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[GDS] November 2011 - Oceans Elevens - Critiques

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dobnarr
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Please post feedback, critiques or commentary on this month's entries below. All participants are strongly encouraged to do so - it makes the design process more useful and the showdown more fun.

Full medal results are as follows. For the scoring, remember that gold medals are six points, silver three, bronze one, and arsenic medals (for non-voting submitters) are minus ten.

Entry #9: Pistols and Planks by Argebie/Brian Andrew

Total Score: 32

Entry #3: Commutiny on the Bounty by DogBoy

Total Score: 19

Entry #7: Rubber Duck Invasion by TheRamblingMan/Chris Day

Total Score: 15

Entry #8: Jelly Drifters by PierreNZ/Pierre Rebstock

Total Score: 14

Entry #5: Captain's Bounty by richdurham/Rich Durham

Total Score: 9

Entry #4: Beat to Quarters by dplepage/Dan LePage

Total Score: 7

Entry #1: Island Influence by Flying Sheep/chip

Total Score: 3

Entry #6: Fjord Prize by Auroch

Total Score: 0

(no medals)

Entry #2: Island Merchanteer by budleiser/Bud Leiser

Total Score: -9

TheRamblingMan
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Oceans Elevens Critiques

Hi guys,

First up I'll just say that this was a bunch of fun designing my first game idea and getting it down on paper. I look forward to trying out upcoming competitions.

I won't comment on all the entries but I'll add my thoughts to the one's that I made comments of while reading through them all.

Entry 2: Island Merchanteer
I really liked your writing style, the intro was awesome, then I started to get confused. I didn't really understand the "selling" aspect of the game.

Entry 3: Commutiny on the Bounty
I liked this entry a lot. Though initially I had to read through the rules a couple of times.
Though in my mind I'm not sure if anyone would chose to ignore the Chieftan. Too much risk, not enough reward.

Also, I was a bit confused about this part:

"Then all decisions are revealed simultaneously. Roll the 6-sided die. Add the number of players who Talked with the Chieftain"

Do you have to roll the die here? (ie - if a 3 is rolled and 1 person talked to the chief, does that mean that 4 people would have to have ignored him to make them angry?)

Entry 4: Beat to Quarters
I'm not sure about the mechanic of all the ships following the same path. Seems a little too easy to rack up some kills just by being the first one to the front of the fleet.

Entry 5: Captain's Bounty
I'm sure this was the idea you were going for, but 9 minutes seems hectically short in my mind, especially with 6 players. Also if you get killed and have to go for a new goal it seems impossible.
Again, I'm sure this just adds to the frantic pace of the game that you were going for, but personally I don't like being the first to grab a card after you "lend a hand." Too many bad memories of getting beaten at "Snap" as a kid.

Entry 8: Jelly Drifters
I liked this entry a lot, and judging by your photos you've obviously put a lot of time into it. It's well thought out and would be fun to play. The only minor criticism I had of the tile pieces were that the images on the event tiles weren't as appealing or exciting as your other cards. My friend (who also read and really liked the rules) thought they all looked too similar. But again, this is a very minor gripe.

Entry 9: Pistols and Planks
Another good entry, the one part I really liked about this entry was the mechanic of the captain dividing out the lot but each person not knowing what the other has. The voting seems like it would work well, but I would like to use that mechanic in a game that somehow incorporated trade-talking between players. So you're trying to bluff your opponent into taking your lot off you if it's bad. I was thinking about this mechanic a bit, but not sure exactly how it would work. Still, I like the idea of one person knowing what everyone has then watch them try to bluff each other.

Argebie
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Thoughts

Wow thanks for the support everyone! I'm newer here so I'm not sure if it's tactful to be the first to comment but I had a lot of fun participating and wanted to make sure everyone got some feedback =) So here's my thoughts on the entries for what they're worth!

ISLAND INFLUENCE:
(no medal)
What I like: I like the propagation of goods mechanic. I'd like to see a mixture of cubes allowed to stay on one island after scoring as this would give the person who chooses an island a little more choice in strategy. In a longer game this could make for an interesting board, I'm not sure if 9 islands would be a long enough game for this but there's something there.

What I didn't like: The voting mechanic seems more like gambling to me. With the 'first two cubes of a matching color' process, the votes I put in have very little effect on the winning outcome. I don't see much of a rationale for actually voting, especially because the more likely a color is to win the fewer points I receive for it. I'd probably be better off keeping my cubes for the points, never voting and betting on what I see other people choose for their color.

ISLAND MERCHANTEER
(no medal)
What I like: It may seem like a small thing but I like the structure of voting. Last one to vote losing 2 gold makes for quick purposeful voting. I also like that the captain acts as a mediator for the process, it could be a fun strategy as captain to immediately call for a vote not giving anyone a chance say a word.

What I don't like: There aren't a lot of choices to be made. A player will generally buy whatever card is the cheapest, and vote for whatever island will offer then the most. There is very little anyone can do to persuade them otherwise. There's also just a little too much math involved in the buying and selling, I feel like I need a piece of paper and pencil to keep track of what I'm buying and selling for and net gains on various islands.

COMMUNITY ON THE BOUNTY
(no medal)
What I like: Trading. The trading is pretty much the back bone of the game, I think it's done fairly well. I think there's enough options trading for the losers of the sailing vote to find something to do and not feel too screwed.

What I don't like: Get rid of the option to ignore the chieftan. There's no reason to attempt it, especially with the dice roll adding such a huge handicap to attempting it. even in a five player game if everyone came to consensus to ignore him, it could be completely countered by the dice. Additionally, the penalty for voting to ignore him is too much of a risk for that small chance to stop one player from trying to trade (if two out of 5 players decide to trade it is impossible to ignore the chieftan due to the dice). Honestly I think my real problem is the dice itself. I don't mind it as much in the sailing phase, you could think of it like inclement weather but it does tend to undermine the voting aspect.

BEAT TO QUARTERS
(silver)
What I like: I really like the use of dice as ships. Using the dice pips to show remaining supplies is a great visual mechanic, its easy to look around the board and tell who's ships are in danger. I like the maneuvering for key choke points on the pirate's routes that is sure to happen. The Admiral is a nice perk for the vote, and the voting itself is very strategic. Players can plan a trip to port before a voting round, or they can try to sweep up points while others are away.

What I don't like: Some of the point numbers seem a little off, but this would need some play testing first. Also, the admiral's ability to control one other player's ship for a round needs a little toying with. Will the admiral also incur the negative effects of that ships actions? Or could I as admiral move someones ship further from a port it was going to resupply at, or towards one where a raid was about to happen to force them to take negative points, or would I receive the negative points in addition the the negative Admiral points.

Overall, very nice game concept, A good array of strategies that can be employed and the rules are well thought out. I gave this one silver only because I liked the theme of my gold choice's more.

CAPTAIN'S BOUNTY
(bronze)
What I like: I liked this game a lot for the same reasons I like the Munchkin series. You can get a big group of friends together and have fun arguing with each other and competing in semi-ridiculous card slapping competitions and holding friendly grudges against people who've wronged you. I wouldn't quite classify this as a party game but I think it would benefit from moving in that direction.

What I don't like: I would need to see an example of some of the role cards. Some of the example goals seem too easy to guess that a player might have it. For example a player with a collect X gold goal will be found out pretty quickly when he has a stack of cards in front of him. A player with a kill X players goal goes on a killing streak and suddenly can't fly under the radar when they're eventually forced to have to validate killing someone who isn't close to winning. I think the case of "I win if you vote for me or he wins if you don't kill him" will come up a lot, which is just a game of favorites.

I gave this game bronze because I can envision having fun playing it. Fun out of control drama. However the role cards will need some very careful balancing to avoid it become a game of picking your favorite friend to help.

FJORD PRIZE
(no medal)

To be honest, I really didn't understand this game at all. Too many rules and nebulous terms. I also couldn't find anything that related to the theme in it. Sorry, =/

RUBBER DUCK INVASION
(gold medal)
What I like: Firstly, I really like the theme. Are rubber ducks copyright? Secondly, I like the sheer number of ducks that will be on the board and the player controlled setup. It makes for a very interesting board layout throughout the game. I also felt the wind mechanic is well done, and the ability to also have individual movement gives players enough control, but also enough wiggle room to mess with others.

What I don't like: The only thing I would like to see changed is the free for all placement of islands initially. I don't want to get rid of it but I think there needs to bee some guidelines or restrictions to placement. Islands themselves could have a different effect for different players. This way people could try to position islands strategically instead of arbitrarily. Maybe an island would give points to the player who placed it based on how many OTHER players ducks end up on it, then the player could try for a wind strategy. Or an island that was worth points for however many other islands are in the same column. Some things to think about.

I gave this one gold for the replayability of the game and the theme. I think there's a lot that can be done with the basic premise and the voting aspect makes sense to me, it doesn't seem contrived.

JELLY DRIFTERS
(no medal)
What I like: I also liked the theme of this one. It actually shares quite a bit with my gold medalist but just doesn't do enough in terms of strategy for me. However, it is a very friendly game for younger players and those of us with kids. There's a lot to offer here in a classroom setting. Learning coordinates, matching, directions, and planning can all be focused if you wanted to tailor this game for a younger audience.

What I don't like: Personally, I felt like the voting mechanic being the ONLY efficient way to move your jelly was too simplified. I feel like until someone is getting close to winning there's no reason for other players to try to thwart them, especially because in tie votes everyone gets to just do what they wanted anyway. The extra discard mechanic is just too costly to seem very useful. The game overall just seems too random and luck based for me.

Well that's it! I'll be excited to read what others thought and even more so to see what next month's theme will be.

- Brian

Argebie
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Haha

Looks like Ramblingman was writing his responses at the same time as mine, so I wasn't first after all =)

DogBoy
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Kudos to everyone who made

Kudos to everyone who made the effort to submit board or card mockups. I failed to do this for my entry, but appreciated it in the other entries.

Sorry these comments are a bit terse... I thought it would be better to post short critiques than wait until I had the time for longer ones.

###Entry 1: Island Influence

I found the theme uninspiring. The voting mechanic is a neat one, but probably too random to form the central basis of a strategic or tactical game. Betting on a lot of events with high variance doesn't appeal so much to me.

###Entry 2: Island Merchanteer

A simple and effective-looking trading simulation. Unfortunately - even though my entry was also a trading game - I'm not wild about trading games. I'm guessing this game requires too much mental arithmetic for my taste. Hard to tell how much the voting mechanic will add to the game.

###Entry 3: Commutiny on the Bounty

My entry. I'm interested that the two people who have critiqued it so far think that ignoring the chieftain is too risky and should never be chosen. But paradoxically, if that was how most people played the game, then ignoring the chieftain would be 100% risk-free (it's only risky when over 50% of players might pick it). In other words, if I play against two other players who never ignore the chieftain, I will collect 1 free good every turn. The purpose of this mechanic is to balance risk assessment with psychological evaluation of the other players.

###Entry 4: Beat to Quarters (Bronze)

I gave this entry a Bronze medal, mostly because it seemed like a fairly elegant implementation of a pirate defence game. On the other hand, I have mixed feelings about using dice as playing pieces. They aren't as flavourful as little wooden ships (or illustrated cardboard markers).

###Entry 5: Captain's Bounty

This may have promise as a fast-paced light party game. Rules a little unclear - does every player get to vote, or only those with vote tokens? What happens when the timer runs out? I can't see why anyone would ever vote for another player to get a role. I suppose it might depend on the play group. Definitely not a serious strategic game, since the secret goals would be very difficult to balance fairly.

###Entry 6: Fjord Prize

A game of betting on... what exactly? Difficult to get a sense of the game's purpose from reading the rules. Ironically, for a game about fjords, a little dry in flavour terms.

###Entry 7: Rubber Duck Invasion

Sounds like a fun game. Possibly a bit too much variance in the wind - looks like the game could end up in an unpredictable state quite often. Also, a vote can be completely wasted if it is a minority one. Two orthogonal directions help this a bit, and the cards also help. In retrospect I think I like this better than Beat To Quarters - it should have had my Bronze medal vote.

###Entry 8: Jelly Drifters (Silver)

Awesome mockup. Great use of different objects for the jellies to drift onto. Possibly similar issues to entry number 7 with wasted votes ("I want to go East, but my vote won't make any difference because the other two players want to go North"). Would be improved by further player control mechanisms - why not allow the jellies to move actively as well as passively?

###Entry 9: Pistols and Planks (Gold)

Simple, easy-to-understand gameplay. Plenty of thematic flavour. The bag is a cute idea, but could be fiddly. The potential problem of wasted votes is reduced by the limited supply of white and black tokens. No obvious rules problems (but of course only playtesting can decide this). A well-deserved Gold medal.

richdurham
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(What started as) Brief feedback

Congratulations to the winners - For the most part I liked the new voting system (Modified Borda count, FTW) and hope it gets used in the future. I think it will help cut down on ties, although the nearness in quality of entries won't be as apparent unless there are many more voters.

On to some comments - with a question: do you all prefer notes in terms of, "if this were going to be developed to completion, what would need to change?" or more in terms of "why did you vote the way you did?"
For now, I'll comment with the latter in mind.

Entry one - Island Influence (silver)

Apparenently I was the lone medal-giver to this entry. I liked the Cube propagation and the way a vote is still determined by luck a bit. In fact, I think this is something that Pirate Plunder could use in its voting to make it a bit quicker and tense.

This game reminded me a bit of Leo Colovini's "Shangri-la." If you want to develop it, I suggest looking there for inspiration.

Entry two - Island Merchanteer

I'm sure this game would work well mechanically; it just didn't entice me at all. I'll comment more if you ask, but otherwise I'll move on.

Entry three - Commutiny on the Bounty

This entry almost got one of my medals, primarily because of the Prisoner's Dilemma mechanic prevalent throughout the game. Voting to change course? Actually pays off to convince players to go Starboard, and in fact WANT to go Starboard yourself, but then vote Port so that you "lose" the vote and get a Goods cube. Of course, if most people think this way you'll end up actually going the wrong way, AND not getting a cube.

Same thing comes later when talking to the chief; seems like no one should ever skip going to the chief, and in fact a gentlemens agreement among players will quickly be most profitable for everyone since there is no risk....but when the game gets tight, there WILL be that guy who skips the Chief just to get the edge. Classic PD, and I like it.

Problem for me was that I think the game would play almost the same without it, since in a Prisoners dilemma it is always more profitable in the long term to cooperate for a smaller prize. This is a factor of playing with people that have memory of past plays. What I think will happen is that the juicey stuff - the backstabbing - will happen all at the end when there are less chance for repercussions.

If I had another medal, this would have gotten it.

Entry 4 - Beat to Quarters

I didn't vote for this game because I get the impression (perhaps unwarranted) that it would play out like a visual algorithm. The only vote is for who is Admiral, which is fine since Voting only had to be involved somehow and not the central mechanic. But here it still felt awfully tacked on, and very well could be given to the player in last place every third round to the same effect (why would I give it to the guy in the lead unless my goal in the next three rounds is to run away from all pirates so that they all destroy ports and escape from the board to give the Admiral negative points).

Entry five - Captains Bounty

To answer some questions about this entry, yes, it IS supposed to be frentic and yes, it probably won't work with 6. However, I don't think it will be as hard to balance the roles as I fear, since most will have requirements in multiple categories and a will overlap with other roles. The effect of this is to have the game end sooner since multiple players are working toward similar goals, although each wants to do it better than the other guy.
The result are roles similar to a game like "Bacchus' Banquet." I don't intend for them remain unfigured out and super-secret until the end of the game. Players SHOULD be able to figure out what the others' roles are.

As for killing someone and them then having no chance, you're right, its not fair. That would change in development - but that is a conversation for another time.

There are a number of changes I'd already like to do, like:
- removing the Captain and Quartermaster completely
- allowing Kill attempts without a "vote" but instead just playing weapons on each other and hoping to have other players support
- adding another economic cycle with the vote tokens (like the black/white stones of "Pistols and Planks" or "Be Ashamed Young Prince")
- using a voting mechanic with luck, like in "Island Influence"

I don't think 9 minutes is too short (for the spy to then win), but I had pondered an option to have a number of turns as opposed to a timer. It was discarded because it wasnt visceral enough, and as was pointed out by Brian Andrew it is a loud, fast, backstabbing party-ish game.

Entry six - Fjord Prize

This entry would benefit greatly from some visuals. Also, I felt the "Oceans" theme was a bit too removed from the game.

Entry seven - Rubber Duck Invasion

I felt this game had a bit too much upkeep and not enough depth to hold attention. For example, if each of four players has 15 ducks, and we'll say there are half of them out and not on islands during a typical game at any one time, then there are about 32 ducks out at once.

Every turn, each of these need to be moved according to the wind, event cards that ignore wind, other ducks or islands in the way, etc.
That means most of the game is not spent strategizing but actually moving the ducks. And how much of that strategy do I really control, moving one duck a random number of spaces each turn?

I could see this upkeep not being big if players only bring out one or two ducks out at a time, but then are they really interacting much? 16 x 16 grid is a lot of space with lots of islands to go to. I could ignore all the other players if there were only a few ducks out.

I like the fun potential of dozens of ducks, but not of the mess upkeep. Maybe if the board was 8 x 8 instead, with less islands and a different way to determine movement? Like a number of move points equal to the number of players + any special events you can play. Then you can spend these points on current ducks or move new ones out as strategy demands.
I hope these thoughts are not too presumptive - let me know if you want to discuss any more in a thread!

Entry eight - Jelly Drifters (bronze)

Slightly silly (a positive, to me), good implementation of the Ocean theme. The vote is wind, like the previous entry, but here I felt there was a lot more interaction (with the board, at least) and not a lot of pieces to move, to warrant it. Solid, and could have swapped with my silver vote.

Entry nine - Pistols and Planks (gold)

Very simple, clean game, with a good use of voting as a mechanic AND as an economic resource. Reminds me of voting games such as "Be Ashamed Young Prince", "Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple" and an unpublished game I've played based on Dante's Inferno. The difference here is that there's no storytelling, only lots of risk assessment.

I loved the card distribution method coupled with this voting, and I think it works well with the game-end condition. In particular because it denies any card being trashed entirely, so you have a (potentially) known quantity of points available. It might reduce the number of strategies, though, since now there is no option of Using/discarding high gold cards to keep them out of the hands of others. But that doesn't seem like the game you're going for anyway.

Overall, the lightness of depth worked to this game's advantage and I imagine it going well as an in-between for larger games. In my reply to "Island Influence" I thought that they voting as done there could be adapted for use here - perhaps the first color to have three pulled instead of counting them all each round.

Overall, simplicity won this day. Nice work!

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