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[GDS] August 2012 "Grow up!" - Critiques

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sedjtroll
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the August 2012 Challenge in the Game Design Showdown, entitled "Grow up!".

-Seth

sedjtroll
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Congrats to the winners of

Congrats to the winners of this month's GDS. I apologize for the delay, but now the critiques thread is open for business!

Taffer
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Wow

Wow, thanks for the votes, everyone! I didn't expect to win this. I really liked the ideas that came to second and third place, and especially thought "What kills me makes me stronger" was the best enty.

I also feel that I kind of cheated, because the foldable cards idea might kind of violate the laws of physics, unless the folding directions and/or sheet sizes are really limited. My initial idea was that the "card sheet" can initially be folded in pretty much any way, but then the cards might get bent due to physical constraints, and besides any "random" folding won't quite have the effect of shuffling, and players might be able to remember what unfolds they need to make to get to a certain card (unfolding was going to be constrained to what was physically available as a single move).

I guess more realistic is to say that one card is the center of a sheet and is always active by default; you can then start unfolding in either of the 4 directions, no matter which side was folded above the other. I suspect that testing would show separate cards (coming from a player's personal deck maybe) to be more user-friendly than the foldable sheets.

I have quite a way to go to get this even ready for play testing -- lots of person and location cards to come up with! Most of my free time is spent on Lines of Fire right now, but I'm eager to start prototyping Sociopathy.

dobnarr
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My critiques

August 2012 BGDF Critiques

Here are my critiques for this month's entries. I found the theme and especially the mechanic restriction very difficult to pull off this month - I think I did it in my game, but only barely. Here's what I wrote down while reading the others:

#1 What Kills Me Makes Me Stronger
This follows the guidelines for the contest pretty well, but I don't really think it would be too fun; the combat isn't given much detail, but if all stats start at 1, it seems like the battles wouldn't be so interesting, and the board strategy not too complex. There wouldn't seem to be much of an advantage to adding points to movement, since survival is the goal, and it depends entirely on attack and life. Maybe if the game were more fleshed out, or if the combat were more complex, or if there were board locations that one needed to hold for points, it could be more interesting. This game did include the theme (growth over time), but only sort of the mechanic restriction as I understood it(parts that have different, bigger functions over time).

#2 Glencoe
This one was mine. I actually created a mock-up of this and played it; it was pretty fun. Kind of Agricola-ish, but without the worker placement. I'm working on a print-and-play or self-published version, although I've switched to a space theme.

#3 Urbs Salinarum - SILVER MEDAL
The conversational explanation threw me at first. It was harder for me to understand the game that way. I think there might be something interesting here, but it was a bit hard to imagine. I couldn't suss quite why you'd want to boot an enemy Agent off a tile (because you then give them a free production phase), unless maybe you want to take production over for yourself. It sounded like the production would grow exponentially ("add new cubes equal to the cubes already on the tile"), which would make the game hinge on whoever sat on a tile for longest. The name made no sense to me; I'd prefer a little more theme here, but I know some folks like abstract games more. For me, I didn't see this game fit the theme so well (growth over time), although the board did get bigger. I also didn't see the mechanic restriction (parts that have different, bigger functions over time).

#4 Fighting Trolls - BRONZE MEDAL
There were some interesting mechanics here, but I couldn't figure out if they'd turn into a fun game. I think there might be balance issues; given that troll strength and move are both tied to the draw of the cards, and you can bring in a new troll every turn, you have a potentially runaway situation based entirely on luck. If somebody got a couple of the bigger cards earlier, they'd have a huge advantage that would persist long enough to win, I'd guess. It's not specified whether the trolls can pass through each other; I'm guessing not. One interesting mechanic is that as trolls get knocked down and lose disks, they can move increasingly fast - that's not too realistic, but it might make for some interesting situations. Given that the board is small and easily in range of moves, I think the game might just boil down to who draws the bigger numbers earlier. I did think the game included the theme (growth over time) but not exactly the mechanic restriction (parts that have different, bigger functions over time).

#5 Roll Over Mars
I love the timely Martian rover theme - a nice touch. This might make a good teaching tool for using measurements and analyzing sizes. I don't think it's a very complex game, and I don't think it would be too fun for non-kids. There would also be a significant luck component with the weather. There is some growth over time as the rovers gain capacity, but there's not the mechanic restriction (parts that have different, bigger functions over time).

#6 Sociopathy - GOLD MEDAL
Great theme and flavor. I like the idea of unfolding your board - that sounds like a fun mechanic, and it squarely fits the "game piece develops as you play" restriction. It is also a great metaphor for an expanding circle of influence. I felt like this game did this part of the challenge better than all others (mine included) albeit a little cheesily, using this complex engineered game part when a simple set of cards or tokens would probably do just as well, and be much cheaper. The gameplay looks like it might be fun, although I wonder how complex it could be. As described, the only resources are agents and tokens, and unless each player's board is very different (which would probably lead to balance issues), I would guess that the ideal strategy is nearly always obvious. Plainly, if the game were more fully developed and described, this would probably be addressed, but you have to judge by what's given in the entry.

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