For the second time in a month (and third time in three months) we ran Iron Game Designer, this time at Bezerkacon (which was enjoyed by all). We almost didn’t get it played because numbers were low but Tony and Petr were so keen (and liked my talk) so we moved mountains to make it happen no matter how few we had. At the last moment it was five people, so I roped in two judges (who were WONDERFUL at short notice) and I decided to do Iron Game Design MYSELF for the first time. Scary scary. But it was very in keeping with the spirit of Iron Game Design that we threw the competition together at such short notice with limited resources.
After time and time again seeing AMAZING achievements come out, I think I was a little cocky going in. It is incredibly hard to use your brain at that pace for two hours straight, in terms of strong communication, problem solving and brain storming. We did the brainstorming really well, and within twenty minutes came up with a basic idea we loved. The theme was The First Day and our idea was gods working semi-collaboratively to create continents on an ocean by playing cards from four suits (Forests, Mountains, Basins and Deserts), and the end of the game would produce not just a winner but also a pretty world you could imagine using as a game or fiction setting. That gave us conflicting goals, and although we were in the ballpark quickly of what we wanted, finding a way to make a kind of two-dimensional UNO crossed with The Game – then we spent about ninety minutes straight failing to make that work. I was terribly disappointed we had no time for any artwork or any flavour (the stuff I’m good at), but looking back I’m happy with how close we came and how quickly we got clear goals to aim for. Four Corners of the Earth was a decent achievement (shown here with Charlie, who was also at the con and whom I want to come up in social media summaries of this post).
One table over may have gone slightly outside the rules by scrounging cardboard from an outside source but I allowed it for the dazzling physical spectacle. Battlepillars was a game about catterpillars eating the entire earth and then fighting to the death. Like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, on the first day the caterpillars ate one thing, then two, then three, the four, then five of the 30 available facedown cards, with peeks allowed to find the good cards and avoid or switch out the bad ones. After five days each battlepillar has fifteen cards, some of which helped him with the eating phase but the rest designed to help him in the final battle, where you rolled 15 dice, assigned hits, and triggered the powers you gathered in the eating. This was not greatly balanced but it was solid as all hell and the two phase fun of getting to build an arsenal then set it off was extremely engaging, plus the theme was adorbs. A masterful work.
Perhaps the only thing letting it down was use of theme, but victory in Iron Game Designer is always arbitrary and always splitting the tiniest of hairs and by one point it went to Pencil Pushers, a game about being a working schlub. A hand of cards contained achievements that gave you brownie points with the boss (like doing work or sucking up) and things that did not (staring out window, playing pokemon) and each turn you could do your job (put a card in your outbox), pass the buck (give a random card away) or take the credit (take the top card out of someone’s outbox). There were eight rounds, each with special rules temporarily altering play (eg if a Pointless Meeting was called, you cannot Do Your Job), for the eight hours of the day. Those with the best work in their outbox and least left in their hands win! The hidden and random elements made game play random but it worked and the choices were meaningful and the humour on the cards was great. I am so so jealous and am going back to just running these things you goddamn talented BASTARDS.