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[GDS] MAY 2015 "Black Bag" Critiques thread

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richdurham
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The votes are in!

And the winner by a decent margin is **Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers** by MarkJindra! Congratulations!

Here are the votes and specific critique days:

Title Designer Points Gold Silver Bronze Critique Date
Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers MarkJindra 19 4 2 3 Tuesday May 19
Mice DIY Mechadonic 11 3 1 0 Wednesday May 20
Space Swap Hook 9 1 2 2 Thursday May 21
Scrapyard markgrafn 9 1 3 0 Friday May 22
Bag building ElKobold 8 1 2 1 Saturday May 23
Misdirection andymorris 3 0 0 3 Sunday May 24
Messengers schattentanz 1 0 0 1 Monday May 25
Import/Export debiant 0 0 0 0 Tuesday May 26

When critiquing please note why you did/did not vote for the entry, what you'd like to see emphasized more in the game, and notes about the writing of the entry.

werhner
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incorrect credit

BGDFers, it pains me greatly to report that not only did I not design the winning game, but that I did not even submit an entry. MarkJindra designed "Grave Robbers and Body Snatchers" and deserves unending praise for winning the May GDS. Congrats to MarkJindra!

I can only assume that my name is so closely associated with game design greatness that Rich naturally assumed that I had made the winning entry.

-Werhner

richdurham
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stupid lists.

Actually, I was just cutting and pasting the database spreadsheet, which seems to have royally mucked up last months designers with votes.
I'll check this and post again.

OOPSIE

MarkJindra
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Thanks Guys!

Thanks Guys. I really appreciate it.

I am so humbled to win against so many other extremely creative entries.

The Black Bag concept struck me as a game mechanic that I would simply love to see more of in games and I look forward to the critiques.

I really enjoyed creating this submission. Although I'm not sure what that says about me ;)

=M=

richdurham
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Fixed

My apologies; this is what happens when I mess with automated systems. We'll figure out what went wrong in the spreadsheet and fix it for next time!

Congratulations, Mark!

MarkJindra
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Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers - Design Notes

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.

My Goals

So my goal with this game idea was to create a relatively short game (30-45 mins). The game would probably be between 8 and 12 turns in length. It is likely that the game would have a Day and Night phase where different actions were taken by players on those phases and possibly some simple administration phase after all players have taken the primary phases.

I am also trying to focus on the coffins with the multiple compartments as the focal point of the game and keeping them in mind as I begin to formulate the actual mechanics for how the economy will work. I have 14 four compartment (or maybe they are five compartment) pill boxes that I picked up super cheap to help inspire me as I work on the basic rules.

I think that having (tombstone) clue cards that give hints to the players about the value of what is in the coffins and possibly the freshness of the bodies will bring in an element to the day phase as players investigate what graves they want to target for the night. And having some simple graves that do not have the plastic coffins and do not contain any real valuables, but could contain a surprise, would allow the players to gain resources quickly so that they can do the research they need for the big score.

Additionally I would like a small, maybe 15 cards "encounter" type of deck that worked not only as a way to bring a small amount of "chaos" to the stability of a standard economy driven euro but would also allow for a slight deck construction/deconstruction mechanic where some cards would be one-shot and others might be added based on actions players take so as to vary the possible end of the game to go with the theme of time running out before Parliament passes the Murder Act.

Grave Robbery

Grave robbery, tomb robbing, or tomb raiding is the act of uncovering a tomb or crypt to steal artifacts or personal effects.

Body Snatching

Body snatching is the secret disinterment of corpses from graveyards. A common purpose of body snatching was to sell the corpses for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools. Those who practiced body snatching were often called "resurrectionists" or "resurrection-men".

Murder Act 1751

The Act included the provision "for better preventing the horrid crime of murder" "that some further terror and peculiar mark of infamy be added to the punishment", and that "in no case whatsoever shall the body of any murderer be suffered to be buried", by mandating either public dissection or "hanging in chains" of the cadaver.

This also provided for corpses for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools which surely cut into the business of both Grave Robbers and Body Snatchers.

I hope that my ideas on where I might want to go with the game should I choose to create some actual rules for it give you a little insight into what I was thinking as I wrote the entry.

I look forward into any insights you may have and would love to hear about any mechanics you think would be a great fit for this game.

Thanks,

=M=

andymorris
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Congratulations

Great job on the win. This was one of the most decisive wins I've see in the GDS. Personally, I voted bronze. I like the concept. I like how it picks up on a real historical situation. I like the day/night phase setup. I think that is perfect for this game. The use of the pillbox coffins was a great fit for the challenge.

It was held back a little for me because I was a bit unclear on the setup for what was going into the coffins. It sounded like it would be a bit fiddly and time consuming. Also, with so many things going on, I think it will be a challenge to put it all together without ending up too complex.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Mice DIY

I did not vote for this one, but of course that doesn't mean it's without merit. For example, I really like the idea of having to choose how much cheese you eat to start the round. My biggest issue is that I didn't feel like the bidding element really fit the theme. Also I'm not sure what the boxes of unknown amounts of cheese would represent. I feel like the mice should be running around trying to get cheese out of traps. I also feel like there needs to be a cat in there. Maybe one player could be the cat setting traps and chasing the mice, while the other players are mice picking up gyzmos to help them try and get the cheese from the traps.

MarkJindra
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Mice DIY

I like the idea of mice running around trying to get some cheese. I didn't think that the boxes were that good of a prop for mice. I agree with andymorris that mouse traps and a cat almost seem like something that needs to be in a mouse themed game.

This is probably just me but I think if it were cute and cuddly squirrels who were digging up nuts they buried before winter it would have been a better fit with the black bad concept. Little plastic acorns or walnuts with a number chit inside could be a fun game prop.

=M=

Hook
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Golden grave with silver mice and misdirected bronze cases.

Congratulations. I voted Gold for Graverobbers. I thought this was the most fun concept that themed the case in a great way. I liked the idea that you can try and hold on to the values and see if you can get a set. I did not really understand why it should be fun to choose one case over another. (I see now that you thought about checking cards during daytime). I still think the use of the coffins could be explored more. But when I voted I realised that this goes for many of the entries.

I voted Silver for Mice. Mainly because I think you made a good use of the case-theme and I could really see how the betting /cheating element could be fun. When a player plays his point card on a box does he do i secretly or open?

Bronze went to misdirection, which I noted "great idea". It was a close race. I really liked the idea of playing rounds and trying to mislead the interceptors. I wish for the game not to end when the case is grabbed. And how about that the case locations are secret at start - perhaps with face-down counters and interceptors must use equipment to reveal where the cases are.

Mechadonic
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Comments

GRAVE ROBBERS
I always enjoy playing games with a strong theme and even better when a theme is out of the ordinary ones (heroes, spaceships, zombies…) and that was half the reason why your game got gold for me. The other half was because you were able to blend the theme and mechanics together and you did a great job at it. Of course there where some parts that were left unclear but I know it’s because of the word limit as with everyone else.

SPACE SWAP
I also liked your theme as well. We have seen a lot of space games but yours had a different taste. I also liked that you are never sure what will happen with the police and so the game can change from round to round.

MICE DIY
Thanks for voting my game as the second best game this month. This was my second entry and I can say now that I have learned from my previous mistake (the 1000 word entry that nobody read :). The mice are of course one of many options this game could have so I do like your ideas of either a cat in the mix or a different animal like squirrels.

As to the question of “what the boxes of unknown amounts of cheese would represent” is exactly as you said it, boxes in a cellar or warehouse full of (different amounts) of cheese that the mice are trying to get to. The reason why you know the 3 but not the rest is that you can choose to either go safely on something you know or be adventurous and try for the bigger prize and at the same time trying not to give away what you have found.

The answer to the other question is that you play the point card open.

I also forgot to mention that you draw one effect card at the start of your round.

Thanks for your comments and especially the negative ones cause that is how we become better at it :)

andymorris
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Thoughts on Space Swap

This one got my gold. I thought it did the best job of using the opaque container. I like how the cases are moving around and always have stuff going in and out of them. I like how you're sort of working together, but not really. I like how you have to remember what's going on and try to predict what everyone else is doing. I would have liked to hear a little more about how the movement works and how you know when the heists are going to happen. Also, I wasn't sure if it assumed that every heist is successful or if you have to do something to complete it? I did like the way the police was setup. I think you've got a good balance of enough going on without over complicating it. Great job.

MarkJindra
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Why Space?

I liked the mechanics of Space Swap as they were described. I think it would be fun to play the game. The only thing that I didn't like was the "space" theme. It actually felt tacked on.

If this were set in the prohibition era and you were robbing banks or even better you were gangsters working for a boss that sent you to raid competing speakeasy's and casinos I would have been totally sold on it.

=M=

p.s. Now we just need a game about body snatching, bank robbing space mice ;)

debiant
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Sorry, I'm a few days behind.

Sorry, I'm a few days behind. Congratulations to Mark for winning this month's contest. I learned a great deal from reading other people's entries and hope to make a better showing next month. Maybe on my critique day someone could tell me how tags work for headers and such :)

Grave Robbers & Body Snatchers - I think that this was probably the best thematically conceived game. The description of the game mechanics was brief and that's probably for the best. The idea of using a pill case was very interesting.

Mice DIY - I had a difficult time following the gameplay of this one. I thought the theme was interesting enough. I think the pitch needed a more broad overview of the gameplay mechanics.

Space Swap - I thought the game sounded interesting as a pickup and deliver type game but I was a little put off by the theme. The mechanics didn't really match a space game. Otherwise I thought this could be a fun game and I liked the idea of using briefcases.

MarkJindra
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Scrapyard

So I like the basic concept of this and the gameplay as described seemed like it was simple enough to make this a more casual game experience. The only problem I had with it was the case. If that case were described as a cool plastic space ship on a box shaped pedestal with a slot to place the cards I think it would have been my choice for sure. The concept almost seems like it would fit nicely into the Firefly universe.

Great job on this ... I would love to see you develop this idea further.

=M=

MarkJindra
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For Debiant - Markdown Basics

I know this doesn't belong in the critique thread but I think it may help the authors next month to create really good looking entries. And debiant asked about it.

While you can find info about html and markdown formatting by clicking the input format link at the bottom of the "comment" field the here are a few tips about the basics of the markdown for formatting entries

##Double## = Headline (play with one # or three ### for size)

BACON!

BACON!

BACON!

**Double** = Strong/Bold text

Bacon ipsum dolor amet kevin boudin picanha sausage

*Single asterisks* = Emphasis/Itallics

Bacon ipsum dolor amet kevin boudin picanha sausage, pork belly biltong ham prosciutto leberkas. Bacon ham hock ham doner. Spare ribs porchetta jerky tri-tip pig rump, drumstick turducken leberkas pork chop pork belly.

Double return = Paragraph

Bacon ipsum dolor amet kevin boudin picanha sausage, pork belly biltong ham prosciutto leberkas. Bacon ham hock ham doner. Spare ribs porchetta jerky tri-tip pig rump, drumstick turducken leberkas pork chop pork belly.

Pork belly pancetta short loin hamburger t-bone sirloin. Kielbasa shankle salami ball tip bacon filet mignon hamburger shank meatball rump sausage chicken venison.

5 spaces at the beginning makes the following text a quote ... just like this

hope that helps

=M=

debiant
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Scrapyard

Again I'm late, but I thought this was a great theme. The gameplay seemed light and I think it would be fun. It reminds me a bit of Chaosmos.

I like the fact that there is some strategy around when to grab a ship.

And thanks to Mark for providing me a primer on markdown syntax. I'm not used to this particular type of forum.

debiant
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Bag Building

I thought this was a well thought out design that suffered from a lack of theme explanation. I really didn't get a sense of why I was doing what I was doing (except to gain victory points). I wish it had a brief synopsis of who I am, where I am, and why I'm trying to do what I'm trying to do would have helped this entry a great deal.

There were also no headings which made it difficult to parse the entry.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Scrapyard

This missed out on a vote from me because I didn't think the ships quite fit what the challenge was looking for. They weren't really hiding anything, especially since you always need to know how many cards are in each. However, I do like the concept and I think the ships would make for a fun aesthetic for the game. I feel like it needs one more possible action. Initially your only option is putting a card in a ship, since you can't buy a ship until there's a certain number of cards in it and you play a crewman until someone has a ship. The new action could something as simple as discard cards and draw new ones. I also think it might be interesting if there were two layers to acquiring the ships. First, you lay claim to one, but until you get it fixed up enough to fly it is in danger of sabotage or someone out bribing you and ultimately stealing it from you.

Lastly, it's too bad you didn't have space for example cards. It would have given a much clearer picture of the nuances you're going for. I'm sure this could become a quality game.

MarkJindra
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Bag Building

Do we need another area control game themed around medieval/renaissance Europe. My opinion is probably not. Do we need good ideas for bag-building/bag-destruction games. I would say yes.

I am quite intrigued by the idea of taking things that would be in a card game or in a worker placement game and making them part of this bag concept. I like that the bag doesn't just grow.

Small World is a great example of taking an idea that was very good from Vinci and giving it a creative theme that make it blossom into something beyond a standard Euro.

=M=

andymorris
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Thoughts on Bag Building

I really like this idea. It got my silver. I like how you get to draw against the same odds every time rather than cycling through a deck. I really like the decline tokens. I like the balance of the different token types. I think this would be very interesting to play, but I feel like it needs just a little bit more flexibility on your turn. What if you had the option to sell tokens or pay to draw two and play one or something like that. Overall great job.

ElKobold
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andymorris wrote:I really

andymorris wrote:
I really like this idea. It got my silver. I like how you get to draw against the same odds every time rather than cycling through a deck. I really like the decline tokens. I like the balance of the different token types. I think this would be very interesting to play, but I feel like it needs just a little bit more flexibility on your turn. What if you had the option to sell tokens or pay to draw two and play one or something like that. Overall great job.

Thanks!

Well, the design is a sketch. I intentionally didn't add any additional mechanics and didn't go into the theme much.

Things can be added on top of this general idea. You can add worker placement, were limited set of tokens would branch into multiple actions, you can simply have more different tokens, the buying of more than one die/selling can be done through technology cards or whatnot.

ElKobold
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debiant wrote:I thought this

debiant wrote:
I thought this was a well thought out design that suffered from a lack of theme explanation. I really didn't get a sense of why I was doing what I was doing (except to gain victory points). I wish it had a brief synopsis of who I am, where I am, and why I'm trying to do what I'm trying to do would have helped this entry a great deal.

There were also no headings which made it difficult to parse the entry.

Noted on the theme, and yes, next time I`ll make it more readable.
As i've mentioned in the above comment, the entry is a sketch. I should have polished it more. Well, next time, I guess.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Messengers

This one missed out on a medal for me mostly because I didn't think that having player elimination fit with this type of game. I also wasn't clear on how you move around. I like the choice between having a fast or strong messenger. I like the option of opening the envelope to see if you care.

MarkJindra
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I was so busy this holiday

I was so busy this holiday weekend that I completely forgot to stop by and critique a few games.

Misdirection

I wouldn't say this is very original as the intro for this months competition basically described this game idea. "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." however I really liked the idea that the theme could be a little more lighthearted and wacky. Immediately the old Spy vs Spy from Mad Magazine came to mind as I pictured the game in my head.

Messengers

This seems a little like a pick-up-and-deliver game with a little screw-your-neighbor thrown in for good measure. I like those game ideas and I am intrigued by the idea of combining them. I was actually thinking that this game could be fun if each player was the owner of rival bike messenger services in a big city. Competing for clients and even sabotaging their rivals along the way.

Import/Export

I liked this idea but wasn't sure about the implementation so much. The bag itself seemed out of place. I picture a busy port where shipping containers from exotic foreign lands dock and crates of goods travel through customs inspection. This is a common trope in movies, I think one of the Beverly Hills Cop movies even used it. I picture little plastic shipping crates and the cards that were placed on them as tax lay flat on top of the crate or even fit into a recessed area so it wouldn't slide off as it was passed around. I wanted to vote for this one but was just drawn to the others a little more.

=M=

andymorris
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Thoughts on Import/Export

I like the concept. I think it would be a good team bluffing game and it's a clever use of a standard deck of cards. I like the use of tax and bills. It missed out on a vote for me because the bag is unnecessary.

ElKobold
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The Import/Export seemed like
MarkJindra
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ElKobold wrote:The

ElKobold wrote:
The Import/Export seemed like a slightly altered version of Sheriff of Nottingham

I fell behind on my TableTop watching and haven't played SoN but after watching that episode I can totally see a resemblance between SoN and I/E.

I do see a difference in that you pass the cards to your left so that all players are engaged rather than having only one player each turn be the inspector. I also see a difference in that you have a partner in the game.

debiant
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MarkJindra wrote:ElKobold

MarkJindra wrote:
ElKobold wrote:
The Import/Export seemed like a slightly altered version of Sheriff of Nottingham

I fell behind on my TableTop watching and haven't played SoN but after watching that episode I can totally see a resemblance between SoN and I/E.

I do see a difference in that you pass the cards to your left so that all players are engaged rather than having only one player each turn be the inspector. I also see a difference in that you have a partner in the game.

It was definitely inspired by Sheriff of Nottingham, itself a reimplementation of Hart an der Grenze. I wanted to take a game that has a lot of components and streamline it. I feel that part of the design was a success.

I absolutely fell short thematically and in regards to the required item on this entry. It was formatted poorly and much more like a rules summary than a pitch.

I really appreciate everyone's feedback and I will hopefully have a much better showing next time. Thank you all very much.

I playtested this with my family and everyone had a lot of fun. I am working on coming up with a better theme, though. So, if anyone has any suggestions I'm open to them.

debiant
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Misdirection

Sounded like a fun pick up and deliver to me. I worried about the player with the briefcases having much more fun than the other player because they got to play with the briefcases.

I wonder if both players had briefcases if that would be more interesting. At that point you would be trying to pickup your drops while intercepting your opponents.

debiant
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Messenger

This is a tough messenger service! I picture a mafia messenger service with funny art and a crazy city board. It sounded like a fun light-hearted game.

I think like many of our entries, this one suffered from poor formatting which made it difficult to read. Also, the objective as stated is not particularly helpful when reading the entry.

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

What I wanted was an Objective Summary: "Players move around the board trying to steal each others messages and deliver as many as possible. The player who has delivered the most messages at the end of the game wins," or something to that effect.

I wasn't keen on the player elimination as it seems like there would always be some way to get back into the game if there are envelopes on the table (stealing them).

Overall, I really liked the concept and I though this could be a fun game. I just think that, as with my own entry, it suffered from not being clear and concise.

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