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[GDS] OCTOBER 2014 "Thinking inside the box"

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

We have a winner!


by andymorris

Followed closely by:
Heistronic by mulletsquirrel
Camera Obscura by BubbleChucks

Themes and games are all over the place; congrats to all our participants! Join us in the Thinking Inside the Box Critiques thread for full results and discussion on this month's entries.

Entries are in!

Sorry for the delay; to make up for it voting will be extended through to the 16th of October. When voting use this form here.

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!

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.

Open box. Take out bits. Setup board. Play. Lose to that one guy who always wins. Put bits back in box as you hear explanations of how someone "could have won, if only..."

Sound familiar?

This month's challenges you to break up that procedure a bit. In this case, what if the box was part of the gameplay itself?

It's still a bit of a novelty to have the game's packaging be involved in the game itself. Titles like Vox Populi and Cleopatra explicitly use the box in game play - Vox Populi as a way to submit hidden bids and Cleopatra as _____

You challenge is to create a game where the box/bag/packaging is a significant element in the game's play. That's it; no other requirements. Any style, any theme.

Time for the details:


Mechanic restriction: The game's packaging (box/bag/whatever) is involved in the game's play in a non-trivial way.

Theme: No restriction.

Now the details:

Word Limit: Standard 500 words

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 USE THE FORM LINKED HERE.

  • Submissions: Wednesday the 1st through to Wednesday the 8th.

  • Voting: Through the 16th. Votes will be through a form (link posted after submission period is ended).

  • 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 are 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
#1 Plateau Chess

Plateau Chess is a variant of Chess, played on a board shaped like a plateau.

The box has, on its top, a 6x6 chessboard. The four sides of the box each have a 2x6 chessboard that lines up with the one on the top. The sides include a metal liner; and all the pieces have a magnetic base, so they can sit, sideways, on any square on any of the fours sides. (For packaging, it could actually be the bottom rather than the top of the box, so that you could have artwork on the top. If so, you turn the box over in order to play.)

The five sides of the board are referred to as
top: the top.
white side: the side facing the player playing the white pieces.
black side: the side facing the player playing the black pieces.
port side: the side on the white player's left
starboard side: the side on the white player's.right.
The lines where two sides meet is referred to as a "fold."

Pieces: in each color (black and white) there are the following pieces.
2 bishops
2 knights
2 rooks
6 pawns (note, only 6 of each color, not 8)
4 tunnelers (described below)

To start, arrange your 6 pawns on the top row of your side. Below them, place knight, bishop, king and queen, bishop, knight, such that the queen is on your color and the king on the opponent's color. On the closest bottom square of port and starboard side, place a rook. Place a tunneler on each of the two squares immediately adjacent to each of the rooks. (You should have a rook and two tunnelers on each the port and starboard sides, and your other 12 pieces on your own side.)

Variations from normal chess:

Pieces move over any fold in their normal movement, as if the fold were flattened out. However, only ONE fold can be traversed in this way in a single move. A rook on the starboard side, for example, could move a total of 12 squares if nothing were in its way, along the bottom row of the starboard side and the bottom row of the black or white side, but then it would have to use another move to move on to the port side.

Tunnelers can move and take one square in any direction (like a king), including moving over one fold. However, when on any side, they also can tunnel straight through the box to arrive at the square directly opposite the one they are on. They can also take (and put a king in check) in this way. A tunneler on the top of the board cannot tunnel anywhere.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#2 Vasectomy surgeon

Vasectomy surgeon - it's in the bag.

Feel the bag, locate your incision point and get in there with the scalpel. Correctly identify the vas deferens, slice the tube, use the surgical grippers to knot off the tube, seal off the incision and your done. Your work on the tube will be assessed by the technician on hand for liquid tightness. Allow too much liquid through and you've got an unhappy customer. Scar too big also leads to disgruntlement. Take too long and the anaesthetic wears off, no one is smiling. Less really is more in this game.

After your turn the technician will reset the tubes and the next person tries to tie a better knot, in less time with a smaller incision.


1 bag (scrotum like)
2 testicles
10 rubber tubes (reusable)
1 scalpel
2 surgical grippers
1 roll surgical tape
1 roll gut string for knot tying
1 graduated cylinder for liquid measuring
1 tape measure for scar length measuring
1 pair latex gloves

Over time the bag will get increasingly scarred. This adds a legacy element. If your incision joins a pre-existing one the lengths will be added.

Your turn

Start a timer then attempt the following steps:
Scrotum incision
Select tube
Cut tube
Tie tube
Tape scrotum incision closed
Stop timer
Say something reassuring to your patient


Measure incision length
Record time
Open bag, place operated on tube over graduated cylinder, squeeze testicle, measure any liquid flow. Volume above the red line disqualifies, but you might get a birthday invite.
If still qualified add these measures together.


Lowest score of the added measures wins.

Tie break game: The reversal

To break a tie players can try a reversal, to untie your knot and put things back the way they were. But be careful when cutting the knot not to knick the tube. The technician will be looking for restored flow without leakages here.


Ensure the testicles have sufficient liquid for measurement.
Remove any previous knots from tubes.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#3 Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

The players are Victorian photographers. Points are scored by matching the slides IN the camera to the picture cards in their hand. This involves an element of memory because the “glow in the dark” card graphics are only visible when viewed IN the camera.


The game box is a 75 cm cube split into two equal halves, with graphics representing the front and back segments of an old Victorian camera. One of the halves has a central hole in it. The two halves slide over an inner core that is a square shaped cylinder, with leather concertina artwork and 3 slots to accept the slide cards.

To set up the camera the two halves are slid out to either end of the inner cylinder and magnetically fixed in place.


54 slides, transparent poker cards printed with glow in the dark ink. This ink is charged by exposure to sunlight and the images are only visible in the dark environment of the camera. The graphics on each card represent one of two location segments, foreground and background. A third variant depicts objects or people of interest.

27 picture cards featuring graphical combinations achievable by the correct placement of three slides. Some slides are easier to incorporate into pictures than others, because they appear more frequently in the deck. The more difficult picture combinations score more points.

Auction Board

A folding board measuring 68x68, with a circuitous route of 6 action icons to mark the player positions in a line auction.

1) Take a card from the camera and replace it with one from your hand
2) Forfeit a hand card and draw a new card from the deck
3) Swap the hand cards of two other players
4) Repeat of action 1
5) Force a player to surrender a hand card and draw a new card
6) Swap a hand card with another players hand card


3 slides are placed in the camera and each player receives 3 slides and 3 picture cards.

In starting turn order the players select an action by placing their colored disc on an action icon. If a player chooses an action holding the disc of another player they stack their disc on top, up to a maximum of 2 discs.

The players can swap one of their three picture cards with a new one from the deck and/or perform their action.

When a player satisfies one of their picture cards they score the points on it.

In the next round the player with their disc on the lowest action number goes first, followed by the other players in action number order.

When the players move their discs their new action must be a higher number than their previous selection. The sixth space wraps around onto the one space. If an action icon holds more than one disc the player with the highest disc in the stack goes first.

The game continues until one player scores enough points to win.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#4 Heistronic

Heistronic (The Ironic Heist)

Welcome to Diamond Heights, a town with a strong mining industry, and no short supply of gems. Each player takes the role of a jewelry store owner. However, everyone knows that it is a lot quicker to steal jewelry than buying it, so each jeweler is also a thief. The goal of the game is to attain enough money to buy the prized Heaven Diamond.


The game container is actually a set of smaller interlocking compartmentalized boxes which each represent a jewelry store (think of a medication pillbox). Each store separates from the others and each player has one. The game is modular: more stores could be purchased to allow more players.

Store Setup Phase

Each player’s store has compartments that represent the different jewelry cases. Each compartment may be wired up with an alarm (if owned). After alarms are placed, players place all their jewelry into their store in whatever compartments they choose. However, each case only may hold 5 gems. The placement of alarms should be unknown to the other players (face down under the appropriate jewel case / blank cards for no alarms).

The Heist Phase

Players decide what store to heist at the same time. Each player heisting a given location takes turns stealing from a case. The hastiest thief will have first grabs. The hastiness of each thief is determined by the players “auctioning” for how hasty they are going to heist.


Alarms are triggered based on the skill and hastiness of the thief, plus any items he uses. Each gem taken also increases the chances of setting off the alarm. If the alarm is triggered, the players in the heist may try and escape, or try looting a bit more before the authorities show up. If a thief is caught, the store owner decides whether or not to press charges (draw a Caught! card) or settle in another way (ex. Pay me $500, 2 diamonds etc).

Example Heist

Charles and Jeff are robbing Bill’s store. Jeff wants first grabs because he knows Charles has two left thumbs and will set off an alarm. Jeff bids one hastiness, and Charles luckily does not bid. Jeff now has to subtract his hastiness from his skill level. His skill level is 4, and hastiness is 1, with no items (for total 3). He chooses to loot 1 diamond. Each piece stolen subtracts from his total, (3 - 1 = 2). If there is an alarm on this case with value greater than this total (2), Bill flips over that alarm card, and its consequences are acted out.

Sales Phase

Players take turns taking one action. Each player has unlimited actions.


  • Sell one type of jewelry.

  • Buy any amount of one type of jewelry.

  • Buy defensive (alarm, trap, other security) and offensive (lock pick, ski mask, sledgehammer, etc) items (represented by cards).

  • Upgrade thief skill level.

Gem values fluctuate similar to buying resources in Power Grid

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#5 Space Fight

Space Fight

In Space Fight, you control a Starship and its crew in battle with another Starship. Your Starship is also the box, which is shaped like a ship. The inside of your ship has multiple rooms for systems and crew.

There are multiple factions, so the game can be expanded with new Starships, each with their own crew and special systems. Component types are:

Starship Box

Crew Figures

System Cards (Mini)

Damage Counters


If the game has been put away with all crew in the Starship, the only setup is to shuffle your system cards and place them facedown in the rooms of your ship. You can look at your cards after they have been placed.

Players take turns during each phase:

Move Crew

Crew members may move, stopping if they move into a damaged room, or into a room with enemy crew. If enemy crew are in a Starship, the Starship's owner decides which player moves first in their ship, so they can restrict the opponents movement, or respond to it.

Crews Fight

Opposing crew in the same room fight each other. Each Crew member has combat and armor ratings from 1 to 4. Both players add up the total combat rating for their crew in that room and roll a die to be added to the total. The higher total wins, doing damage equal to the difference. The winner applies damage to the room, enemy crew, or face up system cards. Damage equal to a targets armor destroys crew, or adds damage counters to rooms and systems.

If crew are unopposed on an enemy ship, they reveal system cards, and roll for damage against the room, with no defense roll to reduce the damage.

Use Systems

Each crew without enemies in their room can do one of the following actions:

Activate System: There are two copies of each system card on your ship. You can put a card from a room into play if the room is undamaged. The card is placed face up outside of your ship, and can now be used. The duplicate is kept hidden face down in your ship, and can be found and damaged to disable the system. Example systems are Cannons, Shields, Scanners, Reactor to charge shields and weapons, Medical Bay to revive dead crew, Teleporter to invade the opponents ship.

Boost System: Increase the effectiveness of a system.

Repair: Damaged systems are less effective or disabled. Repairing is like combat, adding crew repair ratings and a die roll to remove damage from a room or system.

Starships attack with cannons and other systems, adding dice and attack ratings against enemy shields and armor.

Scanning an opponents ship reveals the system cards in a room, allowing you to damage that system later.


Starships are destroyed when the total damage in its rooms and systems exceeds their ships Hull rating, or if all their crew have been destroyed. The player with the last Starship standing wins.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#6 Journey to Eden

Journey to Eden
A Game of Exploration for 2-5 Players


Progress Markers
Location / Equipment Cards

Journey to Eden is a game about exploration and risk. It is a microgame where each player is an explorer journeying through a post-apocalyptic wasteland to find a new home for their people. The object of the game is to overcome the obstacles you are presented with while exploring and to earn progress markers that represent your journey to the paradise of New Eden.

Objective: Be the first player to have five progress markers at the end of a round.

The game is packaged in one sack, and comes with approximately 20 heavy cardboard 'cards'. These cards would be heavy and durable cardboard, large enough to contain the required information but small enough that they will be easily randomized by being shaken in the sack. Each card has two pieces of information on it:

1) A Location
2) A Piece of Equipment

Every turn a player must explore a location to gain a progress marker, but these locations often contain obstacles a player must overcome, and some have penalties for players that do not. Equipment can help players deal with Location cards, or can provide other abilities.


At the top of each round, every player starts with one card. In a clockwise order players draw from the main deck.

Each player must determine which Location/Equipment card they are keeping, and which they are giving up. They will be able to use the Equipment listed on the card they keep during the round, and the card they give up will become a Location that a random player (possibly themselves) must overcome.

All the given-up cards are placed into a sack, and mixed together. Players draw cards from the sack, and try meet the requirements of the card drawn. For example, the Firelands location might require the Protective Gear equipment to overcome. During this phase, players can throw away a progress marker to draw an additional card from the deck to use as equipment.

If a player cannot meet the requirements of a location, then the card is discarded and the player must suffer any listed consequences (such as losing a progress marker). If the player succeeds, they gain a progress marker. The markers are tallied at the end of the round, and any players who have five or more markers wins the game.

If no player has won the game the all cards are discarded and new cards are drawn until every player has one card. Instead of discarding a card, a player may keep the card in their hand from the last round or they may keep the card they explored if they gained a progress marker from it. The discards are shuffled, and another round begins.

Some Location cards are easily overcome, and some Equipment has unusual effects, such allowing a player to trade their Location for that of another player.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
#7 Quadplex

To start the game all you have to do is open the box. The bottom of the box is divided into four sections each containing an identical set of components for each player. Throughout the game you will take everything out of the box and ultimately put it all back in, so when you’re done all you have to do is put the lid back on.

The bottom of the box represents a Quadplex; the players are the tenants. The building is being renovated, so everything has to come out and go into storage. Once the renovation is over, it all has to go back in. The top of the box houses the storage units. In order to keep costs down and prevent rent from going up the tenants are overseeing the renovation of their units and doing some of the work themselves.

Each player has a set of little blocks of varying sized squares and rectangles to represent their belongings and a deck of cards (in a tuck box) to represents their wallet and cell phone. The cards are your money, plus friends and contractors you can call for help. On a turn you will either move stuff, or play a card.

Throughout the game you will need help from your friends, but their help comes at a price, pizza. For each phase of the game (taking things out, renovating, and putting things back), you can only get help from at most three friends (that’s all you have room for in your car) and none of your friends are willing to help with more than one phase (some kind of friends they are). Each friend has different values for how much they can carry per turn, what parts of the renovation they can help with, and of course, how much pizza they will eat. After you complete a phase you have to go to the pizzeria to feed your friends.

As you put belongings into storage you have to choose wisely which units to use. The closest units are smaller and more expense, but you can bring lots of items per turn. The farther units are bigger and cheaper, but since you have to lug everything so far, you can’t move much per turn. All the pieces have to be neatly aligned into the storage unit spaces on the box top.

Once everything’s into storage the renovation can begin. Players will have to complete four tasks: demolition, framing, drywall and painting. There isn’t enough money to contract everything out, so players must choose carefully what they hire out and what they do themselves. When the work is done, the race is on to get everything back into the box and finally pay the storage fees.

The landlord promised one month free rent to the tenant who best optimizes finishing quickly with cost. The winner is the tenant who finishes first unless another tenant underspends him by $100 or more (without finishing last).

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