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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

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Brykovian
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Use this thread to make comments about the entries submitted to the May 2005 challenge of the Game Design Showdown (link) ...

Personally, I was quite happy to see the number of entries -- I was worried that perhaps the "gadget" requirement would scare more folks away. Also, I think the word limit has helped to bring the entries back to "detailed descriptions" instead of a full-fledged rules write-ups.

Have it 'em ... ;-)

-Bryk

seo
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

There are some interesting games there, and some interesting gadgets too.

What makes the task of deciding my vote more difficult is how some game descriptions left a bit too much detail (IMHO) unexplained. I won't give specific game names just yet, as the voting is still going on, though. But a few games left me wondering 'how does the "manufacturing" work' or things like that. Actually, a couple of the ideas I liked most had this problem.

That left me in an uneasy position to decide: should I vote based just on the idea, or should I rather vote for other game with a more detailed description of the mechanics? Because I know this isn't a competition for finished, playtested, graphically developed games, but still we all know the hardest part of designing a game is solving the many little details and complications that emerge as you work on an idea, and that many times a good idea ends in a blind alley.

So, what do you think? Should we value the entries based mostly on the basic idea? Should we give some credit for a more detailed mechanics developement/description? If so, how much? We can't tell how much of the lack of datailed description of the game mechanics is due to the 800 word limitation or the game complexity itself, so even if we think 'this guy worked a lot and solved a lot of problems', we can't be sure, in most cases, if the other guy didn't work as much as the first, but simply didn't include as much detail in his description of the game, but has everything ready to go to the printer.

I'd love to hear your opinions on how to rate the entries.

Yogurt
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Before I read the games, I thought you were being too picky, seo, but now I see what you mean.

I think key parts of the game do need to be explained. I'm fine if designers leave aside unusual occurences ("what happens in a tie?" "what if I owe a gold but have none?"), but if I'm left unsure about how a major rule would work, that's a concern. And if a designer had hundreds of words left under the limit, as many of us did, then it looks like a design problem, not an editing slip.

That said, I didn't expect people to repeat Brykovian's explanation of "manufacturing" itself, which is that you take two items, discard them, and get a new third item.

An aside about ties, I just realized this morning that the way Struggle of Empires handles ties for area control (you both get full points) leads to great detentes around the board. So ties aren't always a fringe issue!

The question that I'm mulling now is do I reward the fun gadgets or do I reward the vital gadgets whose gameplay role would be impossible to replace with more traditional components? Toy versus game! I'm going back and forth.

Yogurt

Scurra
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

I found that the toughest call too: some gadgets were clearly cute but impractical, others were cute but irrelevant (in that their function could have been applied easily without the gadget) and some were just weird. In the end I went for one that I felt balanced gameplay with production potential.

But related to that, I do want to raise the issue of including graphics with an entry. It's been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and in a competition with such a constrained word-limit, adding graphics seems to me to be providing a potentially unfair advantage; especially in this case where explaining a gadget without the benefit of a picture was tough (unless it was fairly simple.) I don't think that the inclusion of pictures will or should necessarily influence voting, but I do think there is a divide here between those that that can and those that are... "artistically challenged".

Challengers
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

seo wrote:
That left me in an uneasy position to decide: should I vote based just on the idea, or should I rather vote for other game with a more detailed description of the mechanics?

I vote with my awe radar. I am not a great writer, so I don't feel right penalizing entrants for any perceived lacking in the description. If I get a genuine gee-whiz feeling after reading the description, then I will consider voting. As it turns out, this new method of making three votes is great, as I had a very difficult time choosing between two. In the end, the first-place vote was given to the entry that I felt had a better gadget.
Speaking of gadget, I thought mine was so cool, until I saw what everyone else did. The brainpower in this forum is awesome!

Mitch

Challengers
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Scurra wrote:
I do want to raise the issue of including graphics with an entry. It's been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and in a competition with such a constrained word-limit, adding graphics seems to me to be providing a potentially unfair advantage; especially in this case where explaining a gadget without the benefit of a picture was tough (unless it was fairly simple.) I don't think that the inclusion of pictures will or should necessarily influence voting, but I do think there is a divide here between those that that can and those that are... "artistically challenged".

I brought up an argument against the use of a description template. I believe the same thing applies to graphics - presentation is everything. I think gifted writers can make you "see", while gifted graphic artists can make you "feel". Take a look at your game shelf: I'll bet there aren't too many amateurish stick figures drawn on the boxes.

Having said that, I also believe that in our capacity as reviewers, we are savvy enough to see past any hype in the presentation, be it empty prose (puffery) or opportunistic graphics (eye candy).

Mitch

seo
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Scurra wrote:
But related to that, I do want to raise the issue of including graphics with an entry. It's been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and in a competition with such a constrained word-limit, adding graphics seems to me to be providing a potentially unfair advantage; especially in this case where explaining a gadget without the benefit of a picture was tough (unless it was fairly simple.) I don't think that the inclusion of pictures will or should necessarily influence voting, but I do think there is a divide here between those that that can and those that are... "artistically challenged".

I think you have a good point, Scurra. At first, I thought: the main reason to limit the entries to 800 words was to make the task of getting acquainted with 10+ games in such short time less complicated. So if you can include a picture to explain the cards, board, mechanics, gadget or whatever, and make evaluation easier, that sounds as a great idea.

But your comment made me realize how unfair this can be for those "artistically challenged", to quote you. As strange as this may sound, I know how anyone in this position might feel because I'm on the opposite side of the "divide". I often use images to explain my ideas (many in this forum might already noted this), because my english isn't as good as I would like it to be. If the forum were in spanish, I guess I could draw a lot less, and I certainly wouldn't need to have the dictionary open in another window all the time. It would take much less time to express my opinions and ideas. So I can perfectly understand your point.

And while a limit on the use of images would be a disadvantadge to me, personally, I still think it's at least reasonable to set some limits to image usage. If the forum were in german I wouldn't be able at all to participate, so what about people who can't (or feel they can't) express through images? I think up to a point, they're left in an extremely disadvantageos (there I was again, looking for the right word in the dictionary) position.

I think you can notice, reading the entries, how many of them would benefit a lot from a few images. And I'm sure none of the entrants choose to not include a picture just out of laziness. So they probably were at a disadvantage.

OTOH, some of us are just beginning to design games, while others are even published designers, so it when Bryk says "design a game..." some are at a disadvantadge too. Yet that doesn't mean a newbie can't come up with a great game, or the experienced designer suffer designer's block. The basic idea of a seven days limit to come up with a game is also potentially unfair for those with less free time to spend on the project.

So in the end, while I agree about drawings giving an advantadge to some that might be unfair, I'm not sure how to limit this potential unfairness without creating another.

Anyway, even if we decide to fully ban images, it's ok by me. Practicing my writing helps improving. ;-)

Seo

Scurra
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

seo wrote:
The basic idea of a seven days limit to come up with a game is also potentially unfair for those with less free time to spend on the project.

So in the end, while I agree about drawings giving an advantadge to some that might be unfair, I'm not sure how to limit this potential unfairness without creating another.
Indeed - that's partly why I raised it, because there does seem to be a fine line to walk here and in this case I think we might have tipped every so slightly over it because of the gadget issue.

As for the time-limit; I wrote my entry up in about two hours right before the submission deadline, having wasted most of the week thinking about an idea that simply wasn't working. Then again, I'm just a lazy person who doesn't do anything until someone says "the deadline's tomorrow!"

FastLearner
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Scurra wrote:
Then again, I'm just a lazy person who doesn't do anything until someone says "the deadline's tomorrow!"

Me, too. That's why I love game design contests and challenges (and conferences) -- the only way I get anything done!

-- Matthew

seo
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Add my name to that list too. ;-)

Seo

Kreitler
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Scurra wrote:
adding graphics seems to me to be providing a potentially unfair advantage; especially in this case where explaining a gadget without the benefit of a picture was tough (unless it was fairly simple.) I don't think that the inclusion of pictures will or should necessarily influence voting, but I do think there is a divide here between those that that can and those that are... "artistically challenged".

It's certainly true that some pople have artistic talent, others write well, still others have loads of free time. I don't think we can (or should) worry about that. In any contest involving multiple people, some will have the advantage of others based on their talents' interaction with the rules. Even if we *could* level the playfield perfectly, what would that serve? Every entry would be the same level of quality.

I'm one of the artistic and time challenged participants. Every showdown I enter, I end up thinking that everyone else has done a much better job than me. I keep at it, mostly because competing against better designers improves my skills.

In that sense, we're lucky to have so many great artists, writers, and designers amongst us. They deserve the right to flex their creative muscles, especially since they help us when they do it.

K.

doho123
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

For what it's worth...

I would rather read fully detailed rules and general descriptions. Having worked for the past 15 years designing games, it's always sort of bugged bugged listening to people who have the "Next Great Game" sketched out on a napkin with a description of what we called the "the view from 3,000 feet" but with no details whatsoever of how the game actually worked, or an understanding of how various mechanics related to each other, or the buildability/manufacturabilty, etc.

I've seen/heard too many presentations whose whole focus was, essentially (in board game terms): "It's like Magic, but better, with Price is Right as the theme," with no concept of how it is essentially defferent, unique, or better from Magic.

However, on the other hand, if the point of the contest is to just screw around and get juices flowing, it probably doesn't matter. But I'd hate to see someone win with a just a general 'And then things get manufactured' description as opposed to someone who spent the time and thought out what that process is.

And finally, I'm also NOT looking for finished artwork, totally final product kind of stuff, since obviously, creating a final, polished game in a week is impossible. However, there should be enough rules there that, in my opinion, a group of like-minded individuals SHOULD be able to have a first playtest session of the game, with the designer present for questions.

Sebastian
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

doho123 wrote:
I would rather read fully detailed rules and general descriptions. Having worked for the past 15 years designing games, it's always sort of bugged bugged listening to people who have the "Next Great Game" sketched out on a napkin with a description of what we called the "the view from 3,000 feet" but with no details whatsoever of how the game actually worked, or an understanding of how various mechanics related to each other, or the buildability/manufacturabilty, etc.

Having heard unpromising rules yield amazingly subtle games, and fascinating rules have structural holes you could drive a bus through, I am less convinced that getting people to write the rules up perfectly would prove anything beyond the ability to bluff interesting sounding rules sets.

There are lots of competitions where the winner must provide working games; the showdown is about the 'initial idea' phase of designing. While you need enough ideas about the new unique feature of the game, all the follow-on detail can probably be left as an exercise to the reader

For example, 'Merchants of Amsterdam' - in each turn, the active player receives three cards, one of which he chooses, one of which he discards, and one of which is sold by dutch auction. Each card allows him to affect area majorities in two of three areas. If certain conditions are reached in those areas, players get bonus points, meaning that they want to have position in each of them. As the game goes on, the areas get scored, markers added and removed, according to an events track. This, in my opinion, is all that is needed to fully explain 'Merchants of Amsterdam' - explaining how the city majority, goods majority and export majorities are set out, how many points are got from what, what prices the goods go for, etc. is in my opinion pointless, because whether these work can only determined by playtesting, which the entries will not receieve, and will almost certainly change completely.

I don't deny that you need to have some description, in order to uniquely define where the game is going. I just don't think that complete rules sets are what we should be aiming for or necessarily rewarding here.

seo
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

I don't ask for completed rulesets, but I do want things a little more detailed than simply "get resources, manufacture products". In this month challenge, I want to know, at least roughly, some details about the mechanics involving the manufacturing process.

How many different resources will be? Can they be freely combined or are there categories? How will they combine? Has the production process itself a cost, or is it free? Are all products equal or are there different sorts of products? Have all the resources the same cost? Are all the products sold for the same value? Etc, etc, etc.

Seo

FastLearner
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

I think Kreitler's got it, as far as graphics and such are concerned: everyone has their own talents and resources (including "time" as a key resource): it's not a level playing field, but that's ok, as far as I'm concerned.

I do recognize that this makes this GDS different from the chat-based ones we were doing, but that's ok, too. It's a different critter. (BTW, I'm finishing up the web software I had started for doing the chat showdowns, so pehaps we run some of those again at some point.)

On the completeness of the ideas: reward completeness! Specify in the judging that being able to actually understand how the game would play out should be rewarded. Perhaps suggest that if, after reading the description, you feel like you could put together a rough prototype and probably work out how to play the game with minimal filling in of blanks, then it should receive a higher score.

disclamer
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opinions on a non-entry?

Sadly, I didn't get anything submission-ready for this month's challenge. The challenge was a tough one, and I had a busy week with little time to play designer. The gadget ideas just weren't flowing for me, and the one interesting idea I had was indirectly poo-poohed in another thread.

You see, I've always wanted to make a game with a pop-o-matic bubble. Ever since I was a kid, I've had this secret fascination with them, and to this day I can't resist popping the dome when I find one in a thrift store. Naturally, when I read the challenge guidelines, visions of pop-o-matic games filled my head. So, I'd like to throw my pop-o-matic game idea out there and see what you guys think. Like I said, it was a busy week, and I have nothing more than a vague idea of the mechanisms or even the type of game it'll end up being. Truth be told, it is little more than a vision of a game board.

20,000 Leagues

This is vision of Victorian steam-punk world-of-progress science-fiction, inspired by the works of Jules Verne. The setting is a deep-ocean-bed mining colony at the dawn of the 20th century. The players represent speculators and investors in high-tech ocean floor mineral mining operations. Shares in mines will be bought and sold, mines will produce valuable minerals which may be traded from colony to colony and refined to create valuable goods. Perhaps even old Captain Nemo will show up in the Nautilus to harass the unwary.

Now, the key to making it all work is the board. Naturally, the game will be lavishly over-produced, with artwork evocative of the deep-sea setting, the board all blues and aquamarines, packed with details of ocean life (think Days of Wonder). Scattered over the board are 7-9 ocean-floor colonies; great transparent domes which house the mining operations. Each mine produces a different combination of resources with varying frequency. Naturally, the domes are all pop-o-matic bubbles, each with its own mix of resource cubes. When the mine produces, the pop-o-matic is popped to determine the resources available, etc., and so-forth.

and, that's about as far as I got. What do you think? It that an original enough use of the pop-o-matic or do I lose points? Too gimmicky?

Thanks for your input!

Brett

One of these days, I'll find out how to pry those suckers apart, so I can change the dice and prototype this baby.

Challengers
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Brett,

Just because the contest says no to Pop-o-Matics, I would still have liked to see your entry. Reading through these critiques, its obvious that the whole spectrum of expectations is represented. On the lower band, you have folks, like me, who just wanna have fun. On the upper band, there are the the polished presenters who provide so much joy in the reading of the entries. In between, you have varying degrees of involvement.
Your entry sounds like it would have been a pleasure to read: I can see the resource cubes popping about. Although they may be easily duplicated by simply rolling the dice, the context in which the pop-o-matic is used makes the idea work for me.

Mitch

P.S. Why not drill a large hole in the dome? then cover it up during play? Unsightly, but, hey, it's a prototype!

Yogurt
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Oh, I think that gadget would have qualified for the competition, at least for my vote.

I don't think it's a trivial gadget, because you'd definitely lose atmosphere (!) by replacing the underwater domes with plain dice. As well, if each dome had a different die inside, then the domes would serve as player aids, helping to keep the game running with a minimum of fuss.

I love pop-o-matics too.

This was by far the hardest competition for me. Up until a few hours before the deadline, I didn't think I was going to enter. For most of the week, my noodling could come up with a gadget or a manufacturing idea, but never both in a well-integrated way.

Yogurt

Gogolski
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Yogurt wrote:

Quote:
...my noodling could come up with a gadget or a manufacturing idea, but never both in a well-integrated way.
Indeed, my first idea was to build trains that could transport a massive load and/or trains that could deliver travelers faster. The gadget would have been a railroad with a bend and some sort of elastic-train-laucher-thing to test your newly build trains... (= shoot the trains over the rail and into/out of the bend...)
I decided against this idea, because of replayability. Once you know how to build the right trains, they would never derail anymore...

I also had an amazing gadget/board in mind that could create earthquakes (boardquakes), but the 'production-proces' was too difficult to include and still have a coherent theme...

Cheese.

Anonymous
Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

haha the "gadget" ideas remind me of a game that my friend and I tried to build when we were 15.

The game was called "grease fire"

and yeah, there was an actual skillet of grease involved. It wasn't very safe or fun. We had to wear face shields while playing it.

Scurra
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Gogolski wrote:
I decided against this idea, because of replayability. Once you know how to build the right trains, they would never derail anymore...
Modular tracks? How cool would Carabande/Pitch Car be with elastic-fired cars instead of flicking fingers?!

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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

fakesinatra wrote:
haha the "gadget" ideas remind me of a game that my friend and I tried to build when we were 15.

The game was called "grease fire"

and yeah, there was an actual skillet of grease involved. It wasn't very safe or fun. We had to wear face shields while playing it.

And actual fire? Or am I reading too much into the name ;)

Scurra
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Sebastian wrote:
And actual fire? Or am I reading too much into the name ;)
Oh dear. Now you've given him an idea...

Sebastian
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Scurra wrote:
Sebastian wrote:
And actual fire? Or am I reading too much into the name ;)
Oh dear. Now you've given him an idea...

You mean you don't want to test my new game, 'Burning Tyres'? Whyever not? All you need is a pile of tyres, and...

Yogurt
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Uh oh. In my gaming group, when someone gets a lead, we call him "buddy" and team up to steal his shameful gains. I'm going to be buddy here soon! :) Thanks to everyone who voted for Cupcake Lords!

This competition was the toughest for me. Up until the night before the due date (which was also my wife's birthday!), I didn't think I'd be able to submit a game. I couldn't figure out how to work manufacturing into my camp idea, and the camp theme crowded out all others.

Originally, the players were trying to escape from camp and were buying specific items, like a shovel. However, shovels don't have THAT many uses, so it was difficult to combine equipment into more than one escape plan. Then I fell in love with the title "The Cupcake Lords of..." and had to keep the players in camp anyway.

Combining generic favours like brains and dignity into unnamed schemes was the very last addition to the game, but it made me laugh. I would keep it if I were ever to develop the game further.

As for the gadget, I thought the gadget should make new gameplay possible. The original two possibilities that occured to me were the gadget should adjudicate ties (which I used) and the gadget should generate results based on hidden information that stays hidden (which I didn't use, really). In both cases, the gadget acts as the gamemaster.

The main danger I wanted to avoid with the gadget, since I was leaning towards an electronic toy, was that I didn't want to create a video game. My hope with the Secret Tuck Shop was that players would have a lot of face to face interaction, urging the rest of the cartel to sell or wait. "No one bid yet! They'll go higher!" "Quit selling so low!" "The auction's going to end! Sell!" "No, you sell!"

I have no idea if the Tuck Shop would be affordable to produce, even for a giant company, but I tell ya, ALL my baby's toys seem to talk, so I wonder more about the buzzers than anything else.

Other gadgets I toyed with:

* A "Traitor Box" that would accept player's votes or actions, but sometimes lie about the results, so you'd never know if it was the box or another player screwing you. But I decided that could be done just as well with cards.

* A weighscale. Players would try to get their loot across a river without sinking their shared rafts. (I googled BoardGameGeek and found an old Milton Bradley style game about a kicking mule that used weight.)

* A UPC scanner to keep track of cards. I thought this might be useful in a patent game (Hi ShiftyPickles!), where if someone uses your patented idea in their invention, you'd get a cut of their profits. (I considered the same mechanism for a game about trained calliope monkey pickpockets. Seriously.) I decided this tracking would be better done in a computer game, preferably a MMORPG -- one of those genres I keep finding ideas for, but never will design.

* A laser pointer

* An electric eye

I also considered having manufacturing produce MORE items than went into the recipe:

* Chest + Key = lots of little items
* Dynamite + Rock = many little rocks

So obviously, I noodled about this competition WAY more than the other two. Did other people find it more challenging too, or was it just me?

Yogurt

ShiftyPickles
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Is it just me or is no one actually posting any notes on the entries?

Kreitler
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

ShiftyPickles wrote:
Is it just me or is no one actually posting any notes on the entries?

It's not just you. :|
I plan on posting a short critique of all entries tonight.

K.

Kreitler
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

Kreitler wrote:
I plan on posting a short critique of all entries tonight.

First off, thanks for the votes for Payload! and the Launch Computer. I didn't think either one had a chance against the other designs...

Speaking of which, here are my thoughts on all the entries:

1) Patent Office
I liked this design a lot -- in fact, it was my 3rd place vote. ShiftyPickles did a great job keeping the rules clean and the play simple. I especially liked the mechanism for creating the machines. The gadget was simple but very "manufacturable". It seems unlikely that it would evenly distribute its results across the full month, though. Overall, an excellent design.

2) Brewster's Mullions
This game had a great theme! I also liked the simultaneous play and the fact that the "resources" were everyday household items. I didn't quite understand the gameplay, though. In particular, I didn't grasp how you knew which resources, when combined, yielded which finished product. I like the gadget very much, but couldn't fully appreciate it as I didn't understand how to combine words on the cube to come up with a new invention. Overall, I felt this design had much more potential than I could understand.

3) The Factory of Mr. Crinkleworth
This entry had tremendous flavor, mostly due to a wonderful name and its Dickensian introduction. I didn't fully understand the gameplay on the first reading, though I'm not sure why -- the rules as presented are simple and clean. I do wonder if there is enough player interaction. As described, the game sounds like it might suffer from "simultaneous solitaire syndrome." Also, it seems like players would have to rotate their order each turn -- those who move early in the turn are much more likely to have their goods destroyed than those who move later. A very solid entry -- but I would have liked a few more details to flesh out player interactions.

4) Skyscrapers/windcatchers
This got my first place vote. I'll be honest -- I thought many of the rules were too complex, and I didn't fully grasp them. However, the "analog" gameplay more than made up for this. By "analog", I mean "depends on something besides whole numbers generated by dice, cards, etc." In this case, the game had "double analog play". First, players construct the buildings themselves out of real parts whose physical properties determine strength and fitness. Second, the "gadgets" generate wind, and the "drag forces" help determine scoring. Brilliant! Had I not voted this as the best game, I would have given it "best gadget". I would love to play a prototype!

5) Payload! -- comments at the end.

6) Zoastro
I liked the Zodiac theme, and the gadget felt very "manufacturable". The rules were simple and clear, though somehow on my first reading I missed the part detailing exactly how you created a life (my fault, not the author's). Unfortunately, the game seemed to be missing significant player interaction. I could see how I played "against" the Zoastro by trying to stop it in order to earn the most stars, but I didn't see how I could affect anyone else on the board. Had Kanaka supplied some detail in that area, I would have rated the game much higher.

7) The Cupcake Lords of Camp Legume
This entry made me laugh out loud. In fact, based almost strictly on its theme and humor, I gave this game second place. It has clear rules, though I don't have a good feel for their subtler points. Also, the "schemes" mechanic seems like a bit of an afterthought, but some of them are so funny that I didn't care. This game had the most fully integrated gadget (the gadget pretty much is the game) -- which seemed to be in the spirit of the contest. Overall, an solid idea elevated by its theme and humor.

8) Hot Rod Mania
This got my "Best Gadget" vote. The "ideal car" generator is elegant in its simplicity and, more importantly, would probably actually work precisely as designed. The game itself was well thought-out and presented, though it felt like some of the rules could be streamlined. As far as the presentation goes, all I can say is "Seo's art is gorgeous." I wish I had that kind of talent... Nice job all around.

9) Poseidon Fury
This was actually my #1 vote, originally. I felt that both in terms of theme and gameplay, emxibus surpassed us all. The "Poseidon" design used elements radically different from the rest. Unfortunately, that proved its undoing. I re-read the challenge rules and revisited the design, and realized that "buying and selling" took part only when originally outfitting the boat -- it really didn't have much to do with the core gameplay. Based on that, I removed it from my list, even though it's a game I would love to play. I still believe it's a solid, interesting design -- it's just not really appropriate for this particular showdown.

10) Smooth Operator
OK -- I hate to admit it, but I have no grasp of the gameplay for this entry. This is not the fault of the write-up. I would love to see this game played, because I believe it's far simpler than I think. I also imagine it's visually stunning, with brightly colored balls and fruit cards. The fact that it scored so well in the competition speaks highly of it -- I wish I had had time to re-read the entry once or twice so I could give it it's due.

5) Payload!
This was my entry. To be honest, I'm shocked at it's performance. When I saw the creativity of the other designs and gadgets, my heart sunk.

This design came together very fast. I've wanted to do a "Space Race" game for months, and something about the "gadget" requirement served as a catalyst. From concept to completed entry, I worked about 4 hours, and didn't really revisit the design much. I don't think the "launch computer" is very practical from a manufacturing standpoint, but it felt like it would be fun to play with. I'm actually trying to refine the game into a "real" design, which means coming up with a replacement for the launch computer. Ideas are welcome!

And concerning the "artists have an advantage" argument earlier in this thread, I think the Launch Computer shows that diagram quality doesn't much matter -- that's one crappy illustration! :)

Thanks to Bryk for moderating the challenges. They're great fun. I'm always stunned by the creative power of the people on this forum. It's a pleasure to see your work.

K.

Yogurt
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

I thought seo's design for his Hot Rod gadget was just gorgeous. My jaw dropped when I saw it. In the end though, Payload got my gadget vote, because I'd seen pachinko boards like Hot Rod before, but radial pinball was entirely new to me. Also, the Hot Rod gadget could probably be replaced by dice or cards, whereas the Payload launcher had no easy substitute.

By the way, if I were building Hot Rod for real, I'd let the players see the bouncing ball as it falls. That's part of the fun, guessing which way it will go.

...

As for the game designs, for me there were four games that pretty well tied for first: Skyscraper, Crinkleworth, Poseidon and Payload. They all had new and surprising takes on the challenge and had enough detail that I could imagine teaching the game to someone else. In the end, it was small differences in how well the four met the competition challenges that decided the ranks for me.

I voted for Skyscrapers as #1, because it was solid across the board, meeting all the challenges with great inventiveness. Promising to build something and then having to live up to the contract is something I don't often see in a game. I'm not a fan of dexterity games and there were some rough edges to the language in the rules, but I thought Skyscraper was a unique and promising game, so I was glad to put it first.

My second-place vote went to The Factory of Mr Crinkleworth. This one had the laughs and flavour of a Cheapass game, and it was easy to see where the agonizing decisions would be. More detail about the manufacturing process might have vaulted it to first. (Do different machines require different products and yield differently priced goods?) I wonder if players would be able to earn enough money, when every action costs a penny? The gadget was right for the game, but it didn't earn many difficulty points, since Wallenstein was mentioned in the challenge itself.

My third place vote went Poseidon's Fury. This was a clever game with a very original mechanic in the timed pots. I liked it a lot, but there wasn't enough selling or manufacturing to really answer the challenge.

By the way, I suspect Poseidon is actually a computer game trapped in the body of a board game. Here's why: The setup time is significant. There's little need for player communication. The scoring involves not just math, but order of operations. It requires 50 custom digital watches (!). And the game would benefit from a global pause, or nobody better go to the washroom! None of these are disasterous, but they make Poseidon more suited to being published in Java than in cardboard.

I liked Payload a lot. It had an original theme, and a whizzy gadget that was very well integrated into the game. Someone e-mailed me guessing that this was my entry, and I was flattered because at the time, it was my number one choice. Others rose above it eventually, because I came to feel the game was more about trading than selling. Re-reading it now, I wonder if I didn't underrate it, despite this. The conversion from a rocket to a satellite is more involved than I realized at first. (Are some satellites clearly better than others or do the values balance out?)

Oh man! I just realized I totally misunderstood the Payload diagram. I thought the circles were pegs to avoid, not depressions to fill. Bad reading comprehension, Yogurt! Still a great gadget, and it's even more thematic now. I mean, what would pegs be doing in space?

Yogurt

emxibus
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

All great entries, here a few thoughts on the entries I voted for.

"The Cupcake Lords of Camp Legume" got my #1 vote,. I could hear the voices in my head saying, "I'll buy a cupcake for a dollar?". I liked the buzzer concept, nice press your luck feel.

"Payload!" got my #2 vote. I really liked the gadget (got my vote for best gadget)! I liked how buying stuff would alter it behavior.

"Hot Rod Mania" got my #3 vote. I really liked the theme. I mechanics of building the cars is very cool.

As for my entry: Poseidon's Fury

Orginally, I thought crab ships went out and back( catching (buying) and selling crabs) many times during the season. But when I did some research I found out that the season is only a week or two, and that it's a one time trip. Well, since I had already did a lot of the work (hours on the gadget) I decided to paste the buy/sell requirement on to it. Buy resource (crabs) and sell them to the processing plants. The buy you do a lot of times, but the selling is only done once during the game (end). And yes, don't take a bathroom break during this one.

seo
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Critique the Game Designs -- May 2005 Showdown

As I said before, the competition was close and deciding my vote a hard task. In the end I followed the criteria I felt more inclined to from the start, best outlined by Kreitler and Matthew in their posts on the subject.

I subscribe to most of Kreitler’s analysis, but I’ll submit my comments on each entry anyway.

1) Patent Office
This was my #1 vote. I liked the general idea and the game mechanics. I feel it has several similarities with my own entry (the auction at the beginning of each turn, the deals between players, even the gadget), so I was glad the submissions were secret. While reading the game description I was like “that’s a great solution” several times, as many of the issues to solve in this game were similar to the ones I had to address while designing my game, so that might have had an influence in my voting favorably towards this game.

2) Brewster’s Mullions
At first I though I would reate this one really high, because I really liked the idea of famous inventors and their dubious legacies. But then I felt some issues were too blury, potentially interesting, but not well defined yet, so applying the “reward completeness!” criteria hurt the score for this game. The gadget (which was sort of central in this GDS) is a great idea, but I’m not sure how well it will work in real life. I kept forming the image in my mind of a group of friends arguing about what constitutes a good “scopescopekal” or an efficient “micrometertele” for eons without reaching an agreement. Maybe I should try to meet diffeent people, but I don’t see my familiy and friends playing this without the game ending up in a fight and a few hurt feelings.
I also failed to undertand how the three resources would relate to the three prefixes, roots and suffixes. I think this is a central part of the game mechanics, and as I didn’t get it I felt I shouldn’t vote for this one.
I love the idea of the open market bidding format (actually I think it is exactly the same I have in my game), and I’m sure the problem with this entry was more in the presentation than in the game itself. If I could look into Callenger’s mind, I bet I would find the answers to all my doubts about this entry.

3) The Factory of Mr. Crinkleworth
Another entry I would love to see evolve into a more detailed description. I liked the presentation so much I was inclined to forgive all the little details I didn’t quite like about it. It is so well written Mr. Crinkleworth reminded me of Ralph Nickelby. The game sounds interesting, but I feel the entry lacked detail about the manufacturing process. That prevented me from ranking it higher.

4) Skyscrapers/Windcatchers
I had mixed feelings about this one, because I felt it was really interesting but failed to fully catch how the game worked, and how would it feel playing it. After the voting I read the entries again, and again... and now I feel I owe Gogolski some sort of apollogy. I finally think I got it, and I really like the game. So it was all my fault. I could say the rules were a bit complicated, but it’s probably that the game is complex and I didn’t take the time required to adequately grasp it. It would definitely be on my vote now.

5) Payload
I liked this game very much. I liked the theme, I liked the idea of building the rockets from separate parts, and I found particulary clever the idea of each country manufacturing only four to force them to trade with the other players. The gadget sounds very interesting too, and my only concern is the difficulty in acheiving a successful launch (matching the right orbit, that is). That could be easily solved adjusting the rules to determine success or failure of the launch, though.
Since I first read the entries I was decided to vote Payload! as my #3, but in the end I changed my vote, whithout much conviction, I must say, maybe it was just so I can tease Scurra about his concern about pics in the entries by voting three non pics entries. ;-)

6) Zoastro
This got my #3 vote. I specially liked the gadget (I think it might look as cool as a lava lamp or something like that, not just functional for the game but a nice decorative item too) and the Monopoly twist of players buying signs and collecting stars from other players landing in their sign.

7) The Cupcake Lords of Camp Legume
This was my #2 vote. The only reason I didn’t give it #1 was that I felt the manufacturing process wasn’t as interesting as the one in Pattent Office. The rest of the game, though, is great. When I grow up I want to be like Yogurt. ;-)
The Secret Tuck Shop also got my vote as best gadget. At first I thought “this is complex, it would be hard to produce something like this”, but once I gave it a bit of thought, I think it is totally doable at a reasonable cost. That’s not my main concern when it came to selecting the best gadget, but in a competition this close, every aspect of the designe had its weight.
The entry was very well written, and I feel I can almost hear the boys voices and see the kids around the Secret Tuck Shop. The idea of an automatic device to control the auction and how it works is simply fabulous. The completeness of this description, specially on the gadget algorithm.

8) Hot-Rod Mania
I’ll commento on my entry in a separate message.

9) Poseidon Fury
This was also close to get my #3 vote. I liked the 30 second turns a lot, and the the game idea in general. But I fear the buying and selling taking place only during the game setup might lead to lack of balance during the game, specially when experienced players play with newbies. I liked the way Emxibus handled the gadget issue, with lots of simple gadgets instead of just one central gadget.
I’m not sure 30 seconds would be enough, but that’s just a minor detail.

10) Smooth Operator
Another #3 contestant to me, too bad I wasn’t allowed to vote more than once. :-(
I liked this game a lot too, the theme sounds original and fun, and cleverly integrates the manufacturing process seamlessly into the game. The blender sounds nice, but a few drawings would have helped with the description. Nah, just kidding. I loved the blender, and had not been for the Secret Tuck Shop, I would have voted for it. No need for any drawings when you know how to express yourself with words. :-)
I had some difficulty understunding the gameplay, though. I have the feeling that this is the kind of games that are easier to understand with a learning round than by reading the rules over and over. But this might have a lot to do with my language skills or the lack of drawings. ;-P
No, just kidding again, I think it had more to do with not having enough time to reread, think about it, etc. until I got it. But I definitely feel this game can be great fun.

Seo

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