Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Gamesmiths

The inaugural meeting of the Gamesmiths, a newly formed Game Design Club, occurred last night at Hat's Games at 6:30. Michael Eskue, David Short, and I were in attendance - we'll have to do some better advertising next month.

To start with we played Eskue's abstract game called Mosh Pit. MP is a bit like Hive in that you place tiles on the board and move them around in an attempt to assemble a particular configuration. In this game your tile types are each one of the stereotypical internet Memes: Ninja, Pirate, Monkey, Zombie, and Alien (which could be Robot instead). On your turn you can do 1 or 2 actions, and you get a total of 5 actions each round - so you can do more up front if you want, or stall and save up for a larger action later. Each round the start player shifts, so in a 2 player game you can actually get 4 actions in a row if you budget your actions carefully!

The 5 actions you can do are pretty simple:
1. Place a tile
2. Move a tile
3. Shove a tile (which is like moving actually)
4. Turn a tile face up
5. Activate a tile

Each type of tile has a different effect when you activate it, and activating the tile turns it face down. The effects will move tiles around the board or flip them face up or face down.

The goal is to make a contiguous group of your face up tiles including 1 of each type.

In general I do not like this type of game - I played Hive a couple times and I am not a fan - mostly I'm not too fond of abstract games and I'm also not fond of 2 player games. I have to say I was skeptical going in that I would like this game at all. However I'm happy to report that I did like Mosh Pit, a lot more than I thought I would! I don't know if it's because the chaos/craziness of the abilities allows for more sneaky, tactical play, or maybe it's the ability to take more than 1 action in a row that allows for setting up a chain of moves to surprise your opponent. It certainly wasn't the theme! I am not a fan of Hive's theme, but I also don't care for the internet memes much, nor the pasted on "galactic concert at which these characters are moshing, and want to mosh with their buddies." It's not like I could think of a better theme though, and it didn't kill my enjoyment of the game or anything.

I think if using the internet icons, it would be good to somehow include that in the theme (and title) of the game. I ended up suggesting Meme Mosh Pit, which sort of does that, and phonetically sounds kinda funny, like imagine the title in a talk bubble from one of the Zombies, sounds kinda like he's stuttering or something. I don't know, it's a lousy pun that kinda amused me.

After Mosh Pit, we set up Eminent Domain. Simon Stump showed up just in time to get in on the game, which was perfect timing. We played a 4 player game and I used a record sheet I'd made to record each player's turn.

For those that don't already know, Eminent Domain is a civ building card game with a deckbuilding central mechanism - as you take actions, cards for that action go into your deck, making you "better" at doing that action (or at least, more specialized at it). The theme right now is sci-fi/outer space because it was initially supposed to be a sort of card game version of Twilight Imperium. I would like to re-theme it to a more classic (ancient?) civ theme.

In Eminent Domain, your turn consists of a Action phase, a Role phase, and a Cleanup phase. For the Action you may play a card from your hand for it's Action effect. For the Role phase you MUST choose one of the 5 roles in the game, taking a card for that role from the respective stack. You can boost the Role by playing additional cards of that type from your hand. After you resolve the Role effect, each player has the opportunity to also partake in that role by "Following" it - playing cards from their hand of that type and receiving the Follow effect (mostly the same as the Role effect). If a player does not wish to Follow the current Role, he may draw 1 card instead. Finally, in the Cleanup phase you discard any unwanted cards from your hand, then reset your hand to 5 cards. There are some planets which you can eventually get that increase your hand size.

This game may have been the most interesting multiplayer game of ED yet - 2 players were using Warfare, 2 were using Colonize heavily. Only 1 person (me) did much Research (ended up with 2 2vp tech cards), and 3 people were harvesting and trading. The game ended via VP exhaustion, and the final scores were all very close: 22-19-18-16!

David continues to be disappointed in the randomness of the Survey action, but everyone else thought it was fine. I am still on the fence about changing the system out for one which separates the planets into piles by type, and sort of mirrors the Technology/Research part of the game.I see pluses and minuses both ways.

I'm still struggling with/worried about the game end conditions. I think they're evolving toward something good, but it's not easy to figure out how many cards should be in the Role card piles or how many VPs should be in the supply!

All in all a good test I think!

Afterward, David and I chatted about how a Ground Floor card game might work. Sounds like it could be very doable!

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