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[GDS] SEPTEMBER 2013 "Oldest Game Ever" - Critiques

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mindspike
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Use this forum to discuss the games this month. Most everything was an abstract, and those can be tough to bring together. Kudos to everyone who submitted this month.

mindspike
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Unite 4

Unite 4

A classic kind of abstract game of matching and movement.

(+) This game lacks a board, assembling a playing field out of the components in such a way that construction of the field potentially involves a degree of strategy. There is room here for a great deal of “big picture” strategy involving blocking, moving, and merging. This favors the math geek rather than intricate move and counter-move, as tactical options are limited.

(-) Merging pieces would benefit from the ability to actually merge them. Description of the die use is unclear. Requiring four players is a weakness; the game suffers from lack of strategic options with three players, and is unplayable with only two players. At first glance the game seems to favor a dominant strategy similar to Parcheesi, and it could turn out to be yet another roll-and-move race.

mindspike
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To Block and To Rob

To Block and To Rob

A fascinating combination of racing movement and dynamic board alteration on an abstract board.

(+) There are enough colors of gemstones and strategic fence placement options to make the game interesting. Movement blocking makes a visually interesting board that is constantly changing, forcing strategic reevaluation.

(-) There is a clear dominant strategy of restricting your opponent's movement with fences. The board is complex and not easily set up using only the given pieces. The multiple victory conditions means that games will either be very short if both players pursue the subordinate “collection” strategy or drawn out if even one player pursues the dominant “blocking” strategy.

mindspike
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Falling Empire

Falling Empire

A wargame simulation using abstract pieces.

(+) The game makes strong use of theme within the story, and ties the required pieces strongly to the feel of the game. This has the potential to involve move, counter-move, alliances, and betrayals.

(-) Game play is not clearly described. I got the concept of the game but had no clear vision of how it was set up or play would be executed. The word limit definitely hurt this game's description.

mindspike
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Court of Mesopotamia

Court of Mesopotamia

A bargaining and negotiation game of court intrigue.

(+) Bluffing and trading and stealing are very appealing, leading to quite a fun party game for adults who aren't extremely competitive, or maybe they are if this is played Diplomacy-style. The mechanics are simple and clear. Rounds will move quickly, and game play is not restricted to just the pieces on the board.

(-) There is a clear dominant strategy involving only stealing and never negotiating. Power imbalance seems inevitable for an aggressive negotiator, and a player who is reduced to no pieces literally has nothing left to lose. This game needs another mechanic at work to force specific player action or types of interaction.

mindspike
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Merchant's Bazaar

Merchant's Bazaar aka. Merchants Bizarre

An abstract trading game.

(+) Strong use of the base 4 requirement. A dominant strategy is not immediately clear. May also be played as a solo puzzle-style game.

(-) Strategy is weak at best, and relies heavily on luck. A larger variety of pieces or winning conditions would be preferred. Game has an optimum mathematical distribution at 4 players, and breaks down rapidly for 2 or 3 players.

(*) Full disclosure – this was my submission.

regzr
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Thanks

Entry #2 To Block and To Rob was mine. Thanks for everyone that thought it could have potential!

I playtested the game with different set-ups, but wasn't able to solve emerging problems. Either same color pieces happened to be near one player's tokens or too many turns went by so that neither player could move his tokens. But trying to nail opponent with fences was fun.
-regzr

bike
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Review

I was struggling on this one. The diversity of the material, and the dice, in an ancient setting. My game (Unite 4) is too complicated for the ancient time. My thoughts along lines to give the pieces a real meaning went nowhere (a pyramid as building, dog and pigs as animals, ... nothing came out of that).
I did not mind that it uses exact four persons, since I assume that was less of a problem in the old days. But then again, maybe they were busy as well. I was not thinking about a game for the current market.

Gold: "To block and to rob". The idea is simple, fitting the ancient time, while there is enough depth in the game. I should think that the problems with playtest can be overcome by changing the number of fences, fixed starting positions, etc.
Silver: "Court of Mesopotamia". The choice to steal or negotiate is very funny. The rules very simple. These mechanics could be transferred into a more complex game where the stealing chance (bluff) is not 50/50 but one can use a more inspired guess.
Bronze: "Merchants bazaar". A game with a lot of luck in it. Not my preferred type of game, but could fit in the ancient times very well. The of colours and coloured dices does not really fit the ancient theme.

Ah well, onwards to this months' challenge!

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