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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:51:55 AM



Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:51:55 AM
First, I wanted to comment on some trends I saw in the judging. First, a lot of these games are very close to the line between RPG and something else - something like a boardgame. That is, sure one can narrate events for the results indicated, but one can do that in monopoly as well. I think that structure is a fine thing, but it can be taken to the point where the primary act of roleplaying - selecting actions from amongst all those potentially viable for a character - is made moot, or eliminated as an option. This is potentially very problematic in some ways. I think a lot can be blamed on the success of My Life With Master, which might seem to some to be so rigidly structured, but which in play actually leads to a lot of "role-playing."

In other ways, I think we have here just a whole new category of games. Semi-RPGs? I mean, some of these games are going to be a lot of fun to play for what they are.

Also, there were a lot of trends in terms of themes. One would expect trends to hit things like classic fantasy, but instead, for some reason, we see a lot of pacific ocean and pacific rim inspired games. Interesting.

In general, I'm astounded by the quality of the games produced. I expected a lot more of them to be more incomplete, and a lot to have much worse mechanical problems. Instead I find that most are, if not flawless, basically mechanically sound.

This all said, certainly I've made some mistakes in my judging. I may have missed a rule in one game, or misinterpreted something in another. But the rulings have to stand. Each game was given the same amount of consideration, and I think that the analyses have at least a prima facia value to them.

So, without more ado, to the reviews! They are posted in alphabeticall order by title as they were listed in the original thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10762) (yes, this means all of the titles with "the" starting them are together). They were reviewed in random order.

Mike


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:55:55 AM
At the Dawn - Raven
Style: Well, imitating the master is sure to make for good copy. And I think that this is carried over into the mechanics pretty well. Still, I can’t give full points because of the problems with originality. I mean, as an homage, it looks very nice. But I’m not even sure that it would be publishable, and the style might even damage playability in some ways.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Pretty straightforward system, actually. Nifty rollover mechanics for going from one contest to the next.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Descriptive of the sea of the world. Color only.
Ice: refers to the iciness of the elven lands. Still just color.
Dawn: Refers to the Dawn of time for the elves.
Assault: Mentioned barely in the description of what the elves have to do in the age.

Completeness: well, as the text itself says, it’s incomplete. Actually what’s there I think is playable, strictly speaking – we don’t need a monster list. There’s even inspirational stuff about. But I’m not sure that there’s enough in the mechanics to “do” to engage players. The game could use a lot more there.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:56:32 AM
Broken Vows (The Dawn of the Final Judgement) - Dav
Style: skirting the genre of fantasy (it could almost just be medieval horror), and seductive in it’s presentation, the game manages to evoke the feeling of damnation that the characters must suffer through. The lands of the Islands of Between are enumerated in short strokes to be a wondrous place for adventure for the characters in question. The continued presentation in the narrative style threatens to overwhelm the actual game at times, in fact.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the structured pace of addressing one or two of each character’s sins should drive play very effectively. Chargen is simple, yet the combinations of possible linkages in addition to the selected sins and bargains, make for quite well detailed characters.

The resolution system has lots of interesting mixed outcomes, instead of just the normal win/lose success/failures modes (though it requires a chart lookup to determine the result).

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Islands of Between, a sort of Limbo.
Ice: the land of the “sands forever” is actually an ice plain, and one of the traits and associated track is Ice.
Dawn: the characters awaken on their first day in the Islands as the Dawn of their judgement.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: quite complete with two exceptions. One, there isn’t much describing what sort of contests make sense as tests for each sin – some examples at least would be good. In fact, there’s even less on what might happen in between (or do the characters just go from test to test)? Secondly, there’s no indication of how PCs might be thrown together – as written it sounds like a game for one player.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:57:04 AM
Chanter - Jack Aidley
Style: Overflowing with style, chanter manages to bring us a staple of sci-fi/fantasy, the artificial world (though that’s not overt, and it might be a purely fantasy world), in a way that has the sleekness and voluptuousness of a world like Final Fantasy. In some ways completely alien, yet somehow familiar, too. Included is a brief, but yet very evocative cultural overview that delivers the tone of the game’s premises. The chanter culture is reminiscent of knights, and samurai, and many other noble organizations to the point that it becomes it’s own unique thing.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the mechanical resolution system is somewhat like Godlike’s in that it looks for matches. But it improves on that system with it’s “extras” rule, which makes the resolution very interesting in that a “tied” contest may have mechanical results that are applied while the contest is extended. In addition these bonuses effectively become something like a margin of success. The system is simple and intuitive, but produces a lot of result.

Combine this with the overall IIEE of the conflict system presented, and you have a truly outstanding system. Without exaggeration, potentially one of the best ever created anywhere (not just for purposes of this contest). Failure can, at the player’s option remain failure, or he can design a new conflict to move into. Thus the player is never dissatisfied, and the mechanic is self-perpetuating. Most importantly it does all of this incredibly simply and intuitively. No odd director stance control mechanics, and very clear as to who has final say over resolutions.

Chargen is a tad undirected, but given the narrow focus of character types this shouldn’t be a major problem. Character advancement is linked to long periods of time, which forces play to follow a progression over time that seems quite epic in following the rise and decline of characters.

Magic is handled broadly, but not so broadly as not to provide some framework for it’s use.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the attribute of self-reliance. Neat.
Ice: a complex virtue of chanters, the attribute representing it, and indicative of the special contests used to test it.
Dawn: magic associated with the rituals that the chanters perform to bring the return of the sun, and the attribute associated with it.
Assault: the combat attribute.

Completeness: all this, and the game’s only real contribution to answering “what do you do?” is to provide a list of creatures to slay. Well, the culture does seem to indicate a lot of political machinations, but most of this is left up to the GM to determine. Still, with characters as focused as this, and in this setting, even if the game ends up being hack and slash, I think it’ll be very good. I’m also tempted to count the missing explanations of the mysteries of All-that-is against the game, but leaving them as mysteries is probably just fine (as long as there isn’t an intended supplement with the answers!).


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:57:41 AM
Children of the North: Assault on the Frozen Isle of the Lich-Lord - Kirt "Loki" Dankemeyer
Style: manages in a very short space to create a notion of the potential moral conflicts present. But there’s just not very much to support it.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: employs a Trollbabe-like resolution model based on a single number that indicates how good or evil the character is. This mechanic would seem to incentivize taking radical scores as neutral contest will tend to go their way more of the time, and other contests, good and evil being equal, will tend to go their way.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: where the Lich-king lives with his “children.”
Ice: indicative of the northerliness of the Lich-king’s isle.
Dawn:
Assault: The scope of the game is the march north to make the assault on the Lich-king.

Completeness: Not much here besides the setting and the mechanic. Leaves all manner of questions as to what the assault looks like overall, and what sort of fantastic elements are suitable, etc, etc.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:58:09 AM
Dawn of the Day of the Monsters - Crackerjack
Style: more paragraphs needed (which is saying a lot for such a short game)! But that’s a layout issue, so no deduction there really. The game sets a mood of your standard B horror movie, and would do well with it, if not for some problems with coherence in presentation. Worst, the only thing that makes this fantasy, instead of horror is the incongruous inclusion of goblins, with no explanation of their reason for having arrived.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: this is a one-shot, and it seems that the GM basically is supposed to railroad any player action into more, well, action. The rules are a simple freeform contract, but it’s not really clear what the GM prerogatives are – they sound like a reaction to the potential “abuse” that some imagine is extant in freeform play. There are constant contradictions saying that the players shouldn’t start with access to weapons, but then that they might be in the next room, and later that the game should be filled with weapons. Characters can be anything realistic, or not so realistic. It suggests at one point that a group of ninja are OK, but then that characters should be like the ones in disaster movies (in which there are never ninjas). There are some very strange rules about guns that involve things like max number of shots at once – but no rules for rounds or anything.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the characters are trapped on a newly created isle of monsters and want to get off.
Ice: not used.
Dawn: when the characters note their dilemma.
Assault: not used. This puts the game one short on ingredients.

Completeness: well, to the extent that any freeform game is pretty much automatically complete, this one is, too. But there’s one glaring omission that seems odd considering all of the rest of the notes on play. Which is how the game is resolved. Apparently, from what I gather, the PCs just all die, the GM having the duty to prevent their escape no matter what. But that’s just a guess.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:58:40 AM
Dawnstorm - Alexander Cherry
Style: despite some flavor text up front, the game has little flavor. The stats selected are potentially evocative, but because of their handling lose any potential feel. It doesn’t even evoke a vision of what the characters look like.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I can’t see this game promoting much, if any role-playing. It might make an interesting strategy game, but, not only is there nothing mechanical to indicated what the action is like, there’s not even any text. What’s the difference between checking battle and blitz? Other than the player goal of winning the battle, how do I associate anything with my character?

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: The special time at the beginning of time.
Ice: the similie for how time works.
Dawn: Indicating that this is the beginning of time.
Assault: not used (although it’s all about a battle).

Completeness: There seems to be an entire rule about character’s getting to zero backbone (Death?). Other than that, the game is complete in some technical sense, but there is so little to do with so little variability that it’s hard to see it as an entire game. Certainly not as a complete RPG.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:59:01 AM
Dawn-Winds - Piers Brown
Style: Despite the reliance on mechanical description for nearly everything, the fact that those mechanics are all about the structure of play means that you really get the sense of what the game will be like – and it seems pretty cool as far as it goes.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Very hard to estimate. This is one of those games that is so complicated in terms of the long term mechanical interactions that it might work brilliantly and it might not work at all. That is, mechanically the ideas are more than sound, some are quite clever (overall reminds me in a way of the epilogue game from The Awful Green Things from Outer Space). The question is not whether the game is playable, but whether it’s too easy or too hard (impossible) to win. And if it is possible to win, then are there any dominant strategies? Because, despite the disclaimer, this game supports Gamism far more than anything else. If it does work right (or if/when tightened up), it should be a hoot to play from that perspective.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: These are ice.
Ice: Makes up the islands.
Dawn: A nice aesthetic element in terms of visualizing the chase.
Assault: The game is set before the final assault that determines the winners.

Completeness: There seem to be some potential problems with some of the text at the end that leave some ambiguities. I’m not sure, for example how turn rotation works for the assault. I think these are probably easy oversights to fix, but it would have been nice to have them in the text for clarity. Otherwise the game is quite complete in terms of encapsulating everything needed to play mechanically. My only worry is that there will be little narration, and that it will really devolve into just a dicing process. Which wouldn’t necessarily make for bad play, but it would only marginally then be a RPG.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:59:26 AM
Diamonds Are Forever - Redevider
Style: Remarkable amounts of style are generated with only three sketchy settings, and a mechanic to link them. Very elegant. Unfortunately this game might stretch the boundaries of fantasy too far. There’s a suggestion that there may be supernatural elements going on, but none of the game addresses that directly, and play could be entirely non-fantastical. Not a major deduction, and not at all knock on the game outside of the competition.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: What we have here is a collaborative storytelling game that gives a very constricted framework on which to create. That said, enough is left open that the player additions will likely make for very different stories each time. The real question is whether there’s enough there to drive to an interesting conclusion. I think that each card having a unique meaning gives enough inspiration to go on from scene to scene. But there’s nothing to inspire a solution of any sort, other than seeing the cards running out.

Technically the game seems very sound with one small exception – the text indicates that Jokers should be used, but then doesn’t say what effect they have. I’m guessing that they’re completely player choice, and/or, that they match cards that they’re adjacent to. But other cool stuff could be assigned to them as well.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: One of the (in some ways the primary) settings.
Ice: Diamonds but also a stylistic metaphor in other ways. Also putatively the shape of the card formations (this could be tightened), as well. Also relates to the card suit. Superlative use.
Dawn: one of the Heart suit symbolisms. Seems a tad thrown in, so we’ll consider it unused.
Assault: one of the Club suit symbolisms. Tighter use here.

Completeness: Very tight little game. But I think that replayabilty is limited, and that endgame needs something more. That said, one could easily develop new scenes to play between, or assign new values to the numbers and suits to increase replayability.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 11:59:51 AM
Dilmun, the Islands of Dawn: Assault of the Black Ice - Plaskar
Style: tries to evoke a feeling of the grandeur of a battle that originates with the gods. But the details that support play in this way are sparse.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: This is an application of the author’s diceless resolution system. Being generic it doesn’t do much itself to support the implied style of play, but it’s serviceable.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Dilmun is a chain of islands.
Ice: the black ice spread by the invaders.
Dawn: the isles of Dilmun lay at the eastern gates of dawn (which is the source of magic).
Assault: what the insectoid forces are doing to Dilmun.

Completeness: nothing glaring missing, but there isn’t much to support the sort of action that the text implies outside of the suggested archetypes. The magic doesn’t have much detail to give the players a feel for what it’s supposed to look like. Moreover, there’s a large section that deals with the idea of moving between worlds, though this in entirely additional to the original concept of fighting a desperate battle against impossible odds, and seems rather tacked on.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:00:20 PM
Fantasy Icebreaker #1: The Dragon's Lair - Jonathan Nichol
Style: little that’s not supplied by the players. But that’s intentional as the idea is to get people to talk.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: there may be some problems with the timing, and as an icebreaker the game will definitely run a tad long, especially if the group is large. But, otherwise the mechanics are too simple to be broken.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the dragon is on an island.
Ice: well, it’s an icebreaker exercise in theory.
Dawn: the victor emerges at dawn.
Assault: what the dragonslayers do to the isle of the dragon.

Completeness: well, it does what it sets out to do, I think. Does that make it a complete RPG? In some senses, maybe, but in most senses, no. Not that people shouldn’t try this out at their next party, however.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:00:46 PM
Four Walls and a Funeral: Roleplaying Behind Bars - Designer X
Style: Only fantasy in the sense that all RPGs are fantasies. As such it fails the style criteria as it’s completely out of genre. Too bad, as it’s in-your-face feel would have scored well in another competition.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I think that mechanically the system will work well to demonstrate the idea of desperation, and the character’s measure of worth in the prison environment (especially the bidding). What I’m not sure about is whether this’ll be any fun – I think that you’ll tend to see all out maneuvers quite early. But that might be the point. From a POV of wanting to explore the environment, however, I think it would be quite effective in the short run. The skill trees seem a tad abstracted, but if you take that for granted, it certainly should work mechanically.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Rikers Island. A very interesting choice.
Ice: One of the things that you can have running in your veins. Neat metaphor.
Dawn: Refresh point for coins. Seems suitable for the subject matter.
Assault: One of the three skill trees, and a major form of character interaction. Nice.

Completeness: I think that there’s an entire game of a sort here. It’s just that I’m not sure that it can manage to do more than simply make a statement that starts with the GM’s input. No major deduction, but I’m seeing almost more of a short exercise here than a game.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:01:08 PM
Frigid Bitch - Alexander Cherry
Style: Gives me the feeling of a CRPG in some ways, mostly good ones. The closed environment serves to fix play and has a sort of set piece feel to it that makes the whole thing seem like you’re examining events in a pretty little snow globe.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I think that the mechanics will work out fine, propelling characters from point to point, and leading eventually to a set end. Which I think will be more or less satisfying in a strongly Gamist way. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much role-playing will occur. One could play just rolling dice from end to end it seems to me. There is no place where setting a scene is indicated, just selection of challenges and whatnot, and the roll appropriate to them.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Descriptive of the castle amongst the trees. Pretty, but not a strong use.
Ice: The Ice queen is the central goal of the game.
Dawn: When the task has to be accomplished by, or the PCs end up captured.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: Again, it has everything needed to play an entire game, but fairly little depth in some ways. More resolution options that change around than MLWM, but do they promote any sort of real color role-playing in play?


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:01:30 PM
G A N A K A G O K --- DAWN BREAKS UPON THE ISLAND OF ICE - Bill White
Style: there are some interesting contradictions, like the Inuit naming combined with Maori term mana, but in the end it all ends up somehow creating a “vaguely Polynesian” sort of aesthetic that seems to fit life on a fantastic iceberg of magic. The implications of the ancients and ghouls lend an interesting flavor to the whole.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Village creation as a part of set up is an interesting mechanic. It means that play will be centered around the social interactions of a group of people automatically. And the metaplot (actually just a timeline of events, it would seem), should act to drive play forward in a consistent manner.

The resolution system in combination with the rigid and limited character definition provides interesting mechanical outcomes, and the game has nifty rules for resource management that have the capacity to extend beyond the implied limited resources. It also provides a simple gambling mechanism that looks like fun to use. And it’s open-ended enough to make most situations interesting in the mechanics of the resolution (while still staying very simple). Lastly, the GM is allowed to link failures to the metaplot, thus making any action potentially fateful (meaning that each has to be considered carefully, and one can’t just go off half cocked and do a jillion things).

The hunting rules make one want to organize a whaling party. The recovery rules add a lot of color to what otherwise tend to be dull contests in other games.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Ganakagok is the island
Ice: Ganakagok is the island of ice
Dawn: the passing of Ganakagok into the warmth, and thus it’s impending end.
Assault:

Completeness: there definitely could be more material covering the sorts of elements that can be included in the Metaplot, and notes on how to pace it out. Spirit Journeys could be fleshed out somewhat in terms of what they look like, and how they occur. Similarly mana use could have been described a bit better. Also, it would have been better for trading if there had been some rules as to what successes bring – leaving it to guesswork seems likely to cause “economic problems.” This sounds like a lot missing, but actually each represents a small addition to what is actually a fairly complete game.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:02:01 PM
God Lore: The Chronicles of the Immortals - Asrogoth
Style: reminds one of the computer game Populous or the like, as the players play gods altering the landscape of the world that they rule over. The elements that they rule over seem a tad stretched to make three of the ingredients fit. But otherwise the game does a fine job at keeping the action heady. In fact, it does this so well, it almost moves into another genre of it’s own, separate from fantasy (metaphysical?).

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: It’s hard to say if all the agglomerated mechanics will work together really well – playtesting definitely needs to be done. But assuming that they do, the system provides a good assortment of tools to simulate the powers of gods. In fact, the only real potential problem is drift to gamist conflict amongst the gods in which case there may be some slight incentive for “first strike.” Other than that, the mechanics seem very solid.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the soil and rock that stabilize the world and support plant and animal life
Ice: the solid essence of life-nurturing water, and the freezing death of the chill
Dawn: the power of birth, the blazing sun and the warming fire
Assault: the action that involved attacking another god’s influence.

Completeness: A very complete game for a week, indeed. The only possible shortcoming is that, even with the sample of play, and with a sample adventure hook, one still has to wonder what immortals spend their time doing. All the rules about controlling stuff, and what’s the point? Why do the gods treasure these things, other than the potential damage that loss can do to them as gods. That is, why create anything new if it only becomes a liability? And what’s with all this hierarchy of gods – what does that do? I sense that there’s a lot we’re not seeing in the vision of play.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:02:31 PM
Habakkuk - The Iceberg Ship - Dwayne
Style: Stretches fantasy a bit. Really more of a War/Horror thing with a slightly alternate timeline. Still, it’s a very interesting idea that has a feel all it’s own that’s brought about well by the mechanics.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: hard to say without playing a lot. The mechanics are like My Life With Master to some extent, but more geared towards simply telling the strange tale of the Habakkuk. Player interaction is higher than MLWM, and if they work correctly, the game should produce startlingly effective play in terms of driving hard on the subject material in the narrative.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the ship is described as more of a floating island.
Ice: what the ship is made of, and potentially the source of a lot of complications.
Dawn: one of the ship destinies, representing the onset of endgame.
Assault: presumably what the island is used for, assaulting the Germans.

Completeness: Quite complete not only to play but in providing a lot of direction. The only quibble is that the cross-genre isn’t really that easy to imagine. If it were just horror, or just WWII, then no problem. But being about both and trying to mix them together might require some more notes and perhaps some inspirational footnotes (I keep thinking of the original version of The Thing, for some reason). The only other critique is that replay value of the game is likely zero.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:02:55 PM
ICE - Christopher Weeks
Style: There seems to be a mobile aesthetic to the game that’s supposed to be conveyed by the mechanics. Somewhat like Sorcerer. While that aesthetic sounds somewhat interesting, I’m not sure that the mechanics will actually produce that aesthetic consistently.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: There are a couple of problems. The main question supposedly asked by play is whether a person can use their Ice well, and not end up an island. The problem is that there’s no advantage at all to using the Ice dice over any others. A player can just constantly put them back in the bag, and never have to face the consequences, and can still get exactly what they want. The ice dice allow descriptions to have a “fantasy” tone, but don’t otherwise provide any advantage. So I can just use my Social dice to talk the person into helping me out, instead of having to use the ice dice to “charm” them.

The rest of the mechanics are a tad confused in presentation, but represent an interesting resolution concept overall. That said, there’s potentially like 20 lead in statements before the referee’s output statement. Which seems like a heck of a lot.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Islandization? Klunky term, but the concept is OK.
Ice: diamonds? The crystalline form of the angels that provides magic power. Ice dice.
Dawn: the dawn of time when the ice was created from the angels, and the state of the ice to which the Guild would like to return the ice.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: Barely complete by letting chargen be completely freeform. There’s nothing here really to tell the referee or players how to set up a scene in terms of making the premise come out. As such, the game really needs a lot more before it’s even really playable, much less driving.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:03:22 PM
IceRunner: a dweomerpunk fantasy setting - John Laviolette
Style: Attempts to bring Cyberpunk sensibilities to a “realistic” fantasy environment. I think that it’s a neat idea, but some of the aesthetics seem forced to fit (the magic concept seems to be reminiscent of a game discussed on the design forum). I think revised edition would be improved by using different terms than the ingredient terms. I’m tempted to deduct for the lack of capitalization (my eyes hurt), but I’m not sure if that counts as layout, which I specifically do not count. And some may see it as a viable aesthetic choice.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The contest system is potentially ingenious (all “unopposed”), but not easy to understand first time through. In general the text needs a thorough editing for clarity, but the ideas are sound. Magic, once understood seems pretty cool.

One technical point is that I can’t discern any difference between rolling over points, and applying them at the moment. It seems like a pointless division.

Overall, I can’t decide if the gameplay sections will suffice to create the style of game sought. Somewhat preachy about ways to get narrativism out of play, I’m not sure if the system supports that goal. Seems abashed at best, which may have been the goal

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: The “terrain” of the astral plane that sorcerers can create. Nifty concept, but not expanded on at all.
Ice: The central commodity of the game, and used in the title. On the other hand, Ice in cyberpunk refers to security programs, so the analogy is odd.
Dawn: Not used.
Assault: Simply one of the classes.

Completeness: At over 9,000 words, the game isn’t missing any crucial elements to be sure. Still, I wonder if the gameplay sections will effectively create an answer to the “What do you do?” question.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:03:53 PM
Island at the Dawn of Time - Alexander Cherry
Style: An interesting motif in which the PCs are the first humans creating the world by naming it. The text is too short to really give it any specific feel, however, other than just a grand blank slate.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the text is hard to extract the rules from, but it seems that there are a few problems. One is that it appears that it’s likely that the ice will unmake everyone right off the bat leaving no winner and little play. The guessing game seems to be sort of pointless (why not just roll), and it might allow player collusion. On the other hand maybe that’s intentional as part of not allowing things to end up al being unmade?

There’s an interesting concept here, but it needs work to be effective.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the place upon which the first people begin.
Ice: the ice that covers everything from the long night, from which creation must be torn.
Dawn: the game is played at the dawn of time with the first people. Also the first phase of each day/turn.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: even if the mechanics were fixed up, there’s another problem in that there’s a real question of what the narration will look like. Or will it just be players listing the things that they’re making or seeing in order to include them in the narration. Also, mechanically, there’s no strategy at all, really, except determining how many things to guess on. Which has a dominant strategy which will soon be determined. So a number of things need to be added to the design to have a completely playable game.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:04:18 PM
ISOL - Darcy Burgess
Style: the game solidly establishes the style of the subject matter, which is the juxtaposition of adult comprehension in a world of childhood fantasy.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the only support for the themes is the story dice. Outside of that, it’s up to the players to invent all of the color and situations that lead to the character’s redemption. There might be something subtler going on, but I’m not seeing it. Other than that, it’s just a very simple resolution mechanic.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the setting as represented by a piece of paper on the table.
Ice: represented by the Glacier, and the track for it on the sheet.
Dawn: represented by the Horizon, and the track for it on the sheet.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: technically complete, the game’s framework is really very much next to nothing to promote the sought after style. It just seems to be missing something that would wrap up all of the mechanics in a more complete cycle or framework.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:04:43 PM
Polaris - Ben Lehman
Style: the game goes to some lengths to establish the shivering cold style of a culture living at the pole of their planet, and the strange seasonal effects thereof. The setting notes are very evocative, and maybe even somewhat overdone in tone.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: It’s possible that the culture will be so alien that players might not be able to answer questions like why their character is drawn to being a knight. That is, if you don’t know what the other options are, how can you make a relativistic choice? The example traits help a lot here, but maybe not quite enough.

More importantly, where’s the answer to the “what do you do?” question? I take it that knights fight demons and police, depending on the seasons. But are the PCs a “party”? Are their stories even interconnected? Just as the culture is difficult to envision, the action is difficult, too.

The IIEE is extremely arcane. I think this is both the strength and weakness of the game. If people can commit to understanding it, and dealing with it, I think that, as a resolution engine, it’ll be really powerful. I’m just not sure that people will feel the point of all of the rigmarole. What does having the moons say about how things come out? The Byzantine nature will only be appreciated if people “get it.” I’m not sure how often that’ll happen.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: off hand comment – assuming unused for these purposes.
Ice: Snow Drop City was made of ice. And there was a snow queen. Now the people live in towers of ice in a land of ice, and are plagued by an Ice Maiden. Three PC stats are either Ice, or ice related. Ice, ice, ice, ice, ice.
Dawn: the light that, one way or another, melted Snow Drop City. Representative of Summer. Also a PC stat.
Assault: Mentioned in the setting color a couple of times.

Completeness: Again, some areas are amongst the most through entered. And yet it still doesn’t matter to convey the full sense of what play is about, somehow. What about the big questions? What’s actually happening with the Mistake? Is some “ragnarok” coming for these people? There seems to be a pressure to do something, but little inspiration as to what.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:05:19 PM
Seadog Tuxedo - Jonathan Walton
Style: The game has a silly style that it nails down well without dwelling on it overlong. I’m seeing this as something that I may play with my kids. There’s something in me that wants to rebel against the silliness, but it’s nothing that I can deduct points for. It skirts the edges of fantasy, but I couldn’t classify it any other way. Overall, I give it significant style points for managing to marry an innovative design, and unusual content.  

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I think that the basic mechanics will work in terms of being able to resolve events. A couple of concerns. There seems to be no limit on how often a player can call out another player other than if they’ve just swigged. It sounds like this might lead to a lot of challenges flying all about, meaning that it’s possible that the only way to get anything done is via Dawnwine.

Now, if the GM is playing all the NPCs, does he get a shotglass for each? If so, then making them all able to avoid challenge is going to get the GM drunk mighty quick, neh? Also, the die system seems unnecessarily complicated.  Why not just roll one die, challenger needing to get higher than the challengee? By two if they’re both under the effects of dawnwine? Lastly, who decides if some action violates the Cuteness and Decentness strictures and the like? Big “buck” problems, potentially here and elsewhere.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Actually portrayed by coasters on a table, and the main terrain of play that interacts mechanically with Ice.
Ice: Actually portrayed by ice cubes, with a mechanic revolving about their melting speeds. Nifty.
Dawn: Could have as easily been Zenithwine or something. Still it’s in there and linked to the sun priests.
Assault: Not used.

Completeness: Hard to say. Worth playtesting to find out, however. Basically, can a game that’s almost entirely about event structure (with the exception of the one idiom per character) provide enough impetus for players to be creative and come up with a story? I can’t deduct any points because I think that it’s theoretically complete. Whether it’s complete in play is another matter.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:05:45 PM
Snow Day! - or Fort Joey Must Fall! - Hans Christian Andersen
Style: Childhood solipsism ala Watterson. Executed well through the mechanics and structure of the game. Who knew when we’d debated the concept of a post-modern RPG that it would be delivered in this format. Everything in the game is evocative of the exact feel of a snow day. At one point the text says, “because snow days are like that.” And they are.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the snowball fight as the solution for consensus is brilliant. It means that you can disagree if you like, but that it ends up sapping your strength.

The structure isn’t at all stifling, instead leading to opportunities to play out childish challenges. It doesn’t force a certain path, but instead gives options that can lead anywhere the players want, really. The simple resolution system is philosophically complex, and fun to contemplate. With just a few environments set up, the options seem multitudinous. Probably because, for a child, going for cocoa is a momentous event.

One small clarification – if you go for cocoa, shouldn’t you get all of your slush points back? I mean it’s warm, and you could just refill your thermos over and over until you were fine, right? Or would a kid forget to do that in his eagerness to get back out there?

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Hawaii? OK.
Ice: Not just the snow, but the ice spikes guarding Ft. Joey that are impenetrable without a cunning plan.
Dawn: when the warm Hawaiian climate returns and melts it all.
Assault: an Assault on Ft. Joey is the main goal the PCs have to accomplish.

Completeness: Definitely a one-shot, but contains everything needed to do it just right. Gold Stars seem to be a tad undefined, but if you just look at them as a score, then they have precisely the right weight of a childhood reward.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:06:19 PM
Snow From Korea - Shreyas Sampat
Style: Typical of the author, the text drips style. The aesthetics of the mechanics are very well matched to the subject material. Despite the somewhat obscure reference material, the tone of the game is delivered effectively and consistently. And in an approachable manner, not one overdone or patronizing.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The game is simple and straightforward. Very geared to Gamism, I worry that there might not be enough meat to engage the players for long (I think that maybe six instead of ten encounters might be a better minimum, especially depending on the number of characters). It seems likely that players will tend to challenge each other with their superior abilities at each opportunity – there doesn’t seem to be a downside, and it would be giving up an opportunity not to do so. It would make more sense if there was some potential downside to challenging (besides the chance of losing).

Adding in all of the optional rules would add only slightly to the strategy, but adds a lot to color. I personally wouldn’t play without them. Also, even with this extra detail, I’m not seeing too much of the role-playing aspect.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Refers to one of the three modes of addressing encounters.
Ice: Snow is ice, I guess. Not necessary, however, given the clever use of the other three.
Dawn: Refers to one of the three modes of addressing encounters.
Assault: Refers to one of the three modes of addressing encounters.

Completeness: Very complete for what it attempts to accomplish. Can’t be missing anything. That said, again, I’m not sure that it has enough stuff to make even an engaging Gamist game for long, much less supporting a lot of role-playing. Note that even playing this together with it’s sister game “Whispers in the Door” I don’t think that it adds quite enough. But a very complete game with all of it played together.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:06:49 PM
Terminator Line - Role-playing at 1700 kph - James Sterrett
Style: Somehow the game manages to incorporate the speed feel into the normal course of play in terms of the tension. So play doesn’t actually occur at speed – but you’ll feel the same pressure as though it was. At least that seems to be the idea.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I think the pressure elements are all there, but there’s a huge, gaping problem. The play is supposed to have some moral quandaries posed by it somewhat like Sorcerer (the mechanics are taken directly from it). The problem is that the only question asked for the entire game is, are you willing to do X in order not to die. I think as soon as a player decides to play a machiavellian character, to make it to the end, the tension will all be gone. It’ll just be an exercise in rolling to see if he can accomplish the next GM assigned depredation in order to get to the end.

And I think this will be common. After all, the people who you are assaulting, or otherwise screwing are going to die very soon. In a way you’re saving their culture. Further, all of the required sacrifices are just stuff. Either these people are going to be leaving soon, and not need the stuff, or they’re going to die, and not need the stuff. So it’s hard to even see the dilemma. I think at most you’re going to see a lot of “you or me” decisions.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Play is hopping from one island to another.
Ice: not used.
Dawn: the terminator line itself, representing certain death and the end of the game.
Assault: A potential, if unethical way of dealing with locals met.

Completeness: I think that everything that’s needed to basically play is present. But I’m also just as sure that the game needs something else in order to make the potential dilemmas come to light. One of the options is the notion that the spirits might be lying. There might be some way to leverage to make the game about beliefs as well as values, and come up with a lot more permutations on the potential themes.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:07:21 PM
Terra Australis - Zak Arneston
Style: Sort of a period InSpectres in a way. The game somehow manages to generate a sort of Jules Verne feel in a way, but that’s belied by the actual date of 1691. I think there’s a neat feel there, but a very thinly provided one. Somehow the mechanics support it for me, but I’m not quite sure why.  

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I like the structural elements, but I think there are many problems with the mechanisms as they stand. For example, why spend the RP to keep an item or NPC at zero? When they can be bought new to one for the same cost as raising that Item or NPC back to one?

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the setting is a group of islands. Nice aesthetics use, but hardly necessary.
Ice: Same as Island.
Dawn: Not used.
Assault: Same as Island.

Completeness: Small details need to be filled in. Do the players know the total Mission Points required or are they merely told by the GM when they reach that total? What happens in terms of control when players (inevitably, given the method) tie on successes? What does “succeed” mean in terms of whether or not control of a roll continues to be passed? I mean, if control passes to the player with the most successes, then doesn’t that mean that only he gets to go?

Other than that, I think there’s enough to play from a mechanical sense.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:07:47 PM
The Arabian Nights ON ICE FAMILY SPECTACULAR - Walt Freitag
Style: A wacky multi-layered game, in which the players play ice-skaters telling stories through their art, some of which are stories about telling stories, etc. All in order to, in classic style, prevent the death of Scheherazade. However, it seems as if the Ice-Skating is almost tacked on in order to meet the ingredient list. It’s an interesting choice, but the juxtaposition seems almost more distracting than enlightening. Maybe the game would be better without the ice-skating layer?

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The card play seems somewhat reminiscent of a more complex Once Upon a Time. And it looks like with a good set of cards that you could definitely have a large enough number of permutations that each time you play would be sufficiently different to keep play somewhat fresh. So from that standpoint it seems very effective.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the Island of Serendib, an example expansion pack
Ice: the game is about skating.
Dawn: the time that the game ends when the timer runs out, and when Scheherazade’s fate is determined.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: everything basically needed to play is present (if you assume a card set that would match the quality of the examples). On the other hand, the player has very few choices. And all the choices that they have turn out to have dominant strategies. So, really, the player’s only addition to the game in terms of the narration. Given the time constraints, and the otherwise gamist goal of saving Scheherazade, The narration will potentially suffer to get more play out of the way. So, the combination of mechanics as presented needs some work.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:08:17 PM
The Battle of the Frozen Waste - the game of tolkienist battle- Eero Tuovinen
Style: I haven’t read the Fire and Ice novels, but it seems from what I know of them that these may have been an influence in addition to the explicit Tolkien influence. The system seems like a colorful version of Universalis (and the Judges wonder if they’re being pandered to).

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Took a while to discover meta-conflicts, but when that rule is considered, a lot falls into place – one can see how the fuzzy stuff is all handled. It seems added on late, however, and there are what seem to be older rules about things like voting and the like that seem contradictory.  

The step by step narration and conflict resulting in something like one of those comedy sportz games where the players keep introducing facts that contradict each other seems pretty cool. Especially powerful is how stones that are used to disagree with narration go to the Ambassador, giving strong incentive for players to play well to each other, and to accept narration. In fact, I wonder if it’s too powerful, and might make conflicts non-existent. Which would really throw off the balance of play. Why have conflicts when you can be narrating advantage stones?

Given the scope of the game, the sacrifice rule seems very appropriate.

The death rule seems kinda fuzzy. We know when characters are eligible to die, but is it otherwise just the result of some narrated stone? Similarly, the Ambassador healing rule is somewhat unclear – though I’m not sure how necessary it is in any case. The most worrying thing is that the balance of the game might just fall apart in the final battle – it’s very hard to tell without actually playing, however.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: not used.
Ice: The land of the ambassador is a frozen waste.
Dawn: The time of preparation for the battle.
Assault: a sample meaning for a stone – not a very strong use as it could easily be replaced by attack.

Completeness: A very complete game. The open mechanics allow definition of anything without being bland. For what sounds like a very short game, it’s extremely complete. I’m not sure about the replayabilit, however; even with the suggestions, I think that in the end it’s always going to be a desperate battle against impossible odds. Which is a limiting situation.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:08:46 PM
The Brotherhood - Eero Tuovinen
Style: Seemingly an especially grim version of D&D, the text doesn’t really do a good job of evoking a consistent style (mostly being a negation of other ideas, rather than positive statements). Mechanically, the idea is that you get bonuses for doing things in the grim style, which seems to weakly support narrating in that direction. The Ice mechanic seems to incongruously indicate a somewhat hopeful condition. This may be from a confused reading of the intent of the mechanic, on the other hand. In any case, it doesn’t help the style.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: chargen seems interesting, fascinating, even, but there are some odd cases (like the recognition requirements can’t always be met). They do, however enforce the goals of play rigorously. One small problem is that players can explore the tavern and environs indefinitely – which could end up being an odd completely secondary game.

Resolution looks at first promising, with the danger and hazards, but then they seem to not be followed up upon. In the initial adjusting of Ice values (+/- 1), it doesn’t say which player performs the adjustment. Even more arcane is how one is supposed to keep track of ICE in terms of getting GM OK.

The Ice powers are interesting in and of themselves, including one of the most ingenious resurrection mechanics that I’ve ever heard of.

The structure of play seems to be pretty stable, and I think that the dungeon crawling will go fine. The real question is whether or not the gamism will produce the sorts of behaviors that are supposed to be promoted. There are some real “prisoner’s dilemma” moments amongst the players. The problem is that, as players not experiencing real results, I think that they’ll have no problem avoiding the “sellout” pitfall, and will win out in terms of having loads of power. And the theme desired will be absent. If that analysis is true, then the game needs some real fixing before it’ll be even a good one-shot.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: not used.
Ice: the magic that comes from the bonds of brotherhood (or from the distance?).
Dawn: the time that the assault occurs, and at which the renewal occurs (every 20 turns).
Assault: the characters assault a dungeon.

Completeness: it could be played through to a conclusion, but probably doesn’t provide enough of a gamist challenge to be really interesting. Nor enough oomph in the right places to make for a good narrativist challenge. So it definitely needs some tweaking before it’s really complete.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:09:14 PM
The Dance and the Dawn - Dev
Style: the game quickly establishes a simultaneously delicate and yet sumptuous feel, even indicating the music to play by. This extends into the mechanics and resolution, and, of course, through the uses of the chess elements. Elements are all handled in conjunction with the clock and waltz motifs (without straining to get them to work, in fact). The whole is extremely evocative of the Victorian fairy tale. Slightly morose or nostalgic, but without becoming either heavy-handedly gothic, nor too flighty.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: It would have to be played to be sure, but I see no reason why gameplay will not be fun and tactically interesting. “nearby” isn’t defined, but it’s likely that it means adjacent on the board. At first it seems that the game, like others reviewed, doesn’t necessarily lead to any role-playing, but a closer look reveals that it’s up to the GM to decide what information the Lords give out. This little opening, this one piece of subjectivity, does the game a lot of good. It ensures that it’s not just some mechanical dance, but that the players have to be really creative, at least in certain circumstances.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: the fairy setting represented by the chess board.
Ice: the court is that of the Ice queen, and the isles are of ash and ice. More than just flavor, these influence the style of play, the Ice Queen actually being a piece on the board.
Dawn: the hour when the dance ends as the ice reclaims the queen’s court.
Assault: Not used.

Completeness: there seems to be something missing about how many tokens a lady can carry (though it could mean that she can only carry one). Other than that, the game is complete from end to end. There could be more to inspire more angles of play, but I think that the game accomplishes what it sets out to do in terms of scope very well.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:09:41 PM
The Dangerous Island of Much Treasure and Terror!- Dav
Style: Barely fantasy, this could just be a game of pirates with some supernatural elements. Very little feel overall except for the treasure hunting conceit (which is muddled up by actually playing the spirits trying to get off the island).

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: I think we have an OK game here, just very little game, and I’m not sure that any role-playing will be supported. So I can’t give a lot of points here. But no doubt fun to play as a beer and pretzels game. Not enough strategy for much more than that.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: A dangerous treasure island, natch.
Ice: Not really used (well sorta).
Dawn: When the tide comes in ending things. Neat to think of dawn as an end.
Assault: One of the two main abilities of the Malevolent Spirits.

Completeness: Could use some organization, but I think that it’s not missing anything. Except for a reason to role-play outside of the author exhorting us to describe what happens if we want.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:10:04 PM
The Days and Nights of Onna Oa - Scott Knipe
Style: The combination of WWII imagery with the fantastical spirits is quite striking. There’s also an element of the Lem novel Solaris (the spirits want to connect, but their fumbling attempts are horrific) in this that gives the whole a ton of pathos.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Not a lot of meat to it. The Assault phase generates details about the character, and can leverage them into bad positions for the Dream phase (no tokens). But then it’s all Drama resolution in the dream phase, which doesn’t give anyone much idea of where to go. I’m seeing the game potentially fumbling around a lot at times. Sure the players can use tokens to establish communications, etc. But where will it all lead?

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Onna Oa, the delightfully grotesque island where the action happens.
Ice: not used (refreshingly).
Dawn: a special counter that indicates which phase is in effect. Important as a reminder that it can be turned at any time by any two players in the night phase.
Assault: the attacks of the Japanese each day, and the phase of play that represents it.

Completeness: I don’t think that there’s enough inspiration here to reach an endgame. As it stands the game almost implies that the marines will be here forever. Without going somewhere, it’s likely that the cycle will become monotonous after a bit. Provide a little more here, and this could be quite a game.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:10:35 PM
The Fall of Atlantis and the Dawn of Human History - Eero Tuovinen
Style: Has a nice feel of the span of a civilization, and I think the play supported will be unique in some ways in how it applies to that. Reminds me of a game available on the net called Evolve (if I recall correctly), in that play is interactive between players, and about species survival over time. Also, of course, Aria. Stylistically, I think the game has huge potential that some serious revisions might achieve.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The main problem I see is that the rules for donating dice and adding bonuses are very abstract. Basically give dice for whatever you want. This is mitigated by the fact that they aren’t really there to buy success, so much as to build tension up before the roll (which seems pretty cool). But I think that the game would still operate better if there were some ideas about what should merit a reward, and mechanical handling of these things. If nobody donates any dice, then the game goes nowhere. I don’t think that this will happen, but why not provide a bit more framework?

Other points -
Handling time for all of this seems like it’ll be high (the game suggests practice to get people up to speed).
Vignettes could use more explanation, because this is what I think will keep the game being more of a epic RPG than just some odd game of Civ (that and begging for dice).
Why not make Colonization a full category on par with the other selections?
Disintegration would best be recorded as a drop of an Atlantean Stability score. Would make calculating delegation bonuses simpler.
Most importantly, unless I’m missing something staving off the eventual fall seems pretty easy to me as the game exists currently. Especially if there are lots of players. I sense that I may be misreading somehow.

These critiques aside, I think the overall engine is really neat.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: Atlantis is an island. Classic use.
Ice: the overarching problem of Atlantis, and therefore a potential endeavor of the PCs to defeat it.
Dawn: Purportedly about the start of human existence, this works as an exercise. But play is all about the fall.
Assault: another recurring problem that the PCs can address (human incursions).

Completeness: as noted, the game kind tails off. Once Atlantis is gone, then what? It might have been better just to make that the end of the game. But there’s lots to contemplate in any case on the way to the downfall, so quite complete from that angle.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:11:02 PM
The MOUNTAIN WITCH - timfire
Style: the game tries to set up a feeling of isolation and desperation of a group of men relying on each other to kill a supernatural bad guy. The destiny cards should serve to help this feel, but, lacking mechanical backing may fail in play. The text of the game becomes more concerned with being deliberate with the mechanics than ensuring that they reinforce the style of play. On the other hand, the play structure should help some, and if the players play to the intended style it should be interesting.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The IIEE is excellently crafted, but it uses far too much jargon. Most readers won’t be able to make heads nor tails of parts. The trust mechanics provide a very interesting twist on player control that feeds into the premise of the game. It may be, however, that the player conflict of interest in setting prices for actions may lead to a breakdown in economics. The concept is intriguing, however.

The fate concept is interesting, but ends up merely being inspiration with no mechanical requirements. What if a player chooses to just ignore their fate? There seems to be some incentive in what fate allows you to control, but no real guidelines on where that control starts and stops. Zodiac, on the other hand, does have some mechanical effect, but it’s not lasting, only affecting the beginning of play (and players could collaborate to get optimal results).

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: not used (well, Japan is an island, technically).
Ice: the mountain witch is cold, and, as such, may even be made of ice.
Dawn: when the assault of the mountain begins.
Assault: what the PCs are up to in the game, assaulting the mountain witch’s fortress.

Completeness: the monsters and structure framework are interesting, to be sure, but there really isn’t much telling the GM what sort of conflicts he should include. Which might not be a problem, except that there will need to be many rolls that have to be made before the trust mechanics really kick in with any effect. Other than this the game is mechanically complete.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:11:25 PM
Trouble in the Island Kingdoms - Rich Forest
Style: meant to play like a “platformer” game, I think that the game approaches this pretty well. I think play will feel like the intended material. Perhaps too much in some ways.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Hard to say. I think that it’s all mechanically sound, but, sans the visuals, will the simple mechanics be engaging for more than fifteen minutes? I say this in part because of the lack of progress in terms other than stages. Play just seems to be more of same, more of same, outside of the GM description. In fact, the challenges don’t get any harder, the bosses don’t get harder, and the rewards all remain identical. And when you beat the final boss, most motes wins? Seems sorta anticlimactic.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: The adventures take place on the island kingdoms. Which suits the material in classic fashion.
Ice: Used in a lot of the examples, and, indeed, a common environment for platformers.
Dawn: not used.
Assault: What the boggies are doing, the main source of antagonists.

Completeness: Seems to miss a number of the clichés from the source games. It’s not missing anything needed to play, but I think playability would be greatly enhanced by not only the suggested “race” expansion, but any number of other additions.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:12:00 PM
Whispers in the Door - A Snow From Korea variation - Shreyas Sampat
See Snow From Korea. Essentially the same game with switched gender roles and appropriate skills and conflicts.


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:12:37 PM
Wizards of Ice and Twilight v1.0 - Alan Barclay
Style: reminiscent of Earthsea, the PCs are wizards in a world filled with bucolic islands. The mechanics strive to get at a feeling of the cost of magic, but don’t quite get there. Further, play is supposed to be about fighting chaos and “shadows,” but there’s little inspiration in the text to give players an idea of what that should all be about.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: the mechanics will work, in general, being a simplified form of Sorcerer “free and clear” and HQ extended conflicts. And the “structure” rules give definite targets for play. Also there’s a very clear section on IIEE matters. Still, with all that, it somehow still seems cobbled together somewhat. Most importantly, the “cost” of doing magic seems to be somewhat ineffectual in that the result seems to be easily avoidable.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms
Island: a whole world of islands.
Ice: one of the cardinal points of the world and magic.
Dawn: one of the cardinal points of the world and magic.
Assault: not used.

Completeness: Given that the game is mostly centered on magic, there is little there to vary magic effects from any other. Just some notes on the required pace for magic use, and the requirement that all wisdom dice be used when using magic (why one wouldn’t use them all is a mystery). In addition, despite all the notes on the framework for play, there’s not much saying what to apply it to. That is, it’s one thing to tell the reader to use bangs, and another to indicate what makes for a suitable bang in the game in question. What sort of action should happen?


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:22:09 PM
Now for the runners up. With this many entries, I included three runners up.

Third Runner Up: G A N A K A G O K --- DAWN BREAKS UPON THE ISLAND OF ICE - Bill White
An interesting interttwining of rules to support an interesting concept, the game has lots of potential.


Second Runner Up: Snow Day! - or Fort Joey Must Fall! - Hans Christian Andersen
Light, and lighthearted, but without failing to provide all the support that such a game really needs, a failure that many other designs might make.


First Runner Up: The Dance and the Dawn - Dev

A very tight, yet complex little game that manages to incorporate all of it's motifs in elegant mechanical ways while providing for interesting gameplay.


And the winner is..........


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:26:29 PM
The new Iron Game Chef - Fantasy is:

Jack Aidley

for his game Chanter.

One could probably tell from the review, but Chanter is well presented, exceptionally complete, mechanically intriguing, makes great use of the inspirational material, and manages to show Jack's integrity in it's well considered design.

Congratulations Jack!


Title: Iron Game Chef Reviews and Results
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 04, 2004, 12:29:14 PM
Thanks again for the incredible participation!

Please post comments about this thread to to other threads that refer back to this one.

Mike