Big Box Finalist Scores
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Total ScoreRules/Mechanics
(out of 20)
(out of 15)
Marketing/Hype (out of 10)Notes
FAZA4218159Great cooperative premise and graphics. Like how the play area is laid out, though looks like there's room for improvement in hierarchy of information. Really glad there's considerations for 'if this is your first time playing.' Rules are super well documented and the examples are helpful. Thrilled to see info for both 'here's what to do on your first game' and 'here's how to make the game harder.' Also nice touch with the considerations made for color blindness.
Baked41171410Clearly aimed at more casual gamers, but seems well-conceived with a great theme and sharp humor. In a word, charming. I understood how to play after one watch of the video and one read-through of the rules. Testing out the print and play version (always a plus to offer) made me want to play the full version more. I know how to play the game but feel like there's plenty of room to refine my strategy. One part of me doesn't feel like it needs to be an expensive game, but another part of me thinks so much thought and care was put into the artwork and information design that I would gladly spend this much on it.
Quiltlands3919119Love the premise, and the mechanics that grow out of it seem to naturally create a balance of autonomy and interaction. The betting dynamic is particularly intriguing to me-- curious to see if it feels necessary as a manadatory mechanic. More betting/social manipulation creates a semi-cooperative dynamic that I'm super curious to explore further.
Meeple Factory3818119Simultaneous rounds is great. Short game vs long game is great. Cards based on player count is great. Just seems like a well-thought out game with a lot of strategy and minimal luck (the theft round is an interesting notion... I look forward to seeing how that feels). Interested in the trading system, which I think is what probably distinguishes it from similar type games.
Hyperocity3616146Very detailed, inventive backstory and theme elements; excellent components; rules seem carefully thought-out, well illustrated with lots of examples. Gives the sense that its been through a lot of playtesting. Vivid game world but I'm curious to see how the pacing feels. Is there any way to make this feel high speed?
Plutocracy: 3022351898Love the mechanic of 'no one has their own empire everyone controls everyone's empire' which could have some very interesting interactive effects. One of the few submitted games that seems like it might want to use a few more chance elements-- everything seems streamlined and straightforward. Closer to chess than a euro-style game, but maybe fine-- reminds me a little of Acquire. Puzzled by the fact that the rulebook doesn’t show the whole board, which makes it hard to understand how gameplay would actually end up working.
Ice Fortress3517810Super cool premise and mechanics. Like the concept of elemental weapons and a 3D board. Rules could use more examples and diagrams, especially beause its such a unique idea and help visualizing it would be useful. I'm still intrigued enough to want to figure it all out. Glad there's a 'simple' variant included.
Primordica3416126Refreshingly clear distillation of gameplay to populating, murdering, and moving, especially compared to a more elaborate game like Dominant Species. Art looks simple but clear, and the rule book has great diagrams. I like the little blurb on the shop page a lot, it doesn't try too hard but it definitely makes me want to play. A little turned off by how much of the play area is just numbers (stats, points, etc.) and wondering if there might be a more visually dynamic way to represent that information.
Rise of the Horde3313119The description on the shop page pulled me right in. After diving more into the rules, it seems a little too needlessly complex. There's some nice touches though-- I'm attracted to little safeguards like increasing the cost of the dragon so its not used too much. Really glad there's a 'your first game' description. The trailer gives a great little taste of the game. I wish the art was a little more consistent across pieces (flat icons mixed with shaded art).
FRONTLINE: Global Warfare3211129Seems like a totally complete game ecosystem, but with that level of elaborateness it feels a little hard to get started with. A 60 to 80 deck drafted from players taking turns seems like it could take a while to get quick with, though the inclusion of Sample Decks is much appreciated. Rules are extremely thorough from a content perspective, but more visuals would be much appreciated. Perhaps consider an introductory gameplay mode that severely limits the number of cards in play (Dominion's 10-card limit comes to mind as a precedent). The video does a great job of distilling the game to its core elements. Seems like this would have a lot of replay value/ scale up in complexity well with seasoned players.
Race to the Moons301497Impressive complexity level and stages of game play. Inclusion of quick rules and complete rules is appreciated, though I still felt like I needed to read the full 22 pages of rules after the quick rules. I found it difficult to wrap my head around the game, but feel like if I could get over that first hump of comprehension I might love it.
Burglar2910136Really fun art, rules need more examples and diagrams, love the idea of a player who can elect to only play as a fence, wish die rolls didn't limit player action so much; seems like you can have a lot of dead turns beyond control. Strengths of characters are a natural fit for the theme and mechanics and seen reasonably well balanced. For a real burglar, being unable to crack a safe is not likely to be something that they come unprepared for, or would deter them from taking other items. Certainly there are chance factors, but seems like it should be like 'unexpected alarm system' things that you can react to that don't instantly end your turn. The 'experience precedent' mechanic makes sense, but maybe leave it at that. Deterrent cards start to make the theme fall apart. It's a little strange that burglars would reinforce properties, but it's clearly a useful mechanic. One idea: what if during turns where deterrent cards are bring placed, you're actually on the homeowners association or something like that? Kind of a Mafia/Werewolf idea. Like at night you're robbing houses but by day you're protesting how horrible all these robberies are and suggesting security improvements? Just a thought.
Of Kings and Castles2812106King’s bag idea and the concept that you have to make your decisions within the bounds of semi-random constraints is interesting. Love the gameboard - something about that map just makes me want to spend time in that world.
Sasparilla Overdrive279126Excellent title. The art style is fun, but the rulebook needs more illustrations (it’s current lengthy descriptions could be cut down substantially); also the only image of the game board is a tiny one in the components section, so again it’s kind of hard to tell how play would actually go. It really is a beautiful rulebook but being devoid of examples, diagrams, or even visual aids of the pieces being discussed made it hard to wrap my head around how to play.
Hex Mechs Retail2711115The sheer amount of game modes, setup options, and rules are impressive. At a glance it seems like a game like this could suffer from analysis paralysis though-- I would love an app version, but the idea of getting started with this seems overwhelming. I would love having a 'the first time you play' section of the rules. Great art and diagrams.
Blockbuster!2710107Fresh idea, storytelling aspect looks fun. Seems like a print and play version of the game would also work well. Is the board worthwhile here, especially as such a dominant component? Seems like the mechanics could be streamlined a bit (do there need to be points and money and star value?), as it seems to be straight forward set collection but with complications that don’t necessarily add a lot of strategic depth.
Oktoberfest261295Neat concept and very straightforward. Reminds of a cross between Catan and Rum Run. Board looks a little bland with only three land types. Based on the rules I'm not sure I understand the action cards or why recipes matter.
Apogee2611105The mission component is compelling and I like the idea of rocket staging, but I'd be more excited to play this if it felt like there was sense of progress in the game. Like each new mission was going to be a little more complex or interesting than the one before. Example: Galaxy Trucker giving you progressively more elaborate ships and events with each round. Could also use more of a story (or at least story elements in the missions). Why am I doing this? Is this just exploration for the sake of exploration or are their more specific goals? That being said, I like the sort of press-your-luck element that comes from risking greater rewards as you continue missions.
Dinner Rush258134Looks fun for kids. The word 'adorable' comes to mind. Love the gameboard design and general art style. The mission element is cool. The rules are clear, and I appreciate the FAQ, which actually did answer some of my immediate questions. I also love how upset all of the chef player cards look. Hmm... wondering about that method for collecting ingredients though. You're giving me flashbacks to Trivial Pursuit and bouncing back and forth on one section of the board just waiting for the right die roll while everyone around me collects everything. Did you consider removing a little luck from this mechanic? One idea: what if there was a deck with move options and players always have 3 cards, so at any given turn there's a more options for where you could go? Or what if there's two concentric circles that can be moved between, doubling the number places you can go? Too many opportunities for meaningless turns where you're just stuck in waiting. A little more explanation on Apprentices in the rules would be appreciated; I'm sure the relevant Pot Luck card explains it well, but the mechanic isn't clear based on the rules alone.
Dungeon Dash2510114Seems like a good time. Based on the premise, seems like there also could have been a cooperative mode which would add interest. Rules need more diagrams. Boss system seems strong but I wonder how well balanced it feels while playing. Not especially unique theme-- is the board really necessary? Would definitely play as a digital game, as the various item/attribute limits would be easier to track.
General notes:
Really excellent batch of games. Special shout out to Escape from the Zombie Villa, Tides of War, and Galactic Revolution which, despite not even being semi-finalists, intrigued me a great deal and I kept thinking about them over this last month. I've had a ton of fun looking at the all 55 of the entires and I'm looking forward to playtesting the top 7 (I would have requested even more if I could!). I thought it might be useful to give some general feedback, as looking at the entries as a whole I found a lot of the games, depsite clearly having a ton of thought put into them, had some common elements holding them back. Here’s my top 10 tips for what I believe would help many of these games go that extra mile:
1) Use a simple, clean font for rules and important information. Even if it 'stylistically' makes sense to make something look hand-written or old-timey or sci-fiey, for the sake of comprehension prioritize readability above all else.
2) Always be cognizant of the balance between luck and strategy. Some of these felt like every game would likely play out exactly the same every time, and some felt entirely luck-based where the player would have no agency. A game like Diplomacy has no chance elements besides what other players do, but that's very clearly part of the design. Shoots and Ladders or Candyland has no strategic elements and are entirely luck-based, but they're not $60 games or intended to be played by adults.
3) Players should always have something to do, even when it’s not their turn. When it is their turn, they should neither feel overwhelmed by choice nor only feel like they have one option. When I play Power Grid or 7 Wonders I always feel like there's the perfect balance of pre-turn strategy and what to actually do on your turn. In Scrabble I often feel like I'm spending 90% of the game waiting for other players to figure out their turn while I have my word ready to go.
4) The game should feel like it has a progression; the last stretch of the game should feel different from the beginning stretch. Twilight Struggle and Agricola come to mind as games that feed in just the right amount of added complexity as the game progresses.
5) The winner of a game should never be a foregone conclusion. Yes a well-played strategy should be rewarded, but there's nothing worse than bleeding to death Monopoly-style just waiting for a game to end that you know you're going to lose.
6) Rulebooks should include diagrams and examples whenever possible. It’s always great to have a ‘first time you play’ setup for getting up and running quickly, as well as suggested variants for when you might want to mix things up after a few play sessions. And please please please include an image of the game after being set up.
7) I was drawn to games that felt different from anything I've played before. Some of the games submitted felt like less well-developed versions of existing games.
8) I was particularly intrigued by games that I felt I understood the core rules of quickly, but would have a lot of room to develop a strategy. In other words, it's great when a game is easy to learn and difficult to master. Games like Splendor, Dominion, and Acquire come to mind where you can get up and running fast but you're likely to end your first game having a great idea of how you could do better next time.
9) For competitive games, it’s great if when you lose you can still feel like you accomplished something. For example, having something 'built' at the end like Catan, Race for the Galaxy, Agricola, and Castles of the Mad King Ludwig.
10) Because all of these games needed to be in the $50-$60 range, I found myself often wondering if the game is worthy of the price-- does the quality, complexity, and intrigue of the game warrant the cost?
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