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[GDS] JULY 2015 "Standing Room Only" - Critiques

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mindspike
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We have a winner!

Proper Deportment

by Wombat929

Very proper indeed. An especially difficult challenge this month. Huge thanks to all the designers that put their creative abilities to the task. As always, one day will be devoted to each entry, but please feel free to keep the discussion going on other days.

Game Designer Score Discussion
Proper Deportment wombat929 16 July 20
Smear tuscansun 14 July 21
The Rogues Gallery MarkJindra 12 July 22
Thrust Force Five thoughtfulmonkey 10 July 23
Sack of... markgrafn 6 July 24
A Stitch in Time Rob Huber 2 July 25
wombat929
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mindspike wrote:We have a

mindspike wrote:
We have a winner!
Proper Deportment
by Wombat929

Hey! Thanks, everybody!

Rob Huber
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Congratulations!

It was a tough remit and all the winners were solid.

tuscansun
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Congrats wombat! And thanks

Congrats wombat! And thanks to everyone who voted for me too, I appreciate it and look forward to your critiques!

Speaking about Proper Deportment though, I really enjoyed the theme and how well it matched your components and game play style. Just a 1 to 1 match of theme to component and style. Brooches are a REALLY fun component that I'd never even thought about! (I'm also a bit of a sucker for cool components lol) Also, if you make a game super small and portable and cute, 99 times out of 100 I'm gonna want it!

The game is incredibly social and seems like it would play well with a group of people who know each other or even at a cocktail party as an icebreaker. I can see the moment of listing the last person's scandal and watching that 'gotcha' moment unfold!

Some of the parts I didn't like as much was the maintaining composure as the determining factor of winning or losing. I just saw that this game could easily turn into twelve people balancing cards on top of their heads in a room. Which is all well and good (and can be downright hilarious!), but it kind of negates the first part of the game for me. If there was another way to lose, like "damage" of some kind, but you could use maintaining composure as a skill check to take some of that "damage" away, I would play this game ALL the time.

Full disclosure though, I shy away from dexterity games for physical limitations of players. There is nothing worse than having a game that someone can't play because they have a physical handicap. But I didn't let that cloud my judgment. I don't think, at least. If I'm off base and you think it did, please let me know.

Overall, the game is clever and I see it as a PERFECT start to a game night! THIS is the kind of thing you break out before everyone settles into a big box game, especially in a group with people who've only just met. You did a great job with this challenge!

MarkJindra
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Same Here...

I can't remember where I placed this one but I definitely voted for it. And tuscansun hit all of the same points I was going to.

Great job and congrats wombat.

=M=

thoughtfulmonkey
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Critiques

Apologies to anyone offended by the break in protocol, but I'm going to post all feedback in one go. There's only 5, and I can't guarantee being able to login over the next few days.

I was expecting variations on racing and fighting games, so I was pleased to see more creative designs.

Smear - Silver
Fundamentally a very simple mechanic. This is a great game for people familiar with traditional card games like poker - and it would blow their minds how a simple change like being able to reverse cards can make the choices more interesting. My only concern was being able to remember who gave who the distrust cards, but that might be anticipating a problem that wouldn’t be a challenge in actual play. I was also trying to imagine how the game might play differently if each card only had a single symbol, compared to multiple different symbols. It might be possible to design the cards in a way that supported both (a major symbol and minor symbols) for different levels of player. The instructions didn’t say how many cards there were in total, but I liked the idea of only using a subset of them for each game. One game might have lots of smear, while another might have lots of distrust - adding to the replayability.

Sack of… - Bronze
A nice simple game; easy to explain and very portable. It was a very good match for the brief. I originally read it that each player would put a token in the small pouch, but assuming there is only ever one, and nobody knows what it is, then it makes more sense. And no duplicate tokens? Remembering all 13 different types could be tricky, especially for new players, so maybe some look-up cards would be needed (or listing icons on the back of each token?). Would it be better to publicly discard a couple of tokens for small numbers of players? Otherwise there could just be lots of drawing from the bag trying to pull a token that you haven’t seen already. Screams out for a deluxe version even before it’s been made.

Proper Deportment
This is really not my type of game - stories, acting, accents etc. - but I tried to put that aside and be objective. It did say that the acting could be left out, but I think for many people that is where the fun will be. The theme is engaging, and a lot of the mechanics tie in nicely with it. I initially got the impression that players would wander through the party, occasionally joining in conversations with each other to bring up the scandals. Then the description seemed to switch more to a traditional ‘play start-to-finish’ game with a series of rounds. Both could work, but the mix left me a bit confused. Possibly just my reading of it. I also got confused around the use of stacks and hands - how you played all your topics (added them to someone’s stack?) but completed the conversation in your hand. So, a bit of confusion on my part, but lots of interesting elements to make a great game.

The Rogues Gallery - Gold
This is a really nice idea for sub-game running alongside other activities. I liked that although there was a lot of freedom for the players the actual interaction with each other was simple and well defined - so it wouldn’t be awkward even if you didn’t know the other players. A prominently displayed bag makes it clear who is involved. The poker chip element didn’t seem to be fully defined given that it was a core mechanic. Is each chip different? Do they define roles? Where might you get others from?

A minor point is that parts of the theme text seemed redundant. You wouldn’t need the story about handing out envelopes - just give people the envelope (including the plot text), bag, etc. when they arrive and go straight into character.

A Stitch in Time
Is there a single story, with each player responsible for their own thread? With the right group of people I can imagine this being a hugely fun experience. I personally don’t like voting for the winner at the end, and this is an example of a fun activity that doesn’t need a winner. Whether it counts as a game if there’s no winner is a debate for someone else, but I think it certainly does. The cards could possibly have pre-punched holes to make them reusable, but then who would want to untangle it? Bundling it all up and dropping it in a bin at the end seems wasteful. Seems like an ideal activity for writer’s workshops.

wombat929
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Great comments, thanks!

tuscansun wrote:
Speaking about Proper Deportment though, I really enjoyed the theme and how well it matched your components and game play style. Just a 1 to 1 match of theme to component and style. Brooches are a REALLY fun component that I'd never even thought about! (I'm also a bit of a sucker for cool components lol) Also, if you make a game super small and portable and cute, 99 times out of 100 I'm gonna want it!

I was inspired a bit by the way people often dress up and/or inhabit character when they play Ladies and Gentlemen.

tuscansun wrote:
Some of the parts I didn't like as much was the maintaining composure as the determining factor of winning or losing. I just saw that this game could easily turn into twelve people balancing cards on top of their heads in a room. Which is all well and good (and can be downright hilarious!), but it kind of negates the first part of the game for me. If there was another way to lose, like "damage" of some kind, but you could use maintaining composure as a skill check to take some of that "damage" away, I would play this game ALL the time.

A great point -- when this game progresses to play testing, this would be a key part of the question to answer -- is it fun to keep/lose composure as part of the game? You're right about physical ability/disability in the game, but that critique could apply to most/all dexterity games, yes? My bigger concern is that the card balancing might be too easy for some people and so they would always win. Perhaps if you already have cards on your head and you get a second match, you'd be out automatically.

thoughtfulmonkey wrote:
Proper Deportment This is really not my type of game - stories, acting, accents etc. - but I tried to put that aside and be objective. It did say that the acting could be left out, but I think for many people that is where the fun will be. The theme is engaging, and a lot of the mechanics tie in nicely with it. I initially got the impression that players would wander through the party, occasionally joining in conversations with each other to bring up the scandals. Then the description seemed to switch more to a traditional ‘play start-to-finish’ game with a series of rounds. Both could work, but the mix left me a bit confused. Possibly just my reading of it. I also got confused around the use of stacks and hands - how you played all your topics (added them to someone’s stack?) but completed the conversation in your hand. So, a bit of confusion on my part, but lots of interesting elements to make a great game.

You make some good points. Like Ladies and Gentlemen, the game will gain a lot by getting in character, so if that isn't a gamer's cup of tea, this game probably isn't going to work so well. I can see what you mean about the mingling/gameplay aspect as well. This is an issue to tackle in playtest, I'd say. I also toyed with the idea of players standing in a circle and using position in the circle as part of the game. This would make it harder to balance cards, too, if you had to walk to a new space in order to add to a conversation.

Regarding using cards, the idea was that you can always put your card in someone else's stack or add it to your own, but only if doing so made that stack closer to matching someone's card. So you can't just dump cards in any stack.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I'll keep you in the loop if/when we push forward with further development.

wombat929
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Smear and emergent properties

I liked Smear very much, particularly for its clever small set of rules that seem like they would result in very interesting interactions between the different cards. The recent On Board Games podcast ep 162 focused on the idea of these kinds of 'emergent' properties. As I thought playing a card face out into someone's hand, I realized the interactions are pretty darn complicated--very neat! The theme seems to work pretty well too, as the idea of having to guess what the outcome of 'handling' a particular issue will be -- is it a smear, or a potential help that I could botch?

The only thing I would have liked to see is a bit stronger sense of 'standing' as part of the game. I know that the rules were 'games you could play standing up,' not 'games that require you to stand,' but I think this game would be just as fun sitting around a table, so that's one small ding in it for me.

Great work, tuscansun!

wombat929
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The Rogues Gallery

thoughtfulmonkey's comments on The Rogues Gallery are pretty spot on, but it didn't rate as high for me because of the meta-game aspect -- for me, a game that happens alongside other games is very hard to make function well. But perhaps this would hit that sweet spot nicely.

I was a bit confused about the notion of some people 'getting caught.' Who is doing the catching and how do they do that?

I do like the idea of the purses clipped to the outside of belts or whatever. It would be interesting if these were lightly connected between clip and magnet so that the players were actually trying to steal the bags or something.

tuscansun
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wombat929 wrote:The recent On

wombat929 wrote:
The recent On Board Games podcast ep 162 focused on the idea of these kinds of 'emergent' properties.

Can you tell me where in the podcast they start talking about that? I don't have the time to scan through the whole thing. And thanks for your comments!

Anyway, the matter at hand...

The Rogue's Gallery is a cool concept and I really liked the components that you chose for it (I liked unique components? So shock, many awe, wow). The story aspect of the game was probably what made me like it the most because it, thematically, was on point. I see it playing a lot like Coup but with hidden objectives added to the mix.

I'm not a fan of simultaneous play, and considering that was the goal, the game seemed a little complex for a simultaneous experience for me. It was mostly the hidden objectives that did that, which I could see being added or subtracted in a bigger or smaller game.

You did a great job with this Mark!

wombat929
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tuscansun wrote: Can you tell

tuscansun wrote:

Can you tell me where in the podcast they start talking about that? I don't have the time to scan through the whole thing.

It's the theme of the episode, so it's sprinkled throughout the conversation. No specific spot, if I recall.

wombat929
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Thrust Force Five

One of the things I like best about this month's contest is the diversity of approaches people took to the challenge. Thrust force five struck me as an interesting use of the deck-in-hand mechanism (from the boringly-named "One Handed Solitaire") as a racing game.

On the positive side, I think the 'race through the deck' part sounds fun, and the choices involved are as interesting as they can be in a game where your options are determined by the order of your deck.

The game felt like it would be a solo experience, though it is played in rounds and players interact through slowing down and speeding up. In thinking about playing it, I think the finger band might be too fiddly - what if the finish line card had thrust force in bands at the top -- so it stuck partway out of the deck and was moved up or down to indicate speed. This would also show everyone where their opponents are and spur some last minute haste, perhaps. Last, this feels like a few bad choices or poor card order early in the game could be awful. (The penalty that gets you max 2 thrust, for instance, incurred at the beginning of the game, would be a real bummer.)

I'd be interested to see and try this game as it develops, though. Good work, thoughtfulmonkey.

tuscansun
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Thrust Force Five and Sack

Thrust Force Five and Sack of... I both voted for and loved a lot.

Thrust Force Five seemed to me like a version of oddball Aeronauts with racing as the theme. I got a very F-Zero vibe from it and I don't even need to mention how much I loved the ring as thrust indicator. If it was worked to be less of a total luck of the draw and more of a "scry 3" type player turn, I would see myself loving it more. It feels like strategic decisions are being made, but there's really no illusion of choice. So it seems like it would feel like a purely luck based game, even if that's not what you're going for. Good work, thoughtfulmonkey.

Sack of... I thought was a fun concept for a party game. I was really impressed with how the game could play out like a mini version of Clue in a bag. Plus components, which I don't even feel I should mention anymore because you know how to get my vote now if you just include neat components, were neat. The issues I saw were the fact that if at best it plays like mini-Clue, at worst it plays like bag-Go Fish. And there's no system that keeps players from lying, which I think in a game of social deduction players are going to want to do to suit their own needs. A few tweaks to it and it would be a ton of fun to play! Nice job, Mark.

wombat929
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Sack... and Stitch in Time

Sack... has a great mechanism: the pouch with two pockets that people pass around is a cool idea. I like the fact that players have to choose between the random draw from the sack and interrogating players (and perhaps giving away clues as well). On the other hand, as tuscansun said -- it plays a lot like CLUE, and I really don't like CLUE. It also has the problem of having a theme that feels tacked on -- the game wouldn't change at all if it used numbers rather than royalty ranks.

A Stitch in Time - I really like storytelling games, and I've not seen this kind of thread mechanism before -- really unique. The theme also drives the storytelling very well. I think the attention to the youngest player and the physical interaction of thread and needles would make for a great family game. The index cards and strings reminds me a bit of the Ben Robbins games MICROSCOPE and KINGDOM. I was a bit confused about the relationship between each player and the communal story and the different thread pieces. As the note says, the end will probably have a messy network of strings and cards (which is maybe the point). With development, this could be really fun.

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Stitch in Time is such a

Stitch in Time is such a great concept for a storytelling game, capturing storytelling essence with a fun mechanic. The mechanic is REALLY unique and I don't think I'll ever see it again with any game ever. It's really out there and props to you for going out on a limb. Also plastic needles. SO cool. I love that this game could be really marketable if you found a way to have component exclusivity. I'd say look to Telestrations for inspiration with that, if you ever plan to go that far.

The main issue I saw was that the game was TOO open ended for what it is, and I can see a lot of down time from simply having no kernel from which to start. I think if the cards were close-ended or came with a sheet that had suggested words that you could use instead of coming up with your own, it would help a TON. And the theme of being the fates didn't work for me, but only because I wasn't connecting theme to gameplay super well. That's likely on me, though.

Overall, I think it's SO cool and I'd love to play this with my nieces. Storytelling games are hard to do, and I think it's brave of you to make one for a GDS. Great work Rob!

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