24 June, 2015

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 the game is easily accessible for young players, but from the other perspective it means more mature players would get frustrated quickly. I'm not sure how well it would work with replayability either, a variety of modular maps might improve this.

Completeness: 7 [6+1 bonus]
There is generally enough information here to play the game, the game board is presented, but no tokens are given for ranchers or dragonflies (notes are given in the components indicating that thee are required for play, so that's a start). A pencil drawn map is offered, along with a functional clearer map (so that's where I gave the bonus). A more finalised version of the game might have given a "cube nets" that could be folded into crude "dragonfly dice", or stickers to apply to dice. Maybe some formatted cut-out cards would have been nice here too. Certainly needs more in this regard, but I can see where it's headed.  

Innovation: 4
I like the "Dragonfly AI", it's clever and pretty simple. The idea seems familiar, but I can't specifically pick where from. Generally there in't much new in the design, but it is a combination of components that seems interesting (even if I do think it could do with some serious playtesting to confirm the reservations I have regarding the mechanisms of play).  

Output Quality: 6 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1)]
I can't really fault the writing, and the layout is generally functional. As I pointed out earlier, the layout might have improved with formatted cards but generally not to bad. The imagery bit is purely what I like to see in games, there's plenty of clip art of bugs or butterfly nets that could have broken up the text.    

Overall: Pass 54% [18+8+4+14+4+6]
Not a bad attempt, and a week isn't really long enough to expect a fully polished masterpiece, but I can see enough potential in thi game that I'd be interested to see what a bit of shine might add to it.
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