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"Iron Game Chef" Lives!

Started by Mike Holmes, October 09, 2002, 04:20:05 PM

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And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!

Seriously, I was about to go over to Site Discussion and pronounce a thousand blessings upon the head of the Forge crashing after I posted my game, not before.

Was it really my fault?

Oh and naturally I think Raven's game should be in.  There but for the grace go I.

-Vincent, accidental m4d h4x0r

Mike Holmes

Yes, Raven's entry will be accepted. All seems kosher.

Stepping OOC now, because this is too overwhelming to stay IC. That is to say, gentlemen, this is impressive beyond my greateest expectations. With the couple of last minute entries, we have here what look to be several very good games. All created in less than one week.


Anyhow, to answer Fang, I would like the luxury of bing able to test them all. That would be the most sound means for judgement. But I promised a winner in a couple of days, and I'm going to have a doosey of a time just reading these analytically, and making a fair decision.

Anyhow, I will be declaring a winner. But I think that every entrant should be proud of the games they have posted. These are all good enough for free distribution, and most of them could be sold with a bit of production and post-playtest tweaking. Which, again, is a level of quality that I could hardly have anticipated.

So, I'll stop gushing, and get on to the judging! May the best game win!

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Emily Care

<wiping tears out of her eyes, laughing>
Thank you so much, all chefs, and inhabitants of Cooking Arena.  Your viewers have been enjoying the battle, banter, and now the tasty treats you've served up.

Bravo! Bravo!

--Emily Care
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Mike, is this a good place to end the thread? Meaning that winners will be announced in a new one? You tell me.


Jonathan Walton

Actually, can we start a new thread, to discuss the designs themselves?  Mike would have to ignore it, of course, until he's finished deliberating on a winner, but I'd really like to both give and recieve feedback on the results of this experiment.



{...wiping the soot from his exploding stove off his face...}

A hearty agreement here with Jonathan: I wouldn't mind discussing the designs and what this experiment taught everyone about designing a game and themselves. I know I learned a whole bunch.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Blake Hutchins

Bravo to all the fine chefs.  Bravissimo! *cough* I've had to have a dental saliva sucker installed at my desk, given the oh-so-mouth-watering succulence of this thread.



Mike Holmes

I suggest that anyone who wishes to discuss should indeed start a new thread.

I will announce the winners here, in this thread, momentarily (I've spent the last several hours making my analyses). My results are not subject to deabate here, though anyone who wants to talk about them should certainly start a new thread, or reference my comments in otehr threads.

That said, lets start with this:

Non Competitor Honorable Mentions
First, let's give a round of applause for Gareth Martin's Bones technique, and At the court of King Suliman. The former looks like an interesting mechanic to add to other RPGs. The latter I considered actually considering as a RPG. I think that it could be seen as a challenge to what the Gamist borders of RPGs are. Since this might be controversial, however, we'll go with the author's wishes regarding it's nature, and just congratulate it on being an interesting study. Matt, you ought to write that up more clearly and post it again.

Also, I'd like to say that Animal Moot was showing some promise before Zak dropped out. The whole physical layout numerology thing looked fascinating. Finish that at some point Zak.

Now on to the game analyses of the seven entries. Each will have it's own post, followed by a final post that summarizes the results. All the judgments below are my opinion, and may well be incorrect. I feel I have given due diligence to each, however, and the results are considered final for purposes of the competition (though I fully expect to get lambasted elsewhere for my treatments).

The assessments are alphabetical.

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Mike Holmes

Court of Nine Chambers, The
Author: John Laviolette

Style: Wow, what can I say. Employs Platonic Sphere-ism, and Surrealist art to create a metaphysical atmosphere. The game is about motifs and creating works of art. This all drips with style.

The text is clear and while it does not add tremendously to the feel, it certainly doesn't detract from it, either. The feel of the game comes right through to the reader.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: The mechanics all seem to work beautifully together. The only thing that I worry about is that the game will be too close. But I think I'm not seeing the full pattern of play as it might emerge. For example, I wonder about what sort of things will happen in Daytime (Day Phases, reminds me of Magic Realm). Will people focus on it enough to get a lot done? Also I worry about single-minded strategies. Are they easy to disrupt? Or will they take the game. If the latter, we may never see the defensive techniques like Critiques.

That said, the options for allies, and such make these things wide open. The way the terms functionally combine to make useful elements of play (Iconic Ally = Model) is superb. These functional combinations are numerous enough that play will never become a stale selection of similar mechanics to cover the multitude of potential actions a character might take. Instead, players will be looking for new ways to apply the different combinations.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Africa – Incorporated only in the background. Still, the whole does seem to evoke the atmosphere of Northern African aesthetic of ethereal existence, and so no major deduction.
Art – What can one say? A game centered on making Art. The inclusion is about as effective as possible.
Court – The abstract Court of Nine Chambers is the central playing field. Creative and effective.
Numerology – The numerology of the game ties together the whole concept of play. Well done.

Included all four. So we'll drop any deductions for Africa, and say that the combined use of all of the Keywords was nothing less than inspired.

Completeness: There are a few slight ambiguities here and there, but overall John has nailed the lid down quite well on these mechanics (I sense that some of the "Other Actions" were added late to account for some of these circumstances). With the plethora of actions, and the additions suggested in the Advanced Rules, I think that players will have no trouble figuring out what to do with this game.
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Mike Holmes

Eclipse of the Masked Continent
Author: Fang Langford

Style: Can't do much better to evoke Africa than to evoke Burroughs. The idea of an Adventure Serial being "tragic" seems counter to the normal mode, however. In fact the entire thing seems a bit thrown together (no doubt an artifact of trying to get all the elements in). So, some points for genre, but not too many.

Having players draw something for the Mask cards is stylish, and invokes the Tweet idea of linking people more closely to the game via creation of visual art. I was on the fence about the Court of Masks thing at first, but I'm visualizing it now almost like a video game cut to battle such as you might find in Final Fantasy. Which works.

Isn't it hard to avoid saying "there is no GM"? Still, negative statements are to be avoided. Very minor deduction.

A worse deduction comes from the organization of the rules making it very difficult to make out what was supposed to be going on in play. Only several re-reads got the idea through. And even then, I'd be asking Fang a lot of clarifying questions.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: There seems to be an inconsistency in CharGen. Fang says that a character must have as many conflicts as syllables in his proper name. He then gives the name Stallion with three syllables and says that there should be four conflicts. Otherwise CharGen seems pretty straightforward, mechanically.

Resolution seemed broken to me until I read in the glossary about the majority vote to veto. This, BTW, means that two player games are probably not possible (players would be completely on their honor).

The mask numerology seems to be pretty cool, but it seems like a lot of work. That you'll be recalculating a lot as a result of play. I like the numerology, but I wonder if it will slow play so much as to make it a bit dull. On the whole, it's going to be impossible for me to estimate whether or not the card-play would work, but I see no glaring problems. I do suspect though that there are some "best" strategies that will emerge. Worse, is the gaminess that players can inflict on each other. Players could just choose Names for Complication primary thingies that were like XWQG. With no vowels there will be no way to make words. I assume that this is all supposed to be handled by the afterthought voting mechanic.

I think it'll work. But I also think that it would be greatly benefited by some serious play testing, as it's too complicated to tell if it'll all hang together just looking at it.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Africa - Very well incorporated. The game is all about the essence of Burrough's Mythic Africa (Deepest Darkest Afirca ;->  )
Art – The Masks embody this very well.
Court – Not addressed
Numerology – Very well represented. Maybe too well.

Three terms used, no deductions.

Completeness: I think that the game is certainly complete. It doesn't need any more elements. It may, however, need to have those elements seriously tweaked. I hesitate to make a deduction for a highly experimental design, however. So, I give it high points for this category.
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Mike Holmes

Author: Palaskar

Style: I'm a sucker for all things Egypt. And this game is soaked in Egypt. It's an alternate history that I've not seen, one that allows for all the feel of the ancient world while allowing for worldwide play. I'm not sure if the Signature system is really right for this feel, but it's not terrible either. Actually, in a way, I can sorta see the ancient mathematics in it. If that were emphasized, it might actually add to the feel.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Well, I'm assuming that the Signature system has been playtested. But as such, it's not really a new part of the game, and I can't award a lot of points for its use here. Still, the system intrigues me, and I'd like to see it in play.

The magic system, however, is just left freeform, essentially. That is, there is a lot of subjectivity in determining what can happen. This might be good for certain styles, but for Gamism this is not going to work very well, IMO. Players will feel bad when they attempt something and it fails. The text implies that this is how this works. As a player I'd always ask before trying an effect. If the GM refused to give answers, and then shot down what I thought were reasonable effects, I'd be very disappointed. I think most players react the same.

In fact, while I think that the game overall will work pretty well as Sim exploration of Setting, I think that it's pretty weak on the Gamism.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Africa – Egypt, Africa, all the same to me. Good use.
Art – Art as skill. Very creative use.
Court – Ahh, the court of the Pharaoh. Very evocative, and a good way to centralize the play.
Numerology – Not addressed.

Three terms of four, no deductions. Nice applications to get the game that Palaskar wanted.

Completeness: It seems to me that everything is present mechanically. However, I worry that the players will not have much direction. While they are centralized well, what sort of action occurs? Is this to be about internal intrigue, or external threats? Still, there's a lot of material for the GM to work with, and he should be able to prepare lots of challenges for he players.
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Mike Holmes

Pale Continent, The
Author: Jonathan Walton

Style: First, I have to comment on Jonathan's choice of subject material. In this age of anti-Moslem sentiment it was a bold choice to create a game where the protagonists were all Islamic. I won't go into the politics of this, or my personal takes on these things, but he scores extra points in my book for making this choice.

The map of the world is nifty looking. But it would be cool if somehow it could be used for something in the game, but alas that wasn't included. I was thinking that a suggestion to make your own city maps would be cool, and to have inter-city conflicts, etc. But again that wasn't there. The map that is provided is very cool looking, however. Still, I was hoping for some comment on how to use the map to indicate terrain, etc. The only thing we got in that vein was the idea that characters starting at the walls were just returning from somewhere. I long to have it possible for them to leave for that "somewhere" as well.

The text was clean for the most part, with the exception of a few places where Jonathan went off into discussions of why the game was not more complete.

All in all, though the style was very well presented in what was a very Gamist game (not easy).

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Does this game remind anyone else of the Bookcase game Feudal? I have a couple of Feudal sets, and I could probably use them for pieces instead using their movement rules. Hmmm...

Several methods of play are provided (Us vs. Us, Us vs. Them). Some of these strike me as more viable than others. The internally competitive game seems to me like it would degenerate into a simple grand chess match. And with that, the tactic that first strikes me is the one mentioned in the rules; stay together. I see a "goalie" group staying behind to guard the manor, and then all the rest of the other pieces maneuvering to meet and destroy the enemy. I also see a lot of standoffs, as players refuse to move pieces into each other's range. Careful tactics here may prevail, however. Hard to say...

The rules definitely provide a solid and simple set of rules for adjudication. I like the dice pool/cache idea, and how traits affect them. I would personally play with the option that used the normal resolution rules for all combat. What I missed was some other resource to fight for. There is the value of the manor, but that's minor. There is a lot of talk about the idea of conspiracies and intrigue, but no mechanic to play with regarding it.

The random level of power generation is an interesting choice. I can't deduct points for it, but it may balk some people. I'd have included an option for just starting each player with ten points, or some amount agreed to before play.

What I'm saying is that this game could easily have been the best if some of these things had been addressed in some fashion. Truly excellent. As it stands it's "merely" very good.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Africa - Interestingly, while the game is about characters from Africa, the action is all set in a city away from it. And though I like the incorporation of Islamic culture, there has been no attempt to incorporate any element of that culture (or anything African) into the rules in any way. With the possible exception that characters are to be named using African names. I'd have liked to have seen certain squares labeled Mosques in which no fighting was allowed, for example. Or rules for visiting Zulu kings. Etc. Something to make it more, well, Africa in play. As it stands the suggested play elements (chess pieces, Roman map) suggest Europe more than Africa.
Art - Not employed
Court - The game is all about the "Noble Court of Latium", a simple but very effective use of this term.
Numerology - Not employed

Serious deduction here for only employing two of the four terms.

Completeness: The game does seem to me like it could use some more of certain elements. But that's just my own predilections. The author does admit that there could be more guidance as far as handing out points. (A little hint: never apologize for anything in a presentation to persuade).

But there is certainly everything present here that one would need to play. If that play example had made it in, the game would have gotten very high marks in this category. As it stands, participants may have to do some searching to be able to come up with scenarios more complicated than "Barbarians at the Gate". Still it looks like the obvious stuff would be fun, so no deduction there
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Mike Holmes

Stars Over Africa
Author: Raven

Style: Ahh, I secretly hoped somebody would to an ante-diluvian Africa. Raven you know me too well! I can almost feel the jungle mists calling out to me to explore the ancient cities of a lost time.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: Pretty straightforward. There is only one up metric, and one down metric. These are each incentivized appropriately and I think that play will work simply and effectively.

While this has its advantages, I think that play will not involve much strategy. As such I don't see it as very challenging per se. But combined with the color, I think it will be a fun, light play.

On the other hand, the way the stats cross reference is quite interesting itself.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Using each term as a trait, essentially. Very clever, and very effective. Can't fault you here.  

Completeness: Well, all the essential elements are here. No major deductions. But I can't give many points either. The few mentions of "what's in the jungle" only go so far in informing how players can spice up play. This is offset a bit by the optional GM rule.
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Mike Holmes

Toward One
Author: Vincent Baker

Style: From the soundtrack and snack selections, to the mechanics and play, the whole thing says Arabian Nights. And who can resist one of the most compelling storytelling situations?

Including "The Roll" so late in the text did make it difficult to understand what the mechanics were about until late in the read. Which was a bit distracting.

Estimated Effectiveness in Play: When we finally get to "The Roll", however, it all makes sense. The rules very tightly control the action, and facilitate the play indicated.

This game is somewhat in the middle in terms of simplicity of action, and complexity of strategy. I can see some pretty interesting combinations of actions, but the simple strategy of rolling the same dice combo that totals the most seems inescapable. Players will probably stack rewards so that they are powerful in one particular area. Again, this would only be certain with play, but it seems likely.

A mechanic to get the action to move about a bit might have been a good idea. And I think those players who are waiting around for their turn may get bored a bit. There is some attempt to give incentive for incorporating other characters, but I'm not sure that it has enough bite to be used.

But all in all, I think it'll play OK.

Creative and Effective Incorporation of Terms:
Africa – The North African thing done right.
Art – Counts creatively as part of Calligraphy, thou only of limited impact.
Court – I like the concept of the Prince's Court as the place to request your due. A very effective part of the design.
Numerology – More directly included, and as a skill. Interestingly, this was the only game that did this.

Completeness: Everything is here mechanically. But one big question stands out. How do I win? Or, maybe more appropriately, where am I going with increasing my stats? Is the Jinn fighting enough to allow for a wide range of play? For how long? One advantage to a "win" condition is that the game has a discernable end. I'm not seeing one here. I guess I'm missing the "Why I should play" here.
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Mike Holmes


I think that this should be worked on outside of the contest guidelines (actually all of the games would improve doing this). This game's score suffered the most because of the guidelines. This is not to say it's not a good game. It is. But it just went off in different direction. Kudos to the designer for keeping to his own design needs.

Stars Over Africa
I think that Raven has a cool light game here. With a bit of work it could be extremely interesting in the color department. And it also might benefit by going more Narrativist. I think we're seeing the designers proclivities coming through here. This could easily have won a Narrativist contest.

Toward One
Tight design, and focused like a laser. If this game gets a goal, it will be very impressive.

Pale Continent, The
This may well be the best game presented in some ways. Again, it went against the rules and lost. But who cares. It looks like fun. And with a few additions, this could be a way cool game.  

Eclipse of the Masked Continent
This also might be the best game. But I can't tell for sure. So it gets runner up for this contest.

Court of Nine Chambers, The
Beats the others hands down in the opinion of this judge. It was clear, followed the rules, and incorporated everything in a tight manner. Yet one can imagine the play going all sorts of weird directions. The style was amazing. Of all the games this is the one that just grabbed me by the throat and said, "Play ME!"

Congratulations John, you are crowned the new Iron Game Chef - Gamist!

Way to go!

Thanks to all who participated and to the moderators who made this possible. I stand before y'all, humbled and inspired. That should end this thread unless some administrative notes need to be made. Discussions of all games in this thread or my notes on them should be made elsewhere.

Mike "Proud to be on the Forge" Holmes
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