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: An Inordinate Fondness

In Short…

An Ordinate Fondness is Mark Vallianatos’s game of person-sized insects exploring and theorizing about the artifacts of lost human civilizations. Definitely quirky, and with some very cool mechanical bits to it, it seems to me that it needs a stronger sense of focus in order to tighten it up.

Incorporation of Images

The game is obviously inspired by the image set, but I was sad to see all of the images in question clustered onto one page. While using them as inline pictures would have interrupted the well-designed page layout, I think that they could have been imagined as half-page or full-page spreads with accompanying text giving examples of how the insects misinterpret the human artifacts that they are interacting with in the images.


The mechanics aren’t terribly complex, and the running examples in the text are fabulous and helpful. I love the fact that cards are used both for their values, and also to represent the “stats” of the different body parts of the insects. Very thematically elegant.

The game is short-form enough in scope that the lack of an endgame state or win condition makes me go “huh”. Perhaps some kind of upper limit on Status or something involving total theory acceptance? I don’t see enough meat on the bones of the two-phase system to sustain more than a couple of rounds of it, without a definite goal to be aiming towards.


What a cool weird game! While I don’t see any reason I couldn’t play it, there are two areas of possible improvement that would make me more likely too. The first is an endgame state, as described above, to give a concrete goal to be working towards throughout the game. The second is that I don’t see much reason to roleplay in the Exploration phase, as is. The interactions between the insects are fairly minimal, and as each person only has a couple of things that they need to narrate in the scene, I fear that thats all that those scenes would consist of. You can see one of my thoughts to address this below. Overall, I liked the game, but I’m not really interested in playing it without something more to give me a tighter focus for play.

Further Thoughts

I had one thing that I thought of that would address my concern with Exploration scenes, and also introduce an overarching theme of tension that could easily get tied into an endgame scenario. That is that, maybe, lower-status characters could change cards with higher-status AFTER they are all revealed, by narrating how they use those respective parts of their bodies to alter the conflict in their favor (I bat his head aside with my wings, making him dizzy so he’s more attractive prey to the ants!). I think that this would provide something cool for having low status, would complicate conflicts (in a good way), and would provide grist for competing agendas in the Theorizing scenes.  I just fear that the game as is is too far towards the “parlor narration” style of game for it to be interesting to me.


Published in: on March 14, 2007 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

‘an inordinant fondness’- Mark’s initial thoughts

… intelligent insect societies have inherited the earth following the extinction of humanity (I suppose in some undefined apocalyptic disaster?). Much of the focus will be on how insects react to, explore the relics of, and misinterpret their human predecessors. Since the bugs are newly sentient they don’t have any sense of history. They don’t remember that humans viewed insects as inconsequential – when they weren’t exterminating. Instead the insect characters will be puzzling out, playing with, and mythologizing the structures and and detritus of vanished human civilizations.

the working title is from an anecdote about the biologist JBS Haldane, who, when asked what one could infer about the creator from studying nature, is reported to have replied ‘He has an inordinate fondness for beetles.’ In the context of this game concept, the phrase also stands in for the insects’ romanticization of humankind.

I’m not sure if the game will be highly structured or more of a traditional exploratory/adventuring rpg. I can picture representing each character by a row of three playing cards- the head, thorax and abdomen. How this mechnically plays out…?

Influences beyond the image set will probably include the book Motel of the Mysteries by david mccauley, the original gamma world rpg and the novel Empire of the ants by bernard werber. I’ve enjoyed help play test Judson Lester’s Repetoire and Jim Pinto’s George’s Children so I’m sure they will influence how I think about a post-apocalyptic game.

Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 3:20 am  Comments (3)  

ten images posted by mark vallianatos

(chosen without too much rhyme or reason, except that most are relatively modern)


bibliodyssey link

credit: golden book of chemistry experiments, at mad professor


bibliodyssey link
credit: Die Blumen des Bösen’ (Charles Baudelaire) – Illustration by Carlos Schwabe 1900 at Der Literarische Satanist … im Garten der Hyacinthe (via The Cartoonist)

australia map

bibliodyssey link
credit: Strange Maps site

deck plan

bibliodyssey link
credit: the dreadnaught project


bibliodyssey link
credit: Aterlier Populaire at The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition – ‘Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now’

les souverains

bibliodyssey link
credit: Auguste Roubille ‘Les Souverains’, “L’Histoire de France par l’Image 1789-1739”.


bibliodyssey link
credit: Banubula recently contributed Charles Hinton’s ‘The Fourth Dimension’ from 1906 to the Internet Archive.

emerald city

bibliodyssey link
credit: Iakov Chernokhov, at Iakov Chernikhov International Foundation


bibliodyssey link
credit: an 1880 edition of ‘Fleurs, Java’ by Pieter De Pannemaeker at the Illustrated Garden website at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

head on wheels

bibliodyssey link
credit: Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari, online at Le Conservatoire numérique des Arts & Métiers.

Published in: on February 3, 2007 at 6:43 pm  Comments (2)