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[GDS] MARCH 2015 "A Team Apart" - Critiques

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mindspike
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We have a winner!

Stanley Pool

by andymorris

Thanks for the thoughtful responses and questions regarding the challenge this month. This was exceptionally difficult for the "rules light" word limit, but our community proved themselves equal to the challenge!

Game Score Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals
Stanley Pool 12 2 2 2
Bôsen 10 2 2
Moon Assault 10 1 3 1
Shugo Daimyo 10 2 1 2
Galilean Moons 9 2 3
Rum-Running 2 1
Masters of Secrets 1 1
By Jove! Exhibition

In the spirit of the game, we're going to start discussion with the one game that wound up only making an exhibition showing. I blame gremlins from Unalaska.

Game Designer Discussion
By Jove! lonebluewolf March 17
Stanley Pool andymorris March 18
Bôsen markgrafn March 19
Moon Assault DifferentName March 20
Shugo Daimyo Leadpipe March 21
Galilean Moons Zag24 March 22
Rum-Running Mechadonic March 23
Masters of Secrets Silverik March 24
andymorris
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Thanks for the votes

What a close contest. With so many creative, interesting ideas it's great to squeak out on top.

andymorris
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Thoughts on By Jove

Too bad you missed out being included in the vote. I was going to give a bronze. I like the concept and the movement dynamic. Did you intend the gears to interlock at all? It would be cool if they moved together at different rates so that the distance and movement options vary.

I was a little confused by the theme. I'm not sure why or how the british and chinese were sending dirigibles to Jupiter in the nineteenth century. I think either you need more explanation or make it futuristic.

DifferentName
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By Jove

I would have voted Silver on this one if I could have. The moons orbiting seems like a unique interesting mechanic. That's how war in space could really be, with the shape of the battlefield changing as moons orbit at different rates.

The not talking part of the contest feels just tacked on. The game would be better with talking, but you did use the theme well.

Leadpipe
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I was going to vote gold for

I was going to vote gold for this, as I thought it was one of the few fully fleshed-out games and I quite liked the rotating ring mechanic. I must admit, however, that the non-communication between teammates doesn't really seem to add to the game (though I don't think it would detract). In the case of a team having enough control to affect ring movement, which teammate decides on the movement? I would love to see the players having even more control over the movement of the rings.

Sliverik
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I couldn't vote for By Jove!,

I couldn't vote for By Jove!, as I submitted my choice too fast, but I think that I would have given it bronze (or silver, maybe), since the theme was very original: a mixture of non-sense science-fantasy and more formally designed ideas. The interpretation of the moons of Jupiter was good, I'd say.

As for Stanley Pool, I don't remember if I voted gold or silver for it (should have kept track of my choices), but I really liked the way the theme fits to the gameplay, and especially how the two phases interact. The explanations are concise and clear, I can very well imagine how the game would look like.

DifferentName
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Stanley Pool

I voted Bronze on this one. I've never played a trick taking game, and don't fully understand the rules of them, so the shorthand used for trick taking rules was a little lost on me. It's an interesting idea though, combining a card game with a map/ area control game. Not talking about the game also fits with trick taking, so you can't tell people what card suits you have available, or whatever.

I would have liked to see more of how the roles work or how the different rules fit together.

lonebluewolf
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By Jove + Stanley Pool

I appreciate all the feedback!

I was worried that the theme would be a bit too wacky, but the idea for this game started out with the title and I just knew it had to be about Victorian Steampunk astronauts. Some inspiration from Eddie Izzard helped as well -- "No flag, no country!"

I actually had to water down the gear-orbits quite a bit from my original vision, since describing the board ate up so much of the word count. If I ever build a prototype for this, andymorris, I definitely want to incorporate interlocking gears somehow. Ultimately, the challenge in the lack of communication was supposed to be in setting up extra moves and coordinating attacks silently, but I got so caught up in space dirigibles and silly acronyms that I didn't focus so much on really integrating the requirement. Next time!

=====

Stanley Pool definitely felt truest to the theme. I liked the spin on building hands instead of taking tricks, but I personally wanted more clarification on the setup of the board and the interaction between teammates. Admittedly, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this one with the limit on the word count, but I'd like to think that it would all make sense seeing it in action. Also kudos for being the only entry that took on this particular theme!

andymorris
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Thanks for the feedback

Thanks for the comments. I knew there was a chance not everyone would be familiar with trick taking, but 500 words is always so tough. I wished I could have talked more about what would be going with the roles and the board. More importantly, I also didn't have enough space to point out all the injustices that were done to the native community during this period. Sadly, the negative impact is still felt today. It was very interesting to learn about.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Bosen

I thought this idea was quite creative. I think the secret vote, only one team gets to take an action system would make a very interesting game play/decision making dynamic. There were a couple things that held it out of the medals for me. The main one is that I didn't feel like the three discipline actions were equally valuable. My perception is that recruit would be by far the best action because you get to immediately place pieces in a new stronghold. Whereas it would take several war turns to get to a new stronghold. It didn't feel like there was quite enough manipulation of all the territory. This would certainly work itsef out through play testing and may already be resolved by the secondary effects of the cards, but there weren't any examples. Overall a very solid idea and the theme was very well applied.

DifferentName
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Bosen

I almost voted bronze on this one. No talking makes sense for this, since you're playing kind of a rock paper scissors game, and need to coordinate by handing out cards. I guess one thing that seemed odd was that the whole group does this rock paper scissors style game, then only one player gets to do an action. It seems like you could go a long time without getting to do much.

markgrafn
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Bosen

Thanks for all the comments and votes!

500 words makes it very difficult to clearly define the rules of the game and any engaging effects within. I realized about half way through writing the rules that only one person acts per turn so I had to add effects into the game that only the other players on the team could use. It was kind of tacked on at the end but I think with play testing it could work itself out.

For those wondering, a sample of some of the effects I was thinking.

Remove an opposing unit from any non-stronghold territory.
Occupy an adjacent empty territory.
Simple discard and draw effects.
Effects that move the Daimyo token on either team.
A team changing effect perhaps?

Didn't really think very far into them as they were added so more than one person could act every turn.

Thanks for all the votes! I'm honored to have gotten as many medals as I did.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Moon Assault

This one got my silver. I think the theme/setup makes a lot of sense and will work really well. I really like that there is both a physical and thematic reason why the teams can't communicate. I also really like the movement between two stations. Picking up on your comment about limiting communication rather than eliminating it, maybe there could be a way for you to knock out the interference. As a result, sometimes you can talk to your teammate, sometimes you cannot left a few questions about what the conflict and round turns exactly look like.

There's a clear picture of the sort of things going on, but not a picture of what a round/turn would look like or how the conflicts work. I know it's a byproduct of the word limit, but that was my only concern.

DifferentName
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Thanks

Thanks. Yeah, with the word limit I decided to focus my descriptions on the more unique aspects of the game that fit with the contest. I tried to give a feeling for the 4X empire/combat stuff without getting into it's details. It combat could be something simple like Risk, or like a more complex war game with a variety of units.

DifferentName
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Shugo Daimyo

I voted silver on this one. It's interesting how playing a card face up can give information to your teammates, but also gives information to your enemies. Using one piece on the board would make it tricky working together with your allies when you're unable to talk.

Mechadonic
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Shugo Daimyo

You have created a simple game which could be fun, quick and easy to learn and play but my concern is if it is too simple and did not have enough replayability. I liked the stronger/weaker tokens that you place in the provinces but I am concerned how players will interact - are they gonna try and get in each others provinces to get them out or are they gonna stick to a corner and going round a few provinces to try and get all the 3 different tokens they need in one province in order to get points from all farmers?

andymorris
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Thoughts on Shugo Daimyo

This one got my gold. I like how you battle for multiple majorities in each region. I like the hand creation/card passing setup. I like how one type of piece affects a different type giving two ways that the majorities are affected. I like how the farmers work differently. I think it will make for a nice careful balance and interesting choices. Another reason this one ended up on top for me, is that I was not left with too many questions. Good job dealing with the word limit.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Galilean Moons

This one got my bronze. I really like the idea of pairing a card with a worker. I like how the cards already played impact what happens on an action. It might be nice if there was some carry over round to round for this impact. I like the idea of shaking up the teams, but without a description of how the scoring and end game work I was left with lots of questions. I like how you said 500 words = not enough, well said.

DifferentName
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Galilean Moons

I voted Gold on this one. There were some clever ideas in this one. I like how the bonus of playing cards of the same color combines with other mechanics. While overall I think it would be better with talking, not being able to talk about the cards you have in your hand makes things interesting. This way you don't really know who you should be teaming up with that turn, but you can see what cards are out on the board and try switching the teams up to benefit you.

Mechadonic
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Galilean Moons

I like the idea of worker placement while trying to understand your teammate but on the other hand you don't know if that person will continue to be your teammate. It also balances out by having to commit a worker and maybe wasting him but potentially gaining an advantage.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Rum Run

I think by now you've probably realized you missed a critical component of the GDS, the 500 word limit. When I was decided on my votes I didn't even read the entry because there was no way I could vote for a entry so far past the word limit. I just read through it now. The asymmetrical team structure is perfect for the theme, but my sense is that it would be more interesting to be the bootleggers. I think the first few turns for the police might feel a bit haphazard as you are just guessing arbitrarily where to go. I could be wrong and I'm just not visualizing the deductive element well enough.

DifferentName
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Rum Running

As Andy mentioned, this game went far over the 500 word limit. I looked over the first 500 words, which were mostly component descriptions. While there would have to be a lot of editing to get the rules down to 500 words, one thing I recommend is to really simplify the components list (if you have them at all). I like to include a brief summary of components just to give people a feel for what's in the game. For rum runners, I might use something like this:

Cards: Destination, Supply, Action
Tokens for Police, Road Blocks, Money
Bootlegger location sheets

This gives people the idea that there are a variety of card types, tokens, and the bootlegger sheets. Later when you get into playing action cards, you might describe a couple types of actions as examples, with the feeling that there are more possible actions.

With the short word limit, sometimes it's also necessary to cut a rule from the game, or just allude to it briefly. It's tricky with this of course, deciding whether you want the game to feel simple and complete, or complex with parts missing from your rules.

Mechadonic
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Rum-Running

Thank you for your comments. You are right about the word limit. All i am going to say is that this was my first competition and as we learn something with every experience i am sure i will be better next time. I hope at least you read my game :)

andymorris
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Thoughts on Masters

This one missed out on the medals for me because it didn't quite feel like area control. The team dynamic is interesting. I like the unknown ally idea, but it might make sense if the ally was secretly decided before the game. I like where your going with this idea, but to me it felt like it needed a little something more. What if each of the secret tokens had a symbol on them and then the spies had to collect a certain set of symbols rather just any four. Maybe there could be different combinations needed to enter the government building depending on the side you approach it from? Maybe you could spend discretion tokens for bonus actions? Just some thoughts.

DifferentName
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Masters of Secrets

I can see how not talking influenced this game. As a spy with the black token, you would have an interesting dilemma, as you want the government player to know you're his ally, but you don't want the spies to know that you're now against them. This kind of thing in a game is really tricky though, because you need a set of actions that hint at a players allegiance without completely giving it away. Also, it would feel weird working for one team and then suddenly ending up on the other team at the last moment. (I agree with Andy about having this secretly determined before the game)

For the other contest rule though, this doesn't really seem like area control. Area control could be interpreted in a variety of ways, but in this, no area is ever considered owned or controlled by a player. It's just moved through so things can be picked up.

A little area control might be added by the government blocking spy movement (maybe in an area around the government player, or the government could have a larger number of units, choosing which 2 they move each turn). Maybe spies could set traps or something that would negatively effect the government player, giving them a form of control over the trapped spaces. This way, the spy is vulnerable to the government player, but can still disrupt the government players movement in a way that kind of feels like area control.

Sliverik
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Thanks for your comments! Now

Thanks for your comments!

Now that the contest is over, I can clearly see that I gave too much importance in the complete explanation of the game while staying under the 500-word limit.
That made me simplify the game a lot (I was indeed thinking about defences the government could place on some paths, which would take time to pass, or completely block the ways.).
Next time, I will try to summarize everything a bit, in order to propose a more complex game.

The original idea involved a small set of special action cards that were given out to the spies, and the government would call for a certain card (of his choice). The player with that card in hand would become his ally, without the others knowing it. Once the player would play that card, everyone would know he's the traitor, which could be good or bad, depending on the situation. There would be no difference in the tokens, and the difficulty in collecting them would be a bit higher, with the goals to reach at 5 or 6 tokens in total.
Due to the word limit, I decided to simplify the game principles, so I could explain them easily... but I see that I should have kept the original idea and only be more concise in my description.

All of your ideas are very interesting, and I particularly like the set of different tokens which would allow the spies to act differently, and have different accesses over the map. (Makes me think about Ticket to Ride...)

I will definitively try to do better next month! (How could it be worse than last??)

DifferentName
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The word limit is tricky

Yeah, the 500 word limit is tricky. I often have the same dilemma, asking myself if I should simplify the rules so the whole game can fit in the rules, or if it will be better giving a broad description of a larger game. I've seen both work, so I think it depends on the particular game, and how you write it.

You're right though, the extra rules sound good. I like that the spy could reveal themselves by playing that ability. Adding defenses to block areas would probably give it a bit more of an area control feel. Still not like Risk, but could be interpreted as controlling an area.

Zag24
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Responses re Galilean Moons

Thanks much for the comments on Galilean Moons, which was my entry.

The critique that the mechanics and scoring were not well enough defined -- you were kind to attribute that to the 500-word limit, but the grim reality is that they were not defined. If I had had more words, I might have done so, but I haven't done it yet, and I'm afraid that this game is not even in my top 3 of games I want to work on. Maybe someday, though.

Really the whole concept was the synergy of the action card colors within a team, with the opportunity to change teams, combined with the inability to talk about it in order to plan collectively. I hadn't really gotten any further than that, and as I wrote up that much, I realized that I was already at the word limit.

mindspike
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Feedback on entries

Feedback

All at once, I'm afraid, but here goes:

Galilean Moons

(+) This is an interesting mechanic. The placement of workers and playing of action cards doesn't seem very complex, but the opportunity to switch up teams in order to maximize production is very intriguing.

(-) I don't see how this could tie thematically to the "moons" idea, but it does seem very reflective of modern corporate merger and acquisition strategy. I would prefer to see this mechanic paired with an insider trading theme.


Masters of Secrets

(+) Hidden movement, hidden actions, and lack of communication mean this could be a very complex game. I like the addition of a secret partner for one player.

(-) There doesn't seem to be a way to track player information or motivation so that the defense player can zero in on the spies. Without that deduction element, this seems like its purely a guessing game.


Bosen

(+) I like the potential for rotating player priority between teams and on each team. I find the mechanics very evocative of the theme. I think this is a case where table talk isn't really going to break the contest restriction, as the part that matters - playing the Discipline card - can't be communicated without giving away vital information to the other team.

(-) This almost has to have teams of three, making it a six player game. That could be problematic.


Moon Assault

(+) This has fascinating potential in switching between boards and trying to coordinate with your team mate. I see lots of potential there for some pretty complex strategy and deduction. I love the idea of using a soundtrack as a timer.

(-) I would have preferred to see a single player tasked with defending both moons, and the team mate tasked with assaulting the enemy. That way a player can concentrate on a single task instead of switching back and forth.


Shugo Daimyo

(+) There is the potential here for a lot of miscommunication between team mates. I like that. I also like the clear resolution structure between the different worker types.

(-) Passing cards between players seems needlessly complex. This game already has quite a lot of randomness and confusion happening on the board.


Stanley Pool

(+) I really like the theme here. The idea of building your hand and then using the trick taking mechanic to pass cards to your partner is really fascinating and strategic. Pairing it with the British Empire of the 19th century is a really excellent match.

(-) I don't really see how the game evokes area control, unless each player is spending their resources on the game board in some fashion I wasn't clear on.


Rum-Running

(+) Very detailed components and a good blending of theme with mechanics. The deduction mechanic on the part of the police is very strong.

(-) I'm not sure how this is a team game, except that the team mates have the same goal. Tracking all of that secret movement is likely to get difficult. I'm not clear on what the police are doing on their turn.


By Jove!

(+) The component description and game play really intrigues me. I love the idea of flying airships between planets to set up colonies. This could get very competitive very quickly.

(-) I don't quite see the team strategy or have a clear idea how the game is played. I have a feeling that visual aids will be very important with these components.

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