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[GDS] JANUARY 2014 "Big Ideas in Tiny Packages" - Critiques

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Corsaire
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#6 Climate Economics

My bronze metal. This also wrestled with the wider issues and impacts. This had some of the best positive mechanics for alternate energy sources. Wind, solar, and hydro do not consume resources to operate, that's the big point, low/no pollution is the second point.

The option of strategically controlling resources to just prevent their exploitation is pretty cool. I feel like this has many good balanced concepts and will be very interested to see it fleshed out. I don't see any caveats where it is now.

bike
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Climate economics - critique

Game description is good, and the game can be steered into various directions by filling in the details. Will there be a gameboard? Do I need to transport resources?
When I profit from the research of another player, I tend not to do any research. Researching might need some bonus for the player performing it (victory points, some temporary advantage).

davidwpa
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Fossil Fuels--Critique

This is an interesting concept, the idea of moving through time in alternate Earths to see how each player handles the energy issues by controlling different choices on their Earths. There were just some things I didn't understand in that if you have a deck of "nodes", what happens if none of the nodes you select on a round have anything to do with that decade? Is there one node available per player or more than one? If it's a parallel universe why wouldn't each player have access to the same nodes at least at the beginning? I didn't want to assume what the designer was thinking so those questions are what led me to believe that this game in its current description needed some missing thoughts. The other thing that I was not certain about was if a player got to lose access to a future decade to do a do-over, doesn't that run counter to the idea that we are paralleling in time? Would redoing a decade cause one to finish the game ten years earlier so if the game ends in 2050, that player's game would end in 2040? Is this enough of a trade-off or would it be better to plow ahead with the bad decade behind you and hope to make the best of it in the future?

I could see this game expandable with decks of additional nodes and historically relevant events, but I just wasn't able to give it a medal due to the questions I have.

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - Parallel U - Fossil Fuels

This sounds like an interesting game. Although energy and pollution is definitely an important part of the timeline being reflected in this game, it seems like the game is positioned to include far more than that. I think this entry could have benefited from another couple of hundred words detailing how the GDS theme was integrated into the game. As it is, the GDS requirements seem like they could be a very small component of something much bigger. A focus on historical events and figures (to me) would / could be so much more than energy and pollution, and although they would definitely be part of the equation, evaluating a civilization’s success and failure doesn't really directly relate to their carbon load / pollution level, although it is definitely a factor in overall human health and advancement.

I’m really getting a Sid Meier’s Civilization series feel out of this with its potential for alternate histories, which is definitely not a bad thing.

baberahamlincoln
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Response to Feedback for Climate Economics - reviewed 1/21

Thanks all for taking the time to provide feedback on my entry (Climate Economics) - reviewed yesterday.

I wanted there to be an impact from Pollution, without it being a straight calculation of scores, or immediately ending the game. I am pretty satisfied with what I’ve put into the design, the idea being that as Pollution goes up, the odds of something bad from Climate Change increase.

Something that I've been challenged with when reviewing the GDS entries is being able to see past the mechanics, and trying to get a feel for the bigger ideas / strategies / gameplay that the mechanics support. I thought that with this specific GDS - which did not call for any specific mechanics - that focusing on how the gameplay met the theme was a better use of my 500 words.

Bike - your comment about research makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the first player to research a technology “owns” it for a while, similar to patenting it, or gets some money from other players who later benefit from the research. A really interesting point to consider further.

Corsaire
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Parallel U - Fossil Fuels - errata

Sorry, the description for Parallel U was a bit sketchy, as I forgot to send my notes home and winged it. The idea is that nodes are shared points between the universes that keep them relatively tied together. It takes some sort of effort to influence a node away from the "earth prime" timeline and that ties it to the universe making that effort. So, all universes can have Tesla introduce AC power, but only one of the universes will be able to pursue his wireless power distribution. I'm also picturing the controlling universe will be able to tap him for resources to fund other advances.

I intended a set of nodes to be available each decade for bid. Probably number of players + 1. Controlling for historically accurate placement will be tricky without creating a burden of pre-deck stacking, maybe four decks covering 5 decades each.

The fuzzy hand-waving part is just what role the players are in. Sketched in for now is some sort of galactic powers just short of being deities, or something like timelords.

The reset/do-over mechanism is with the idea that they have some fixed amount of energy to experiment with; so, imagining my long term strategy involves controlling Einstein who becomes available in 1920. I reset 1920 and win him and know that the next few decades will be important for me so I opt to completely lose access to 1960. So, I still play through to 2050. Or I could opt to lose 2050 and effectively end my game one turn early.

I started the thought from the question "just how pre-determined is it that we have gasoline powered cars" and discovering how critical Ford was to advancing the efficiency of the internal combustion engine as he had started as a steam engine engineer and might've taken that path instead. It also seems like many aspects of carbon dependence and energy usage relate to overall societal structurals like size of a country to distribution of the population between cities and rural. And then there are critical events like wars that compel society to latch on whatever is handy. I first thought about it from the energy angle and realized the right context (competing parallel universes) could be used to simulate a wider variety of events/outcomes.

MaxGamesSeidman
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Parallel U - Critique

Obviously not a ton of the mechanics and gameplay was outlined in the submission, so I don't have a whole lot to say. I've never seen a nondigital game do tech trees well, and it seems like Parallel U would be fairly dependent on them. I would be excited to see them implemented well!

sonofman
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Parallel U - Fossil Fuels

I thought the theme was a bit out there for this game challenge, and could have done better to connect with players by just representing a single hypothetical history of energy consumption and development. As for the gameplay, I think the description doesn't do the proposed game justice. I get very little feel of anything but a tech-tree building mechanic here, seems similar to the well-done game Innovation.

As there is very little mechanics to go off other than that, I can't say much more than I have. This is also why this title didn't get my vote.

bike
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Parallel U - critique

I really liked this idea and would love to see it work out. For that reason alone I gave it my bronze medal. It is fresh and gives a chance to learn a bit about history. The energy theme can be prominent, but it might just as well focus on other themes. I am hesitant about the bidding mechanism. Not that it would not work, bidding is an excellent way to balance games. It feels not right to bid with scientist for some development-node. Worker-placement is more like it. If I research, and research some more, than I can get the node.

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - Peak Oil

I was happy to see someone take a shot at using a legacy mechanic in their submission, as it seems like this is a good theme for it. My internal jury is still out on what I think about the legacy mechanic in general - I’ve only read about it, and haven’t played with it, unless you count spilling drinks on my settlers board. It seems like a great idea for regular weekly / monthly game groups - I know a guy who has apparently played RISK monthly for the last 15-20 years. It used to be weekly until their wives got mad about them coming home drunk at 2am each Friday morning.

The legacy mechanic in this submission seems to be well implemented - though some math would obviously need to be done around how many cards are in the resource deck, and how many would get used in a given game. I’m also curious about how the name writing on power plants works - would it be possible to have your name on more than one plant, or to have multiple names on a plant? Also, with this legacy mechanic, I could see there being an issue with players just not wanting to play the game anymore, as they always had fossil fuel plants, and all those cards had been ripped up. That just seems like the end of the game in a way. I don’t know if that is normal or not.

Anyways, enjoyed this submission, great meshing of theme and mechanics. I gave it my silver.

bike
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Peak oil - critique

Right on the theme. Interesting but very hard to market. It is impossible to play in a changing group of players. If one game would last about 10 minutes, it would be possible to play many with the same players. And the next time day, play the whole game again with a different group. (A game could be called a round).

Corsaire
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Peak Oil

I liked the direction of going towards the destructive (legacy) mechanic. However, the game feels smaller+faster than the real world cost of destroying your cards. But the principle of it does sit well with the Big Idea challenge. Overall, for some reason, I couldn't visualize having fun playing this (legacy or not,) maybe it feels a bit random or that choices will be a bit narrow and rarely interesting; can't exactly put my finger on this concern.

MaxGamesSeidman
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Thanks for the Critique!

Thanks for the comments about Peak Oil! I just wanted to mention:

1. My collaborator on this project was Nick O'Leary, and I wanted to make sure he gets his due even though he's not on the forum.

2. You can find a slightly expanded description of Peak Oil here. No obligation to read it.

davidwpa
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Peak Oil--Critique

I initially liked this game as well and while I liked the idea of the legacy mechanic, I would opt for a non-destructive way of implementing it. I guess I'm a little thrifty and I would not personally buy or play a game that would require me to destroy its components as a rule. That's just me. I get the "artistic" value of it, but I'm a practical person and even if I were to play this game, sorry. I would not destroy the cards. There are other ways less permanent to implement a legacy mechanic.

Other than that though, I love the flow and mechanics in the game and if not for the destruction aspect of it, it would have been one of my silver or bronze medal games.

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - Nuclear Meltdown

I liked this entry. The mechanics and gameplay were clear and simple to understand. Although not as thoroughly thematically linked as other entries, I definitely think it meets the requirements, as it touches on an important aspect within the GDS theme, and presents a clear argument why.

The second phase is interesting. It seems to allow players to punish one another for their perceived contributions to the meltdown, it’s very punish the leader, but it really makes sense (those who were profiting from the plant should pay for clean up) in the context of the theme. A question I have is what happens if the cards revealed by the players aren’t enough to get the silo back to the safe zone (say if they are low value cards, or maintenance cards)? Are more cards drawn? This might impact the strategy around purposefully melting (?) down a silo when you have a bunch of maintenance cards in your hand, so you can’t be effectively punished in Phase 2.

Was a contender for my bronze.

Corsaire
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Nuclear Meltdown

I found this design only tangential to the core challenge which I saw as being focused on fossil fuels with altenerative energy concepts. That's about all I have as the designer doesn't seem to be active in the critiques

bike
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Nuclear meltdown - critique

Different theme, focus on the security issues with nuclear energy. This helps deciding whether nuclear energy is the solution to limited fossil fuels, or not. Not much to say about the game, this all seems to work well, with the exception of the secret silo selection. To me it is a rather random choice and merely luck if it pays at the end, or not.

Mr.S
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Thanks to the reviewers

I apologize for not being active in the critiques as I have been on vacation (but mostly cause Ive been sick). It looked like there were a ton of people participating anyways. I had no idea that my absence would be notice (thanks Corsaire). I hope to be more active in the comments on future challenges.
Baberahamlincoln – Your analysis was spot on, one of the strategies- as nuclear silos get close to meltdown- is to dump cards that would hurt in the next phase of the game. However, these cards would also gain less victory points. So, its up to the players in how they want to play their hand. After a card is played, the players will draw up to 5 cards. It would be quite difficult to finish the game in Nuclear winter as each player wants the game to finish faster (so as not to lose more victory points).
There are some strategies (like holding on to maintenance cards) where players will want to cause a meltdown.
Bike – I had to put in the secret silo selection to give players an incentive to use the maintenance cards. If the players aren’t invested in the power plant, they would use their higher risk cards causing a meltdown faster. If this were the case, there would be too much luck involved as players who draw the better cards will have a higher score going into the second phase. Thanks for the critique.

MaxGamesSeidman
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Nuclear Meltdown - Critique

Despite the critiques I offer below, Nuclear Meltdown intrigued me, and I gave it my gold.

Secret Silo Mechanic - I was actually interested in the 'secretly choose silo' mechanic, not because it was explained to be particularly interesting, but because I assumed that the actual gameplay would end up leveraging the dynamic of wanting to hide which silo you were invested in (like in the game Trick or Treat) while wanting to play your cards on that silo, too. Of course, if two players secretly choose the same silo, it could suck for the one who doesn't, as it will take each of the original two half of the effort it will take the latter player to keep that silo alive.

Foreign Aid Mechanic - This one is one to watch out for. I like the idea of playing cards from your opponents' hands, but I see two main issues. First, the player who goes last can have a huge disadvantage if the other players take all the good cards from her hand. Second, the game might just peter out instead of escalating, as players will be heavily incentivized to play best cards ASAP, leaving only lame cards for later in the round.

Message - While I appreciate a game that is not about oil, coal, solar and wind, I am a little dubious if the message of this game is a good one. I've never really been convinced that nuclear power plants are that unsafe in the scheme of things, and "nuclear power plants are really unsafe" seems to be the message of this game.

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - Energy Drafters

I think I understand where the choices come from in this game, which is to decide whether or not to take time building renewal energy centres, which allow players to play renewable energy cards, or skip that and just go for points through selecting non-renewable fossil fuels. This does touch on the GDS theme, though I feel like it does so very lightly, reflective of the relatively simple mechanics of the game (pick / play a card). I’m not really sure how much actual player input there is here - it would seem like a certain strategy would emerge as the best strategy over time, and that players should always choose to go all fossil fuels or stock up on renewable energy centers early game. Without any real player interaction, and a short game length, there doesn’t seem like an opportunity for players to adjust to other people’s play style, or make different choices based on what is played. Even if a best strategy did not emerge, it would seem like the best strategy would be to fully commit to one or the other (either fossil or renewable), and hope that the cards you want come up during play.

davidwpa
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Nuclear Meltdown--Critique

Sorry this is a tad bit late.

I loved this game design. It sounds fun. It's got an easy set of mechanics and it sounds very playable. I like the secret selection of the silo, the race to melt it down and then the communal effort to clean up afterwards. So the game itself is quite intriguing, but while it came really close I could not give it a medal.

The reason being that I saw the theme more broadly energy resources, creation and the issues that affect them. This focused narrowly on one aspect of one type of energy and while it did it very well, I just didn't think it covered enough of the theme, but it was almost a medal contender for me if it wasn't for the theme description.

With regard to the message that it gives, I personally don't believe nuclear energy is that dangerous. These plants have now been around over 30 years. There were two major man made disasters (not counting Fukishima because arguably that was an act of God). I lived near one of them (TMI) and was in Harrisburg the day it melted down. We were very lucky, but other than Chernobyl they have run without incident for decades. Currently I'm still within range of three nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and never have lost a day of sleep over them. They are protected and safer than most other places and if an issue occurs, private security and military are all over them. Just my 2cents which is more than what my opinion is probably worth.

davidwpa
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Energy Drafters--Critique

This is a hard game to judge. I love the mechanic of trading cards at the end of your play to the next player and the way your hand travels to the end of the game giving everyone the ability to make use of all the cards in play in a sense. I'm not sure if this necessarily favors the last person in the round or not. I am assuming a different player starts each round to assure fairness, but then again if the game only lasts three rounds it seems arbitrary and doesn't give all players a chance unless there are only two or three playing. Perhaps it would be good to let each player go first to balance it and then end the game.

My issue with this game is the theme is irrelevant. I'm not sure what is "special" about this game that would keep me from stripping away energy types and replacing them with some other dual theme. This simply seems like a fanciful version of a spades style card game where the theme could be almost anything.

If we didn't have to judge on theme and the game was made more even by allowing perhaps everyone a shot at going first this game could be interesting, but I just couldn't give it a medal.

bike
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Energy drafters - critique

It seems the wrong way around. I would expect one would need fossil fuel (a card) to generate energy that way (another card). Whereas sustainable energy is free (just the card needed).
I do think drafting with only three cards and limited options on the cards, is not so much fun to play. The choices for the players will be limited.

Corsaire
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From Oil to Wind

Philosophically I like where this went with the intent of a lower age education focus. Also, the idea of it being a print and play, something one could make available through an education website.

As to the gameplay, I think being on gamer boards has heightened my prejudice against roll and move games. The shifting "can I move mechanic" is an interesting approach, but also creates the unfun equivalent of missing a turn. My eight year old is most unhappy when he is stuck on the same space for more than a turn (played Cranium on Friday night and he was getting frustrated.)

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - From Oil to Wind

I like the idea of simple games, the notes about having this available in magazines (like kids nature magazines and stuff like that) seems like a great fit for the “Big Ideas in Small Packages” GDS title. It took me a lot of read throughs (spent like 10-15 minutes reading and re-reading) to understand the mechanics - a few more sentences on strategy / gameplay would have helped a lot here. What I get from it is that fossil fuels allow for the chance of moving greater numbers initially - as the high dice numbers are available, while the reverse is true for sustainable energy. The wording for decreasing fossil fuels and increasing sustainable energy was counter intuitive, and created a bit of a road block for me (to decrease fossil fuels - move something up, to increase sustainable energy - move something down). Eventually, all high fossil fuel numbers will be covered (slowing movement), while high sustainable energy numbers will be revealed (speeding movement). Once I struggled through this a few times, I think I get it, and it makes sense thematically and mechanically (though 8 year olds may or may not grasp it at first).

Top marks for mechanic simplicity, theme, marketability (once I understood the gameplay / strategy). A good spin on a roll and move game. Lost some marks for clarity, as you made me work really hard for this one!

Won the four way tie for bronze, possibly because I spent so much time on it.
--
Corsaire made a really good point about the possible frustrations associated with not being able to move some turns, especially for younger players. I didn't catch on to this with my original review, but totally agree with his point.

baberahamlincoln
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Feedback - Power the Galaxy

I think I get the overall flow - use goods to build power plants, use the power plants to grow the station, grow the station to get more meeples, use the meeples to make goods, rinse and repeat. I like it, and it’s a logical flow. However, I sort of get the feeling this game might be stronger without all of the different power sources, as they all seem to do the same thing - generate power. As written, I don’t see any significant difference between the power sources, except their initial cost, and whether or not they need fuel (maybe impacted Event Cards?). They all have the same effect, and and I don’t think the game benefits from having 8 different types, so think this could be reduced for simplicity.

Likewise, expanding the goods to have a bit of variety might add a new dimension to the game, as well as different components to your station. This might add to the interaction between players, and allow for specializations by different players, contributing to different strategies. I know this isn’t related to the GDS specifically, but I feel it could add to the game.

Perhaps the addition of specific goods could work with the power sources? For example, maybe players could expand their station to get access to a coal mine or chemical lab, that would allow them to create / obtain the material needed to power their bases, or make steel to allow them to build the power plants in the first place. Using renewable / passive power sources would allow players to free up their meeples for other tasks (like making fine china, or food or whatever else). Using non-renewable power means meeples are required to spend time obtaining fuel for the power sources (working in the coal mine), though would maybe be worth it in terms of higher energy output and faster growth.

As there doesn’t seem to be any difference in the power sources, besides initial cost and how long something can operate, so although it seems to work with the theme, it’s not as strong a fit as it could be. Yes, there’s lots of different options, but I’m not seeing a functional difference. Again, maybe this is where the event cards come in (Solar Flares! Wind Storms! Coal Robbers! Chemical Spills! Nuclear Meltdown - half your meeples die!). Overall, I like the game and think it has lots of potential, but in my opinion not a great implementation for the GDS requirements.

bitflip
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Re: Feedback

Thanks for the feedback baberahamlincoln. I appreciate the time you took to read and understand my somewhat sprawling description.

I was currently in the process of generating the Power Module Cards, which was turning into a daunting task because of the number of resources. There are just to many, and they are not really providing significantly different choices as you pointed out. On the other hand to go straight renewable vs non renewable would provide only two options. There should be some thematic middle ground, just need find it.

The idea of multiple goods was not one I thought of. Initially it was just a replacement to straight money to fit the space colony theme. I like it, but am unsure how to implement it without it becoming unwieldy (like all the resources currently).

Right now the game is more of an economic one but could easily become more worker placement like.

Again thank you for the feedback.

davidwpa
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From Oil to Wind--Critique

I liked this game is designed to fit into a magazine and be easily playable. I like that it is focused on educating young players on energy types. Considering the targeted audience, I think the roll and move mechanic is a good one. Not all games need to be focused at hard core or older gamers and that shouldn't detract from the consideration of the design as I think the world needs all kinds of games.

The only downside to this game which is aimed at younger players is that as the game progresses, it would seem to me to become harder and harder to move and while I understand why this is happening to a degree, I think it would frustrate the younger audience the game is aimed at attracting. I do get the idea of switching to sustainable energy to keep going, but from a practical standpoint, I don't think we can ever be totally removed from fossil energy sources. After all these computers we are using weren't made from solar power when you get down to it, there is a lot of oil in these here machines.

Anyway my only concern is the increasing difficulty to move forward and the frustration I think it might cause, but playtesting could determine how to balance that. Overall, it wasn't one of my medal winners but I liked it.

davidwpa
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Power the Galaxy--Critique

I gave this game a Silver medal as I thought it has a lot of potential. I found the concept interesting and it abstracts the different types of energy out to a cosmic scale. I like the empire building style aspects of this game. I was torn but my top four games were really close to each other. I think the reason this came out on top was because of the unique perspective to which it examines the theme by taking it from a localized "earth" problem and putting it out there.

There were some design questions that I think need to be addressed such as the PMD cards. I'm not sure exactly how these work with respect to can a planet have more than one type, what is required to build them etc. A few examples of this card would be good.

Overall I liked the turn sequence and such and the one thing that detracted from the game in my opinion was it scores according to goods produced which while they are a result of energy consumption, I'm not sure how they directly translate from the theme, but the game sounds interesting.

bike
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Power the galaxy - critique

A game about efficiency/economics with theme energy. The relation to the fossil fuel/sustainable energy discussion is weak, especially since it takes place in the galaxy, and not somewhere on earth. This does not mean the game is bad, but not too relevant for this GDS.

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