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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

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Brykovian
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Use this thread for comments and critiques in regard to the entries submitted to the Game Design Showdown August 2005 Challenge (found here).

-Bryk

Hamumu
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Not making the same mistake twice, I am going to make only general comments, though I have already written up my ham-handed critiques to be delivered from my pulpit once voting is over (it was either that or do work today).

I think people sort of blew off an important part of the challenge this month. I would rate only a couple of the entries as being strongly playable in a moving car. If I were 'disqualifying' (as in not voting for) entries on that basis, my top 3 would be auto-picked for me! But some of the entries that aren't really suited to a car are significantly more appealing to me than some of the ones that are, so I think I have to go with the gameplay over rules-following to some extent. But don't think you all got away scot-free! I'm factoring it in!

Scurra
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Yes, I disqualified a large proportion of the entries for requiring more than a minimum playing surface area, which I felt went against the spirit of the contest. Some of the ideas in those entries were great, but they didn't feel to me as though they really embraced the challenge.

seo
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I agree with Scurra. Most of the fun of the GDS is trying to figure out how to create a good game within the challenge restrictions.

I haven't finished reading all the entries, but I feel a bit disapointed. This month was about a game playable in a car or train, and while some of the games sure sound interesting, I can't give them my vote if they don't comply to the basic rules. It's not that we're talking about how many cards you can hold on your hand or how many different coins can be considered "easy to find."

Maybe some of the "rebel" games are better games than the more stricltly complaiant ones, but it would be unfair to judge them solely on game quality. Maybe someone submited a lousy game because all his other ideas were unpractical to play in a car seat, or required hard to handle componente, or just didn't fit in the specified size. Voting for a great tile laying game which uses a 20x20 board and 300 miniatures would punish this person for observing the rules.

Seo

Kreitler
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

seo wrote:
Maybe someone submited a lousy game because all his other ideas were unpractical to play in a car seat, or required hard to handle componente, or just didn't fit in the specified size.

Yeah--that's certainly how I feel about my entry--and I'm still not sure that it's fully compliant. Given that our only real constraints were "card game" and "travel game", it's hard not to feel like the games should fit within those broad constraints.

K.

jwarrend
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Note that there is no formal statement in the contest rules that the game must be playable in a car or train -- this was included in the "background" section. The "design limitations" only mandate that the game have few components, be a card game, and be playable by 2 players.

To me, the most important criteria seemed to be the portability of the game rather than the small overall footprint. Having said that, I think that the small footprint is within the spirit of the contest, however I think it's silly in the extreme to ding a game for not being playable in a moving car. The only game that you can really play in a moving car is rock-paper-scissors. Any other game, even small, simple ones like Uno, War, Slapjack, or Go Fish are going to be a pain to play in a car.

Note that I haven't read any of the entries (excpet my own), so I have no idea what spatial requirements they entail. I think my entry would be playable at a small table, on a beach blanket, or in a railroad car, but probably not in a car. But I still think it meets the requirements.

I encourage everyone to be a bit flexible with the judging, but my opinion may change after I've read the entries.

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I read through the first few entries, and skimmed some of the others so far... I can't recall any of them in particular, but I remember thinking "Oh my, these are really good!" for most of them. I'll post later when I put more thought into it.

I didn't enter this time, so I can be considered objective for once ;)

- Seth

Hamumu
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

The contest is just for fun, of course, so I say judging has a lot to do with how you felt things went with the "spirit" of the contest. I would definitely say playable in a car was a big part of the spirit of this episode! Especially since it was explicitly stated, regardless of which section it was. I thought of this on more levels than simply "small footprint" - there's issues of stuff sliding around, things falling between seats, managing your cards. Designing a game for car play is a very interesting challenge.

There were just a couple entries that I felt really grabbed onto that spirit and went nuts with it, and I was really impressed by that. Others completely disregarded it and took the contest as "make a 2 player game with a deck of cards". That's how it looked to me anyway. Of course, in the end, my votes didn't go to the ones that really embraced the idea... they went to my favorite entries gameplay-wise!

I think once you read the entries, you'll be surprised to discover just how much more complex than rock-paper-scissors you can get while being very car-playable.

jwarrend
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Hamumu wrote:
Especially since it was explicitly stated, regardless of which section it was.

No, it makes a huge difference! Saying that game players have expressed a desire for a game playable in a train or car is not the same as saying that entries must conform to that. (Heck, if I was going to get really nitpicky, I'd try to leverage the word "or" in the above sentence).

Quote:
I thought of this on more levels than simply "small footprint" - there's issues of stuff sliding around, things falling between seats, managing your cards. Designing a game for car play is a very interesting challenge.

I completely agree, but what I'm saying is that it's not necessarily implied as the crux of this challenge. The contest was called "Travelin' light", not "Close Quarters".

As you say, it's just for fun, and it doesn't really matter. And I agree with you that if you think someone did a great job making a car-playable game and want to reward them, that's great! What I don't like is the condescending tone that some have adopted about how everyone is flaunting the rules by not making the entries car-playable. That's just not the case, in my view.

But again, I must read the entries before passing judgement!

-J

Kreitler
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

jwarrend wrote:
What I don't like is the condescending tone that some have adopted about how everyone is flaunting the rules by not making the entries car-playable.

I didn't think anyone sounded condescending -- I sure hope I didn't.

Moving on...I've now read most of the entries. All I can say is...wow. Every month, I'm amazed at how thoroughly unimaginitive I feel after reading the other submissions.

I feel like the BGDF water boy...

K.

Scurra
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

jwarrend wrote:
What I don't like is the condescending tone that some have adopted about how everyone is flaunting the rules by not making the entries car-playable. That's just not the case, in my view.

Hang on Jeff, I don't think that saying I didn't think they embraced the spirit of the challenge was being condescending about any of the entries - as usual, they were all great.
I suspect this may be on a level of the argument about whether or not someone is allowed to track people's score with a pen and paper when there isn't an open scoring system. Just because the rules don't say you can't doesn't mean you can. This is sort of the reverse of that; the restriction seemed pretty explicit to me (which is partly why I didn't manage to come up with an entry this time: otherwise I'd just have entered one of my card games...)

buthrukaur
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Travelin' light judging

Since the entries are so difficult to choose between b/c so many are very good games, here is the criteria I will be using to Judge the contest, I am stealing the judging platform from Iron Chef. Each section gets 1-5 points and the entry with the most points gets first etc...

A. Originality:
5 - Never seen anything like it before
4 - Took a concept I've seen before and flipped it on its head.
3 - Feels very much like but different enough to be interresting.
2 - May have seen a version of this in the Gamut of games.
1 - Did a BGG search and founds 75 copies of this game with 1 or 2 rules tweaks.

B. Rules clarity
5 - Felt like i was playing the game while reading the rules
4 - No questions how to play once done reading
3 - 1 maybe 2 head scratchers but should be able to figure it out while playing.
2 - took perseverance but i was able to figure it out.
1 - Fisrt read: scratch head, second read: crossed eyes, third read: offered it to the Miskatonic university to serve as an example of the elder gods chaotic influence on the universe.

C. Fun Factor
5 - Looks like a blast
4 - I might be able to get my wife to play
3 - As fun as
2 - I might be able to get gamers to play
1 - I would rather have my eye gouged out.

D. Theme element How tightly did game stick to theme
5 - You could play while hiking
4 - You could play while driving
3 - You could play while on a bus
2 - You could play while on a plane on the dinner tray
1 - You will need to take an RV so you can use the table to play.

Score = A + B + C + D + D
Ties are broken by C

~Ben

markmist
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Thanks for the Iron Chef guide to voting - it helped me to narrow down my choices.

I had about 6 favorites, but to pick the top 3 - I had to eliminate a few games that would be great fun, but just seemed like they would be too complicated to pull out when travelling. I personally would not want a travel game to have alot of text to read on cards or varying card effects. I also had to eliminate 1 game due to needing a large table space to accomodate the game.

I also liked the fact that a few people designed games that can be played with nothing but a deck of playing cards. I think I am going to try them out and see how they work.

Challengers
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Yassir! (Yet Another Solid Showdown, I Reckon!)

There is no need for me to repeat the superlatives bestowed upon this month's fantastic entries.

Mitch

Scurra
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

markmist wrote:
I also liked the fact that a few people designed games that can be played with nothing but a deck of playing cards. I think I am going to try them out and see how they work.
When I did that (for the "Out There!" contest), I got no votes at all. Not that I'm bitter, or anything ;-))

seo
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

It's all about timing, David. The world wasn't ready for your game then. ;-P

Seo

Hamumu
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

If it's any consolation (or disconsolation...), I didn't vote for any of the ones that used regular cards this time either. I thought it was a cool thing to do (and I really want to play them when things aren't so hectic around here), but it doesn't get my vote unless the end result sounds better than the other games!

It was definitely a tough call this time to pick the best though, and at least one of the playing card ones was in right up until the end, but got edged out.

doho123
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

It's sort of interesting...my interpretation, like others, was to develop a game that could be PLAYED on a small footprint, like on one of those trays that pop down in an airplane. ("played while sitting on a train or riding in a car"). But I can see where some might interpret the rules as something that can easily be CARRIED in a small footprint ("games in small packages that could be easily stuck into a backpack") since the "design limitations" talk about package size, but not game play size.

However, I think that the intent was to develop a game easily played WHILE traveling (as opposed to playing something at a destination during your travels), so I'll have to be voting in that direction.

Brykovian
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Voting will remain open through noon of this coming Monday (29-Aug) ... to place your vote, simply send me a Private Message and give me your top 3 games.

Thanks!
-Bryk

Kreitler
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Well...I just voted. If I'd had my way, it would've been a 6-way tie for second place. There were many good entries, but I thought each potential front-runner contained some flaw that prevented a single runaway victor.

Nevertheless, these were some of the most interesting entries yet seen in a showdown. I can't wait to see the outcome!

K.

Scurra
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I wasn't surprised at the winner (despite it being one that I disqualified on several grounds), nor that - for the first time - I didn't vote for any of the top three, although I would note that I commented favourably on two of them in my vote :-) [In fact, upon reviewing my voting, it seems as though I liked a completely different set of games to everyone else, with only my #3 vote going to a game someone else voted for!]

I think the real lesson from this challenge is that the conditions need to be much more tightly defined in future. By all means introduce a clause that says that the game needs to be portable, but I think what's made the previous ones interesting were the other constraints (even the one I set!)

(My only real comment about Arcadia is that it is certainly topical, what with two or three "transparent plastic" games recently released. Indeed, this was one of the factors that cost it marks from me: if I hadn't played Hecatomb this last week, I'd have considered it even though I felt it flagrantly disregarded the playing space and portability condition...)

doho123
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I didn't vote for Arcadia for similar reasons. I though that the main gimmick was borrowed too heavily from Gloom (whether or not that was intentional). In addition, upon reading the first paragraph, I instantly came up with (at least to me) was a much more elegant ruleset for a "build a pastoral village area with transparent cards" game.

Otherwise, my votes came in 3rd, 4th, and 7th (with my game coming in 2nd, making it kind of tough to vote for).

Of course, I was in the "play while in a car group" for voting, so most of my voting procedures went towards games that had less components, tightly controlled use of space and play area, and simple rules without the CCG effect of having card with rules-enhancing text.

Hamumu
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I'm really sorry that In The Time Of Art flubbed completely, because I really liked it! It was going to go in my top 3 somewhere, but unfortunately, so were a bunch of others. Are We There Yet edged it out.

Luckily for everyone, I wrote up critiques of every single entry! Lucky you! Enjoy!
(ed. note: I wrote all these a week ago except for the one for my own, so they're affected by that)

1. Belemmer
Sounds interesting... not a good game to play in a car by ANY means, unless you have the magnetic cards my mom used to have. Those were cool. A worry I have with this game is not so much analysis paralysis as just a lot of time spent 'reading' the board to figure out what your options are. Maybe that is not such a problem since only one thing changes each turn. Since it uses regular cards and is for 2 players, I'm going to try and see if I can play it with my wife and see how it goes in person. It's really fun to find a GDS entry I can actually try out!

2. Four Cards
I'm wondering if this is Sebastian's entry... because it's almost an exact clone of Target! It even uses some of the same symbols for suits! Well, okay, there aren't that many simple abstract shapes out there, but who picks hexagon as a suit? Anyway, it is a little different from Target, basically in terms of how the goals are handled. And unfortunately, since I've played Target, the only way I can really judge this is by comparison, and I don't like it nearly as much. It's much more simplified (and why do the cards even have numbers if the goal cards only mention suit?), and lacks the painful interactivity of Target (in Target, target cards are shared between all players, so when somebody grabs one you've been working on, there is fury and righteous anger). It also seems like having 8 combinations of suits on each goal card means you'll almost invariably have a completed goal every turn! In fact, the example shown in the GDS, the player matches 4 of the 8 combinations (and further, 3 of those 4 are really the same exact combination).

3. In The Time Of Art
Another not easy to play in the backseat of a moving car, with a set of resources and project cards laid out in front of the players. But I like this game (and I don't play games in cars anyway!). It's a very simple game, but interesting. I think the explanation of the "exponential" scoring scheme at the end needs help, because it is not exponential as I understand the term, and it requires a little bit of logic puzzling to figure out the "and so on" part. Scoring could be a bit of a burden really, but it doesn't seem too bad, and I like that you pop up a reference card right then when you need it. It really is a simple game, which is a good thing, but could also be the downfall, in terms of providing interesting challenges.

4. American Revolution
This one's a little more car-friendly, but I can see some juggling of decks and things going on. I was really intrigued by this entry and it sounded pretty cool, right up until I reached " The current battle ends when [some criteria is met]." That was a huge letdown. I think the die could be removed from the game, as the casualty mechanic seems cumbersome anyway (and won't guys die during the battle? If not, what does "first shot" mean?). The special effects of leaders and captured areas both get me interested, and I like the choice of using Political or Military skill from your leader. There doesn't seem to be any explanation of where or how you change your leader. Or do you just draw one leader and that's it for the current game? Doesn't seem like it from the descriptions. All in all, I like the stuff surrounding the battle, but I get the impression that the battle portion hasn't been thought out just yet.

5. Bitter Creek
The gunslinging mechanic is interesting and unique, Again, it doesn't really work in a car (an 8 sided die is going nowhere but between the cushions!), but aside from the die, it's much more car-manageable than most of the others so far. I just really like how this plays out, but I think in practice it would be lacking in flavor - there are only 6 gunslingers, maybe they could have some special features each to give them more interest. Maybe there could be a couple special trick cards (to go along with aim and fire - things like scaring the other guy to make him miss and do a nerve check, or firing twice, or dynamite to blow you both up at once), and each player can take one of those with them when they first get their Fire and Aim cards, or whatever. Just something for more flavor, so it's not just plain numbers you're dealing with.

6. Arcadia
Transparent cards are fun! And here's that wacky scoring scheme again, this time called "triangular". This seems to be the more correct term for it (never heard it before myself, though). It's hard to do in your head quickly, so I hope a chart comes included. This game sounds very cool, though I rate it very low on the "works in a car" scale... plastic cards stacked up in 3 piles? Anyway, I like the stacking (transparent cards could be a fun GDS requirement), I like the scoring, and I like the special features of the Wanderers. I think this game could be a little complicated to follow, especially in a car, but it sounds fun and worth the effort.

7. Travelling Light
Finally, someone taking the challenge to heart! A game that is eminently playable in a car. Unfortunately, I don't quite get it. Well, I do get it, and at first it sounded really cool, but the different kinds of packs muck it up a lot. I think this game might not be too complicated to actually play (provided you had cards that were actually labeled for it, instead of using a normal card deck - but thank you for providing the prototype method so we can try it out!), but it's very very hard to follow as read. Repacking makes absolutely no sense to me. I would hope the official cards would have printed on them just what can claim what! The one thing that seems like a real problem is the way the claiming cards are face-down - wouldn't it (not thinking too hard here, may be missing something obvious) make a lot more sense if the pack contents were face down, since they all count as size 1, and the claiming card was face up, since its size is important?

8. Pudding Incident
I thought I was fairly clever making a non-collectible CCG where you build the deck before play via a drafting mechanism. I still like the idea, and I have a feeling it would make a very fun game. But I'm not at all surprised it scored really low. I couldn't for the life of me write up simple coherent rules (I promise you, the gameplay is very simple and straightforward!), and I know the seething hatred of CCGs around here. I think it's also a game you'd have to play to see the coolness of (because most of the fun factor comes in with the different card powers). It could also be that playing it would reveal it to be horrible... I have no idea, actually! I give it middle-of-the-road (pun!) on car playability. The drafting phase is pretty rough in a car, but the gameplay phase is not bad at all. I hate my theme (ooh, you say there are FOUR elements!? Wonder what they could be!). I wish Brykovian had given me one to save me from myself.

9. Haul Assets
On the scale of car-playability, this one scores very low with its multiple card piles and combination of a hand of cards with collecting freight cards for later scoring. I like the basis of this game and the fundamentals, but there are a few oddities that stuck out for me. I don't understand the purpose of the odd/even rules in drawing cards - seems really obnoxious without adding anything to the game. Also, why is there a rule on what to do if you play a Freight card without valid Transportation? Why not just say it has to be valid? It makes me wonder if that has some strategic value to make a play like that...

10. Sardini Is Dead
Again, bad for in-car play, but not terrible, as the only thing you need is a few cards sitting face up in a row (the tricks). I could see playing this in a car, with just occasionally having to rescue a stray trick. I like the rules of this game a lot, I'm a sucker for completing arbitrary and unique sets (which incidentally is why I like the game Target!). The idea that each player draws more cards than the last nicely ups the ante as well. I also sort of like that you can go for an encore, but I can't imagine anyone ever doing it - after doing your first trick, your hand would be very depleted, and you'd be attempting a completely unknown trick, with the risk of failure being instant game over? Doesn't sound like a good bet.

11. Nippon
A clever way to deal with the in-car play requirement! I think it works well. I'm very impressed with the included image - this game actually exists! The gameplay seems a little bit complex, but understandable. I think it could be a lot of fun to play.

12. Posit
Very car playable (in fact, I'd say it's ideal for in-car play!). This is a good simple game, and another that uses such a basic deck that I think I'll try playing with my wife (helps that she loves mastermind games). Not much to say about this game, seems like it would work and be enjoyable. I don't think it's my favorite game ever because it is so basic, but it doesn't really need anything more than it has - it sounds like a good game as is.
[ed. note: I did play it with my wife and it was alright, but I hit a major flaw. She had a full house, and there was no way for me to guess which she had 3 of and which she had 2, since you can only guess up to 2 of the same thing in a turn. I lost because I guessed wrong. We were thinking of adding some rule like "turn up 1 of the unused cards each time both players have had a turn", to gradually add that info in]

13. Are We There Yet
This is not very car-playable at all, ironically. It also reminds me a lot of a game I invented recently, though in mine the theme is hiding items from your spouse to get away with them in the divorce settlement! I like this game. I think the die-rolling Mommy thing is unnecessary (especially if you're trying to play in a car!), though it has great flavor to it, so it'd be sad to remove it. But I think the game would be tighter without it. I hate when dice are included for just one little thing like that. This entire game is themed very nicely, especially the ending condition. And I greatly appreciate the presence of a Yoink card.

seo
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Congratulations for the winners, specially to Yogurt and his return to the throne! ;-)

I didn't vote Arcadia, though, but The Great Sardini and Bitter Creek were two of my votes (Are we there Yet? being the third).

I was surprised my game received two votes. I didn't expect any, not just because there were really good games competing, but because I don't think Four Cards is anything more than mediocre at best. So many thanks to the two voters who beleived in my game more than I did. :-)

Seo

seo
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Hamumu wrote:
2. Four Cards
I'm wondering if this is Sebastian's entry... because it's almost an exact clone of Target! It even uses some of the same symbols for suits! Well, okay, there aren't that many simple abstract shapes out there, but who picks hexagon as a suit? Anyway, it is a little different from Target, basically in terms of how the goals are handled. And unfortunately, since I've played Target, the only way I can really judge this is by comparison, and I don't like it nearly as much. It's much more simplified (and why do the cards even have numbers if the goal cards only mention suit?), and lacks the painful interactivity of Target (in Target, target cards are shared between all players, so when somebody grabs one you've been working on, there is fury and righteous anger). It also seems like having 8 combinations of suits on each goal card means you'll almost invariably have a completed goal every turn! In fact, the example shown in the GDS, the player matches 4 of the 8 combinations (and further, 3 of those 4 are really the same exact combination).

I'll clarify this, as it is my game. I didn't know about Sebastian's Target, but the shared target sound as great idea. I guess Target might be sort of what I tryed to acheive with Four Cards.

I think you missed one (essential) detail in the game: card combinations must be orderd by the numbers in the cards. Without the numbers and this rule, I also think the game would be a bit stupid. In the example, only the first combination is matched, once the player gets the 9-blue. Without the numbers the 4-blue card would have been enough.

I wouder is Sebastian would think using a shared target card would be theft... maybe if I offer some illustration skill in exchange for a licence... ;-)

Seo

Sebastian
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

seo wrote:
Hamumu wrote:
I'm wondering if this is Sebastian's entry... because it's almost an exact clone of Target!

I'll clarify this, as it is my game. I didn't know about Sebastian's Target, but the shared target sound as great idea. I guess Target might be sort of what I tryed to acheive with Four Cards.

...

I wouder is Sebastian would think using a shared target card would be theft... maybe if I offer some illustration skill in exchange for a licence... ;-)

I think that Hamumu was responding to my threat of listing a commercial game in order to see if anyone was paying attention. As it was, I didn't have the time to do even that, let alone think of a decent entry myself. Ah, well... next time ... next time I will be king!

[If it wasn't clear, then I don't know what this Target game is, and you have my complete blessing to do anything you want with it.]

Challengers
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Great Contest!

Congrats to ALL contestants! I loved the imagery of Arcadia so much, it got my immediate first-place vote. Yogurt, you don't need no steenking pitchas!
I noticed that some folks compared it to existing "transparency" games. I guess I don't get out much, because I had never seen anything like it.
Pudding Incident got my second-place vote. If I have fun reading it, and it makes me laugh ...
Four Cards got the nod for my third-place vote, edging out Sardini and Bitter Creek (whew! that was tough to decide!) There is something about Mastermind and Things-That-Remind-Me-Of-Mastermind. At least, that's what came to mind as I read Four Cards. I especially liked how the value of the cards dictate their order. One idea that might be cool, if seo hasn't already thunk of it, is to analyze all of the possible combos and the probabilities of achieving them. Then, make the goal cards reflect the decreasing probabilities, by placing an "easy" combination at the top and more "difficult" ones toward the bottom. Now, players can earn up to eight VPs for any given goal card.
Haul Assets just begs to be made into a full-blown board game! I loved the cards and the concept. (When I was in elementary school, my teacher attempted to make a cross-country pick-up and deliver game. I always had fond memories of that effort.)
For the first time since I began participating in these challenges, I actually play-tested my entry. The kids actually liked it! The following week, while driving to Kings Dominion, My son and his friend played in the car the whole time! Sorry about the full-house, Hamumu ... it never came up during testing. That's a fatal flaw, indeed! (Unless you happen to be holding two of the same rank, but still ...)

See Yall In September!

Mitch

Hamumu
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Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

I should read Four Cards again. It sounds much more playable order-dependent, and could be really good, I'm sorry I didn't read it right.

Yes, Target is a commercial game, and it's very similar to Four Cards, even visually! That's why I thought it was sebastian's clever scam. The Geek says: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/2049 . It's a game I really like - same set collecting stuff as various rummy games, but what sets you need to collect are displayed on a set of Target Cards laid out in front of all players.

(not accusing you of plagiarism, just had been thinking about Sebastian's comments, is all!)

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Overall, I was impressed with the thematic variety of the games: there was a lot of creativity shown in coming up with unique game concepts. I didn’t feel that this carried through to the mechanics themselves; I felt that many of the games whose concepts I liked didn’t follow through with interesting-sounding gameplay or tough decisions.

My rankings:
1st place: Arcadia
2nd place: Bitter creek
3rd place: Great sardini
4th place: (not that it matters) Hauling A$$ets

My comments on the games:

Bellamer: I suspect this one has some interesting strategy, but this kind of game doesn't appeal to me. It has a big element of being able to size up a relatively complex spatial landscape, which isn't really my strong
suit. On the other hand, since the board changes relatively little from turn to turn, it may not be that difficult to evaluate the game state. I like the elegant simplicity, but it just didn't grab me as a fun-sounding game for me; others would probably love it.

Four cards: I must have missed something crucial here, this doesn't seem to have any decisions: you just compare your hand to your scoring card, and if you can meet the scoring card's requirements, you do so and get points. The scoring cards are absurd: evaluating 8 permutations at a time is going to be mentally demanding but not very interesting. The appeal could be dramatically increased if there were only 4 combos, and they were ranked in VP order (ie, turning in the topmost combo gives 1 VP, the 4th combo gives 4VP). Now you've got some decisions to make. Add a way to interact with your opponent somehow and you've got a game (and a potentially good one -- the core concept here with the scoring cards is very promising).

In the time of Art: Feels like "Princes of Florence: the Card game".
A nice idea, and could be fun to play. I like how the goals are to "control" cities and to do multiple works in a category (which presumably is tough because you spend the same resources to do more than one work). I think it sounds a bit more complex than is necessary, and I don't yet see what the tense decision points are, but it's a game I could see myself playing if it was fleshed out more.

American revolution: My game. I have always wanted to try my hand at a "game consisting of only a deck of cards", and this contest gave me a motivation to do it (I tossed in a die at the last moment, but could
probably get rid of it...). On last Thursday, I was out running, and
happened to pass a colonial-style house; this for some reason inspired me to come up with a Revolutionary War game, and I threw something together but it was pretty crude. I was glad for the weekend extension, I was able to flesh out the combat a bit more. I’ve since fleshed out a few details, and may continue working on the game to see if there’s anything there worth pursuing. Thanks, GDS!

Bitter creek: Feels like "Bang!, the card game"...hey, wait a
second... A cute idea for a simple shoot-out game. I like the speed equating to playing extra cards, you have to choose between adding "shot" cards or increasing your chances of hitting. In practice, though, I think these are statistically identical. I struggled with something similar for the combat mechanic in AR -- I was going to have "each card you play gives you a die roll", but then there wasn't enough of a decision between the strategies of "play many cards" and "play cards of different values" (the latter is harder). I think BC is a potentially a good car-playable game for 12 year old boys.

Arcadia: A beautiful idea for a game. Kind of like that game that uses clear plastic sheet overlays, but with a nice twist. Basically, Arcadia is a placement game in the style of Carcassonne but with the twist that you place multiple features simultaneously, and with a fixed spatial relationship (and with later placements "replacing" earlier ones). I don't see how the landscape really affects the gameplay too much, other than having some underlying "resource" spaces. The theme of creating paintings doesn't really come through; why are we trying to resource-grab in our paintings? A better way to do it might have been to gain points based on the 'appropriateness' of the placements; for example, placing a goat in the
sky would earn 0 'appropriateness' points, in a house, maybe 1 pt, on a
hill, 2 pts; something like that. Still, the originality of the concept earns big points from me. Good show.

Traveling light: I like the idea of passing around decks of cards and interacting with the decks, but for me, the playability of this one seems low. I don't like games that try to assign meaning to standard playing cards, particularly in the non-obvious way that this one does. I just drew the the 6 of spades -- is that an object or a pack? I'd never be able to keep this straight. The game might have fared better with me had it called for a custom deck. Universality has its limitations.

The pudding incident: The mechanics don't match the theme; this is a fairly generic fighting game, and I don't see the food fight concept coming through. I felt like the combat mechanic is probably too chaotic: if the crux of the action is wiping out your opponent's current lineup, and his is doing the same to you, then how do you make any kind of plans, if your lineup keeps getting regenerated? I like the concept of a "cheerleader" who can support the two active fighters. I liked the elemental interactions, although again, they jar with the theme of a cafeteria foodfight. I think that the additional design constraint of needing to incorporate creamy milk-based substances perhaps makes this one feel a bit forced.

Hauling a$$ets This is a game with some great core concepts. I really like the “Mille Bornes” feel with the added system of “freight” and “transport” cards, and the interplay between them. Sadly, I don’t think the game, as articulated, really lives up to the promise of the core ideas. It seems a bit too simple: keep and play freight that you can transport, give away freight that you can’t ship.

The great sardini : The theme of this one is great, and the mechanics match well. The elimination concept is awful, not simply because elimination in general is bad, but because it’s so arbitrary here: if you can’t do a trick, you lose the game. And there doesn’t seem to be much tension in decision making: why would you ever begin a trick that you can’t complete? The only reason I could see would be if you aren’t sure you can complete a trick, but are hoping to draw the right cards. But then it becomes too luck driven. I did like the “escalating” mechanic for card drawing, though. Kudos for a great idea, but the execution needs more thought.

Nippon, land of spirits I read this three times, and I’m still not sure what is going on here. I like the idea of how the box is used as a game component, and the combat mechanic sounds interesting, but I just couldn’t figure out exactly how it works from the description, and the example only made me more confused.

Posit: A nice little deduction game that could easily be played in the car. It seems like you could play a lot of times in one sitting, but the game is so simplistic that I’m not sure you’d want to. It’s also rather cerebral, and I wonder how that affects its playability by the younger players (although the ‘peek’ rule could help).

Are we there yet? A fairly typical “take that!” game. The theme is well done, it feels like it captures well the feeling of siblings fighting during a car trip. Unfortunately, like all “take that!” games, it’s almost certainly broken, and the rules that will be needed to accomodate the interactions between all the cards will make the game too complex for its subject matter. Happily, the rules fights that will ensue over card interactions will do a nice job of replicating the theme.

Congrats to all!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Hamumu wrote:

4. American Revolution
This one's a little more car-friendly, but I can see some juggling of decks and things going on.

My goal was "train friendly" (car friendly is tough!), but car playable might be possible...

Quote:

I was really intrigued by this entry and it sounded pretty cool, right up until I reached " The current battle ends when [some criteria is met]." That was a huge letdown.

Sorry to disappoint! This entry was in the spirit of what I think these contests should be all about: coming up with a promising set of core mechanics, but with an expectation that not every detail will be provided. I'd rather see a TBD in a GDS entry than a lame rule just inserted for the sake of offering a rule.

Having said that, I have actually fleshed out combat more in the last week. At the start of a battle, the player who won the last battle chooses the location and then rolls the die -- the result gives the number of rounds that the battle will last. At the end of each of his turns, he decrements the die, and when it reaches 0, the battle is resolved. So, you know how long the battle will last, but must decide when to take a break from upgrading your attack to draw cards.

Quote:

I think the die could be removed from the game, as the casualty mechanic seems cumbersome anyway (and won't guys die during the battle? If not, what does "first shot" mean?).

This is an example of something looking good in my head but my explanation not living up to the vision I'm seeing. A crucial detail I omitted is that the higher number cards will tend to have more casualty markers, so while they're harder to play into battle (because the sum of the cards you add at a given time is given by your leader's military ability), they give more numbers that can potentially be rolled for casualties.

Example, I have a leader whose military ability is 4. I could play 1-1-1-1, a strong attack from a battle-winningness standpoint (because I added 4 cards), or I could add 1-3, a weaker attack (only two cards) but with increased chances of taking casualties. I wish this had come through more clearly, as its really the main source of tension in combat.

But you're right, a diceless combat resolution is possible!

Quote:

The special effects of leaders and captured areas both get me interested, and I like the choice of using Political or Military skill from your leader. There doesn't seem to be any explanation of where or how you change your leader. Or do you just draw one leader and that's it for the current game? Doesn't seem like it from the descriptions.

Again, this is something that I didn't include in the rules, because my view of the showdown is that you're giving an overview of the gameplay, not a manual on how to actually play.

The way I think this will work is that you have a leader on the table, and a leader card in your hand. At the start of your turn, you can either replace your leader on the table with the one from your hand, or not.

Thanks for your comments!

-Jeff

Yogurt
Yogurt's picture
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Joined: 01/09/2009
Critique the August 2005 GDS Challenge Entries

Thanks everyone! I'm glad Arcadia made some friends out there!

Doho123, could you describe the idea you had for a transparent landscape game? I liked the concept for Arcadia, but it was hurriedly executed, so it doesn't surprise me that other smoother possibilities would leap to mind.

I did get the transparent card idea from Gloom's description on BGG, although I haven't actually played Gloom or any other transparent game yet. (There's a copy waiting for me back in BC.)

As for the car seat limitation, I was designing for the train/airplane tray and I judged others that way too. I don't think ANY card game is playable in a car, unless you allow trays. I actually invented the game on a plane with an airplane tray in front of me.

My votes were for (1) American Revolution; (2) Haul Assets and (3) Belemmer.

I didn't take elaborate notes, but I thought these ones had interesting choices and were easy for my weary traveller's mind to grasp quickly. Four Cards was in the running too, and it really does seem like a game that already exists, if only in the Platonic plane of travelling games. :)

I think every game had something for me this month. A few didn't have enough strategy for me, although kids might like them, and others seemed like tweaks of genres (gin or fighting) that I'd explored well enough for now. Travelling Light had a great pitch, but I never could figure it out, despite my best efforts to include it in my top three.

A great collection of games in a month when everyone should be at the beach. Except maybe you southern hemisphere folks.

Thanks again!

Yogurt

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