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[GDS] June 2011 "Spring Cleaning" - Critiques

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sedjtroll
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the June 2011 Challenge in the Game Design Showdown series.

This month's Challenge was entitled "Spring Cleaning".

-Seth

Empires
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How do you post a Critques Request page?

I'd like some feedback on my game and was wondering how I would go about doing that.

sedjtroll
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Two ways...

Empires wrote:
I'd like some feedback on my game and was wondering how I would go about doing that.

First, some people may post critiques of the entries in this thread.

In addition to that, you could start a new thread entitled "Critique my GDS entry: Spring Into Action" and see if you get any takers.

- Seth

bhazzard
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Critiques for several entries

TulpenMania
- Love the theme. Reminds me of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, which I suspect you've read. But if not, I recommend it given the thematic content of this game.
- One of your game end conditions seems like it could theoretically happen very fast. If a tulip future ever matures with no bids then the game ends... What if not players decide to bid on the first immature tulip future for some reason?

Spring into Action!
- I don't think Spring is really at the core of this theme. Maybe if your flavor text had said something like: "It's spring and the movie studio where you work as a producer just came to the realization that you forgot to make a summer action film. Now in a cockamamie attempt to keep your job, you must race to film a summer action flick... Anything is better than nothing, so you'll use whatever stuntmen, effects equipment, and actors you can get your hands on. A pirate rom-com action sci-fi with ninjas set in a teen-vampire backdrop? Sounds awful... But it might save your job." I think it sets the stage a bit more and gives me a more specific image of the story. I understand that my story might not be exactly what you are going for, but I think you get the idea.
- The variety of effects caused by all the different dice would be very hard to remember. Most likely people would have to review the rules every turn to know what the dice do. So after the competition, I would encourage you to rethink the game as a card game, that way the effects can be written directly on the cards.
- The stunt dice don't really give the player any kind of choice, if you can place it in the set location where it activates, you should. I think it would play better if it could be placed multiple places to have different effects. Or maybe the dice have some basic effect when placed somewhere other than where they activate.

Busy Bees
- Thematically, this game evokes the most vibrant spring imagery of all the entries.
- I really like the art on the dice. It looks hand-drawn but very tasteful and beautiful. Well done.
- I'm not a big fan of the drafting/set collection as a battle mechanic, but I don't have any specific suggestions to offer.

Birds of Pair o' Dice
- You mention that someone might buy the marker off your board, but it isn't clear how one would purchase the privilege marker.
- It's interesting as a math abstract, but I think more could be done with the bird watching theme. It feels a bit pasted on

Spring Planting
- I like the variety of choices presented by the different die types.
- I think rules could be more clear about the dice tracks. Is there one track shared for all players, or one for each? Does the marker move before or after every round? Or does it move after each use?

loonoly
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A rush job

bhazzard wrote:
Birds of Pair o' Dice
- You mention that someone might buy the marker off your board, but it isn't clear how one would purchase the privilege marker.
- It's interesting as a math abstract, but I think more could be done with the bird watching theme. It feels a bit pasted on

Originally, I wanted to make the bird tracks split into three sections: First sightings, Nesting, and Hatchings with benefits for the first player to reach the beginning of each stage. Also, I never really explained in the rules how the dice relate to the birds, which I think hurt it in terms of theme quite a bit. Unfortunately I came upon the GDS late and had a bit of a rush to get it done, so these ideas never made it into the rules. :(

Because of the rush I put into it, I was a little concerned about the clarity of my rules. For instance, the purchase of the privilege token is right before the warning, but it doesn't explicitly say you may purchase the token off another player's board. The actual structure, as I read it again, is a bit kludgy in places.

All in all, I'm quite unhappy with it.

TulpenMania - I quite liked this one. The only thing I couldn't figure out was how the dice were actually supposed to be rolled. I wasn't sure if one player (say the first player) rolled them or if each player rolled a certain amount.

Busy Bees - Congrats, this was a good design. The only thing I wasn't keen on was the Bee-battle resolution. It seems like you might go through several rolls before someone finally won a battle. Chances of 3 of a kind on 3 dice: 1 in 216, chances of a single pair on 3 dice: 4 in 27 (if my math is correct).

Diced Veggies - This was another of my picks. I really liked the progression of the payment for the crops.

Empires
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Thanks for the Feedback

This was my first entry, as I am new to the forum. I wanted to more, however, the 800 word limit really stopped me. I would have had more explanation for things, but was trying to follow all the rules. And I think I was just trying to enter, and not really thinking over what I was really doing with the game. Thanks for the help bhazzard.

lokinervio
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Great fun!

(This is the "Loki" half of LokiNervio - we co-designed our entry)

I had a great time both contributing and entry and reading everyone else's. Each contribution had something really interesting going on.

- (3) TulpenMania: I absolutely loved the way the profit dropped for rare tulips if the market had seen them in the past few turns. Beautiful mechanic that interplayed very nicely with the game's theme. Also, this felt like the most polished game in the group. Guys, if you have a pdf of the cards, we'd really love to PnP this one!

- Spring into Action: Wow. Lots going on here! My initial reaction was that it would be absolutely required to have a crib sheet or some kind of side board describing the possible actions available after both the Action dice roll and the Equipment dice roll. Seemed a bit complicated. I could see this being a really beautiful game aesthetically with the right art, tho.

- Birds of Pair o' Dice: the Privilege concept seemed a bit too abstract, it didn't immediately have a conceptual link with bird watching for me. I do really love the mechanic of two-evens or two-odds taking the average (a superb way of eliminating those pesky one-halves that come up in games like this!). Plus, spending one influence unit per side on the die is a neat idea :)

- Spring Planting: I have to admit, with the framework of the game centered around the farming _machines_, I wasn't drawn in as much as if it had been about, say, managing fields from season to season or perhaps getting some livestock in there. The three tracks with hazard locations is a neat idea, and I did not playtest this one, but it seems like it would be too easy to miss them?

- Busy Bees: thanks for all the comments, everyone :) the dice are, in fact, individually hand drawn and colored, and cute as all get-out! (Thanks to my co-designer Nervio :)

- (2) Springtime for Dinos: absolutely LOVED the concept. The idea of a bunch of creatures all vying for top genetic fitness, and us knowing that they're all gonna be wiped out by a meteor anyway, it's just genius. Plus the lighthearted feel ("scoring" with another dino, "proudly displaying your kill" lol) is really a draw. The dominance phase is great as well, where you give each player the chance to interact and use resources to score a better mate after theirs had been chosen. Just a neat idea all around!

- (1) Diced Veggies: MAN that weather die looks brutal. Two of six faces raining out the market and destroying your harvest? Wow. You must have grown up on a farm! Also the left/right tray shifting is a neat take on the whole pass-to-your-neighbor idea, as you're going to see your own tray most often instead of seeing each tray just once, like in 7 Wonders, say. Plus, a little 3x3 garden would just be visually enjoyable to see your plants there, growing for harvest. Nice work on this one.

Again, thanks everybody! We had a great time designing and voting. Can't wait for the next GDS!

Pastor_Mora
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My GDS votes

BGDF – GDS June

These were just my few first impressions. Voting took me less than 20 minutes overall.

General Criteria:
If your game design has innovative elements, they have to come out at first sight.
If something looks broken at first sight, that’s an automatic minus.
If the game mechanic/theme is spent, that’s an automatic minus.

Particular Criteria for this GDS:
Dice rolling means dumb luck. Dice drafting should turn that into luck management (not dumb).
Players should make the intelligent decisions to balance unlucky rolls;
Not other players against them, to balance their own lucky rolls.

My votes:

Entry #1 – TulpenMania – 0 Votes (bored of auctioning)
Entry #2 - Spring into Action! – 1 Vote (nice set collection, too much direct interaction)
Entry #3 - Birds of Pair o' Dice – 0 Votes (bored of “influence”-???-)
Entry #4 - Spring Planting – 2 Votes (my favorite, like the speculation feel to it)
Entry #5 - Busy Bees – 2 Votes (like the big picture approach, + for production)
Entry #6 - Springtime for Dinos! – 0 Votes (a big minus for HoH as a tie breaker)
Entry #7 - Diced Veggies – 1 Vote (simple and straightforward, minus for 33% weather dice chance)

Thanks for participating in this GDS. Keep thinking!

Pastor_Mora

rcjames14
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How My Votes Were Distributed

Thanks for all your comments about TulpenMania. Brad and I had a fun time designing it (somewhat at the last minute) and plan to work on it some more over the next few weeks. The game has evolved over the past week of voting to be an even more solid Euro game. So, it was great to have this opportunity to do design a new game. Got to love passive aggressive competition over tulips!

For those of you who are interested in a PnP prototype, absolutely we would love to field that request. When we're done with the spoiler list, we'll make sure to post the material for playtesting on Evertide Games and a link to it all here. I would love to hear what you think of it, especially since this is my first serious effort at a Euro style game.

Here's what I ended up voting for:

One vote for Birds of Pair o' Dice. When it comes to drafting dice, numbers are always a good idea. Since they can be combined in a variety of different ways, there is a lot of room for complexity to emerge, and I felt like Birds of Pair o' Dice would end up capitalizing on that dynamism. It reminds me of a gambling game called "Close the Box" a little, insofar as you have to choose how to combine two dice together to fill up slots. Only Birds of Pair o' Dice involves a range of die values and alternate turn taking. There were a few things I was concerned about though.

Particularly, I felt like there would be a problem with privilege. Since you get to choose first, you would pretty much always be able to maintain that privilege if you want to because you can always chose the combinataion of dice that leads to the greatest influence before anyone else. As a result, someone else would have to spend two actions to try to surmount you, but you could always keep a lead on them knowing that. So, if you want to be first pick, you will always be first pick. The only way to be able to counteract this effect is if there is an even number of dice for each player so the right to pick first is balanced by the inability to score (move a marker) your fair share for the turn. The number of dice on the table need to be some multiple of the number of players x 2, otherwise going first is not a very big loss. It also seems like you could team up against other people to rob them of dice. In a three or more player game, you can always pick on the leader... and that is going to open up a whole can of worms into degenerate strategy.

One vote for Springtime for Dinos!. I think Springtime for Dinos! may be an example of a game where it is the ideas that it provokes that are reason enough to vote for it. I wasn't sure exactly how the catching food, connected entirely to the genetic selection phase and I'm pretty sure that the HoH has a tremendous advantage over the other dinosaurs simply from the fact that he is assigned HoH. It also seems awefully odd that tokens are accumulated at random and that dinosaurs are monogomous. But, I think it is the concept of replicating genetic competition over time that fascinated me.

One can image an intergenerational competition between genes for fitness occurring here. In a completely different game, cards representing genes may provide a variety of different benefits / drawbacks in the cycle of feeding and breeding of generations of dinosaurs and you want to introduce genetic variation into the lines that you want to survive to keep them fit. At the beginning of the game, a variety of dinosaurs may be around and each player is assigned a number of hidden breeds it wants to see survive. Based upon competition for food (with each other) and breeding in a complex environment, certain breeds will experience grow and others decline. When new genes are introduced into the line, they will alter the competitive structure of the environment and effect (unpredictablly) the prevalence of each species. Just a thought about the direction that the game could go in.

Two votes for Diced Veggies. Perhaps the most similar to the game that Brad and I built, diced veggies seems like a very sound mechanism for creating conflicting priorities in a multiplayer environment. Since you need to be sensitive to the stage of your crops and ultimately move your crops from harvest to market as quickly as possible to avoid the (ruinous) effects of bad weather, everyone will be competing with each other for different actions at different times among the different draftable dice. This should make choices about what to draft much more complicated as you gauge what you need at the time against what other people need.

However, it seemed to me that the design of Dice Veggies is rough at the moment. There could be a better way of tackling the representation of planting and growing than having separate tokens for each stage and effectively needing 9 x 4 x # of players of each type in the component list to cover all the possible combinations of dice rolls. It also seems a little strange to be rolling lots of d4s (they aren't very conducive for rolling) and separate types of d4s for actions and for crops. The weather die is just chance and will only serve feelings of frustration. And the crop selling combinations seem a little contrived. So, there could be a more elegant solution for all of this stuff that requires less components, is more intuitve and less potentially frustrating.

Finally, with your ability to choose your opponent's dice, it seems like you will always keep the best rolls for yourself and it is going to be minimally interactive. If you were forced to use an action given to you (rather than permitted to), then I can see a lot of interesting 'attack' strategies for dice donating rather than it being a case where everyone else gets your 'leftovers'.

richdurham
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Vote distribution

Phew. I had a tough time picking votes for this contest, and this time picked them according to criteria similar to Pastor Mora's. For example in many cases since the theme wasn't very interesting to me, I leaned more towards whether I was interested in the mechanic.

TulpenMania - 0 votes (Disqualified because it was over the word limit, and there was a small stink over this issue back after February. This entry wasn't even close to 800.)

Spring Into Action - 0 votes (I did not feel it fit the theme at all)

Birds of Pair O Dice - 1 vote (I felt similarly to Richard James in his critique - thanks for spending the words for me, Richard)

Spring planting - 2 (This fit the theme well, but in the end it was not very engaging at all and there was little in terms of actually drafting dice - just choosing when to push your luck or not by rolling more break-prone dice. I did like that all the players seemed to use the same pool, and from my reading, you can't use the same dice as other players are using. With a little work i think that particular concept could be developed into a thicker game - one where there is a layer of interaction on top of each player's use of the dice making them closer to breakdown.)

Busy Bees - 0 votes...I think I completely missed this one at the late-night voting I was doing...On reading it now, I really like the simple nature of this game; it matches the whimsy of both the theme and mechanic of dice. I do, however, think that as a player I would personally get frustrated when I can't roll triples in order to replant flowers because the distribution on the board was poor. Did you playtest what happens when you let a player spend all three of their dice doing actions? Like "a double and a single action, or three single actions?"

Springtime for Dinos - 0 votes

Diced veggies - 2 votes - (While this was technically over the word limit too, it was a lot closer. Again, I had similar feelings to Richard James here. I think the problem with the Weather Die is that there is nothing to be done about it. If players had the choice of using some of their resources to mitigate the risk then it would have more of the feeling of "well....I knew it was a risk and took it..." instead of feeling screwed. For instance, during the harvest phase players might be able to discard crop or laborer dice to act as a "granary" to store crops. Then the Weather Die could be used to show the severity of the storm. Players that spent enough resources to protect against the storm will still be able to sell, and everything else is lost. The idea is simply to have the players divert resources to safety rather than growth - to add in the risk of not playing it safe and making big bucks at market)

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