29 June, 2015

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.

Would I Play This?: 4
Maybe, but I don't think I'll rush out to do so. I've been designing a lot of ideas like this as prep work for campaigns. As a game in it's own right, I feel it's missing something. Maybe there should be something where the stillness is compromised from unresolved elements, and brought back under control when new scenes resolve those issues (thus building a more coherent history). That would bring my interest back, and would make it more of a game (in my opinion) rather than a simple set of procedures.

Completeness: 6
The designer admits that the game is extremely vague and unplaytested, so nothing in this should seem too unfair. Generally, the procedures seem sound, but as I said above, it feels more like a procedure that continues for a fixed number of rounds, there doesn't seem to be any tension in it, no drive. I feel that there could be more to it...it could have even be directed as a tool toward history students or speculative-fiction/alternate-history writers.

Innovation: 3
As a vague hack of an existing game, I can't give it too many points for innovation. It's basically an oracle applied to an existing procedural worldbuilding system. Not a lot new here.

Output Quality: 5 [Language (3), Layout (1), Imagery (1)]
The writing is fine; not a lot of it, but it does what it sets out to do. There are headings and occasional use of bold font, but really nothing much more. I'm giving the imagery point for the dragonfly picture that starts the page off.

Overall: 35% Needs Work [9+6+4+8+3+5]
It's a novel combination of common ideas that have already done well for other people. I know I've given credit for elegant combinations of basic ideas in other games, but in those games there seemed to be more work to make sure the ideas integrated well. I just can't do that here.
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