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[GDS] APRIL 2016 "Co-op? More like co-opted."

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

We have a winner!

The Final Voyage of the Jelly Roger

by ConMan

Full results and discussion will be found in the critiques forum. Thank you once again to all our designers and readers!

Entries are in!

Take a look through the 7 games in the comments below. You have 1 week to read through them and choose which will win your gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Afterwards we'll have the critique stage, so it'll help if you record some notes while you are voting. Remember, most participants are after the feedback, so give the kind of feedback you would like to see yourself!

When you're ready to vote, use this form here.


  • Voting: Through the 16th.

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!

    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.

    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.

Pandemic, Hanabi, now classic pure cooperative games. There's no traitor here, no hidden agendas that make the game a solitary experience.

A common, if arguably misguided criticism of cooperative games is that there is a possibility of an "alpha gamer." This is one player, whether through speaking loudly or through experience, commands the rest of the group to do their bidding. It makes a group puzzle and turns it into one-person's game.

There are a number of mechanisms across games to inhibit this play, and nearly all of them include privatising some information - whether hidden goals, hidden traitors, etc.

However, there is a school of design thought that if players are going to tend to do a thing in a game, like share information, why not simultaneously encourage and regulate it, like Hanabi with its currency controlled communication? Granted Hanabi doesn't have as big an alpha-gamer potential because of hidden information and there's no open communication. For this GDS we're going full co-op.

Your goal with this GDS is to create a purely cooperative game that actually encourages and regulates the alpha player phenomenon. In other words, a game that knows it might happen, and uses it to its advantage.

This is intentionally vague in direction, so as not to imply a solution. Let's see what you come up with!

As this might be a tough one, I am leaving out any other restrictions.

On to the details!

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.

Component restriction: None Mechanic restriction: Recognises the potential for, encourages, and regulates alpha gamers in a Cooperative game.
**Theme restriction: None

Word Limit: Standard 500 word limit. Remember this is a pitch, so focus your thoughts on the task and a summary more than explaining every detail

Voting: Award a Gold, Silver, and Bronze (worth 3,2, and 1 points respectively) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

When submitting your entry: PLEASE USE THE FORM LINKED HERE.

  • Submissions: Saturday the 2nd through Saturday the 9th

  • Voting: Through the 16th. Votes will be through a form (link posted after submission period is ended).

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!

    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.

    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.

  • Comments or Questions: Comments and questions about this Challenge are handled on the Comments Thread

  • CRITIQUES: After voting has closed the entries will be posted for comments and critiques. Post constructive critiques and commentary about the entries to this Challenge in the Critiques Thread.

  • GDS Details: For more details on how these Game Design Showdown Challenges work, visit the GDS Wiki Page.

Enjoy, and good luck!

-Rich and Mindspike

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 1 - The Final Voyage of the Jelly Roger

_Most pirate ships had a strict rule of order, but on board the Jelly Roger they preferred a more unconventional approach. On Monday, Captain Plaidbeard would command over Bosun Lily Liver and First Mate Itsamee. But on Tuesday, it might be Captain Itsamee, with Plaidbeard navigating and Lily at the cannons. And they were the most feared pirate crew on the lesser-known Eighth Sea. But troubled times were coming, as the Eighth Sea Navy sought out pirates and sunk their ships. The crew of the Jelly Roger decided it was time to take one last haul and retire to a place where acts of piracy were considered appropriate, like the House of Parliament._

The aim of the game is to collect as much booty as possible before the Eighth Sea Council Anti-Piracy Engagement Act (ESCAPE Act) is passed into law, while at the same time avoiding being sunk by the Eighth Sea Navy or rival pirates. Players win collectively if they can sail off into the sunset with enough booty to give a hundred doubloons to each player.

Each player has a hand of action cards, and is randomly dealt a role. Cards have different effects depending on the role of the person who plays them - the Gunsman plays cards as attacks, while the Navigator uses them to move around the board to find treasure - and cards that are good for one role might be less useful for another. The most important role, and the only one that is always in play, is the Captain, who doesn't get to play cards at all!

Instead of having a set turn order, it is the Captain's job to choose at the start of each turn who will be acting. Unfortunately, players can only give limited information about the state of their hand, making it harder to determine the best course of action. Not to worry, because at the end of your turn you can swap your role with any role in the game, including those not currently taken by anyone, and _especially_ including the Captain! In fact, it is only when you become Captain that you get to replenish your hand, so you'll want to make sure you get to wear that hat on a regular basis.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 2 - Jury-riggers

A team of astronauts stranded in a distant star system must assemble a habitable space station out of the wreckage of their ship. Suit life-support systems are slowly failing, and communications are down. The team are spread far and wide, and can only communicate with reusable coloured flares in different combinations...

Two to five may play. Components are: a set of five coloured pawns, a set of five specialization cards, a deck of flare cards in five colours, a hex-gridded board and a set of hexagonal tiles that fit on the board cells represent the ship components. At setup the tiles are shuffled and built face-up on the board in one of several standard multi-overlapping-layer tableaus (similar to Mahjong solitaire). Each tile has part of a necessary component (hydroponic farm, power-generator, habitation module, life-support and communications) or a connecting duct. These must be assembled on the board to form a complete, connected unit of each type (much like cities in Carcassonne). Components may be connected by touching another component or by one or more ducts to another component. However, each unit must also consist of at least as many tiles as there are players. Each unit has an associated color (red,orange,yellow,green and blue), which is the same as one of the pawn colours. Each player is therefore assigned the pawn the color of their specialization (or one of their specialization, if less than five play).
The specialization cards are shuffled and dealt out approximately evenly to all players before play starts. These determine which modules a player may assemble tiles onto.
Players are also issued with five flare cards of each colour (flare colours correspond with player/component colours).

Each player has a limited number of actions per turn.
Players may draw a top-level tile if their pawn is adjacent to the tableau, move with the tile to a new square on the board, transfer the tile to another player, abandon the tile (turn it upside down - requires one action to recover later) or assemble the tile onto the station (if they have the right specialization card, or the player with that specialization is adjacent to them). Any player may assemble a connection duct,regardless of specialization. Communication is achieved by passing one or more flare cards to another player. Players must try to choose flare colour combinations that make their meaning clear to others - there is no set rule regarding meaning. Communicating with another player also counts as one action, and the flare cards are kept by the receiving player for re-use. Players may not speak, write notes to each other or use sign-language in order to instruct one another.

The number of turns are limited according to difficulty level. If the number of turns runs out before the players have completed the station, they lose. If they succeed in building a station with each component large enough and connected before turns run out, they win.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 3 - Alpha Hackers

Alpha Hackers

The year is 2018 and you are employed by the military defence command USCYBERCOM in a special group of elite cyber specialists called the Alpha Hackers. You goal is to defend national security and deflect breaches and cyber attacks.


There are two different game boards placed on the table with some distance to each other. One board is the deep web and the other is the dark web. Both board consist of a dimmed world map with a network of bright lines connecting different dots/routers. All dots have a number so they can be referenced by the event cards. 20 “security data chips” (tokens) is placed in the center of the deep web on top of a big server icon (the base).

There are 5 player cards each with a special assignment. To insure maximum security the government has decided that the Alpha hackers should rotate assignments. The assignments are: Tracking, Sniffing, Capture IP, Securing connections and the Operation Commander.

All players start with several chips of one color.

There are 3 piles of action cards: defensive, offensive and intelligence gathering.

Play phases

Each turn players shuffle and deal everyone an assignment. The tracker and sniffer move to the dark web board and the others stay near the deep web board.


On each board players may discuss the actions they wish to execute. You may not speak or comment on the other board/map situation. The Commanding player needs to get all info encrypted which limits that player communication possibilities (he may not speak during this phase). One player from each group brief the commander on the actions they think should be made. The commander then draw 2 cards per player and give one to each player and discard the rest.


All players may now speak freely (but not look directly at the other map) and must now execute a default action of their own choice and the action the commander gave them. Some of the action players can take is; Securing connections, analyzing malware, removing threats and setting up encrypted passages. The defensive cards allow players to build “roadblocks” and encrypt passages (placing chips) while offensive actions is about removing threats. Players can only take action on the part of the network that they are connected with.

Enemy movement:

The enemy in the game is attacks and vira that each turn move towards the base. Vira spread and attacks accumulate until they break down secure lines. Each round blip tokens are placed face down on coordinates in the dark web. Blips can be turned to reveal a number of attacks. Blips will move from one board to the other in a defined way. Each turn an increasing number of hostile attack cards are drawn and they tell players how many blips should be placed where.


If players can remove all attacks from the deep web board or decrypt three vira they win. If 20 data is stolen from the base they lose.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 4 - Dispatch 5-0

Dispatch 5-0
3-6 Players

Players are police officers addressing emergencies happening in the city. One player is the Dispatcher and assigns the other players to address emergency situations that happen in different city buildings such as fires, drug busts, and keeping those kids at the skate park in line. The team will have to carefully determine which officer is best suited to solve each emergency. If the deck of emergency cards runs out before enough emergencies are fixed, then everyone is booted off the force and the game is lost.

Players pick from character roles such as the Flatfoot, Gumshoe, Screw Up, Loose Cannon, Golden Boy/Girl, and Old-Timer. Each character has stats for Move, Fight, Speech, Shoot, and a special power

All players choose a police character card and then as a group pick one person to be the dispatcher.
Dispatcher places the police station and all players put their tokens on the station
Players in clockwise order draw building tiles and place them in a matching empty matching color spaces on the board until all spots are filled. There are Green Residential, Yellow Commercial, Blue Industrial, and Purple special spaces.
Shuffle all emergency cards together. Dispatcher draws cards equal to the number of players +1.

Emergency Cards:
Each emergency card matches a building tile. The card says how many turns a player has to respond, the three possible solutions of Fight, Speech, Shoot. Each solution has a different number that you have to tie or beat with a dice roll and the amount of points you can get for winning the die roll.
The Dispatcher must assign at least 1 emergency card to each other player with advice from the other players, but makes final decisions. The Dispatcher can assign a card to themselves, but is not required. The player receiving the emergency card puts it in front of them on the number track face-up. Players may have any number of emergencies assigned to them. Every new turn the Emergency cards move down a number and are lost if they move off the track.

Turn Order:
Players simultaneously take actions, picking one action to either Move, Roll or Skip.
Emergencies can only be solved by the player to which that emergency is assigned, but other players may come to the same emergency location to add their character stats to the die rolls.
Roll to fix an emergency by picking a solution on the emergency card (Fight, Speech, Shoot) rolling a D-10, and adding that number to their character's stat. A tie or higher wins and the group earns points based on your solution listed on the emergency card.
If the Dispatcher is not in the police station when they draw more emergency cards, then emergency cards must be assigned without anyone looking at them first.
Dispatcher draws and assigns more Emergency Cards each turn.
Game won when a total number of points is reached before deck empties.
The Dispatcher role can change to a different player during the game

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 5 - Big Brother is Watching You

Big Brother is watching you

Nobody writes anything about the system. Nobody says anything about the system. Until that day, you would have thought nobody but you thinks anything about the system. But on that day, you met them, strangers, comrades, co-conspirators. It's time to do something about the system. Just beware, big brother is watching, and the thought police are right behind your back.


Item deck and thought police deck. Each player starts with five cards from the item deck.


Play goes in turns around the table. On a player's turn, they draw two cards from the item deck, pick one and discard one. Then they must either discard a card, or pass it to another player. They may at any time during their turn play as many item cards as they want. If a player wishes to speak, they must take a card from the thought police deck and apply the effects. Only one player may speak at one time.


When a player thinks the group has completed one of the victory conditions, the player yells "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER", and everyone reveals their cards. If the condition has been met, the players ignite an uprising against the state. If not, everyone is shot, tortured, then sent to reeducation camps.

Example Item cards:

  • Canned coffee: trade for another card from item deck
  • Real butter: prevent 1 contraband from being confiscated
  • Courier pigeon: write a note and pass to any player.
  • Gasmask: Dig through discard pile for item
  • Pickup Truck: Give any number of cards to another player
  • Crystal oscillator: contraband, radio part
  • Inner Party Papers: nullify a thought police card
  • Bolt Rifle: illegal, weapon

Example Victory conditions:

  • Gunpowder plot: players have a total of 10 kegs of gunpowder.
  • Armed revolt: every player has a weapon.
  • Free the truth: one player has all components for printing press (contraband); players have secret document (illegal)
  • Underground radio 247: two players individually have all components for radio transmitter (some contraband)

Thought police deck:

  • Search: (most common) If player is holding any illegal items, they are immediately executed. Confiscate all contrabands.
  • Stalk: (permanent) If player passes a card to another player, that player also has to draw a thought police card.
  • Voluntary work: (permanent) Player only draws 1 card each turn
  • Black mark: (permanent) If player takes any more thought police cards, they are executed.
  • Relocate: Discard all cards in hand face down.

A player about to be executed may denounce two other players to avoid death. The two players take a thought police each.

Player choices:

how to shuffle key cards between players and discard pile without getting confiscated. Should I coordinate the group, and take thought police, or silently collect key items?

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 6 - The Duck Flies at Midnight

2-5 players cooperate to decipher a code phrase, which contains a number of main words equal to the number of players. An example would be The DUCK FLIES at MIDNIGHT for four players.

Components: Round marker, clue cards, a bunch of colored tokens, guidebook

Setup: An app or guide book determines the phrase to be guessed and assigns each player one of the words. Each player also gets three clue cards.

The clue cards have 6 pictures on them (none of which are a word in any phrase). On his turn, the player draws a new card and puts one of his cards somewhere on the table, presumably in some relation to other cards to make connections between the pictures. Cards on the table cannot be moved. The player also puts tokens on the card to remind everyone who played what when. Once the card is played, the player may not communicate in any way that turn.

The remaining players then try to guess the word. After any discussion, they may make one guess, to which the player may only respond yes or no. Discussion is limited to the word at hand -- players may not use subsequent rounds as an opportunity to say something they couldn't on their turns. If the guess is correct, the player lays his hand down and his clue cards are available for anyone to use. That player gets no additional turns but still participates in guessing. The players may then agree to guess the whole phrase and the game is won or lost on consultation with the guidebook. Otherwise, play continues to the next player. After each player has a turn, the round marker is advanced.

The game is lost if the phrase is not guessed in 10 rounds. Players are responsible for deducing the correct phrase from the words, i.e. they should know it is not The MIDNIGHT FLIES at DUCK. (The fact that the sentence makes some sense can contribute to guesses as well -- if they got FLIES and MIDNIGHT, the players probably know something that flies is involved.)

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry 7 - No Man is an Island

No Man is an Island

3-5 Players

When some castaways have to organize themselves, one of them has to be the leader. But will he be able to lead his friends to survival?


Tokens (People, Food, Shelter, Tools, Success, Fail) Cards (Missions, Risks and Survival Missions)


The players agree about one of them becoming the leader (or decide randomly). The other players take control of the resources, with each player controlling one or two resources, depending on the number of players. Every player receives the same number of the resources he/she controls.

Reveal one Survival Mission card. It has the following information:

Resources Requirements: minimal amounts of each resource necessary to succeed. At least two requirements have to be fulfilled (3 for 5 players).

Group Success Requirement: the amount of Success tokens that the whole party needs to win, by adding the tokens of each player, including the leader (Fail tokens don’t cancel Success tokens of other players).

Individual Success Requirement: if both conditions above are fulfilled, this indicates the amount of Success tokens for each player to win the game.

Then, draw 10 Mission cards, but don’t reveal them.


The game goes for five rounds.

Each round, reveal two Mission cards. The party chooses one and discard the other. Mission cards contain:

Requirements: minimal amounts of each resource necessary to succeed. Resources used in each mission are spent.

Risks: amount and level of the Risk cards that will be used during the mission. Risks are color-coded (yellow, orange and red), meaning crescent possibilities of losing resources.

Rewards: every requirement leads to a cross-resources reward, e.g., a success in the Food requirement will be rewarded with People.

After the mission is chosen, draw Risk cards determined by the mission. Then, the leader acts: first, take a peek at one of the Risk cards (but don’t show to the others). Then, decide the order of revealing Risk cards and suggest for each player the amount of resources to be used.

Each player decides the amount of resources he/she will spend. Then, Risk cards are revealed. For each Risk, players check if resources are lost. In the end, remaining resources are used to fulfill the Requirements and rewards are given. Then, some things can happen:

1) Player followed leader’s suggestion and succeeded: both player and leader receive a Success token each.

2) Player followed leader’s suggestion and failed: both player and leader receive a Fail token each.

3) Player didn’t follow leader’s suggestion and succeeded: player receives three Success tokens.

4) Player didn’t follow leader’s suggestion and failed: player receives two Fail tokens.

A Fail token and a Success token cancel each other.

After fifth mission, players check Survival Mission. If any of the two initial conditions isn’t met, the party loses. If both are met, the party wins. Then, each player checks for the third condition and wins or loses. If the majority of players wins, the leader wins too. If not, he loses too.

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