Fairway 3 Games https://www.fairway3games.com Play games, have fun, learn Tue, 09 Oct 2018 17:30:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://www.fairway3games.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-fw3-white-150x150.png Fairway 3 Games https://www.fairway3games.com 32 32 111969149 Solo Game: Septic Shock https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-game-septic-shock/ https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-game-septic-shock/#respond Tue, 09 Oct 2018 17:30:00 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11960 Fairway looks at the other fifth-place finisher in the Solo Game Challenge from The Game Crafter: Septic Shock.

Septic Shock is a single player, dice-placement game in which the player is actively trying to cure themselves of some nasty infections that are spreading throughout the body. Like the other reviews in this series, I followed a slightly different scoring rubric from the contest. Here’s how this game scored:

Total Theme (5) Art / GD (10) Solo (15) Game Play (10) Creativity (5) Other (5)
60% 4 4 10 7 3 -1*

* the game came with no box and came in plastic baggies. The rules required “packaging.” This wasn’t quite Love Letter where everything stored neatly in a little velvet bag. What’s more all the components came in separate baggies inside a giant plastic baggie. So perhaps not disqualifying, but we removed all the points from “other” and one. 

Initial Impressions ^

Not a box shot. 🙁
  1. There is a very high luck component to this game and most of our games were over much more quickly than was probably ideal.
  2. The game has a consistent visual motif: loud, vibrant, videogame-esque design and color scheme. It worked for the game.
  3. The rollable mat for a game board was a nice touch.
  4. No box!
  5. The integration of the game mechanisms and the them worked: circulating the viruses and antibiotics throughout the body.

How to play ^

In Septic Shock, the player is tasked with ridding their body of rampaging infections before becoming so ill that the infections actually spread throughout the body.

To start, the rollable mat is placed at the center of the board. Three white pathogen tokens are placed in three different organs on the mat. These white pathogen tokens will be the points at which the infections will originate. A red blood pressure token is set in the middle space. A stack of tissue cards are placed unused-side-up on the mat.  Two pills are placed in the prescription vial.

Starting Arrangement

Next, the fifteen custom dice (once stickered) are placed into a black bag.  There are nine dice with unique die patterns–three for each type of infection–and six with the same. Each die has one of a series of symbols: 

Dice images from the rules

A set of treatment cards are set next to the board and will be available when unlocked.

Finally, the colored pathogen tokens are all placed to the side. As pathogens are rolled, these tokens will be placed on the circulation track.

Now, the game is ready to play.  The game is played over a series of turns. First, the player takes between one and three tissues. These tissues represent the number of die roll attempts a player will get.  If you take one, tissue, you draw three dice from the bag and roll them.  If you took more than one die, you can re-roll all the dice up to the number of tissues you took. Should you ever run out of tissues, you will skip directly to the circulation step and take five new ones — this can be avoided if you are later able to use the replenish tissues.

Not a good roll.

After you finish rolling, you have to survey the damage.  Any pathogens rolled results in a matching pathogen token placed on every organ with a white pathogen token.

All of the other rolls are evaluated. Each red cross die is placed on one of the open red cross spaces.  Once a complete set of red crosses is completed, you take the corresponding basic procedure such as administering an antibiotic, getting one of the pharmaceuticals, or replenishing your tissues.  Likewise, if you complete a row of one of the special procedures, you take the corresponding action.

Then the player performs the circulation step. First, all pathogens (except white ones) will move around the circulation wheel by three spaces. Second, any pills move one space. Third, any antibiotic removals occur. Finally, for any organ that has two infections of the same color on it, a new white pathogen token is added to that organ if it doesn’t already have one.

As pathogens are added to new organs or removed, blood pressure changes. So long as blood pressure is managed, the player avoids dying.

The game continues until either the player wins by eradicating the infections or the player dies the various complications of the infection.

Where it shines ^

Art and graphic design.  The game feels straight out of a medical drama or maybe a medical-themed video game. Every aspect of the game from the icons to the mat to the pathogen tokens feels on-point. It is consistent, coherent and of good quality.

The Theme.  The game takes full advantage of its theme: circulation, treatment, infections, etc. Aspects of the game play itself followed directly from the theme like circulation and treatment.

Solidly Solo.  This game definitely follows a solidly designed solo-first game play. Everyone liked rolling the dice and assigning the red crosses. Players were less happy about placing the infections, but such is the game. The use of the tissues as a timer was also a thoughtful design choice.

And, but for the difficulty, there was a lot of player choice and thoughtful strategy available in this game.

The dice.  Who doesn’t like a bunch of custom dice (even though they were stickered). The one concern we had was that it would have been nice if the color of the dice was coordinated with the color of the infection.

Where it comes up short ^

Difficulty.  I think we collectively played the game a dozen or more times and had one true victory and one incredibly lucky victory (a bunch of heart stoppers at the beginning).  Most games however were lost causes very early: a bad roll or two and the game is over.

The issue was mostly how infections spread.  If you rolled a double of a single color on any given turn, but especially early, more or less guarantees that infections are going to spread faster than you can roll cures. A double means that you’re placing two of a color at each of the infection sites, circulating them, and (most of the time) spawning yet another infection site thus lowering your blood pressure.

Why is my “getting cures” probabilistic?  The game is a dice chucker, but one question everyone asked is why the mere getting of cures probabilistic?  For infections, this seemed fine. But rolling and hoping for red crosses on every turn and then selectively having to place them seemed difficult to connect with the theme.

Dice mitigation.  There is a special power in the game — if you survive long enough — that lets you selectively re-roll dice rather than having to re-roll all the dice. Re-rolling all the dice made for poor dice mitigation (see the difficulty comments above).

No box/container? The rules of the contest require packaging. The game page says it’ll all fit within the provided velvet bag (except for the game mat). This is sort of true but hardly an elegant solution. We could really store the game this way (with things in baggies and like and ended up getting a box for it.  So while perhaps not disqualifying, we reduced it’s bonus points.

Conclusion ^

Septic Shock would be the hands-down winner if  the only criteria were difficulty. However, it’s not. The game does have an interesting merger of theme and mechanics. The dice-chucking and dice-placement is fun too. If there was a bit more mitigation and the difficulty reduced by a hair, this would have been a top finisher. In any case, this was a well-deserved finalist in this contest.

You can find Septic Shock on the The Game Crafter site.

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/10/solo-game-septic-shock/

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Solo Game: Neotraditional AMA https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-game-neotraditional-ama/ https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-game-neotraditional-ama/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:00:51 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11935 Today, Fairway takes a look at the first of two fifth place finishers in the The Game Crafter solo game challenge: Neotraditional AMA.

Neotraditional AMA is a single-player, dexterity game in which the player is a spearfisherman trying to dive deep, bring back fish and not drown. I followed my contest rubric for this game and these were the scores:

Total Theme (5) Art / GD (10) Solo (15) Game Play (10) Creativity (5) Other (5)
60% 4 4 10 7 3 2

Initial Impressions ^

Box Shot!
  1. Without a doubt, this game was the most unusual game in the finalists.
  2. The uses a unique, “complete your round before you finish exhaling” mechanic.  This was a much more zen-approach than those games that encourage just holding your breath.
  3. The core game is a not-so-well-disguised attempt to introduce the player to Kanji characters.
  4. The art is neat but so sparingly used that it was a bit disappointing.

How to play ^

Neotraditional AMA is a very straight-forward game to learn consisting of two decks of dive cards, a set of prey reference cards and a set of demand cards.  At the start of the game, the two dive cards are separated into shallow and depths and then separately shuffled together and placed in two draw piles. The players starting dive deck contains only the shallows. As the player advances they’ll add “depth” cards to their deck.

Fish cards

The fish reference cards are set out on the table. The fish cards include an illustration, English name, Chinese translation, and pronunciation.

The deck of demand cards is shuffled and then the top card turned face up.  The demand cards have some references a few of the target fish. 

Any seafood using a specific pronunciation.

The trick is that the reference is typically by some Kanji-related typography. For example, only fish with a specific character (“ra” in the example to the right).

Then, the player inhales a deep breath. When the player is ready, he or she begins to exhale (hopefully slowly) and starts flipping cards looking for matching cards in their dive deck. The “trick” here is that the dive cards have only the Kanji characters (along with value and weight) values on them.  The player is trying to quickly snag the matching seafood cards and then return all non-collected seafood cards back to the deck before they stop exhaling! To keep the player from just taking every fish, there is a max weight of five units which is the sum of the first numbers on the cards — the game also has a penalty for surfacing with too much weight.

If the player stops exhaling before they get all the dive cards back onto the deck, the player drowns.

If the player successfully surfaces, the player keeps only those cards that actually matched the condition and will score the points (second value) for the fish caught.  In addition, the player will take three cards plus one for each caught fish and then shuffle it into their dive deck.

The game continues in this manner until either the depths cards run out or the player drowns.

Watch Owen play ^

Where it shines ^

Language Learning Game? My house likes language learning games. We regularly play Verba and this game has a lot of similar subtle learning objectives: teach the player to recognize Chinese Kanji symbols even if they don’t want to.

Fish art. I think it’s fair to say that the illustrations were an immediate draw. They’re on a nice color palette that match the Chinese theme.  The only real issue: there was not enough of it!  The depths cards were largely under-illustrated (probably by design) and an off-puting water texture. This left us a bit confused with what to do.

Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly.  There is something somewhat relaxing in the pattern of this game: deep breath followed by a slow exhale.  This game could almost be a relaxation tool except for the fact that this rhythmic, relaxing pattern is frustrated by the equally frantic surfacing phase.

Play time.  This was overall the shortest and quickest game. For some, this alone might be reason to pick it up. A game gets set up in less than a minute and you can play as few or as many rounds as you want.  A complete game — played in a way to ensure you don’t drown — can take longer. But I never got the impression players really wanted to play that way.

Where it struggles ^

Got one… now I gotta get the cards back on the deck!

Final scoring.  Sum the values. That’s it: a challenge against your personal best. Unlike a few other games, it didn’t even include a way to record your bests, which would have been handy.

Rewards conservative players?  So, in reality, there’s no rush to get to the bottom of your dive deck. The demand cards are just reshuffled  when you need more. The only game limiters are drowning and reaching the bottom of the depths.  Relatively speaking, there are a lot of depths cards that you could not push yourself and do pretty well.

No one wanted to play that way, so most people’s games ends with the player drowning. I think reaching the bottom of the depths and/or demand cards would be a fair way to encourage deeper dives.

No extra language help.  One of the nice things about games like Verba is that even though you might not know the word, it at least comes with the picture too.  Diving through the dive deck and relying only on the Kanji characters and a reference card was disheartening. Much of the time was spent confirming the symbol leading to comparatively shorter dives.  It would take a lot of practice for someone to recognize the symbols alone. Any sort of contextual help would have been welcome.

Conclusion ^

Neotraditional AMA was the most unique game we played. It’s unique mix of dexterity and language learning was notable, but the fact that everyone had fun playing made it helped it sneak in a few extra points. In addition, Neotraditional AMA does exactly what a lot of people are looking for in a solo game: a nice tight package with easy setup and reasonable play time.

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/10/solo-game-neotraditional-ama/

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Solo Contest: Rat Catcher https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-contest-rat-catcher/ https://www.fairway3games.com/solo-contest-rat-catcher/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 01:25:30 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11922 Fairway starts a series of posts as the judge of the Solo Game Challenge at The Game Crafter. In this post, he looks at the seventh-place finisher: The Ratcatcher.

The Ratcatcher by Platypus Industries (via The Game Crafter) is a one-player, adventure game in which the player must rid the medieval towns of Gruyere of a nasty rat infestation and kill the rat king. In reviewing the game, I applied the rubric from the contest – instead of my standard rubric – and that scoring is below:

Total Theme (5) Art / GD (10) Solo (15) Game Play (10) Creativity (5) Other (5)
52% 3 7 8 6 2 0*

* we zeroed out the points in this category on account of having to rely on the online rules which were different than the printed rules.

Initial Impressions ^


  1. The rulebook we received as part of the game was a mess: pages appeared to be out of order or missing. Key concepts were buried deeper in the rules than we expected them. We had to rely on the PDF version. We deducted points from what have might have otherwise scored in the “Other.”
  2. The randomized city maps was well-executed.
  3. The spawning rats and catching them while seeking out magic cheese to increase your character’s power was a neat idea. But it came with so much extra baggage. This is game that might be well-suited for someone to take a paring knife and cutting it to the bone.

How to play ^

In The Ratcatcher, the player takes on the role of a town ratcatcher charged with ridding a town of a rat infestation and killing the king rat. The game is played over a series of rounds in which the player uses actions, new locations are set out, and the rats take actions.

The Setup

To start, first, the player takes one of the ratcatcher profile boards. Each ratcatcher has different combination of powers and abilities, but a core set of actions: move and whack (i.e., attack). The profile board shows the base statistics for the ratcatcher for number of actions, speed, attack, accuracy, armor and health. In addition, each profile board includes two special abilities (unique to the ratcatcher) and have a limited number of uses.

Next, the town is setup by arranging township cards to form a starting city.  The township cards have locks and keys that are used to show proper orientation of how townships are connected. Each township is also divided into various zones. These zones are used to signify how the rats and ratcatcher can move through townships and, during placement, what game elements to place in each sector. For example, some sectors include rat spawning points or warrens, others have sewers or tokens, and yet others have magic cheese.  The player’s token is placed on the first township (in any sector) and special tokens and magic cheese are placed on the board.

Finally, all of the rat tokens (black, white, and brown cubes) are all placed into a bag. Cubes are drawn from the bag and placed on all the township spawning locations.  Now the game is ready to begin.

The Turns

The game is now played over a series of turns until one of two things happens: the player dies or the player kills the rat king.  Each turn consists of three phases: player actions, location placement, and rat actions.

The player starts by taking actions up to their action count. Typically, this means the player will get to take two actions (the base action stat for most ratcatchers). The basic actions are “move”, “gather” and “whack.” To move, the player may move their pawn up to the number of sectors indicated by their “move” stat (two or three sectors) as a single action. The ratcatcher is generally free to move wherever unless a zone includes a “bitey rat” or an obstacle. E

A “gather” action lets the player pick up any magical cheese (blue cube) in the current sector so long as their are no rats and place it into an open space on their profile board. The profile board has places next to each state that, once completely filled, allow the player to take an upgrade in the base stat. Once all of the spaces are picked, that stat is immediately available.

When a ratcatcher is in a sector with one or more rats, then the ratcatcher can “whack.” To do this, the player rolls the number of dice equal to the “whack” stat. A whack is successful if the die roll is greater than or equal to the accuracy (“hit stat”) on the profile board. Each hit is then assigned to the rats in that sector. If the number of hits meets or exceeds a rat’s health, the rat is destroyed and placed on the player’s board and will be used for the “tallyman.” The tallyman exchanges caught rats for magic cheese. The first occurs when the player destroys fifteen rats.

Finally, the player can take one of their limited “special actions” by expending one of the tokens.  These special actions vary by ratcatcher, but can include things like re-rolling dice, moving rats from one adjacent sector to another, or placing tokens on the board to limit the rats’ expansion.

After the player takes all of their available actions, a new township card is placed if possible. The township is placed next to the current location of the ratcatcher and the new township is set up like in the beginning: rats, cheese and tokens are placed on the board.

After placing the township card, it’s the rats’ turn. The rats’ actions are limited to “active” townships: where the ratcatcher is present, where a rat sow (black cube) is present, or where the rat king is located. On their turn, rats do the following: eat cheese, if they can; move the rats in active townships toward available cheese or the ratcatcher; and then to spawn new rats.  Rats spawn on each rat warren and then one for each rat sow (black cube) in a location.

Rats will eat cheese if there is a total body weigh of rats equal to eight or more. Most rats weigh just one, except the fat rats which have a weight of two. If they get the cheese, a roll of the dice determines where it gets placed on the rat tracker board which typically increases the stats of the rats. Rats will also bite if the total rat attack value in a sector with the ratcatcher is greater than the armor rating. The only rats that can attack are the rat king and the sows and bitey rats. A successful bite means the ratcatcher takes a wound.  The Rat King will also attack with a king bite. This king bite mechanic works like a whack attack, in reverse.

The rat king will spawn whenever either the player or the rats get 7 cheese.  That rat king works similar to other rats and has a special set up mechanic.

The game essentially continues this way until either the player wins by destroying the rat king or dies.

Where it shines ^

The attack mechanic. One of the more interesting game play features was the thoughtful whack mechanic. The idea was simple enough: roll dice equal to your whack and count only those dice that equal or exceed your accuracy. That number is now the number of hits you can assign to rats.  Other than increasing your number of actions, putting magic cheese on whack and accuracy was the focus of many games.  The magic in the early game is definitely the whacking of rats and collecting those tallyman bonuses.

Balanced incentive to grow individual stats.  One interesting outcome of the tight set of player choices is that there was a good feeling of balance of powers: actions, whacks, accuracy, etc.

Unintentional leveling?  The individual ratcatchers’ special abilities created a perhaps unintentional leveling. What was a more winnable game with Professor Fume was hard (impossible?) to win as Miss Black.

The art style. We really liked the look of the township cards and the black-ink character art. It really fit well with the theme.

The townships. The game includes a good number of township cards. That meant that every game was a little different with different combinations of things happening. We struggled a little with how to construct the townships properly (mostly because of difficulty discerning the rules about how to place them)., but once we decided on a set of rules ourselves, this wasn’t an issue.

Where it struggles ^

Rules. I think that this is one of those times where the lack of good rules in the box resulted in a lot of frustration. The online version was much clearer, but that violated one of the contest rules. Once we got through the rules, the game played better.

Play time. We never got a consistent play time out of this game. The biggest factors in that play time were the number of sows and the player’s play style. If there are lots of sows, then there are lots of rats. Lots of rats meant the game tended to be slow-going and the townships difficult to navigate. And with characters only able to take two actions (as a base), it seemed particularly hard to do any reasonable amount of clearing out of the rats.

Theme. We went into the game thinking there was a really clever gameplay-theme connection. In the end, it left a lot to be desired. Among other things, a game about a plague-ridden city didn’t really address this. The rats themselves weren’t vectors of infection. If the rats were winning by gathering the magic cheese first, it was still possible to beat the rat king even if the rats initiated it.

Super fidgety & inconsistent. The game has a lot of those: “do it this way, except for these times when you don’t moments.”  The rats were like this in a bunch of places. The movement AI was like that: active township is the one you’re on, except for all the ones with black rats; move some of the rats toward the cheese, others toward the catcher; count body weights which are mostly one except for the fat ones or leveled-up ones; etc. It really broke the rhythm of the game.

Another issue was that games difficulty turned much more on the number of sows a player drew than pretty much any other factor — sows spawned extra rats and made townships that would otherwise be inactive, active.

Game avoidance mechanism? So the game also had lots of “game avoidance” mechanisms. That is features in which players could avoid the actual game strategically for their advantage. One of those was the “Active Townships” mechanism which was obviously designed to avoid having to move dozens of little cubes around lots of different townships.  But it had a very unfortunate consequence: players playing the game in a way to avoid adding new townships.

Conclusion ^

The Ratcatcher takes the seventh-place prize. Of the games, we probably collectively tried variations of this game more than the others. With a dark theme and time-period-appropriate art, we were entranced and willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt. And while it had moments of entertaining gameplay, it needs some tender-loving care with a focus on balancing, stream-lining.

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/09/solo-contest-rat-catcher/

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Face the Consequences: Preview https://www.fairway3games.com/face-the-consequences-preview/ https://www.fairway3games.com/face-the-consequences-preview/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 15:00:53 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11843 In a first, Fairway plays two games at once: he reviews the metagame: Face the Consequences.

Face the Consequences is a two to unlimited number of player metagame that plays alongside another game. While you play your base game, if certain things happen, then a player will draw a card and must take the action on the card.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. The game is dead simple. Telling players how to play wasn’t an issue.
  2. Because there isn’t a lot of guidance in the box, it really relies on players to plan over which “events” should cause the player to “face the consequences.”  If the actions are too frequent, you can really derail the main game. If they don’t occur frequently enough, then it’s likely the consequences will be unequally distributed.
  3. A few of the cards have real potential to disrupt a game (like forcing someone to “miss a turn”) so before playing the game, the deck needs to be thoughtfully culled.

How to play ^

In Face the Consequences, players will play another game — any game — and when certain things occur, draw from a deck of consequences cards. These consequences cards typically have some embarrassing, silly, physical, difficult, or play-impeding actions.

To play, the deck of cards is shuffled and placed in a stack.  Then, players must decide what sorts of main-game events require a “consequence.”  For example, if you’re playing Jenga, you might think that knocking over the tower also requires a consequence. We played two different games: Photosynthesis and Roll For It!. For Photosynthesis, we made cutting down a tree cause the player to draw a consequence — our first time we said “plant a seed,” but that turned out to be a terrible one.  For Roll For It!, we made “not placing any dice” cause for a consequence — similar to our Photosynthesis experience, our original idea of “completing a card” turned out to be a terrible choice.

Alternatively, we also played such that the player who performed the “action” could “assign” the consequence.

In either case, each time one of these events occurred, the person who drew the consequence and performed the action described on the card.

That’s it!

On the green & where it comes up short ^

There’s not a ton to be said about this game.

Consequences. Setting aside the NSFW cards for a moment, there was a lot of clever “consequences.” We preferred the consequences that didn’t have actual in-game consequences, but rather just made the player feel uncomfortable or do silly things.  Cards the forced players to “skip a turn” did not go over well.

The NSFW cards were clearly raunchy. None of them sat well with any of the game players. [I probably should have known.]  They weren’t Cards Against Humanity obscene-but-afar, these were much more interactive.  I have a hard time seeing how to really deploy these and clearly I’m not the target audience for them.

We also wanted way more “safe” cards — that is the cards that didn’t actually require that you do something silly, embarrassing or difficult to perform.

Refactoring & planning.  Any host thinking about using this metagame should probably really plan it out: figure out a good “event” and figure out which cards actually make sense for the game. We did a bad job in both categories when we played the game.

In the hole ^

Face the Consequences is exactly what it aims to be: a metagame challenging players to make other games harder to play. When deployed in moderation, the consequence cards did add a good amount of levity to the games we played. There was an unexpected amount of planning to find that right balance, though. If you’re looking for a metagame to spice up game night, this one might be worth a look.

Face the Consequences is in the hole for a par. ^

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/07/face-the-consequences-preview/

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Blue Riband: Review https://www.fairway3games.com/blue-riband-review/ https://www.fairway3games.com/blue-riband-review/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:00:15 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11785 Turn back the clocks. Grab your life preserver and a fancy drink. Fairway tries to build the most luxurious, capable ship and sail it from England to New York before his opponent in today’s preview of Blue Riband.

Blue Riband is a two-player game set in an alternate past in which the players build and then race their luxury liner, either the Titanic or the Lusitania, across the Atlantic. I really wanted to call this ship building game a deck builder, but alas. It is a card-drafting and then racing game.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. We really liked building our ships. Like a lot. It was probably our favorite part and there’s probably a game in just that.
  2. There’s a fair amount of boards involved in this game: each player gets half of a giant board (representing one of the ships) to play cards. There’s also a board for the map across the Atlantic.  Components all seemed nice and well done.
  3. While the rulebook seemed long at first, and things like the placement rules seemed daunting, it was actually pretty straight-forward once the players got going.

How to play ^

In Blue Riband, players are first the architects and then the captains of a luxury ocean-liner in the golden-era of trans-Atlantic ocean travel. The object of the game is to garner the most points when the game ends by either building the most luxurious ship, the fastest ship, or some combination of both.  At the start of the game, players are given one of two ships: the Titanic or the Lusitania.  These are represented by large boards. The boards all have a series of card-sized spaces divided into a series of decks.  The background of the board is a depiction of the ship itself.

To start, a deck of design cards is shuffled and placed in a draw pile.  A starting tableau of five design cards is turned face up. Each player then draws a starting hand of six design cards. During the build/design phase, players will take turns doing the following: drawing one card from the design deck into their hand, optionally exchanging a card from their hand with one in the tableau, and then placing, facedown, one of the cards onto their ship.

There are five primary types of design cards: first class, second class, third class, safety improvements and engine cards.  When placing the design cards on a ship, there are a few rules which make sense including levels they can be placed on and how they might be arranged. For example, a ship can only have one first-class section and all the first-class cards must be adjacent — you can span levels only using a grand staircase card. Likewise, engine and coal design cards that provide fuel and speed must be placed on the lower levels.  There are also “validity” requirements for a ship that are reviewed at the end of the design phase. For example, a valid first-class section must have at least one stateroom and one amenity.

The design cards all serve a purpose.  Many of design cards improve the “luxury” rating of the ship. Others will generate revenue. Some will improve the safety of your ship (important in the race portion of the game). Others provide fuel to survive the ocean voyage.

Players essentially build their ships in secret over 20 or so rounds.  At the end of which, all of the cards are revealed.  If any sections break any of the placement or validity rules, they’re removed from the ship — for example, if you don’t have the requisite number of staterooms for your first-class section.

Once the ships are reviewed, the race portion of the game begins. Players collect coal according to how much coal storage they have. Players will take turns over a series of rounds captaining their ship from South Hampton, England to New York City.  Each round will have its own weather and cause obstacles (icebergs and u-boats) to move on the map.  Players will then take turns burning coal to move their ship.  Depending on the weather, the faster the ship moves the more treacherous and the more inefficient it gets.

During the voyage, icebergs, U-boats and fog can damage your ship.  When a player encounters one of these hazards, they’ll use a chart to compute damage based on the type of hazard, the ship’s speed, a roll of the dice, and the ship’s safety improvements. This is then compared to a damage chart and the damage is applied to the ship.  Ships can take up to four points of damage before sinking.  But with each level of damage, the ship becomes more inefficient and cards on the ship are lost (e.g., flooded).

The game ends in one of two ways:  both players reach New York City or one player doesn’t. In the case a player can’t or doesn’t reach New York City, the other player wins. For example, if a player sinks or runs out of coal. If both players reach New York City, the players count up their points. In this case, the player who gets to New York first gets 100 points, the player with the most luxurious ship (most stars) gets 100 points, each player earns 1 point per net revenue (your gross revenue less your operating expenses).

On the green ^

Blue Riband is an interesting mix of simulation and game. It had some things that played out well, but lacked the polish one might hope.

“Deck” Building.  Okay, it’s not a “deck builder” in the traditional sense. But the first phase of the game has players competing, in relative secrecy, the construction of their ships by drafting cards and placing them on boat decks. Building the ships, placing cards, and enjoying the fruits of that game play are definitely the highlight of Blue Riband. Not sure how to express this to the designer, but this should be much, much, much more then central part of the game.

Intuitive.  I don’t say this often, but considering the apparent complexity of all the things that happen in the game–some times with intricate rules and decision charts–it’s a pretty intuitive game. People just “got it” without a lot of rules checking. Similarly, with very limited exceptions, when we did confront the rules, it often matched our intuition.  The use of the “Grand Staircase” was the only one that wasn’t like that.

Damage & Flooding. Okay, so we enjoyed how the ship flooded. We liked how the game forced you to plan for the worst: if you took some damage, are you okay with losing your third class staterooms?  Or do you put a coal bunker down there?

Where it comes up short ^

Player-defeating mechanisms.  The top concern on everyone’s issues list was the number of ways in which this game helps the players fail. There are a few places where the guardrails are so low that players might not even get to “finish” the game. The most obvious one is that there’s no good way to know how much coal you’re going to need and, even if you knew, there’s no guarantee you’d get it.  Players can make it through the whole build phase and not have enough fuel to make it from England to New York.  There’s a whole bunch of ways this can happen: poor planning, poor estimation, poor card draws, poor card order, etc.  It seems somewhat irresponsible to create a situation in which a player can’t even really “finish” the second part.

Another example of this happens when building things like the first-class cabin.  It’s possible to start a first-class cabin and not actually be able to finish it merely because of things outside the control of the player.  It’s sort of like the Sashimi card in Sushi Go! but for lots of points.

Maybe these features are by design, but it’s hard to escape that many of these feel-bad moments in the game could have been designed around.

Art & Photography.  I’m a huge fan of deploying public domain works in games. The game made use of many on-point public domain photographs from ships of the era, including the Titanic, Lusitania, and Olympic. The collection itself seemed great.

But, ultimately, it’s rare to be able to just take photographs and paintings and deploy them without manipulation of some sort. This was no different.  Moreover, the presentation of those works detracted from the overall feel.  Many of the graphic design elements obscured and detracted from the photographs. The uninspired iconography, fonts, and graphic design were just too much of a distraction.

Check out this related TIGR story

This game could really use a graphic designer’s tender loving care.

Oh, those results matrices.  The game makes use of not one, not two, but three (!) different types of results matrices: speed, safety, and damage. I feel like the game has a small identity crisis: is it a simulation or is it a game?  The results matrix feels like it wanted to be a simulation with a bunch of conditionals, but then threw in a die roll to make sure it wasn’t predictable.  And while none of was “hard” to follow or “difficult” to deploy in game, it was immersion-breaking.  The safety/damage computation also lead players to do a bunch of probabilistic simulations (e.g., how fast can I go in this weather and what damage am I likely to take) which lead to some minor analysis paralysis.

Random draws.  If the designer were to take this game and make a ship-building game, the random draws of cards has got to be fixed.  It might be better to have the player use an operating budget that must remain at least neutral (rather than computing the revenue at the end), but allow them to acquire cards from a market. For example, you can always add staterooms, but to add amenities and safety cards, you have to have the money to do that.  As it is now, there’s no good way to predict what cards you might see or get to use.  In one game, I never saw a safety improvement while my opponent hoarded them.  Likewise, in order to have first-class accommodations on two separate decks, you need to find a matching pair of grand staircases. If you only find one, you’re out of luck.

In the hole ^

Blue Riband is an interesting alternative history, ship-building and ship-racing game. The game draws well on its theme and the public domain resources which should appeal to anyone interested in the Titantic or Lusitania. The game is, though, clearly rough around the edges, and lacks some polish and fine-tuning. Somewhat in spite of these flaws, we did enjoy our playthroughs. And even for someone less interested in the racing, the ship-building phase is fun on its own.

Blue Riband is available from The Game Crafter.

Blue Riband is in the hole for One Over Par. ^

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/06/blue-riband-review/

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Days of Discovery: Preview https://www.fairway3games.com/days-of-discovery-preview/ https://www.fairway3games.com/days-of-discovery-preview/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:00:17 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11724 The world is round. Fairway knows he can prove it and secure the riches of the new world. Or, at least, that’s what he thinks will happen in this preview of Days of Discovery by Matt Worden Games, coming to Kickstarter on June 19th.

Days of Discovery is a one- to six-player strategy, card game. Each game is played in three “acts” representing three phases of securing a patron, getting a crew and supplies and, finally, the voyage to the new world. Games take about 30 minutes to play.  Days of Discovery is the first in a series of games by Matt Worden and is coming to Kickstarter this monthWe were given a preview version of the game so some art is likely to change (the box for example).

Initial Impressions ^

  1. A game is three acts which is an interesting narrative mechanic. Each of the three chapters feels like three different types of games, but uses only a single set of cards. Pretty nice.
  2. The multi-use cards are a highlight of the game. They’re a bit cluttered, but understandable once you’re in the middle of the game.
  3. The art and illustrations feel like an update to something you’d expect from the relevant time period.
  4. Games are pretty quick and easy to learn.
  5. This game can play from 1 to 6 players, but the real sweet spot seemed to be around 4.

How to play ^

In Days of Discovery, players are competing to reach a newly discovered land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They must gain a sponsor, recruit a crew and buy supplies and then make the voyage across the ocean. Each of these form the three acts of the game.

To start, a number of sponsors are turned face equal to the number of players plus one. The sponsors have a suit, are ranked, and have a certain set of requirements. These requirements are what that sponsor needs to see as proof that you’re the right one to back in a voyage to the new world.  Then the deck of “people” cards is shuffled. The people cards are the primary set of cards in the game and are used for different purposes depending on which act you’re in.

At the start of the first act, each player is dealt three people cards face up.  Another five people cards are placed face up in the middle. The remainder are placed face down in the center as a draw pile.  The first act is now ready to begin.

During this act, players will take turns trying to build the support they need to secure one of the face up sponsors.  This act is primarily set collection: players will recruit two cards (either from the top of the draw pile or from the face up cards) trying to gather plans and evidence that meet the requirements of one of the sponsors. The support is shown in the upper left of the card.  In addition, each of the type of people cards are only persuasive to certain of the sponsors.  Each people card has a set of suits below the support icons.  After drawing two cards, the players can then secure a sponsor if they meet the support requirements.

This continues from player to player.  When the second to last player secures a sponsor, the last player will automatically take the lowest-ranked sponsor remaining.

Once a player secures a sponsor, they’ll move onto the second act.  This act begins with the player discarding cards from their hand until they reach the starting hand size shown on the sponsor card.  Now, during act two, players will continue to draw from market of people card, except now they’re looking at the crew and supplies on the lower left of the card which will be used during the voyage phase of Act 3.  Players might also be looking at the voyage parts (lower right) as a way to plan for Act 3. Act 2 is much like a traditional card game trying to build an optimal hand.

During Act 2, the player will draw from the draw pile or market equal to the draw number on their sponsor card.  Once they reach the max hand size, also shown on the sponsor card, they can either exchange cards or begin Act 3.  Everyone will being Act 3 together.

Once every player has their maximum hand size, the players advance to Act 3.  During Act 3, players will take turns either voyaging or foraging in an effort to complete five voyage segments. At the start of Act 3, all unclaimed sponsors are removed. The people cards in the discard pile and market are shuffled back into the deck, and players pick up their hands.

Taking turns, each player can choose to voyage or forage. During a voyage action, a player will play a card from either their hand or a random card from the top of the deck to start a voyage segment.  The voyage segment’s duration is shown as a number on top of the ship in the lower right.  The player plays that card horizontally in front of them, then draws from the deck cards equal to the voyage duration.  These drawn cards show the segment requirements in the upper right of the card — typically a number of crew and supplies or, alternatively special events like “bad luck,” “illness” or “rough seas.”

To complete that segment successfully, the player must then discard cards from their hand that have at least the segment’s requirements. There’s no change if you overspend on crew or supplies.  In this case, all the spent people cards and segment requirement cards are discarded, the segment is left face up and, if possible, the player can play a card from their hand as bonus points facedown below the segment (a journal entry).

If the player can’t successfully complete a segment (or chooses not to), then they must forage.  The player turns 4 cards face up from the draw pile, adds three to their hand and one to the current segment.

Once one player completes a fifth segment, all other players get one more turn. Then, the players will score the points from their voyage.  Their score is equal to the total of all the segment durations plus the segment durations of the cards played as journal entries. The player with the most points wins.

On the green ^

Days of Discovery was well-received by everyone who played.  It has a good number of things that made each game unique and fresh:

Three games in one.  Days of Discovery really is three games in three distinct acts. Like a medley of songs, there’s a transition at each step, but it never breaks stride. From set collection, the strategic card game, it’s got a bit of something for everyone.  However, of the three games, the voyaging is definitely the highlight.

Multiuse cards.  I don’t think that the three-in-one thing could work but for the well-crafted, multi-use cards.  They make the first few games a bit harder to learn since it’s not clear how each Act works together, but after that players started getting the hang of it.  At times, players were concerned about the amount of information on each card, but at no point did that actually slow the game down.

Illustrations.  The deck is more than 100 cards with about 40 unique illustrations and personalities.  It was pretty rare to have more than one of the same cards in your hand so it seemed to be a pretty good amount of uniqueness.

Where it comes up short ^

Most of the players shared some of the same thoughts about the game, but none of them were game breaking.

Hand management.  There are two points in the game that seem to disrupt the hand-building of the player. The first comes when a player transitions to Act 2 and a player goes from a bunch of cards, painstakingly collected during Act 1, to just two or three cards.  Likewise, it seems hard, if not impossible, to complete the five segments using only the cards in your hand. And in this sense, it defeats a player’s feeling that they’re really able to plan and strategize for that final voyage to the new world.

“Insider” rule. I left it out of the rules summary above, but during Act 1, there’s a gatekeeper mechanism to playing cards to garner a sponsor. Not only do the cards all have to have the sponsor’s suit, you have to have a relatively-rare “insider” card marked with a star on that suit (3 or 4 per sponsor).  The trouble is two-fold: in 100 card deck, there’s no telling when that card would appear and no telling whether you’d be the one to get the card. So you could be collecting cards for a sponsor and not get that one card. We nixed this rule after a few games. One option we thought about is that the insider card could be used to double support for that particular sponsor instead of as a gatekeeper.

Variation in the sponsors?  As an entry point to the game, it felt like the selection of sponsors should have had more impact on the game. To this end, I think there’s probably room here for more varied “reward” for reaching for that higher ranked sponsor. On the other hand, the fact that there isn’t a huge difference means there isn’t a runaway leader issue right out of the gate.

In the hole ^

Days of Discovery is a good starting point for a series of games set up around the world it’s creating. Days of Discovery is a fantastic little mashup of three different card games. It creatively uses the same deck of cards is a creative way to express the story in three Acts which loosely follows the real world historical exploration of North America by European explorers. If you like card games and are looking for one that plays quickly, is easily learned and can play six, this game should definitely be on your list.

Days of Discovery is in the hole for a par! ^

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/06/days-of-discovery-preview/

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Three easy tricks to make public domain art work better for your game https://www.fairway3games.com/three-easy-tricks-to-make-public-domain-art-work-better-for-your-game/ https://www.fairway3games.com/three-easy-tricks-to-make-public-domain-art-work-better-for-your-game/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 18:27:35 +0000 https://www.fairway3games.com/?p=1035 There are lots of free sources of high resolution, public-domain images out there. Many of the best pieces to use are illustrations from old books or oil paintings.  And lots of new designers try to use those in their games.  There’s usually one problem: just slapping them onto a card usually looks terrible.  In this quick tutorial, I offer three tips for “doing it better” using Gimp.

The British Library collection on Flickr.com is an amazing resource of old illustrations.  There’s one really common issue: everything is yellow.

Getting started

Let’s start with an illustration.  For purposes of this tip, I’ve cropped it to a reasonable size.  The source image is show to the right.

Tip #1 – It’s all about the crop

It should go without saying, but you probably can’t and shouldn’t use the image in it’s original form. What’s more, if you’re trying to use lots of images in your game, you’re probably going to want them the same dimensions.  So, rather than using the “rectangle tool” we’re going to create an image and then paste the source image into the properly sized image.

Create a new file.

Set your dimensions and click “OK”

In the new file, you’re going to “paste” the source image.  Then on your layers’ menu, find the Floating Selection, right-click on it and select “To New Layer”.

Now, you can use the “Move Tool” to move your pasted layer to move the image to a better centering.

I moved it to focus on the ladies’ faces.

Now we can resize the layer.  Click “Layer -> Scale Layer…”

I usually try something slightly larger than the image dimensions.

And then use the movement tool (on “Move Active Layer”) to center it.  The final result is shown in the next step.  The result is also that you’ll have an easily repeatable way to crop any other images.

 

Tip #2 – Let its true colors shine through

Fixing the colors

After loading the image into Gimp, go to “Colors -> Levels…”.

Click “Auto”. Then “okay.”

The image should almost immediately appear more “normal” in color.

If that didn’t quite clean it up.  You can also use the “pick black” and “pick white” options from the same “Levels…” dialog box.

And then pick a “white” spot on the actual image.  You may need to play around with which spots result in the best color results.

This results in the above example is slightly brighter and more white results.

 

Tip #3 – Use Waifu2x…

Lots of paintings and illustrations also have distracting imperfections. These could be a result of the painting technique, the illustration technique or just the consequences of aging.  One way to turns those public domain works into something that look more modern or digital is to use an online enlargement tool called Waifu2x.  This won’t work for everything and you should use the technique thoughtfully.

There are a few online versions. I use waifu2x.udp.jp.  Just upload the image you want to the site.  Click that you’re not a robot and then click “Convert”.  Don’t change any of the settings.

At the default settings, the image will also be enlarged., but the result can work quite nicely for your illustrations.

(Result after the full upsized resolution)

(Result after waifu2x without scaling the image)

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Where do I get art… for “free?” [an ongoing list] https://www.fairway3games.com/where-do-i-get-art-for-free-an-ongoing-list/ https://www.fairway3games.com/where-do-i-get-art-for-free-an-ongoing-list/#comments Sat, 19 May 2018 02:54:06 +0000 https://www.fairway3games.com/?p=1009 It’s common when trying to make polished prototypes to go in search of free art to flesh out that idea.  New designers, not yet ready to sink lots of money in their game, often struggle to find good art, photographs, or illustrations to use. And more importantly, some times, high resolution images. This list is meant to help you find those locations.

This post also ran on The Indie Game Report.

I’ve broken this down into a few different categories based on the type of permissive licensed works that are mostly in Public Domain or licensed CC0 or CC1 and one section for attribution required. I will regularly update this list as I find new sources of high quality art.

Illustrations | Paintings | Photography | General Public Domain Resources | Video Game Assets | Textures | Small Art Sets | Attribution Required

Illustrations

British Library Public Domain collection on Flickr.com

Millions of high resolution scans of old book illustrations.


New York Public Libary

Use the “Search only public domain records”


Comic Book Plus

“We only hold comic books and images that are in the Public Domain.”


Old Book Illustrations

Thousands of images, nicely categorized. If you’re looking for a matching set, filter by the original artist. “We don’t limit the use of the illustrations available on our site, but we accept no responsibility regarding any problem, legal or otherwise, which might result from this use.”


Paintings

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) Open Access Collection

You can use the Creative Common Search to find the item you’re looking for. Then click the “original source” to get the higher resolution version.


The National Gallery of Art Open Access Collection

“On this website you can search, browse, share, and download images. A standards-based reproduction guide and a help section provide advice for both novices and experts. More than 51,000 open access digital images up to 4000 pixels each are available free of charge for download and use. NGA Images is designed to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration.”


Getty Museum Open Content

More than 100,000 images are available as part of the Getty Museum’s open content search.  They ask for attribution if you use the high resolution images.


Rijksmuseum Open Access Content

You may need to register for an account to easily download images.


Wikimedia Commons

Most of the paintings are public domain. Some of the other assets (e.g., photographs) may require attribution.


Yale Center for British Art

“[T]he Center nevertheless provides free and open access to images of works in the public domain and certain other materials. The Center hopes to encourage further the use and reuse of its public domain resources by all who may have access to them. See Using Images for further information.”


Statens Museum for Kunst

“You are free to use images of artworks if clearly stated that they are in the Public Domain. ”


Museum of Fine Arts Boston

High resolution images of a variety of paintings and art. Many of the works of art are in the public domain, although the museum claims copyright. :/

 


The Wellcome Collection

Thousands of Creative Commons and public domain images.  You can search the collection here.


The State Hermitage Museum

Many if not most of the works available from this search are in the public domain and high resolution.

 


Photography

Pexels

Photographs licensed for public domain (CC0)


Unsplash

“All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.”


Negative Space

“For personal or commercial use, all of our CC0 licensed images are completely free to use!”


Pixabay

“Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images and videos. All contents are released under Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.”


General Public Domain Resources

NASA and JPL

“NASA content – images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format – generally are not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.”


Library of Congress: Maps Division

The site (as a US Government Agency) makes no specific claim of copyright and maps prior to 1920s are in the public domain.


Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Collection

The Beinecke Library has digitized more than 20,000 maps. Most of the works are in the public domain, but you may need to check.


 

Bildgeist – Images from the Public Domain

The site requests attribution, but much of the materials is in the public domain. “BILDGEIST is a visual journal of scientific illustrations, illuminated manuscripts, photographs, prints and artworks from the public domain. Its topics are zoology, botany, astronomy, medicine & anatomy, cartography, alchemy & mysticism, the occult, ethnology, mythology, and art history.”


Archive.ORG Texts Collection

There are lots of contributions to this site. Many of which are in the public domain. You should confirm that the license is correct.


Calisphere

The University of California online collection of more than a million images. The search has mixed results, but many are in the public domain and often very high resolution.

“Calisphere contains a wide variety of items from many different institutions. Some items are in the public domain and may be freely used by anyone; in the case of other items, the contributing institution is the copyright holder and may grant permission for certain uses; for still others, the copyright owner is a third party or is unknown and users will need to conduct their own analysis (and may need to contact a copyright holder directly).”


 

Textures

Duion.com

“All artwork found under this section is licensed CC0 (Public Domain), this means there is no copyright and it is absolutely free to use for everyone and of course also free for commercial use”


Video Game Assets and Sprites

Glitch Game Assets

“All files are provided by Tiny Speck under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal License. This is a broadly permissive “No Rights Reserved” license — you may do what you please with what we’ve provided. Our intention is to dedicate these works to the public domain and make them freely available to all, without restriction. All files are provided AS-IS. Tiny Speck cannot provide any support to help you bring these assets into your own projects.”


Kenney

Over the last couple of months I’ve created over 20,000 assets which are all licensed CC0 (public domain).


CraftPix.net Freebies

Dozens of free 2D game assets: “All presented graphics at an affordable price and has no restrictions on use in commercial projects, as well as you can feel free to use each product in unlimited projects.” (License). You will have to register to download, though.


Other Small Art Sets

Godbound

“Thanks to the generosity of the Kickstarter backers for Godbound: A Game of Divine Heroes, I am making freely available all the art from both it and Sixteen Sorrows: A Handbook of Calamities for other uses, both personal and commercial. Other small publishers are welcome and encouraged to use the more than thirty images in this pack to create their own products. I only ask that you retain the credit to the artists named in each file and consider them for your future commissions.”


Attribution Required

Open Game Art

The game assets here are variously licensed.  Many require attribution, but you can search by license type. I will note that many of the art assets are lower resolution.


Vecteezy

Much of this site requires attribution.


The Noun Project

A great collection of icons. Almost everything on this site requires attribution.


Game-Icons.net

“They are provided under the CC-BY license (or even Public Domain for some of them), which means that you can use them freely in your projects as long as you credit back the authors.”


Alisha Volkman’s Free Assets

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

 

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Desolate: Review https://www.fairway3games.com/desolate-review/ https://www.fairway3games.com/desolate-review/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11372 If you haven’t heard, Fairway is judging a contest at The Game Crafter: The Solo Game Challenge. What better time for him to review a new, solo game from Grey Gnome Games available from The Game Crafter: Desolate.

Desolate is a one-player only survival game from Jason Glover and Grey Gnome Games in which the player is the lone survivor of an ill-fated rescue mission to a distant moon. The player must survive a series challenges with limited health, ammunition and air and recover five power cells before you die.

Initial Impressions

  1. The game is almost entirely done in greyscale that calls to mind a classic sci-fi horror movie. And while aspects of the game’s art have a more modern, futuristic appeal, the greyscale draws on that retro horror vibe.  The only dashes of color are from the three trackers for health, oxygen and ammunition and the five bright green energy cells.
  2. There’s not a lot of cards in this game with only 15 cards making up a bulk of the actual game play.
  3. The game was easy to learn: draw two cards, reveal one, decide if to discard and reveal another, engage in combat, rinse, repeat.
  4. It also plays quickly. Most of my playthroughs are done in less than 20 minutes.

How to play

To start a game of Desolate, the player takes the two tracker cards: health and oxygen and ammo trackers and places the three colored markers on the highest values (14, 4, and 7, respectively).   Next the player shuffles a small deck of Item cards and draws three and keeps two of them.  These item cards provide the player with various bonuses, including some that extend the amount of life or oxygen or enable the player to take specialized actions. The remaining Item cards are set aside. Now, the two remaining decks, exploration cards and conflict cards, are separated and shuffled and placed face down on the table forming a draw pile.

Now you’re ready to play.

A game of Desolate is played over a series of “levels.” Each level consists of series of turns until the player goes through the entire exploration deck.  Each turn has two phases: draw and reveal.  At the start of a turn, the player will draw two cards from the top of the Exploration deck and place them face down on the table.  Then, the player will reveal one of the two face down cards and either resolve it or discard it.  If the player elects to discard the card, the second card is revealed and must be resolved.

When resolving a card, there are two types of exploration cards: rooms and conflicts. Resolving a room card will gain the associated resource or action. For example, resolving the Armory will provide the player two ammo.

Resolving a conflict card means the player engages an enemy alien.  This is done by revealing the top card of the conflict deck.  Each conflict card has two spaces for a die. The total of the dice on this space is the total number of hit points for the alien. The first die is taken from the number next to the “CONFLICT!” title on the Exploration card.  The second die is the value shown on the Conflict card itself. The bigger the combined value, the harder the combat will be.

Once the dice are assigned, combat begins. First, the player takes damage first lowering the player’s health. The amount of damage is indicated below the dice on the Conflict card. Second, the player must decide how much ammo to spend on the attack.  Each round of ammo provides the player with one die. So, four ammo means four dice. If the player spends no ammo, he or she will do only a single point of damage to the alien. With the spent ammo, the player rolls the dice and sums up the value.  If the total is greater than or equal to the alien’s health, the player claims victory. Otherwise, you reduce the life of the alien by counting down on the dice on the Conflict card and then starting over with taking damage by drawing the next card in the Conflict deck.

If a player is victorious, they will draw another Exploration card and choose either the small or large crate on the bottom side of the card.

At the end of a level, the player lowers their oxygen by two (not one, two!) and the exploration cards are reshuffled. If the player runs out of oxygen or health drops to zero, they die.

The only way to win is to find the five power cells.  And that might be victory enough, but you can use the total of health, oxygen and ammo left as a measure of that success.

In the hole

Art and theme.  Desolate captures the retro, horror, sci-fi vibe really well. The grey scale cards and illustrations give the game a feeling of desperation. And the grey-white feels lunar/spacey. It’s compelling and eye catching. This meshes with the overall feeling of the game: a desperate attempt to survive, by yourself, on a distant moon.

Learning and play time.  Both of these are excellent.  A game taken to conclusion is easily completed in twenty minutes. The simple set up and easy to follow combat and exploration mechanisms make quick work of what could have been overly-complex game play.

The fact that the exploration deck is only 15 cards means that the “levels” go impossibly fast at times.  It’s always at least two cards per turn. If you end up opening a crate, that’s an extra card a turn. And you’ve only got enough to do three levels unless you find some oxygen.

Combat. Probably one of the more innovative things the game does is make use of thoughtful combat mechanism that paired well with the game. At heart, Desolate is a resource-management, survival game. That resource management shows up in the in-game conflict of “how much ammo do I really spend on this alien?”  Is the player going to play conservative and take three dice to roll six or just two and risk losing health and spending the ammo anyway. This is not an instance of a game designer just tagging on their favorite die-rolling combat mechanism.

Where it comes up short

So, while I was playing, I started asking myself: is there a reasonable, reliable pattern to this game that increases the likelihood you’ll win most of the time?  I think the answer is, “yes.”  And the more I played it, the more I found myself unable to think of a reason to stop following the pattern.  See, the game has you draw two exploration cards.  You always have the choice to ignore the first one you turn up. If you reveal a conflict card on this card, there’s no reason to resolve it. Resolving a conflict means you lose life, don’t get to see the second card (which might have the fuel cell), and when you win, you must draw another exploration card for the crate — thus, you lose one extra flip and lose the chance it’s the fuel cell. So, unless the first card is a room you can take for resource, you don’t take that card.

Let me be clear, though: I actually don’t think this is that big an issue.  It’s, in part, a function of the game itself and an aspect of the providing player some choice. One minor tweak might make resolving the first card more worthwhile: instead of drawing a new card from the exploration deck, use the other face down card.  This actually does a few things: it means that you know what card was face down. And second, it doesn’t cause you to waste needlessly an exploration card as a “reward” for combat.

In the hole

Desolate is a solo gaming gem: quick, simple, engaging, and immersive. The art direction and theme are a perfect fit a resource management, survival game. The survival and resource management is intertwined in every aspect of the game. I think anyone looking for a solitaire game, who likes great illustrations and a sci-fi theme will like this game. It’s on my definite recommend list for solo play.

You can pick up a copy of the game from The Game Crafter: Desolate.

Desolate is in the hole for a Birdie.

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You can see the full contest rules here.


In this contest, you must design a new game in which the primary player count is 1. A solo game is one like Friday or Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island or Onirim in which an entire game is expected to be played without another player. You can find additional examples on BoardGameGeek.

The contest will be judged by Mike Wokasch of Fairway 3 Games, LLC. His game Starving Artists contains a solo variant and he was the designer of the solo variant for Underlings of Underwing.

To qualify, your game must comply with all of the following rules:

  • Your game must be playable with only a single player. Games with additional player counts will be judged based on the solo game, except that the inclusion of player counts may garner points in the “other” category of the rubric.
  • You may use any printables or game pieces.
  • The total cost of your game must be less than $34.99
  • Play time should be no more than 60 minutes, once you’ve learned the game.
  • Any theme or narrative is allowed and unique themes are encouraged.
  • A rules document must be downloadable from your game’s shop page.
  • The game must be publish ready (as it relates to our shop, not as it relates to being finished). This means it has a logo, backdrop, shop ad, action shots, description, and cool factors. It must also have all images proofed, and have packaging.
  • This must be a new game created for this contest. It cannot have existed on TGC prior to the start of the contest.
  • All artwork must be your own, commissioned by you, licensed to you, or in the public domain.
  • All entries must be submitted through TGC’s game editor (by clicking on the “Contests” button) no later than Noon UTC (6am US Central) on July 23, 2018.
  • Contestants may submit multiple entries to this contest. Each entry will be judged separately.

Notes

You retain all rights to your game and are welcome to sell it in our shop during and after the contest, regardless of the outcome of the contest.

The first round of judging is handled by a community voting process. The final two rounds are handled by the judge. See complete details.

Prizes

All of the finalists shall receive a review by The Indie Game Report.

The winner shall receive all of the following prizes:

  • Automatic Showcase status for their game on thegamecrafter.com.
  • 100,000 crafter points.
  • $100 of shop credit on thegamecrafter.com.
  • The possibility of judging a future contest.
  • Induction into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame.

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/05/desolate-review/

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The Board Game Workshop #37: Contributors https://www.fairway3games.com/the-board-game-workshop-37-contributors/ https://www.fairway3games.com/the-board-game-workshop-37-contributors/#respond Wed, 02 May 2018 14:55:45 +0000 https://www.theindiegamereport.com/?p=11368

Chris brings on five game designer and BGW contributors to talk about game theme, discuss Kickstarter, and to answer some listener questions.

Contributors

Matt

  • http://hitemwithashoe.com/
  • http://twitter.com/beelivesgame
  • http://www.facebook.com/beelivesgame/
  • http://www.instagram.com/beelivesgame/

Dan

  • https://twitter.com/LetimanGames
  • https://www.facebook.com/LetimanGames/
  • https://www.instagram.com/letimangames/

Bez

  • twitter.com/stuffByBez
  • http://www.stuffbybez.com/
  • https://www.facebook.com/thingsbybez
  • https://www.instagram.com/stuffbybez/

Dr. Wictz

  • https://dr.wictz.com
  • https://twitter.com/drwictz
  • https://www.facebook.com/DrWictzsBoardGames/

Andrew Miller

  • https://twitter.com/SportsGuy3125

This post was originally published on The Indie Game Report: https://www.theindiegamereport.com/2018/05/the-board-game-workshop-37-contributors/

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