needed to be cleaned, and the set of cards being moved around in the center is used to clean that mess. I think a quick thematic explanation would work for this, like naming the different sections, or explaining right off the bat why we put those 3 cards right in front of us.

Common Cold War
It's a pun! I could imagine some interesting decisions being made with the tile actions, and some interesting combos, like using Overtake to cause multiple actions. Overtake could trigger Return so overtake gets returned to my hand along with other effects next to it. I like how the sizes of the tiles also allow them to touch 2 other tiles on a single side, depending on the state of the board.

You have a rule for when players can't fit a tile on the board, but I don't understand how you wouldn't be able to fit a tile on the board. You can always just add a tile along the outside of the pieces that are in play, right? Is there a restriction I'm missing? Either way, it sounds fun. I voted bronze in round 2.

Arm Up!
I voted gold on this in round 2, and 2nd place in round 3. This game is solvable, but I had a lot of fun solving it. If I go first, I can make moves to guarantee my victory. The first thing that I thought was a solution turned out to be wrong, and can potentially guarantee victory for the second player. Even having solved the game, I could quickly introduce it to a new player as kind of a puzzle, allowing them to go first to see if they could solve it, letting them take their time with it instead of impatiently awaiting my turn.

I can also imagine this like a video game, with a wide variety of fighters and weapons, giving players little single player puzzles, rather than having one on one fights. It felt like the puzzle mode in one of those annual magic the gathering video games, where you're presented with a board full of monsters and have to figure out the set of actions that allow you to win that turn.

I think a minor rule change would get rid of the solvable part. Just make it so the first player can't pick 2 fighters on the first turn. Or maybe there's an adjustment that can be done with the fighters abilities that would work?

Greedy Fiefs
I almost voted for this in round 2, and I'm surprised it didn't do better in the votes. I like the theme of this, and how you can raise an army to fight monsters or your opponent like an RTS game. I wonder if searching caves would be worth the risk, since you would risk taking a lot of damage for a 1/4 chance of getting a weapon. While one player is searching for a weapon, the other could take villages and threaten your keep. It would be fun to find out what works though.

I think you forgot to tell us the stacking limit earlier in the rules. In the movement phase you said there was a stack limit, but you didn't say that the limit was 3 until the last sentence.

thoughtfulmonkey
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Critiques 30th Dec

Hazardous Waste
It seemed like it could be quite a easy to play competitive puzzle game. I really liked how the instruction card defined the play area. My main issue was with the instructions to "clean up your mess". Is the "card in front of you" the one in your hand? It seems like one of the main mechanics, so it really needs a clear description and I was just left a bit confused.

Common Cold War
Another engaging theme of competing biology. The mechanic reminded me a bit of Go - where a well-placed piece can turn the game. I don't really have any constructive criticism - it probably just suffered from being far down on the list.

Arm Up!
It seemed like a very interesting theme, and I like the bank, discard, and pass mechanic. I wondered if the limited number of options could be mapped out to find the most likely winning start choices. Maybe you could include another pair of fighter-weapon so that the starting player doesn't have full information (put one aside - like love letter - and pull out another random one that the first player doesn't see, but the second player can choose from).

GREEDY FIEFS
I'm afraid to say that on the first pass I didn't give this one a fair chance. The description seemed too complicated for the brief, it was 26th on the list, and there were the time pressures of Christmas, so I only gave it a quick look over. On second reading the instructions seem manageable, and there should certainly be enough options to make play interesting. Regenerating troops could add to the strategy, but could also lead to never-ending games between reasonably matched players.

mindspike
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Notes on games 23-26

Notes on games 23-26

Hazardous Waste

(+) Card flipping and placement leads to some tactically interesting game play. This is a good use of components, and the play feels very natural.

(-) I'm not sure I understand the interaction between the cards on the board and the cards in front of the players. Which ones need to be "cleaned up"?

Common Cold War

(+) This feels very much like a themed version of "Go" with the key placement and the tile flipping. There are a lot of components for a small game, but the play limit should ensure the game is over quickly. There is a lot of room for tactical choice in this game.

(-) I don't think the theme adds much to the game, and it would work just as well as a pure abstract.

Arm Up!

(+) The play mechanic is simple and the theming is strong. Three quick rounds can feel very much like an arena duel. I'd like to see a greater variety of weapons and arms so that there is more uncertainty and to accommodate more players, and I think this is a generally good design.

(-) Um.... a good print and play version would eliminate the need to buy a production version?

Greedy Fiefs

(+) This is a lot of complexity packed into a very small package.

(-) I just didn't have a clear understanding of the rules.

kevnburg
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Thanks for the feedback on Arm Up!

Thanks for the feedback on Arm Up! so far. Matt from MPS games has contacted me about a submission and I've been playtesting the game and revising the rules to get a submission ready. The main change: I've added a three player variant.

Current Rules: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4IYwNt4NhtIV0dDc1o1N2tDQVE/view?usp=sh...

Current PnP file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4IYwNt4NhtITXFZclpaUFptTzg/view?usp=sh...

@DifferentName: I believe the solution you are talking about is player 1 playing the Brawler and discarding the Archer? In this scenario, player 2 has to pick the Swordsman in step 2 or else player 1 will pick the Swordsman in step 3 and make player 2 stuck with no fighter, and, if player 2 does pick the Swordsman in step 2 (and discards a weapon), player 1 will win by picking the better of the two remaining weapons in step 3. I implemented the "You Have to Build a Fighter+Weapon Combo!" rule to deal with this auto-win for player 1.

"You have to build a fighter+weapon combo! If the Starting Player played a weapon card in step 1, he must play a fighter card [in step 3] if able. Similarly, if he played a fighter card in step 1, he must play a weapon card if able."

With this ruling, player 2 can escape the auto-win by playing the sword in step 2. Player 1, not able to pick the Swordsman because he already has the Brawler, guarantees Player 2's access to the sword+swordsman combo, which wins Player 2 the round.

In my testing of the two player game I've found that, with the "You have to build a fighter+weapon combo!" rule in play, there are no auto-wins for player 1. However, assuming perfect play from player 2, there are auto-lose moves for player 1 and vice versa.

I'm currently testing the three player game to see if it has any balance issues. Mainly, I'm trying to determine whether I should cut the "You have to build a fighter+weapon combo!" rule from the 3 player game (with that rule in play, the 3 player game can create scenarios where player 3 has no choice in his actions).

DifferentName
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Arm Up

Yep, that's the solution I was referring to. I think your fix might work well to balance things out between players 1 and 2. Hopefully it doesn't make player 1 too weak, as player 2 can force them into taking a bad fighter or weapon.

A couple other things I noticed. There's no situation with the current fighters and weapons where the swordsman needs 3 damage from the sword instead of 2. If he has 4 damage and wins on ties, he beats everything but the archer, same as if he did 5 damage. Due to that, the brawler is slightly better than the swordsman. The only way he loses to the swordsman is if the swordsman has a better weapon than him (if weapons were switched, the brawler would win). Against the archer, any combination of weapons where one would win, so would the other.

More fighters and weapons could be a lot of fun. Maybe half cards instead of full, and at the start of the game you could randomize which fighters and weapons you get in that game, extending the variety of the puzzle. Maybe keeping it where you get 3 fighters and 3 weapons each time.

DrFro
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Dragon Fight

Hey all! Thank you much for the feedback on Dragon Fight! It was my first attempt at any of the BGDF contests, so I didn't expect to go particularly far. It was mostly for my own education. I consider myself to be rather new to all of this, so your feedback is greatly appreciated!

I had the same concerns many of you did regarding the size of the small components. I unfortunately wasn't sure of the best way to solve this. Perhaps with more time an idea would have surfaced! Additionally, I didn't realize I broke a rule by making them too small....oops.... :)

I intend to revise this idea, focusing on using fewer components (perhaps consolidating movement and attack into single cards) and reducing the board grid so that it is more likely that the two dragons will be within each-others hit-range.

Looking forward to further projects!

kevnburg
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Trouble of the Sword

Thanks for the additional feedback, and good observation on the Sword's +3. That came from a point in the design process where I was trying to avoid ties in combat score as much as possible. I don't like the +3 being useless, but I want to thematically keep the swordsman better at swords than the other fighters. Right now I'm testing a change in the tiebreaking structure where the Brawler beats the Swordsman in ties. If the change doesn't prove to be balanced, I may instead remove the +3 bonus, add a +2 bonus for the Brawler when he has the Brass Knuckles, or tweak the numbers in some other way.

In terms of adding more cards: I've been toying around with the idea of adding more cards to the game and removing some before play like in Love Letter, but I'm ultimately not including any new cards in my upcoming submission because of the additional components necessary to include them and the additional complexity necessary to balance them. I want to keep the game small and easy to learn because small and easy to learn is MPS Games' focus, and the random removal of a card from the game in particular creates balance issues that new rules/cards would have to be designed around. For example: To balance the random removal of a card, I would need to complicate setup rules to guarantee that the in-game cards include more than 2 fighters. If I do not, player 1 can auto-win by forcing player 2 to only take weapons (Turn 1: take fighter A, discard fighter B. No fighters remain.). Other alternatives I've thought of have similarly complicated the game in some way.

When thinking about the game as a puzzle, a wide variety of different possible fighter and weapon setups is intriguing, but, when thinking of the game as a competition winnable by either player, random determination of the fighter and weapon setup sometimes creates unfair auto-win scenarios that are complex to balance.

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Thank you all for feedback on Combat

Thanks to everyone for their feedback on Combat! I did have the same concern that play might be too quick, but when I playtested it, it did seem like it was taking about 2-3 minutes per full game with just one army. Depending on further playtests, I may make the battalion mode the norm with player choice on number of armys to allow for flexibility in play time.

As for the deterministic nature of the game and the "locked in" positions, I'm looking into one or two possible solutions (adding additional units - I could do 7 total while staying within the confines of the project - or having a staggered reveal where the front row is revealed and then the back row can have limited shuffling around before it is revealed).

I'll be working on a PnP of the game and will post it once I've tightened up the rules and gotten some rudimentary artwork in place.

I'll also try and get the rest of my comments up this evening (Holidays took up more time than I thought).

dobnarr
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Critiques

Sorry these are late - I was traveling, and my daughter stole my computer for our whole break to do college applications. Here are my critiques for all the games:

1 Goblin Derby

Very fun concept, but it seems like gameplay would be very simplistic and would eventually reduce to just moving one at a time, as the stress on your cart would quickly get to unacceptable levels preventing faster motion. There is very little strategy to it - if the pick-ups are good, it would be worth rushing to the first one, and if not, then not. Both players will eventually end up on the same space having expended their stress, and then they just move one space at a time around the board, so first player wins. This could be changed by the powerups, of course, but those are allocated randomly, so hard to analyze.

2 Dragon Flight

Cool concept, and I like the hidden movement and attack sequence. I also like that you lose capabilities if your dragon is injured. As described, I think the game wouldn’t work well - you’d have one move at a time, one square, and it would be pretty easy to guess which moves would be good. I think this problem could be fixed by making players choose a sequence of say 4-5 orders, each of which they have to complete in order. Then, it would be more complex, and harder to predict what your opponent will do.

3 Node Conquest

An interesting idea. I think the game strategy would degenerate into just moving your 3 around and mopping up everybody else, since the 3 tile is immortal, and any other move is too risky as you might be giving your opponent points. In that case, the outcome is mostly random, or based on correct strategic placement of your tiles on the board, for which there would likely be an optimal outcome. So, interesting concept, but I don’t think the game would be very fun as described.

4 Zoo Contest

I like the zoo metaphor, reflected in the different animals’ movements and rules. I’m trying to playtest it in my head and see if I can get it to work, and I think it does work, although I have trouble imagining a game playing out or figuring out what the right strategy might be. I think there could be some interesting non-trivial strategy moving mice around as blockers and using the monkey to eliminate them. The elephant seems like a less useful piece, although it does block the monkey from 9/25 of the board, so maybe there are some shepherding moves or strategies that would work. It could get confusing if mice move on top of mice and then reproduce even more mice, but I think that wouldn’t be too hard to keep straight. I’m not sure there’s guaranteed to be a winning strategy - it’s possible the game might get too blocked up and no moves are good, or maybe you’d get into stalemates of moving pieces back and forth. You might need a rule that you can’t move a piece back into a square it occupied on the prior move. All in all, and interesting concept, and one of my higher ranked games in the first set.

5 Angels and Demons

This was my entry

6 Tower Builders

The concept is interesting, but the game would be essentially predetermined by the shuffle. You would always have a good move (play the higher tile) or a forced move (play the tile you’ve held for three turns). The only slightly more interesting question comes from deciding when to play a collapse (if you get one), but those are best held for the full allowed length, so that’s still a trivial call. The only strategy comes from cheating, and the mechanism for resolving that is essentially just accusation followed by arguing, which wouldn’t be satisfying.

7 War Wizards

A basic wargame, and I love wargames. The mechanic of shaking and dropping tiles is really clever, especially using some tiles as essentially pseudo-dice, although as described, you can only roll a 1, 3, 4, or 6, with equal probability for each, which seems unnecessarily complex, and makes some of the combat stuff moot, as only one result on the drop will do anything. I think there’s a certain amount of complexity in the units, but not a lot of difference between them except for the rangers. I’m not sure the terrain adds much to it, although it might. Map control seems not so useful, especially when the terrains are easily destroyed by spells. But it’s a creative take on a wargame in a micro-format. The sizes of the pieces didn’t make sense to me, as they didn’t match the card sizes, and I wondered if there might be too many cards called for.

8 Cloak and Dagger

A robust concept with interesting use of hidden information. I don’t think games would be too complex, although I like the different effects from the various character types. I’m not sure what the best strategy is; it kind of seems like you have to just arrest whoever shows up, unless you think based on what the other player has called out that the new card is harmless. But since Assassin is insta-lose, I think you might just need to jail everybody. A lot of it will be luck of the draw, and since you can shout out any character when you get down to no cards, that might significantly reduce the information available and make the game just random. So, a very neat concept, but I don’t think the game plays well as described - it would just come down to the better draw wins, with a big advantage to starting player.

9 Mediterranean Convoy

Cool idea. This is mostly Stratego, I think, except with the combat pieces as rock-paper-scissors. As such, it should play OK, but it doesn’t seem super-original. Some of the optional rules might provide complexity, and choice of ships at the start would frequently determine victory, although in most cases randomly. Well described and would work, so a good entry.

10 Beasts

Very interesting use of the components, and an interesting game that would rely a lot on memory and math, with some cool strategy going on also. The three player game would be very tricky. The rule about taking the marker is not perfectly described, as it’s not clear whether a pile with two more than another triggers or with three more. A cool mix of different score values and powers. One of my favorite entries in the first set.

11 The Treacherous Pond

Great name - I love it. I think I’m understanding the game right, and I like the imagined idea of mouses jumping. My fear is that the game won’t be too complex; at some point, you’ll just have to guess whether the next card is a strong one or weak one, and it will come down to blind luck to see who wins. There’s minor strategy in trying to remember (or guess) which cards have been used in your journey, but mostly your success or failure will be based on guessing. There’s also minor strategy in forcing the lily player to add two cards instead of one. My suspicion is that (after playtesting and analysis) there will be a definite strategy for each side to pursue, and one side wins almost always. However, more balance could potentially be achieved through shifting card values or other mathematical manipulations.

12 Witty Engine

An interesting concept for a game. There are five ending conditions, one of which is a draw, and four of which provide victory conditions. However, the victory conditions are known from the start, so the moves will likely be very obvious. The game is only slightly less trivial if the end conditions are split (i.e. one player has Cold and Hottest while the other has Hot and Coldest). There seems to be no point to the stars on some cards other than assigning the victory conditions, which is confusing. Overall, I think this is too simple a game to be much fun to play.

13 Micro Robot Rodeo

This is a fun concept and uses the components well, but it seems to be simplified version of other games that already use pre-programmed robots (e.g. Robo Rally). I think it might be very difficult to build a strategy, because your opponent could always throw a move in your way, but it would still be fun to trace out your path after the whole thing is built. It seems like a little under half of the squares will have some cover by a piece. All in all, though, a creative and potentially very diverting little puzzle, even if the outcome would often be fairly random.

14 Fences

This seems really cool. I’m just not sure there are enough cards (only 7) for a viable game, especially with four players. It seems like nearly every shape will take 2-3 cards, and there might not be enough to draw or to use. I was a little unclear about the card layout - is there an L or a U for each color on each card? If you attach an L to a U, you’re in trouble, because you can’t connect back to the U that way - it seems like U’s only work for two-card sets. Unless I misunderstand the card layouts, I just don’t think there are enough cards to make it work, but I like the idea.

15 Gold on the Junkyard

An intriguing idea, but the rules seem incomplete or unclear. I really don’t understand this sentence, which is integral to gameplay. “Touching a symbol is an action - on "junk" symbol the player removes the type of junk from the spot.” The symbols are printed on the cards, so it doesn’t seem like they can be removed, unless you remove the whole card, but then the game is too short. There are other issues - e.g., I didn’t understand the initial card setup from the rules. Are they in two layers, with three junk cards covering the gold? That doesn’t seem like enough to play with. Or is it some other arrangement? I just don’t understand how it works from the description, and it doesn’t seem complex enough to warrant multiple plays.

16 Hamlet

I really love the Shakespeare theme, and the mechanics seem clever. There was a prohibition in the rules against rock-paper-scissors mechanics, and this has this part some, although a little more complex than RPS. It seems like luck might be a major factor, especially for player 2, who either (1) doesn’t have much of a clue what his opponent’s card is if they locked or drew, or (2) knows if his card is better or worse, and can try to draw in that case. Card counting would come into play as the game progressed, but given that you’ve only got a 50-50 shot of even knowing what the victory conditions are before the last round, it seems like it would be hard to be good at this consistently. But, a creative take on the limitations of the contest.

17 Micro Battle Arena

An interesting teeny wargame. Again, seems to have a rock-paper-scissors element, which was forbidden. I think there’s no clear strategy, since you’re just picking randomly without knowing what your opponent will do, so it might get a little tedious. The added options to heal, energize, or defend just add a few more random choices. It’s creative to get this all to fit in the space provided, but I don’t think the game would be that fun in the end without some other element to it than just dueling.

18 Triad

A wargame with random starting positions that makes it non-trivial and probably different every time, although the outcome might be largely luck-based. I don’t know how complicated it would be to play - it seems like the units have a little bit of rock-paper-scissors going on, but they also have interesting other abilities, like the submerging with submarines and mandatory movement with ICBMs. I was curious about one rule - that it takes two ammo to defeat an ICBM with a Defense Center. That doesn’t seem possible, because defense centers only start with one. I’m not sure how that can work.

19 Haunted House Pocket Game

Not enough here to have any idea how it would play, and I don’t know how you’d have items and objects separate from rooms and still fit under the component limit. Can’t give this one many points without knowing more.

20 Micro Play-Break: Combat

An cool wargame with interesting use of multi-purpose troops. I imagine there’s probably an ideal strategy here, or maybe a couple of strategies that would work depending on your opponent’s choices. Seems like going for first strike would be best, especially since you can achieve that, but maybe it’s not worth it because it uses up your other attacker. Archer seems like he should go in the back at first, especially because the other side will have at least one back-rank space unoccupied. I don’t know how complex it would end up being. I do like the battalion variant, so that it’s not just over in one shot. Seems cool, but wargames are hard with this small a set of pieces.

21 Micro Play-Break: Joust

A good theme along with some interesting but not-too-complex game mechanics. I think this would play out in a fun way, although once you began to realize what was on the other side of the cards, it would get less interesting as people were able to card-count and know what they were getting. The cards that mess with the draw order and with the number or effect of cards played are cool, but they might be hard to balance without knowing the ratio of other cards that are in play. Still, an interesting and complete design with some cool aspects.

22 Mini Game of Life

I’m pretty sure cutting the cards into sixths is forbidden - the rules say halves or thirds. So, I think this entry is illegal. That said, it’s an interesting mechanic, but it would be pretty hard to do all the analysis each round to see who lives and dies and who grows or falters. I’m not sure the tactical part would work, but maybe it would. Seems clever, but it violates the rules.

23 Hazardous Waste

Interesting idea with a cool theme. I am not sure of this, not having printed out a copy and tried it out, but I think the mechanics (though clever) might not allow for much maneuvering - it seems like you might always be able to block or prevent an opponent somehow, unless you were pretty bad at the game. Maybe I’m wrong, though, but it seems like it might not go that way. As soon as you have a single clean tile on your spaces, which would likely be the second turn, you’d want to flip one, and so forth - seems like first player would always win. But maybe I don’t know, and there’s more complexity there than I see.

24 Common Cold War

Interesting game, and the actions are cool. I think it might really depend on the initial deal, and with only 7 tiles per person, you’d be somewhat limited in terms of how it played out. I wasn’t clear exactly on how many actions were represented - at one point, the rules say there’s one action per square, but another place says two actions per side, and some tiles have four squares. The mechanics are probably clever enough that this does have some replayability. I especially like the Overtake action - I think that could be pretty crazy. The theme is well-implemented - I especially like the handkerchief board.

25 Arm Up!

Fun game, with neat parts and rules and a fun feel to it. I like the hidden discard mechanic. The only thing I think about this is that it’s really just a guessing game, so there’s not going to be a lot of skill other than basic math and a whole bunch of psychology. Probably good enough for a few plays, but wouldn’t have much staying power.

26 Greedy Fiefs

Another attempt at a wargame here. The units definitely have a rock-paper-scissors mechanic, which was forbidden in the rules, and I don’t think it would add much to the game. I do like the production of new units, but it might be hard to keep track of, and I think that might lead to a pretty tippy game - once somebody gets a second village, they can make twice as many units, and they’ll probably win. The combat is easy to resolve, but not too complex otherwise, and it might get tedious. There would be some decisions to make - do I keep all my guys together and go for a charge on the opponent’s keep, or do I spread out? I think there’s probably only one good answer to that - it’s either a good strategy or bad, but I’d have to play to figure it out. The limited number of units might be hard. The hero and cave rule is interesting, but there’s only a ¼ chance of the result being good, so I don’t think people would ever want to do it.

Zag24
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Thanks!

@Dobnarr

Thanks for the kind words.

I felt all the same concerns that you had -- whether there really were multiple winning strategies or whether it would just lock up in a stalemate. That hasn't turned out to be the case in my own testing, but it needs more. If you (or anybody) is interested in trying it out, there's a PnP version here, with more complete rules: http://www.bgdf.com/forum/game-creation/playtesting/zoo-contest-playtest

KViki
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thank you for critiques

Sorry for answering this late, I even forgot to vote and missed out on the critics times. Now that I am here, thank you for critiques! (game #15)

The major problem was understanding the junk removal mechanic, so: There is no tracking for which junk has already been removed - players have to remember this (I can't believe i forgot to write this). Of course, if you forgot, you may remove the junk another time and probably confuse your co-player. So, all the removal must happen in your memory, not on the playing area.

@DifferentName: I am certain there would be a winnning strategy, but not as nearly straight as you described. If it was only about removing 3+1 types of junk from the card, it would be, but there are other options to speed the game up: having a crane allows to remove card sooner, and there is the random factor of which crane is flipped first. And not only removing cards from the area, but moving them around.
At the end it might come to situations, when doing an action would equate losing for either side. Well, then would players have to discuss it and force the one on turn to do it.

@kevnburg: Why I included the two fingers in components? To be clear, there are no markers to track what has been touched, only your memory.

@dobnarr: Issue with card setup: True, there is one gold card on the board. Then you randomly lay three other cards on top of it, so that every card covers one corner (one smaller card area - one quarter of it). After that, you lay other three cards on top of these cards, so that they cover any combination of their areas (but, please, not the whole card). This is to secure you have to (re)move all of the cards to reach the gold. Players can tap all areas visible, but not flip or take or move cards, that are covered by other cards.

I hope this solved all issues. I am actually thinking of making an example video :D. Once again, thank you for feedback!

lewpuls
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Optional Rules

Optional Rules: No game can be "finished" in less than one week. In a less-than-fully-developed game, the optionals were there for further testing, in case it turned out (from testing) that they were judged better for the game.

Of course, the point of optionals in fully-developed games is that different people like to play differently. The notion that there is only one best way to play a game is, well, ridiculous, given the great variety of tastes in gaming. I know that few published games now include optionals, but that's partly because they're holding back possibilities to use in Expansions.

Oh, only one piece available for the airstrike. Recall, 21 pieces altogether.

lewpuls
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"Original"

"This is mostly Stratego, I think, except with the combat pieces as rock-paper-scissors. As such, it should play OK, but it doesn’t seem super-original. "

Yes, L'Attaque-derived (Stratego is a slightly-changed version of L'Attaque (1909)). Given the severe constraints in pieces, board, and rules, I wasn't trying for anything particularly original. Of course, hardly anything in games is original in the sense of never-seen-before, though something may be original to the designer, that is, he/she doesn't know the precedents that exist.

lewpuls
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Models vs abstracts

@kevnburg I was trying to make a model of something real, knowing that most of the games made with such severe constraints would be abstract (as proved to be the case). This may be the source of the complexity and component heaviness (from your point of view, I would not with full freedom of action ever make a game of maneuver with so little complexity and so few components).

I did not want players to save their air strike to destroy a merchant that had nearly made it across the board. That capability would lead to stalemates, I feared. Offensive air strike is intended to reduce the likelihood of stalemate as well. But the game was not playtested enough (four solos) to certainly determine whether I was right about this.

lewpuls
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RPS reflecting reality

@mindspike As I was modeling something real, I used rps (for three types of ships) because that's the way the relationship between subs, destroyers, and cruisers worked.

As I understand it, the pieces derived from business cards are indeed plastic for durability.

No room for 7 by 7 on the 10by10 mat, given the size of one-third business cards.

No doubt the game could be made better without all the constraints. Obviously, blocks would be better pieces as you wouldn't have to keep checking the identity of your own (or memorize same).

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