Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

RE: [Icehouse] IGDC Summer 2007 Rankings

  • FromScott Sulzer <ssulzer@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateSat, 22 Sep 2007 08:42:17 -0700
Ok, I replied on the MCC Talk page, but I've had a chance to think about it
more.  And, with your explanation, I think I can point to some of the
problems with the game.

1.) You attempted to combine two games which are quite different in their
Martian Chess is largely a strategy game, it is defined when the board is
laid out and there is a "perfect" game which can be played.  A decision tree
can be made and the "best" move for any situation may be determined.
Martian Coasters is largely a luck game, you roll the dice, you take your
chances, and you can't plan too far ahead.

2.) The name, while well researched and perhaps well intentioned, was not
well known to many, perhaps most, of the audience.  Had a bit of "overview"
or storyline been included, it could have easily lent itself to the flavor
and often makes a game more enjoyable.  For an example, see just about any
Inner City Games microgame (Lemmings in Space, Catskills, When Good
Neighbors Go Bad, and the entire War PIGs series among others).  Even if you
never play the game, the game books are great fun to read.

3.) The goal isn't really that clear.  The points are given on any piece you
can still move, so you want to have lots of pieces on your tile as well as
your color pieces out and about when the game ends.  It may be better to
allow points for your pieces still on the board and for the captures you've
made and leave it at that.

4.) The endgame is very hard to achieve.  Even if you capture all of a
person's pieces, they may still move pieces on their portion of the board,
reclaim their own pieces, and/or have a tile/Treehouse die action available
to them to keep the game going.  The game needs a clearer endgame.  I.e.
when a player no longer has any pieces on the board, the game ends.

5.) One of the biggest mistakes I think you made is in your desire to base
your game entirely off of the two other games.  One of the problems with any
game design is what to keep and what to throw out.  In this case, I think
you tried to keep too much of each game, as well as adding new elements
(portalling and re-entry).  Also, if you look at all of the elements of the
two games, some of them work against the elements of the other game.

 - Martian Coasters lets you move a piece if it's your color.

 - Martian Chess lets you move a piece of any color if it's in your
   territory on the board.
Both of these are restrictions of WHAT you may move.  By combining them, you
greatly expand what the available moves are, one of the problems with the
end condition, I think.  Also, Martian Chess has no color definition for
pieces; your pieces are the ones on your portion of the board which is one
of the components of its uniqueness.

 - Martian Coasters lets you change the board.
But Martian Chess uses a static board.

 - Martian Coasters uses the Treehouse die to define additional legal
   actions in a turn.
And Martian Chess has no additional, random legal actions, the actions
available are known before your turn ever starts.

 - Martian Coasters restricts movement based on the arrows printed on
   the board.
And Martian Chess restricts movement based on the type (size) of the piece.

 - Martian Chess has a game-end condition of a player not being able to
Martian Coasters has an end-game based upon the formation of a specific
pattern at a specific location.

 - Martian Chess defines legal moves based on the size of the piece, not
   by a die roll.
I believe you mean the move distance.  Martian Coasters defines the move
distance based upon the size of the piece AND a die roll.

 - Martian Chess has a winning condition based on number of points
Martian Coasters has a winning condition based upon completing a specific
pattern (at a specific location).

As can be seen, some of these "key features" appear opposed to features in
the other game, and these oppositions are working at odds with what, I
think, you were trying to accomplish as well as making the game more
difficult to end.

Ok, ok, enough of that, you also want suggestions for how to make the game
more playable, I think the first step is to remove the victory condition
(points based) and set up a solid end-game condition.  The end-game
condition may even be point based.  For example, once you have captured 10
points (pips) worth of pieces, you win.

However, to make it more challenging, you may have to modify the capture
criteria, such as, in order to capture a piece, you have to "cover" it with
as many or more points as the piece has pips and you cannot capture it with
pieces of it's color.  You might also add that you do not score points for
capturing pieces of your color; you may even score negative points for
capturing your own pieces.

This should help prevent people from either capturing their own pieces to
score points, or being able to use the pieces that start on their coaster
for a capture for points.  I can see one of the first moves being to capture
either the queen of your color or the queen on your coaster for some quick
points and to put another player at a disadvantage.  (First move, capture
the queen on your coaster, second move, capture your own queen, third move,
capture a drone).  Also, capturing a pawn of each color ensures that you are
able to capture anything that stops on a portal (due to re-entry).

Not sure just what should be changed and what you are willing to change.
Hope this helps some, I might have more suggestions, but it's getting late
and I need to get up fairly early.

Scott Sulzer