Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Monday, October 8, 2012

CoG: Unpub Protozone Report, Part 2

Tonight's post continues my accounts of games playtested in the Congress of Gamers designers room last weekend.

T.C. Petty III considers his next
chemical concoction in
The game I specifically remembered from the CoG design room last year and really wanted to play again was Darrell Louder's "Compounded," a game of set construction with a particularly unique theme - building molecular compounds by combining elements.  Darrell calls it "better gameplaying through chemistry."  Players draw crystals from a bag whose six colors represent elements.  An array of 16 cards in the center of the table depicts different molecular diagrams that players can populate with element crystals to complete and score the corresponding compounds.  Some compounds are flammable and can be lost or even cause chain reactions.  All compounds score points when completed, but some also enable a player to draw more elements from the bag, store more on his workbench, claim more compounds for future scoring, or place more elements in a single turn.  Some also provide other particular special benefits.

Player's workbench stores elements;
test tubes track advances in ability to
draw, store, and place crystals
I adopted a strategy of trying to complete only the highest-scoring compounds.  In retrospect, I think my strategy was flawed from the standpoint that I was completing fewer compounds and therefore obtaining fewer bonus effects.  Still, I managed to place a very close second in a five-player game.

"Compounded," Darrell's first game design, has been picked up for publication by Dice Hate Me Games, which plans to start a Kickstarter campaign in late October to fund its production.  I am really looking forward to picking this one up.

Diamond Ninja
Time-travelling Ninjas on the
rooftops of a modern-day city
Alex Strang demonstrated "Diamond Ninja," a clever little game of movement and material accumulation.  Players take the roles of Ninjas who have time-travelled to a modern-day metropolis as diamond thieves.  Ninjas move from rooftop to rooftop among buildings of varying heights.  The remarkably nimble Ninjas can safely scamper up buildings of increasing height, and doing so allows them to accumulate valuables and keys, although the reward for ascent of a certain height can vary over the course of the game.  Descent is dangerous, however, as a falling Ninja takes damage and must continue moving until he can kill his momentum and end his movement by ascending a taller building.  The result is a game of Ninjas leaping among buildings across the city in search of diamonds and other objects while trying to avoid or heal damage from the unavoidable descents.

In our session, our Ninjas must have been especially reckless, because at one point all three of us had died from our injuries, and none had accumulated enough diamonds to win.  I expect Alex will continue to tweak the mechanics of the game, but even in its current form it is a real blast to play.  I think my kids in particular would play it just for the theme, the easy-to-learn rules, and quick gameplay.

Brad Smoley demonstrating
"Phobos" with Josh Tempkin
Brad Smoley introduced us to his tile-laying area control game "Phobos," in which players buy robots and deploy them in the caverns of the Martian moon in search of minerals for victory points and income. There is a certain Carcassonne feel to the tile-laying part of the game, except that the tiles are hexagons rather than squares.  Brad has introduced some neat ways for players to spend money to manipulate available actions while moving robots among the caverns to occupy them.  Points in each scoring round come from having a majority of robots in each cavern that is formed by the tiles that have been laid.  Minerals found in the cavern provide cash for robots, action manipulation, or outright purchase of victory points (which become more expensive as the game progresses).  Robots can move among the caverns but not through caverns that are full of robots of other players' colors.  

I won our game by creating an enclave of caverns controlled almost exclusively by my own robots and scoring the same set of caverns in several consecutive scoring rounds.  I felt that the game seemed to motivate a non-confrontational, multi-player solitaire strategy, rather than challenging players to take control of caverns away from each other.  We discussed possibilities to revisit the scoring and movement rules if Brad decides that the game needs entail more interaction among the players. 

Death Dice Rally
I first met Joshua Tempkin of Tall Tower Games at the 2011 World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) where he was demonstrating War Time, which was subsequently picked up for publication by Valley Games.  Here at CoG, Josh showed me "Death Dice Rally," an Indy car racing game that works largely on dice management.  At first I was reminded of Formula De, but in this case, instead of rolling a single die and trying to conform to constraints going around curves, players roll multiple dice that can have both good and bad effects.  Dice of different colors have different effects - higher or lower speeds, or improved handling (to regain control of a car approaching the edge of its handling envelope).  Dice are spent as they are used, so players also have "recovery" dice for rebuilding the car's dice supply.  Finally, to introduce an interactive element to the game, there are dice for shooting at an opponent's car to cause damage and eventually reduce the number of dice that an opponent may roll.

I tried the shooting tactic early and fell behind, in part from trying to rely on the gun but also because I didn't roll sufficient recovery dice and ended up short-handed in my options.  I spent a good part of the race just trying to regain my dice supply, while Josh pulled ahead and eventually won the race.  I'm not usually a big dice-rolling game fan, but this one posed some interesting risk-reward trades that made me think - and I always like a game that makes me think.  In its current form, I think the "gunplay" aspect of this game is only a distraction.  If Josh intends the shooting to be an active part of the game, he may need to adjust the effects of the gun die to be less deleterious to the shooting player and more effective against the victim.  But by and large this is a fun game and deserves further development.

Still to come:
  • Sunday's highlight: "Pole Position"
  • Rapids and currents and bears, oh my:  Jesse Catron's "Salmon Run"
  • Bringing and buying - what I unloaded and what I bought
  • Early discussions on the next big game concept

No comments:

Post a Comment