Monday, July 5, 2010

BGDF design contest thoughts

Just finished reading and critiquing the BGDF entries for June.  Some good ones there.  And some not-so-good.

I've been enjoying this a lot.  This is my third time participating, and I've looked at some of the previous months too. The contest is an interesting mix; the entries seem to come in a few basic archetypes.  Here are some examples:

  • Complete and Clever - a couple games each month manage to be both fully described and really clever - those are the ones that are the most fun to read.
  • A Million Pieces and a Sliderule - a lot of the designs are just fabulously, needlessly complex, with eight kinds of resources, six different decks of cards, a board, and rules that require counting all these pieces and producing amortizations to determine income.  OK, not that bad, but some are close.
  • Just Add The Actual Game - The desinger lays out a set of game mechanics in broad strokes, invokes a huge imaginary deck of cards or pieces each with individualized parameters, costs, and special powers, and then never tells you what any of those cards or pieces actually do or say.
  • Huh? - often the rules are internally inconsistent, refer to parts not in evidence, or directly contradictory.  Or, they just don't make sense, like the words don't make sentences that you can understand.

Some of this comes from the very low 800-word limit from the rules - I've hit it nearly every time and had to cut out what I thought was vital stuff.  It's great practice for streamlining rules, but I think maybe 1000 words would let you define the concept just a little better.

I would have thought that there would be more entries that were near-direct copies of existing games or mechanics, but that's not actually so common - the contestants seem to think (probably rightly so) that voters will place a special emphasis on originality.  Even if they can't write comprehensible rules, they avoid a direct rip-off of an existing mechanic, which is interesting.

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