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[GDS] JULY 2013 "Order of Play" - Critiques thread

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richdurham
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the July 2013 challenge in the Game Design Showdown, entitled "Order of Play." There were a lot of great entries this month, and one of the biggest reasons people participate is to get feedback!

And the best way to get feedback is to give it to others!

Too many entries to comment on, or you didn't vote? Try one of these:

  • Comment on the winner and runners' up
  • Comment on the ones you voted for/would have voted for

In particular, comment on why you voted the way you did (if you did), how you think the game fits the contest, and what you like about the game or want to see more explored. Remember that critiques should be constructive!

Also, thanks to Mindspike for tabulating the results!

-Rich

Aspirinsmurf
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My thoughts

Thanks to everyone who participated and voted this month! My debut entry, School of Fish, seems to have been a crowd favorite, but I’m not sure if it was the best entry at all. However, I promised myself that I would make a prototype and playtest the game if it won, so you can probably expect some posts about that in the future.

As for the contest itself, this month was a very interesting challenge, with a lot of good entries. I tried to vote based on the following criteria that I found relevant to the spirit of the competition:

  1. Originality: We’ve all played a lot of games, so I decided that I would award high points for anything new and unfamiliar, even if the idea did not seem all that exciting at first glance. Originality is important to me!
  2. Importance of turn order: In the spirit of the challenge, I wanted to reward games that were heavily dependent on a variable play order higher than entries that relied on it to a lesser extent.
  3. Thematic integration: Do the mechanics and theme work well together? Particularly, to what extent did the theme naturally integrate with a variable play order as mandated by the contest rules?

Here are my opinions on some of the entries, with the rest coming in if I can find the time (there were a lot of entries!):

Dirty Business: My top vote, and for a good reason. I love market manipulation games, I enjoy programmable actions, and I love trading games! In combination, this was a really strong concept. My only real critique is that it’s a card drafting game, a mechanic that seems a little overused following the success of Dominion. (That’s not anything against the design, though). Having the various actions make sense within the thematic framework of the game could pose a difficult design challenge too, but one I’m sure the designer can handle!

Space Conquest Game: A firmly original concept (I think?), with the order of the phases determined by dice rolls. I can foresee this leading to some very exciting situations! The theme is strong as well, but not as tightly integrated with the mechanics as I would like. It’s an easy fix though: the turns could represent epochs and eras instead of the year-to-year happenings in the Galaxy (think Smallworld rather than Diplomacy). That way, there would be Centuries of Warfare and Centuries of Trade, and so on. Somehow, that would just make more sense to me. Otherwise, a great idea for a game!

The Host with the Most: I was somewhat torn on this, but it got my third vote in the end! This is a much stronger game than it would appear at first glance. It’s a party game, but the actual mechanics would work just as well in a different board game, I think. If the order of play cards had challenges that you could actually stack in your favor from round to round, this would be a great strategy game of trade and alliances! I’m thinking maybe a resource management game, or a game of political corruption or something. Either way, there really should be a way to manipulate the deck of order cards (so that Uncle Bob can stack the deck full of 1960s trivia questions, while Cousin Jane can try gunning for shoes and makeup). I’ve long been looking for a way to make players actually want to trade "win condition" cards, and I think this concept holds a potential solution to that problem! Kudos on that!

Teen Sensation: Contender for my third vote. A strong combination of clean mechanics, a hilarious theme and good implementation of the contest restrictions. I’m not sure if it’s all that original though, but this was very hard for me to gauge without seeing some of the cards. Complex card games with lots of unique cards are difficult to sell in a 500 word write-up, so I think that’s part of the reason why I had a hard time deciding if I liked this idea enough to merit a medal. But it’s a solid concept, with a tight integration of theme and mechanics, and humor! I suppose my main critique here is that the contestant could have used some of his or her word count to show some example cards. This was a very short entry, perhaps too short.

Corsaire
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My feedback

School of Fish

Nailed the challenge with simplicity tossed in. It is clear how the mechanic defines the game. Given that you can manipulate any fish it makes for some interesting decisions.

Maybe the other winning characteristic is that it is hard to offer too much feedback as it feels like it needs playtesting to pinpoint any gotchas. There may be a problem with it stalling as the average number of fish per player dwindles. It also seems to have wide age appeal.

Agronomics

I had a big issue with the pass play aspect which seems integral to the design. Any player can be marginalized out of play to sit in the unfun corner by a small conspiracy of players not picking that player's action.

Host with the Most

Just couldn't understand the game :(

Handful of Knowledge

Needed an example, I could not figure out how the clues worked or the replayability vs. cost for a 20 card trivia game.

Teen Sensation

Um, didn't get it in terms of the challenge.

C&T Action Mechanic

Sorry, had some trouble understanding the role of the cards or how (where in the game) the actions were specified. I'd hone in on specific uses for the words Turn and Round for clarity. My gut says there is something interesting here to fine tune.

Grumpy Dwarves

I'm not quite feeling this as more than just luck; and I'm not clear on how this fits the challenge.

Dirty Business

The ordered card sequence and bidding and limited action spaces all have something to them. Where this flops is how dull the rest of the round sounds to me. After I stack my actions, I have to grind through flipping them to finish the turn? If you can emphasize a strategic component to the card play, maybe.

Space Conquest

Overall sounds interesting and the mechanic seems worth exploring as long as it doesn't just mean random chance undermining strategy. Also, you mention hectic on the simultaneous rounds... Big worry on this getting erratacized to death with various mother may I and he blinked rules on taking action.

4 Square

I totally failed to find the challenge theme in this game.

Between the Bombs

OK, I LOVE the accumulating dice forcing the countdown timer. That is really cool. I also appreciate the detail in the background. However, here is the case of a picture being worth 1000 words... if only I could visualize this: "to place dice that have the corresponding number onto their board." I can't figure out what the board is, and that seems super important to understanding what is happening.

Aspirinsmurf
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Some further thoughts

Thank you for the vote and feedback, Corsaire!

Stalling in School of Fish could certainly become an issue, but it’s one I tried to solve with the Murky Water mechanic. If it turns out to be a problem during playtesting, it’s easy enough to reduce the amount of empty spaces needed before that clock starts ticking. This could present some other issues, of course. At the very least, it would mean a worsening of the spatial awareness difficulties in determining the movement of the shark (and the shark is an important catch-up mechanic!).

In defense of Teen Sensation, the challenge restriction is very much present in this entry! You have to actively harm yourself if you want to control the play order, which I think is interesting in itself. Why you would want to do this depends heavily on the cards though. I think the design really needs a lot of cards with special effects to really work (so-called exception based design, like Magic: the Gathering). The cards cannot just give you points, that would make the headline actions pretty pointless.

richdurham
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Score breakdowns

In case you are interested, here are the scores for all entries as tabulated by Mindspike:

  • Roomba Rumble 1 ( 1 bronze)
  • Agronomics 8 (1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • Host with the Most 3 (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • Handful of Knowledge 0
  • Teen Sensation 3 (1 gold)
  • Action Mechanic 5 (1 Silver, 3 bronze)
  • Grumpy Dwarves 1 (1 bronze)
  • School of Fish 15 (3 gold, 3 silver)
  • Dirty Business 9 (3 gold)
  • Space Conquest 8 (3 silver, 2 bronze)
  • Square 1 (1 bronze)
  • Between the Bombs 6 (2 gold)
Corsaire
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Thanks

Thanks for posting the results, Rich. Good to get at least some sort of sense of feedback.

Bluebeard
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thanks for the comment

thanks for the comment Corsaire...

I think my entry suffered in not knowing how to format it, and get all the right info to people..it would appear a few people understood what I was trying to get across....

essentially player boards would just be used as place holders, marking what actions would be blocked for the next turn and holding the dice used for them, preventing their usage the next turn.

as for my votes,

gold was school of fish, silver was agronomics, and bronze was roomba rumble...

I didn't really dig the roomba rumble theme so much but I liked the collisions and the programming, even if it was a lot like robo rally.

I really liked school of fish and agronomics, nearly equally. But while I really enjoyed the idea of the action decks (which really hits the point of the challenge), presetting them for the course of the game, and incentivising the players to build them attractively so that they get to take actions, I didn't feel there was quite enough meat going on within the actions themselves to make for a terribly interesting game..despite the solid focus on the actions themselves (probably a similar issue presented by my own entry) which put school of fish over it for me.

Corsaire
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Thanks Bluebeard, looks like

Thanks Bluebeard. Having just downloaded and played Alien Frontiers this week, your mechanic seems much clearer. Wish I had bumped it up further. I suffered a bit from falling in love with an image I had in my head of dueling Roombas, probably a little too much time spent at the hackerspace. I'll have to check out Robo Rally, again, been years.

regzr
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I was happy to see so many participants

Dirty Business got my 3 points. Afterwards I wondered what tactics would be best in the first round of the game. To ensure you are the last in turn order and have more manipulative cards than others? But the number of actions was limited. After all, maybe this double order and limit system could be in balance.

My entry, A Handful of Knowledge, was voted by common consensus not to be worth any medals. And it's all right, the entry was a last minute sketch.

The entry tried to fish out reactions for or against a electronic device in a board game. I should write a separate post about what mechanics problem I tried to solve by using that device.

-regzr

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