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[GDS] AUGUST 2013 "Atomic Intelligences" - Critiques

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Corsaire
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As people seemed to be at GenCon, thought I'd start the critiques thread before I forget too much. I think the top three I picked all have potential as games or at least have fresh mechanics ideas that should be played.

4 - Missile Dice
This was my top pick for a variety of reasons. One happens to be that I was playing with a Missile Command simulating board game for the TheGameCrafter challenge and there was some overlap in the AI thinking. I like the programmed cards. Lots of potential in here. You've also hit the spirit of the theme better than most of the rest of us.

And bonus props for the reverse deck building mechanic.

2 - States of Matter
I like this in a "concept car" kind of way. I'm not sure how practical as I'm understanding the plastic cards and led light elements are in terms of cost. But it is a fun stretch of things.

The trading mechanic sounds fun with the surreal tracking and fluctuations aspect. I like the risky random decay rates.

5 - Nuclear Family
General note, particularly for this format, but I think relevant to all rules: A game overview would be really helpful before diving into components and play.

Bravo on working the genetic algorithm angle. And definitely some fun ideas. The more I look at it though, I'm concerned that there is actually play value and if it can be fun and have some strategic component. Meaning it feels light on player control.

asakurasol
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The games I liked: Where is

The games I liked:

Where is my lunch

I enjoyed the quirky theme a lot. Cat and mouse game in a radioactive chamber reminds me a lot of old Tom and Jerry episodes. The game itself is well thought out and I Imagine would provide a lot of choices to the player. It is definitely something I'd pick up and try to play.

Nuclear Family

This almost feel like it has a Hills Have Eye feel to it. I think the version in my imagination is darker than the one Author presented (Gloom with mutants). I'd like to see this game made.

States of the Matter

The LED is both the strength and weakness of the game. Strength because non-traditional components are always a plus. Weak because I couldn't figure out how it can be realistically implemented without slowing the game down. Maybe if I was an engineer I would've given it a higher score. Cool concept nevertheless.

mindspike
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Re: Atomic Goats

Re: Atomic Goats

This has an interesting application of the RPS dynamic combined with a lottery mechanic, since the irradiation pattern of the goat pasture is essentially random.

(+) Thematically, I love the idea of goat farmers desperately attempting to scrub their herd free from radiation poisoning. Using the colored meeples to track the progression of a goat’s rad sickness is also visually appealing.

(-) Mechanically, I failed to see how an “A.I.” is used in the game. Irradiating the pasture is random, not structured opposition. Although there are a lot of components, setup seems like it would go quickly. I foresee quite a long duration for each of the ten rounds as players compete to scrub their goats. Thematically, I think the competition for scrubbing should be tied a little more closely to the rest of the game, as the RPS component seems to come out of nowhere.

mindspike
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Re: States of Matter

Re: States of Matter

Shiny electronic components are always a draw, and the required circuit for this one is relatively simple. The timer adds much needed tension. I had been hoping someone would take the “atomic” theme down to periodic table. This comes close.

(+) Lights and timers and buttons to push; I’m generally in favor of any kind of interactivity a game provides. Keeping the timer hidden adds a needed element of uncertainty, and a final countdown in the last seconds could be very dramatic. Using trade frequency to govern “molecular energy” is brilliant.

(-) This game absolutely depends on getting the players to trade with each other. It seems that a viable strategy would be to sit on your tiles until the end of the game and then attempt to match for state. With only five molecules to choose from, announcing trades has a direct impact on the game but dramatically reduces the effectiveness of hiding your tiles. Arbitrarily choosing shapes for the molecules is a missed opportunity with the entire period table to choose from.

mindspike
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Re: Where's My Lunch?

Re: Where’s My Lunch?

The combination of setting, premise, and movement makes this game more than a little on the whimsical side. I can easily envision an old, broken down reactor full of cats and mice tearing around all over the place. Probably in Springfield. Any chance Homer is in the control room?

(+) Whimsical = fun. Thematically I could engage my kids very easily with this game. The tactical play borders on the frenetic. The setting ought to provide for some interesting visuals. Handling components is something I enjoy.

(-) The “A.I.” mechanic is poorly implemented with the motion of the mice in response to the cats. I’m frustrated that the cats will never catch the mice, something I want to see happen. Having the mice arbitrarily chase after the custodians’ lunch boxes seems counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t there be traps and cheese? Aside from setting, the theme is poorly implemented and the action doesn’t really match the premise.

(*) This game would benefit from magnetic components, perhaps mounting the mice on rollers with a repelling charge to the cat pieces and an attractive charge to the lunch.

mindspike
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Re: Missile Dice

Re: Missile Dice

I’m slavering over “Missile Command: the board game”, but I never would have envisioned it as a worker-placement game.

(+) Come on, it’s Missile Command. The “A.I.” mechanic fits neatly into the behavior of the missiles acting in response to the actions of the player or dice. The threat of atomic warfare may not be the crushing fear it was in the 1950s, but it nicely fills out the required theme. Good match on both counts.

(-) I really wanted a game with this theme to have a dexterity component. Ideally a large cue-ball.... Failing that, worker-placement is the turnkey in this game, but it isn’t given enough space or time to materially impact game play. The turn limit seems like it would come up far too quickly, and hanging victory condition on initiative seems unfair. The mechanic for shooting down missiles needs a stronger tie to both theme and play.

(*) Much of these criticisms depend on the design of the worker-placement deck and the missiles. Specific card examples instead of general examples would have been of great benefit.

mindspike
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Re: Nuclear Family

Re: Nuclear Family

The best of atomic cinema meets classic mathematical models. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for anything that starts with the words “giant atomic monster”.

(+) Textbook use of both theme and mechanic, both are spot on the nose. The story could have drawn directly from any classic atomic horror film. Marking mutations with colored cubes is a natural match, and the different scenarios and gene types are perfectly themed. The A.I. implementation is mathematically appropriate if not exactly intuitive.

(-) The premise of the game lacks a logical conclusion; simply counting points at the end of a few rounds doesn’t feel like a satisfactory end. Mutating the genes adds undesirable randomness to the creations, which the player seems unable to influence aside from the initial round.

(*) I’d like to see the mutations have some correlation to existing cubes. I also want to influence the mutation of my monster in response to the previous Environment card and in anticipation of the next Environment card.

mindspike
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Re: Strange Matter

Re: Strange Matter

Subverting the laws of physics appeals to me, and manipulating matter at the quantum level is an excellent thematic fit for this challenge.

(+) The theme of matter manipulation at the subatomic level fits right into the challenge, and the A.I. seems to use a strongly correlated mechanic to alter the playing field. Manipulating the fundamental parts of matter is very appealing.

(-) The explanation of the A.I. mechanic is unclear, as is the point structure and set of goals. Some specific examples would benefit the illustration of how particles are created, joined, and disintegrate. Examples of the Quarky powers and the Laws of Physics would illustrate how this game works in action.

bike
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Reviews

I start with a compliment for the elaborate reviews by Mindspike! Very thoughtfull and helpfull. Much appreciated!

My top 3 for the month:
Gold - State of matter
I fell in love with the them. Much trading (movement) means it turns into liquid or gas. With a return after some inactivity. I did not like the electronic device though. Too much fingers on the same place, and distraction while doing the trade.
I figured this might be done by letting everyone use his smartphone to keep track of trades, and maybe even display the cards.
Mindspike might be right that not doing anything is the best. Maybe another scoring mechanism is needed as well, for instance, to reward bigger sets more than their state (I mean if I have 4 gas molecules of the same type I do better than your 3 solid molucules). Keeping track of who has what, and trade those molecules could make an interesting game.

Silver - Missile dice
Solid. Good implementation of AI and the theme. It is just that I fell in love with the theme of State of matter that stole first place.

Bronze - Strange matter
If this is good depends on the implementation of the laws of physics. Could be a real brainburner, and that is a compliment!

The others:
Atomic goats
I have read the rules a couple of times, but I fail to connect it all together. The scrubbing phase seems a very complicated way to find a winner, who can then place a goat of specific colour.
The scrubbing phase in itself might be a game on its own?! Maybe with 4 suits instead of 6.

Nuclear family
I understand the mechanic, I wondered if there are any interesting decisions for the players to make. There are decisions in phase 2 and phase 4. I have the feeling that in most cases there is one obvious best choice, which could mean that the game plays itself.

Mine:
Where is my lunch?
I agree with Mindspike the A.I. is poorly thought out. Thinking about it now I would introduce my favourite game element: cards. One when a cat is almost trapping a mouse which can be: go through nearest hole, run away straight, caught, jump over the cat, etc. And one for moving towards the lunchbags for each mouse: run (3 squares), sleepy, picky (run towards one with a specific number on it).
It is debatable if this still is A.I. though. The magnetic idea is nice, I think that would make for a whole other dexerity type of game.

asakurasol
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Thanks mindspike for your

Thanks mindspike for your comments. I originally had it as a dexterity game but I couldn't get the mechanics exactly right. Though now I am thinking about putting some dexterity elements back in there.

Anyhow, I am working on creating a prototype to test, here are some of the cards I am working on. I hope I can make this into a real game =D.

http://i.imgur.com/LFesdFH.png
http://i.imgur.com/UgZELGH.png
http://i.imgur.com/H3jqBC6.png

mindspike
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The cards look good,

The cards look good, asakurasol. Good luck with the prototype!
Actually, I would steer clear of the dexterity component. I was just waxing nostalgic for the old Missile Command stand up arcade machine.
I think the worker-placement aspect of the game is your strongest element. The A.I. of the missiles takes a back seat to the ability of the workers to make strategic alterations. That's the part that intrigues me the most.

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