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Critique the January 2010 GDS games here!

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the January 2010 Challenge in the Game Design Showdown series.

This month's Challenge was entitled "Which way did he go?!?", and it was looking for Route Planning and Deduction on a central board. (


Jpwoo's picture
Joined: 03/26/2009
Another fun GDS Congrats to

Another fun GDS Congrats to the winners. I was more than a bit surprised to see that Sherwood and Claymore didn't accrue any votes while high card and octant did. Thank goodness we all don't think the same! On with the Crits.

Rainbow's End

A greatly distilled scotland yard. I like that this game is so concise, yet I have an extremely clear view of how to play in my head. Central board, check, route planning, check, deduction check. The only thing I don't like about is the outcome is an inevitable 'win' for the hunter. It would be nice if the leprechaun made it 10 turns or something he would keep his gold. As written the game would make a fine print and play game with some board playtesting. If it were heading for publication I would like to find a way to get rid of the 'write down your start' part, and maybe replace those with a set of location cards where lucky charms can start running from, just because picking a card is easier than writing things.

Asteroid Mining

A straightforward pick up and deliver game. Another well written game entry, Just one read through and I had a good handle on this game. Sometimes it takes a few! Central board, Check, Route planning. Certainly you need to plan ahead with your fuel resources so you can make it out and back again, check. Deduction, I see what is going on with the 3 types of resources, so you can figure out which asteroids are more likely to have what you are looking for, if you see what has been found and sold already. But the deduction aspect seems weak to me, still subject to the whims of the tile distribution, and the information you are tracking isn't super intuitive, it would be hard to remember the distributions without a cheat sheet.

I like that you can turn energon into fuel on the fly, gives you some room for clever plays perhaps.Nice effort on this one.


Card drafting is a mechanic that I am drawn to of late and throwing it into the mix here is certainly a cool twist. It also has a push your luck angle as you can pull off the top of the deck, and randomly extend your route, or pay the opportunity cost of covering your last card, shortening your route compared to others.

The components section could have been organized better.

The lighthearted tone fits well with the theme, and everyone loves giant monsters, Or at least I do. The variable powers could certainly keep the game from getting stale, and give you some interesting choices when drafting your route. And give you some room for misdirection when considering what routes your opponents are playing.

Central board: check, Route planning, check, Deduction: check, I like this take on the deduction because you essentially make small bets on every round with the military pieces, rather than aiming for a 'big reveal' type of deduction game.

High Card Race

Always nice to see at least one pure abstract slip into the mix here. At first blush it looks like the strategy isn't very complicated in this game, play a high card that moves you up the board. Sorta random and chaotic, This would be added with the 8 player version, which I think might be more fun, trying to work your way past the blockers. But that isn't to say that there isn't potential for this system to evolve into something more than a straight race game. A head to head sports game maybe.

Central board, check, route planning check, deduction: I suppose there is some in trying to guess where your opponents are going, but I wouldn't say deduction was a significant mechanic in this game.

Apology: No need to throw this in, all of these games are sketches of unfinished games And indeed your game does make me think. That is one of the brilliant things about the GDS is it triggers all kinds of ideas, both in the people who have them, and in the people that read them.

Search for the Sheriff's Gold

So having read this several times I'm not quite sure how to play, but this is probably a failing on my part. I think what happens, is that the sheriff leaves a trail of chits, and the robinhood player picks his gear and follows the line of chits hoping to capture the sheriff. It seems like the sheriff gets all the tough choices, he has to lay out the path, RH player just follows them and decides when to use his special powers.

The theme of this game is great. I love the idea of tracking through sherwood forest trying to steal from the rich while avoiding the sheriffs traps. Possibly the best theme in this months GDS.

Central board, check, Navigation, check, Deduction... again it is iffy here, the RH player can make guesses at what the sheriff is doing, but he doesn't have a lot of information to derive his answers from.

Monster Island

Once again the odd synchronism of game designers shows its head. Here I thought there would be a ton of spy games, I didn't predict monster games! What is interesting about these games this month is that many of them have different models of player roles. We have symmetrical player roles, symmetrical with player powers, and this game and others are plainly asymmetrical. I don't know what this means, but I thought it worth noting.

I like the theme or reality tv gone awry. And it synchs up nicely with the monster on film cards. I think this game is pretty tight as it stands. The frequent appearance of the monsters when they eat people or are revealed makes it so that the monsters are predictable but the hex board gives you a lot of options for subterfuge as well. At first I was a little confused by the monsters can't end a turn on the same space as a human rule, but it is brilliant. It makes the first move that the humans make filled with tension, and it fits the theme of monster movies with survivors stumbling into them. It also just keeps the monsters from moving from human to human eating them.

Central board: check, Move planning, check, deduction, check, nice job.


is my game!

A neat theme here, a kind of mad scramble across a mine field. It reminds me of the episode of mash where they are reading a map to get across their own minefield. The players have a lot of firepower at their disposal, as every space on the board is a live mine, and only a very few are set aside and safe, at least until they are drawn. Add the splash damage to this and I bet it would be a tough row to hoe to get across the board.

Central board, check, I like it, simple and well organized, Route planning: You certainly have to move, but there isn't much planning, Deduction, check, You might have to keep notes to keep track of all the bombs that have gone off and you have seen.

Something that is weird to me is you can cross a hex, that you know to be safe, but also you can detonate it on someone else. So you don't gain any information from watching how the other players move. This isn't a criticism of the game, just something that seemed counter intuitive to me.


This game is a neat little tactical abstract but I don't think it matches any of the GDS requirements other than the central board.

This game is extremely well realized, It looks a good bit like the description of a done game. Despite outward appearances that make it look like settlers of catan, it seems to take many of the same bits, and apply them in completely different ways. Roads, tiles that have terrain on them, resources, only the roads connect differently, the tiles represent costs instead of what they produce, and the resource production is split from the board entirely and put to the whim of dice. But this can be mitigated by going for rerolls.

I like the discoveries of cities, this is very much how real big cities seemed to form, for some reason randomly big cities showed up various places. One drawback of this is you have to scramble all the tiles face up, I guess you could stack the tiles in piles and build the board outward in a spiral to keep it random.

Central board, Check, route planning, some of this is possible especially with the road laying restrictions, you do have to plan ahead to connect to a city. Deduction: A couple of instances of this, you can try to figure out what your opponents buys are ahead of time, but your buys would always come in too late to block them unless you had a buy queued up already. And you can eventually figure out where the cities possibly are, this is more possible if the city distribution on what tiles is known.

Cave of the Fat Old Dragon

This game has a good bit of what I like in an adventure game, random death. I like games where the board evolves in interesting ways, sure sometimes the goblins get a milk run and the dwarves get crushed to death, that is the risk of hunting dragon treasure.

I love the board number system, clever and old school at the same time, player conflict is great.

Central board, check, route planning, kind of, you don't need to do anything to prepare to travel ahead of time, you just roll and go, but you do need to know where you are going. Deduction is pretty minimal here and probably unnecessary. It only exists in the magic powers that your three adventurers have, and once you have seen the second power it is over.

I don't know exactly why the areas are included, it seems like the players move around the tunnels, do they enter the areas? Are the areas just for stalags and stalacs? It seems like they could be omitted without effecting the game much unless I am missing something.

This is a game that I rated highly at first blush, and I think it is a solid game but I marked it down some for not fitting the requirements as well as some of the others.

Clandestine Freedom Movement

See now this is the kind of theme I expected to see more of. This game puts a reversal on the typical sneak and catch games, where normally the mouse player is a single agent sneaking around while the cat players outnumber him and try to build a net to catch him. In this game the cats have limited resources and must track down the greater numbered forces of the mice.

I like that the CFM agents are limited in what ring they can move in this forces spylike rendezvous and drop offs.

Central board, check, Route planning, check, deduction, certainly process of elimination, but I'm not sure that the MP player ever gets enough information to deduce what is going on. I still give this game high marks.

simons's picture
Joined: 12/28/2008
First of, wow, thank you all

First of, wow, thank you all so much! I'm glad to hear you liked Monster Island so much.

Rainbow’s End- Neat concept, good use of the contest goals. I like the idea for the game, and I like how if you figure out exactly where the Leprechaun is that you can’t just immediately place a trap there (unless you are already close), which could give it a chance to escape. I’m not wild about the two game mechanic for determining who wins, I feel like you’d be better of giving the hunter a set number of traps, and if she fails to trap the leprechaun, then she loses.

Asteroid Mining- Decent idea. I feel like you could have done a better job of tying things to the contest goals, although I guess I could see where it ties in. I’m not exactly sure what to say, I don’t know what was wrong, but this game just grab me and make me go “Ooh! This would be really great to play.” Although that might just be my taste in games that are this economic.

Devour Space Epsilon- (2 votes) Really good theme. Interesting idea. I’m a little confused about two things. First, how many cards do you get each turn? Is it enough that generally some of the players can get to Epsilon? Second, do the number of military keep piling up? If so, that is actually kind of a bad feedback mechanism, since it makes it harder to score points later on (so if you really do badly in the first round, you might not be able to catch up). I do really like the idea though, this seems like something I’d play with friends.

High Card Race- Interesting idea for a game. It kind of reminds me of Robo Rally (which I was playing earlier today). It’s simple, which I like. It’s not the most exciting game ever, but you definitely shouldn’t be apologizing for it.

Search for the Sheriff’s Gold- Good theme, and good use of the design goals. I hate to criticize you on this, but the way your game was written out I had trouble following the rules. Like, I didn’t catch how the Merry Men could win after reading it twice. I think even a bit of formatting would have helped. Also, it seemed like if the “Sheriff” card could end the game so easily, all else seemed kind of moot.

Conspiracy!- (3 votes) Really neat theme. I really love how anyone can do anything, and how so much of the game is about trying to figure out what your opponents are trying to do (and I can’t think of a better theme for it). I especially love the discovery section. Overall, great job!

Claymore- Neat idea. Something I was confused about: if my dude steps on a mine, does it automatically blow up, or do you need to spend an action? If it’s the later, that could be kind of problematic, because at least with the former you know if you step on a space with your guy, then it’s safe to step on it again. Also, I think the field might be a tad too full of mines. If it were me, I’d maybe have half the field covered, so you’re not getting blown up 5 times out of 6. Also, is there any mechanism to stop a player from walking in her opponent’s heels? It seems to me it would be of great benefit to just follow one space behind your enemy until she gets blow up, and then walk another way. Also, this is really nit-picky, but it’s kind of unclear what era you are in. At first I seriously thought WWI, although they didn’t have helicopters or heavy body armor back then. (this came close to getting my last vote)

Octant- This is a nice, really simple game, but I don’t see how it really connects to the contest goals at all.

Pioneers- Good use of the contest goals. I like how you can buy things for whatever you want, although I am not sure how much it will come into use. I also like the resource gathering requirement, like you can sacrifice getting lots of resources for a chance to get the resources you want. I wonder though, wouldn’t it be really easy for people to sort of muck up the game board, so that no one would be able to build paths between cities? I mean, maybe that’s partially the point, to try to preempt your opponent from getting where she wants to go. I was a tad confused about a couple things: first, when do you actually spend the resources? During the buy phase or the build phase? Also, do you get special action cards (such as ones that allow branching paths), and if so, when? And when do you buy buildings (and what is the point of them)? (and I came very close to giving this game my last vote as well)

Cave of the Fat Old Dragon- Nice idea, and I really admire the mathematical eloquence of it. I’m not sure if I see where the induction comes in though (except maybe what ring one has?). One problem: isn’t anyone who doesn’t have the Ring of Fire Resistance going to just get fried when they try to approach the dragon? Also, is it possible for both players to lose? (I think I missed that)

Clandestine Freedom Movement- (1 vote) I really like the concept for the game. My one biggest concern is that it feels too random where you’re allowed to move. For example, if on turn 1, the MP player doesn’t draw an I or J card, does that mean that none of them can move? I don’t know, I worry that there are a lot of elements that might not work when playtesting (it being too easy for an MP to run in and wreck everything, or it being too easy for a CFM to escape to the Train Depot when that is the target destination), but would love to hear if they did.


seo's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
In general: Congratulations

In general:
Congratulations to Simons on a well deserved win (it's always nice to be runner up when the winner is the one I voted for).

As usual, several interesting ideas, though some of them suit the GDS requirements better than others. I was a bit surprised (dissapointed even) to find that many of the entries show virtually no trace of deduction in them, though it might just be that the loose definition of what deduction should be made evaluation of this aspect quite subjective. It was nice to see a wide array of themes and approaches, as is usually the case when the GDS doesn't explicitly call for a specific theme. This was Seth's first time running the contest, and I think the amount and quality of the entries confirms a successful debut. There are several entries that I would love to see grow and become playable games in the near future, and that is another good measure of a successful GDS. The voting method, with only 6 points, meant I only gave votes to two games. Had I had more votes available, instead of 3,1 I would have voted 4,2,1 or 5,3,2,1,1.

Entry #1 - Rainbow's End
The board was missing, so we were left with our best guesses as to how it would be. I pictured it as a series of rows with one space (or perhaps more) on each of the seven rainbow colors. When the board was finally available, I saw the colors were all mixed, which makes the deduction mechanic more interesting, but doesn't really work thematically.
It sounds like the hunter might have a big advantage when moving, and placing traps forming a checkboard pattern, given the leprechaun's inability to move diagonally, seems to be part of any reasonable strategy for him. I don't see much to do on the leperchaun's side, other than moving around and cross his fingers.

Entry #2 - Asteroid Mining
My entry.
After the submission deadline I thought of some relatively major changes regarding the game phases, to make the game more flexible and -I hope- interesting. The phases are merged together, adding probing and ship hiring to the available actions during the players' turns all through the game, and making the ships hired for just one mining trip and then returned to the pool of available ships for all the palyers. A bit of playtesting proved the tiles mechanic to work pretty much as I envisioned it, resulting in almost no collectible Water, only a few Diamonds, and mostly Iron and Energite to be found on most asteroids, with $10-15 worth of resources per asteroid, on average; it's not too easy, though, to keep track of the percentages, which might mean I need to try a different resource distribution in the tile groups, with maybe just two or three of the resources on each tile type or something.

Entry #3 - Devour Spaceport Epsilon
I see little or no interaction, and I fail to see much deduction either, other than by keeping track of the played cards. I like the writing of the entry, though, and its humour.

Entry #4 - High Card Race
Same as DSE, I don't see much deduction going on other than tracking cards. Sounds like it could be a decent abstract, probably a lot different when all players start from the same edge than when they race in opposite directions. Slightly meaningless decisions on the card selection, since there's no info on what the opponents cards are, other than by card tracking near the end.

Entry #5 - Search for the Sheriff's Gold
I see a lot of randomness but little or no deduction on this one. There seems to also be a language barrier which makes some sections of the entry really hard to understand.

Entry #6 - Monster Island - 3 points
Nice deduction mechanic! I would be happy to give this game a try.
My guess is the number of board hexes will play a key role: too many might make the humans lifes too easy, too few and saving them would be almost impossible. Just find the right board size and you may have a really nice game.

Entry #7 - Conspiracy!
Sounds like this could be a nice game, although more about area control than route planning and deduction. I gave it a lower score for the GDS than I would give to the game itself, but the GDS is all about creating a game that suits very specific requirements, not just coming up with a cool game concept.

Entry #8 - Claymore
The board is there and it's thematically sound (war-game hexes, field with clear start and finish ends), clearly labeled spaces, etc. But there seems to be too little information to determine the best route, and the deduction mechanics are not particualrly strong either.
That said, the game sounds neat enough and fits the challenge requirements. Maybe if among the cards were a couple ones to allow for peeking on the opponents cards or something, I would have given this game a better score.

Entry #9 - Octant
The board is there, but apart from the fact that you move your counters, the route planning feels trivial, and close to inexistent. I fail to see any deduction element in this game.
Apart from failing to be a good match to the GDS requirements, this looks like a game where the starting player always wins, unless he makes some silly mistake.

Entry #10 - Pioneers - 1 Points
This one sounds like it has several interesting ideas. Something in the way things are explained meant I had a hard time trying to get a feeling of how it would be to actually play the game.
The payout section is not clear. I'm still not sure if it's the highest die value from each resource, one die per resource, the sum of all dice, or what. In the Build section cities arementioned out of the blue, only to be explained later (and I trully think the Buy section would be better placed before the Build one.)
With a more concise and clear text, I would probably given this entry more points.

Entry #11 - Cave of the Fat Old Dragon
I found this entry a bit confusing, specially some sections like the Cave-ins one and the first Stalactites/Stalagmites one. Worst of all, I failed to see any deduction element in the entry.

Entry #12 - Clandestine Freedom Movement
The game seems alright, and the entry is clear and straightforward, but I feel it falls short on the deduction side.
Some sort of deduction mechanic to help the MP find which token is the message or which one is the selected destination, maybe based on hints the CFM should give when captured or something in that line, maybe even with room for some false hints, would be thematic and add interest to the game, not to mention help it score better on the GDS.
That said, I think this could be the seed for a nice game.

Joined: 01/26/2009
GDS Jan 2010 critiques

I thought a lot of the games entered into this month’s contest were good, but (unless I missed something about the intended theme & mechanics) I thought most of the entries did not fit the parameters of the contest (though were good games independently of this GDS Challenge).
I feel that the entries (my entry not in consideration) that best embraced the feel of a deduction mechanic were #2, #3 and #6, and the entries that contained the best route planning mechanic were #1, #4, and #6.
I have detailed some of my thoughts (sorry it’s so long), and welcome your feedback on my entry (#10).

#1 – Rainbow’s End –
This sounds like Fox & Chickens, but where one player is invisible.

It’s a shame that you can’t see the board, because without seeing it, it seems a little too straightforward for me.

It seems like there’s a lot of potential for bonuses based on what color the leprechaun or hunter is on and/or bonus tokens that the hunter or leprechaun can use once per game (to move more than one space, see the leprechaun, lay more than one trap, prevent movement or trap placement on one color for a turn, etc…).

Also, what happens if the leprechaun traps the hunter so that he can’t legally lay a trap? Does he win automatically without a need for a second game? Is this even possible given the board design?

Like I said, it’s a shame that the board was never visible.

#2 – Asteroid Mining –
First, I really like the game conceptually, but I think that the math needs work.

Specifically, money/fuel needs to be tighter – there needs to be more resources per asteroid, fewer fuel cells and/or either fewer actions per turn or more things need to count as one of your actions – as it is right now, turn order is VERY IMPORTANT (see NOTE 1).

Also, there needs to be clarification/rework of some of the rules governing ships (see NOTE 2).

Also, the energite rule needs to be clarified (see NOTE 3)

NOTE 1 –
The rules do not say definitively whether you can spend $1 for more fuel during the Exploration phase of your turn. Even assuming you can’t, you can see the top 3 resources of EVERY asteroid in the first round, and what set the other two are from (spending all 10 fuel - $1 per asteroid to look at the top 3 resource cards). With some quick pencil/paper work (or in your head if you’re good enough), you should have approximately an 85% chance of knowing EXACTLY what all of the hidden resources are, and which asteroids to send your 2 ships to. Given this, you should then DEFINITELY buy water-diamond ships (you don’t even have to pass – 9/10 are water or diamond, and 6/10 are water – you are GUARANTEED to get a water ship if you want one).

The rules do not limit how many of a resource each ship can carry, and so, since you get 20 fuel points and
1) no asteroid is more than 2 legs away, and
2) mining an entire asteroid takes only 6 fuel points (5 resources – 2 for the first 3, 2 for the next 1 and 2 for the last one – 2+2+2=6),
EACH PLAYER can mine 2 complete asteroids and get back to base in 2 turns EVERY TIME!!

Turn 1 – Actions 1,2,3 listed below:
1) take 1 ship out, at most 2 fuel (2 fuel total)
2) take other ship out, at most 2 fuel (4 fuel total)
3) mine one of the asteroids completely, 6 fuel (10 fuel total)
Turn 2 – Actions 1,2,3 listed below:
1) mine the other asteroid completely, 6 fuel (16 fuel total)
2) bring one ship back, at most 2 fuel (18 fuel total)
3) bring the other ship back (20 fuel total)

This means (and the rules don’t say that you CAN’T do this, but they don’t say that you CAN, either) that unless a player goes to the same asteroid that you are going to and pulls the same trick, in a 5-player game, the game is over in 2 rounds, with no one ever losing a ship or needing the energite conversion rule, because no one will run out of fuel.

This presents a very serious game-breaking dynamic fault – WHOEVER GOES FIRST WILL BE ABLE TO MAXIMIZE THEIR RESOURCE ACQUISITION. This means that among 5 highly skilled players, the turn order will mirror the ending rank of the players (whoever goes 1st will win, whoever goes 2nd will place 2nd, 3rd will place 3rd, etc…). Since there is only $425 available to be won, at a MAXIMUM of $100 for two asteroids if they’re ALL WATER, the chance that each player will be able to calculate a maximum available per asteroid is extremely high (since you have about an 85% chance of predicting exactly what the hidden resources are).

Now, if you are able to mine the same asteroid as someone else, getting there first is KEY, and you don’t want to have a ship at an asteroid without mining it.
You can instead amend your turns to be two rounds of:
1) take 1 ship out, at most 2 fuel (2 fuel total)
2) mine one of the asteroids completely, 6 fuel (8 fuel total)
3) bring the other ship back, at most 2 fuel (10 fuel total)

The only difference in the second situation is that before you send your second ship out, you will have come back to Base and cashed out your resources.
Not only does this NEGATE THE NEED FOR 2 SHIPS (except to open your options, but a single 3-resource ship should do well enough in most combinations), but you now have an extra Exploration phase to look at all of the remaining asteroids, and can balance based upon what everyone else has earned (assuming they’ve done the same thing as you – mining one asteroid and returning) how much you should spend looking in order to guarantee a win. And if they haven’t done the same thing, you might want to go and mine what they’re mining out from under them. But either way, you will NEVER need to convert energite to fuel, making it less valuable than the other resources since it is less plentiful than iron, but pays out just as little.

***This could be fixed through any or a combination of the following:
1) allow multiple players to mine the same planet (and if this is already a rule, then simply state it clearly in the rule book)
2) allow more things to be counted as an action, such as each leg traveled, cashing in resources, energite-to-fuel conversion, etc…
3) alter the routes on the gameboard to allow spaces BETWEEN Base and asteroids that count as 1 fuel spent, or so that certain asteroids are 3 asteroids away from Base, not just 1 or 2
4) allow players to block other players’ travel to force ships to run out of fuel or not return to base (essentially hampering their monetary gain) by not allowing players to occupy the same space
5) put more resources on each asteroid
6) increase the cost to look at resources and/or mine them
7) changing the payout matrix for energite, or making certain things cost more fuel.

NOTE 2 –
Some “What if”s about the Hiring Ships part…

What if, in a 2-player game, all 4 $10 ships are flipped first in the Hiring Ships phase? Players will have two ships available after the first buy (with each player buying a $10 ship and flipping in a new $10 ship), but each ship available will cost $10, and each player will be left with $5.

What if, in a 5-player game, 3 of the players wish to buy two $5 ships to save some money for mining? Then, there are only 4 $10 ships left for the remaining 2 players - $40 in expense for 2 players with $30 total between them – 2 players will end up 1 ship short. This could happen if the ship deck is $5, $5, $5, $10, $10, $10, $5, $5, $5, $10 – the first 3 players buy up the $5 ships, and there are 2 $10 ships flipped up for BOTH the 4th and 5th players – they won’t even have an option to buy a $5 ship. Then, when it gets around to them, if the other 3 players again buy the cheap ships, there are 2 $10 ships left at the end, AGAIN giving them no option for a $5 ship.
What if, in a 5 player game, no one wants the ships available to them? If no one wants those two ships, and all players pass, what is the recourse for gameplay? In a 5-player game, EVERY ship must be purchased before gameplay can begin.

In less than a 5-player game, some ships will never be available to the game. This means that in a 2-player game, it is possible for players to get to a situation where both players pass because none of the ships flipped allow IRON as a cargo. (if w-d, w-e, d-e, then w-d-e are flipped). Both players SHOULD pass at this point, because being the player that bought a second non-iron-cargo ship would bar you from mining 40% of the resources in the game, and the other player (who would be mathematically guaranteed an iron-cargo ship, since there would be visibility on 5 ships, but only 4 of the total ships are non-iron-cargo) would be able to collect on all of your mining expense where you mined iron, but couldn’t collect it. It seems that the only recourse for this would be for that player to run one of their ships out of fuel out in the asteroid belt in order to sacrifice it so they could spend $5 (or possibly $10) on another ship, essentially wasting their initial ship investment.
At this point, the other player would be at least 1 turn and $5 ahead, simply through the chance, though rare, that no iron-cargo ships were flipped in the first 4.

***This could be fixed through any or a combination of the following:
1) allowing visibility on 3 ships per turn instead of 2,
2) allowing both ships up for sale to be shuffled back into the deck of ships if all players pass, only forcing the last 2 players to buy the last 2 ships
3) bidding on the ships with a minimum cost
4) calculating a matrix that weighs the net value of resources against how difficult they are to find and giving each ship a different scaled monetary value (give each player $50, and make w-d-e ships $45, and i-e ships $10 for example, making it VERY possible for players to use strategy to keep money around for later phases, but have to weigh the potential for getting 3 resources per ship against what other ship they could buy)
5) not requiring each player to end up with 2 ships before gameplay begins
6) allowing more different types of ship, including 1-resource ships (combined with revision 4, this could make starting with a disadvantage a given, and force players to guide their strategy toward WHICH weakness they wanted to start with)

NOTE 3 –
If you can convert energite to fuel (without spending an action), which you can use to mine (spending as much fuel as you want in one mining action), can you convert energite you just mined into fuel to keep mining? If so, you could mine any asteroid on a single turn for a potential GAIN in fuel if the asteroid contains any energite at all. This is not only likely, since there is more energite than there are asteroids, but as shown above, is mathematically PROVEN to be able to be found given that the minimum number of resources not visible to you on your first phase is 10, and there are 15 energite in the game. In all likelihood, unless your turn is 3rd or later, there will be 3 asteroids containing energite that you could get to on your first turn (since NO asteroid is more than 2 legs away from Base). There will DEFINITELY be 2 that you could get to (given that, assuming that ALL 10 of the hidden resources are energite, there are 3 possible resources per asteroid that you have looked at and there are 5 energite NOT hidden).

Also, the rules do not state whether your ship must be able to hold energite as cargo if you are to convert it to fuel. If you must, then the above situation for non-iron-cargo ships will apply to non-energite-cargo ships. If you are able to convert energite mid-mining, people will not want to be without an energite-cargo ship because their ships will not be able to mine an entire asteroid in a single turn for a gain in fuel, which will be a major disadvantage.

I did give your entry points, but not as many as I could have –
It was lacking in the route planning, as none of the asteroids are far enough away to make route planning necessary (since you can reach any of them, mine it completely and return to base without impact on your fuel) and no player can block you from this (since the rules do not state as such).
It was also lacking in the deduction, as you are given enough fuel to gain a nearly complete picture of what resources are on each asteroid during the Exploration phase.

I do, however, think that this game has potential, and as this contest is just a prelim for a game’s design, I think further development of this game’s concept wouldn’t be a waste of time.

#3 – Devour Spaceport Epsilon –
The deduction dynamics here seem good and complex – you could place military cubes on the board bordering your path to throw your opponents off, watching which cards your opponents take, etc… but some of the rules seem fuzzy to me.

1) Do the opponents get to see your rampage cards at all times?
2) Do they only see the ones that you choose WHEN YOU CHOOSE THEM (if you choose a face up rampage card from the center of the table), making drawing from the deck an advantage?
3) Are you able to put them in ANY ORDER YOU WANT unless you’re replacing the most recent one (i.e. – I choose a rampage card that lets me move onto a green space, but I want to put it in between two other cards – one that moves me onto red and one that moves me onto blue, because there’s safe passage through no military cubes if I can go red-green-blue, but I would go through 2 military cubes if I had to go red-blue-green)?
4) If you make a mistake when showing your route to Spaceport Epsilon, is there a penalty other than that people know your route?
5) And do you go back to start when you reclaim your rampage cards after an error in your route to spaceport, or leave your monster there as when you have an illegal move when revealing a route?
6) When you have an illegal move made by a rampage card, do you get to reclaim your rampage cards, or is this only done at the end of a round when someone else has already made it to Spaceport?
7) How can more than one player make it to Spaceport? If one player makes it, don’t you score the round right then (It seems as if it would be impossible for more than one player to have an immediate win condition where drawing cards is turn-based)?
8) Are you able to change your route during play when it becomes apparent that it is impossible for you to reach Spaceport Epsilon?
9) What if ALL players are unable to reach the Spaceport, and how would you know, if players’ routes aren’t public knowledge?
10) Without knowing what the board looks like, it is hard to envision how a rampage route will end up being illegal – are the cards that limited in their scope and range of movement?
11) How are the board/monster powers/rampage cards balanced to ensure that there’s at least a 50% chance that SOMEONE can reach the Spaceport?
12) When does a round end? When a player reaches Spaceport, or is there some other limiting factor that causes an end-of-game condition (such as when the deck runs out of cards, when every space has a military cube on it, etc…)?
13) Why would you show a route if it would not take you completely to Spaceport or ends in an illegal move?
14) If you show a route that ends in an illegal move, does your monster stay there for the rest of that game, or is there a way to make a legal move later?
15) Are you able to play more than one military cube on a single space? If so, can your VP total go negative? If it can go negative (either through multiple military cubes or through cards, as shown in the rules – “Ouch! You trod on something spiky! Rampage to any neighbouring space and lose 2 VP.”) what happens to your monster?
16) If individual spaces are colored, what is the need for different colored regions?

I really like the “each player chooses a card from face up in the center or draws from the deck” (a-la-Kahuna – a great game, by the way) to limit visibility of your hand or allow players to think they know what you are planning by choosing things that don’t help you when you’re already ahead, but it is unclear how this benefits/limits a player’s potential without knowing more about the movement on the cards, how much visibility other players have of your hand of rampage cards, how the order of rampage cards comes into play (or matters), or the layout of the gameboard.

I also like the advanced rules – they could make for some very interesting adaptations, and I like the coolness factor of this game, but think that the rules (even for this contest) need a little more refinement, as there are too many questions that refer to major game dynamics that are not clearly answered by these rules.

#4 – High Card Race –
This, though straightforward, is actually a pretty solid concept for an abstract strategy game – no apology necessary.

There appears to be no deduction mechanic however, unless you can count cards (which some people can, though getting a group of people who can count cards to play against each other is a contest in and of itself…).

Conceptually, it’s fine. It seems to be missing something, though.

First, what happens at the edge of the board? i.e.- If I play a 7 of Hearts, and I’m 6 spaces from each edge, do I stop at the edge? – If I’m 4 spaces from one edge and 8 from the other, am I forced to move away from the closer edge of the board?, etc…

Second, what value do face cards have?

Also, it could be played Parcheesi style, where you get 3 tokens each and can only allocate one card to a piece per round, FORCING the third card you play to move your third piece.

I also think that it could benefit from having all pieces moved one space each through the course of the movement defined by the card they played, simultaneously, and allowing for blocking (i.e. – Player 1 is ahead one row and to the left of Player 2 by three columns, and plays a 3 of diamonds while Player 2 plays a 5 of spades. By the time Player 2 would move his 4th space, Player 1 would have moved 3 diagonally and stopped DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HIM, causing a block), though resolving blocking would involve more complex rules.

I DO like the in-advance route planning, though, but as I said, without a deduction mechanic, I couldn’t give this entry more points than I did…

#5 – Search for the Sherriff’s Gold –
These rules are not very clearly laid out, and it is apparent that this may be due to a language barrier. Aside from that, there seem to be some issues with some of the main game dynamics that could seriously affect the game.

First (and most importantly), it doesn’t say anywhere in the rules WHEN the Sherriff plays the coaches on the board.

1) If he must play them at some time before the rows they are played on are filled with tokens/cards, then it would be VERY apparent where the coaches are, and winning the game would ultimately come down to up to 3 rolls of a d6 (where you would need a 5+ on the right one).
2) If he does NOT have to play them before the row they are played in is full, then what will keep the Sherriff from NEVER playing the coaches (he is, according to the legend, a dastardly gentleman), thereby eventually reducing Robin Hood’s integrity to “0” through tokens/cards such as “feudal levy”?

The lack of a mechanism to force a placement of the coaches (at a specific TIME during the game, but not in any specific PLACE on the board) weights the game either toward Robin Hood in the 1st scenario, or toward the Sherriff in the 2nd. I’m not sure how to fix this without giving up the secret of WHEN the Sherriff placed the coaches on the board.
Perhaps, initially, the Sherriff could instead place 24 pieces on the board, ANYWHERE he chooses, and 3 of them MUST be the coaches.

Next, there is some refinement necessary in some of the other dynamics laid out in the rules, which I have listed here as questions:
1) With the arrows, can Robin Hood only move onto certain spaces, or is the board limited like a maze, only allowing Robin Hood entry to some spaces only from certain other spaces? This could hamper movement and delay the game if each space is specific and not planned properly (and will take either a lot of complex geometric mapping/math, or lots of playtesting to determine…), but this could be solved by having a pattern of arrows so that the spaces create a kind of “current” that Robin Hood is guided through along the board (also containing spaces with “exits” from the current to allow Robin Hood to visit previous areas of the board).
2) Does Robin Hood get to use his special tokens/cards once per GAME or once per TURN, and does EACH Robin Hood player get their own set of these special tokens/cards, or does the Robin Hood team (side) get one set for all of them to share?
3) With only 2 Robin Hood players, couldn’t the Sherriff place the 50% of their blank tokens/cards on the part of the board where Robin Hood ISN’T?
4) How many spaces are on the board, approximately, 50, 100, 200? – It will control how many turns there are able to be.
5) Can Sherriff place tokens/cards on spaces where Robin Hood has already gone?
6) If Robin Hood loses a turn, then Sherriff gets another 8 tokens/cards on the board (16 total – 8 during Robin Hood’s turn, and another 8 on the turn that Robin Hood lost) – if Robin Hood loses a turn twice in a row, then there has effectively been 32 pieces put on the board by the Sherriff w/o Robin Hood responding – what happens when every space on the board is full of tokens/cards?

You may already have these questions answered, but not clearly laid out in the rules, but if you don’t, I would figure out how to answer them and then extensively testplay this one.

#6 – Monster Island –
I like this one – Very Scotland Yard.
It seems a little like a framework, though, rather than a pre-prototype design… even when laying out a game like this, I usually have a rough idea of where to begin, and you must, given that you intend to playtest it… (“The initial number of humans, size of the board, and makeup of the deck, will be determined after playtesting.”)

Just a guess (not necessarily a suggestion), but I’d start with:
1) 6 humans per player (so that they’d have to lose MORE THAN HALF to be out of the game)
2) 5 land types (of your choice…)
3) 100 cards –
a) 60 with a single land type (12 of each of the 5 types),
b) 10 with 2 land types (1 of each combination)
c) 10 with 3 land types (1 of each combination)
d) 9 Monster-Cam (3 for each Monster)
e) 11 “Hidden” (I assume these can go for any land type)
4) 16 x 16 board (approx 250 hexes)

The reason I would set it at 16 hexes wide is that if each monster can potentially move 2 hexes in either direction (to the left or to the right), the 3 of them together can cover an area 15 hexes wide (the space they’re on +2 on both sides = 5 times 3 monsters = 15). No human could get past if the monsters had that coverage. Even with random tile placement for the board, it seems likely that, with a board any smaller than 16 wide, “sweet spots” could be found which would allow the monsters to sit and wait since the rules do not REQUIRE them to move on any given turn. (“sweet spot” = any 3 spots with enough choices of terrain around them to pretty much guarantee that they would have to be UNLUCKY to draw land that they could NOT distribute among their monsters in a way that would get all the humans trying to pass) If there were monsters on such sweet spots, even having a “Monster-Cam” wouldn’t help the humans, because they would be at the mercy of the cards once they tried to pass the 3 monsters, even if they knew where they were.

This could be solved by FORCING the monsters to move AT LEAST ONE space each turn (or allowing that they may only NOT move if they ate last turn, or possibly requiring that they are not even able to move if they ate last turn – you know, to digest…).

Also, the problem of “sweet spots” AND the lengthy setup for so basic a premise (having a basic premise is NOT a detriment, but setting up 256 hexes IS) can BOTH be solved by having 16 “16-hex” tiles (in a diamond shape – 1-2-3-4-3-2-1) which have the 16 hex spaces on them already terrained, but may be assembled in any pattern the players choose, and a “16-hex” tile for each of base camp and getaway ships, also to be placed wherever players choose (on the edges, of course). This still allows for random enough board generation (also opening up many different SHAPES of board), while severely reducing setup time – players could also have the option of varying sized boards for more challenging/shorter games. This also allows you to predetermine terrain layout for your different types of land, so as to limit the occurrence of “sweet spots” (i.e. – not allowing any one hex to border ALL 4 other land types).

One other thing – It clearly states that a Monster can NOT move, then eat, but can a monster eat, then move? (i.e. – move onto a space with a human, then move onto another space in the same turn) Also, can a Monster eat, then EAT? (i.e. – eat two humans on adjacent spaces)

I really like this premise (though I DO play Scotland Yard quite often), and voted for it. I’m simply offering pre-playtest input.

(BTW – how can a show called “SURVIVE Monster Island” go wrong any way but HORRIBLY??!? LOL!!)

#7 – Conspiracy! –
It was a shame I couldn’t cast votes for this game, because I REALLY LIKED IT!!

This one had no route planning, as you are not allowed visibility of other player’s actions until they are happening, nor are there any apparent obstacles on the board. This gives no chance to allow players to try to outmove their opponents; players will simply be independently trying to achieve their objectives. This does not require a plan for your route, since there are no restrictions listed for number of pawns occupying each city or number of spaces each pawn may travel. You may simply move as you please, limited only by the number of influence you are allowed to spend each turn. There seems to be no possible penalty for taking a shorter route, nor any possible benefit for taking a longer route. Route planning may entail something like moving through 3 cities instead of 4, but that isn’t as much “route planning” as it is “not wasting your resources”. Without a gamble inherent in expending extra resources, the route planning is reduced to whether you noticed a shorter route on the board or not.

Also, there is no deduction mechanic unless there is a visible index of what ALL of the possible secret agendas are. Any new player will be at a serious disadvantage when pitted against opponents who have played the game even a single other time. Without knowing WHY someone MIGHT want to complete certain plots, it is impossible to guess the WHY. With an astronomical number of benefits for an equally astronomical number of completion scenarios, i.e. – 1VP for each plot completed, for each 2 plots completed, 2VP for each 2 plots completed (rounding down), 2VP for each 3 plots completed, etc… and that’s just for the “earn XX VP for each XX plots completed” secret agendas. With each of the ones you have, I’m sure there are an unbelievable number of possible subtle variations to them. As I stated before, without listing all of the possibilities on some sort of index that the players can watch for throughout the game, guessing specifically what they are is frustratingly impossible for any new player.

And finally, the deduction mechanic for trying to figure out who is which secret society is also flawed. There is ABSOLUTELY NO VISIBILITY of any pertinent value that will allow you to logic it out. The only things you get to DEFINITELY see that are attached to any player are the plots they complete (and apparently only at the time they are completed), and which pawns they place where (which don’t necessarily tell you anything about what secret society they are, since they could be completing another society’s plot). The ONLY thing that could POSSIBLY be of value would be if you were VERY CAREFULLY keeping track of which pawns a player placed on the board that had NOTHING to do with any of the plots that they completed (to further their “1VP per pawn of your color” score at the end), but the rules do not state that you must keep completed plots visible to players once they are revealed. The other thing that could help is which plots a player plays into the dossier, but you only get to know HOW MANY, not which ones, since you must shuffle the plots in the dossier before you can look at them, essentially removing any possibility of knowing who played what unless you use 2 influence EACH TIME any player plays something into the dossier file. This lessens your ability to complete your own plots, and since the benefits for completing plots can FAR outweigh the benefit for guessing someone’s secret society at the end, it seems a VERY high price to pay to learn the only piece of information that can help you deduce another player’s society.

This means that you do not know who has what plots in their hand, what plots anyone is working on, who wants which plots completed, why players are working on some plots and not others, and (as with the secret agendas above) what all of the plots even are. Even if you knew what all of the plots are, figuring out that someone is trying to complete one before they have it completed has no benefit to you unless you have a contradictory plot (i.e. – you must have 1 red pawn in every continent, but another player must remove all red pawns from Europe) or a plot whose result undoes another player’s plot’s conditions. Even so, it won’t help you figure out who they are, since any player can complete any player’s plots. The benefit for completing another player’s plots may (I don’t know, because I don’t know what the cards say) end up far outweighing the 3VP per plot you would earn (1 for completing a plot and 2 for your color plot being completed) for completing your own plots.

That said, I REALLY think this is an interesting game in its own right, and I would have given it many votes if it had appeared in a contest other than this one (and would like to see what the cards are so I can testplay it sometime), but since there is little to no deduction mechanic or route planning (which were major stipulations for THIS contest), I was unable to cast votes for it.

#8 – Claymore –
This game looks like it would be a lot of fun to play, especially with 4 or 5 other people, but again the deduction and route planning mechanics necessary for the contest seemed underdeveloped.

This appears to have no deduction mechanic unless you are able to count cards (or look at the discard pile). Even with that, the deduction is minimal – you can only determine the CHANCE that a particular tile has a mine that can detonate on it, not definitely one way or the other.

Route planning is also a bit limited – again, unless you can count cards. If every space on the board will eventually be detonated, the trick is remembering which spaces have already been detonated and going there.

The game, instead of having a deduction mechanic, turns into a game similar to Memory (which is great, but doesn’t fit the route planning or deduction mechanics), in which the object is to get as far as you can, remembering where you got blown apart before and take that same path again (i.e. – pick the route that contains as many of your cards as possible, and take that same route as many times as possible).

Also, 2 questions:

Can a player detonate (or perform other actions) on someone else’s turn if they have AP left? It states in the rules that: “You do not need to use every AP you have in a turn, but you will always start the next turn with 2, unless noted otherwise.”, but doesn’t say that your AP goes to 0 at the END of YOUR turn.

Also, it says in the rules: “Reinforce - Cost: 1 AP. Return a fallen soldier to start area on the board.”, but it doesn’t say whether or not you can perform other actions while your soldier is a fallen soldier (and what “fallen soldier” means is unclear – I assume it means a soldier whose HP = 0). Are players FORCED to return a fallen soldier to the board on their next turn?

As far as the Detection mechanic goes, if you call a space and someone reveals a mine, you have either 2 choices: either go there and try to have it detonated, or never learn of another mine on that row or column from those players for the rest of the game. If the players both reveal a mine to you, unless you go and have those mines detonated, they can show you exactly the same mines again and again, giving you no new information. Let’s say you’re on C8 – if you call E8, the other players can show you A8 and C2. Then, unless you go and try to have A8 detonated, you will NEVER know if anything else in the 8 column will detonate. This gives players with A,B, and C mines a huge advantage, and if they choose NOT to ever detonate them, the other players can’t use the detection mechanic to gain useful knowledge. Now, if you go back and try to have the A8 mine detonated, and the other player doesn’t WANT to detonate it, then you spend your time hovering around A8, not advancing. Otherwise, detection seems broken somehow, and a waste of 2AP if done more than once.

This might be fixed by forcing a player to play with a card (that was detected) face-up, and demanding that a player reveal a NON-FACE-UP card during detection, preventing them from revealing the same cards over and over.

#9 – Octant –
This game, though similar to such abstract classics as Nine Men Morris, or Halma, really has no route planning (as all routes cost the same, are the same distance from the objective, and there is no penalty for taking one over the other), and no deduction mechanic, as there is total visibility of everything owned by the opponent (all pieces and possible moves). I’m not sure why it was entered into this contest.

#10 – Pioneers –
This was my entry. I welcome criticism and suggestions.

#11 – Cave of the Fat Old Dragon –
This game seems to need a little more refinement of its core concepts. Also, the rules is some places need to be more clearly written.

Some of the issues that affect gameplay are:

1) There is no way to heal your creatures, so if any of your pieces are at 1HP, there is a very low chance you will get to the Lair and back without getting killed by Dragonfire (since it happens whenever anyone is within its range).
2) Acquiring a “Cloak of Invisibility” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the rules, though its function IS. This poses a problem – if you can’t acquire a cloak of invisibility, how can you move past opponent’s pieces without an EXACT count to engage them in combat? Example: If the only piece I have left is on 222, and the opponent’s pieces are on 145, 233 & 234, how can I move if I don’t roll a “1”? – This Example also hold if my 3 pieces are at 455, 456 & 446, and the opposing pieces are at 466, 336 & 445. The pieces don’t even have to be adjacent – what if I’m at 244, 334 & 444, and the opposing pieces are at 225, 245 and 445 and I roll only 5s or 6s? There is nothing in the rules stating that you lose your turn (or the game) in this case, but it DOES state that you can’t move PAST your opponent’s pieces (without the aforementioned cloak) and have to move the entire amount of your roll without retracing. It ALSO states that you can only LAND on your opponent’s pieces by EXACT COUNT. This removes the ability to roll a number that WOULD take you past them, but instead force you to combat them. This also does not explain what happens if the Dragon blocks you in with disasters, leaving you unable to move. The whole “unable to move” scenario is unexplained by the rules.
3) The Stalactite/Stalagmite placement rule doesn’t account for areas 11, 16 and 66 (where there are 5, 5, and 3 possibilities for placement, respectively, instead of 6).
4) The Magic Shovel states that it allows “through Cave-in with only 1, rather than 3”, but later in the rules, it states “Player on 156 wants to move through cave-in on 136. On roll of 5, she’d move onto that space, then continue to move two more spaces: 156-136-126-122…or…156-136-144-133.”, so I’m a little fuzzy about what actually is happening when a player tries to overcome a cave-in – does “Player on 156” have the magic shovel, or is this a normal scenario? (and if it is a normal scenario, what is the magic shovel for?)

There really is no route planning, just avoiding obstacles in the most efficient manner, and I’m not sure where the deduction mechanic is, unless it’s trying to guess which color ring is an opponent’s “Magic Battle-Axe” ring, since you can’t control who gets Dragonfired or caved in (and so gain no advantage by knowing). Deducing the battle axe can completely be avoided by simply avoiding combat except with your Magic Battle Axe piece (which then gives this information away to your opponent).

#12 – Clandestine Freedom Movement –

Why are there MP HQ cards? There is no benefit to either player for using them – CFM players will simply discard them when they draw them (since it allows the least movement options of any space on the board – 13 and it is the most likely space to be occupied by MP, since they return there upon capture), and MP don’t need them since they can return to HQ simply through capture (no need for a card to move them there).

This can be fixed by changing that 24th card type (MPHQ) to some sort of action (create new decoy letter, move an opponent’s piece anywhere you choose 2 spaces away, etc…) or by eliminating those 4 cards altogether.

Why 3 spaces away from current space? That allows EACH space, on average, to have more than 17 options (limited, of course by which zones they can move into/out of). This does not really restrict a player’s ability to get around (certainly not the MPs), and turns the game into a test of whether the MPs played the same card as the CFM on the same turn, not a deduction/route planning mechanic.

This can be fixed by tightening the movement to 2 spaces away.

Can an MP arrest multiple CFM? It stands to reason that they CAN, but it doesn’t say so in the rules (it, in fact states: “A MP-pawn may “arrest” a CFM-pawn in the same location by taking both pawns to the MP's headquarters where the CFM-pawn will remain for the next planning and action phases. After this, the pawn is “released” to the space from which it was originally arrested.”, which speaks of the arrested as a singular pawn (implying that multiple CFM can NOT be arrested by a single MP).

I don’t know if this is intentional or not, and so I do not know if it needs a fix, but it might benefit at least from clarification.

It appears as though the deduction mechanic is a sort-of process of elimination, which happens strictly from trial and error since the opponent will intentionally trying to make ALL of the CFM pieces look as if they’re the ones carrying the message. Also, with such unadulterated movement possibilities, route planning isn’t really an issue since there are so many spaces available to each piece each turn. And since pieces can skip over each other (it only matters where they land) there’s no need for the CFM to plan a route AROUND MPs.

metzgerism's picture
Joined: 06/19/2009
stubert wrote:#8 – Claymore

stubert wrote:
#8 – Claymore –
This game looks like it would be a lot of fun to play, especially with 4 or 5 other people, but again the deduction and route planning mechanics necessary for the contest seemed underdeveloped.
Just a disclaimer: Seth bugged me about putting in an entry right around the time of the deadline. I've wanted to submit an entry before but never got the inspiration to do so until I came up with this idea.

Inspiration came at 3:00pm. Submitted entry at 11:00pm.

stubert wrote:
This appears to have no deduction mechanic unless you are able to count cards (or look at the discard pile). Even with that, the deduction is minimal – you can only determine the CHANCE that a particular tile has a mine that can detonate on it, not definitely one way or the other.

Route planning is also a bit limited – again, unless you can count cards. If every space on the board will eventually be detonated, the trick is remembering which spaces have already been detonated and going there.

The game, instead of having a deduction mechanic, turns into a game similar to Memory (which is great, but doesn’t fit the route planning or deduction mechanics), in which the object is to get as far as you can, remembering where you got blown apart before and take that same path again (i.e. – pick the route that contains as many of your cards as possible, and take that same route as many times as possible).

All good points. The fact of the matter is, I don't know if this concept works well as a deduction game. I did consider it as a minefield-navigation game, with mine-detection as the key element (Clue with radar, anyone), but by the time I started working on the treatment and a cohesive ruleset, I figured I'd want to mix everything together and give it a little more "take that!" The idea of going, getting blown up, and doing it over and over again DID occur to me.

stubert wrote:
Also, 2 questions:

Can a player detonate (or perform other actions) on someone else’s turn if they have AP left? It states in the rules that: “You do not need to use every AP you have in a turn, but you will always start the next turn with 2, unless noted otherwise.”, but doesn’t say that your AP goes to 0 at the END of YOUR turn.

Also, it says in the rules: “Reinforce - Cost: 1 AP. Return a fallen soldier to start area on the board.”, but it doesn’t say whether or not you can perform other actions while your soldier is a fallen soldier (and what “fallen soldier” means is unclear – I assume it means a soldier whose HP = 0). Are players FORCED to return a fallen soldier to the board on their next turn?

Admittedly, I was looking for a simple mechanic to allow players additional actions and also prevent a player from navigating through successfully on luck alone. Mines have a "blast radius" of 1 space, so you can still get hit even if you're walking the tightrope to victory - this is why you have 2 HP (instead of 1). The 2 AP felt right because then I could play around with the action cards a lot more, and make the mines action cards themselves.
Also (and this was in hindsight, really), I liked the idea that I had RPG elements in the game in just about the most basic and limited approach possible - two stats, each with a max value of 2.

stubert wrote:
As far as the Detection mechanic goes, if you call a space and someone reveals a mine, you have either 2 choices: either go there and try to have it detonated, or never learn of another mine on that row or column from those players for the rest of the game. If the players both reveal a mine to you, unless you go and have those mines detonated, they can show you exactly the same mines again and again, giving you no new information. Let’s say you’re on C8 – if you call E8, the other players can show you A8 and C2. Then, unless you go and try to have A8 detonated, you will NEVER know if anything else in the 8 column will detonate. This gives players with A,B, and C mines a huge advantage, and if they choose NOT to ever detonate them, the other players can’t use the detection mechanic to gain useful knowledge. Now, if you go back and try to have the A8 mine detonated, and the other player doesn’t WANT to detonate it, then you spend your time hovering around A8, not advancing. Otherwise, detection seems broken somehow, and a waste of 2AP if done more than once.

This might be fixed by forcing a player to play with a card (that was detected) face-up, and demanding that a player reveal a NON-FACE-UP card during detection, preventing them from revealing the same cards over and over.

Part of this was intended to be Clue-like. You ask for information and, depending on the battlefield changes, the information will change. It's not open information either, so you have to be a little bit secretive about what you know.

I hope these answers help, or at least let you see that this was a quick n' dirty rough entry. The concept remains there for me to come back to (I've already toyed with using a trapezoidal board), so I'm proud I entered, even though I didn't get any votes.

BTW, I visualized this (thematically) as the U.S. pullout of Vietnam in 1975.

oicu12b12's picture
Joined: 10/02/2009
This was my first GDS, and I

This was my first GDS, and I enjoyed the mental challenge of the exercise. I discovered that the greater challenge of the GDS isn't so much about the short time frame to come up with a concept and put it into description and rules as much as it is keeping the description and rules concise and clear (as per the 800 word limit). My critiques (or better stated as "feedback") are coming a little later than others, and I feel like others, specifically STUBERT, have done a better job of analyzing each game. What I offer won't be deep analysis, but rather some feedback on how I thought the games captured the heart of the GDS and how well the ideas were presented in an understandable way. Thanks to everybody's feedback on my game, #12, and welcome others to offer more as well.

#1 Rainbow's End - (1 Vote) I like the simplicity and straightforwardness of this game. I like that the hunter is able to place a trap next to any trap that he has already placed (very long legs indeed), however I wonder if this makes the hunter too powerful? This is mediated by the players being made to play both sides for a complete game, so maybe not a big deal. I also think the difficulty of the game for the hunter will vary greatly depending upon the number of colors and the pattern (or randomness) of the layout of the board. The game is more about who can be a better, more efficient hunter. Good job on this one.

#2 Asteroid Mining - (2 Votes) I thought this one was one of the two that captured the heart of the GDS along with providing an interesting theme. The three phases idea is interesting. The hiring ships phases may need need reworking for smaller player games, as they will hold out for the larger capacity ships. This might be mediated by allowing players to enter into phase 3 before other players have finished. Phase 3 seems interesting as players will need to make some decisions about saving or spending Energite. I wonder if some type of market mechanic might make this phase even more interesting (eg, the first water delivered gets paid $15, the second gets $20, the third $25, then back to $15 on the fourth delivery). This might add a new tension based on timing the deliveries. Great entry.

#3 Devour Spaceport Epsilon I like the humor in the game. The coolest aspect is the Military cubes. There is definitely route planning in this game, and a little bit of deduction. I think the board will have to be carefully laid out so that there is good balance but not predictability of the routes. This game almost got a vote from me. It seemed like there needed to be a little more development on the number of players, the layout of the board, even the number of rounds (3) for a complete game may need some rethinking. Otherwise, Good job.

#4 High Card Race This is another straightforward and simple game that I think could be kind of fun with the right crowd.
I like the idea of going head on, racing towards each other. A couple of thoughts: I don't see a deduction mechanic. I also wonder if there was a way to increase the speed rather than just moving from one nexus to the next (eg, could odd cards move one and even cards move two – may be a bad suggestion). Nice work for having a busy schedule.

#5 Search for Sheriff's Gold I think there might be a good game idea in here, but I had troubles following it. Perhaps the game could benefit by a better organization of the ideas. For example, I couldn't tell how the Robin Hood player wins the game.

#6 Monster Island - (1 Vote) Like #3, I think the monster theme gives this game good humor. I think this game has some great deas behind it. I like the card play and the the "monster sighted" mechanic. The route planning and deduction mechanics are there. But like #3, I wish there was a little more development given, such as, how many humans does each human player begin with? And like #1, I think the size of the board will have an impact on how hard or difficult (balanced or unbalanced) this game will be for the players. Nice job on this one.

#7 Conspiracy - (2 votes) I really like this game. It's filled with lots of intrigue and tension. I like the creativity of the plots and their abstracted requirements to be met on the board. This is very cool. I also like how players have the ability to influence any of the pawns and that their decisions have the possibility of revealing who their secret societies are. However, I would like to see this idea developed more. I love the hint of a deduction element here, but I think it could be reworked to be stronger. Right now, I'm not sure if a player could make a strong case of who other players are through clear deduction. Mostly hunches, based upon partial deduction. Otherwise, a good game. Great job.

#8 Claymore This is a pretty good game. The working out of the theme is strange, as it would seem that the game should be cooperative in nature (the soldiers are all on the same side, right?), yet there's competition to blow each other up and be the first to cross the line. A little ironic I guess. I like that the discard pile doesn't get recycled. The deduction mechanic only comes out with the detection action, but seems useless as it can only be used to name adjacent spaces. Since you only have two AP's and would use both with detection, you couldn't do anything about it if you detected something. Perhaps this could be mediated by giving more AP's per turn than just two. Good start on an idea.

#9 Octant Seems like this might be an interesting abstract strategy game. Don't think it fits the deduction or route planning requirements of the GDS.

#10 Pioneers I think there is a decent game here. The set up and components reminds me of Settlers, but that's where the similarities end. The payout phase was a little confusing to me. The reason this one didn't get any votes from me was that I was kind of confused about a few things. I didn't understand how four dice interacted with five resource types. The components list mentions four resources but the payout section mentions five. A little more clarification of how this works would be helpful. Also the Buy and Build phases seem intuitively backwards. Perhaps the order helps with the intended deduction mechanic. There's hint of action cards (ie, one that can be played to branch a path) but no other mentions of how to get them. Needs some clarification and refinement and I think there would be an entertaining game here.

#11 Cave of the Fat Old Dragon The correlation of the map and the dice possibilities is pretty cool. Quite honestly, I got lost in the description of these rules. They probably make sense to others, but maybe a little work needs to be done on clarifying them. I don't see a much of a deduction mechanic here, unless the secretly recorded rings are what was intended. Probably a good start to a decent game.

#12 Clandestine Freedom Movement (mine) Thanks for all the good feedback and critiques on my game. I look forward to doing this again!

Joined: 12/15/2009
Sorry everyone!

This was my first GDS and I'm really heartened that a couple of people (especially the winner!) liked my design (Devour Spaceport Epsilon) enough to vote for it. I'd like to say how impressed I am by the level of effort which people have put into design and critiques.

Congratulations to everyone, especially the winner and runners-up! (Weirdly enough, not only did two people independently submit monster games but we are BOTH CALLED SIMON. Spooky kooky! I like to think that the monsters from Planet Monster and Monster Island would make friends.)

Unfortunately I spent the last week severely sleep-deprived and struggled to make a proper evaluation of all the entries, with the consequence that I didn't even vote. Rules just started swimming before my eyes.

I'll try and make the effort to properly read and critique all the entries, but I'm behind on job work due to last week's insomnia, so I apologise if I can't. It's easier for me to respond to the very helpful critiques on my game design, since I know it inside out.

One brief critiquey comment: Rainbow's End and Monster Island both depend on hidden written records, which is unfortunately a total strikeout for me however much I might like the games otherwise.
There are at least two reasons for this that I can identify:
* if a player breaks the rules by mistake, this will only be found out later and could invalidate the entire play session retroactively
* by pure personal preference, I don't like sheets of paper with players' writing on them as central components in a board game along with pawns, cards and/or dice; they somehow don't seem to go together
The first problem is quite a serious one in my view which requires careful design to avoid.


Overall the comments on Devour Spaceport Epsilon have been very helpful and encouraging. The game was intended as a mixture of planning, deduction, screwage and racing. The cards are intended to be just flexible enough that players gradually reduce the available routes for their monster as they play more cards (this may require very subtle card and board design).

The idea started off explicitly as a way of allowing pieces to be moved secretly without a need for recording moves secretly. The only hidden information is the starting location (which is on a card); the movement information is completely open. I then realised that this wouldn't really work unless cards allowed some flexibility in available routes, and the whole design sort of came together from there.

There were important things about the rules which I just didn't describe well enough for everyone to get. In fact probably nobody understood all the rules, even though there weren't very many of them. Important lesson learned - being clear in my own mind how the rules work isn't enough.
Here are the points I didn't explain properly. They were what I meant right from the start, and I think they address pretty much every question raised by critiquers.

* Players don't have a hand of cards.
* I used the words "turn", "round" and "game" in a highly confusing manner. I should used "round" for "turn", "game" for "round" and "play session" for game, as follows...
* Players' rampage cards are arranged face-up on the table in the order they were played. They are not picked up, concealed, or otherwise molested until the end of the game.
* The only thing players can do is to play a card to the end of the line, optionally discarding the single card previously at the end of the line before adding the new one.
* No monster pawns are actually moved until the end of the game; no VPs are scored until the end of the game.
* From mathematical first principles, if a given player plays enough randomly chosen cards half-sensibly, they are practically guaranteed to reach the spaceport (the probability of doing so gets arbitrarily close to 1 as more cards are played, given very minimal assumptions). It's even better if they draft cards non-randomly.
* A play session consists of a small number of games. (The submitted scoring mechanism means that most play decisions only matter if points are totalled over more than one game.)
* Each game is split into rounds; each round, a new pool of face-up cards becomes available and each player in turn plays to their line either one of the unchosen face-up cards or a random card from the top of the deck. (They can't discard the new card until next turn. This means playing the card can be disadvantageous, but very rarely so.)
* At the end of the round, if any player(s) can use their line of played cards (in that order) to trace a route to the spaceport, they may do so and the game ends; all other players then use their line of played cards (in that order) to trace the highest-scoring route they can. (They usually won't have many alternative routes available.)
* If a player claims the spaceport by mistake, they don't pay any penalty (revealing their start location is bad enough for them). If they rearranged their cards (using their monster power) to erroneously claim the spaceport, they undo the rearrangement. Then play continues.

Critical comments have now inspired me to consider some rules improvements:

* The game has to end if the deck runs out of cards. This is a situation I hadn't considered. (Running out of military cubes before then can't happen providing there are at least as many cubes as cards.)
* When playing a new card, a player should be able to discard any number of cards from the end of their line, not just one. (This prevents a particular play mistake from making all the player's further card plays being entirely pointless, and adds some minor tactical options.)
* When a card is played from the top of the deck, it is played face-down, and only the player who played it can look at it until the end of the game. Obviously, it occupies the same position in the line that it would have done if played face-up. (This is a cool idea I hadn't thought of, and makes last-pick turn order less of a disadvantage.)
* Some cards could be added which aren't move cards. These would be discarded when played and would have an immediate effect, like allowing you to slightly rearrange your line of cards or move a few military cubes.
* Alternatively, players could maintain a (concealed) hand of move cards. They would still play one card a turn to their line, but wouldn't have to play the one they just drew. (In other words, they would have a small planning buffer between drawing and playing cards.) This rule change and the previous one might not play well together, since it would make immediate-effect cards extra super powerful.

stubert wrote:

13) Why would you show a route if it would not take you completely to Spaceport or ends in an illegal move?

Only by mistake. But there had to be a rule which dealt with mistakes without them totally ruining the game (c.f. my comment above about hidden notes). My philosophy is, games should be as idiot-proof as possible. (Children, idiots and newbies deserve to have fun playing games!)

stubert wrote:

15) Are you able to play more than one military cube on a single space? If so, can your VP total go negative? If it can go negative (either through multiple military cubes or through cards, as shown in the rules – “Ouch! You trod on something spiky! Rampage to any neighbouring space and lose 2 VP.”) what happens to your monster?

"Yes", "yes" and "it gets sulky and threatens to eat you instead of the game board spaces, but no other consequence occurs". (Disclaimer: game designer not responsible for any loss of life or limb arising from this game.)

stubert wrote:

16) If individual spaces are colored, what is the need for different colored regions?

Space = region. Spaces represent large geographical regions on Monster Planet.

simons wrote:

Really good theme.

Oh really? I believe there was another submission with a similar theme :-P

simons wrote:

I do really like the idea though, this seems like something I’d play with friends.

Wow, awesome! Thanks for the support :-D
Did the theme by any chance have anything to do with that? ;-)

seo wrote:

**Entry #3 - Devour Spaceport Epsilon**
I see little or no interaction, and I fail to see much deduction either, other than by keeping track of the played cards. I like the writing of the entry, though, and its humour.

* The deduction aspect lies in guessing a player's secret start location from the sequence of cards face-up in front of them.
* Knowing a start location tells you what paths that player can use those cards to move their monster along.
* This allows you to screw them by placing military cubes along their available routes, and affects your card drafts (e.g. sometimes there will be cards which are of equal value to you but unequal value to an opponent).
* Deliberate interaction is limited by the available information about start locations; unplanned interaction occurs right from the start of the game through the card draft mechanism.

Thanks again... gaaaaahhhhh!!!! it's 3:49am now :-( :-(

Jpwoo's picture
Joined: 03/26/2009
I certainly can't argue with

I certainly can't argue with the criticisms of Conspiracy! I think that they are dead on.

Re: Route Planning, originally I had a few other more complicated pawn moving schemes, like escalating costs and a card driven one but they didn't seem to work well in my head. I eventually settled on having it so that your pawns had to be in place at the start of your turn. So the planning aspect was more in the coordinating of pawns rather than the moving of a specific one. Perhaps in the context of the challenge I should have gone with an earlier design.

Re stubert on deduction: The number of secret agendas is small, maybe 6. Thinking on it now they should probably be dealt out like the organizations are as well.

On the visibility of information, I think you are absolutely right, there should be more avenues of determining this. Perhaps rather than paying influence to do things like look in the dossier, every time you complete a plot you are allowed to do things like look in the dossier, or look at another players hand, or look at another players incomplete plots, look at Secret societies not taken. This also gives you a minor incentive to complete more plots as well.

I did a little testing with using cards to help determine other peoples factions, and it shows some promise.

Someday I will have to turn one of these into an actual game.

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