And The Winners Are!

Once again, I apologize for my tardiness in getting all of this done. But, finally, all votes have been counted and all scores have been tallied. Here are the winners of the 2007 BibliOdyssey Design Challenge!

Best Integration Of Images: The City At The Edge Of Sleep, by Mike Addison, with a total average score in the category of 8/10. Followed by:

  • Troll Lands (7.8)
  • Once More (6.8)
  • In Inordinate Fondness & Dark Explorations (6)
  • Friends or Fortune & In Frankensteins Wake (5)

Most Playable: In Frankenstein’s Wake, by Eric Boyd, with a total average score in the category of 8.5/10. Followed by:

  • An Inordinate Fondness (8.3)
  • Once More (7)
  • The City at the Edge of Sleep (6)
  • Friends or Fortune (5.5)
  • Troll Lands (4.6)
  • Dark Explorations (4)

Best Overall: In Frankenstein’s Wake also had the highest score in the category, with a total average of 7.25. As a game cannot take more than one title, the next highest was a three-way tie! The City at the Edge of Sleep, An Inordinate Fondness and Once More all received a score of 7. As City at the Edge of Sleep is also ineligible, the official winners of this category are both An Inordinate Fondness, by Mark Villianatos and Once More, by Mendel Schmiedekamp! The other scores:

  • Troll Lands (5.6)
  • Friends or Fortune (5.5)
  • Dark Explorations (5)

Congratulations to Mike, Eric, Mark and Mendel! I look forward to playing your games!

The individual pages will be updated with their scores and review links real soon now. There’s also a thread at StoryGames to talk about the winners, and the contest in general.

Thanks everyone!

Review: Once More

In Short…

Once More is Mendel Schmiedekamps game of reincarnation and the journey of existence. You play a group of Shades, souls who move through boan after boan, leading their many lives in order to determine where they will eventually end up. The game seems solid enough, though I wonder if moment-to-moment play is rewarding enough to warrant playing through the entire cycle, from start to finish.

Incorporation of Images

The images are mostly used to illustrate individual Boan, and while they are used well enough in those places, the fact that there are so many more Boan than images makes their inconsistent use less than effective. This is one area where the contest structure is somewhat detrimental to the game, and it probably would have been better for there to be more images in this one instance. That said, the images are used appropriately and tastefully, and the game is certainly built off of them.

Playability

This is another game that I’d need to take another read-through before starting to play, in order to figure out the resolution mechanics. They seem like they hang together fine, but they’re fiddly enough that my brain will need to see them in play before I really get them. That said, I really like the Boan’s (and I’m impressed by the amount of them included in the game!), and I feel like they give immediate and solid situation for play. It strikes me as one of those games that would probably take a couple of stages before everyone really got on the same page, but once that happens it would roll right along.

I really appreciate the guidelines for creating your own Boans, as I feel that that would be essential for playing the game more than once.

Overall

The game seems solid, but I wonder if there’s enough action from Boan to Boan to warrant playing through the entire game from start to finish. That is, I don’t really have a sense of how long it would take to play the game. It seems that, if you’re essentially playing through one or two Boan a session (if each Stage is basically a scene, it seems thats about how many you could get through in one 3-4 hour block), it could take a while to get through a convoluted Boan path. And, since the mechanical structure is the same in each Boan, I wonder if there’s enough fun in simply engaging in that process over and over again to supplement the narrative and drive play along all the way to the end.

This is a vague concern, but a real one. That said, I don’t see any reason why a group that’s really grooving on the theme and narrative content that they’re generating wouldn’t have a great time going through the entire game.

Further Thoughts

This one is really hard for me to get a sense of without actually playing it. It may also just not really be my thing. I think having a section of the text that explicates how Mendel sees the game going on the macro scale would be helpful to seeing how its all supposed to flow, and I think a running example of a group of shades going through a certain Boan cycle, tied into the descriptions of the Boans, would be really helpful as well.

-N

Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Once More

Once More Review

Overview
In Once More, players take on the role of Shades, soul-like entities that are reincarnated through a series of *boan* — a kind of self-contained vignette that depicts some aspect of human or divine existence — in what is ultimately a journey to one of four final destinations: Heaven and Hell, which opposing each other on a joy/pain axiom; and Truly Called and Fully Aware, which oppose each other on a self/no-self axiom.

Use of Images
As a source of inspiration for the theme and content of the game, the game ties in very well with Justin Smith’s image set. The author could have gone a lot of ways with the starting premise of Burmese Buddhism, but the choice he made is transcendent in scope and gives players a lot of room for creativity and story building. Mendel incorporated all 10 images of the set into his text, matching them appropriately to the current topic of the text when used.

Playability
I initially had difficulty grasping the rules of the game. The author starts his text with many references to terminology that aren’t explained to the reader until further in the text, and uses impartial examples that aren’t immediately clear. However, after reading over the full rules, the mechanics became clear. Mendel has put together simple, straight-forward mechanics that encourage player narration and provide a fair dose of Gamist strategizing. The gameplay is highly structured, and yet leaves a lot of room for creativity in terms of characters and setting. As presented, the game could be picked up and played with almost no preparation necessary.

The only pitfall I can see is the danger of getting caught in a loop between two boan. Playing the same boan more than once or twice per game could become tedious. However, the author does provide several variants that would proclude this issue.

Overall
I’m simply blown away by the detail in each boan. Mendel’s text contains 53 pages dedicated to the boan. Each one has a unique feel, but is abstract enough to occur in any time or place. I’m particularly jazzed by the elemental boan, such as Wood and Metal. I’m envisioning sessions where the Shades are literally reincarnated as trees in a forest or skyscrapers in a large contemporary city. The possibilities seem endless. I would love to give this game a try.

In terms of the spirit of the contest, I would say Once More met that spirit satisfactorily. The design fits within the realm of rpgs, the game draws heavily upon the images for inspiration, and all of the images were incorporated into the text of the game.

Suggestions to the Designer
In terms of rules design and playability, Once More seems pretty tight to me. I think at this point, play-testing would be the only way to determine if any changes are necessary. The biggest area of improvement I can see is the layout and explanation of the core mechanics, which is forgivable at this stage, especially in light of all of the hard work you put into the boan descriptions.

Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 2:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Review of “Once More”

Like my last review, I have to be brief.

Image incorporation: 

The images used were appropriate to the game and fit well into the overall layout.  All ten of my images were used, and then some, a total of 19 in all.  In all, a great job.  I will not be as vehement as Guy in his railing about outside art– all the images were used, it was an inordinately long entry, and the images from the set were treated in the same way as the offending inclusions.  However, I cannot bring myself to unlock that 9 or 10 while using additional art.

On a format note, the Boans that included art ended up taking two pages apiece where the others fit into a uniform 1-page format.  Though I did not notice it on my first trip through, there was a definate conflict with the page breaks, and it made searching for the right page slightly more challenging, though pagination has more-or-less solved that.  Of course, if this is the biggest complaint I can find, there really isn’t much wrong.

Playability:

I want to like this game, I really do.  It looks like a great deal of fun. 

I found the rules very dense and somewhat difficult to follow, though that could be fixed with time and subheadings in the format.  I usually give a game three reads for me to “get it” before I give up.  I’ve given Once More the benefit of three reads, and I’m still unclear on a few of the points.  Some of the Boans are unclear, especially the far-from-human ones (what exactly is it to be lead wire?  What is the romantic attachment felt by Brass?)  I suspect this was intentional.   This allows the center to start and other players to continue describing the age in question, but an explicit statement would be welcome.

Overall:

It’s a good start and with some spit and polish will be a very playable game.

edit: removed scoring, sorry.

Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment