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Showing posts from June, 2015

Game Chef Review 24: Dwolma by David King

Dwolma

Ingredients: 7 [Abandoned (4), Dream (3)]
The players in this game each take turns being the "Abandoned", a person caught between reality and dream. The "Abandoned" is blindfolded to reinforce the notion of being seperate fro the world as they journey through a landscape described through collaboration of the other two players (yes, this game is specifically designed to be played by 3).

Theme: 6
While this game fits into a distinct and well-worn niche in the gaming spectrum, it makes distinct reference to the theme and tries to apply a specific spin to it. I would admire the game for that, if it were the only reference to a different audience, but the game is mysterious and shrouded (both metaphorically and physically)...arguably a bit pretentious, but that feels right for mood of this game.

Would I Play This?: 6
I'm not 100% sure about the Bēodan, phase of the game. Especially regarding the way the tokens are drawn from the central pool, then bid. I'd…

Game Chef Review 23: Dragonship by John Evans

Dragonship

Ingredients: 3 [Stillness (2), Dragonfly (1)]
Within the mechanisms for the game is a concept called stillness which basically determines how many turns the game lasts. It's a decent fit between the name and the mechanism. The dragonfly point I'm giving for the image at the start of the game, because the ship is described throughout the text as a "dragonship", not a "dragonfly ship".

Theme: 3
I'm struggling to see how this is for "a different audience". Like many of the other games I've reviewed so far, it fits a distinct niche in existing game formats. Even in the inspirations, the designer has specified that this game is basically a hack of "Microscope", from what I know of Microscope this treads very similar ground and only slightly deviates from it. Having the whole gametext on a single simple webpage makes it a bit different to the PDFs and books common to the hobby, so that's another reason for a few points.

Wo…

Game Chef Review 22: Alchemical by Jacob Hockins

Alchemical

Ingredients: 4 [Dragonfly (2), Dream (2)]
The Dragonfly is a character token,and the Dream is linked to the dream merchant location. Both of these could be fairly easily substituted out for something else, so even though they are present they aren't integral to the design as it currently stands.

Theme: 4
I can't really determine who the audience is for this game. It seems to be a game for young kids, or even adults who are into anime. If it went one way (for kids), I could see lots of bubble-gum and sweet ingredients, if it went the other way (adult anime), I'd imagine far more subversive ingredients and dark humour packing the flavour text on each card. Either of these options is a niche market within the existing gamer space, so it's not really catering to "a different audience". I don;t know the kind of work commonly done by the designer, so I can't award extra marks for seeing him work outside his comfort zone.

Would I Play This?: 8
In it'…

Game Chef Review 21: Over Agitation by PiHalbe

Over Agitation: A Role Casting Game

Ingredients: 5 [Dream (3), Stillness (2)]
This game blows away a lot of the conventions in the marking system, so bear with me. None of the ingredients seem particularly integrated n this game. Dream is certainly the strongest when it comes to the ritual phrase that starts a participants podcast episode. Stillness is mentioned as a 24 hour break between episodes to give participants a chance to reflect on what has occurred.

Theme: 8 [6 +1 bonus for non-English speaker designing in English, +1 bonus for branchng out to new possibly non-gamer spaces]
I'm giving this one a high score because it's such an interesting concept. Generally, it could be as mundane as many of the freeform games that I've indicated a dislike for, but there are some interesting ritual effects that bound the narrative as one participant takes over from the next. The game comes from weaving a story within these boundaries, and picking up the threads left by previous par…

New mapping tool

Image
I'm really excited about the work being done by Jonathon Roberts (aka +Fantastic Maps) with regard to his Fantastic Mapper project. The map depicted here took about 10 minutes to make, and I haven't added in much in the way of roads, settlements or other interesting places for characters to visit. So far it's just a fragment of an ancient empire, shattered states warring in the wilderness around a neutral territory which will hold the major "free city" of the region. Red waterways are contested territories, other colours are specific lands dominated by specific races/cultures. 
For something quickly thrown together it's great. The only issue I'm having with the mapper at this stage is the inability to get beyond a certain size on the iPad and trouble access all of the hexes when certain menus cover hexes that I'm trying to manipulate.
I'll try it on the laptop next.

Game Chef Review 20: Sisters of the Hive by Jordan Saxby

Sisters of the Hive
Ingredients: 7 [Dream(4), Abandon (2), Stillness (1)] Dream is the obvious central aspect to this game. The game is about crafters of dream, each working in a quartet, each working to transcend (or abandon) the quartet. There is also an inherent desire to manipulate the dream from the background, the shadows, maintaining a stillness that does not disrupt or disturb the psyche of the dreamer.  
Theme: 5 When looking at a game like this, I start to wonder if I'm seeing elements in this that were present in other indie/freeformy games. I can see a structure in this one, it's more of a ritual than anything else, maybe akin to the ritual in Tea Ceremony. Within the narrative, this game plays to the audience of a dreamer, the characters portray arcane pseudo-technomystics who provide dreams to this individual. Outside the narrative, as a part of the ritual, the audience for the story is the other players, no more no less. As a game it's still designed for the s…

Game Chef Review 19: Forgotten Dreams by Philip Beverly

Forgotten Dreams

Ingredients: 7 [Dream (4), Abandon (3)]
The game is centered around dreams, memories and nightmares, so it's hardly surprising that this would get decent marks. The characters have been abandoned in this realm and must find a way t return to our world, but this doesn't feel as strong as the dream ingredient. All in all though, it's a pretty decent integration of these concepts into a game.  

Theme: 6
The idea of luring people to roleplaying through visual arts rather than dramatic arts is a reasonable interpretation of the "different audience" criteria. It's actually one of the things that I really appreciate here, if only other elements of the execution hadn't let it down.  

Would I play this?: 4
The whole games feels too arbitrary to me. I appreciate the concept that roleplaying is a shared imagination space, where everyone contributes to the unfolding narrative, but I was never particularly fond of having my visual artistry sullied by th…

Game Chef Review 18: Get Well Soon by Vulpinoid Studios

I'll preface this review by saying that it was a game designed in this house, I helped contribute to it a bit by offering some support and working through some general concepts with the designer. This review is more of an attempt to see how well the marking system works with regard to a design that I'm pretty close to.

Get Well Soon

Ingredients: 9 [Dream (4), Stillness (4), +1 Bonus for Abandon]
Other games about coma sufferers have been awarded at least 6 points for the Dream and Stillness association (see The Last Hour), so it's only fair to offer at least the same points here, the bonus point for each ingredient comes through the specific mentioning of these elements. Since this game specifically adds in the term "Abandon" as a concept that grounds the flavour

Theme: 5
Like many of the freeformy games, this one seems catered to a specific audience, but I know that it;s the kind of audience that the designer wouldn't normally design for (the designer loves min…

Game Chef Review 17: Rent the Veil by Adam Robichaud and Kelley Vanda

Rent the Veil

Ingredients: 7 [Dragonfly (4), Dream (3)]
I like the way the dragonflies are presented are agents of change linked to the element of water. The notion of dream is solidly presented and fairly integral to the game structure as well. These two elements are linked into the game far more intimately than I've seen in a lot of the designs so far.

Theme: 7 [6 +1 bonus for explaining how the game addresses a different audience]
All things considered, this game borders on the type that I have been giving low scores to. It would appear that I shouldn't like it, but it actually does something I've been looking for in freeform/jeepform games, it explains things, it bridges gaps, it opens the more free narrative style of roleplaying toward traditional gamers by explaining why certain things are necessary and maintaining a few half-way compromises like token based economies rather than simply saying "Here's a situation, here's how to relate to each other...now …

Game Chef Review 16: Being Freud by Crews, Shelton and Thornton

Being Freud

Ingredients: 6 [Dream (4), Dragonfly (1), Abandonment (1)]
The core ingredient here has got to be Dream, though I would have thought Jung would have been a better match for psychoanalysing dreams. Either way, it's about taking fragmented images with archetypal concepts associated with them and playing a guessing game. Dragonfly and Abandonment appear in a couple of the dream fragments, but not really enough to make a significant difference to the overall product.

Theme: 4
We seem to have plenty of designs stuck in a niche gaming space, which is a little disappointing given the theme of "a different audience". Without enough reference to understand how designers have picked their different audience, it can be hard to tell what was aimed for, and how this difference applies. This sort of game does exist and I know people who have played this sort of game in the past, so once again I find myself offering 4 out of a possible 10 for this category.  

Would I Play This…

Game Chef Review 15: Fallen by Gwen Foster

Ingredients: 6 [Abandon (3), Dragonfly (3)]
I'm giving points for "Abandon" because the children portrayed are Orphans, and I get the feeling that their environment has been abandoned by everyone as the military comes rolling in. Neither is really a strong fit, but the two interpretations build up to a fairly solid i gredient use. The points for dragonfly are  obvious on a read through, but I get the feeling that the dragonfly could be replaced by many other things, so it doesn't quite get the full points.

Theme: 3
It's a solid entrant in an existing genre of games. I'm at a bit of a struggle to see how it addresses a different audience. The contrast of light and dramatically shifting dark moods in the game, reminds me of that highly praised Train game which seems to be about rail efficiency then turns in a commentary of Jews being shipped to concentration camps in Nazi Germany... a pretentious heap of smouldering crap engulfed in a cult of personality and &q…

Game Chef... I have received a review.

I've just been notified by one of my reviewers that a critique of my own game "Dragonfly Brewing Company" has been posted.

D-constructions
Thanks Steve Dee.

Game Chef Review 14: Tea Ceremony by Niamh Schönherr

Tea Ceremony

Ingredients: 8 [Stillness (4), Dream (4)]
A player must meditate for a moment of stillness as the tea/liquid in their cup settles. A single player takes on the role of the dreamer, and relates one of their dreams as the focus of conversation during each round of the game. Both elements are simple, concise and focal to the game as it unfolds.

Theme: 10
This is a very personal game, a soul laid bare in mechanisms and meditation. It is a game that can be played without the players even realizing that it is a game, it doesn't so much push the notion of game out into the world but absorbs the wider world into it's embrace. I didn't think I'd see a 10 according to my scale, but this one seems to fit the bill. It makes the audience a part of the game, no matter who that audience might be. It's probably one of the most open games I've seen.

Would I play this?: 8
I would totally play this. I would play it without telling people that I was playing it. I would c…

Game Chef Review 13: Virtual Dream Era: How The Story Went by Karyssa E Perry

Virtual Dream Era: How the Story Went

Ingredients: 10 [Abandoned (3), Dragonfly (2), Dream (4), Stillness (+1)]
Pretty much everything is here, and eve thought the various ingredients are present to various degrees, regardless of how I work the numbers, this basically means it gets a 10 in my book. A virtual reality imposed on unconscious characters who have abandoned reality... that's awesome.

Theme: 6
This game sits pretty well in the "How to Host a Murder" school of game design. There aren't a lot of game developers playing in that space, and it can be a nice bridge for outsiders to get into the hobby. With a generally predestined outcome, but a meandering path to get there, I don't know if replay-ability would be very high but then again with most pre-written modules the whole concept is a disposable "play-once" story. Unlike the "How to Host a Murder" games, this allows players to create their own characters (even if these characters have n…

Game Chef Review 12: A Traveler's Handbook by Johanna Hamren

A Traveler's Handbook
Ingredients: 5 [Dream (2), Stillness (2), +1 Bonus for "Abandonment"] This is a game about travelling in a metaphysical sense, the ingredients offered are simply suggestions for where that travelling might take place. They aren't really integrated in the rules in any way, and the game has no prescribed setting so they certainly aren't an integral part from that perspective. After my first skim, I couldn't see where the ingredients were at all... it took me a second thorough read through to even notice them. But at least they are mentioned.  
Theme: 2 Again, in reference to The Zone and The Last Hour, I have to give this a 2. It's honestly not that I don't like this type of game, it's that we've been seeing so much of it lately and it's a very insular and specific type of roleplaying that excludes much of the tabletop community let alone wider gamers and the wider community around us all. It's a narrow niche, and whi…

Game Chef Review 11: Driven to Tears by wraith808

Driven to Tears

Ingredients: 10 [Dragonfly (3), then here's where it breaks the marking rubric a bit, 2 points each for Stillness, Dream and Abandon...hell, I'll just give it the 10 points].
All of the ingredients play a part in this design, and while the author claims that the dragonfly is the central concept representing the ships jumping out to alien worlds, I feel that this is actually the weakest of the ingredients because the ships could have been named anything. I could have given the dragonfly 1 point, and everything else 3 points because those other elements are elegantly linked into the scene resolution system. Either way it's still 10 points.

Theme: 4
This design straddles two camps of gamer mainstream, in an interesting way, but it's still a way that I've seen before at many conventions. It has the elements of establishing story and role through it's development of characters, and it has the elements of game in pitting two sides against one another. I…

Game Chef Review 10: A Requiem for Faerie by Willow Palecek

A Requiem for Faerie

Ingredients: 7 [Dream (3), Stillness (3), +1 Bonus for Abandon]
This is a game about faeries in a world of dying magic, since fae are traditionally associated with dream, there s a connection present and this is reinforced through a specific dream power that might be possessed by certain characters, but it's not a key intrinsic aspect of the game. Stillness on the other hand is something that doesn't really start in the game but seems to gradually creep in and magic fades from (or possibly abandons) the world.

Theme: 3
This game really gives me an anime vibe. I don't know if this is just my sensibility coming to it, or if this is something intrinsic in the design. While I like it, it feels pretty safe in what it aims for, and doesn't see to really push toward a different audience beyond the possible lure of anime fans (which we can see being catered for in the Cel-style games). It's an existing niche, not really pushing the envelope much, except …

Game Chef Review 9: The Last Hour by Jenn Martin

The Last Hour

Ingredients: 6 [Stillness (3), Dream (3)]
I'm going with these two ingredients because they seem to make the most sense with the context of a central character who is comatose. Certainly no "Dragonfly" elements and anything "Abandon/Abandonment" seems a bit of a stretch.

Theme: 2
After my review of The Zone, I could hardly give this game a better score for the same category. This game also caters to a specific niche of the gaming community rather than expanding the audience, or catering to a non-gaming audience.

Would I play this?: 3
This sort of angsty catharsis isn't the kind of game I'm drawn to, certainly not for it's own sake. I might consider using this as the starting point for a campaign though. This is the kind of game that in my experience tends to set up more questions than it answers, but as an exercise in linking characters together it works well.  

Completeness: 4
This at least as complete a game as many designs of this genr…

Game Chef Review 8: Good Night Fairy Theatre by Emily Griggs

Good Night Fairy Theatre

Ingredients: [Dream (4), Stillness (2)]
Dream is a pretty clear part of this design, it's a game about fairies competing to work their magic over a child's dream. The second ingredient, Stillness, occurs as one of the dream options. So, while the second ingredient exists, it's not really integral at all.

Theme: 7
The idea of a game for kids (arguably focused toward young girls) is novel, there has been a bit of it in this contest. Outside of the contest though, most of the roleplaying games focused toward kids seem to have been games about kids having adult adventures (fighting monsters, exploring the world, defending their homes) but with lower stakes than might be found in the typical adult versions of these stories. Instead this has been written as a game of the style that might appeal to young girls.

Would I play this?: 8
I have a young niece who would love this game. She might be a bit young for it at this stage, but I'm definitely going to g…

Game Chef Review 7: The Zone by Julius Doboszewski

The Zone

Ingredients: [Stillness (2), Abandon (maybe 1), Dream (maybe 1 bonus point)]
I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here, because I'm pretty scathing elsewhere. The link to the stillness ingredient is probably the strongest, but even this is pretty vague and determinant on the location being played, and the fact that a player starts the game alone. Possible bonus points have been added for "abandon" because the game abandons the trappings of typical play, and possibly because the world has been abandoned (thus leading to the stillness). Another bonus point has been added for dream because it could be used as an exercise in daydreaming, but that's a bit of a stretch.

Theme: 2
I don't really feel like this game is addressed to "a different audience", I feel it's squarely aimed at an existing niche within gaming, and this is a group that requires a bit of training (consciously or unconsciously) to be a part of. I'll touch on this fu…

Game Chef Review 6: Wings by David Rothfeder

David asked me to review this for him, and it's actually one of my assigned formal reviews for the contest. So here goes...

Wings

Ingredients: 8 [Dragonflies (4), Stillness (3), +1 Bonus for Abandonment]
This is a game about faeries and dragonflies, and the relationship between them. It focuses of the time when faeries need to move on from their dragonflies, an awkward stage of adolescence and transition. The dragonflies seek stillness while the faeries seek to find their place in the world either by separating from the dragonflies of resuming the status quo. These ingredients seem to play well into the concepts of the game.

Theme: 8 [6 + both the bonus points]
There are a few games around for pre-teen girls, but not a whole lot. So this gets moderate points in that regard, where the bonus points come in are for the way the author addresses the way the game is directed at that audience...it's not just a pink version of monopoly, it's a tool for addressing the issues that a pr…

Final Review Ratings (Game Chef)

In my reviews so far, I've decided to give the final scores a general grade based on the total percentage. For those who have been wondering, I'm just using the university grading system common in this part of the world.

85-100% = High Distinction. 
An exceptional game that I really can't fault especially given the time constraints. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if none reach this mark.
75-84% = Distinction.
A game of great quality that really feels like a coherent product that I'd offer money for. I'd expect maybe 10% of the games to reach this kind of mark.
65-74% = Credit.
A solid effort that either brings something new to the field or is simply well presented. I'd expect about 30% of the games to end up here.
50-64% = Pass.
An adequate game that is generally functional and meets the criteria of "a complete game", but nothing particularly noteworthy. I'd expect about 40% of the games to end up here.
30-49% = Needs Work.
No honest entry into G…

Game Chef Review 5: Dragonfly by the Warden

Dragonfly
by The Warden (Todd Crapper)

Ingredients: 8 [Abandonment (3), Still (3), +1 Bonus: Dragonfly, +1 Bonus: Dream]
Every ingredient plays a part in this game, but I figure the name of the game is probably the least relevant of these. It feels more like surface gloss, and the author readily admits this. The concepts of holding in card games are common, and a holding/stillness mechanism makes sense in the game, the same applies to the concept of discarding cards or "abandoning" them. The hand of cards is called the "Dream Hand", but again that feels more like surface gloss than something integral to the game. Still, all of the ingredients are there, and that earns a high point count in my book.  

Theme: 9 [8 +1 bonus for it being a personal game dedicated to a loved one]
This was written for the author's wife, which is a different audience to the games he normally claims to design for. I love the way this game starts, dramatic and grandiose, it addresses a f…

Game Chef Review 4: American Dream by Abram Bussiere

Let me preface this by saying that I think hacks of existing games are a lazy design practice, and I've stated my disdain for making everything an Apocalypse World hack numerous times over the past couple of years. Despite this, I'll try to keep this review as open minded as possible.

American Dream

Ingredients: 4 [Dream (3), Maybe Stillness (1)]
The name of the game is American Dream, and the whole things seems to be an exercise in futility against a decaying system that is rapidly approaching an end. Is this "abandonment" of the dream? "Stillness" at the end of a civilisation that still believes it is the pinnacle of achievement? I'm clutching for that second ingredient, but nothing really seems integrated into the design.

Theme: 7
It's an interesting idea to address a a game to a post apocalyptic audience. The game doesn't particularly do this well (it still uses all of the regular conventions of roleplaying, requires quite a few pieces of stand…

Game Chef Review 3: Mere Players by Windcaller Studios

Mere Players

Ingredients: 7 [Dragonfly (3). Dream (4)]
The dragonfly is a distinct position in the game, a prominent role, and the card referring to the player in this role are marked with clever dragonfly glyphs, but I get the feeling that this player could have been named anything.  I don't really feel anything "anisopteran" about this role. Dream on the other hand is very strongly connected into the game. This is a game of fey and dreamers, where dreams are variously a meal or an escape.

Theme: 7
This game incorporates the idea of "a different audience" into the core of the game, this is made quite clear and I appreciate the way it has been interpreted by the designers. It's not really a different audience with regard to different people who might be playing the game, but it's certainly a valid interpretation of the theme.

Would I play this?:7
I've seen games like this played at conventions for years, often as things between regular tabletop sessio…

Game Chef Review 2: Dragonfly 3RR0R by Daniel Violato

Dragonfly 3RROR

Ingredients: 8 [Dragonfly (4), Stillness (3), Bonus +1 Abandon]
I'd be teetering between adding an extra point to "Stillness", or giving extra points for using "Abandon/Abandonment" in two ways (the game's central cryogenic starships are abandoning the earth and the characters are abandoning) so these balance out.

Theme: 7 [6 +1 bonus from the author's description of how the different audience applies]
Daniel Violato state in this game's text that English is not his first language, and therefore he is writing to a "different audience" to his normal fare by writing in English. The game text also describes how the game addresses a different audience by simulating machine code instructions. This thing is dense, it might be the issues of overcoming the language barrier, but I think it's more due to the various interlocking parts in the system...I'll get to that.

Would I play this?: 6
This reminds me a bit of Roborally, and…

Game Chef Review 1: Dragonfly Ranch by Graham Allen

Dragonfly Ranch

Ingredients: 6 [Dragonfly (4), Stillness (2)]
It's clear that dragonflies are a key element to this game, and I can vaguely see that stillness is important because a player who runs in game is unable to catch a dragonfly.

Theme: 2
I'm really not sure that this game pushes the envelope of "a different audience" at all. It's not a typical gamer mainstream design, it's quirky. But I've seen a lot of quirky games emerge over the past couple of years. I don't know what kind of stuff Graham Allen normally produces, so this is a pretty vague score and might possibly be on the low side.

Would I Play This?: 4
I'd be willing to play this, but I seriously think it needs some substantial playtesting before it would go into regular rotation. From what I can see in the design so far, it seems to be more luck based than strategic. Either you happen to get close to a dragonfly and it randomly runs into you, or it shoots away. In one way that means th…

My Game Chef Review System

Every review system is going to be biased. Some people love crunchy stuff, other people like minimalism. Some are attracted to high concept artworks that really make them think, other just enjoy a simple diversion.

I'm going to be reviewing Game Chef entries by the things that I like to see in a game. That means my perspectives may match with yours, but they may not. I'm open to discussion with designers or interested third parties, but that probably won't change my gut reaction reviews.

The games deigned will be marked according to 5 criteria, each marked out of 10 and given a quick couple of sentences to explain why I've given that score. Then an overall weighted and averaged score.

Ingredients:
Can I see two ingredients blatantly within the game as presented? How well have those ingredients been integrated? This category has triple the standard weighting when used for the calculation of the overall score, because I think this is one of the biggest challenges in the G…