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[GDS] September 2012 "I Spy"

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

September 2012 Game Design Showdown - "I Spy"

Please Read: Details on entering the Game Design Showdown.


Votes have been tabulated, and in a close race, we have a winner!
In 1st place with 10 votes: Zoologistics, by ralphthesquirrel
In 2nd place with 9 votes: DragonMaster, by Avianfoo
In 3rd place with 7 votes: Secret of the Woods, by melx
In 4th place with 6 votes: Spy n' Battle, by bike
In 5th place with 4 votes: Snatch the Cryptic Message, by regzr

Thanks everyone for participating, and for voting! Critique thread is now open for business!

Surveillance / Spying: Maybe it's because people are curious by nature, or maybe there are other reasons for it - but either way it's tough to deny that spying on other people is a major part of our lives today. From passengers checking out what their neighbor on the plane is reading, to government agencies collecting intel on each other (or their own citizens - I'm watching Enemy of the State right now - good movie), it seems we human beings just can't get enough information about each other.

This month's showdown challenges you to create a game where you can get ahead by spying on your fellow players to learn information.

Hidden Information: Of course, if players are to learn information by spying on each other, there must be some form of hidden information! However, if you're clever, I bet you can think of something else players can learn by spying on their opponents!

Deduction: What the players do with the information they learn is up to them - but to do well in this month's showdown, your players will need to use that information to deduce... something.

Word Limit: Let's go with an even 500 word limit this time.

Good luck!

Voting: Award Gold (3 votes), Silver (2 votes), and Bronze (1 vote) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Meal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

When submitting your entry: Please PM submissions to sedjtroll with the following subject line. PLEASE use the correct subject - it makes my job much easier!

Subject: GDS - Sept - [your username]

  • Submissions: The 1st of the month through the 8th. **Since I am late posting, I will accept entries through the 12th this month.
  • Voting: Through the 19th. PM your votes to sedjtroll.
  • 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 were 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, especially the details around the word count and graphics limits, visit the GDS Wiki Page.

Enjoy, and good luck!

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #1 - Secret of the Woods

Secret of the woods


  • 48 cards (6 animals - 8 cards of each animal) There are action to perform during the game and scoring condition for endgame on the cards.
  • VP counters

Objective is to score as many point as possible during the game with actions and at the end of the game with secret card scoring.


Shuffle the cards, deal 4 cards for each player to hand and 1 card in front of each player face-down as a secret card.

The Game

In his turn player has 2 actions to do. Possible actions are:

  • drawing a card in his hand.
  • playing a card in his play area face-up
  • performing an action of any card from his play area.

Game ends if the last card from the draw deck is drawn. Score Your secret card condition and add up collected points. Who has the most points is the winner.

The cards and their:
a) action during the game, b) scoring at the end of the game


a) score 1 point for each Hare on the table.
b) score 1/3/6/10/15 points for 1/2/3/4/5 Hares in his play area.


a) score 1 point for each Plant on the table
b) score 1/3/6/10/15 points for 1/2/3/4/5 Plants in his play area


a) draw 1 card for each Bug on the table
b) score 1/3/6/10/15 points for 1/2/3/4/5 Bugs (pollination) in his play area


a) Look at any secret card, You may exchange it for card from Your hand or top card from the draw deck.
b) score 0/3/6/9/12/15 points for 1/2/3/4/5/6 different animals in his play area


a) Look at any secret card, You may exchange it for Your secret card or top card from the draw deck.
b) score 0/3/6/9/12/15 points for 6/5/4/3/2/1 different animals in his play area


a) play or exchange top card from the draw deck to/for any play area.
b) score 2 points for each card in Your play area.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #2 - Dragon Master


A game of dragon armies and subterfuge for 2-4 players. The DragonKingdom has erupted into civil war. Beat down your opponents to claim the DragonCrown.


  • War Cards: (Dragons, Spies, Knights etc.)
  • Coloured Coat of Arms markers, one in each player colour.
  • Strategy Cards: Each Strategy card always contains an initiative number. There are 2 types of Strategy cards.
  • Compass cards, each which points to either North, South, East or West.
  • Coat of Arms cards, each in a players colour.


  • Shuffle all War cards together and deal each player 7 cards. Set aside the remaining face down as the Reinforcements deck.
  • Shuffle all Strategy cards together and deal 5 to each player. Set aside the remaining face down as the Strategy deck.
  • Each player places all their War cards face down in 4 piles in front of them representing war camps in each of the four directions of the compass: North, East, South and West. There should be at least 1 card in each pile for each player. And place their Coat of Arms marker to indicate which camp is the northern camp (The camps placed clockwise from this camp are the eastern, southern and western camps).


  • A player is a winner if they have twice the number of camps than all other players.


  • Players may look at their face down cards at any time but may not reorganise them or change their order.
  • Players cards are hidden and must not be shown or hinted at by other players.


  • All players simultaneously choose 2 Strategy cards from their hand face down.
  • All players reveal their choices and each player completes their turn in order of the lowest initiative to highest initiative numbers (added together) on their Strategy cards.

Players Turn:

The actions that a player may take on their turn depends on the strategy cards chosen. The used Strategy cards are always discarded. And a player always draws/discards back up/down to 5 Strategy cards after his action is completed.

  • Own Coat of Arms and a Compass = Reinforcements! Draw 3 cards from the War deck, choose 2 to reinforce your own camp at that compass position. These cards are placed on top or bottom of the camp. The remaining card is discarded. All other players draw 1 card to reinforce their camp at that position.
  • Other players Coat of Arms and a Compass = Attack! Reveal the top card of any of your camps. The chosen player reveals the top card at the compass position. The lowest value of the two cards is discarded. The winner is placed on bottom of the camp from which it was revealed. Special abilities of cards may change the outcome of an attack.
  • 2 of any other players Coat of Arms = Spy! Look at any camp of (either) player OR take 2 Strategy cards at random from one of those players.
  • Any 2 cards = Scout! Draw 3 cards from the Strategy deck all other players draw 1.
sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #3 - Spy ’n Battle

Spy ’n Battle

2-4 players

Every player has 16 thick square cards with his colour (not grey) on one side, and on the other side the strength and value. Four possible combinations:

 | Strength | Value | Occurrence |  
 |    10    |   1   |      2     |  
 |     6    |   3   |      6     |  
 |     3    |   6   |      6     |  
 |     1    |  10   |      2     |  

Added to that every player has four dummy cards. Grey on both sides (total 20 cards).

Board is 10x10 grid. Every player starts with placing one card in one of the centre fields. Always face down. Only the colour of the player can be seen.

Then in turn each player places a new card in a row or column where he already has at least one card. When placing a card the player has the option to; 1. Perform an action on the board 2. Spying 3. Small battle

  1. The action which can be performed is defined by the square he places his card. Each square has a specific action like:

- Move one card - Switch two cards - Spy on three cards

  1. Spying means that every card that lies between the card just played and any other card of this player (horizontal/vertical) may be looked at. Only by the player who is spying. Cards are put back.

  2. You can only do direct battle with a card that is just placed next to another of your cards. You attack in one of the other three directions. If you are stronger, you win that card. If you are weaker the other player gets your card.

Big battle: Whenever (after placing and the action) three cards of the same colour are in one row or column the whole row or column is turned. The player with the highest strength receives all other cards. His cards remain on the board. In case of a tie all other cards are removed from the game.

At the end of the game all remaning cards are turned around. Starting with highest row/column value all big battles are resolved.

Most value wins. Double the value from the opponent from which you have the least value (could be zero!).

Extra rules:

  • Cards which are surrounded on four sides may not be moved by actions. They can only be removed by battle.
  • All cards must connect. If, by battle, a gap is created cards are shifted towards the centre. A gap may not be created by an action.
  • The dummy cards may be placed as extra turn before the player places his card. A dummy breaks the row/column with regard to battle and spying.

Desired gameplay:

  • You can learn from spying yourself, but you can also learn from the actions an opponent performs after spying. Maybe you can perform an action, instead of spying.
  • Using dummy cards gives extra tactical possibilities with breaking rows, and avoiding small battle.

I had a theme on this game, but with the changing of rules it no longer made sense.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #4 - Snatch the Cryptic Message

Snatch the Cryptic Message

There is a undervalued category - quiz and trivia games. One loves trivia, other hates. Seldom there's any tactical element in quiz type board game. Game authors end up doing combinations like trivia & betting, or trivia & dexterity, or trivia & act out. My game, Snatch the Cryptic Message, goes along those lines.


Player teams try to work out a series of puzzles and trivia. Because negotiation is not allowed and teammates are separated, players communicate using short messages. When a message is on its way, opponent can read it. Messages should be formatted so that the recipient realizes its contents, but the other party does not.


2 Workbooks (workbook#1 and workbook#2)
Letter, number and symbol tiles
4 Message tablets
Pen and paper
2 Desks (A and B)


4 Players form two 2-player teams. One player from both teams sit at the desk A and study workbook#1. Accordingly, two players sit at the desk B and they study workbook#2.

A 2-page spread of the workbook#1 has the same quizzes and problems as 2-page spread of workbook#2.


The job is to answer questions and solve problems. Answers are written on a paper. Each player at first separately. Because a player from other team sits beside, one must somehow cover and hide his answers. The teammates may send messages to each other. Negotiation is not allowed.

The Winner

In the end, the winner is team whose most answers are correct. Only double correct answers are counted. I.e. both teammates have to give same right answer to same question or problem.

How message tablets and letter tiles are used?

Message tablet is a piece of cardboard with 7 x 6 holes. A tile fits in a hole. So it's possible to frame 42 tiles long message using letters, numbers and symbols. A message may help teammate to figure out correct entry.

What's odd, messages are sent via opponents' hands. Opponents can read and copy any message, but they don't alter it. Players are encouraged to design messages as cryptic as possible. Disinformation may be sent to the intention to deceive, but junk may also mix teammate's thoughts.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Entry #5 - Zoologistics


In Zoologistics you are a zoologist at a failing zoo. In fact, all the zoos are failing. Apparently no one wants to see animals anymore. So the Zoological Society of America has chosen a questionable approach to bringing people back to the zoos: creating new species! You are trying to create a new and exciting species of animal by employing different traits found in animals. Perhaps people would want to see a Grizzly Owl or a Furry Octopus, or a Scaly Zebra. At the same time, your competition, the other zoologists, are trying to create other species that would draw people to their zoo. In this game it is you goal to not only successfully create your new animal, but to also steal the other zoologists recipes.


  • Animal Trait Cards
  • Research Tokens
  • Player Mats
  • Main Board
  • Rulebook
  • Dice


Each player will be dealt several random traits that will determine their new species. These cards will be placed on their player mat each in a separate spot. They can always look at their own cards. Others must spy to see the cards.


On your turn you can either choose to spy or you can work on your own recipe. When you choose the spy action you’ll roll two dice and the result will tell you which player you can spy on. One die determines which player you can spy on. The other die determines which trait card you’ll get to see. Successful spying will increase your spy points. Increasing your spy points will allow you to be able to adjust your spy roll up or down so you can have the option to spy on someone else, or on a different card. So spy points are important because you’ll be able to control which player and which card you spy on. When you choose to work on your own recipe you will be performing research. The more you research you perform the closer you will be to creating your new species. You won’t have time to spy on every card of every player, so you’ll have to try to deduce their recipe by combining the info you were able to spy on with the types of research they are working on.


To win the game you must create the most new species that correctly match other player’s recipes. You will be awarded species points for your new species. But if someone has successfully created your specific species, you’ll lose points since their zoo will also have that new animal. Add your new species points to your spy points and research points and a winner will be determined! But don’t let that stop you from creating the coolest new species! You know everyone wants to see a blue duck, because they’ve never seen a blue duck!

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