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[GDS] DECEMBER 2013 "The Gifting Season"

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

We have a winner!

Christmas Crunch

The game of frantic shopping, partying, gifting, and regifting took first place by a slim ribbon! Fully tabulated results will be posted in the comments and questions thread!

December 2013 Game Design Showdown - "The Gifting Season"

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.

Entries are in! Lots to look at this month. Take a read through below and send your votes to mindspike for tabulation.

December; the month of holidays, gifts and family. It should be a time of giving, and yet the games we play are "me, me, me! I want this wooden cube so I can build this token to make MORE WOODEN CUBES!"

We're going to challenge this a bit with the December GDS.

You challenge is to create a game where as a core mechanic players must give some component to other players. The receiver does not need to know the exact nature of the component (Like a gift. Who knows what's inside? Probably not a pony).

In addition, as a component restriction this month your each player must have a single in-game avatar they control. A pawn, if you will.

There is no theme restriction this month - so feel free to do whatever you like.

Now the details:

Word Limit: Standard 500 word

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 PM submissions to richdurham with the following subject line.

Subject: GDS - DEC - [your username]


  • Submissions: Monday the 2nd through to Monday the 9th.

  • Voting: Through to the 16th. PM your votes to mindspike.

  • 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 were 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 - Rummy Runner!

Rummy Runner!

Players use a standard 52-card deck to move forward along a race track and play rummy-like tricks to accumulate points. Points are gained for tricks and subtracted for cards left in your hand or not reaching the finish line. For 2 – 3 players.
Rummy Runner is a hand management game that offers several different options for what to do with cards. Play tricks? Move on the board? Try to disrupt your opponents’ hand and strategy? Draw more cards? You must balance movement with tricks.

Setup: Players start with a hand of 7 cards and place their token at the Starting Line. Remaining cards are stacked in a deck and the top card turned up and placed next to the deck, forming the start of the discard pile (like rummy).

A Round: Each player’s turn has 3 parts: Card action, Play action, and Discard.

There are 20 spaces on the board. To advance, you need a certain # of cards played as tricks. Space 10 = 6 cards, Space 15 = 8 cards, and to end the game, you need at least 10 cards.

Card Action:
Players either take the face-up card and all “below” it (and move their token 1 back for every 2 cards they pick up), the face-down card (free), trade with another player, or gift draw.
To trade cards, the player selects up to 3 cards to give in any combination to other players. The players who receive cards select the same number to return to the gifter. Optional: a player can do a 2-for-1 trade to select a card at random from their opponent’s hand.
To gift draw, a player gives a card to another player and draws 2 from the deck. If you give a 10 – King or Ace, draw 3 cards.

Play Action:
Players either play a trick or move forward on the board.
Tricks are like rummy: 3+ of a kind, 3+ suited in a row, or playing on another player’s tricks. Playing a full trick or adding to another trick ends this action.
Movement is done one of two ways: by giving another player a card or “burning” the card. You move more spaces for giving a card. Movement Gift/Burn: cards 2 – 9 move 2/1, 10’s and face cards move 4/2, and Aces move 6/3. Burning removes the card from the game.

Players must discard to end their turn, placing a card from their hand face-up on the discard pile. If they cannot discard, move their token back a space.

The game ends one of two ways: a player crosses the finish line or the draw deck is exhausted. Once one of these occurs, the game is immediately over.
Players total their tricks: 2 – 9 cards are worth 2 points, 10 – King are worth 4, and Aces are worth 6. Players subtract the value of cards left in their hand. Players subtract the number of spaces they are from the finish line.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #2 - Witch Convention

Witch convention

Every year all witches travel to the witch convention. The location must be reached via paths only animals can use. For witches this is not so hard, they make a potion, drink it, and turn into that animal. To make it more fun, the witches have decided they must browse their potions with ingredients they receive from the other witches. Over the years this has turned into a competition. The witch who arrives first at the convention wins!


  • One witchfigure per player

  • The gameboard is a network of paths, every path suitable for one or several types of animals. Paths come together at junctions. Every animal has a path to every junction exactly once. To advance witches must change animalform. The witches start at one side, and the convention is on the other side of the board. Witches move over paths, and stop at junctions to browse potions.

  • 48 Animal-cards representing ingredients to turn into that animal: 6 each of mouse, cat, frog, snake, crow, owl, duck and black swan. Some ingredients are very strong (more similar animals - up to 3 - on one card), some ingredients have more volume (number on card).
    Start with 5 cards per player.

  • Every witch has three cauldrons to make potions (on personal gameboard). Cauldrons have different capacities. Ingredients are thrown into a cauldron until the added numbers on the cards is equal or higher than the capacity of the cauldron. Then the cauldron is full. The potion made will turn the witch into the animal whose picture is most in this cauldron. With equal scores, the latest added card decides.

Play (clockwise):

  • A witch begins on a junction. She receives 1 to 3 ingredient cards (face down) from all witches, including herself. Shuffle cards and one by one put into one of the three cauldrons. When the three cauldrons are all full, discard remaining cards.

  • The witch must now drink (in any order): Every cauldron that is full. Without full cauldrons, she must chose one other, nonempty, cauldron. As soon as the witch drinks from a cauldron, she changes into that animal and follows that animal path to the next junction. When another cauldron is drunk, the with turns into another animal and follows that path. Since there are three cauldrons, three steps is the maximum per turn. Cards of cauldrons that have been drunken are discarded. Cards in other cauldrons stay for the next round(s).
    A witch may drink a potion that leaves her in the animalform she already was. She must use the path she came from and return to a previous junction.

  • End of the turn: the witch receives new cards. The number of cards received, and the hand limit, are defined by the current animalform of the witch.

The witch who arrives at the convention first wins.

Bonus miscellaneous cards:

  • Chameleon (joker): combine with other animalcard
  • Action: switch cauldron contents with other player
  • Spoon: switch ingedient
  • Phial: take ingredient out
richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #3 - The Icy Arena

The Icy Arena

Each player is a team manager for a team of arena fighters in the cold frosty north. In the frosty north lives the Nish, a resilient people with hard quills. In this unforgiving land, when a Nish loses his honor he is placed into the arena games where he has a chance to regain his honor through winning. If he and his team win enough fights, they get the chance to fight a giant ice dragon to regain their family’s honor in death.

In The Icy Arena, players will be building teams of fighters to fight in the arena. The player whose team gains the most fame will get to send their team to die. That team wins the game!


The game will feature 4 rounds with players starting with a predetermined amount of resources. The player who has been the furthest North goes first.

Recruit Phase

During the recruit phase, each player is handed 4 cards. Players then must pick one card, paying its cost, and then pass the rest to the next player. This will continue until all cards have been picked. A player may discard a card for X amount of fame.

Sponsorship Phase

During this phase players will take turns moving their pawn around a track. Pawns may never move backwards. This works much like Francis Drake. Each space gives different resources but when a player plays a recruit card bonus resources are awarded. Rewards could be resources or even weapons and equipment.

Planning Phase

At the beginning of this phase, a card will be drawn to show the objective of this round’s fight. It could be capture the flag, king of the mountain, etc. Each player will also draw a secret objective card. If during the fight the player achieves this bonus objective, they will reap the rewards listed on it.

Arena Phase

Players will then place their different fighters into the arena. On a player’s turn, they will move their fighters and attack. Combat will be resolved through dice. If there are more hits than dodges, the enemy takes wounds. A player may at any time remove a fighter from the board. The player may then put that fighter’s card back into his hand. When a fighter is removed from the board for any reason, that fighter will score fame. If a fighter reaches 0 hit points, the attacking player may kill or spare that fighter. If he spares that fighter, he will gain fame and crowd favor. If he kills that fighter, he will lose crowd favor removing the dead fighter. Crowd favor gives bonuses to fighters depending on the amount spent. When one player completes the main objective, the round ends and rewards are given out.
There is a lot more to this game but the word count restricts my details. I wish I could talk more about the different stats, resources, scoring, and such, but…I can’t. In short, only the Icy Death can return honor lost!

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #4 - Selfish Snowman

Selfish Snowman

You are an abominable snowman living at the North Pole. You have been a selfish snowman now, with Christmas approaching, you must attempt to give your gifts away to prove to Santa that you are a selfless snowman and deserve new gifts!

A map
4 Snowmen pieces
28 Gift cards, 6 standard cards per player, plus 4 sweaters.
2 “Santa is Coming to Town” cards
9 Event cards

Shuffle and deal the event cards into three stacks of 3. Shuffle a “Santa is Coming to Town” card into two of these. Then place the stack without a Santa card on top of the 2 with. Each player takes each of the gift cards minus the Sweater card and places their snowmen on their house.

The Map
There are 4 Elf dormitories around the center of the map, 4 houses for the snowmen in each corner of the board, and Santa’s house in the middle of the board. Each of the snowmen’s houses is surrounded by a frozen river but there is a bridge to cross.

The object of the game is to give your gifts before Santa returns to his house to check his list. At the beginning of each new round flip over an event card and resolve its effect. Players take turns moving around the board, ridding themselves of their gifts by giving them to the buildings around the map. Every time a snowman passes a building they may give one gift to that building. You are only allowed to give one gift to each building. Gifts are placed facedown at each location and cannot be looked at until the game is complete. Gifts delivered to another snowman’s house will be counted as points for that player at the end of the game.

The Gifts
Fruit Cake: 1 point
A Pony: 3 points
Snowshoes: +1 movement while you have this. 2 points.
Ice Skates: You may cross rivers while you have this. 2 points
Snow Globe: You may go to any place on the map, then you add your snow globe to the gift stash at your house. 2 points.
Candy Cane: You may double move, then you add your candy cane to the gift stash at your house. 2 points.

Event Cards
Santa is coming to town: When the second of these cards is flipped over the game ends.
Heat wave: Each player moves 1 speed slower this turn.
Blizzard: Each player moves 1 speed faster this turn.
Tis the season: The elves give each player a Sweater gift card worth 1 point.
White elephant: Each player takes a random gift card from the player to their left.
Caroling: Each player may give a second gift to a dormitory.
Nothing: Nothing happens this turn. There are 3 of these.

End game
Once the second “Santa is Coming to Town” card has been drawn the game ends. Players add up their points; the player with the least points wins.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #5 - Station Theta

Station Theta

A game of isolation, suspicion, and saving humanity for 3-10 crewmen


Station Theta on Mars has uncovered a hibernating organism that absorbs living tissue. As it assimilates the crew work to prevent its escape or successfully destroy the affected crew before calling for rescue.

The Setup

  • Each player has a token bag labeled with their profession (Mechanic, etc.)
  • A map of Station Theta, with areas for a token stack at each location. Printed are token combinations that provide actions.
  • Main bag full of tokens.
  • Each player gets a stack of three tokens. One (or more, if more players) stacks have a couple Alien tokens. Player(s) with ALIEN token(s) are assimilated and working to escape Mars and/or assimilate the other players.


Players will collectively combine tokens into stacks at station locations, eventually electing someone to resolve the location (at risk of uncovering a contributed Alien token).

Some of location actions slow the Aliens from launching an escape craft or calling for a pickup too early.

Other locations might let them investigate players or "torch" players suspected of being an alien. Torched players have reduced roles, but stay in the game as un-voting members.

Example: The Hanger:

  1. Disable/Repair Escape Craft 5 tokens, at least 3 Wrenches
  2. Fuel Craft takes 4 Fuel
  3. Launch Craft 3 Know-How. (Aliens win)
  4. Explore Martian Dig Free, draw three tokens from main bag. (Alien tokens drawn here same as when resolving location - see below)


Rounds with three phases:

  1. Planning

    • Players draw a hand of three tokens from their bag. (Get tokens in your bag with free "explore" action at some locations).
    • They may trade these with any other player, but do so without revealing what they are ahead of time. In fact, it is suggested that trading players do so away from the group.
    • Alien players may only give an Alien token if they have at least two in hand.
    • If an Alien token is received, you are Assimilated. (Secret to rest of group).
  2. Playing tokens - Freely play tokens on locations, based on the number of players in the game:

    3-5: up to 3 tokens 6-8: 2-tokens 9-10: 1-token

  3. Resolve locations - In location order one player is elected to resolve the location. Their Profession may give a bonus. (Mechanic = free wrench token)

    • Each player may only resolve one location.
    • If elected player uses token stack to resolve actions, he may encounter an Alien token. He may chose to keep them (be assimilated), or reveal them. Revealing causes havoc, as it removes tokens at a chosen location and prevents it from being used for one round.
    • If a stack completes an action(s), they are resolved in order.

After each round, check to see if the Aliens have won. Otherwise, if the "call for rescue" action is completed, players reveal their tokens. If anyone has an Alien token, Aliens win. If not, Humans win.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #6 - DISTRICT


Each player plays as a citizen in a small district and tries to be the best citizen by giving back provisions to the community. This game plays 3-6 players.


  • Good Citizen Point (GCP) tokens
  • Provision dice with varying blank sides that are worth different amount of GCPs
  • Playing Board with action spaces and round and time trackers
  • Player pawns
  • First player marker
  • Inventory space cards


There are 3 phases within a round. Each player starts with 3 identical provision dice and 5 inventory space.

Action/Day phase (14 hours)

Starting from the player with the First player marker, players take turn to place their pawn in an action space available. Each action space have an amount of time the pawn has to remain there when played. Players would have 14 hours available for their actions and 2 hours will pass every time it reaches the first player's turn. Players continue their turn to either make another action, if possible, or pass.

Possible actions includes: 1. Spend 8 hours to collect the First player token after the phase ends 3. Spend 6 hours to get an extra inventory space 2. Spend 4 hours to steal a provision dice from another player and lose 2 GCPs 4. Spend 4 hours to draw 2 provision dice at random and add it to your inventory 5. Spend 2 hours to get 2 GCPs

Sharing phase (2 hours)

  1. Players choose any number of provision dice from their inventory, in secret, to donate.
  2. Players reveal and add the number of GCPs, according to the different type of dice they have donated, to their GCP total.
  3. The player with the highest GCP total will choose another player's donated dice. The choosing player will roll the dice and add whatever that has a provision side rolled (sides that are not blanks) to their inventory. This continues with the next highest GCP player until everyone has chosen another player's donated dice. In an unfortunate situation where there is a tie between players' GCP, the person choosing first will be decided by turn order.

Elimination/Night phase (8 hours)

Each player would return a provision dice from their inventory to the dice bag. Any players unable to do so will be out of the game.

Ending the game

The game ends after 7 rounds and the player in the game with the highest amount of GCP wins.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #7 - Christmas Crunch

Christmas Crunch

It’s better to give than to receive. It’s 3pm on Christmas Eve and you’ve got until noon tomorrow to give like your life depends on it (because, well it doesn’t, but grandma may guilt you to death if you miss her party.)
Bet you wish you’d started shopping before now?
You need to shop, wrap, gift, (and probably regift) the day and night away. Maybe grab a snack and a nap while you are at it. The most appreciated player at the end of Christmas wins.

Game Elements and Setup

  1. The town of Bescherung is a simple map of shopping locations, non-family celebration locations, family locations, and Grandma’s House. Movement is region to region with extended road travel. Some regions indicate they can be used for wrapping (e.g. outside the mall.)
  2. Standup cardboard pawns represent each character and have corresponding character info cards that include specific celebrations they must attend.
  3. At setup, each player receives two hidden personal likes and dislikes cards that influence the value of presents given to them. They also get card sleeves (wrapping paper,) and appreciated and disappointed feedback tokens in their color to handout.
  4. Locations with hosts (e.g. The Boss at The Office) receive a hidden like/dislike card and locations without a party time on the board receive a schedule card showing the 1-3 hour time the party will be open for guests. All locations share common feedback tokens.
  5. A clock with an hour hand tracks the time. Tired and hungry tokens are given out at certain times and affect your action points per hour until removed.
  6. Decks for nice presents and adequate presents. Presents have categories such as jewelry, sports, gag (likes and dislikes refere to these; Grandma is disappointed when she gets gag gifts.) Some presents have special effects (like Box of Chocolates allows all players at the location to remove a hungry token but discards the present.)

The Play

Balance your time spent shopping with attending as many parties as you can. Each hour you have four actions for moving, browsing, gifting, wrapping, snacking, or napping. If you enter the same square as another player you may give them a gift, and they may give you one in return.

Different parties have different gift rules, such as gift the host or leave one, take one.

If you miss a required party, the host will be doubly disappointed.

When you receive a gift, you must unwrap it right away. If it matches one of your likes or dislikes reveal your preference and give them a feedback token; give an appreciation token if it’s a nice present. Save the wrapping paper!


  • Add up your appreciateds (+1 each) and subtract your disappointeds (-2 each)
  • Add up the wrappings from each other player, give 2 appreciations to any player who gave you more presents than you gave them.
richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #8 - Christmas Rush

Christmas Rush


Everyone hurries to finish their Christmas shopping.


Cross the most items off your Christmas list.


Each player draws a five-card hand from the purchase and/or travel decks in any combination, and places his “shopper” pawn in the parking lot in the center of the board.

The board:

This depicts the downtown area, with several small shops and businesses, plus the mall. Locations are linked by connections showing one or more methods of travel: foot traffic, car, shuttle, and electric scooter.


The person who last heard Jingle Bells (“Dashing through the snow…”) goes first.


Purchase cards list locations that sell that item; a player buys it by going to a matching location and revealing that card. Anything can be bought at the mall by first skipping a turn (looking for the shop one needs in the labyrinthine halls). Each purchase card is one- or two-handed; the shopper can carry two one-handed items or one two-handed item. By returning to the parking lot and flipping his revealed cards facedown, the shopper frees himself up to resume shopping.

Errands: Some purchase cards are holiday errands. They are completed the same as a regular purchase, but one may be played in addition to, or instead of, a purchase without penalty.


A player reveals a travel card matching the connection he wants to take.

Example: A foot traffic connection links the post office and mall; a shopper travels it in either direction by playing a foot traffic travel card.

Exception: A shopper may always return to the parking lot from his current location by playing any travel card, regardless of the connection.

A player then draws his hand back up to five in any card combination and play passes to the left.


Every turn a player may play one travel card and reveal one purchase card, plus one errand. If the travel deck runs out, shuffle the discards and continue. If the purchase deck is emptied, see “Ending the game.” Although a player draws to a hand of five, there is no hand limit.

Giving directions:

When his shopper pawn shares a location at the start or end of his turn, the active player may give a travel card to the other shopper. That shopper must use it as his travel card next turn. This does not count against the cards the active player may play. The active player may then take a replacement travel card from the deck, but it remains facedown until the end of his turn. When his turn ends, he adds the card to his hand.

Ending the game:

When the last card is drawn from the purchase deck, everyone including the drawing player gets one additional turn. Then the game ends.


The player who revealed the most purchase cards wins. In case of a tie, the most completed errands is the winner. Otherwise players share the victory in the spirit of the holidays. And hey…merry Christmas.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #9 - Refugees

Players play as diplomats trying to find homes for refugees in their country. All players start with a pool of refugees, which they try to give to other nations. When a player gets rid of one of their refugees, space may be created in their country, which can allow other players to get rid of their refugees. Avatars are moved around the board between player countries, neutral countries, and the U.N. Players can take different actions depending on where they are located. The first player to empty their country’s refugee pool wins.

Player Countries - Each player has a Player Country Card showing their current Refugees, Refugee Cap, and pathways to adjacent Neutral Countries. Players start with a Refugee Cap of 10, and 10 Refugees on their Player Country Card.

Neutral Countries - Each Neutral Country is defined by a face up card, showing the Country’s Name and starting Refugee Cap (between 1 and 3). Country Cards are aligned together to create movement paths between Countries.

Refugees - Each Refugee is represented by a Meeple, which are placed on Player and Neutral Country Cards.

Refugee Cap - The Refugee Cap is the maximum number of Refugees that can be placed in a Country. This can be reduced or increased through the use of certain cards. Refugees may only be added to a Country if there is space (Refugee Cap minus current Refugees).

U.N. - The U.N. is represented by the U.N. Card, which is placed in the centre of the game map. Player Countries are connected to the U.N. Card via Neutral Country Cards.

Player Avatar - Each player has an avatar, the location of which defines what actions a player can take, as well the targets of those actions.

Offence / Defence Cards - Certain actions allows players to draw cards to their hand, and played on their turn.

Turn Order
Players take turns, moving one space and taking one action per turn.

At home
Draw Defense Card - Player draws a Defense Card to their hand. Defensive Cards allow actions such as; block other players from giving a Refugee to a nearby Country for a certain number of turns, or lowering the Refugee Cap of a Country.
Play Defense Card - Player plays a Defense Card from their hand.

In another country
Give Refugees Away - Player may give up to 1 Refugee to the Country they are currently located in, as long as doing so would not exceed that Country’s Refugee Cap.
Play Offense Card - Player plays an Offence Card from their hand.

Draw Offence Card - Player draws an Offence Card to their hand. Offence Cards allow actions such as; moving Refugees from one nearby Country to an adjacent Country, raising the Refugee Cap of a nearby Country, or discarding Refugees from a nearby Neutral Country.

Win Conditions
The first player to get rid of all of the Refugees from their Player Country wins.

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