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[GDS] Winner's Circle

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009


You may have noticed that this list hasn't been updated the previous few months. I do apologise for this - it's been due to lack of designer commentary. But now after a few months I'm going to post these anyway, even without designer commentary. I know this isn't as cool as usual, but time pressures make it difficult for many designers to produce commentary on the short timescale I've been asking them to. I thank those who have contributed, and while this thread may just contain the GDS winner's entries now, it is not the final form this will take. Always more in the works.

This sticky thread is for entires that win the monthly GDS, preserving them in a public place for all posterity. Each entry is followed by a review by a published guest designer. Congratulations to all the winners!

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
April 2014 - Idol Flattery

GDS April 2014 photo April20201420Prize_zps366b2f73.jpg


A quick card game for two poker-faced PA’s!


Both players are Personal Assistants to the same celebrity diva, who is about to exit the posh hotel lobby. You’re both trying to flatter the celebrity with tall tales of the giant crowd of paparazzi waiting outside. Who of you will be exposed as a blatant liar first? Keep flattering!


18 paparazzi cards, each containing Cameras [C], Journalists [J], Helicopters [H], or a combination thereof:

  • 6x No-one
  • 4x Photographer [C]
  • 1x Reporter [J]
  • 1x Camera Crew [CC]
  • 3x News Team [CJ]
  • 1x Live Broadcast Unit [CJJ]
  • 1x In-Depth Documentary Taskforce [CJJJ]
  • 1x Helicopter [CH]

5 Favour tokens.


The game is played in a series of rounds. In each round the players take turns making bold claims about the mass of paparazzi gathered outside. At the end of each round one player will have gained a Favour token. The first player to accumulate 3 Favour tokens wins.


At the start of every round, collect and shuffle all 18 paparazzi cards.

Both players are dealt 2 cards. They look at these cards and place them face-down in the middle of the table. These cards in the middle of the table are called the ‘Crowd’ which now consists of 4 face-down cards. Don’t pile the cards -- during the round they will need to be picked up and looked at individually.

Each player is then dealt 5 cards which they take in hand. The remaining 4 cards are not used this round.

In the very first round, the player who can come up with the best name for a celebrity diva starts. Later rounds are started by the player who won the last round. (But feel free to make up a new name for the celebrity you’re sucking up to each round.)


A player’s turn always consists of Peeking through the door, Peeking through the window, and Flattering, in that order.

  1. Peek through the door
    Look at one face-down card in the Crowd, and replace it either face-up or face-down.

  2. Peek through the window
    Add 0, 1 or 2 cards from your hand to the Crowd, face-down. If you have no more cards in hand, you can’t place any cards.

  3. Flatter
    Make a bold claim about the number of cameras, journalists and/or helicopters in the Crowd. A celebrity is not easily flattered, so the claim MUST be higher than your opponent’s previous claim. This means all numbers need to be equal or higher than in the previous claim, i.e. you need to add at least one camera, journalist or helicopter. Example increasing claims: “1 camera”, “1 camera and a journalist”, “4 cameras and a journalist”, “6 cameras, 4 journalists and a helicopter!”. Present them with more dramatic flair if you want to :)

    Once the claim has been made, the other player must either:

    • Keep quiet and accept your claim.
      In this case, your turn simply ends and their turn starts. They’ll have to make an even bolder claim than yours!
    • Cry foul and call you a liar!
      If this challenge is made, it’s time for a showdown! All the cards in the Crowd are revealed. If your claim was true, you gain a Favour token. If not, your opponent gains a Favour token. The round is now over.

      If someone has 3 Favour tokens, they win the game! (The other player is fired.) Otherwise, start a new Round.

Both players may start with random hands, but high and low cards are equally valuable. You can win both by playing cards so high your opponent thinks you’re lying, or by playing lots of empty cards and challenging your opponent on the return. Using the right type of bluff at the right time is the key to winning. Try to use your Peek through the door actions to discover your opponent’s bluffing patterns. And always, always maintain that poker face ;)

Guest Commentary by Seth Jaffee, head of development with Tasty Minstrel Games and designer of Eminent Domain.

Interesting variation on Liar's Dice!

I wonder why the Peek Through The Door action says you can replace the card face up or face down... I suppose it's like 99.9% likely that you're looking at a card the other player has played, so in theory you both know what it is. If everyone can remember what they see then it's effectively the same thing, just seems like a weird decision point to add - "should I return this face down? Or face up?" That's not really something a player should be thinking about, I wouldn't think. Might as well say "turn 1 crowd card face up."

That's a fairly minor niggle - I think it sounds like a very reasonable quick game which could maybe even be played with more than 2 players - easily expanded to higher player counts (potentially with more cards added).

Maybe this would make a good microgame, to go along with the current fad of games with few components which will fit in your pocket.

Idol Flattery certainly incorporates the challenge requirement to include bluffing and misdirection.

Would the game work just as well if players simply had to add 1 card to the crowd every turn (rather than 0, 1, or 2)? There are 'bluff' cards with no-one on them, as well as a variety of other paparazzi types - I think you could get by with just adding 1 card per turn. Is the game more fun if you get to add 0-2 cards?

One thing that I like about head-to-head Liar's dice is that as you get called out, you lose dice, putting you at a relative disadvantage, but since it's a bluffing game that's not the end of the world. In Idol Flattery there's no lasting change from round to round - you just start from scratch each time, first to 3 points wins. That may be fine, but it might be cool if there was something to tie the rounds together a little bit.

That's about all the comments I can think of offhand. Without playing the game, it does sound like it would work... having played Liar's Dice, I feel like I can imagine how the game would feel as well.

Good job!

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
May 2014 - The Reformers

 photo prize_may2014_zps09b956c0.png

The Reformers

Can you change the course of Christianity forever? * *(2-4 players, age 12+, approx. 30 minutes)

The Reformation of the sixteenth century was driven by men who worked tirelessly despite harsh opposition to fight for what centuries of politics and dogma had obscured, Sola Fide, the message of salvation by faith alone, not works. Each player represents a reformer trying to change the religious and political landscape by focusing on this basic message. You must balance time studying scripture, travelling, preaching and writing in the hope of gaining enough influence to drive the reformation of the church.

Components and Setup

Each player receives four region cards (representing areas where they have influence) and a die in a distinct colour. Before the start of the game the players randomly choose one of their region cards that will not be used for the game and one for their starting card. The other two region cards per player are kept aside to be added to the game later. The cards make a modular board. The dice function as both player pawn and score marker. There is also a black opposition card and a white public support card with corresponding black and white dice. The starting card for each player plus the black card and the white card are randomly arranged into a grid with two rows. Each region card has four action spaces (two on each side) with progressively better actions. They are numbered by rank 1-4. The player dice are placed, showing 1 (representing the player’s influence), on the corresponding coloured card on the rank 1 action space. The black die, showing 6 (representing the strength of the reformers’ opponents), is placed on the black card. The white card is marked with each player’s colour and the white die is placed on it, showing 1 (representing public support for the reformers), to track the starting player.


Players take turns taking one action at a time and each take two total actions per round. There are four different possible actions: travel, study, preach, and write. Each action space has a different combination of actions depending on its rank. Most action spaces do not have all four actions available. These actions allow the players to: add a card, flip a card over, move a die, or change the number of a die. Many of the actions are conditional based on the values of the dice and/or number of cards in the game (e.g. white die must be 2 or higher).

The Travel action: A player can move his or her die to any orthogonally adjacent card (including the white card or black card). The die always starts on the lowest ranked action space on a region card. If a player die is moved to the white or black card the value of its corresponding die is increased by one.

The Study action: A player can move his or her die to the next ranked action space on its current card (flip the card over if necessary).

The Preach action: Depending on the rank of the action space a player can do (as indicated) one or a combination of: add a card orthogonally to the game, change the starting player, or increase the value of the white die.

The Write action: Depending on the rank of the action space a player can do (as indicated) one or a combination of: move the black die, decrease the value of the black die, or increase the value of the player’s die (any time the value of the player die is increased it is moved to the rank 1 action space on its current card). If the black die is moved to the black card its value is increased by one, if the black die is moved to the same card as another die (including the white one) the value of the other die is decreased by one.

If located on the white card a player can Travel or change the starting player. If located on the black card a player can Travel or move the black die. If located on another player’s card a player may not choose the study action.


After all players have taken two actions, the players have to face opposition before starting the next round. Any player orthogonally adjacent to the black die or on a card of the same colour as the black die is affected. If the black die is showing 5 or 6, anyone affected must decrease the value of their die by one. If the black die is showing 3 or 4, anyone affected must flee and is forced to move their die to a card not affected by the black die and not their own colour (if this is not possible they must decrease their die by one). If the black die is showing 1 or 2, anyone affected must move their die to the rank 1 action space on its current card. Also, if two or more players total were affected, the value of the white die is decreased by one and the value of the black die is increased by one.

The first player to reach six on his or her die wins.

Guest Commentary from Grant Rodiek of Hyperbole Games

Initial Thoughts: You’ve done a very good job of finding a religious topic that can be approached from a historical perspective, which is relatively far safer and less controversial than a spiritual perspective. The impact of the Reformation was massive and it changed cultures, empires, and faith as well. I don’t think many people know just how influential this period was, so finding such a way to bring it up in a playful experience is fantastic.

I think this is very much the type of game that can bring important recognition to games as a hobby and when appropriate, a teaching advice. Your pitch makes me think of the very important Freedom: The Underground Railroad from Academy Games and how it uses a game to discuss the Abolitionist Movement.

I’m also impressed with how you have relatively simple mechanics -- do Actions indicated on a card -- that are also thematic. If you were a Martin Luther, for example, you would need to build support for your movement, support your arguments, and travel about to do so. Just like a politician in modern times, or social activists. I really like that the presence of a player’s die increases the public support, but also the opposition. “That preacher again! Stop him!”

It is slightly difficult to picture the full game in my head, which is reasonable considering you’re limited to 500 words, but I can see everyone moving about, avoiding the opposition, rallying support, and improving their power. I get the feeling there would be good tension and reasonable interaction, which I think are important.

I think, personally, the game could benefit from some variance in both outcomes and how things proceed. There doesn’t seem to be much randomness, so a player so inclined could math out his or her optimal turn and really slow down the structure you’ve created, which should be briskly paced.

I’m not sure you need the choice at the beginning of the game regarding your starting region. It’s must faster to just say: here is your starting region (a dealt card), then build the world dynamically. Choices like this are often frustrating, especially for newer players, because it’s a choice without context. Instead of putting this choice here, add more choice to the game itself.

Finally, the game seems to be primarily one of action selection and turn optimization. I feel the game is original on the whole and has strong thematic ties, but I’m curious how and where you could really stand out mechanically. Can you think of a unique mechanic to present a fresh experience, fresh theme, and exciting new way to play? Some ideas include a compelling opposition AI mechanic (see below), new ways to create a dynamic map (I toss out some stuff below), or perhaps a compelling new way to represent your power as a social force? As I grow in influence, how do my choices change? Is there something compelling you can do here to make it feel like Martin Luther at the end is different than Martin Luther at the beginning?

Try to find something really novel to push forth! You have an inspired idea here. Really challenge yourself. And, if I overlooked something, or misread something, let’s blame it on the single page of text!

Questions: I’m curious how exactly the actions will exist on the cards. For example, will all of them be ranked Travel (1), Study (2), Preach (3), or Write (4) (as an example), or will they be shuffled in rank? Will 4 be more potent than 1, or just more difficult to get to? Lower in the document you use “or any combination,” which I took to mean a level 4 might say “Travel and Preach,” which would make sense as you’d want to potentially Study up for a really powerful turn.

It seems Travel and Study are always the same, but Preach and Write can be different. You may want to use a common verb, but different noun, so: Write Thesis, Write Pamphlet, and so forth so the players notice they are different at a quick glance. Actually, why don’t you just have multiple actions? Why say 4 when it’s really 8 or more? It’s not terribly clear to say “You can do the write action…which could be 4 things.” So, make it 4 things, which means these all need to be very simple and clear.

Does starting player mean next round? I assume you aren’t skipping turns and such.

Why is changing starting player important? It doesn’t seem like there are scarce resources right now. I can’t (that I can tell) prevent you from entering a region, take something exclusive to me, or gain a limited resource. I think such things might be useful and would make the “change start player” option more compelling. I do see that I can move the opposition die, so perhaps that alone is sufficient?

Publishing Opportunities: A short time ago I would have laughed at the idea of a game about the Reformation (or any religious topic) finding a home, but, handled appropriately, I think this game could find a home. Absolutely I think your first ports of call should be publishers of historic games. The ones that immediately come to mind are Academy Games, Mayfair Games, or GMT Games. You know, minor hitters!

Some things to think about for your game are how much these companies allow in the way of complexity and components. By this, I mean that you can add a little meat to your game and really explore the topic and theme. Don’t just consider the publishers, but the players who buy their games. These tend to be more serious gamers who are willing to really dig into a subject. I think if you made your game work for up to 4 players in 1-2 hours, but still maintain your simple core, these publishers would really take a look at what you have to offer. I don’t think you should add an hour of play time just to do it, but if you find that you can add additional layers of strategy and richness, then by all means explore the topic.

Further Development: Here, I’m going to toss out ideas, discuss things, and generally blab for a bit. I’m sorry.

Firstly before you do anything you need to consider your goals for this game and who, if anyone, you wish to target with a pitch. Your conclusions for these thoughts will guide your next steps. Your goals should consider length of play time, number of players, amount of interaction, randomness, and how tied you want to be to the theme. This game could go a lot of directions based on just those notes.

I would want to see the game become a little less abstract in its minute to minute play. I feel the consequences of your actions are thematic, but the description feels a smidge dry. In a sense, it reminds me of Hansa Teutonica. I want to move my character around a board to add followers, change the landscape, and hide from persecution. I feel in some places you can move away from the dice. These don’t allow for much permanence. For example, could opposition be little black cubes placed on the board, with white cubes being placed as the strength of your followers grow? I wonder if the dice could be actors, with cubes (or something) representing the lasting effects of consequences. This would give you a tactical and strategic game. Move your die to affect the long term.

Furthermore, could the opposition be a little less predictable? I like your current mechanisms, but as it stands now I worry it’s just something to be manipulated, not something the players need to fight against for real change to occur. Consider simple mechanics by which the opposition will grow, move, and disband on its own. You could try a few mechanics to do this.

Pandemic’s disease spreading mechanic of flipping cards that detail where a disease is placed is one. You could use a custom die to indicate the amount of opposition growth, then flip a location card. I roll a 3 and flip a German Bishopric, so I place 3 black cubes there. This same die or mechanic could shift them about as well.

Bring the opposition to life so that I’m not just trying to be the best reformer, but defeat a regime that resists change. I’m not proposing this become a semi-cooperative game, just bringing more life to the opposition.

I think the game could benefit from a board with regions drawn from the actual period. However, the dynamic layout you have is quite nice and I wonder if it could be used here. For example, what if the map is the same, but the importance of the various communities different? Or, perhaps the dynamic world is less important if the opposition is more dynamic?

The board is nice because it grounds players and provides them with a familiar experience. You can also use it to “store” components during the game (ex: place opposition here), provide reminders for game turns, and will be frankly nice to look at. I must admit I don’t love the duality of the cards currently – having to flip means I’m lacking information with which to easily make decisions. While I’m spitting out ideas, perhaps your 1, 2, 3, and 4 Actions could all be individual little 1 inch square tokens. You could randomly place the 1s on every location, then the 2s, and so forth. This gives you varied start, the board so the cities and destinations are similar, and I don’t have to flip cards. You noted not all regions have all 4 actions, and this could be a great opportunity to leverage the history. If a certain city had a famous library, or congregation, then that city could have a pre-baked Action that makes it feel unique.

Another UI idea – each region’s actions are represented by 1-4 cards. When I’m there, I place the cards equal to or less than my current position in front of me. These are the actions I can take. If I study, I place the card in front of me. This doesn’t work if regions aren’t exclusive, but perhaps it’ll spur an interesting idea from you.

Now that you aren’t constrained by the contest, you can debate the merits of such things and I think you should. Constraints are good for fostering ideas, but don’t hesitate to get rid of them to make the real game.

If you ignore the board idea, which is perfectly fine. You should use little roads on the cards in the orthogonal directions to remind the player that they can go up/down/left/right and not diagonal. This will also serve to make the world look alive.

If you were to conduct further research on the topic, I’d be curious if you’d find advantages in players taking on the roles of certain activists during the period, be they religious figures or the patrons who supported them. The obvious benefit being that you could vary things slightly for each preacher. Martin Luther could be a superior writer, which slightly alters his strategy. Others may have the benefit of a loving flock, which grants them an additional +1 white cube/die pip. It doesn’t need to be complex. I love how Bauza does this well with Takenoko or 7 Wonders to provide a unique experience with just a few slight variable tweaks.

One thing I’ve found useful in my experience is to give players stepping stones along the way. Tiny goals upon which they can focus that lead them to the greater end. For example, let’s say the game were to end after X rounds, indicating years. Players could have goal cards to accomplish specified feats for the movement to gain advantages, such as followers (cubes/dice that only benefit them on the board). Therefore, at the end of X rounds, my die pips plus my followers determine the winner. This gives new players some direction when they first begin. It gives advanced players a choice: do I do this goal for its benefit, or do I forge ahead for the long term. Do I need this stepping stone or can I skip it? Those can make for really tough decisions for players!

I wonder if you’ve thought about making the position of the black die the most important thing, then during the Opposition Phase, you roll it (custom die?) to see what happens. The opposition should always be bad and players should generally know to avoid it. I’m curious if this would work with a dual Opposition Die plus cubes system. Cubes represent the semi-permanent establishment of the church, whose presence was immense. The die represents their agents or something thematically appropriate. The die is the epicenter of their push and when you are in the same region as it, you must be prepared to face the consequences OR have a way to stop it. Generally, I’m looking for less predictability.

Closing Thoughts: Really impressive and thoughtful take on this topic. I wish I would have thought of it. I love the core simplicity of your design and want to see a little more layered on top of it. Try to think of the short term versus long term and how you can represent that. Think about the history you can further bake into this game and how you can make it more thematic. Consider your potential publishers and look at how they do things for guidance and inspiration.

I think you should continue to work on this! Congratulations again and good luck.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
June 2014 - Six Kingdoms

GDS June 2014 photo June-GDS_zps7be31645.png

Six Kingdoms

by Tim McDonald, aka DifferentName


Six Kingdoms have held a tenuous peace for a generation, but tensions may lead to war once again. 2-6 players play as a lord or lady from one of the Six Kingdoms. Your goal is to get 6 Victory Points by gaining influence over other kingdoms, conquering their capital cities, or by completing quests. As you travel the world, events that change the world happen around you, leading to alliances and wars between kingdoms.


1 Board, showing 6 kingdoms, each with their own capital city.

1 Story Book

1 Kingdom die, with one side for each kingdom

6 Player figures

Cards - War deck, Peace deck, Politics deck, Quests

Status Tokens

War and Peace tokens for each kingdom - used to gain influence over kingdoms or to conquer them

Victory tokens

Diplomacy Board, with 15 relations tokens: 15 scales ranging from -3 to +3, showing each kingdoms relationship with each other kingdom. If the number is negative, those kingdoms are at war.


Each player chooses a kingdom, and places their figure on their kingdoms capital.

Each capital city starts with 3 war tokens and 3 peace tokens of their color, which represent that kingdoms control over their own territory.

Each player draws one quest card, with goals like establishing a strong alliance or conquering a specific kingdom, killing a rival, or becoming king. When a quest is received, players decide to either read the quest aloud and keep it face up, or announce that they will keep their quest secret, keeping it face down until the time is right to reveal their plans.

Roll the Kingdom die to determine the first active player.


Move Phase

Move up to 2 spaces in friendly territory, or 1 space in enemy territory.

Story Phase

Draw a card from the War, Peace, or Politics deck based on the kingdom you are in: Politics for your home kingdom, War for a kingdom you are at war with, and Peace for a kingdom you are peaceful with.

Read the card aloud. Cards direct to a specific passage in the story book based on status tokens you may have, your relationship with other kingdoms, the amount of war or peace tokens you have placed in that kingdom, or a choice you make.

Another player finds the passage in the story book and reads it aloud. This may tell of events that are beyond your control, or give you options to choose between different outcomes if you meet certain requirements, like a specific status or if you have one of the kingdoms influenced or conquered. This often raises or lowers the relations between kingdoms, and may let you add war or peace tokens to a city to conquer the city through war, or to influence it through peace.

Passages may affect the kingdom you are in, your home kingdom, or other kingdoms that may be determined by you, or by a roll of the kingdom die. In this way you can attempt to guide a kingdom towards peace or war, causing other players to lose their alliance with each other, or bringing kingdoms to peace before one gets conquered.

Resolution Phase

If you meet the requirements of your quest card, reveal it if it was face down, and take any status and victory tokens it provides, then draw another quest card.

Count your victory points by adding your victory tokens and all capitals that you have Influenced or Conquered.

Conquered: If you are at war with a kingdom, and have more war tokens in their capital than any other kingdom, you have conquered that city.

Influenced: If you have equal or more Peace tokens in a city than it's owner, and it has not been conquered, you have influence in that city. Influence is shared with the cities owner, counting as a victory point for both players.

If you have 6 Victory points counting your cities and completed quests, you win. If not, the next player takes their turn.

The following is commentary by Guest reviewer Matt Worden designer of Jump Gate:

First, congratulations on the GDS win this month. It was an interesting challenge and your game really did hit all of the right notes. I think this would make a very interesting game and I hope you pursue it further.

From this short-word-count format, I'm not sure how the game could be played with less than 6. Do the non-player kingdoms somehow run on autopilot? If so, are human players going to feel railroaded in what they can do?

The two areas that I think would need a lot of work to hone the game to be its best are the map and the story book. There's a ton of potential in those two things, but it would take a lot of content creation, map path drawing, testing, culling, rewriting, etc., to make it all work.

For the map, an asymmetrical map would be more interesting than a perfectly balanced map, but makes it difficult to keep it fair for all players. Of course, it could be left as simple as possible so that movement is more an abstraction of "where I am giving my attention" than trying to sim actual movement around the countryside.

For the story book, it'll be tricky to find the right balance between items you can't control vs. interesting decisions given to the player. The player makes a choice as to where to move, but the deck to draw from is determined, and the card drawn determines the story book passage (although some of these might have decision points for the player). So it would be up to how the story book was written to make that balance happen.

The actual story written within those passages would also take some grooming so that items that might be naturally conflicting (one turn it talks about your alliance with your neighbor; a couple turns later it speaks of how much you hate each other) can find a way to fit smoothly together as a dramatic narrative.

I think the scoring system works well as you have it. Keep it simple and let the complexity of the story work be the meat in the game. The option to reveal your new quest or keep it secret is a nice touch. I would also suggest having some quests that must be kept secret. In race-to-the-VPs type games, it's good to have some special unknowns that can be revealed at the last moment to spur a big "aha!" for the winner and make it difficult for players to predict the winner multiple turns out. The other thing to keep in mind with a race-to-the-VPs game is that they can sometimes have an unsatisfying ending if it comes too abruptly. Perhaps add in a way to give "the rest of the story" type passages from the book to close out the story or some other way to give the non-winning players a little bit of entertainment to sweeten the sting of defeat.

Overall, very nice job. I'm hoping to see this pop up on the radar in the future!

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