Skip to Content

[GDS] FEBRUARY 2014 "From Nothing, Something" - Critiques

119 replies [Last post]
mindspike
mindspike's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/06/2011

We have a winner!

Angry Stickmen

Some fantastic responses to a unique challenge. Keep those entries coming, and huge props to our designers who really thought outside the box! Great challenge this month!

Game Score Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals
Angry Stickmen 21 pts 4 4 1
Sow That All May Eat 16 pts 4 2
Ivory Tower 11 pts 3 1
Starfield 11 pts 1 3 2
M&M Poker 7 pts 1 1 2
Call My Column 6 pts 1 4
Keep Your Voice Down 5 pts 1 1
Cube Dudes 4 pts 1 1
Rocks in the Pot 3 pts 1 1
Who, Where? 1 pt 1
Dicey Moves 1 pt 1
60 Tiles 1 pt 1
Sell Me This Pen 0 pts
Pop Star Drag Racing 0 pts
richdurham
richdurham's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/26/2009
Critique Schedule

We have a difficult position this month, since there are so many entries to critique and so few days left in February. So this month we'll be discussing 2 entries each day. It's not ideal, but it will give brains a few days rest before the next GDS begins.

Please try to give the same level of feedback you've been doing the last few months - if it helps focus on why the entry did/did not get your vote, the game's best feature, and how it might be improved.

Game Designer Critique Date
Angry Stickmen bike Monday, Feb. 17th
Sow That All May Eat sonofman
Ivory Tower MaxGamesSeidman and Skeral Tuesday, Feb 18th
Starfield Wehmer
M&M Poker donut2099 Wednesday, Feb 19th
Call My Column Nashman
Keep Your Voice Down regzr Thursday, Feb 20th
Cube Dudes Corsaire
Rocks in the Pot davidwpa Friday, Feb 21st
Who, Where? Melx
Dicey Moves danieledeming Saturday, Feb 22nd
60 Tiles Mr. S
Sell Me This Pen RGaffney Sunday, Feb 23rd
Pop Star Drag Racing Pure Stats

Mr.S
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2014
angry stickmen

Firstly, congratulations to Bike for taking home the gold.
This was an interesting concept and great use of the parameters of the challenge. And aside from spelling errors, I enjoyed this entry. It was not addressed in the explanation but; are there two pools of sticks (one for money and one for building)? Because, after you build with a stick, you can’t use it again. I wonder if the attack is necessary for the game as it provides a way for the rich to get richer. If a player only has one stick in their buying pool, someone with a tower can win the attack by placing a bid of zero, taking the stickman AND a free stick.

Mr.S
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2014
Sow All May Eat

The title of this game could be, “Communism – The Corn Game.” I'm just kidding of course, I liked the play on words.
I think you missed a golden opportunity here. You should have used corn kernels instead of wooden tokens. It would have been thematically more enjoyable.
I’d like to see this game actually being played, because it just seems too balanced and deterministic. Perhaps I am just not getting this one. Also I don’t like games where everyone loses, especially if it is not a co-op game. It always makes me feel like I wasted my time.

donut2099
donut2099's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/09/2014
Angry stickmen

Angry stickmen

This was my silver medal choice. I was really taken with the idea of matchsticks being used. I think you could do a lot with it. I would probably end up burning peoples towers down. That's pure awesome. Very creative idea well within the constraints of the challenge. I can't be sure that the combat system works, seems some more development there might help? But love the concept. Nice work.

donut2099
donut2099's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/09/2014
sow that all may eat

This game looked interesting, but I ended up not giving it a medal because I only had three and in the end I think I had trouble groking this one. I might be able to figure it out, but I get fuzzy toward the end. I do think it was a very good use of the one component requirement, though I agree that corn just makes sense instead of wooden corn tokens. Of course if you were to market this game you wouldn't want to just sell a can of corn with the rules on the label. Or would you? That might be really cool. Great job, congratulations :)

Corsaire
Corsaire's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2013
Angry Stickmen

Congratulations, Bike. Spot on with the challenge and really hits a nice balance.

I can see some interesting play emerge from the simple components. It has enough compexity that it could be packaged for sale or played from memory using toothpicks at a bar or such.

The big tunable standout is the combat mechanic. I'm not sure if your storage needs to be hidden or how to handle the selection of qty so that the number selected isn't obvious. But that's really a playtest question as this game seems ready for playtesting.

Corsaire
Corsaire's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2013
Sow That All May Eat

It's an interesting concept reminescent of Mancala.

I'm skeptical that this ends up being fun, but it is the very sort of thing that can be much better than it appears. It also could suffer from a mismatch between apparent simplicity and decision complexity. It feels like more players would be better, but the play decisions grow geometrically as players increase (number of players times number of corn.)

MaxGamesSeidman
Offline
Joined: 01/08/2014
Sow That All May Eat - Critique

I was a big fan of the concept (gold) for two reasons:
1. A multiplayer mancala overhaul is something that needs to happen
2. The game was thematic, which is something you don't see a lot in mancala-like games, or game mods

As many of the others have said, I would have to play this to actually feel how it holds together.

The joint lose state could work, but as is always true with joint lose states, they offer one big benefit when designed correctly (rubber banding through forcing the players in the lead to keep the game from ending before they win), and have one major flaw when designed incorrectly (grimming due to players who think they are definitely going to lose forcing the game to end).

bike
bike's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/08/2012
Sow all that may eat - critique

Excellent use of one item. As suggested, use something to eat (popcorn!) and forget about the score... and just have fun moving it around.
There is no element of luck in this game, which I think does not work well with the multi-player mancala element. Taking this GDS-game as a start I suggest adding a dice and see what happens.

bike
bike's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/08/2012
Gold for stickmen

Thanks for the votes. I never thought I would win a gold medal during the Olympics... (being dutch does seem to help)

I intended angry stickmen to be a short game. However I do think that starting with more than 14 sticks is a good idea (like 20/25). A player only needs to go wrong a couple of times and he is out of the game. I guess the strength of the tower should be somewhere between 3 and 5. I played once with 5, that was huge, but not impossible.
All sticks are used for both bidding or building. Not breaking a building that is finished also means the game will end at some point.
I can see the combat system might need some work, to make it more tactical and less bluff.
What I liked is changing what you build during building. Start with the roof of a house, but change it into a stickman, if needed. I would like to explore some more into that direction.

Corsaire
Corsaire's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2013
As you work through, factor

As you work through, factor in just how valuable an attack is: It takes five sticks and 1 2/3 actions to make a stickman. Since an action can pull three sticks, that means a stickman is worth ten sticks. A successful attack is worth twenty sticks (10 to the winner and 10 from the loser.) That's huge relative to the pieces in play.

bike
bike's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/08/2012
Corsaire wrote:As you work

Corsaire wrote:
As you work through, factor in just how valuable an attack is: It takes five sticks and 1 2/3 actions to make a stickman. Since an action can pull three sticks, that means a stickman is worth ten sticks. A successful attack is worth twenty sticks (10 to the winner and 10 from the loser.) That's huge relative to the pieces in play.

The number of sticks is limited, there will not be very often 3 sticks available in the middle. Maybe a stickman should be worth 2 attack/defense.
Suppose I build a stickman with 7 sticks in 1 action. I am left with 7 sticks and 3 men. Another player (with still 14 sticks) can now win one of my stickman. To be sure he has to bid 8 (my 7 + I have one more stickman). If I bid nothing, this was good for me. However, if he thinks I will bid 0, he might bid 1 and get a cheap stickman. But... if I bid 2, I get a cheap stickman, in anothers players turn!

If I want to expand this game to a more strategic version, this mechanic is too harsh. For a quick game it works. Once you are short of sticks, you are in deep trouble.

sonofman
sonofman's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/22/2013
Angry Stickman critique

This was my gold vote as well. I loved the way the single component was used physically to form shapes unlocking their ability. Obviously this is something easier with oblong sticks, which was a great choice.

I think the combat will work well in terms of balance but as that is the primary interaction with other players I think the game could use some fleshing out. It might wear a little thin over the course of the game, but if it only take 5 minutes that's not a problem.

Have you tested this one much yet?

sonofman
sonofman's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/22/2013
Sow That all may eat

Thanks for the votes, everyone!

Obviously I focused on the mancala-esque sowing mechanic for this game and thought that making the "cups" in front of each player would add a meta-element to your choices as you try to guess what the other players are going to do in reaction to how other players moved the corn.

I think MaxGamesSeidman is right on with the all-lose mechanic and I'm hoping that this is an example of use to "rubber-band" as he put it. I wanted players to really judge the risk in causing people to pull from the center pile and losing the game. I did get a chance to play this and while it needs work the scores were very close consistently, which hopefully puts people in the mindset that they can still win at any time and not throw the game.

regzr
Offline
Joined: 05/27/2012
congratulations bike

Angry Stickman didn't get my vote because I did not believe the attack system is going to function. Attack is where the game basically is, building seems to be secondary. I think there's demand on micro games like this and I'd like to see you replacing the attack with some other interaction.
Angry Stickman is perfectly in line with the challenge requirements.

anonymousmagic
Offline
Joined: 11/06/2013
Angry Stickmen - Feedback

Angry Stickmen received my Silver Medal. It incorporated the limits of the challenge very well and I liked how you used such a common item and gave this particular item multiple functions within the game. I also liked how you could use shapes to build out into multiple final builds depending on how you approach your strategy.

Sure, the numbers can be optimized and you probably need a bigger starting supply of matches to allow for enough gameplay before a beginner paints themselves into a corner without any moves left, but the challenge doesn't require you to iron out all the details, since there's little to no time for playtesting. In short: lots to like. Please develop this one further.

anonymousmagic
Offline
Joined: 11/06/2013
Sow That All May Eat -- Feedback

This entry fell outside the medal podium for me.

It did fine on the contest requirement of having one component, but to award medals, I had to base my choice on other things as well. I felt that if you have a component limit, you need a strong sense of theme to make the game enjoyable. Maybe I'm acting grumpy, or maybe I'm simply not your target audience, but the theme did not interest me all that much.

The entry also suffered on the writing part. I didn't know what the actions "sow" and "eat" when I first read them. It only became a little bit clearer somewhat later, but by that time, I already lost interest.

My tip: make sure you explain your lingo before you use it.

regzr
Offline
Joined: 05/27/2012
Sow That All May Eat

Sorry, I wasn't ready to vote Sow That All May Eat because commanding other people's stuff confused me. But that's only my problem. An eatable game is a great idea. Maybe you should test it and publish Sow That All May Eat with a chocolate candy theme?

davidwpa
davidwpa's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/05/2008
Angry Stickmen--Critique

I really judged all of the games this month on the criteria which was quite basic--one component, no more and no less understanding that you could have as many of the one component as you needed for your game. There were really only three or four of these games in my opinion that stuck strictly to the theme in the purest sense while others exploited some type of differentiation which while allowable I think stretched the point of the game.

With that being said, when I looked at theme, mechanics, my feelings for playability and what sounded like fun to me, I ended up with four games that really hit the spot and I struggled to pick the right ones.

With that said, Angry Stickmen came so close to having a bronze medal for me. I loved the creativity with matchsticks, the depth of the game for using only one component, but the play really tripped me up. I just wasn't "getting it" with the idea of switching plans and I was lost in the mechanics. I also wasn't sure about the attack part and it just felt complicated from the reading. I would love to see the game played though as I think it might help me understand it better, but even with that criticism, I do admire the design and the amount of thoroughness that went into it and like I said, I was so close to giving it a medal but it was literally neck and neck. Good job and congrats for a great win.

davidwpa
davidwpa's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/05/2008
Sow That All May Eat--Critique

This was my gold medal choice. It used one component and had an interesting set of mechanics which while obviously inspired by Mancala seemed quite interesting to me.

I had to read through the directions once or twice. I found the win conditions to be interesting and while I'm not a big fan of the everybody loses outcome for a game, I thought this game was interesting enough that I let it slide.

As I said in my previous critique all of the games that truly used one component in my opinion were really close in design, but what pushed this one ahead was the rules seemed much more straight forward. I could read these directions and explain them to someone with very little effort. I do think there is probably a mathematically optimal strategy to winning the game, but I think it could be fun.

I also liked the previous suggestions to actually make this game an edible game.

In fact you could sell a bag of M&Ms with the rules for this and M&M poker. (smile)

Congratulations on your strong finish.

Mr.S
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2014
Ivory Tower

I like that this game used size as the differentiating factor. It is the only entrant that tried this. However, the size factor also makes it difficult to ‘randomly’ choose a number of pieces as they can feel around to get the pieces they need. Of course this might change after the bidding round, which looks like an interesting way to decide who get the items.
This game looks like a lot of fun aimed at a younger audience. I think there are a large number of people who will enjoy building something as part of the game (I played Legos as a kid too). Consider using foam blocks that are larger for younger kids. Of course if someone is losing they may ‘accidentally’ bump the table, knocking over the other towers.
Measuring with the pillar might be difficult to do accurately without knocking over the tower. I think a square (tool, not shape) would work better.
Overall I liked this game.

Mr.S
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2014
Starfield

For future entrants, I will make this note:
**If you make a game about zombies, pirates, Cuthulu, space or to a lesser extent – agriculture; you better have a phenomenal, new and exciting game mechanic that draws me in.**
There are just too many of these types of games. If I see them I usually squirm and am less likely to open the box. Sometimes these themes are necessary, but it seems like most of the time the theme is pasted on because manufacturers know they can sell that theme. Other people may vote differently, but I am just letting everyone know that if they want my vote you need to give me something original.
All that being said, the actual game (minus theme) was decent. You started off with an interesting drafting strategy. I don’t know how secretly a planet can be removed though, as the other players can count the number of each color to figure it out. The flicking game sound kind of fun, depending on surface area and the coefficient of friction. I guess the basic strategy is to select the color of which there are most, close to you. This sounds like a fun family game that can be played with a wide range of ages. Here’s an idea, instead of finishing the game after one round, the ‘planets’ that remain are placed back on the table until only one color remains. Whoever had claimed that color wins (possible 2 player win).
I’m not sure how the theme fits though. I guess most planets are round? To my knowledge, planets don’t bounce around in space – flicked by god – like billiard balls. So in conclusion, drop the theme and I’ll give you higher marks. Other flicking game names: Shuffle Board, Crokinole, Tumbling Dice, (even lawn bowling or boche ball). Notice that none of these games has a theme. Pitchcars, Angry Birds and table top football are similar but have a need for theme.

Mr.S
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2014
davidwpa wrote: I also liked

davidwpa wrote:

I also liked the previous suggestions to actually make this game an edible game.

In fact you could sell a bag of M&Ms with the rules for this and M&M poker. (smile)

Congratulations on your strong finish.

A few people have suggested that, but as my critique of the M+M game will attest, I don't want 5 dirty paws all over my food. Candies, or whatnot would be sliding around, being passed between players, etc... I guess this is why our mothers told us not to play with our food.

donut2099
donut2099's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/09/2014
ivory tower

This looks like a fun dexterity/stacking game. I didn't think it met the one component criteria, the fact that all the pieces were made of wood notwithstanding. Having special pieces like 'The baseplate' and 'pillar', in my mind those are components. As for the game, I liked the theme. I can imagine what kind of cobbled together towers would be produced and to attribute these constructions to prestigious universities is a good chuckle. Well played.

donut2099
donut2099's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/09/2014
starfield

This one was a tough one for me to decide on whether I liked it or not. I think there is always a fun aspect to flicking pieces on a table and knocking them into each other. The rules for this game I think are what put me off. The preferred color mechanism, if I understood it correctly, could lead to multiple players selecting the same colors, which would reduce the number of available discs of that color and have more people competing for the same color almost ensuring they would not be able to win. I think there is something to work with, but it didn't reach into my top 3.

bike
bike's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/08/2012
Ivory tower - critique

Not really one component... the baseplates and the pillar are different than the building blocks. By making them all white it is not that obvious ;-) Nevertheless this was my gold medal. I liked the clean white look of the buildings, and I really liked the bidding mechanic. Some more suggestions:

  • Do to the bidding with only one hand. I will need the other to hold my drink or chocolate.
  • It might be that two average pieces is better than the first pick, and the leftover piece. Why having a second pick in the reverse order? The whole idea of bidding is that you get the best piece.
  • Get rid of the baseplate. With this plate there is enough room to stick unwanted pieces like pawns, while making a stack of usefull pieces. See http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1231/bausack for a good example to build on a single piece.
  • Instead of the pillar you could measure the size of each hand between spreaded thumb and indexfinger. Giving kids an advantage.
  • This is a quick game, if a tower falls, you are out!
bike
bike's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/08/2012
Starfield - critique

My silver medal. Nice combination of dexerity and tactics. Already mentioned there are some problems with secret player colors (if only you were allowed to use cards). I like that you can use 3 discs of the same color to get a bonus.
Not all tables will be suitable for this game. Ours will still have stuff on one side which we moved to that side just to be able to play a game.

Corsaire
Corsaire's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2013
Ivory Tower

Though a solid seeming game, I didn't consider this one as qualifying for the contest. Since shape is a critical bit of information for the building, having the pillar that measured height was a distinct second bit of information. I find the finger bidding mechanic awkward in concept, not sure how well that can work out. I'm not familar with all the stacking games out there; so, I'm not sure what distinguishes them. I'm pretty sure I've sat in my son's room playing our own variation of this with stuff in his room.

Corsaire
Corsaire's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2013
Starfield

The hidden selection makes this broken right out of the gate. I'll know exactly which pieces were selected. As it is criticial to the game, I don't see how to move this forward.

MaxGamesSeidman
Offline
Joined: 01/08/2014
Angry Stickmen - Critique

Whoops! I forgot to do Angry Stickmen yesterday!

The good: I really liked the mechanic incentivizing players to take small incremental actions. That was definitely my favorite part of the pitch. I also liked the dynamic of being able to half build things and then switch them over if the game state changes.

Needs testing/could use work: I'm not a big fan of games with no randomness. I fear for lack of replayability, although bidding helps mitigate deterministic play.

(Also, thanks for all the feedback on Ivory Tower!)

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut