Time Marches On Contest

You can read the relevant information for the first of the Piecepack Game Design Competitions below. This information is mostly taken verbatim from three emails to the piecepack mailing list.

Piecepack Ruleset Design Competition (Time Marches On)

Date: 12 February 2002

Theme: Time Marches On
Closes: 15 March 2002
Winner TBA: 31 March 2002
Prize: 1 hand-stamped pocket-size piecepack
Judge: James Kyle

First Things First

I am NOT trying to judge who is the "best" piecepack rules designer. All I am doing is providing a deadline and thematic focus to further spur the imagination of piecepack rules designers, who have already impressed me with their breadth of skills and ingenuity.

Some Rules

  1. submit your entry to me by email at jdroscha@a...
2. entry must be either in PDF (preferred) or plain text (with accompanying gifs or jpgs if needed for diagrams/photos)
3. submission must be freely distributable (though feel free to retain copyright)
4. submission must have header containing Title, Version Number, Version Date, Number of Players, Approximate Length of Game, Equipment Needed, Author and Copyright Info
5. the submission must land in my inbox on or before 15 March 2002
6. the game should incorporate the theme
7. feel free to discuss your design on the piecepack Yahoo! group, or not, whichever you feel is more beneficial

A Word About the Theme

The theme for this competition is "Time Marches On", so I'm looking for games that have something to do with a clock, timer, or calendar in some sense. Though none of these are specifically suggestions (and certainly not requirements), feel free to captialize on any of the following:

  1. number of tiles (or coins) in a piecepack = number of hours in a day
2. number of tiles (or coins) in two suits = number of months in a year
3. number of suits = number of traditional seasons in a year
4. perimeter (in spaces, not length) of 2 tile x 2 tile square = number of hours on a clock face

Criteria I Will Use for Judging

I will select whichever game strikes me as most interesting or fun, and this will be purely my own personal opinion which may swing wildly from day to day. I will not pretend to base the decision on any sort of quantifiable scoring system or other objective means. But if you wish to shape your entry toward my general preferences (though I retain the right to be fickle), I usually like games that:

  1. play in an hour or less
2. use the strengths of a piecepack (eg, the game could not be easily adapted for a deck of playing cards and poker chips)
3. have rules that are quick to read and easy to remember
4. have a theme or background story (bonus for well-integrated thematic mechanics)

A Word About the Prize

I know, it's no great thing, but hey. Only one prize will be awarded for this competition, a pocket-size piecepack that will be hand- stamped (and penned) by myself. These little fellas are the size of a deck of playing cards... too small for some games, like Soccer or Hanging Gardens, but a very convenient size to carry around to play what it can accommodate. It does not come with a rulebook. All pieces are wood, except the pawns are glass stones. The box is sturdy acrylic. The coins are little daisy shapes, since I can't seem to find inexpensive 1/2" wooden disks in the US.

Any Questions? Feel free to ask them here on the list or email me at jdroscha@a...

Game On,
James Kyle

"Time Marches On" contest entries

Date: 17 Mar 2002

RonHaleEvans wrote:

Also, James, how many entries were there? I'm really curious.

Hi Ron! Glad you asked. Following is the list of entries I received for the contest. If you know you submitted something, but don't see it on the list, please email me privately (jdroscha AT att DOT net).

Conspiracy (by Brad Johnson)

CoyoteMoon (by Robert Mundschau)

KidSproutJumboree (by RonHaleEvans and Marty Hale-Evans)

OneManThrag (by Jim Doherty)

RockinNewYears (by DavidBoyle)

Thanks very much for the entries... I definitely look forward to trying them out. I will announce a winner on Monday 1 April 2002 (no foolin'). I realize that's one day later than I stated before, but hey.

piece be with you,

"Time Marches On" Winner

Date: 1 April 2002


First and foremost, I must thank each of the participants in the contest. Impressive lot, you bunch. I enjoyed testing the games, and I felt the group as a whole were a good show.

Second, I'll not keep you waiting... I chose [trumpet fanfare] KidSproutJumboree as my favorite (and therefore the winner). Hale-Evans couple, if you would be so kind as to send your postal address to me by email (jdroscha @ att . net), I'll send your prize off straight away. Congratulations. Also, if you could email me your thoughts on the recent discussion of "next contest", it would be appreciated.

Third, I'd like to share a few comments and suggestions regarding each of the entries (in alphabetical order). The suggestions would perhaps be more properly termed "expressed possibilities" as I've not taken the time to test any of them... they merely occurred to me and I thought I'd blurt them out on my keyboard.


Comments: Conspiracy was the most complex entry and is the most complete piecepack ruleset I've seen, including inline examples, inline designer notes, additional pages of designer commentary, and a lengthy play example. I like the "conveyor-belt" tile movement. I also dig the "coins gang up by pointing" mechanic (which would seem useful in a piecepack wargame as well).

Suggestions: This might sound goofy, but I'd like to see the board upside-down (i.e., take the current board and rotate the words 180 degrees). Since we sat in a U-shape around the table when we played this, having the Present end of the board toward the players would give a better sense of the Future coming _toward_ the players. Small thing, but hey. Also, it might help alleviate the opacity of the rules if the theme were better integrated with the rules text. For example, instead of the "Place Coin" action, maybe call it "Concoct Scheme (place coin)" or something. Some of the possible changes mentioned in the designer commentary sound interesting, though it already feels to me like there's more minutiae than I could ever hold in my feeble brain, so perhaps some pruning could be considered first.


Comments: Appealing theme. The "round" board with the clockwise and counterclockwise concentric tracks is groovy. The connection to the contest theme is perhaps a bit weak, but that doesn't detract from the game itself. (Future/past is a worthy thematic interpretation, but which evaporated quickly during play.)

Suggestions: Not much... this is a decent, tight little game. A better way to randomize the initial coin layout would be nice; the person placing the coins is very likely to (unintentionally) note some of the coin values, which could provide a slight advantage. Any additional ties between mechanics and theme would be welcome (besides being hopped up on payote while playing).


Comments: This would be worth playing even without the Excuses, but they really do make the game. Fun theme, well intertwined with the mechanics. Quick to play, easy to remember, good dose of luck, fair helping of tactics.

Suggestions: I would like to see more variety in the Activities. I suggest one of two methods... 1) one chart for each die color, vary the time needed for activities (rather than merely matching the die roll), and allow the Leaping Buck (or Rutting Buck, as I am wont to label) which color/chart to roll against; or 2) just keep the die roll for # of hours as it is now but skip the chart and let the Rutt, er, Leaping Buck "make up" the activity name. Why? Because I like to relate the Excuse directly to the Activity, and more variety would provide further meat for the grinder (or somesuch metaphor). Also, the rules could more clearly state that each round is not so much progressing through the day as it is progressing through the day planning. That is, the action takes place perhaps the night before (or the morning of), and the SproutMeisters are filling their dayrunners.


Comments: Amusing solitaire diversion of the line-em-up and knock-em- down variety. I like to see solitaire games that are not sorting exercises. I like the healing mechanism.

Suggestions: Name the special weapons, and maybe give them different powers. Also, if there could be a final round wherein you take down the evilnasty wizards, that would give the game a better sense of closure. A different turn timer (if you skipped the "home by breakfast" paragraph of the intro, further distancing it from the contest theme, but so?) might be in order... perhaps remove a tile from the Healing stack each time before shuffling them? That would be, uh, something like 15 turns (5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1) instead of 12, but if you added the finale of fighting the wizards (null tiles would be available for this), it should come out about right.


Comments: Funny theme. Mechanically reminiscent of Dungeon Crawl (another piecepack game, for those of you who have not seen it). This game felt undertested, which Dave conceeded.

Suggestions: Finding "hidden" stuff should be harder (ideally, it should start out difficult and get easier as the deadline looms closer). Stealing should be a little easier (and maybe less random... what about trading parts?) The problem with 2 players being able to block an opponent's exit might be fixed by giving players higher base movement, then penalizing that movement when burdened with Clarkdroid parts (which would also eliminate the need for capping the number of Clarkdroid parts carried).