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Critique the Oct 2008 GDS Challenge Entries

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Brykovian
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the individual entries submitted to the October 2008 GDS Challenge, entitled "Monster Up!" (http://www.bgdf.com/node/420).

-Bryk

GrimFinger
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If my entry is at 830 words,

If my entry is at 830 words, then it should be disqualified. Ironically, the very last thing that I did before I submitted my entry via e-mail was to use a word count script online to calculate the number of words in my submission entry.

For future such contests, it would be helpful and also help to ensure uniformity if a specific word count script accessible to all contestants was used to judge the contest entries. I don't recall, off the top of my head, which word count script that I used to count the words, but the word count can vary a great deal, it seems, depending upon which one that you use. As an example to illustrate this point, here are two word count scripts available for free use online:

http://www.javascriptkit.com/script/script2/countwords.shtml
NOTE: Counted my entry at 826 words

http://www.wordcounttool.com/
NOTE Counted my entry at 814 words

Both are over 800 words, but it's rather odd that there's a 12 word difference in the exact, same text copied and pasted into both.

On a separate note, I didn't even think about Halloween, when the contest was posted. It may seem obvious, but I only focused upon the monsters aspect, rather than the Halloween-monsters connection. It's funny, in hindsight, but such is life, I suppose.

Katherine
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shhhh.... Please entrants

shhhh....

Please entrants don't claim the game until after the voting - it makes the BGS much more interesting.

suhreman
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Im over word count as well

Though the word count noted on my entry is 30 higher than it reports through those links mentioned, I’m still way over. All my scrabbling to finish up my rules, I never thought to check.
Sadly, I had to leave out a lot of rules just to keep it at a Semi-Humongous Wall of Text.

Either way, I had fun with the Monster theme and will check my word count on the next entry. I just finished reading all the entries as well and was interesting to see others perspective on Monsters.

GrimFinger
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shazzaz

shazzaz wrote:
shhhh....

Please entrants don't claim the game until after the voting - it makes the BGS much more interesting.

I think that it is better to disqualify it before voting proceeds, than to disqualify it after votes are finished.

Because it exceeds the word count limit set by the rules, my entry is ineligible. If that rule can be ignored, so, too, can other rules.

MatthewF
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True, but the general system

True, but the general system has been to take such things into voting consideration rather than discounting. Being 30 words over with what is clearly the best game (for example, haven't read the entries yet) would likely be the one I voted for. If you were 30 words over and I was torn between yours and one other that wasn't 30 words over, I'd vote for it, counting those words against you.

Further, if you were 800 words over, I would just personally discount the entry, no matter how good it was. In the end, I think leaving minor rule-breaking like that to the judges, noting it for their consideration. That's my opinion.

Darkehorse
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Also

Remember that the GDS is more for you as a designer, than it is for us as consumers of your game. The voting is just the side dish to the main course, which in this case, is the process you used to create a game with restrictions in a very short deadline. Don't disqualify your entry, to do so would invalidate the work you've done, and it my eyes, it should not be so. The feedback you will get is much more valuable the score you get from voting. If you dismissed your game out of hand, you might miss out on some of that very valuable feedback.

-Darke

GrimFinger
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Feedback from GrimFinger

===============================
Entry #1 - Great Blobs of Fire!
===============================
1. I disliked the basic idea. I do not think that it made me to think of monsters, at all.

2. I do not consider the game to be particularly innovative in its design.

3. All in all, it was a boring entry to read through.

====================================
Entry #2 - Monsters of the Big House
====================================
This was my entry into this contest, and as such, I am not well placed to objectively judge my own game design. I will say, however, that I think that there are better entries for others to vote for than my own. On a side note, I think that my game entry's board would make a little more sense, if the image used was actually large enough to read all of the text on it. Overall, it is aesthetically lacking. Having no real artistic talent helped to make that possible.

=========================
Entry #3 - Ghost Trappers
=========================
1. The theme instantly conjured up images of the movie Ghostbusters in my head. I disliked making this connection, since it ended up seeming less original as an idea, although I think that, overall, the design of the game did a pretty good job of using thematic elements that were in keeping with the idea that the designer decided to go with.

2. I very much liked the rule that the youngest player goes first.

3. I especially liked the portion of the rules which stated:

The players put their ghost markers, equal to the number of trappers deployed to a haunted room, into the bag. Each player then takes a random marker from the bag. * If it matches their color, the player can place it anywhere they like. The player ghost must replace a neutral ghost, which goes into the bag.

=========================================
Entry #4 - Team Killdozer: Emergence of the Crystalmongers
============================================
1. I liked the fact that the entry name for this game was very colorful.

2. I liked the "creatures living beneath the surface of the Earth" idea.

3. I disliked the fact that these creatures had an economy, at all. It just seemed to strike me as somewhat less monstrous of a race/species.

4. Paranoid gun nuts plus killdozers is a good concept within the overall game.

5. I liked the increasing strength and size of the attacking waves of creatures.

6. Overall, I think that the idea is stronger than the implementation of that idea, where this game is concerned. I think that this would result in low replayability, due to boredom.

=========================================
Entry #5 - The Haunting of Lower Thelwich
=========================================
1. I very much liked the vampire hunter concept for the game. Vampires and vampire hunters are colorful and get the adrenaline flowing quickly in anticipation of what the rules hold.

2. I like the prospect of allegiances changing quickly, where unlucky encounters are concerned.

3. The mid-18th century setting is a plus.

4. Color coding of encounters is good.

5. I liked the use of rumors, but disliked that rumors can be spent to draw extra cards or to evade enemies. That seemed, to me, to be more powerful rather than more distracting, which is what a rumor's role would seem to me to be proper.

6. I like that a vampire hunter's power can increase over time.

7. I didn't particularly care for the point system for determining who wins.

=================
Entry #6 - DNeigh
=================
1. The foreword/overview for this entry was weak in its impact upon me, as far as finding it to be tempting and enticing to make me want to try the game.

2. When I saw the 81 DNA upgrades listed in the components list, that caused my interest in the game to spike.

3. The look of the board is interesting, although I probably wouldn't buy the game, if the box showed what the board actually looked like.

4. Reading the rules caused me to lose interest in the game, the more that I read, the more that my interest level dropped.

5. The DNA aspect rates very highly for uniqueness, but the description of the board, tracks, and mechanics transforms this uniqueness to bland and boring.

====================
Entry #7 - GeneArena
====================
1. Oops! Another DNA game, so this one rates lower for uniqueness than the DNA entry that preceded it. Sorry, but that's just the way the ball bounces.

2. The concept of hosting a monster fight caused my interest level in the game to decline.

3. I like the board. It's relatively simple, but catches my eye. I think that it would be conducive to a monster fight type of game.

4. My interest spiked when I read the part of the rules which stated:

DNA cards feature an additional number: Chance.

I think that that makes this DNA entry better than the preceding DNA entry.

5. Serum cards with one-time effects is a good idea.

6. The DNA cards to place under simple animals is an interesting approach. The simple animals aspect is not so interesting, though.

7. The combat mechanic for this entry is interesting, I think, and I think that the replayability factor of this game is increased, because of it.

=========================
Entry #8 - Monster Island
=========================
1. The name is not original, by any means, but I always find the idea of monsters on an island to be interesting.

2. I liked that there are 30 pieces representing human victims. Human victims has a nice ring to it in a monster themed game. It just makes the game seem more monsterish, if that's a word.

3. The lego-type approach to monsters rates high on the uniqueness scale, I think. Reading that part of the rules increases my interest level.

4. Special shaped body pieces to grant monsters special abilities is a plus. The abilities of these special shaped body parts also helps to invoke the monster image for this game - dropping eggs, shooting fire or radiation, especially.

5. The way that the growth cards have so many of lower level, but only a few of upper level, is a plus.

6. I like that the players have the option of connecting their starting pieces, as desired,or holding them for later use, as they see fit. That's a big plus, in my book.

7. Different point values for different sized monster body parts is a good concept.

8. I dislike very much that the heads of the monsters cannot be killed. A big thumbs down on that design concept. Boo! Hiss! Boo!! Bad design. Bad design.

9. The part about the rules where the player chooses whether to grow has more than one good concept in it. Specifically, if the player chooses to make their monster grow, the rest of that player's turn is forfeited, then that is a good approach. It makes sense to imbue the player with a power-enhancing option, but at a noticeable price - namely, the rest of that player's turn.

Allowing the player to add any number of pieces in the build/heal to their monster's body during the same turn is another good idea.

Allowing additional cards to be played is not a bad thing, I don't think, but this concept is not nearly as good and interesting of a concept as the other two in this same section of the rules.

10. Distinguishing between being able to kill humans and grabbing them adds another monster element to this game. I think that grabbing humans and the grabbed humans then moving with the monster is a great concept for inclusion into a monster type game. However, I do not think that the game designer capitalized very well on this potentially exciting aspect of game play. This is a prime example of a game mechanic that misses being a great mechanic, and settling only for good, at best. The rules seem unclear as to why grabbing a human becomes somehow more advantageous than just killing one, outright.

=========
Summation
=========
I liked the vampire hunter concept entry the best, although I think that the Ghost Trappers entry made a better use of thematic elements, where their respective themes chosen by the respective designers in question are concerned.

However, I think that the best overall design, from a game design standpoint, is the Monster Island entry. Ghost Trappers might have a higher replayability factor, though. I'm just not sure.

So, while it was not an easy choice, I have decided to cast my vote for this contest for Entry #8 - Monster Island. It has some really powerful game design elements included in it.

Isamoor
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Regarding word count: I think

Regarding word count:

I think Bryk was just reminding people that not everyone has time to read through lots and lots of words. The contest isn't about a finished design, it's about the idea of a design. I personally do have to concentrate to make it through so much content generally.

tlmirkes
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Observations

Well, this being my first time entering and participating in the GDS, I'm not 100% sure on the preferred format for feedback, but GrimFinger gave me a pretty good example, so I'll use that as a guide. I've tried to find at least one positive and one negative about each game, and suggest ideas when possible on how the game might be able to address the things I found as negatives.

----------------------------------

Entry #1 - Great Blobs of Fire
- Essentially a territory control game
- Good intro, but mechanics don't deliver "country destroying" play
- Even use of advancements doesn't guarantee direct player interaction, which is lacking in this design
- The current rules do not address how to resolve a tied auction bid; perhaps an opportune place to add some player interaction (voting, bribery, diplomacy, etc.)

Entry #2 - Monsters of the Big House
- Up to 10 guards per player is an interesting way to delay player elimination
- Clarity of who fulfills the role of "inmate player" not clearly defined; problematic when resolving the Escape space
- Not a huge fan of the setting, but it meshes well with the mechanics

Entry #3 - Ghost Trappers
- Mechanics strongly matched to the theme elements they represent
- Feels suited to either serious or humorous presentation, depending on visual design
- Drawing from bag is an elegant solution to randomization
- Conjures images of Ghost Busters and Luigi's Mansion (for better or worse)

Entry #4 - Team Killdozer: Emergence of the Crystalmongers
- Team goals promote cooperative play
- Simplicity in game play is a plus
- Description of the game board would help to picture rules "in action"
- Amusing setting; good for casual gaming or introducing new players to gaming

Entry #5 - The Haunting of Lower Thelwich
- Like the idea of an encounter queue
- Interaction among cards drawn (hunter, vampire, witness) is novel and adds depth to the game world
- Player/vampire killing all 3 hunters doesn't really mean victory, just the end of play; could be an alternate victory condition instead of points (i.e. points for players, 3 hunter kills for player/vampires)
- Reminds me of Fantasy Flight's "Fury of Dracula"

Entry #6 - DNeigh
- Lots of potential for replayability with DNA cards
- Board is somewhat confusing without more detailed explanation
- Good concept, but doesn't seem terribly exciting

Entry #7 - GeneArena
- Easy to keep track of numerical elements
- Arena combat not very original premise
- Monster-less players stuck with playing kingmaker or doing nothing in late game
- Chance number helps keep combat from being predictable

Entry #8 - Monster Island
- Physically building your custom monster is just simply a fun idea
- Simple gathering concept works very well in this format
- Removing parts and build/heal pile efficiently handle damage tracking
- Player interaction is direct and visceral (thanks to nature of playing pieces)

----------------------------------

There were some thought provoking mechanics in these entries, as well as some very left-field approaches to what constitutes a "monster". I feel that each game had its strengths, and considering that they are not intended to be polished, publisher-ready games, there was some solid work done in each game. (Good work, everyone!)

After reading and rereading the entries, I feel my vote belongs with Monster Island. The ingenious approach to the requirement of growing/advancing your monster as play progresses, and the use of direct competition over finite resources (in this case, humans) as the source of conflict struck me as an fun combination of mechanics with high replay value, while the theme of the game (monsters eating/capturing people) is much like what comes to mind with the utterance of the word "monster".

GrimFinger
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tlmirkes wrote:Entry #2 -

tlmirkes wrote:
Entry #2 - Monsters of the Big House
- Up to 10 guards per player is an interesting way to delay player elimination
- Clarity of who fulfills the role of "inmate player" not clearly defined; problematic when resolving the Escape space
- Not a huge fan of the setting, but it meshes well with the mechanics

I simply envisioned it as being a four player game, with one of the four simply playing the role of the inmate. I thought that I had reached the 800 word limit, and so it was not possible to explain things any further.

The cards would have dealt with murderers, rapists, and other criminals beyond just a poultry thief, but there was no point in drawing up a bunch of cards, only to not be able to display them. The poultry thief was intended as humorous relief, plus it was to serve as a reminder that everyone in prison isn't really a monster.

I did it all in one day, in a single sitting, so there wasn't a lot of time to flesh things out further. I had intended to get started earlier, and just got side tracked and forgot about it.

Brykovian
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I've never disqualified and

I've never disqualified and entry due to the word count. Instead, as MatthewF and darke have already pointed out, I just note the count at the top. (Total throughout the history of the GDS there has only been 3 DQs ... 2 for being off-topic, and 1 for submitting a previously-designed game.)

To do the word count, I use MS Word's Tools>Word Count feature. Before counting, I remove the title and any image tags. Due to the lack of uniformity in word counting algos, I won't make an admin note about the count unless it gets over 815.

Lastly, the Challenges are primarily for enjoyment. Keep it fun. :-)

-Bryk

GrimFinger
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Brykovian wrote:To do the

Brykovian wrote:
To do the word count, I use MS Word's Tools>Word Count feature.

Not everyone has Microsoft Word, though. I know that I don't.

Brykovian
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GrimFinger wrote:Not everyone

GrimFinger wrote:
Not everyone has Microsoft Word, though. I know that I don't.

Right ... and I don't want to take the time to hand-count the words, so I use a method that seems quick and easy for me.

Seems we're getting hung up on a technicality that is very softly enforced instead of focussing on the purpose and reason for having a monthly Challenge in the first place. The word limit is only there to guide the entrants as to how verbose to be, and as a courtesy to the folks who like to read through all of the entries. 800 was a number that most people thought was good middle ground in the early days ... but entrants could always shoot for 750 and then not have to worry about it. ;-)

I personally like the shorter, less detailed entries ... but that's just me.

-Bryk

GrimFinger
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Brykovian wrote:GrimFinger

Brykovian wrote:
GrimFinger wrote:
Not everyone has Microsoft Word, though. I know that I don't.

Right ... and I don't want to take the time to hand-count the words, so I use a method that seems quick and easy for me.

Seems we're getting hung up on a technicality that is very softly enforced instead of focussing on the purpose and reason for having a monthly Challenge in the first place. The word limit is only there to guide the entrants as to how verbose to be, and as a courtesy to the folks who like to read through all of the entries. 800 was a number that most people thought was good middle ground in the early days ... but entrants could always shoot for 750 and then not have to worry about it. ;-)

I personally like the shorter, less detailed entries ... but that's just me.

-Bryk

If it's past of the rules, then it is not a mere technicality. Besides, since numerous word count scripts are freely accessible online, and which anyone to this site could also easily access, why not just pick one of those sites, and then everyone will be reading off of the same page for future such contests. No one has suggested that you hand count words.

tlmirkes
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Inmate player

GrimFinger wrote:
I simply envisioned it as being a four player game, with one of the four simply playing the role of the inmate.

So ideally, would the distinction have had functional differences aside from simply when they score points?

(By the by, someone please let me know if there's any sort of forbiddance on discussing material that had to be omitted due to word count restrictions; I'm not aiming to break any rules, but I am curious about some of the games beyond what was presented.)

Brykovian
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*sigh* This is an informal

*sigh*

This is an informal Challenge, and trying to be very rules-light. Some structure was needed for this to be repeated on a monthly basis and the things that *are* listed (word count, picture size/format/count, etc.) are there as guidelines intended for (1) giving new entrants an idea of how much/big/detailed to be with an entry, (2) making things easier to administer, and (3) make entries easier for everyone else to consume.

I do not intend to restrict who talks about what, nor to get into an overly detailed discussion of just exactly how to go about counting the words in an entry ... these are completely against the original intention of the Showdown.

In fact, I never cared to have a word count restriction (precisely because I didn't want to have a discussion like this over a few dozen words ... and a word count restriction makes an entrant feel like if they only use 450 words they're not getting a proper "value" out of it, I guess), but it was argued for by the entrants and readers "back-in-the-day" (I think it would be 2 different site software packages ago).

So ... I think I'm done discussing this ... it really saps the enjoyment out of it for me.

Now back to the regularly scheduled critiques of the entries ... ;-)

-Bryk

GrimFinger
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Little wonder you have so few

Little wonder you have so few entries in these contests. Being close minded about improving the process certainly doesn't make for better contests nor a better site.

Brykovian
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GrimFinger wrote:Little

GrimFinger wrote:
Little wonder you have so few entries in these contests. Being close minded about improving the process certainly doesn't make for better contests nor a better site.

I'm all for continually evolving the process ... long-term followers should be able to back me up that things have been discussed and changes have been made to match the consensus at the time, site software feature changes, etc.

If you would like to have a specific suggestion to improve the process, please feel free to open up a new thread in this GDS forum about that topic so that everyone who is interested can discuss it. We should really return this thread to its original purpose -- critiquing the monstrous entries for this specific Challenge.

As for the number of entries ... it's almost always been in the 6-to-12 range -- sometimes more, sometimes fewer. 8-to-10 (and we have 8 this time) is the sweet-spot, imo.

-Bryk

Uchu Saru
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Discussion of game concepts

tlmirkes wrote:
(By the by, someone please let me know if there's any sort of forbiddance on discussing material that had to be omitted due to word count restrictions; I'm not aiming to break any rules, but I am curious about some of the games beyond what was presented.)

I'm no authority on the etiquette of the GDS, but in the interest of maintaining designer anonymity, I'd suggest that it would be better to save specific questions about the entries until after the voting has closed. (Or that you not expect an answer before designer identities are revealed.)

That said, I would strongly encourage asking questions and discussing the games once the voting is over. I found curiosity about my design to be motivating and inspiring when I submitted a game a while back. It helps get the development process moving, and highlights good ideas as well as kinks that need to be worked out.

seo
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more = better ?

GrimFinger wrote:
Little wonder you have so few entries in these contests. Being close minded about improving the process certainly doesn't make for better contests nor a better site.

Maybe it's just me, but this comment sounds a bit harsh.

Besides, it seems to suggest that the contest is somehow a partial failure for not having a lot more entries, and that not sharing your personal opinion as to how to improve the contest (or the site) is being close minded. I don't thing any of those statements is true at all.

As Bryk already mentioned, this is a friendly contest. More and exercise than a real contest, if you like. We learn a lot and in many ways by taking part in the GDS. And we enjoy the process. Having a lot more entries might sound as a mark of success for you, but I'm pretty sure it would go against the whole thing. Entrants are supposed to evaluate all the entries, vote for the ones they consider the best ones, and give feedback. Too many entries would make the whole task too hard.

As Matthew said, the rules are flexible, and just like the requirements for each specific challenge, each of the judges (who usually are the contestants) is free to use his own personal judgment as to how lenient they can be with the "offenders".

Katherine
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It could be just the "pixel

It could be just the "pixel factor" Seo, it is hard to tell whether some one is being offensive when reading from a screen (been there done that).

The critiques are looking good though, it looks like monster island is up there.

Have all you readers voted? takes less than a minute to click the button.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Great Blobs of Fire I have to

Great Blobs of Fire
I have to admit, I've got a soft spot in my heart for blobs. Of all the monsters, blobs seem the most primordial. No existential angst. No complex backstory. Just amorphous aggression and mindless hunger. Really, what's not to like about marauding blobs?

That said, the title of this one is just a bit too cutesy for me. Blobs, fire, and allusions to Jerry Lee Lewis don't set the proper mood, I guess. Also, while my heart beat faster at the "Place New Blobs" phase, it settled right back down when the auctions started. I mean, we've got blobs out dissolving the citizenry, and there's a bevy of scientist types holding an auction? If crowd-slapping blobs are the Beyonce of monsters, auctions are Condoleeza Rice.

The game, based on the scoring rules, is actually an area-control game, and I think that this is the heart of what blobs would indeed covet most, if they had brains to covet with. I think that simplifying the game by eliminating the scientists would be a start, and axing the money. Blobs should simply absorb and grow as nature intended, digesting anyone who thinks otherwise. Or maybe you should concentrate on the scientists, and have them vainly trying to catch up with and "improve" their creations with their newest upgrades, which make them more dangerous to be around, of course. But I'd lose the money and auction. Seriously, these guys (and gals!) didn't get evil PhDs to have to bid for science to misuse! They should be doing ethically dubious research, and such.

I think this game has a spark at the center, but I'd suggest matching the frantic tone of that blob attacks, historically, tend to induce.

Monsters of the Big House
I wanted this game to be about incarcerating Dracula and the Mummy. Instead, I get mere humans.

Monstrous? Sure, but the game doesn't show us that, so it feels more like a game of wonton abuse by prison guards. The game is supposed to be about interacting with monsters, and I get a creeping suspician that this game would make me feel like I was becoming one.

I'm not certain how to score this one, since I'm not sure I'm picuring the gameplay correctly. The movement system seems to prohibit any advance planning, and every event is utterly random, including, strangely, executions, which, if the rules are followed, can occur with multiple different weapons, and, apparently, at range. Isn't that called murder? I began to wonder who the monsters referred to in the title are, since the prisoners seem hapless drones, while the guards are the ones to fear. Interesting, in it's way. Challenge-wise, though, I didn't see the Monster requirement put into place, here, as the inmates are so nondescript, nor were the power-ups to be seen.

Ghost Trappers
It's clean, it's neat, it gets the job done. This game has the monsters, and the power-ups, though it isn't the monsters that get them. Still, full points for that. I'd like to say more, but the game just seems to speak for itself. A fine effort.

Team Killdozer: Emergence of the Crystalmongers
A couple of things, here. First off, the title needs to lose the sub-title. Team Killdozer is quite cool enough. Having two jargony terms in the title is a mistake. Next, the preamble removes a lot of the monstrosity of the Crystalmongers, since they seem pretty justified in attacking the surface. And how monstrous can they be, with an economy and all? Heck, the opening makes me think of all the innocent Crystalmonger orphans being created by our toxic waste dumping and oil drilling. I mean, it even mentions their patience, making me think of drumming fingers and heartfelt sighs as caverns collapse and irradiated water leaks into Crystalmonger aquifers. And when they emerge, who stands up for humanity? Paranoid gun nuts. Great. Humanity's finest. Again, who's the monster, here?

I imagine the game being sort of like an dungeon crawl, but question whether the game offers enough tactical enjoyment. Without any more specifics, it's hard to say. To the author: avoid wordy sentences, and boil down concepts to shorter forms, to allow greater detail where it counts: in letting us know more about how the game will play. For example, are there any other types of structures or interactions that might make position important, or is it all just fighting? Where do the power-up equipment come from? These things are what define the game, and the rules, as written, don't specify clearly enough. A good start, but flawed.

The Haunting of Lower Thelwich
Technically, if you've got ghouls and vampires, you aren't haunted. Yeah, you've got problems, but haunting isn't one of them.

This game seems way cool. From my first read-through, it was clear that this was a well-done game. Let's go through our checklist, shall we? Monsters? Check! Shadowy 18th-century town? Check!

But what makes this game so neat is the fact that you don't directly play the Hunters, but rather the townspeople who try to help them out. When the villagers flush out trouble, they can summon those hunters if they've interacted with an exchange of favor tokens. This is the sort of story-driven gaming I love, where boardgame rules lend themselves to interpretations that feel like a narrative. This kind of thing is expecially good for groups that like heavy interaction and light role-playing elements with their board games, and horror games seem among the best for this. Thelwich has this in spades.

And other great gameplay goodies are in the rules too. Like how the hunters and vampires gain power, but the players can only do their best to bring the two together, since they don't gain power-ups themselves. So as the game goes on, the challenge is to guide fewer hunters to the remaining target vampires, who are themselves stronger, while avoiding or defeating an endless swarm of ghouls. I sense good times, and had to concentrate to get through the latter half of the rules, since the game just made me want to open up the box and start setting up a game!

This is a great entry, and I hope the designer chooses to develop it further.

DNeigh
I think we can all agree that we like the idea of going to our labs and whacking together a monster that we can unleash for nightly shopping sprees. And I also think that any game in which corpses and cows are both featured as resources has a leg up on the competition.

This game has monsters, and power-ups, and the DNA-type monster-building is well thought out. I think that the entire affair could be made far more succinct, however, and urge the author to tighten up the wordy rules, which bury a really great idea in a mass of verbal fluff. When you got rampaging monsters, shifty assistants, rioting villagers, and freakin' DNA (great title, by the way), you can't allow wordiness to bring you down. Use the word limit to your benefit!

GeneArena
As fun as fighting genetically altered animals might sound at first, the visuals just made me think of real-life dog-fighting rings, and the extreme cruelty of the entire situation. Somehow, these creatures don't come off as monsters, so much as victims of monsters, like many of the entries this month.

Also, I question the tactical possibilites in an empty arena of hexes. There's no reason to move from each creature's inevitable sweet spot of range, at least until a serum card changes the balance. The side-bound upgrades are usable in the game, but not, unfortunately, the special ability, which would only be seen if the cards above it were lifted away. This is the sort of design problem I love to see solved creatively.

Not a bad game, but it lacks a sense of urgency, for me. There's no motive for these poor, abused creatures to be fighting. Fierce is not monstrous, and that's a problem with this sort of theme.

Monster Island
This has a couple of immediate pluses. First off, you get to eat humans like popcorn. Nameless, faceless humans, the way monsters prefer them. Also, you get to build monsters. While the details are sketchy, they put in place the primary purpose of these creatures: to eat piles of screaming humans! For some reason, the arbitrary crowd of hapless hominids just makes this game shine. These monsters aren't attacking for any reason except that's what they do. Pure, unadulterated monsteriness. Lovely.

The downside is that this feels more like a brainstorm than a game, since so much depends on the specifics of the monster-building. Still, a good entry.

Isamoor
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Hey Bryk, do you have a BGG

Hey Bryk, do you have a BGG account? I think I need to send you some geek gold for putting up with this crap. This is supposed to be for fun. If you're not enjoying yourself, go make your own damn challenge with your own rules and leave Bryk alone. I've run little online contests before, and they always take far more time than you suspect. Bryk is being *very* generous to give us this much of his time.

Brykovian
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Isamoor wrote:Hey Bryk, do

Isamoor wrote:
Hey Bryk, do you have a BGG account?

I do ... you'll find it a familiar nym. ;-)

And no sympathy GG is required ... although, I am a GG-monger ... so I won't give any of it back. :-D

btw, Hedge's critiques just made my week ... the Beyonce/Condi Rice comment made me actually snort out loud.

I never mind passionate discussion here. It lets me know that people care.

Cheers,
-Bryk

Hedge-o-Matic
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Congrats to Dannorder!

Well done, Dannorder!

Does anyone have any expectation they'll continue to develop their designs, this time around?

dannorder
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Thanks

Thanks! I'm honored to have come in first place this time around, especially with tight competition in voting and a group of interesting concepts submitted.

I do plan on trying to develop this one further. The idea of having component parts that get stuck together to build a bigger and badder monster is too fun to not try to go somewhere with it. I'm already trying out different prototypes of how the pieces might connect. Even if the game itself doesn't go anywhere, the toy end of it sounds like a blast. Too bad I don't have the machines needed to press my own plastic pieces.

I plan on making comments on other entries, but Halloween is a busy day for me. I will say about my design that, yeah, obviously I'll need to play test it and parts of it will probably need to change, but some of the parts people asked about earlier were not oversights but intentional.

I really dislike games where a player can just be dead and have to watch others play from then on before a winner is declared. Either with the head not being able to be destroyed, or perhaps with eggs or something primed to make a baby replacement monster, I'd like the player to have a setback (the lost human victims) but still be in the running. With the cards not disappearing when a monster is defeated, there's an opportunity to still be able to build up fast. But there may be a better way to do it.

Also, the grab ability was intended to allow a monster to still move around the board but not waste one of the opportunities to eat a human victim per round. If you kill it outright it sits on the board and the monster either has to wait around where it is to devour it or run off and leave it there where someone else might get it. My girlfriend calls the grab option "packing a lunch." It also seems very monster-like. I'd like the grabbing pieces to be able to actually pick up a human piece and hold it aloft, like a big old crab arm pinching on a body or some tentacled behemoth pulling someone along.

I'll be looking into how it all might work and play later. Unfortunately I found out after I entered that there's already a game called Monster Island, so I may have to give that title up.

Uchu Saru
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Joined: 10/23/2008
Closing remarks (almost)

I heartily second the congratulations to Dannorder, and congratulate all who entered a design in this challenge. I had fun putting mine together and reading everyone's entries. I'm still writing a critique to post...

Hedge-o-Matic wrote:

Does anyone have any expectation they'll continue to develop their designs, this time around?

I'd like to keep developing mine; your feedback in particular encouraged me to work on it more. I'll create a game journal or blog one of these days. (Any suggestion as to which would work best? I'm not too familiar with this site, other than the GDS...)

Isamoor
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Entry #1: Ah yes, my entry.

Entry #1:

Ah yes, my entry. Well, it's mostly crap. I only had about 20 minutes to spend on it this month. The theme is weak, but I think the game play is decent. It really all stemmed from the "expand only next to 2 of your own" idea. The auctions were definitely a patch, but I needed some way to hand out advancements and keep them balanced. Ah well.

The scoring is also weak. I wanted something fancier, but only had time to come up with Area enclosure. Ah well, after a couple millennium, Go still seems to be captivating.

Entry #2:

Hrm, well it's moderately thematic. I'm not sure where the "power up"s part of the challenge came in. I don't always make it all the way through the longer entries. I don't particulary like "roll-n-move" games, which is what this one appears to be. However, I do like the ideas of prison riots :)

Actually, I'm not even really sure how this game works. Are the players guards or inmates or both?

Entry #3:

Ghostbusters! Rock on! Great theme!

And the actual mechanics are somewhat thematic as well. I didn't get all the details of the ghost bag, but it seemed similar to the rest cubes of 1960. Very up to date with "controlled randomness". I like the power ups too.

Entry #4:

Well that's original. Mad max underground versus crystal aliens. Rock on.

Gah, I've come to really dislike dice based combat with modifiers. Still, it's thematic. Hrm, seems pretty tame overall though. Where's the story arc? You go for that great backstory, but the only differences in the game are just their "stats"? Not for me.

Entry #5:

Arkham Horror? Seems like it to me. I mean, c'mon, just *how* mechanics were borrowed from Arkham Horror? You can even "evade" monsters you meet. Riiiight.

Entry #6:

(Almost 1000 words? Definitely a bit much for me. I'll still skim it and respond however.)

Well, the DNA sub game looks very thematic and intricate. Heh, look, it's RPG saving rolls. The horror theme really brings out the RPG / Adventure game mechanics doesn't it? At least there's a small scoring glitch about only winning with your monster under control.

Entry #7:

Too cool of theme! Straight out of some Sci-Fi wonderland. And look mom! Dice-less combat! I like it. Not a bad little game. Good card design.

Entry #8:

Well, we're going for genero theme here. But you can eat humans!!! I do like the add-ons. There doesn't seem to be much depth to scoring however. Overall, an okay game that I'd at least like to see the final components of. (I'm assuming a publisher would change to tile mods like Evo)

Uchu Saru
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Comments on Monster Up! entries

Great Blobs of Fire
The mechanics here generally suit the theme of blobs creeping across a landscape. I can imagine players role-playing their mad scientists as they gleefully crush villages. I like how the the power-ups add variety to the way players expand their blobs, and I think auctions for more powerful ones would be heated. But overall, it doesn't present an engaging experience to me. The “border two blobs” rule seems like it would limit creative and strategic blob growth. A different board could help this-- terrain or a shared starting area might make blob growth more competitive. I find that the “completely enclosed spaces” victory condition lacks thematic punch, and it seems like it would be hard to accomplish much, especially as blobs start vying for territory. Finishing with the most money might be a good indicator of effective village crushing and resource management. Also, unless the advancements are carefully balanced, I think victory could come down to winning one or two auctions. A well written and cleanly presented idea.

Monsters in the Big House
I give this design credit for creative interpretation of the challenge. I like that it has players in different roles, even if the details thereof aren't made entirely clear in the entry. I like the “ten lives” mechanic for the guards. I think the game lacks mechanical depth, though. Players' options seem extremely limited, especially the guards, and most important events are dictated by die rolls and landing on specific spaces. Above all, I'm afraid I find the theme repellent. I can't enjoy playing a game about killing prisoners for money, especially when their crimes are petty things like poultry theft.

Ghost Hunters
I liked the theme of this game, and the way it meshes with the mechanics. The board feels well suited to the action of the game. There seems to be a sense of precariousness throughout the game, with constant potential for both success and disaster. The power-ups are all attractive yet not overly powerful, and very cleverly named. Lots of strategic decisions to be made and a good amount of player interaction and competition, and the pace seems like it would be quick. The bag draw mechanic adds an element of chance, but is also self-balancing (bad luck won't last forever). I found this game to be tightly designed, well presented, impressively complete (I think it could play well as written), and solid overall.

Team Killdozer: Emergence of the Crystalmongers
I enjoy cooperative games, and to me this one has a good video game feel. Team up, trade power-ups, and blast away! Like Hedge-o-Matic, I find myself sympathizing with the Crystalmongers more than the gun nuts, but ignoring that, the general theme of fending off monsters with customizable tanks is cool. I can see the game getting frantic as it progresses-- later waves would pile on earlier ones if the player slack, and surviving would be a challenge. If power-ups had particular synergy with different Killdozers, the power-ups trading could be a particularly fun element. Simplifying combat and minimizing health bookkeeping might speed this game up, and I think it deserves to be fast and furious. I also keep imagining it using a hex map.

The Haunting of Lower Thelwich
This was my entry. Thanks to everyone who critiqued it. I very much appreciate the feedback, suggestions, and above all the inspiration to keep working on improving this game. I'll respond to a few points here.
Grimfinger: “Rumors” may need to be renamed; I imagine them as bits of information like places to search that could be used to better explore (draw more cards). The escape mechanic may be off theme; it was meant to force the player to decide how best to spend rumors. I'll probably revise the victory conditions; the current scoring method encourages players to fight alone and hunt ghouls, which is not the point.
tlmirkes: I'm glad you liked the encounter queue and card interaction ideas; I'd like to develop them further. The victory conditions clearly need revision. I was afraid that just killing three hunters might be too easy, but that could be an intriguing wrinkle-- players might try harder to become vampires late in the game.
Hedge-o-Matic: I'm glad you called me out on the misuse of “Haunting.” I liked the ring of it, and thought I could get away with the inaccuracy. I was wrong! I'm thrilled that this game interested you so much. I do want to develop this further; I'll post a game journal soon, and I welcome further suggestions.
isamoor: I am a big fan of Arkham Horror, and a few Arkham mechanics inspired parts of this game. But I don't think my design is nearly as similar as your comment suggests. I'm sorry that's all you saw.

DNeigh
Despite the length, I read through this game a couple times. I like the theme of monster building, and needing monsters to build more and better monsters is a good way to keep the game rolling. The DNA pool and the gene stacking mechanic are intriguing. I like how they intersect with the movement and gathering mechanics. The turn structure and assistant movement weren't entirely clear to me, along with a few other little things. I think the various parts of the game can come together into a fun and competitive whole, but it's still hard for me to really imagine how it all flows together. The length of the entry and lack of organization are hiding good mechanics that can really compliment a fun theme.

GeneArena
This game put some good twists on the arena combat style of game. The gradual monster building creates flexibility and variety in the game play, and I like how serums can change the situation quickly; both would encourage anticipation and tactical movement. The chance number is a solid mechanic for combat resolution, and forces tough decisions in card playing. To me, the theme is a troublesome hybrid of two kinds of animal cruelty; it would need to be shifted a couple steps further from reality for me to find it palatable. Still, good card-based combat and creature-building mechanics.

Monster Island
I can see really creative and bizarre monsters being built in this game, sprawling monstrosities with limbs all over the place, and that sounds like a lot of fun. The growth mechanics seem well balanced, and I like that it's relatively easy for monsters to regrow parts and stay in the game. It avoids the problems of having perpetually weak monsters or players being eliminated entirely. I like that combat is straightforward and the human-chomping premise is simple: I think that keeps the focus on building monsters with creative and strategic combinations of parts and rampaging across the land. Having obstacles in the terrain is another good idea that forces strategic building and movement. A very good idea, and one that would really shine with well-made pieces.

kiwasabi
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Isamoor wrote: Entry #4: Well

Isamoor wrote:

Entry #4:

Well that's original. Mad max underground versus crystal aliens. Rock on.

Gah, I've come to really dislike dice based combat with modifiers. Still, it's thematic. Hrm, seems pretty tame overall though. Where's the story arc? You go for that great backstory, but the only differences in the game are just their "stats"? Not for me.


Thanks! Yeah I was a big fan of my background story; it was the strongest part of the design I think.

I agree that dice based combat with modifiers is pretty lame. As I've mentioned before I have more experience with video games and TCGs than board games so I don't know of very many combat mechanics other than Heroclix. As I get more familiar with board games I'm sure that my games will get more interesting mechanics.

As for the comment regarding "the only differences in the game are just stats", this is actually not true, but I didn't get a chance to mention this. Each tank will have a decisively different flavor to it. One was going to be a modified crane, so it could do a crazy spinning attack to everything within 2 squares of it. Then there was also going to be a steamroller that could squish stuff pretty easily. And still yet another one was going to be a dumptruck with special game text that allows him to hold this special one-time use power-up (a nuke or bomb or something) which can do mass amounts of damage to the Crystalmonger Overlord. But of course the players would have to coordinate in order to locate that power-up, then bring it to that specific tank. As for the enemies, there was going to be distinctly different flavors between the small, medium, and large enemies. They were all going to have their own special gametext, plus the small guys were planned to be just pee-ons who run up to you and try and kill you with a bunch of them, whereas the medium sized guys were only going to attack you with ranged attacks (crystal-bow or something maybe?).

By the way, I'm going to reply to all the other feedback made regarding my entry. I'm also going to post feedback for everybody else's entries; sorry this hasn't happened yet.

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