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[GDS] MAY 2015 "Black bag"

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

And the winner is....

Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers by MarkJindra!

Over the next week you'll have the chance to comment and critique each title. Please do! This is why a lot of people participate in the GDS each month.

Entries this month run the gamut of classic themes, from heists and spies to space and scavenging. Even a mouse theme! But how well did they use the "opaque container" in their gameplay?

Over the next week, have a look through the entries posted in the comments below. Once you've got an idea on how you'd like to vote, use the form linked here.

  • Voting: Through the 16th. Votes will be through a form (link posted after submission period is ended).

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!

    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.

    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.

A briefcase by a lamp-post, people busying about. One figure emerges from the crowd and absorbs the case beneath his coat before melding back into the crowd. The exchange is complete.

A classic trope, for sure - but what we're going to extract from this trope specifically is the case. Useful for exchanging objects and information, cases keep away prying eyes, and in some cases are locked from prying fingers as well. And most importantly, you don't have to be there when it's picked up.

Now take this into games. In the May challenge, you must use an opaque case of some kind. Doesn't matter too much how you use it, so long as it is a key component of the game. Oh, and you can use as many as you like.

For example, use it to store resources as a "dead drop" for another player. Use stacking containers to nest objects within each other, use small containers to conceal "votes" in different pots, etc.

The details:

Theme: Whatever you feel like

Mechanic: Anything you like.

Component restriction: Must use opaque containers as a key component of the gameplay.

Word Limit: Standard 500 word limit. Remember this is a concept pitch, not a full rules document.

Voting: Award a Gold, Silver, and Bronze (worth 3,2, and 1 points respectively) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

When submitting your entry: PLEASE USE THE FORM LINKED HERE.

  • Submissions: Saturday the 2nd through to Saturday the 9th

  • Voting: Through the 16th. Votes will be through a form (link posted after submission period is ended).

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!

    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.

    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.

  • Comments or Questions: Comments and questions about this Challenge are handled on the Comments Thread

  • CRITIQUES: After voting has closed the entries will be posted for comments and critiques. Post constructive critiques and commentary about the entries to this Challenge in the Critiques Thread.

  • GDS Details: For more details on how these Game Design Showdown Challenges work, visit the GDS Wiki Page.

Enjoy, and good luck!

-Rich and Mindspike

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 1 - Messengers


Messengers is a game for 4 players where each player has to deliver messages from one customer to another but also can try to intercept other messengers.

Number of players 2-4
Components needed:
4 x 2 different looking pawns
4 x 2 messenger cards (bully on one face, runner on the other face)
4 x 5 opaque envelopes
10 customer cards
Message cards (4x 1-10)
1 six sided die.

The board depicts a city with “spaces” connected via point-to-point (think of Scotland Yard here).
On the board you can find the spaces with the customers. Those spaces lie as far apart from each other as possible.

Setup: Shuffle the message cards and the customer cards
Each player decides for each of his messenger, whether he is a runner (quick but weak) or a bully (strong but slow) and places his messenger pawns at different customers. Messengers from different players may start at the same customer.
Each player receives the envelopes of his colour, draws a message card for each messenger, looks at it and puts it into a closed envelope next to a messenger’s card. Also he draws a customer card, looks at it and places it face down next to a messenger’s card.

Each player now has to try to get with each messenger the message next to his card to the customer next to his card. If he succeeds, he receives the value of the message in victorypoints and receives his envelope back.
By ending the move on a square with another player’s messenger, a player may try to get hold of that messenger’s message: Each player rolls the die and adds the messenger’s strength. Higher result receives (or keeps) the envenlope, lower result may not move next turn. On a tie, defender keeps the envelope, both messengers may move on their next turn. If a defending messenger is within close range of his customer (=certain number of squares), he reveals the customer card and adds +1 to his roll. Also, a player may open an envelope, to see whether the message is “worth the trouble”. If it is (player decides), add another +1. Once opened, an envelope may not get closed again until it is delivered. Only a player in possession of an opened envelope may look at its content!
If a player delivers an opened envelope, he receives less points for it.
If a player delivers an envelope that does not bear his colours, he receives less points for it.
Once a message is delivered, do not return the envelope to its owner, if the owner is not you!

To receive a new envelope with a message, move one of your messengers on a space with a client.
If there isn’t any envelope left for you, you are out of the game!

The first player to achieve a certain number of victory points wins the game.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 2 - Import/Export

4 Players
30 minutes
1 Deck of Playing Cards
4 Bags
4 Screens

Import/Export is a team game in which you pass goods to your teammate through an opposing inspector. You claim the value of your goods and the inspector decides whether to pass them through or stop and inspect.

If the shipment is stopped and the claim was a lie, the cards are kept by the inspector. If the inspector was wrong, they must pay a tax and pass the goods on. Most cards are face value but one is valuable contraband and few are bills.

A: Contraband 15 points
2-10: Face Value 2-10 points
J: Bill -2 points
Q: Bill -4 points
K: Bill -7 points

Players receive: 13 suited cards, player screen, and bag.
Players are divided by suit color and sit opposite their teammate.
Players shuffle their cards and place them beside the screen, visible to other players.
Each player draws 4 cards from the top of their deck.

There are 4 rounds in the game broken into phases. All players act in each phase before moving onto the next.


You may decide to ship any number of goods provided you have at least one not shipped.

Once players have placed goods in their bag, in turn order, they declare the value of their shipment. The value or your shipment need not be a number. If you declare a number equal to or greater than 10 you must take one of the cards remaining in your hand and place it on top of your bag as tax.

The bag is then handed to the opposing player on your left.

You are the inspector for the opposing players you sit between. Starting with the first player, and going around the table each inspector decides whether or not to open the bag they are handed.

If the inspector chooses not to open the bag, the inspector hands it to the player’s teammate taking any tax.

If the inspector decides to open the bag there are 3 possible outcomes:
Number Value: You were telling the truth. The inspector pays you a tax and passes the bag to your teammate.
Number Value: You were lying. The inspector keeps the contents of your bag and the you must pay a tax.
Non-Number Value: You gave a non-number value and the inspector keeps all contents of the bag, including any bills.

Numbered cards are placed face-up in front of the player’s screen.
Contraband and bills are placed behind the player’s screen.

Final Scoring:
Scoring is resolved as follows:
Sum of all cards 2-10
Sum of all contraband
Minus any bills
Minus any remaining cards in a player’s own suit.

In the event of a tie, the following tie-breakers apply:
The team with the fewest bills
The team with the most contraband

- You may not pay taxes with bills.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 3 - Scrapyard


Entrepreneurs scavange the vast scrapyards of the outlaw moon, Nexus for rundown and cheap ships to put to use in illicit galactic activity. These vile and driven men and women often bribe mechanics to install certain "illegal" components on the ships that catch their eye. But these entrepreneurs arn't the only ones looking for a cheap ship built a specific way....

Players take on the roll of these dangerous entrepreneurs trying to sabotage rivals while bribing mechanics for the best pick of the litter. Deploying fake parts for mechanics to install or stowaway spies on rivals crews, these mad men and women play an intricate game of espionage to ensure future competition is dim.


Have the highest amount of points when the deck runs out OR all ships have been purchased.


  • 9 ship cases with different numbers printed on each case (from 1 - 7)
  • deck of 100 cards (40 CREWMAN cards, 60 COMPONENTS)


  • Place all ship cases apart from each other in the center of the table.
  • Shuffle the deck and place it in the center of the table. Each player draws 5 cards.

Playing the Game


Players will draw a card at the start of their turn.


Players will take one of the below actions during their turn. - BRIBE: Place a COMPONENT card from their hand into one of the ship cases. These COMPONENT cards will increase or decrease the score of whichever player owns that ship case at the end of the game. - PURCHASE: Discard a card from their hand to add one of the ship cases to their fleet. Only allowed if amount of cards in the case equals that cases minimum repair level. (Minimum repair level is printed on each case and differes from case to case.) - HIRE: Place a CREWMAN card from their hand in front of ANY player, including themselves. Player's who now own the CREWMAN card resolve the effect of the CREWMAN card. CREWMAN cards cannot be placed in front of a player that doesn't have a case in their fleet. These CREMAN cards will increase or decrease the score of whichever player owns that CREWMAN at the end of the game.

When no more ship cases are left in the center of the table OR the draw deck has been depleted, the game is over.

Winning the Game

All player's add up all the + points printed on CREWMAN cards they have in front of them and all + points printed on all COMPONENT cards in any ship cases they have in their fleet. THEN subtract all - points printed on CREWMAN cards they have in front of them and all - points printed on all COMPONENT cards in any ship cases they have in thier fleet. The player with the most points wins!

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 4 - "Bag building"

Area control/"bag-building" game, themed around medieval/renaissance Europe.

Each player gets a few coins and a black bag containing his starting action tokens.

Player starts with a predefined set of tokens, but may use coins to buy additional tokens each turn (different tokens cost different number of coins) and place them in the bag.

At the start of each turn, the player would draw 3 tokens from the bag blindly, use them, then return them to the bag.

The game ends when either a player has collected 10 victory points, or any one player is eliminated (In which case the player with most VPs at that point wins).

The types of tokens (determined by an icon) and what they do:

Decline - Move a decline track one step. Once player's decline reaches 3, he must reset his bag of tokens to the starting set. The decline track is reset to 0, each other player gains 1 victory point.

Culture - Player pays 5 coins and gains one victory point, if he can't pay, he moves his decline track one step forward.

Farming - Player collects income, based on the controlled areas (some areas might be worth more coins than others)

Trade - Player collects coins equal to twice the value of a neutral area. He collects no coins if that area is captured. Trade tokens are area-specific. There's one trade token per each neutral area on the board.

Casus belli - This counter is placed on any adjacent area of the map. As long as you have a Casus belli token on the area, you are allowed to capture it with your armies.

Army - Player pays 3 coins and may capture any one territory he has a cassus belli token placed on, or any neutral area captured by another player, or remove other player's casus belli token from the adjacent area. If the player doesn't have enough coins, he may not use the army token and add a decline token to his bag.

Fleet - Placed on the adjacent sea region, all areas adjacent to that sea region count as adjacent to yours. The fleet token remains on the map until destroyed by another player's fleet token. Using the fleet token costs 3 coins, the same way as an army.

Reform - Player may draw 3 new tokens from the bag, instead of resolving the ones he just drew. Player may only use one reform action per turn.

Technology - Player moves a technology track (Provides tech upgrades, like capturing more areas with armies, more coins per region, more actions per turn etc. )

Espionage - Add a decline token to another player's bag.


Of course this idea would also work with cards, instead of using a bag of counters, but using the bag saves tons of time that otherwise would be wasted on shuffling and re-shuffling your deck every turn.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 5 - Misdirection

Let’s say you’re trying to make a shady deal. You need to grab something from a safety deposit box, throw it in a briefcase, leave it at a secret drop point, and wait for your associate to pick it up. Seems simple enough right? The problem is, you’re pesky rival will invariably try to intercept the drop and ruin everything (but then again you would do the same thing). What do you do? You use decoys (and you might as well boobie-trap the briefcases too).

There are six player pawns and five types of cards in the game: items, boobie-traps, gadgets, location, and movement. A game board depicts a busy city block with plenty of possible drop points (the location cards). The briefcases are envelopes printed to look like the latest and finest of modern briefcases design (plain black), with a corresponding briefcase token to be placed on the board.

Players are divided into two teams. One team is trying to make a drop, the other is trying to intercept it. First, to prepare for the round, the drop team will place an item card and a boobie-trap card in each of the three briefcases (one valuable item and two dummies), and decide which drop points to use (pick a location card per briefcase). Simultaneously, the intercept team will choose where to stake out (pick three location cards) and 2 gadget cards. The gadgets cards are to try and counteract the boobie-traps. Once both teams have their cards chosen (face down in front of them), the intercept team places their pawns and the drop team places the briefcase tokens as per location cards selected. The drop teams’ pawns start together at a preset location.

Now we’re ready for business. Each turn, both teams simultaneously pick a movement card for each of their pawns which will move it from 0-3 spaces. The movement cards have an arrow which needs to be oriented in the desired direction of movement. The movement cards are placed face up with your hand covering them until both teams are ready. Once revealed, all the pawns are moved according to the movement cards. If a pawn is on the same space as a briefcase you may choose to grab it. If opposing pawns reach a briefcase at the same time, there’s a roll off. You get two dice each, highest single die wins, tie goes to the drop team unless the intercept team has a gadget for that. Whenever the intercept team grabs a briefcase, they must hope they have a gadget to deal with the boobie-trap. The round ends once the briefcase with the valuable item has been grabbed.

A game consists of four rounds, so that each team has two turns as each side. You earn points for grabbing valuable items. You lose points getting hit by boobie-traps. Most points wins. The game is meant to be quick and light-hearted. All of the items, boobie-traps, and gadgets would be goofy things.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 6 - Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers

Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers

The year is 1751 and universities all around London are in need of cadavers. You have made a decent living selling the corpses of the recently deceased. But now Parliament is about to pass a law that will grant universities the cadavers of executed criminals. So you have started looking for the more well off dead to try and pad your coin-purse a bit before the good times come to an end.


This game mixes some worker placement, hidden information, and set collection.


Players then take turns placing a tombstone card from their hand onto a grave location and tokens that represent valuables in small coffins with separated compartments. (like a pill box). Five coffins are placed to start with the other five being placed throughout the game. Each player places their player marker at the local tavern. The oldest player goes first and takes the 1st player marker.


The game has two phases. A day phase and a night phase. On the day phase players take turns clockwise around the table. Then the game shifts to the night phase and play commences counterclockwise from the player that went last on the day phase. When the night phase has been completed the 1st player marker shifts one player clockwise, the day marker is moved up on the day track, and a new day phase begins. The game ends when Parliament institutes the Murder Act and that could happen any day now. The game has a set starting number of turns but gameplay will influence the final amount.

Day Phase: During the day players take turns placing their player token on various locations, selling what they have recovered, recruiting assistants, and researching the day’s death notices, looking for clues as to which graves might be the most lucrative.

Night Phase: At night the players place their markers, and any assistants they have recruited, on the plots at the graveyard and dig up the graves. However the graveyard is not as peaceful as you would think. You will need to avoid the gravedigger, police patrols, angry relatives looking to protect their loved ones bodies, and even your fellow resurrectionists.

When a player succeeds digging up a grave they may claim all tokens from inside the coffin and place them in their loot bag. They may sell any valuables at the black market during the following day or they may wait till they have sets of an item and go for the big score.

Bodies that are collected are not placed in a player's loot bag. Players may visit the university at the end of the night to cash them in. Bodies values are based on how long they have been buried.

Buy information, bribe guards, or even hire someone to interfere with your competitors. There are many paths to victory.

For 2 to 5 players, Age 13+ as it has a slightly gruesome theme, and playable in 30 to 45 minutes.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 7 - Space Swap

All players play as space bank robbers in this intergalactic heist showdown. This is a game where you need to remember what you seen where and what you assume other players did on their move. Double check your teammates actions.

10 Next heist cards.
6 player meeples.
6 player screens to hide their actions.
A space map with many planets and dotted travel lines.
60 small gold bars
18 small briefcases. each with space for 4 gold bars.
30 Action cards.

How it goes
Every player starts with 3 briefcases. At the start and after each completed heist a “next heist” will be revealed. This card is the orders and plan from the crew-boss - and tells which bank should be robbed next and when. All robbers able to be on the planet when the heist go down will participate. Different banks have different amount of treasure. If a bank has 1-8 gold that is distributed between robbers and they can put in their briefcase. After the heist every player has to move away from the robbed bank because stellar-police will chase them. Anyone catched will lose the gold they carry and it is put in the nearest unrobbed bank.

When ending movement on a planet a player may leave one of his 3 briefcases there. A player may always look in briefcases where he is standing - and she may secretly move gold between the briefcases he carry and cases where she stand.

Why stash
Players need to hide their gold. all board tiles got a number and each round a police-dice is rolled. If your number is up for inspection you gotta empty your bags.

Action cards
Each round players may take one. This got different playable effects like; Let players buy quicker ships for gold. Swap cases on the board. Quick transfer to bank. Escape police patrol etc.

Know where to find 10 gold bars?
At any time in the game a player may try to run with the loot. She may name 3 briefcases on the board she will take with her. She secretly looks first herself. If she got a total of 10 gold -she wins! otherwise she is out - leaving the gold where it is.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 8 - Mice DIY

Mice DIY

Players represent mice trying to get to the most cheese.

5 small boxes
10 point cards for each player in 4 different colors (/2, -2, -1, -1, +1, +1, +2, +2, +3, x2)
30 tunnel cards for each player
30 effect cards
4 mice pawns in different colors
One blank square board
100 pieces of cheese

Put 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 pieces of cheese into the boxes. Keep the 3 pieces box separately and shuffle the other 4 then put all of them in the center of the board knowing which the 3 pieces box is. Each player chooses a mice and the same color point cards. He starts with all 10 point cards in his hand. Each players also shuffles his 30 tunnel cards and puts them next to him. The 30 effect cards are shuffled and put next to the board in reach of everyone. Each player starts with 3 of those cards in hand and 4 cheese.

Firstly, at the start of each round players need to eat cheese in order to strengthen up and dig their tunnels to the boxes. To do that each player secretly puts in his hand from 0 to 3 pieces of his cheese and reveal them simultaneously. Players loose the cheese that was eaten.

If 2 or more players eat the same amount of cheese they will draw one random card from the point cards of the other player and the one that drew the highest wins that position.

Then the first player secretly looks inside a box and decides if he wants to bet one of his 10 points cards on that box or another box and puts his card face up under the box (used only once per game). The rest of the players do the same. They can look at the same box if they want but have to bet on different boxes.

Then players look at the numbers the other players put and, starting with the player who put the lowest point card, put another point card under a different box than the one they put their first one. Each box can have up to 2 cards. The cards add up for extra or less cheese for the player who acquires the box. If players put same cards then the stronger goes first.

The strongest player also goes first on the board after each player chooses a side. On each players turn they can do 2 actions:
1. Draw a tunnel card from their pile and play it in front of them (tunnel cards have corridors that go different directions and have to put them next to each other to build a tunnel that leads to the boxes)

2. Play an effect card

3. Draw and play a tunnel card on top of another of their own tunnel cards for 2 actions.

The player who reaches the boxes first picks up a box.
Effect cards can be good or bad like look at the top 3 tunnel cards of your pile and put them back in any order, open a path different than the direction the corridor goes, block a corridor exit on a players tunnel card, shuffle a players tunnel deck, turn/twist a tunnel card.

After all players took a box they score the cheese accordingly.

The winner is the one with the most pieces of cheese at the end of the 4 rounds.

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