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[GDS] JULY 2014 "This Game is Stacked" Critiques

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DifferentName
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TriXagon

It's tough to critique some of these pure abstract strategy games. I guess I wonder if it would become too easy to counter the moves people make to stop them from getting triangles, but would probably need to play the game to know for sure.

Your rules mentioned running out of triangles. I guess this would happen if the opponents kept putting triangles on top of yours, but how would the game work after that? Maybe you just lose when you don't have enough triangles left to win, since it sounds like running out of triangles would leave you with no way to win. Maybe it would work if there was some way to remove one of the opponents triangles that was on top of yours you could get that point back without needing another triangle?

DifferentName
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Beaverdam

I think I voted bronze on this one. It's a surprising idea to come from stacking, and sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I like the combination of strategy as you're thinking about where and how to place your pieces, with the randomness of objects falling and bouncing around.

I guess the trick would be how to actually make the pieces in a way that the way you construct your dam is a challenge that gives you options, and is better or worse to catch marbles depending on how it was made. I could see it being a challenge to make if there's not a big difference in how well different dams work.

DifferentName
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Piles of the Dead

My game! I made a little version of it out of tiny ceramic tiles to test it out.

http://differentname.com/2014/pilesofdead.jpg

The zombie movement goes pretty fast. I think it feels kind of like a dungeon crawl, where the actions you take (choosing which enemy to attack), are relatively straight forward, with a lot of randomness in how well you do. It turns out to be pretty fun anyway, but special abilities like in a dungeon crawl would do a lot to give players more interesting choices.

Then of course there's the worker placement style gameplay during the day, but I guess that doesn't utilize much stacking.

Since submitting the game, I've been thinking of making the game as a video game instead of a board game. It would have some differences of course, being a different medium.

Mr.S
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Piles of Dead Review

I would have liked to have a stationary wall, and stack the zombies, until one can see over the wall. The opposing player would have to try to repel the hoards and not let any zombie cross over. But I think this game works well for the zombie game genre. It gives the feeling of a zombie invasion.
It was a hard decision between this and Penterwaltz, but I ended up going with Penterwaltz as the zombie theme doesn’t interest me personally.

nazcagames
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Thursday & Friday Critique

Penterwaltz

This reminded me quite a bit of Rumis or blockus 3d. The description of the gameplay is very sound. I couldn’t find any criticism on the mechanisms. And it was also well written and easy to grasp. The game also adhered to the guidelines of the contest very well. The only reason that it wasn’t in the running for a medal from me is that it felt very familiar. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this month had some very innovative ideas that really won me over. Overall a very good entry, great job!

TriXagon

This entry sounded like a simple and elegant abstract game. The description was concise. But I noted that I didn’t see it mentioned explicitly that a triangle must be placed ‘adjacent’ to the bead that was just played. I just went ahead and assumed that was the case as it seemed that was the intended gameplay. The mechanisms were interesting and I can see some depth of play. The gameplay captured the spirit of the contest very well. Overall another very good entry that was close to a podium spot. Great job!

Piles of the Dead

After reading thru this entry, the game reminded me very much of “Zombie Keep Out” from Privateer Press. Now that’s not a criticism, great minds think alike as they say. The integration of the Zombie theme was great and fit the mechanisms. And the game does sound fun from the description. But the stacks of wall tokens and zombie (dead body) tokens really only represented numbers and an easy visual representation of which side had more. So it didn’t explore that 3rd dimension as the focus of the contest. That was the only real criticism that I had for this entry. Otherwise it was well done, great job!

Beaverdam

This was my gold medal winner. I felt this entry really turned the idea of stacking components on it’s ear.. or in this case, at a 45 degree angle. The theme of building dams and diverting the waterflow was very unique and innovative. And the mechanisms really fit the theme as well as the guidelines of the contest. It’s also the only entry where the core of the gameplay was physics based. So Kudos again for the creativity. There were a few areas that could have used clarifications in the description as I did have to re-read it a couple of times. Also after reading the gameplay description, I did wonder if it would work at all. With all that said, I felt it still deserved the gold as it was the most innovative and creative entry in my opinion by trying to simulate fluid dynamics in a board game. So an excellent job!

Mr.S
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Beaverdam Response

Thank you to the people who have taken time to critique my game (Beaverdams)
@nazcagames – I appreciate the gold medal. I am always trying to make unique entries to these challenges. I took this month’s challenge to mean “exploring what can be done in 3-D that can be replicated in 2-D”
@differentname – yes, the trick would be figuring out the best way to catch the marbles. Is it better to go short and high, long and low, how much curve to use, etc. I have no plans to actually make the game as I also see the challenges in making it. If I did make the game, it would probably be peg board and doweling.
@Zag24 – The stacking comes with how you build your dam. You are stacking ‘trees’. Also, I think that everyone would appreciate it if you followed the critique schedule. This way, we can hopefully get some discussions going. Also, just throwing it all down at once seems a little lazy. I (and likely others) also write my critiques as I am picking out my medals. However, I wait to add them according to the schedule and I can also compare my reviews with others, which I think is a valuable exercise.

Mr.S
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Stapel and Overflow Reviews

Stapel

This game is similar to another one, and I think their idea for double sided tokens that you can flip would be a great idea for your game. This game seems a bit dull as currently written. There is not a whole lot of strategy.

Stack Overflow

I like the double-entendre relating to this month’s challenge. It’s a great way to visualize an electronic concept. While the 3-D stacking will help players to see the ‘stack overflow’, it really doesn’t add anything to the game that cards couldn’t do.

I was confused about the order tokens. They aren’t listed in the components section. I assume they are different than the money tokens. Money tokens are not stacked, but the orders are? What are some possible orders? I would like to see the other orders be more than just memory usage. For example, if you can complete simple lines of code, you get extra money. Since all tokens are stacked facedown it may be hard to get more than a three line code. If you could incorporate that, I would love to see the final product.

This is an interesting concept and a game I would really like to try playing. Unfortunately, it did not fit the challenge requirements as I understood them.

Mr.S
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Rise of Pyramids and Tower Reviews

Rise of the Pyramids

Well, we first have to overlook the obvious historical inaccuracies of competing pyramids and multiple pharaohs. Secondly, the game’s own description says its 2-D, which misses out on the point of this month’s challenge, I feel. A lot of the instructions seemed confusing and unnecessary. I think you really need to focus on stripping down this game to make it more fun.

Tower

I appreciated the condensed rules and explanation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too creative. I think we all played this game (sans rules) with our toys growing up. Good game for kids.

For this challenge, I had mulled over the idea of a stack and topple game with building blocks / disks that are weighted on one side to make stacking more difficult.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Piles of the Dead

Sorry I didn't get to post my thoughts the last couple of days. I was away Friday and Saturday at Protospiel.

I voted silver for this game. Something about this entry struck me even though it wasn't the most three dimensional or the best use of stacking. I'm not even totally sure what it was that struck me, I'm not even a zombie fan at all. It does have one of the best thematic links to involve the stacking. I think it would be good if it was more about stacking zombies on top of each other to try and get over the wall.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Beaverdam

Mr.S I really like the thinking on this one. It was a very creative entry. I enjoyed that in this case building a box represented out of the box thinking.

It's a little bit hard to picture how the marbles would "flow". You'd need to make sure you could predict the way they would go at least partially. Rather than trapping all the marbles at the top at the start, I think it might make more sense to have each player drop a bunch of marbles at the end of each turn to see how many they can catch.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Stapel

I like the idea of only being able to place a piece onto larger pieces like in Towers of Hannoi. I think the idea of turning Towers of Hannoi into a competitive game rather an individual puzzle is interesting. However, I didn't feel like this game had quite enough strategy yet. I think it would be better to have each player start with two full towers in opposite corners of a 3x3 grid and then players compete to get a completed tower onto a non corner space.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Stack Overflow

I like where you're going with this. The premise is interesting, but the mechanics don't all fit to me. Bidding money to arrange computer processes doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe you could make it about those early computers that had cards with holes punched in them to run programs.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Rise of the Pyramids

I really like the structure of the game with worker points, the different block types, and the cards. I think that should work very well. As already highlighted the scoring still needs some thought and the theme has some inconsistencies. The theme could fixed easily by using a fictional ancient civilization. The biggest obstacle for the game would be pyramids falling over. The blocks would have to have a way of interlocking. For playtesting you could use lego.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Tower

This game didn't fit contest very well since it was about not letting the tower fall over. I like the idea of different sized blocks in different colours and using dice to decide which block to place. However, even if you stick with the don't let it fall framework, you need more than just stacking them straight up. What if it was something along the lines of when placing a new block it cannot touch another block of the same colour (using a 3x3 base size).

DanielGarcia
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Many games

Beaverdam
It wasn’t clear for me how would the water fall down. Do you have to take the trees at the bottom first? It seems like if someone takes a tree from the top the marbles will start falling and game will be over. I don’t like giving the players the option of ending the game at any point.

Piles of the dead
Seems like a nice cooperative game, not a fan of the genre though, but i can see mechanics for a free for all or semi cooperative game already there, as every player has its own lane and zombies move from lanes, it could be about trying to survive by sending the zombies to your neighbors.

Stapel
I like how the different sizes play into stacking and moving, but having only 5 discs and a 3x3 board makes the game feel Tic-Tac-Toeish and solvable, and you wouldn’t be able to do much moving with 5 discs either.

Rise of the Pyramids
After rereading the rules i like it more than before as it’s seems to have interesting decisions, though depending in how exactly Sabotage works (does all cubes supported by the pulled cube fall down or are discarded?) could break the game as that would be so aggressive, and it could lead to the game being too political.

Tower
As a dexterity game it goes against the rules, and i’m not sure how much does the dice is necessary, and what it is supposed to do or change the color of the block.

Mr.S
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DanielGarcia

DanielGarcia wrote:
Beaverdam
It wasn’t clear for me how would the water fall down. Do you have to take the trees at the bottom first? It seems like if someone takes a tree from the top the marbles will start falling and game will be over. I don’t like giving the players the option of ending the game at any point.

Think of it like like kerplunk. If you take some of the top sticks early, it wont cause a flood. If you take some in the middle of the game, it might release some marbles (water). Towards the end of the game, a lot of marbles will flood the gameboard.

Mr.S
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Toppling Towers and Grab a Stack Reviews

Toppling Towers

This game immediately made me think of the angry bird game. Not the app, but the tabletop game. It is almost identical, but with a ‘slingshot’ instead of a ‘catapult’. So, I couldnt give this game any medals.

Grab a Stack

Stacking really doesn’t add anything to this game, you could easily play this game in 2-D space. It feels like there may be too much randomness with the luck shifting to those who pull a star token. The game is really driven by the rules and not the players. The only decision in the game is when to take a stack. I think this game may be more interesting if players are allowed to add a token to any of the stacks and the stars are color coded, so they can only take the stack with their color on top. Players would then keep their star tokens secret.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Toppling Towers

I liked the initial setup with the different tiles. There are some interesting ideas with the special actions. It strikes me that there could be a lot of incidental, unwanted (or even against the rules) damage with the ball bouncing around. I also think in a game based on having a tower survive a bouncy ball you'd want to build towers that are a little more hefty.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Grab a Stack

I agree with Mr.S that there is too much importance in who draws the star tokens. Maybe there should be a fixed number of stacks you are allowed to grab, but you also have to discard a piece of your choice to grab a stack. I'm not sure there's enough room for strategy as each piece can only be placed in a set stack. Maybe you could make it so that each piece has two stackable features to choose from (like match number or colour).

DifferentName
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A bunch of critiques!

Stapel
I didn't feel like this game had enough going on for my taste, which as someone else suggested may lead to the game being solvable. Moving pieces only onto larger pieces does seem interesting though, so you could try out different strategies. I wonder if there would be a huge advantage to going first or second.

Stack Overflow
The theme to this one is disjointed to the point of taking away from the gameplay. First it's like you're a computer managing stacks of data, then you're bidding money on that data? Then when you compute the processes, you're computing the bottom to the top. I thought the idea of the "Stack" computing pun was that it would work like stack computing, which processes from top down (last in, first out). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_(abstract_data_type)

Playing effects in stack order can lead to some interesting gameplay, like instant effects in Magic The Gathering.

As for the gameplay without the theme, I just didn't feel like it did enough interesting with the stacking mechanic. It felt more like a bidding game, which may be good on it's own, but wasn't what I was looking to vote on.

Rise of the Pyramids
I like the cards and worker points in this game, which make it sound pretty fun. However, as far as the stacking, I think it would work just as well flat on the table than being literally stacked(or better so it doesn't fall over). This makes it feel to me more like a game about stacking, than a game that uses stacking to do unique things.

Tower
There's not much to this game, as it's pretty much just seeing how high you can stack blocks. There's just a hint of a game, rolling the dice to find what type of block you have to add next, but that's not enough to make the game sound interesting or fun. I also don't think players should miss their turn because of a roll of the dice. Imagine waiting as everyone takes their turn, and then you just roll a couple dice and wait some more. Getting a choice of any block would be funner.

Toppling Towers

Many of the rules to this feel unnecessarily complex and confusing without adding much to the game. It sounds like the dice rolling completely restricts the options of the players to the point that no decisions are being made, as you just do what the dice tell you to every time. Requiring doubles to add a second cylinder would make second cylinders extremely uncommon, even though it's required for scoring. There's no explanation in the rules of how you get cylinders on a city tile. If you meant to say you could place cylinders on a tent or on a city, why would you ever play them on a tent if playing them on a city is required for scoring?

A major problem I had with this was rules imposed on the ball itself. Your rules can't control physics. The ball bounce how it will bounce, and sounds incredibly easy to take out a large number of the opponents pieces. Also, why would I want the ball to bounce at all, when I could just hit the opponents cylinders directly?

Grab a Stack
The stacking element doesn't feel very important to this game, as it doesn't matter how high the stack is, or what's on top of the stack, or the order of tokens in the stack. It feels more like a pot of chips in a card game, since it's just the value in the pot that matters.

Your first sentence describes it well, as a game of Greed and Timing, with the one important decision being when you decide to take the tokens that have been added. I thought what Mr S and Andy said about the stars adding too much randomness to who wins. While someone could get their timing right, and win with a lower number of stars, there's a huge luck factor in just getting a star when you need one, or getting more stars than your opponents. A player could even end up getting no stars at all, which would completely ruin the experience.

DifferentName
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Thanks for the reviews on

Thanks for the reviews on Piles of the Dead. Here are a few comments on your comments. :p

nazcagames wrote:

But the stacks of wall tokens and zombie (dead body) tokens really only represented numbers and an easy visual representation of which side had more.

Although this is true for the spot right next to the wall, zombies also have to climb up onto that spot. I probably should have the wall start higher to make this more clear. Imagine a wall stacked 5 tiles high, so a zombie on top of a stack of 4 bodies could climb over. But a zombie can only get into that stack of 4 bodies by climbing onto other adjacent stacks first. So with a higher wall, it ends up becoming a mound of bodies pressed up against the wall, with zombies climbing their way up the 3d mound to get to the top of the wall.

andymorris wrote:
It does have one of the best thematic links to involve the stacking. I think it would be good if it was more about stacking zombies on top of each other to try and get over the wall.

I did think about making it an asymmetrical one on one game, but felt like the zombies moving forward would feel too automatic? So I decided to automate it with the rules and make them the enemy of a co-op game. Maybe you're right, and I could have focused on making the part where you control zombies more interesting, in a way that you're really playing in 3 dimensions.

DanielGarcia wrote:
it could be about trying to survive by sending the zombies to your neighbors.

That sounds really fun! I can imagine that with a lot of dark humor. It makes me think a bit about Puzzle Strike, sending gems at your opponent, which they can eliminate (like killing zombies), or send right back at you as a weapon. It also reminds me of the South Park episode with the homeless people getting sent to other towns.

Mr.S
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Squares Cubed and Skyward Reviews

Squares Cubed

Why are the tokens inside cubes important? Why can’t this be played with colored cubes, or multicolored cubes? What is the strategy to this game?

I don’t understand why a player would choose a cube from the field and return it to the field (Basic Gameplay rule 1)? Am I missing something?

I don’t think the pyramid will ever grow. Connecting 4 squares will give your opponent an obvious advantage, so players will just make a long straight line. You could add rules or a gameboard to overcome this problem.

I think there are a few flaws in this game as it is currently written. I also found the rules a little confusing.

Skyward: War above the clouds

I am not a fan of the space theme, especially when it is not necessary. I like games that explore themes that are rarely visited, or unique. Stacking is not a necessary part of the game. You could easily do this game with cards placed in front of players. The instructions for this GDS were to go beyond using a 3-d board and make stacking an integral part of the game. I feel like this game did not accomplish this as well as the other entries, so it missed out on medals from me.

DifferentName
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Squares Skyward

Squares Cubed
The scoring in this game seems very odd, requiring a lucky roll of the dice, and a lucky choice of face down cubes to match your tokens to score. This is a lot of complexity, without really offering strategy choices.

Mr S makes a good point that the one strategy players would attempt is to not make 4 connected cubes, since their opponents would be the ones to play a cube on the next level.

Skyward: War above the Stars
I'm surprised this one didn't get votes. I had this in my top 5 or so as I was narrowing down what to vote on. It sounds like it could be a good game, and it uses three dimensions in an interesting way. I guess as I narrowed down my votes I just looked for games where stacking was more central to the game.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Cubes Squared

I thought the basic idea of open sided cubes that you place something inside was creative, but this game lost me at the setup. Arranging 264 cubes open side down is way too much time. You could probably use a draw bag and be fine. Mr.S and DifferentName have hit on the same issues I had. The scoring doesn't seem to lead to enough strategy as it too dependant on luck of the draw. I think it might be better as strictly a two person game. I think both players should start with some cubes and should have tokens in all colours. The key colour could be chosen by drawing a cube so that you don't need the cards. Maybe you could say that you can only place a token if it's colour matches the key colour, the side the opening faces matches the key colour, or the colour of the cube matches the key colour. You would then score for the level plus bonuses if more than one of those match the key colour.

andymorris
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Thoughts on Skyward

This game has a clever take on being three dimensional, but the issue is that it is only three dimensional in a virtual sense not a literal sense which the challenge was going for. I like a lot of the concepts in the game like the modular board, the way the pieces are moved, and how to line up possible attacks. However, it seems like there needs to be more to the conflict resolutions than a simple high role wins.

richdurham
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Conclusion of the month

Thank you to everyone that participated this month. It was a good showing by designers new and old to the GDS.

We started out this month with a rough patch that involved a hasty decision and submission guidelines that needed clarifying. But in the end the critiques thread was full of incredibly thorough discussion on the entries, which is why people submitted in the first place (and the fame and glory, of course!)!

That said, the August competition is riding close-behind so keep a close eye on the boards.

Thank you all for participating!

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