Author Archives: danielm8

Week 13 – Final Project Previews

This week in class, after a relaxing Thanksgiving break, we all had the opportunity to play test each other’s final projects, a self-made game designed by either an individual student or team of students. Over the course of the class, I was able to test a couple of games, while at the same time run through the prototype of my own. However, for now I will be discussing the games I tested as a player, in order to provide my opinions on the designs my peers had made.

The first game I had the pleasure of playing was a deck building game that took place in Gotham City, where each player could play as a member of Batman’s rouges gallery. Right off the bat I was intrigued due to my love for comics, though I had not played many deck builder games, learning it took a bit of time. During the game, the goal was to take control of Gotham as a whole, so it also had elements of an area control game on top of a deck builder. After only being able to play it for 20 minutes, I can say it was very easy to understand conceptually after a short amount of time, though it definitely seemed a bit overwhelming at first. I wish I had more time to play it to see more elements, such as combat or traps, but unfortunately, there was no time.

The second game I played was actually a hidden role game titled, “The Masks we Hide Behind”. Mostly an introspection on depression and the social interactions that come from it (along with other mental illnesses), this game felt very powerful in its message. Although when tested, it lacked structure outside of its hidden roles. Players were assigned a role at random, and were expected to display traits of those with an illness that corresponded with the role. However, there was an added element of whether that person was “Stable”, “Moderate”, or “Critical”, so that provided more to the gameplay. The goal of the game was to be able to guess each person’s role correctly by the end based on their mannerisms from the roles they received. The foundation of this game was strong, and I hope it obtains more structure beyond its base to become even stronger.

I feel that leadership was everywhere during this class, with students leading these projects they had meticulously created, trying to find flaws for improvement. It takes strong leadership to analyze your work, to keep what is good and improve on what is incomplete. That kind of constructive self-criticism is a sign of great leadership, at least in my personal opinion.

I know a friend of mine here at Miami who is very passionate about comic books, so I know that deck building game would appeal to him greatly. Perhaps when that student finishes iterating, I might borrow his game to play it with that friend. Either way, I am extremely interested in seeing where all these projects go in design in the final week(s) of the semester.

Week 11 and 12- T.I.M.E Stories

Over the course of two weeks in class, we had the opportunity to play what was probably the most complicated game yet – T.I.M.E Stories. This game had many elements that we had already experienced (ex. different roles, resources, etc.), but added on were puzzles, encounters, and a complex stat system for each player. T.I.M.E Stories in essentially a mystery game, where your characters, a band of time warriors, are sent to a certain place to solve the cause of an anomaly. To solve this mystery, you need to talk to certain NPCs (Non-Playable Characters), unlock new locations, decode certain messages, etc. There are multiple ways to go about certain situations, but time runs out the longer encounters last. That time is the biggest factor, running out means having to start over, including losing most resources.

The group that I was in when we played this had to investigate an insane asylum, while taking over the bodies of certain inmates. We had to adopt these inmates issues as we went along, so that added an extra layer to the already complex gameplay. The hardest part of the game, in my opinion, was trying to determine which action was the best going forward. Since your group wants to finish as quickly as possible, you need to avoid unnecessary encounters. However, without ever playing the game before, the scenarios are completely new, so the swiftest action is never clear-cut. For example, my group had to restart the entire mission because we wasted time on a lead that ended up being a red herring. Finding the right path to follow was definitely the most challenging aspect of the game, but was by no means frustrating.

Leadership during T.I.M.E Stories was more or less individual based, with certain players taking responsibilities to go to certain locations on their own. The confidence to make your own decisions was a big factor during the course of the game. When puzzles came around, particularly one that played a huge factor towards the end of the game, certain leaders emerged by presenting ideas that ultimately led the group toward the goal. While disagreements as to what course of action should be next did take place, overall my group were willing to listen to one another and help each other in any way possible, which in my opinion are strong traits of leadership.

I know for a fact that my family back home would love this game, because they take a lot of enjoyment out of intellectually challenging themselves. I myself would never buy this game personally, for it is fairly expensive for what is practically one narrative, but if it is available to rent I highly recommend it.

Week 10- Captain Sonar

This last week in class, the game played was a little different from the others, and it was stressful to say the least. I’m talking about Captain Sonar, the real-time team strategy game, all about communication and problem-solving. The first thing to know about this game is the positions all the players can be in the game. There are four, for an optimized two opposing teams of four. The game revolves around the teams controlling a complex submarine, which has multiple systems. Both teams not only have to concentrate on controlling their sub, but also find and keep track of where the other sub is in order to find and destroy it.

The roles are what make this game extremely interesting, and they include the Captain, First Mate, Radio Operator, and Engineer. The Captain is responsible for determining where the submarine goes, and how they can confuse the other team on where they are going. The First Mate keeps track of the sub’s systems, which have to charge over time. This means the First Mate has to pick and choose which systems to charge based on the situation. The Radio Operator is the one listening to the other team’s Captain, using their shouted out movements to try and track where they are on the map. The Engineer has probably the most complex task, keeping track of the sub’s damages. Each time the submarine moves, it takes some damage to its inner workings based on the direction it last moved. The Engineer decides which part of the sub’s systems get damaged, and have ways of undoing that damage through certain patterns.

For our class specifically, we had a limited number of people, so the Captains had to take the First Mate role in addition. This was the absolute hardest thing for me to do, because both of those roles had their own things to communicate to the other players, so keeping track of both at the rapid pace the game naturally goes at was difficult to say the least. Leadership was very individual based in my opinion, with each person expressing their concerns in their own way in order for the team as a whole to succeed.

I have a friend in Maryland who really, really likes these types of games. I think he would either be the Captain or Engineer during the game, because he likes to lead or manage the most important elements of the game. I will have to see if he had heard of this game over winter break, maybe even play it with him and some mutual friends.

Week 9- Ultimate Werewolf

After a couple of weeks of other work beyond just playing games, a couple of weeks ago we returned to form with a Halloween themed game, Ultimate Werewolf. A party game that the whole class got to enjoy, this game felt very appropriate for the season and honestly is one that I know particularly well from previous experiences. However, this time around I think was one of the most frustrating, but still enjoyable, times I’ve ever had with this game.

For some context, Ultimate Werewolf consists of a large party of players, each with assigned roles. A majority of players are simple villagers, with no objectives other than to find and kill the werewolves. Each round, the group collectively votes to kill someone during the “day”cycle, trying to kill the werewolves. In between these rounds of discussion, the players with the werewolf role choose someone to kill during the “night” cycle, aiming at the villagers with more important roles and trying to be the last ones alive.

Now, how this game in particular differed was the additional roles assigned to people in the “village”. For example, someone was a Spellcaster, who had the power to silence any villager they wanted during the night cycle. Another person had the role of Cupid, who could pick two villagers to “fall in love”, so if one of them got killed, the other died as well. In addition, a villager named Virginia Wolfe at the beginning of the game chose a person to “fear” them, meaning they would die if she was killed. All of things happened to me at once. I could not speak, and had triple the risk of being killed, which unsurprisingly happened a short instance into the game. On the bright side, the werewolves were killed, so the villagers won, so it all worked out.

The hardest part of this game was obvious, I had so many odds stacked against me, it was hard to tell who had inflicted these curses on me, but getting through them and playing carefully was a more unique experience I may not have had otherwise. Being a leader through the group conversations, finding out who to trust while also portraying yourself as trustworthy was a constant element of the game.

My group of friends from high school that I hang out with in my hometown would love this game, because of all the roles and having to deceive others. The meta-gaming would get out of hand, and I’m sure everyone would have a good time.

Week 6- Ladies and Gentlemen

This past week’s game, Ladies and Gentlemen was…interesting to say the least. First and foremost, this game is purposefully controversial for how it treats the two different roles, the Ladies and the Gentlemen. Throughout the entire game, the Ladies have to choose what items their Gentlemen should buy them, so at the end of the game they can accumulate enough to be the “best dressed” and win the game. There are a lot of stats for each item, as well as needing to buy different pieces to complete a set. The Gentlemen are left mostly unaware of this info, or how one item is better than the other. The only thing they know is how expensive the item is, and how badly their Lady wants it. Communication between a team of a Lady and Gentleman is supposed to be very vague, without direct explanation of details on money/items.

The Gentlemen, on the other hand, have a completely different job than the Ladies. They have to collect certain tokens in direct competition of the other Gentlemen to earn more money and complete contracts. The Ladies have no idea how much money they’ve earned, what the contracts are, etc. There can also be a lone person known as a Courtesan, who can cause people to win or lose depending on whether the Gentlemen agree to buy that person items. This throws off standard play by having the Gentlemen split their priorities, and is honestly my favorite part about the game.

Of course, this game is a satirical take on Victorian values and lifestyles, with women unable to do anything relating to resource gathering or money handling. The hardest part about this game, in my opinion, is keeping the conversation between Lady and Gentleman vague without directly telling each other what the other needs to win the game. It honestly frustrated me on how I could not control every aspect of the game (I still won though).

I don’t believe anyone I know would enjoy this game, but honestly I would highly enjoy showing this game to my mother to see what she thinks about it. I’m sure her words would be very interesting to say the least, but in the end she would get a good laugh out of it, which is what was intended in the first place.

Week 5- Two Rooms and a Boom

A couple of weeks ago in class, there was a game that was more unique than the rest, Two Rooms and a Boom. I was not initially too excited for this game, until I heard that the whole class was going to be playing the game together, and people were going to have roles. Although not my favorite kind of game, the idea of that style of play interested me a ton, so I came in ready. Two Rooms and a Boom is essentially a hide your identity sort of game, with two teams (blue and red). Two groups randomly form at the start of the game, regardless of what color or role they have. The red team is trying to place one of their members, who has the role of “Bomber” in the same group as the blue “President”, whose team is trying to prevent this.

The game consists of asking players to show either their color, or both role and color. Players can refuse to give information, or just a little bit of it. Roles also affect gameplay, with some people only able to tell the truth, while others may seem like red team members, but are actually a blue spy. There are even independent teams, designated gray, who are trying to complete their own objectives to win. For example, two people have the Romeo and Juliet role, and are trying to be in the same group their partner is in along with the “Bomber” by the end of the game.

Each round of the game has each group choose a leader, regardless of role, who decides a certain number of “hostages” to transfer to the other group. This plays into certain objectives, since not everyone has the same goal. The game ends after a certain number of rounds, and sometimes the “hostage” count changes between these rounds, increasing the risk to send away the wrong people.

I feel like the hardest part of this game was getting people to trust you enough to tell you what role they were. It was easiest when your role was gray, since they knew that you were less likely to interfere with their objective. It was really difficult to gain info as the “Ambassador” role, in my opinion, because people think that you either already had a ton of info, so the risk that you could influence the leader and team objectives were higher.

I believe that my cousins back home would love this game, since they already like large group games during family reunions and such. This concept would greatly appeal to them, and probably become a regular game we play together in the future if I introduce it.

Week 4- Mysterium

For this past week in class, the next game we played was actually a choice between two: Mysterium or Corrupted Kingdom(s). Personally, I gravitated towards Mysterium, because it seemed more conceptual and intriguing, plus I’m a sucker for gothic themes. Mysterium actually has many similarities to the classic game Clue, since the goal is to find a murderer, what room the murder was committed in, and the murder weapon. However, in order to find this information, players would need to interpret “dreams” presented by a player separate from everyone else. This detached player, or the “ghost” would hand players cards with stunning artwork on them, so that they could possibly translate the imagery into clues associated with the info needed.

As the game continues, players could also try to predict whether certain guesses were right or wrong, increasing their abilities and gaining advantages in the endgame. Players guessed after the “ghost” gave info, first guessing the person, then the area, then the weapon. With seven rounds to find information, and other players except the ghost being able to help translate images from other players’ dreams, this game was extremely cooperative. It really represented leadership on the ghost’s part, since he or she had to give images that they felt would help the most, and trying to know the players well enough to predict how they would interpret the “dreams” was probably no easy task, definitely the hardest part of the game in my opinion.

Even though I did not have the opportunity to play as the ghost during the time provided, I still enjoyed being among the regular players. There was a certain thrill I got from being able to correctly interpret the messages the ghost player was giving me, especially when the imagery was extremely subtle. For instance, one of our players got a card that had a chessboard and several mice on it. One of the suspected murderers was a chef, so we as a group determined that the ghost was making a Ratatouille reference, and the player who received that clue guessed that suspect correctly. Those kind of successes really helped make the game enjoyable.

I bet that my cousin Max would like this game, because he is a very conceptual thinker, and having to translate images like in Mysterium would be something that he might enjoy. He would most likely play the ghost though, honestly, since he likes being in positions where he has some degree of control over the game anyway.

Week 3- Betrayal at House on the Hill

This previous week in class we played a game that again, I had some familiarity with: Betrayal at House on the Hill. One of my favorite games from recent years, this game revolves around choosing a character at the start with certain stats, then exploring a spooky house with others, activating events, omens, and sometimes collecting useful items for later. This continues with some events causing people to take damage, or gain buffs in their existing stats. However, omens are where the real fun is, in my opinion. Every time an omen is activated, a “haunt” dice roll (of 6 dice) in thrown, and if the number rolled is less than the amount of omens, a haunt begins.

The haunts were so unique and varied in this game, with the scenario in which it was activated determining which haunt was present in the game. Most involve on of the people in the party becoming a traitor/monster and the goal is kill or be killed. At least, that is how it went with my group, where one of our members became the Tentacled Horror. I feel the hardest part was planning a strategy for defeating the monster, since all of us weren’t near each other in the house and improvisation seemed very likely.

I feel like this game promotes leadership with the traitor, since that one person is suddenly all alone, and forced to make decisions without much help. This kind of self-leadership is contrasted with the cooperation needed out of the other players to fight the evil together, where sometimes a leader helps guide the other players or everyone kind of takes a role. I think my friend from high school would love this game, he enjoys games that are unpredictable, and the random monster scenarios would be a big selling point for him.

Week 2- Hanabi

This week for class, we played the cooperative card game Hanabi. One of the most captivating parts about this game was how none of the people playing knew which cards were in their hand. In a solitaire like fashion, the goal was to play cards of a certain suit (in this case color) in order, from the lowest to highest number listed on the card. During the game, players could spend one of 8 hints to tell another player what kind of card they have. Unfortunately, this only extended to phrases like, “You have 3 blue cards.”, or “These two cards are 1’s.”. There was no “table talk” beyond this allowed. If a card that didn’t follow the proper order was played 4 times, everybody lost the game. People thankfully could choose to discard a card to regain a hint, but if it was a card that needed to be played, that trade may not be so wise.

I personally really enjoyed this game, but maybe not for the reasons other people did. I really made my fellow players frustrated because I gave them very little indication of what I was going to do, causing a hilarious amount of stress. Since it was a lot of peoples’ first time playing the game, they wanted to use a lot of table-talk, so I did the opposite. This dynamic caused some shouting, but more importantly, laughing.

I think the hardest part of this game was trying to inform people what kind of card they had, and make sure they remember that info. As far as leadership goes, I think this teaches being able to give proper advice to the people you lead, while also having trust in them to retain what you tell them. I think the person I know who would enjoy this game the most would be my parents, they would have definitely showed it to my family as kids had they known it existed.

Week 1- The Resistance Avalon

Much to my delight, the first class of the semester started off strong with playing The Resistance Avalon, a game which I had played once or twice before, but enjoyed greatly. The first game that my group had started with the most basic setting – most players were designated as standard servants of King Arthur (i.e the “good guys”), while the rest became villains of Mordred (the “bad guys”). For the second game, the good and bad guys were assigned more distinct roles that made them stand out a bit more during the game. I absolutely love games that have this level of cunning in them, the “trust no one” aspect is very appealing to me. Unsurprisingly enough, the hardest part was to get people to trust me at all during both games!

In regards to leadership, I think this game does a good job in letting leaders drive the conversation on who is evil or not, even if the others don’t believe what he or she is saying. Also, there is usually one or two people who call for votes to keep the game going, which is another small example of leadership being present in the game.

My brothers back home would adore this game, because not only does it give individuals a more important sense in the game itself (when more specific roles are added), but also gives way to more discussion and trickery, which I know they would love.