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[GDS] March 2010 "Back to work, Slacker!" - Critiques

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sedjtroll
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the March 2010 Challenge in the Game Design Showdown series.

This month's Challenge was entitled "Back to work, Slacker!".

sedjtroll
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Glimok's Comments

I got these comments about the showdown entries from Gilmok (Aaron Armstrong):

Apocalypse Colony (0 votes)- NO COMMENT; just understand that there will be some changes regarding the gold mechanic; I didn't want to make any changes due to the 800 word limit (I was at 799)

Buy This Game (0 votes) - I'm having trouble following the movement and placement of the cards. I think the strategy here is to try to just get rid of your lowest value games, and when you're confident you have more game value, just go back to spamming. It seems really luck based, and it seems like no matter where you place your avatar you are getting money. I just don't know what to make of it.

Race for the Moon (0 votes) - I've played similar games where each player has a choice but it's usually better to be the only player making that choice. What made a game like that fun was that a player had the ability to predict what other players were going to do based on the game state. It's a good start, but I think it needs a little more. Espionage to steal technology? Bonuses for being the first to research something? Cornering the market on a critical material? Things of that nature.

Rebuilding Jerusalem (2 votes) - I see where you are going with this game. "Classic" would be the term I use for it. Right now it seems a little bland, as it seems like each player is going to have their own pet project and see what it gets them, but I see ways in which you can force a race for the same things. A more interesting name and more solidified mechanics might have gotten a third point from me.

simons
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Apocalypse Colony- (3 votes)

Apocalypse Colony- (3 votes) I like the game theme. Kind of stretching the “alternative history” theme (if that’s what you’re going for), but nice story. The decisions seem quite interesting. I also like the 1 on 2-5 aspect of it. I like the interaction between the players (although, if all of the humans are working on the same team, does that change the dynamics at all from being 1 on 1?). There are two things I worry about. Is there any advantage that a 2-player team would get that a 5-player team wouldn’t? Because otherwise it just seems like 5 players would have 2.5 times as many people (unless I misread it). Also, it seems like you might have the runaway winner problem, that once the Blob starts killing scientists, they will be less able to generate enough resources to survive and fight off the Blob.

Race For The Moon- Descent idea for a game. I worry that there wasn’t really any player interactions (besides the politics space). Also, I was confused, how many successful launches do you need before you win? Do you launch each piece individually? If so, is it actually beneficial to buy the “safe” pieces? It seems like something rather expensive for something that only helps you 5/36th of the time (well, maybe, you’d need to playtest that).

Rebuilding Jerusalem- (3 votes) The game theme you had was really different. I’m not sure if I can think of any biblical game themes that I’ve seen. I think what I liked most about it was the structure of the game: It’s sort of a cooperative game (in that players have to work together to beat the board), but it’s actually competitive too (in that there’s one winner). I’ve thought about trying to make a game like that before, but have never had a compelling idea of how to do it. I would have liked a little more detail on what causes the game to end and on the events. Also, I don’t see much in the way of player-interaction (is it really much other than who takes which resource?). Also, won’t you start to run out of resources rather fast if 16 are taken from the mines each turn, but at most 12 are put back?

And Buy This Game was my game.

Piqsid
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Jerusalem

Thank you for the votes for "Rebuilding Jerusalem." Yes, it desperately needs a new name. I spent a week designing the game and only 30 seconds thinking of the title.

My biggest frustration with designing this game was that I was only given 800 words to give the rules. This really requires a rule booklet. So please allow me to answer a few comments.

Simmons commented on a lack of player interaction. I see this taking place during worker placement and reacting to the battle events, which I didn't describe at all. When collecting resources, there are 20 spots for 16 workers. This means at the end of the turn, there will be 4 spots that still have a resource. Let's assume that 2 wood, a stone, and a bronze were left after the first turn. At the beginning of the next turn, when one resource is added to each spot, these 4 spots will have two resources for someone to collect. The first player can not simply take the 2 bronze, however. They still need to place their first worker in the lowest available number, the 5 spot with 2 bronze won't be available until someone places a worker in the 4th spot. Because doing so will help the player right after you, players will be reluctant to do so, but because all 16 workers need to be placed, someone will have to do it. And if you avoid giving someone two resources in any given turn, the next turn there will be three there, and the one before it will have 2. I think that manipulating this resource market so that it pays out for you will require heavy player interaction.

When it comes to building, with the walls and temple, the player who contributes the most gets the bonus points, but with the gates, it's whoever adds the last two resources to complete it. When placing your workers at the building sites, you can place them on any of the available circles, which will be activated in order. So, sometimes it will make sense to put your worker in the last spot and sometimes it will make more sense to put them on the first spot. Having two workers in a row is very helpful for finishing off a gate, or securing dominance in a wall. There will be a lot of careful positioning at the walls, gates, and early temple. Taking care to know which resources your opponents took will give you an idea of how to block them.

In the battles, there will be attacks at the walls or gates, and only the workers present may fight. Each worker gets one 6-sided die and you have a strength score of the attackers to beat. You can spend points from your financial score to hire mercenaries, you can spend from your strength score to add +1 or +2 modifiers to your dice, and you can spend points from you spirituality score to create automatic 6's. In addition to the cooperative goal of defeating the attackers (losing has variable consequences, but usually results in damage to the city and reduction in city population and is to be avoided), the person you contributes the most the attack (win or lose) scores additional leadership points, which count 1 for 1 to your score at the end of the game. So you need to react to how the players around you fight to let you know how to contribute.

As far as the game end, again, I got cut short by the word count, but it can end several ways. If at the end of any turn, all the walls, gates, temple foundation, and altar are all completed, the game will end. If the population of the city is ever reduced to zero, the game will end in a loss for everyone. And after 10-12 turns the game will end. I initially scaled it for 10, but because it is a 4 player game, I want everyone to have equal turns going first, but 12 might make it too easy.

At the end, there is one last battle that includes the remaining population and the strength of the walls. Each player gets his 4 workers plus any mercs they want to hire, and can spend from their strength and spiritual scores to increase their dice rolls. Also, any population they added to the city fights for them. Collectively you have to beat a very large strength score (I have to play the game through a few times to find out what would be challenging) and again the person who contributes the most gets a ton of leadership points. However, after the last fight (if victorious) the players with the most points remaining in Spirituality, Financial, and Strength also score so if you go for broke selling all those points off to help in the finally battle, the person who held on to them, might pass you up in final scoring. But if everyone holds on to their points, you will almost certainly lose the final battle. I don't yet know how that will play out with player motivation.

I have a few friends that actually do want to play this game, so I have been completing all the cards for events, bonuses, and prophets to turn it into a print and play. I'll probably be posting it all at BGG at sometime in the future.

sedjtroll
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Rebuilding Jerusalem

You should definitely keep working on the game, and now that the Showdown is over, you're no longer confined by the restrictions, so feel free to make any adjustments you may need. When you get a full rulebook written, I'd like to take a look - your description here sounds pretty cool.

For future GDS entries, maybe it would be worth doing a more general description rather than going into detail, in order to cover all the aspects about the game while still keeping the word count low.

- Seth

Pastor_Mora
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4 workers + 4 spots limit

Did I misread the rules or it was a 4 worker per player + 4 spots to place them (overall) restriction?

Man, I know for certain I am not the more creative guy here, but that only looked as a strictly abstact setup for me. It gave me quite a surprise when I saw the entries. I must have misread the restrictions, or else, there would be no 20-spots to get resources in a board and no extra mercenaries to reinforce your 4 workers!

PS Poll: 800 word limit on post?
a) For
b) Against

sedjtroll
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Pastor_Mora wrote:Did I

Pastor_Mora wrote:
Did I misread the rules or it was a 4 worker per player + 4 spots to place them (overall) restriction?

Man, I know for certain I am not the more creative guy here, but that only looked as a strictly abstact setup for me. It gave me quite a surprise when I saw the entries. I must have misread the restrictions, or else, there would be no 20-spots to get resources in a board and no extra mercenaries to reinforce your 4 workers!


If each player has 4 workers then there are 16 total workers in the game, and if there are 4 places to put workers with 5 slots in each space, then there are 20 total slots for workers. I think that's what he meant.

simons
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sedjtroll wrote:Buy This Game

sedjtroll wrote:
Buy This Game (0 votes) - I'm having trouble following the movement and placement of the cards. I think the strategy here is to try to just get rid of your lowest value games, and when you're confident you have more game value, just go back to spamming. It seems really luck based, and it seems like no matter where you place your avatar you are getting money. I just don't know what to make of it.

I probably didn't explain it well. The basic idea is this:
-If I have an avatar sending Spam, I get one card as liquid cash.
-If I have an avatar go to eBay, I pay an opportunity cost by not getting that card. I have one of three possible outcomes:
1) I lose the auction, and gain nothing.
2) I buy the game (making points which I can eventually turn into liquid cash, or keep around for the end of the game), but it cost me more than I get out of it.
3) I buy the game, and actually make $ off it.

The game is mostly about the tension between ending in options 1-3. Part of the strategy is this: if we both play, and you send 4 avatars to sell spam, you get 4 cards. If I put one in each auction house, it costs me 3 cards, and I gain 10.

Yes there is luck, although by having different color cards, I try to give you some predictability (although not perfect, I want there to be some chance between #2 and #3).

And selling off two cheap games can be the same as selling one expensive game.

Gilmok
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Thanks for the Votes

I guess I gave the winning game my two winning votes, which means that excluding my votes, I got the same amount of votes as the winner. Which means I win, too!!! Not bad for my first entry ever.

I would like to thank everyone who voted for their votes and feedback. I would like to see the feedback of the mystery voter (someone who gave one vote to both Rebuilding Jerusalem and Apocalypse Colony). This is only my second board game design; I worked on it feverishly on the Saturday before the due date. I, too, faced a word count problem and had to take a scalpel to how I worded everything: the original rules had over 950 words.

Gilmok
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Apocalypse Colony Questions

simons wrote:
Apocalypse Colony- (3 votes) I like the game theme. Kind of stretching the “alternative history” theme (if that’s what you’re going for), but nice story. The decisions seem quite interesting. I also like the 1 on 2-5 aspect of it. I like the interaction between the players (although, if all of the humans are working on the same team, does that change the dynamics at all from being 1 on 1?). There are two things I worry about. Is there any advantage that a 2-player team would get that a 5-player team wouldn’t? Because otherwise it just seems like 5 players would have 2.5 times as many people (unless I misread it). Also, it seems like you might have the runaway winner problem, that once the Blob starts killing scientists, they will be less able to generate enough resources to survive and fight off the Blob.

I was aiming for the cooperative play style of the Lord of the Rings board game. The way that game handles the more-player advantage is to have a finite set of tokens that won't be enough for all players to get. I tried to handle it here with the squares: more workers in a given room give diminishing returns (not to mention higher risk of a truly devastating blob strike!), and there is a finite amount of squares that are truly productive.

As is, however, the game is probably way too hard. The blob will just attack the high yielding gold squares and watch the workers perish one by one as they refuse to work without money (which wouldn't make sense when the blob is trying to kill you). That's why I need to change the gold mechanic. It will probably be something along the lines of a solar power array, where each square powers [n] other squares of the colony and workers assigned there can divert [n] units of power from one building to another. Cards would require extra units of power in that building to play.

Due to the increased ease, I will need to place additional checks. Any effects that the Blob plays in a certain building trumps any effects any players play. Also, the blob could not play cards in any building where there is a soldier (adding some strategy).

You also mentioned the aspect of regaining the upper hand once it is lost. My thoughts are that once you are down to a few workers, you may have to hail-mary attack the blob and hope to win. The first expansion to this game is called "Contact" and there is a communications tower you can build, get power to, and get incredibly powerful stuff if you can successfully contact another colony (like reviving workers or other insane bonuses). The second expansion would be called "Escape" where the blob replenishes itself after a certain number of turns you have to build and escape to an underground bunker in order to actually win.

Piqsid
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Pastor_Mora wrote:Did I

Pastor_Mora wrote:
Did I misread the rules or it was a 4 worker per player + 4 spots to place them (overall) restriction?

Man, I know for certain I am not the more creative guy here, but that only looked as a strictly abstact setup for me. It gave me quite a surprise when I saw the entries. I must have misread the restrictions, or else, there would be no 20-spots to get resources in a board and no extra mercenaries to reinforce your 4 workers!

The rules say that there must be exactly 4 places to put your workers. In my game (and all the others) there are exactly 4 places. The rules then say: "It's up to you to determine how the "workers" are placed, how many a player can place in a given area or how many they place at a time, and what happens if and when they've placed their workers."

It looks like we each took design liberties with the "how many a player can place in a given area." I allowed for 5 workers to be placed in each place. In Apocalypse Colony, it looks like there are 12 spots in each place for a total of 48 spots.

As far as the mercenaries, they do not reinforce worker placement, which is where the rules specify only 4 are allowed. The rules also say our components need to have alternate uses. The workers in my game have an alternate use as fighters in battle. In that battle there is no restriction to how I can bolster their forces.

Gilmok wrote:
I guess I gave the winning game my two winning votes, which means that excluding my votes, I got the same amount of votes as the winner. Which means I win, too!!! Not bad for my first entry ever.

I promise to send you half of my winnings. :)

As for the word limit, while I complained, I think there does need to be a limit. Being able to represent your design briefly and succinctly is part of marketing. We can debate on whether the limit should be 800 or 1,000, but I think there should be one.

oicu12b12
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Hi designer friends! I'm

Hi designer friends! I'm late to the critiques this month. I was poised to comment on Friday, but since the results weren't posted until later, I couldn't get to them until now. (Very busy weekend!)

I enjoyed this month's challenge and thought I had come up with my best game yet, although it looked like I didn't pull in any votes. And it's no surprise because there was some stiff competition this month! The rest of you came up with some great designs, and I applaud your work. Here are my thoughts on your designs:

#1 - Apocalypse Colony (1 vote). Good fit within the frame of the challenge - four workers and four areas to place them, although I thought there was a little bit of liberty taken to have sub-areas within the farm and mine spaces. I might have missed it, but I didn't see a strong "multi-purpose component" present, unless it was the worker/solider option. I liked the one-against-many setup and think that could be a fun element. The game end condition seems a little weak, and wonder if there could be a different way to end rather than player elimination. I realize that's mostly a preference of mine. The theme is a bit too bathos for my liking, but I understand how this would be a lot of fun for others. The blob players options seem a little bit limited, and I wonder if that gives the other players too much of an advantage. Great extra work on the art. I think my favorite part of the game is the sciences track. I like how repetitive investment pays off with greater rewards, balanced against the other needs of your team.

#2 - Buy This Game (3 votes). Excellent fit within the frame of the challenge - four workers, four areas, and love the multi-purpose use of the cards. The game makes me think of "Modern Art" and "For Sale" meet "The BGG Game." I think your ideas are creative and humorous, and I see good tension from among the choices that each player must make. The obvious randomness that is present is mitigated by the opportunity to place more workers in the "day job". This game is one I'd definitely be willing to try. Great job.

#3 - Race to the Moon - my game (see comments below).

#4 - Rebuilding Jerusalem (1 vote). Yay! A Bible-based game that isn't cheesy! I like how you've made a game that tells a story and isn't some roll and move blah-blah-blah (like so many other bible-based games I've seen). A fair fit within the frame of the challenge - the four workers are there, but again I felt liberty was taken on the areas and the multi-purpose component requirements. This isn't anything against the actual game play, but one of the reasons I didn't give your game as many votes was because it felt to me that your game had 8 areas instead of four. Granted, only four are available at any one time, but it seemed like a stretch for me while I was voting. It felt like the game had a few unsettled issues (events, tributes, prophets, etc.) and I understand the 800 word limit probably comes into play. I think you have a solid start to a game, and it's one that I'd be excited about playing. I decided to give more votes to the game that seemed to me like a more complete and tighter fit to the challenge. Great work, and nice visuals.

My comments from others' feedback:

Glimok wrote:
It's a good start, but I think it needs a little more. Espionage to steal technology? Bonuses for being the first to research something? Cornering the market on a critical material? Things of that nature.

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions. I especially like your idea of espionage! The other thought I had, but didn't include due to the word limit was how each country would have a special ability. For example, maybe the US has an advantage with technology, while the Soviets have an advantage with materials.

simons wrote:
I was confused, how many successful launches do you need before you win? Do you launch each piece individually? If so, is it actually beneficial to buy the “safe” pieces? It seems like something rather expensive for something that only helps you 5/36th of the time (well, maybe, you’d need to playtest that).

The idea is that you only needed one successful launch to the moon to win. Earlier successful launches would generate political influence that could be used to upgrade a player's multiplier token. These early launches would represent the "tests" each country makes to eventually get to the moon. During a launch, the player rolls once for each stage of the rocket. Each stage would have to succeed for the entire launch to be successful. I probably need to reconfigure the math to make the "safe" pieces worth buying, like you suggest. Perhaps standard pieces fail on a 1 OR 2, and the safe pieces fail if a 1 is rolled twice. Definitely needs to be playtested as you suggest.

Thanks again for the feedback, and I welcome more from others if you have any. Congratulations, Piqsid, on a great game! Looking forward to how you develop it.

Looking forward to April!

Peace,
Matt

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