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.


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.


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.


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

Once More

So, after a week of sponsor meetings, proposal writings, and travel, I’m able to think about the game again. And to put things simply, I decided to combine the two ideas I presented earlier. And fortunately just before things went busy for me, I was able to put those ideas together. Here’s a short summary.

I’ve taken the map idea into a fixed map of 31 boan – which if you recall are essentially worlds in which you become reincarnated. The map is set up with four directions, centering on the humanboan: North = Truly Called, South = Fully Aware, East = Pleasure Boan / Heaven, West = Suffering Boan / Hell. The first two destinations are not in fact boan, but actually states within or outside of the cycle.

The players take on shades, which are somewhat more nebulous than the idea of a soul. These take on different lives each related to each other. The shades carry attachments, calling and awareness, with 20 points moving among them. When the shades incarnate in aboan, the players turn to the page listed for that boan and assign center (the arbiter for that boan), lives (some shades may have more than one life at a time) and then list out details for the age in which they encounter that boan.

Once these are done, the lives act out certain stages, essentially pre-built conflicts, where each shade can influence a conflict by raising (up to 6) an attachment with calling or awareness, or reducing (down to 0) an attachment adding to calling or awareness . These are added as a die of value equal to the higher value of the attachment to determine the outcome for that stage, and also are added to the appropriate side of the map (increasing attachment of joy adds to heaven, of pain adds to hell, releasing to calling adds to Truly Called, releasing to awareness adds to fully aware.) The player then describes how one of their lives has devoted or given up something appropriate to the exchange. This can happen up to one time, per stage, to a single attachment, and not shade can have more than six attachments.

The outcome of the stage is described based on the winning shade’s goals, and if specific listed outcomes occur (as written on theboan page), additional dice may be added to the map, or changes may occur to attachments, calling, or awareness. It is even possible for a life to end, if this is the last life a shade has, then it rolls a die and places it on the map in one of its dominant directions (as determined by totals of pain/joy attachments, calling and awareness, respectively). Every shade whose life remains to the last stage will do this at that point as well. Then the shades move in the dominant direction indicated by totalling the dice on each side of the map. If there is a tie for dominance, they instead move to the humanboan, rolling for which variant they enter (there are six, in addition to the initial one).

Play continues in this way until the shades exit through one of the sides, playing a final stage as they deal with the consequences of that ending.

I’m going for a strong contrast of structure and freedom, and from another direction that of coming to terms with the people you travel with.

– Mendel

Published in: on February 23, 2007 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Burmese Game

While intriguing, I found the image set perhaps a little too consistent…

But so it goes. I blame the following lack of creativity on my own exhaustion over the past few days more than the image set.

I have two ideas for the design, and they are competing at the moment. Inspired by the complex reincarnation systems of Burmese Buddhism, including the Nat (very loosely = spirits) and Boan (worlds of reincarnations), seem to be returning to old design ideas.

The first is based on an old fiction idea of mine and an aborted design, called Co-life, meant be a spin from the idea of past-lives. The crux of this would be traversing through worlds much like after-lives, but as a connected group. The idea here would be to have each major segment of the game be a life, with the mini-story’s outcome determined and/or dependant on the next boan destination. The ultimate goal is to somehow change the flow of the after-lives and either break from the cycle or fully join with it.

As I see it, this concept practically requires a system based on numerical approximations of differential equations. And I’ve been meaning to design a game that uses higher level, non-discrete math for a while.

The other option, feels less original to me, largely because it is heavily based on a game I already designed in my RPGnet column a few years ago. Essentially, a game of enlightenment and journeys, the character sheet was a random piece of a street map (which the player provides), and their actions and intentions lead them along these paths, as they seek out one of the destinations – in this case likely nirvana, the pleasure boan, the Burmese hell (as per the image), and bodhisattva, each described as one of the cardinal directions.

The main problem is that I’ve already largely design this game, so I feel it would be cheating to use it here. As of yet, however, it only exists as the old articles and the notes I made to write them. What do you think?

Hopefully I’ll come to a decision soon.

Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 6:24 pm  Comments (4)  

Mendel Schmiedekamp’s Ten Images









Original: Picture of Nations or Perspective Sketch of the Course of Empire. Published 1836 in Atlas to accompany a System of universal history; containing, I. A chronological picture of nations, or perspective sketch of the course of empire. II. The progressive geography of the World, in a series of maps, adapted to the differentepochas of the history. by the very interesting Emma C. (Hart) Willard, principal of Troy Female Seminary.








Original: MICROGRAPHIA: OR SOME Physiological Descriptions of MINUTE BODIES MADE BY MAGNIFYING GLASSES with OBSERVATIONS and INQUIRIES thereupon. 1665. Robert Hooke (1635-1703)













Published in: on February 9, 2007 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment