I just submitted my game Ketchup to an interesting game design contest, called the 1000-Year Game Design Challenge, and I couldn’t help but riffle through the other entries to see what the competition looks like. Below I’ve listed the entries that caught my eye. These strike me as the most simple, elegant, and original of the bunch, at least from a reading of the rules, which come to think of it doesn’t mean much because you don’t really know how a game will come alive until you actually play it, but anyway…
Tricala – Multidirectional Mancala on a Triangular Board. Could make brain melt out through nose.
Charing Cross – A minimalist crossing game. Could be great if good play doesn’t lead to infinite cycles. Hard to tell.
Fuckin’ Do It Then – Here I was taking pride in being the worst namer-of-games, and then I see this. Despite the heroically stupid name, this strikes me as a fantastic idea. A word is picked from the dictionary. The player who bids the lowest number wins that word. That number represents the number of words he can use to get another player to guess the word from the dictionary. Imaging the kind of clues I’d come up with, and how I’d evaluate bids fills me with sheer delight. If I had to pick a winner from the rules only, this might be it. [EDIT – Someone indicated to me that this appears to be either a ripoff or an independant reinvention the concept implemented in 25 Words or Less. Takes some of the shine off it for me.]
Cartography – This could be bland or it could be great, but it certainly is elegant in conception. Players take turns placing triangular tiles in order to form loops. I’ve been trying to design an elegant loop-forming game for a loooooooong time (here’s my best attempt so far) and this one might steal my thunder if it turns out to be good. This one gives me that I-can’t-believe-I-didn’t-think-of-that feeling.
Librarium – A parlor game for bibliophiles (I’m one). Players sit around in room full of books, somebody reads a passage from a randomly selected book, and then there’s a mechanism by which the players try to guess which book the passage came from. It’s simple and original, and the clincher is that you might learn a lot while playing.
Pandora’s Box -This is a completely psychological game, looks to be bluffing-heavy. If there’s enough open information to make the bluffing interesting, this could be great.
Sygo – This is a Go variant using an unusual and original turn protocol that greatly effects the game’s dynamics. The core idea is that you can either place one stone not adjacent to any of your others, or you can add one stone to each of your preexisting groups. There’s much tension in deciding when to do which.
Yodd – Players build groups of stones on a board. There must be an odd number of groups at the end of each player’s turn. The player with the fewest groups on board when the board is full wins. Simple and brilliant in concept. Could be my abstract game of the year.
Note that the submission period isn’t over yet. I may add more to this list as they come in.