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[GDS] September 2010 "Yea, Verily!" - Critiques

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sedjtroll
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the September 2010 Game Design Showdown entitled "Yea, Verily!".

dobnarr
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Critiques for "Yea, Verily"

Entry 1: Robin n the Hood

This seems well-planned and fun. I like the minigame component, with the bidding, and the interesting rules about movement of the cart and the men. I worry that it might end up with only a few optimal strategies, since the base rules dictate how it will play out, and you don’t get to move your guy much each time. Also, other than deciding how many coins to bid on a dual-steal, not many of your decisions will be that complex – I think it will nearly always be obvious where you should move, or how many coins to steal to prevent another guy from getting any or to divert the cart away from opponents. Also, to make it more complex and strategic, I think it might be better if each player got more merry men – otherwise I think the cart is going to do a lot of moving without hitting any men. That would cut down on the length some, too – I think the cart won’t lose too many coins each time through, so a 60-coin limit might be way too long.

As for the contest restrictions, I’m not sure there are two minigames here – the bidding and die rolling is definitely one, and maybe the crossroads could be another, although it’s not really a separate game thing. I liked this one, though – I thought it used the theme well and was appealing with the simple, logical rule set.

Entry 2: Sherwood – the Final Showdown

This is interesting; I like the abstract nature with the theme still worked in. It was a little confusing when you referenced board spaces without defining them (e.g. town spaces – the gray ones? – and forest spaces – the green ones?), but eventually I figured it out.

I strongly suspect that the game won’t be balanced as written. The rules are complex enough that I can’t tell how for sure now, but the difference in board layout I think favors the Law side strongly, since the road spaces are in strings and the forest spaces are in clumps. Also, no gold enters the game unless the Law side taxes, so the Law side can pretty much decide whether the Merry Men even get to pursue that strategy, and can prevent gold from entering the game once the MM get close to a gold victory. There’s really very little incentive for the Law ever to take gold; instead they should just recruit, since they can beat the MM by outfighting them.

The combat has a similar sort of rock-paper-scissors thing that I used in my gambling minigame – but I like how you can do strategic things with the deck if you can remember what your opponent has left. It would be impossible for a single guy to beat a band, though, and once the bands form and have more members, it will be difficult to beat one. Having them get less mobile as they get bigger is a good balance for that.

The two minigames are present – the recruiting minigame and the combat minigame – and I think both would be fun. There might be a pretty strong luck component – e.g., getting fire cards in your combat set, or happening to roll high when recruiting or taxing. A bunch of the mechanics are pretty elegant, though – particularly the band cards, which combine gold and men as a resource and dictate movement. I like that.

1 vote from me.

Entry #3 – The Sherriff’s Men

This seemed like a simple, potentially fun game. It’s a little hard to imagine without an image of the board. The minigames are present, but all seem to involve dice contests with Robin. There don’t seem to be many opportunities for player choice or strategy – it seems like it would mostly play out like an interactive story, where the plot and actions are controlled by the event cards, the dice, and the rules, not by the players. The only things the players do other than roll dice is choose which guards to put where, which isn’t so challenging, and even the guard numbers are determined by die roll.

I do love “Determine first player by knife fight.”

Entry #4 - Nottingham

Great sense of humor inverting the story to play as Prince John and the Sherriff. The board and art you’ve prepared are neat, too – better than the typical prototype stuff we see in these competitions. I like the game setup, too, with a hidden ally for Robin, although it’s possible that this is becoming common enough in recent games to be over-used or trite.

I always have trouble with the designs in this competition when they invoke a bunch of features or cards (in this case the Nottingham Cards and Sherwood Cards) that aren’t included in the design – it makes it hard to evaluate what the game would actually be like. You’ve done a pretty good job of describing it and giving examples, but with all the different spaces on the board and no indication as to what events might happen there, it’s a little difficult to imagine. I like the Sherwood minigame, where people are forced to either hurt their overall effort by adding to the forest, making it harder to collect coins, or actually play an event card that hurts themselves. Normally people are choosing the best strategy in games; here, it’s choosing the least bad, which is fun. I’m not sure what counts as the second minigame, although there is certainly a variety of game activities present.

There might be a Pandemic-like element here, where different characters have different roles; I can’t tell from what’s submitted, but that would be a cool feature if true. I think you hint at it at the end when you talk about drawing more Nottingham cards if you have a higher number. That could be fun.

1 vote from me.

Entry #5 – Sherwood Irregulars

This is a neat idea; I like the asymmetric angle and the use of playing cards as the combat resolvers and also the treasure cards and robbery game. It was a little hard to tell from the board image what constituted a “space,” although I assume it’s the square blocks out of which everything seems to be constructed. Again, I’m not sure it would be balanced, although I’m sure that could be worked out in playtesting. The two minigames here are the best of the five I’ve looked at here, and the truest adherence to the contest rules, where you actually stop the game and play another different game to resolve a situation.

2 votes from me.

Entry #6 - Sherwood

This was my entry.

rcjames14
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What I Voted For

I cast 5 of my 6 votes.

1 vote for Sherwood - The Final Showdown!! 1 vote for The Sheriff's Men 3 votes for Sherwood

Sherwood - The Final Showdown!!! I found the movement system tied to the bands in Sherwood to be thought-provoking. What is lacking from most movement point systems that I have encountered is a set of strategic limitations. The idea that movement is a diminishing resource really makes you think about when you move, where you move and what you hope to accomplish by moving. It also commits you to a certain course of action as a trade-off for early mover advantage. I will definitely keep this kind of diminishing resource movement system in mind.

The Sheriff's Men I thought that I was all so clever by inverting the typical 'heroes' of the story with my version of Nottingham. That is, until I saw the Sheriff's Men. Deeny also clearly saw that there was a lot of room to design if you were willing to focus on the anti-hero, rather than Robin Hood, so I had to give the design some props.

Sherwood In my eyes, Sherwood far surpassed the other game designs in both presentation and design requirements. First off, the board and the diagrams are extremely clear. I would have no trouble getting someone else to playtest the game with me based upon the presentation alone. But, I think the real strength of the design comes from the way that the mini-games are integrated seamlessly into the overall strategy of the game. I could not figure out a way to make a game with mini-games which did not seem to make them just an awkward add-on (side show) to the game. I did not want to make a Fury of Dracula, so I embraced a wholistic design around the overall theme instead. But, dobnarr did what I could not. He figured out a way to integrate two separate games into the design so that the mini-games aren't entirely obvious. Instead, they just seem integral to the overall game. Major props.

dobnarr
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Thanks for the kind words. I

Thanks for the kind words. I am not sure exactly how the movement minigame would work, but it seemed like a fun thing to try. I'd love to get a set of this made up and playtest it to see how well the mini-games would actually integrate into the overall game.

As I said above, I thought Nottingham was really cool too.

rcjames14
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Spinning It Out

The movement mini-game in your design was intriguing to me for the same reason as the other Sherwood game. It looked to me based upon your illustration and description that movement was a diminishing resource. But i did not quite understand how it worked (perhaps because of word count limitations) so I think I may have drifted into my own thoughts on how it might work instead.

If you could spin out some more examples on how exactly the players interact in the movement system, that might clear things up. But what I saw in my mind was a pyramid of 15 movement counters for each player. Each movement counter has a number, with a distribution of numbers like in your diagram. In order to move you must remove a counter from the pyramid which does not have a number on top of it. So your first choice is always the one on top. After that you can choose either the left or right two, but from there on, you can choose either to go down one side or work from top to bottom. I saw this as a strategic choice question, because you need to choose when to use your counters with the knowledge that slow initial movement gives you more options later. Since everyone has the same range of counters, it is matter of figuring out when the best time is to use your extra movement is.

The idea I had was not fully formed, and it probably wasn't actually a sub game as much as a resource system, but I thought it was promising and maybe something that you had in mind. So spin it out.

dobnarr
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Movement rules

You asked that I give more detail, so I will. Here's the image again -

Here's what I wrote in the rules:

Quote:
Set up - Set up the Movement Minigame to one side. Build a pyramid of four movement tiles numbered 1-4, with the 1-space tile touching the Movement Base Circle as shown in the Movement Minigame image below. Make one pyramid for each player playing.

Movement Minigame – on his or her turn, a player claims one movement tile by playing a movement tile marker on an unclaimed movement tiles. The player may only claim a tile if it is touching the Movement Base Circle OR if it is touching a tile he or she has already claimed. For example, on his first turn, a player can claim a #1 movement tile that touches the Base Circle. On his second turn, he can claim the #2 tile touching the #1 tile, or he could claim a second #1 tile.

Movement – Once all players have made their moves in the Movement Minigame, they may collect movement tiles and make moves. If a player elects to collect his claimed movement tiles, he takes all the movement tiles he has marked. If this leaves any unclaimed movement tiles unconnected to any other tiles, the player to the left of the current player MUST shift these movement tiles so that they either (1) touch the Movement Base Circle or (2) touch two other movement tiles in the Movement Minigame. The tiles can have any orientation provided they obey the placement rules.

Players spend movement tiles to move pieces. A player may play one movement tile per turn. When a player plays a movement tile, he may move each of his men up to the number of spaces shown on the movement tile. Multiple men may be stacked on the same space.

Cart Movement Carts can only move with a man. They move one space less than the move tile played (so they cannot move at all on a 1-space tile).

When a player plays a movement tile, the player to his left returns the tile to the Movement Minigame in any legal position as above (i.e. touching the Base Circle or touching two other movement tiles).

So, the idea is that there are four movement tiles numbered 1-4 for each player playing. The 4 tile is larger than the 3 tile, which is larger than the 2 tile, as shown in the image. They go through several stages:

Claiming: During the movement minigame, a player can claim one movement tile. They can only claim one touching the center circle or touching one they already have claimed.

Collecting: After the minigame, you can collect all the tiles you have claimed. The longer you wait to collect, the more tiles you get, and the higher numbers you'll probably reach, but on the other hand, you won't be able to move any guys on the turns you wait through.

Using: You can use one movement tile per turn; all your guys can move the number of spaces on the tile you play.

Restoring: When you have played a tile, the player next to you gets to restore it to the movement board; it can touching the base circle, or it can connect to two other movement tiles.

I like the structure of this; I haven't tested it out to see how it would work, and obviously the geometry and size of the tiles and the base circle might have an impact on how it goes. I imagine people might be tempted to hoard good tiles, but then they wouldn't be able to move around much. The "touching two" rule means that it's harder to play a good (high value) tile and then prevent somebody from picking it up the next turn.

A four-space move for all your guys is so much better than a 1-2 space move that it will be worth delaying moving to get one. On the other hand, it might be good to be able to play every turn, too, so people might be tempted to go for the lower ones. At first, you'll have turns where you don't move; later on, since you'll be getting an average of a tile per turn, you'll always have one to play, but you'll have to decide whether it's worth playing a bigger one and then letting somebody else potentially grab it easily (since you don't get to restore it to the circle yourself).

I should probably cut some of these out and try it to see how it goes. I think it's maybe a better fit for the minigame requirement for the contest than it might be in a real game, since it's a little fiddly and complicated compared to what it actually accomplishes in the game, but I think it's original and interesting, at least.

If your idea sounded better, let me know what it was - it obviously uses more tiles.

rcjames14
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Fiddling with Ideas

I like how you must claim a piece before you can use it to move. It places pressure on the players to balance between the advantage of early movement and greater later movement. Since the first tiles tend to be low numbers, it works out that you get a much better payoff with patience.

But, there are still a couple of issues that I am concerned about.

First, I'm not sure how well you will be able to handle these tiles with the largest (last) set on the outside. What happens if you use 1, 2 and 3, before you claim 4? Is four just flailing in the wind. A pyramid structure with the largest on the bottom would likely prevent you from encountering this issue. It could also make replacement more straight forward. When you play a piece, you must replace it on 'on top' of any other tile with a greater number in the movement mini-game pyramids. If there isn't any room to do so, then you must start a new pyramid.

Second what prevents you from closely controlling all the movement tiles. If you choose not to move, then you can continue to claim. And, eventually if you have claimed all the hub pieces, then no one else will be able to move. If the rules allow another player to replace the piece anywhere, eventually it will be your turn to replace the piece. If you choose to place it on your structure, you will eventually control a monopoly on the pieces. Since you must play them to make use of them. I don't think this will prevent other people from moving. But, you may be able to dictate the type of movement which is available to each other player.

dobnarr
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More on movement...

With regard to your first question, that's actually covered in the rules as written:

Quote:
If this [i.e. claiming tiles] leaves any unclaimed movement tiles unconnected to any other tiles, the player to the left of the current player MUST shift these movement tiles so that they either (1) touch the Movement Base Circle or (2) touch two other movement tiles in the Movement Minigame. The tiles can have any orientation provided they obey the placement rules.

For the second question, I think I'd solve that by limiting the claiming counters, maybe to four, and I'd have to force people to collect their tiles when they were out of claim tokens. I think that solves it without getting too complex.

rcjames14
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Good Point, Missed That

So, what happens if I claim the first token and then want to use it? Does that mean that the player to my left may then attach the two, three and four to a structure he has already started to claim?

To me, it sounds like what you're trying to achieve here is a system which combines cycling of movement possibilities among the players with an immediate gain vs long term advantage mechanic.

I like how this could lead to some complex and unpredictable behavior. However, I'm concerned that the actual token claiming system will be cumbersome and difficult to manage and that there may develop strange monopolistic behaviors. Either that, or there will turn out to be no advantage to waiting to play as you collect.

What if you introduced a mechanism where you start with a hand of token shapes/lengths? When you play one you must return it to the common pool... which can be then collected by other players. If all the movement is contextually equivalent (like different configurations of 4 tokens) then you wouldn't need to impose a placement or claim rule since the available options may or may not work for people's plans. But, if you want to have different strength tokens then the placement / claiming rules will have to constrain choices. Your system does constrain the choices... but I think there may be other ways to do this which allow the person who uses the token to make the choice of where to play it. That would encourage him to place good pieces in difficult areas... knowing that he will likely be the last person to have an option to claim them.

dobnarr
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More on movement

Good points - I think maybe the urge to monopolize movement might be there, but I don't think it gives you a benefit in the broader game here, so I suspect people wouldn't do it. It would be easy enough to prevent; just add a rule that if there are no unclaimed movement tiles touching the base circle, then people can replace a claim token belonging to another player (or even more extreme, replace that claim and all downstream ones).

It might be cumbersome, it might not - I think we might be at the point where somebody just has to make the parts and see how it works, rather than theorizing it to death.

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