Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Game Design


This is the first year that we kept our two older kids Bailey and Abigail up until midnight on New Year's Eve. My family tradition has always been to play board games and party games on New Year's Eve, so that's what we did. In honor of the occasion I decided to design a game for us to play. Actually the idea for this game had been kicking around in my head since last Christmas.

Last year I made some paper Icehouse pieces. Icehouse peices are a "game system." Like a deck of playing cards, you can playa lots of games with them. I had heard of a game called Zendo that I thought sounded fun and wanted some pieces to try it with. Well, I played the game, but it wasn't quite as fun as I expected (I haven't actually played it much. Maybe I need to play it with the right people). Anyway, Zendo involves building little sculptures with Icehouse pieces and that's the part that sounded fun. The problem is that building fun and creative sculptures is not really the main focus of Zendo. In short, Zendo seemed a little more rigid than what I was wanting to do with these pieces. So I invented my own game, where building fun little sculptures would be the whole point of the game. I call it Sculpture Garden. I had heard a lot about how difficult it is to design a game that works. Well, I know that is true because I have given some half-hearted efforts to design games in the past and didn't get anywhere. So it was surprising to me how quickly and easily the design for Sculpture Garden came together in my mind (after the idea had been kicking around way in the back of my head for a year). Admittedly this is a pretty light party game so wasn't too hard to design, but my kids liked it and so I was happy.

Here is how the game works:

4 to probably about 7 people can play the game (possibly more, but you need at least 4 people). Each person choses a color of cup to be the bank for their points . The points are little red glass beads. One player is chosen to be the foreman for the first round. the foreman leaves the room. The remaining players are the sculptors. The story is that the foreman has hired each of these sculptors to design a sculpture for the Sculpture Garden. The sculptors draw little placards from a hat each containing the title of the sculpture that they are each supposed to build. The sculptors should not share the title of their sculptures with each other. Each sculptor receives a screen to hide his sculpture from the other players. The sculptors seat themselves randomly (so that the foreman will not know to whom each sculpture belongs). Each sculptor also receives a truckload of building materials (a set of Icehouse pieces). They each set to work building their sculptures. When they are finished they fetch the foreman from the other room. The story is that during the night there was a terrible storm that blew the placards out of place. Now the foreman must decide which placard belongs to each sculpture (without any help from the sculptors). The screens are removed, unveiling the sculptures and the foreman sets to work. Once the foreman has placed each of the placards she also choses one sculpture as her favorite. A scoring round follows. The foreman receives one point for each sculpture's title that she guessed correctly. Each sculptor receives one point for having his sculpture's title guessed correctly and the sculptor whose sculpture was chosen as the foreman's favorite receives two points. Points are placed in the cups. A new foreman is selected and a new round begins. Each player should get a chance to be the foreman. We played a total of 8 rounds in our first sitting. Later we played a couple more rounds.

So far it seems like a fun, light little game. But of course it has been play-tested very little. Come over and we'll play and we can see what you think! If you play with more than four players the points may need to be adjusted. Specifically, the foreman's favorite maybe should earn more than two points in that case.
It was fun playing with the kids. It was quite a challenge to place the placard correctly because Abigail especially was very abstract in her sculptures. I'm wondering if this game would work well with all adult players since in that case it may be easier to guess which title goes where. But in that case one could always choose more abstract titles for the sculptures.

2 comments:

Lura said...

This sounds like a fun game! I would like to play it with you sometime.

Jamie said...

OK, let's play next time you come to see us!

 

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