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[GDS] FEBRUARY 2016 "The Circle Is Now Complete" - Critiques

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mindspike
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We have a winner!

Frontrunner

by billarama

Massive participation this month, thanks for stepping up to the challenge!

Game Designer Total Pts Discussion
Frontrunner billarama 17 February 19
Void ez 15 February 20
Universe markgrafn 10 February 21
Unite the Heland Clans gilamonster 9 February 22
Faerie War PhoenixBC 8 February 23
Zero Point jbship628 6 February 24
"This is no moon!" ElKobold 4 February 25
Dark Mirror Littlebigs5 4 February 26
Super Smashers iamseph 2 February 27
Time of the Season patrick.moniz1 2 February 28
Family Vacation harmon89 1 February 29
The Waves of Fight -Eberhardt- 0 March 1
richdurham
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Critiques

Congratulations - it was a good set of entries!

For the discussion, the schedule gives a day to focus on each entry in order of placement. That said, the entries that didn't receive many votes should absolutely be some of the most discussed entries, in terms of *why* did it not get the vote? What would do you think it needed to win your vote? Why did the ones you vote for get your vote?

To get the simple bit said, this discussion is a chance to go beyond "I thought it was good." That's what the vote was for. Now say why. How did you think it met the requirements? Why did it sound exciting to play? How are the tension points, uncertainty, and interesting choices clearly communicated?

IOW this is the feedback portion of learning, and in the past this discussion is the main reason designers participate in the GDS. Give constructive feedback to get constructive feedback.

Second "should go without saying" part, critiques are not telling the designer how you would have done it. You're not supposed to impose your design onto theirs. Writing advice is okay, indicating for instance that "you didn't need to spend all that time listing the 14 types of tiles and components. Since the thematic framing of the game was light, maybe that space could have been better spent making the narrative more exciting."

Congrats again to the top entries!

Discuss!

gilamonster
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Ok, I'll give my

Ok, I'll give my tuppensworth:

Firstly, I feel a little guilty that I didn't vote for Zero Point. I thought the concept was very clever indeed; my chief objection was that an abstract game based around numbers felt a little "dry" (embarrassing to admit that, as I'm an engineer, and actually like maths).

I was very impressed with the mechanics for acquiring tiles in "Universe" (this was my no. 1 vote, once I understood how it worked). Also, I'm a sucker for hex-tiles and a space-theme.

Void was no. 2 for me - I love reversi/othello, and this looks like it would add quite a bit tactically speaking (and the scoring reminds me slightly of Go, which I also like). Requiring exactly four players would be a bit double-edged for me - its nice to have an abstract strategy game for more than two players, but I don't always have three other people around to play games with, and when I do there are often extra people who would probably also want to join in if they could.

War of the Faeries was no. 3 - It looks like a nice solid little wargame. I'd probably prefer the two-player version, but it is nice to have the 4-player option.

Dark mirror, like Zero Point, looked pretty good to me; it just lost out to others that looked even more interesting, and perhaps it would be a little repetitive. I think it could be played with one or more stripped decks of "normal" playing cards, which would count in its favor for me.

A wee note oan mah entry: "hieland" somehaw got misspelled which main hae bumbaislt an mystified th' sassenach.

Littlebigs5
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Thought front runner was

Thought front runner was great, very fun and fit the theme very well. In my head I saw lots of "color" with quirky candidates and funny news quips. Lots of room to add more features (tabloids attack cards? Reddit popularity boost cards?) without breaking the core.

jbship628
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Frontrunner

After lurking for a year and a half, I join the fray. My friend Bill (billarama) had talked about doing the BGDF contests and I said I would do it too, so this was our first go round at it.

Full disclosure is that I did vote Frontrunner 1st, not because of our friendship but because I really thought the game was outstanding in flavor, completeness, and uniqueness in how it handled the cycle theme.

My notes said:

-A novel idea on the cycle concept that works logically.
-I also envisioned whimsical style art on the cards with all kinds of humorous takes on the political world.
-Player as TV executive was the only real iffy part on the concept. (Is there another "player" in the political game that might make more sense? Idk.)

Top 5 pick. (#1)

Great idea bill!

billarama
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Thanks, and my thoughts

Thanks, everyone. As with jb, first time participant, long-time lurker. And thanks to jb for helping me playtest (and name) the game.

I do indeed have some fun cards in mind for Frontrunner. These are the event cards mentioned in the rules. I wanted to get the core down first, so I don't have the details on how they will work. Most of them will manipulate the board and the score piles in various ways -- replace a main stage candidate with an undercard from your score pile, switch around the board, etc. (My favorite so far is "Meghyn Kelly: If a showdown includes Frontrunner, resolve it as a tie.")

Some of my thoughts on the others:

I liked Zero Point a lot -- a very simple and elegant idea, but with some interesting gameplay. Attractive as potentially quick but strategic experience.

Void and Universe were very interesting. It's a harder to get a sense of the dynamics of these without playing a few times. Interesting that Universe went with hex and Void with square grid. Hex gridding is attractive to me because it is more geometrically faithful.

Family Vacation was a great interpretation of the theme. I could see some wacky cards here (both in game play and in artwork).

ez
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Feedback

Thank you for feedback on my game Void. I find it very inspiring with contests like these as you get a theme, limitations and a deadline to work towards. I will move on with the game and finish it somehow. I brought my prototype to a board game meetup this weekend and it was very interesting to see more players react to it. =)

I would love to hear more feedback if you have any! Why did/didn't you vote for it? What seems to be the biggest challenge with the game? Did you even understand my description of it? What should I have explained more clearly?

Frontrunner
I didn't find the gameplay that appealing to me personally, even though it felt kind of solid from the description. It's always a challenge to try and understand the feeling of a game through a short description. I was not very fond of the theme, but I recognize it as a valid and creative interpretation of the theme! I was very uncertain how random the game would feel playing it, and not in the fun way, due to the "laying down cards, see who wins" -mechanic.

(Frontrunner would probably end up as #5 if we had voted that far. Family Vacation would be my #4.)

I've seen people are commenting on more games in the same post, and with not that much activity in this thread I guess that is ok?

Universe
This was my #3 pick. At first I had a hard time understanding the mechanics, but the hunch I got from it seemed very interesting. It followed the theme, although (as I understood it) not as a main mechanic. I love mapbuilders, and the replayability and possibilities to tactics seemed promising. With this description I was uncertain if the mechanics would flow well or be stopping. To be honest, if I would actually have understood the description better and it showed that the game played like I hoped it would, I might have voted this entry higher. =)

Unite the Hieland Clans
My #2 pick. It felt very thought through with an easily understood description which made me curious to play it. Maybe too many layers of card types (but as with all of the descriptions, I might change opinion once playing it). It followed the theme well.

Faerie War
My #1 pick. I really liked the solution to use tiles as health markers and pawns, to a game that would normally be components heavy. It shows that the designer had made an effort with the limitations. Also, it followed the theme perfectly and the description made the game sound interesting. I'm curious how balanced the characters would be playing each other, but that's of course a matter of testing and tweaking.

I will try to get back to give a few comments on the other entries.

Thanks for the inspiration! =)

richdurham
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Feedback timing

HI all -

Glad to see so many eager people adding their comments and critiques for all the entries they voted for.

For new comers this month, I want to highlight that discussion focuses on a single entry each day. This part of the critique process allows everyone to hear about their game - regardless of how many votes they received. Feedback is why many people participate in the GDS, and we want to ensure everyone gets their turn. All feedback - positive or negative - is valuable so long as it is not prescriptive for "what they should have done" and more about why you personally did or did not vote for it.

There has been some great feedback so far, and some too-brief feedback. This is why I'm calling out the daily-focus aspect so we can make sure all the feedback falls on the "great" side.

Keep on critiquing!

jbship628
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Void and Universe

Hello again.

I got busy yesterday, and fell asleep on the couch to end the day. So I'm going to give my critique for Void AND Universe today. (I have notes for every game)

VOID

My short notes said:

-Othello with 4 players is an interesting idea.
-Does it stick in people's heads as just an Othello variant?
-I like the idea of taking tiles off the board.
-Seems like limited interaction with the player opposite you in the cycle.
-Does this lead to "team ups?"
-Wouldn't there be a lot of stalemates with 4 players?

Top 5 Pick (#4)

So I really liked the idea and concept of the game, though I did wonder if people would start teaming up with the opposite person in order to sort of block in the other two players if possible, which I'm not even sure is possible since I haven't played the game. I did also wonder if the game might benefit from getting away from such a stereotypical cycle. The fire-water-earth-wind thing has kind of been done to death, and since in general your game doesn't rely on that theme, you could make it whatever you want. But there is definitely something worth pursuing here, and glad to see you are doing so! Good luck!

UNIVERSE

Short notes:
-I really enjoyed the concept
-I am missing something in the rules, but there is definitely a solid something here.
-The cycle aspect does seem a bit thrown in, but I see how it fits
-Are there rules for how to build your universe? (Do planets need a star?)

Top 5 Pick (#3) (My bronze medal)

Overall, I loved how different this game felt from all the others, and the idea of competing for elements to build into your own little universe is a good one. Who doesn't like PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS! every now and then. (Even if it comes with an itty bitty living space) This and Void were really neck and neck and since they were tied for 3rd, I went with the more novel use of the theme. I am very interested to see if this concept moves forward beyond this little competition.

billarama
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Void and Universe

Ach, I didn’t even notice there were specific dates posted.

So here are my notes on Void and Universe to catch up. I had similar reactions to these because they were the toughest to get a sense of. Not because they are complicated, but it requires some play to see if the dynamics really work.

Void:
I like the idea, but again, I can’t really get a feel for it. Mechanically it seems very sound, so I ranked it highly. I particularly liked how the cycle theme was applied to a familiar mechanic in an innovative way. I was concerned that it would just be too chaotic, but I don’t know. Diagonal adjacency always bugs me because it’s mechanically but not visually equivalent to side adjacency, creating a sort of false asymmetry. But the situation here is no worse than in Othello, which is obviously popular, so maybe it’s just me.

Universe:
Again, really needs a play to get a sense of it, and I’m not sure I’m visualizing the board properly, specifically what “hex tile above the card” means. But I like the interplay of the mechanics and it was interesting use of the cycle. The “universe” theme seems tacked on, but that’s OK. This is the game I understood the least, but want to play the most.

gilamonster
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Apologies and belated frontrunner

Sorry everyone - I also didn't notice the dates - drat!

So in an attempt to "catch up", I'll give my belated impressions of Frontrunner (if this is not acceptable, the editors should please remove this post)
As a non-American who is not too familiar with exactly how their elections and campaigns work, I didn't fully understand the theme. This might be something to consider if the game were to be marketed internationally, although I suppose most other non-Americans are more interested in non-Clausewitz politics than I, and so would be less lost with this theme. Perhaps I also didn't quite understand the mechanics properly; I understood it to be something like a politico/media-themed bridge-like game (though admittedly that is an over-simplification of the game mechanics). Assuming I didn't misunderstand, I can see why this would appeal to many people, but it wouldn't be my cup of tea (purely due to personal taste regarding both theme and mechanics; I don't think there are any obvious flaws in the game).

PhoenixBC
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Unite the Hieland Clans

This was my number one pick. I am a huge fan of themes and this one was certainly my favorite of the lot. I enjoy a good “historical” game that unites various concepts from a certain time period. I can envision the board game and cards looking inviting to a potential player. I would recommend changing the phrasing of “hates” to “rivals” or something similar to keep the theme flow consistent. The addition of gallowglass mercenaries also adds a nice wild card element so you don’t end up with too many rivals in a hand and lose effective siege capability. Nice work for your first showing! Makes me feel like I should go throw a Caber around now…

Also, thank you for your votes for and discussion of Faerie War (looking forward to any more tomorrow on my assigned day). I am also a long time lurker, first time competitor. This was the first theme that I read and an idea popped immediately into my head so I had to run with it. It is a game that I plan on developing further and play testing to work out numbers and board configurations. I will keep all updated when I get to that phase!

(Sorry to all others I haven’t had a chance to critique. I will contribute more when I can!)

billarama
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Unite the Heland Clans

The theme was cool, and I thought the mechanics of the cards were interesting. A creative use of the cycle theme. I had two reservations on this one. The first was that it felt like a game where there was a lot going on, but ultimately there would usually be one clear best move (or possibly several clear but arbitrarily chosen best moves). The other concern was that I didn't see the map being used as anything other than a list of what's in the game. I think this could work as the core of a more complicated game, but as is it just didn't grab me.

billarama
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Faerie War

The theme isn’t really my thing, but that’s OK. The season cycle was the most interesting part, but that mostly was a framework for turn order and some combat bonuses. I don’t have any complaints about the mechanics and I’m sure it would play just fine — lots of potential for some interesting components and artwork — and I did like the strategic potential of the role of royalty. But for me, there wasn’t enough here to set it apart from other terrain warfare games.

jbship628
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Unite the Heland Clans AND Faerie War

Once again, I've let myself slip and before I know it, it's 3 days later. I'm going to do the last 2 days critiques in this post.

UNITE THE HELAND CLANS

Notes:

- Theme wise, I didn't really think that so many clans would co-exist so closely and only have 1 or 2 rivals. I just didn't see how troops from 3 different clans would all just work together to free a town and their not be a huge fracas over it later.

- With such small hands, it felt like you could end up with no possible turns if you drew cards from clans who didn't have enemies on the board, or cards that all hated each other.

Overall, it seems like it could be a fun game, I just wasn't into the theme, and the cycle use could stand to be tweaked, maybe even by just reducing the number of clans and making them all hate each other with differing levels. Then each card losing some strength based upon which other clan cards you played it with. (That way you have a wider hate cycle, but don't have cards that absolutely cannot work together)

FAERIE WAR

Notes:

-My big issue with the game was that there really is no cycle at all in the game. The seasons really do nothing but determine what team everyone is on rather than actually having a cycle like effect within the game.

-The rest of the rules seemed solid enough, and I even kind of like the overall theme. As someone ranking the games, this game simply got bumped down quite a bit for there being no real aspect of the game utilizing the main theme of the month. (Almost like missing the basket ingredients in Chopped) I also realize that mine isn't the only way to look at the concept of a cycle, so I certainly don't think people were wrong to vote for your game.

jbship628
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Zero Point

Hello all,

Zero Point was my game and I just wanted to thank everyone for anything already said and just to give some insight into my design possibly to aid in feedback. I knew having no theme at all was going to make it a tough row to hoe, so I am actually quite pleased at the 6th place finish.

Going into the competition, the idea of a cycle game going from 1-10 with 1 being able to beat 10 was what stuck with me in my design brain. Nothing I came up with in that way wasn't just a contrived device. So then I got the idea to go from 0-9, then the idea of using the mathematical concept of 0 and how it really is just a placeholder. So using a 0 to add to another number came to fruition.

Overall, I've taken a deck of cards and dealt out the game and played it by myself (by choosing my card, then blindly taking a card from my opponent's hand) and I was pleased with the way it worked out. Playing a zero is powerful, but balanced by the fact that the number you draw 1/3 of the time is going to be another zero, which is still the worst number you could get. The idea of bringing in a decimal point action gives another way to balance the use of zeroes out of the hand.

If anyone wants to try the game, it can quickly be done with a standard deck of cards. Aces are 1. 2-9 are as they look. Treat 10-K as zeroes. (make little paper decimal points for the tokens) Jokers can be optionally shuffled in decimal point cards that can only be used as actions.

The only tweak I've made to the original rules is that the setup just deals 8 piles of 5 cards, and the Player 1 person chooses a pile between each Round. (In order to make the game feel less fatalistic)

Fun Fact: The working name of the game was "My Hero, Zero"

billarama
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Zero Point

I really liked Zero Point. It's simple, strategic, and the game I found myself thinking about the most.

I like games like this, but I can see where it's maybe not for everyone. Since we can interpret the zeros as a kind of "leveling up," that might provide a way to think about a theme and make it seem less mathy. That also might gave same more options if it needs any rebalancing.

billarama
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This is no moon!

Although I'm mostly a walking geek stereotype, for whatever reason Star Wars just never resonated with me. Since the rules to "This is no moon!" ooze theme, it was tough to read them because this game was clearly not made for me. The other problem is that the contest theme is not really represented here.

All that said, a game built around that plot point is a nice idea. I couldn't fully parse the mechanics -- I got a little confused about who's doing what -- but the core idea of a rotating station affecting which cards are in play is thematically and mechanically interesting.

PhoenixBC
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Dark Mirror

I liked this game's theme and the variety of cards interested me. There is a lot of potential for some fun rounds bouncing the mirror back and forth between players. Just when you think you are about to break it, someone will steal it or prevent you from breaking it. I see it playing quickly and you can get several games in so it would be a good side game to play at a bigger board game night. However I did not vote for it because I thought it didn't follow the rules precisely - it doesn't come off as a natural cycle.

billarama
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..And the rest

Sorry, I got a bit behind. Here are my critiques of the rest of the games.

Dark Mirror

This game is interesting. The dynamics of a game like this are very difficult to glean from the rules and it’s probably though to balance. The game reminded me of Love Letter, which is a beautifully simple game. There are more cards here and the cycle creates an interesting mechanism that restricts play, but I think the reason it didn’t resonate with me is I didn’t feel the game was offering something I couldn’t get from a simpler game. But I could be persuaded otherwise — as I say, this one needs to be tried and tweaked for a while.

Super Smashers

Pretty simple mechanics, so has draw as quick-paced starter. I worry that it might feel a little samey after a bit, and whether there were good ways to really strategize. But I think my main problem was it didn’t really have a cycle in it.

Time of the Season

This one was a little more interesting than I’d realized. When I was voting, I thought it was a basic trick taking game with a few bells. I didn’t notice that the regular plays win on lowest card and trump goes by highest card. That’s mind-boggling and I’m not sure what to expect from game play. I’m don’t know that it would be in my top three now, but that’s a very intriguing mechanic. I’d highlight that rule.

Family Vacation

I think I voted this one #3. I thought the theme was the best in the contest as an innovative way to make the cycle natural. The mechanics seem good — I think it depends a lot on what the cards do, especially the goals. I’m envisioning some over the top artwork that parents can relate to. I think the cards need to do some interesting things themselves for the game to survive once the novelty of the theme wears off. But this one has some real potential.

The Waves of Fight

I just didn’t see the contest theme in here at all. It’s an interesting idea — I saw it as a sort of War meets Phase 10 thing. But as a stand-alone game, I don’t know that it would hold my interest.

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