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[GDS] OCTOBER 2013 "Balancing the Line" Critiques

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richdurham
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THIS THREAD IS LOCKED UNTIL VOTING IS OVER

Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the October 2013 challenge in the Game Design Showdown, entitled "Balancing the Line." Remember that one of the biggest reasons people participate is the feedback!

Too many entries to comment on, or you didn't vote? Try one of these:

  • Comment on the winner and runners' up
  • Comment on the ones you voted for/would have voted for

In particular, comment on why you voted the way you did (if you did), how you think the game fits the contest, and what you like about the game or want to see more explored. Remember that critiques should be constructive!

-Rich

mindspike
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#1 Russian Roulette

#1 Russian Roulette

The classic push-your-luck game comes to the tabletop.

(+) The theme behind Russian Roulette is compelling, and this has
the potential to be a great party game. The uncertainty of the first
“shot” is very tense; having players grab for their
quarters is sure to result in groans of disappointment and sudden
reversal.

(-) The dexterity component is poorly implemented, due primarily
to the uncertainty of the cards being randomized each turn. Speed of
play is eroded by having to “load the guns” every turn.
There is a clear dominant strategy involving using the quarters to
fire as few guns as possible. Having each gun loaded with multiple
bullets means this is likely to be short game which often results in
no survivors.

mindspike
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#2 The Flicked Element

#2 The Flicked Element

Shuffleboard … in … space! I was really hoping for something like this!

(+) Shuffleboard is a natural base for a dexterity game, and this one benefits from strong theming. Spaceships and asteroids are a natural fit for a game involving collisions and uncontrolled movement. Moving the rockets, asteroids, and torpedoes on straight-line vectors gives this an authentic feeling of being in space. Moving the asteroids provides some great strategic options. There is great potential here for some cool components.

(-) Strategy suffers from the same drawback as roll-and-move games; as pieces get closer to the finish it becomes easier to use them. At some point, this becomes more of a racing game and less dependent on dexterity; strategy breaks down in the end game as players scramble to clear rocks and get their rockets into port. I would have liked to see some differentiation between ships.

mindspike
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#3 Flicking DIY

#3 Flicking DIY

Another shuffleboard variant, this time applied to a theme I don't see very often … interior decoration.

(+) The combination of worker placement and interior design is a natural fit. The basic premise seems solid, and there is potential here for some fascinating puzzle placement options. Resource management is a cornerstone of this game, opening up strategic and cooperative elements.

(-) The dexterity theme is shoehorned on top of the basic worker placement and puzzle format. There is nothing thematically tying the dexterity mechanic to the meat of the game. The “Expectation” cards suffer from a lack of specificity; emphasizing a puzzle placement component would add a layer of complexity to the game.

mindspike
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#4 Fire! Fire!

#4 Fire! Fire!

Strong games have been built around the firefighter theme.

(+) The theme is compelling and heroic, well suited to a cooperative Euro-style game. The burning tower itself has great potential for a high quality component. This game is likely to appeal to a younger audience and it appears to be easily accessible.

(-) This entry fails to meet the dexterity requirement: drawing colored cubes from the tower is simply another method of randomization independent of the skill of the actor. The game lacks strategic options, relying wholly on the luck of the draw both for victims and ambulances.

(*) Although I listed the luck of the draw as a drawback, it meshes well with the simplistic nature of the game. I think this would be a good game for young children.

mindspike
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#5 Wedding Cake

#5 Wedding Cake

Any game that teases me with cake but doesn't let me eat it has a critical flaw. :(

(+) Excellent integration of the dexterity mechanic combined with an unusual theme. The variety of components and combination of elements makes for gameplay with continuous variety and no dominant strategy. The setup is visually appealing, and the dexterity component is an essential and strongly integrated part of the game.

(-) This game not only lacks a dominant strategy, it lacks a clear strategy. Game play is not wholly based on luck, but the dexterity element and the design element lack a way to interact. Having a uniform shape to the placed elements seems implied, but it also seems like a poor choice. It is unclear if the cake tiers depend on balance or on steady placement.

mindspike
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#6 Wobbly Towers

#6 Wobbly Towers

It's like Plinko and Jenga got drunk in a bar and made a love-baby!

(+) The dexterity mechanic is strongly implemented in the way the discs stack to make towers. There is a strong strategic element in moving your pawn, but no dominant strategy. The slow build to a climactic crash is entertaining and satisfying, tempering ambition with caution. This game would be suitable for small children and still be challenging for adults. It ought to be a fantastic party game.

(-) Much like Jenga, this game requires a solid surface and is weak against poor leveling, imbalance, and bumps. Chip design will be fiddly; this game does not lend itself to easy prototyping or a print and play format. That's really sad, because this is one that I want to try out!

bike
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My thoughts on this month

This month was much better for me than last month. I expected The Flicked Element would be the winner, but, not, it was me! Because that makes me happy I will first gossip about my Wobbly towers, and then the others.

This is one of the first times where I did have a prototype before the deadline was over. I made some small adjustments in the final hours. Especially it turned out too easy to stack the discs when they could all be centered. It would be very easy to get above 30 discs with a stable tower. Not so funny. The moment each disc has to extend the one below it, it gets wobbly much quicker! At that stage the size of the discs gets important too. It is better to get a large stacks of large discs and have them going bit back and forth for a long time. A somewhat smaller disc might be inbetween, but when the player is forced a small disc, he can hardly recontinue with a big disc. Being able to go to a place with a lot of big discs without the other players is nice. Some http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/8203/hey-thats-my-fish element here. I will experiment with only allowing taking only discs on the side, since that makes picking them up easier. And... I thought of a dangerous variant! Not waiting for your turn, everyone just goes as quick as they can, until one tower tumbles.

As for prototype. I found a website (dutch) which has craftsmaterials for schools. They had discs of this size. The little disc could be somewhat smaller, but not 1cm I think. Other ideas might include factories. Or someone with a good tool to work on wood. I paid somewhat more than the 20 dollar, but I got more discs as well. A welcome inspiration for a game designer.

I would like to know if others start to play this!

On the other games:

Gold - The flicked element. Like I said, I thought this would be the winner. Great combination of flicking and taking the right positions. Teamplay could be extended as one is playing the spaceships and the other the asteroids, or something like that.

Silver - Flicking DIY. Very nice thought to combine worker placement with some flicking element. I would have preferred more agressiveness in the rest of the game. Something like a flicking place with "steal an element from another player". But even better, as much as I like the original theme, a more agressive theme. With some fighting...

Bronze - Wedding cake. A better building construction than mine. Players can influence the balance of the whole cake, making it rather difficult for the next player to do something. Strategically I thought this not so good. Therefore, only third.

Others: Fire! Fire! Probably the best one out there! But... not a game for advanced players, there is only a limited bit of trading. And not so much dexerity either, apart from nailscratching quickness in getting firemen. I can imagine this is awfull fun with kids. With maybe another theme... the firemen could be taken out with straws and holding your breath!? Less fun, but more dexerity.

Russian roulette. Sorry, I did not get the game here. Sounded too random for me (and for advanced players as well). Not much dexerity either.

Finally a tip for a game that implements these elements very will: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2596/villa-paletti. Not too much dexerity since you are allowed help when removing pilars, and only placing them can be hard. The actual place of your pilars can be very important though.

Looking forward to next month. Thanks Rich & Mindspike.

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