Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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ELL Deck Design Contest: Winners announced! Playable today at Bez and Friends Game Day 2

Bez Shahriari
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It is with great pleasure that I want to announce the winners of the ELL deck design contest.

Yes, whilst I only expected there to be one winner, this year I determined (along with plenty of feedback from 'assistant judges') that these 2 games both deserved to win equally.

These games have both been somewhat developed since initial submission and they will continue to grow, mutate, and change. If you join us on Twitch at 2pm UK time today (Saturday 9th January 2021), you'll see me chatting to the original designers about the origins, original motivations, design intent, how it's changed, and any lessons learned so far. We may even do a quick demo.

https://www.twitch.tv/stuffbybez/

But these games are both still very much in development. I'd like to invite everyone to try these games. Today, as part of a small event (join discord below) or over the next year, as we continue to explore the possibility space around these games

http://www.stuffbybez.com/discord/

In alphabetical order, then:

From gallery of stuffbybez


======================================================
BIDDABBELL
======================================================

by Alex Cannon and Xate

This is a bidding game, that uses the same cards for the auction and to populate the market! Each turn, players play cards from hand, using lower letters to bid on selection order. In that selection order, players take cards from the market, before the market is populated by those same cards that were just used to bid!

To make this work, the cards you take are only judged based on the suit, and the letter is now completely irrelevant. Bigger sets of suits will win you the game.

This mechanism - using the cards you bid with to populate the market for next turn - is something I've not seen before in ANY game, let alone any ELL deck game.

It offers a simplicity of play, reduces upkeep, and interleaves strategy in an interesting way. Sometimes, I am not just thinking about the rank of your bid, but also about how I will populate the market with things that I want for the next auction.

I am excited to see how this will continue to develop.

From gallery of stuffbybez


======================================================
INVIZIBBELL
======================================================

by Alex Cannon

This is a game that mixes word-making, hidden movement, and a bit of deduction.

Those latter 2 mechanisms almost always go together but mixing it with word-making? That's new.

This game involves one player (or team) making words to travel around a board, trying to use every card. Meanwhile, the other player uses the suits/numbers and maybe even considers the possible words, in order to deduce the current location.

This game, again, is pushing the ELL deck into territory that I may have never imagined. It's a meaty puzzle that has fascinated many of us.


Both games' CURRENT rules can be downloaded here:
http://www.stuffbybez.com/ELL/

I should note, due to my relationship with both designers (that has grown over the past year, mainly during my daily streams), that all designers were kept anonymous to assistant judges. 2 assistant judges played literally every submission with me and the top few games were played a bunch more. Both of these were played by a few groups who gave their input.

Sadly, there wasn't as much testing as I would have liked, due to enforced social distancing and my own reluctance to play online. But we decided that both these games deserve some real focus and development before having some time to shine as the 'headline' game of 2022.

Again, due to social distancing, pushing these games to be the headline game of 2021 seemed like insufficient time. I am hoping that there will be some time for significant testing and experimentation in the latter half of 2021 at least.

In the interim, all feedback and input is welcome. Please do let me know your first impressions when/if you play.
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Sat Jan 9, 2021 11:29 am
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - results. The winner - UNFINISHABELL!

Bez Shahriari
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And the winner is:

UNFINISHABELL by Paul Mansfield

"Inspired by the traditional word game of Ghost."

Players add letters to the left/right of a line, trying to make a string of letters that COULD become a word (if the correct letters were added) but definitely isn't a word yet. Finishing a word or making an invalid string would give points to the other player.

This game is actually changed in a meaningful way by using the ELL deck. Firstly, the line of letters has more flexibility (more scope for accidentally making a word, and also more score for being able to continue a word). Secondly, with a small hand of cards, you are restricted as to what you can place. Sometimes you're forced to extend into a bluff, and you may even get away with it, thanks to the difficulty of parsing all the possibilities of what the letter string could be, let alone what letters could be added to finish a word.

This was tried out a few times. The only change was to award one point after each challenge, rather than the entire length of the word. This helped the games feel a little closer in general.

I also experimented with different hand-sizes and different ways to end the game, but ended up with the originally-submitted configurations.


A note on bias:

I know Paul Mansfield. We both regularly attend the Friday daytime playtests in London. I was a bit fan of this game, but my bias was a real issue. Thankfully, David Brain and Tom Coldron were able to help with judging, and since I rewrote all the rulesheets, they had no idea who any of the designers were.


David said:

For me, this was the stand-out. The only issue we had, which we decided to house rule, was that challenges on "complete" words would need to be four or more letters long because there are too many 2 (and 3) letter words that can be made accidentally (also, this means
that each player gets one "free" play.) Four cards felt right; playing just to the end of the deck (rather than having one more round) felt right. But it was a joy - just enough bluff to be fun, and the challenge of trying to keep options open so that one could respond without getting trapped.

(Note - I personally enjoyed this 'early-game challenge' of not making words, but this is a developmental decision that would require a lot more playtesting and observation.)

Tom said:

First thoughts

Pros: Really good shape to the rounds. Each round will have a good build up of tension as making words gets harder and harder.

Cons: The scoring moments will more often be negative rather than positive – i.e. they’ll make a player feel stupid (for either making a word accidentally or not being able to see what word was possible) with only occasionally more of an emphasis on the cleverness of the player who set up the cards so that you were played into a corner. Also, if there’s too much disparity in skill level (might only take a little) the less skilled player will not find many small triumphs to celebrate but may just get ground down over and over (and I think some people will just be naturally better at this sort of thinking than others).

How much difference from just playing the Ghost game without the Wibbell++ cards? Restriction might make it interesting.


Experience of playing

Several games at the start ended early with accidentally making a word before we got our heads into it. Paula wanted to play over and over.

Tried a few variations. More cards in hand didn’t feel like a lot of difference – perhaps it gave more possibilities but the constraints of not necessarily having the letters you need are a positive thing for the game experience anyway. We both felt four cards seemed like the right number.

Giving more points for longer words also didn’t really change the experience of playing the game. The tension builds anyway, without the extra weight being added by the points. There could perhaps have been some room for advanced strategies with this variant, whereby if you’re behind you can try to engineer a long word so if you win it you can catch up, but this seems just as likely to benefit your opponent. Also the choice of going past the point threshold or challenging when it’s still a one-point length might be interesting in certain situations, but not very often. On the whole it seemed like anything gained from a more complex scoring system would be outweighed by the negative of having extra rules to remember.

The best game experience we had with any of the games


Why this game won

Let's look at the 3 aspects I'm judging things on.

VARIATION/NOVELTY

Firstly, is it a new game? I think yes. There is enough differentiation between this and the traditional game of Ghost that the cards really make it a different game.

Secondly, is it different from the other core ELL games? Absolutely. Of the first 8 core games, 3 of them are what I'd call a 'wordgame'. Wibbell is a speed game. Coupell is co-op. Many a Mickell makes a Muckell is literally multiplayer solitaire. Actually, apart from Alphabetickell, there are no other turn-based competitive games in the first 8!

Very high marks for this context.

ACCESSIBILITY

This is where the game falls down slightly. There is a lot of skill required to play and a player with much better vocabulary/analytical skills will always win. There isn't any catchup mechanism. This is definitely not a very 'light' game, even though it only takes 20 minutes. Nor is it specially forgiving.

Can you enjoy the game if you're not able to compete? Probably not as much, but I don't think that a losing player will have a terrible time. You can still engage and ponder, and maybe learn for the next game.

Apart from that core activity of pondering words and analysing the possibilities, the game IS actually fairly accessible. The rules are reasonably simple and I imagine I could explain it well enough within a minute with some practise.

FUN/ENGAGEMENT

This probably isn't a game for everyone. But all 3 of us heartily enjoyed it and I could imagine myself demoing it 100 times and still having a good time.

I enjoy pondering the possibilities of the words. I enjoy having to come up with obscure things, or learning new words. I enjoy being shown a potential word I didn't notice, or the feeling that I got trapped (since at that point, the round will be over after the next card played). There is a little skill involved in the hand management of which cards to play. At the highest level, I can imagine comparing the possible words with my personal cards and the letters that my opponent might have.

So, again, CONGRATULATIONS TO PAUL!

If you like the sound of the game and have an ELL deck to give it a go, check the (early) rules document below.



https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UIY9MOjwl4AK-RkSgymKiyHvDx...

=========================
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Fri Feb 28, 2020 2:16 pm
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - results. Number 2 was 'Collectabell'.

Bez Shahriari
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=========================

#2:


COLLECTABELL by Luke Evison/Phoenicia Rogerson.
2p, 5-10 min

Play cards from your hand, aiming to match (and collect) previously-played cards.

Why it's on this list:

This is another game that really diversifies the range of ELL games available. Yes, it's clearly reminiscent of some traditional card games, but it feels like a new creation.

It's accessible. I was able to teach this to my dad, who gets easily confused by new games. I played it with a housemate and it was fast (and enjoyable) enough that they wanted to play again.

The feeling of luck/randomness gives folk a sense that they can beat a better player.

Why it isn't higher:

The game is 2-player only.

More importantly, there were question marks over how much skill is actually present in the game. Honestly, in some ways it doesn't even matter whether there is a higher skill ceiling to the few players who just complained that they felt no agency. Experience and perception is often more important than mathematical truth in games.


David said:

Very, very good.

It is possible that there is a notable first-player advantage although it seems to be more dependent upon getting a good hand!

The flowing feeling [with leaving cards out] is much better overall. I
still think the luck of the draw may be too unbalancing, and it may be
exacerbated over [a hypothetical] five rounds (four felt fine; three felt too few), but the concept is so simple and elegant that it really doesn't matter.


Tom said:


First thoughts

Pros: Nice bit of short term tactics to be found. Can play without much thought but there could be space for cleverness.

Cons: Some people might find the luck too much. Can just get a good hand.

Card counting could be a pro or a con according to taste. Certainly if anyone ever plays this game seriously it would involve trying to remember what cards were used in previous rounds and are out of the game.

In fact, do cards need to be out of the game? If you note down score, you can reshuffle all the cards and play as many rounds as you like. Could also have more than 4 cards in hands which might change it.

Other possible change: Do you show the card you keep or not? The tension of uncertainty can be nice, and lead to some more involved “if… then…” thinking but with all the uncertainty already, a little bit of certainty might be good to stop players feeling they’re just at the mercy of luck.


Experience of play

I enjoyed it. It felt very much like some traditional card games, e.g. cribbage, in that there are a lot of plays which just seem obvious without having to do a lot of in-depth tactical thinking, but, over the course of a whole game, a good player may be able to differentiate themselves from a bad player by making the best decisions. Perhaps not as much depth as some of those, though.





https://drive.google.com/open?id=1sZieTPiAuXegue213Lad9iXhva...

=========

Sometimes, you don't want to play a taxing game, neither rushing nor thinking about too many strategic possibilities. Sometimes you just want a simple game that you can share with your friends and family, almost as a form of abnegation as you spend some time together.

If this sounds like one you may enjoy sometime (and you have an ELL deck), give this game a go!
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Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:09 am
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - results. Number 3 was 'Shoutabell'.

Bez Shahriari
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=========================

#3:


Shoutabell by Jessica Eccles
5-10 minutes, 2-6ish players

When you spot matching patterns, use letters on those cards within a word. All words must match a theme, which is chosen at the start of the game.

This is an anomaly on this list. Originally, I didn't send the game to Tom/David, as I felt that I wanted only one winning entry from each designer, and I slightly preferred Organisationell at the time. In retrospect, I wish I'd sent it, specially since I was anonymising the games. I now think that the best designs deserve to be recognised, even if they are from the same designer.

I personally felt like the original game had some problems (which contributed to me preferring Organisationell and not sending it to my co-judges). It just so happened that in the subsequent months, I was able to streamline it slightly, whilst maintaining the fun part of the game.

Why it's on this list:

Fast-paced and fun.

It mixes together Wibbell, Anomia, and Categorickell (or any categories-based game) into a fusion that brings together the best bits of each game. There's the 'cascading pattern-matching' of Anomia, mixed with the quick-fire 'overcoming a mental block to say something that in retrospect is kinda obvious' of all 3 games.

Honestly, it's all about that cascading.

Works well for a wide variety of playercounts.

Why it isn't higher:

Firstly, because the game it was in August/September wasn't as good (imo) as it is now.

Secondly, it feels verly similar to Categorickell. Yes, one is a team game and the other is fully competitive. Yes, there are unique aspects to both. But if I were to pick 10 games for the ELL deck, trying to maximise diversity, this and Categorickell would definitely not co-exist.

Having said that, this is definitely in my top 26 ELL games, which is more of an achievement than it probably sounds.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1MufKa6XNkg82fB2A_lcVCK2x_B...

If you like the sound of this game, give it a go. :-)
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Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:25 am
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - results. Number 4 was 'Organisationell'.

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=========================

#4

ORGANISATIONELL by Jessica Eccles
2-5ish players, 40-60 min

Co-operating. Giving clues to other players to help them work out whether to place their cards or discard them.

As a side-note, I was working on my own deduction game involving pencil, paper, and an inability to see your own hands (Hanabi-style). Happily, both the clue-giving method and the card management are different enough to make the 2 games fairly different. A reminder that even with the same components, and similar design goals, execution can vary massively.

Why it's on this list:

I enjoyed this and all the aspects feel like they work well together. You work together to build - ideally - an unbroken alphabetical string. Arranging the alphabet really informs the clue-giving and adds a little hand-management to the game.

It seems to be working well at a variety of playercounts.

The card-counting was interesting in the early/mid-game, and a slight tweak allowed uncertainty to remain until the end.

Apart from the one game I mentioned, this feels very different to the other ELL games.

Why it isn't higher:

Honestly, my main issue was simply with the tools required. Needing pen/paper is a slight black mark. Without pen/paper, the memory required becomes intense - too intense for most people, I'd say.

Also, to really get into the game you either need an existing strong familiarity with the deck, or the willingness to consult the chart a fair few times. None of this makes this a bad game - just a bit more advanced than will be accessible for most folk.


David said:

OK, and this one is the core Hanabi idea. We did think
that pointing at specific cards when spelling out words felt a bit too
friendly, but the experience was definitely fun albeit a bit long and
quite mentally taxing (then again, so is Hanabi!)

Tom said:

First Thoughts

Hanabi is clear influence. Although in Hanabi the distribution of cards is very simply explained and internalised but you can’t do that with the Wibbell++ deck so you have to keep checking the distribution to see what might still be possible.


Play Experience

Played through a few 3- and 2-player games and each time got all but one letter in the alphabet. We were engaged all the way through and it took some work to get that result but it did seem like you’re pretty likely to get a similar result each time, if you put the effort in.

We never felt that using paper and pen to write down notes would have added to the game.

The intersection of thinking about words to give as clues and the strategy of what information is needed was an interesting twist on the Hanabi format.

Some of the processes we needed to do in order to optimise our results felt a bit laborious rather than fun. Too much like admin, where we were just doing the obvious useful stuff rather than anything clever. I’d speculate that this is related to the fact that there are only two places (or one) where you can place a card (compared to five in Hanabi), which means there’s only a very limited set of immediately useful cards which you can get excited about holding and a lot of the info you have, you just have to keep on remembering for ages until it becomes relevant. I wonder if having two or three alphabetical lines instead of one would work at all?

In its current format, we would possibly play this again, if we’re in the mood.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1KF1D6n5eiZl3Sf7LKWgUpoMT0R...

=========================

Before rewriting the rules, I made some small tweaks to the setup that sadly made it more complicated, but did eliminate the issue of having perfect knowledge at the end if you count carefully.

If I were to continue playing around with this game, Tom's idea of having more places to put a card might have merit.

Like Tom, I would be happy to play it again even in the current form.

If you have a look, let us know what you think!
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Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:16 pm
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - results. Number 5 was 'Good Bad Wibbell'.

Bez Shahriari
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The countdown of winners of my most recent competition for the ELL deck.

=========================

#5

GOOD BAD WIBBELL by Rafi Arkin
4-8p 15-25 minutes

Trying to make the longest word before time runs out.

Why it's on this list:

The game was brimming with creative ideas. The singing. The memory-based variant. I don't know of any other wordgame with either of these elements. Ironically, my development threw away those 2 aspects to focus on the race to make a long-ish word.

The game is a sight to behold. Everyone holding a card with one hand, a pen with the other. It feels slightly ridiculous, silly, and fun.

Why it isn't higher:

As submitted, it felt more like a bunch of (admittedly cool) ideas than a finished design. There were so many variants that I wasn't sure what to playtest. It actually feels like there are the seeds of multiple good games here but nothing has flowered yet.

Note that Tom/David based their comments on one version that I re-wrote.


David said:

(not played): seems fairly clean but not especially
innovative. Not at all convinced that the tie-breaking rule works but
I'm not sure there is a tie-breaking rule that can work in this sort of
game where it's all about speed of reaction.


Tom said:

First thoughts

Game concept seems quite close to Wordsy.

Keeping track of when all players slam down pen seems like it would be tricky. Maybe should only keep track of first and last.


Could also try different actions – e.g. instead of slamming pen, slap your other hand into the middle of the table and leave it there.

Maybe slapping doesn’t break ties but the first player just gets an extra point.


With the actual cards, I don’t see the purpose of not being able to use your own card. Also having one or two in the center means that someone has the extra job of flipping those as well as the one they had in front of them making it slightly imbalanced. In fact, if you could use your own card, this may be an element of the game which give further possibilities – e.g. you see your card before they’re all revealed and you could give players a slight advantage by giving them more cards to see first instead of one – e.g. younger players or player in last place. This would maybe be only a negligible advantage with lots of players, though.

Holding the cards up might make it awkward to write. Often easier with two hands – one to write, one to hold paper – particularly if using small sheets. Accessibility issue. Why not just have cards face up on table? Holding cards up would also mean a lot of asking neighbours to turn their card so you can see it. This might be part of the game experience or it might be annoying.

Suggested alternatives:

All take two cards and look at them. Then all reveal at same time.

I didn’t get a chance to try this out with a group.


https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xiNDlUJrqlj0UUGVBENxlW44WI...

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Y9b2N9exb_37SjOlLgLD54gbUt...

Above, you can see links to both my rewritten rules and the original, since they vary a fair bit.

Does this sound like an interesting game to you?
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Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:00 pm
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ELL game design competition 2018/2019 - part 3 (the top 6 games and how they were developed)

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Since theELL deck website has collapsed, I've made a google drive as a stop gap solution.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1I2antkgHtTMdlxFVPymC0e5TzZ...

At the top are the 8 core games, then 6 entries from the 2019 design contest.

Let me tell you a little about them, along with some of the changes I made in the judging/development process.

In alphabetical order...

=========================

COLLECTABELL by Luke Evison/Phoenicia Rogerson.
2p, 5-10 min

Luke wrote, "The game is inspired by a Napoleonic French children's card game (Tablanette) that survives today as a significantly more complicated, in terms of scoring bonuses and variants, game called Tablic, which I learnt from some Serbian and Macedonian chefs. I don't think they'd like this version on the grounds of it missing a a couple of dozen arcane special card rules; but I think it's a really neat little Wibbellized condensation."

Sometimes I worry about ELL gamesbeing worse versions of existing games. Sure, you could remake a lot of games using the deck, but will they actually be different enough to be worthwhile games in their own right? I could find a set of rules online, but this did seem to be its own, streamlined, creation, even though it's clearly part of the family of 'fishing' games (that most-famously includes Scopa).

In Collectabell, players take turns to play cards into the centre of the table. If either letter matches one or more cards that are already in the centre, you will pick them up as points. You return one of the collected cards to your hand, which can create an interesting decision.

My housemate enjoyed it and wanted to play again immediately. I appreciated how it was quite different from any other ELL game. Some designers who playtested complained about the luck component, feeling a lack of agency. I feel like the skill ceiling may well be fairly low, and I was never sure how to increase this.

The only changes I made were to leave cards in the centre between rounds. This meant that there was more of a sense of continuity over the game.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1sZieTPiAuXegue213Lad9iXhva...

=========================

GOOD BAD WIBBELL by Rafi Arkin
4-8p 15-25 minutes

This game is the one that had the most changes made, and still felt like it was in early design, even after I'd explored it a bit.

Originally, Rafi submitted 2 games, each with several variants. I really enjoyed the idea here of singing a tune to act as a timer, but this became problematic for several reasons. Folk didn't know the tune. We were singing at different rates. And, of course, it's legally problematic to encourage folk to sing a tune composed by someone else.

At the same time, we were struggling to work out how to punish someone for taking too long, so during my own personal playtesting, the game evolved to having the speed dictated communally. This also gave the game a bit of a unique 'shoot-out' feel. You want to write a word quickly, but also want to write a GOOD word.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xiNDlUJrqlj0UUGVBENxlW44WI...

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Y9b2N9exb_37SjOlLgLD54gbUt...

=========================

GRIDWIBBELL by Andrew January
2-3p, 20ish min

Originally unnamed, I (perhaps unkindly) called this 'Gridwibbell', because it uses a grid and you collect adjacent cards that you can use in a word, using any additional letters you want.

Unlike Wibbell, you need to use BOTH the letters on the card, along with any additional letters (not just 1 letter per card).

The rules I wrote are identical to the submitted rules. Andrew suggested a variant where scoring more cards at once would lead to exponential points, but that would exacerbate a problem we found - of someone taking ages to stare at the grid until they spotted the best word they felt they could realistically make. This game tends towards AP.

I only playtested this one once, though David Brain andTom Coldron went on to also give it a go. Whilst I didn't enjoy the pace of the game, one of the other playtesters was a big fan, so I was curious to get more feedback.

I couldn't work out a way to remove the AP-potential without drastically changing the nature of the game.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=15P03hotiBl9abte0osl9ui6Wn3...


=========================

ORGANISATIONELL by Jessica Eccles
2-5ish players, 40-60 min

A co-op vaguely reminiscent ofHanabi (with cards hidden from yourself) and Alphabetickell (creating an alphabetical string, with any skipped letters skipped forever). Players give clues to tell other folk what they are holding, and they place cards onto the alphabetical line, aiming to get a perfect run of the 26 letters.

I played this a few times and really enjoyed it. It was always a bit to complex to be a 'core' game (and also needs extra tools), but the pay-off felt like it may be worth it.

The only real change I made was in the setup. Originally, if you were paying close attention, you'd know exactly what you were holding at the end (as you played through all the cards). I added a semi-random discard to reduce the effectiveness of card-counting, and force in some uncertainty, even at the end.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1KF1D6n5eiZl3Sf7LKWgUpoMT0R...

=========================

Shoutabell by Jessica Eccles
5-10 minutes, 2-6ish players

A mixture of Categorickell, Wibbell, and Anomia.

You communally choose a theme and will need to shout words matching that theme. You shout when you see 2 cards that match a border. When you see 2 matching cards, your shouted word should use at least 1 letter from each matching card.

Originally, this game required pencil and paper to prepare 4 topics ahead of time, which would change during the game. After a game, I decided that a single topic for the entire game should be fine. Rather than players flipping cards from personal decks (as originally submitted), I ended up with folk having a bunch of 'shared cards' in the middle that are big stacks, and might possibly cascade.

Apart from 'Good Bad Wibbell', this was the only game that had what I would call 'major' changes. But I feel the spirit of the game was very much consistent from the original submission.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1MufKa6XNkg82fB2A_lcVCK2x_B...

=========================


UNFINISHABELL by Paul Mansfield

"Inspired by the traditional word game of Ghost." Players add letters to the left/right of a line, trying to make a string of letters that COULD become a word (if the correct letters were added) but definitely isn't a word yet. Finishing a word or making an invalid string would give points to the other player.

This game is actually changed in a meaningful way by using the ELL deck. Firstly, the line of letters has more flexibility (more scope for accidentally making a word, and also more score for being able to continue a word). Secondly, with a small hand of cards, you are restricted as to what you can place. Sometimes you're forced to extend into a bluff, and you may even get away with it, thanks to the difficulty of parsing all the possibilities of what the letter string could be, let alone what letters could be added to finish a word.

This was tried out a few times. The only change was to award one point after each challenge, rather than the entire length of the word. This helped the games feel a little closer in general.

I also experimented with different hand-sizes and different ways to end the game, but ended up with the originally-submitted configurations.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UIY9MOjwl4AK-RkSgymKiyHvDx...

=========================
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Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:48 pm
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ELL deck design competition 2018/2019 - part 1 (overview)

Bez Shahriari
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After I published Wibbell++, people started giving me ideas for the system. It was in early 2018 that I decided to start an annual contest.

I wasn't sure exactly what the prize would be (and I'm still working that out year-by-year) but the idea is that it's a 'rolling competition'. People can submit at any time, but judging will officially start in August.

In the first year, I had around 5 entries before I decided to have a contest (all of which were entered retroactively), along with 17 via the online form. That was almost overwhelming!

I dedicated a few playtest sessions to playing everything and quickly narrowed it down to a few possibilities. I was helped massively by David Brain, who played almost everything and then chatted with me for several hours about which ones were the best.

There was so much diversity; so many spectacular ideas. I was blown away by what people were doing with my deck!

By mid-September, I'd pretty much decided that Categorickell was the best and I made a public announcement of this at the BGG livestream at Spiel (Essen).

For the 2nd competition (ending 31st July 2019), there were 9 entries from 8 designers. Again, I was impressed with the amount of diversity and there were a few wonderful ideas that were very much outside the realms of what already exists. I did a lot of pondering and playing of everything (except one game I couldn't decipher the rules of) and then invited David and Tom to help decide between my top 4.

Some of the entries were from designers that we knew. To ensure fairness, I rewrote all 4 rulesheets into my own words and then sent these (along with a 'red herring' game of my own design) to Tom and David. Neither had any idea which one was mine, let alone who had designed the others!

In the end, none of the games submitted felt like they were the best choice for the 9th core game (a new core game being announced and 'released' online every 1st August) - for that I went with my own Puzzell. It's another 1-player game (a playercount for which there was previously only 1 core game) and not about making words.

Of the games I shared with Tom & David, there was 1 that we all agreed was in the top 2. (For David, it was clearly the best, for Tom and me it was less certain between our personal top 2/3).

I'm not going to talk about the rankings right now. But here are some of the games that were submitted:

Good, Bad, and the Wibbell - people write one word, trying to balance speed with the 'power' of the word.

Tablabatell - a game that feels very much like a traditional card game (e.g. Scopa) but fits surprisingly well with the ELL deck.

The other games involved lying, word-making, deduction, co-operation, topic-matching, pattern-matching, gestures, and more.
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Mon Jan 6, 2020 5:40 pm
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On Organisation and running competitions

Bez Shahriari
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I continue to run an annual design competition for the ELL deck. By which I mean that I have now done it twice and plan to continue until I retire.

Running a competition is not the easiest thing. And each competition will have unique considerations.

For the ELL deck, I want to motivate people to make games. Ideally, I'd be giving feedback to everyone straight away, playing everything a bit more, giving out some more feedback, and then doing some sort of run-down of the top few folk sometime later. But that all requires organisation.

On my BGG designer page, I admit that disorganisation is one of my failings. But admitting a failing doesn't make it OK. It's something I need to work at.

There was one game submitted with rules that I just couldn't understand. I showed it to two other designers and we just couldn't work it out. Ideally, I'd have put up the rules in a google document and commented on all the confusing bits, so that the designer could clarify.

Through a mixture of embarrassment, uncertainty as to how to proceed, and general disorganisation, I didn't do that. I still want to. At this point, all I can hope is that they feel inclined to rewrite and resubmit in time for the 2020 competition.

Again, I'm aware that as I want Stuff By Bez to become semi-respected, I really need to get help and also get my own shit in order.

One form of organisation is simply not doing things - admitting that there's no time to do it and you have other priorities. I entered one design contest this year and - after the initial confirmation email - I never got any other messages. It felt a little disappointing and a far cry from some other contests. Part of the reason for entering a contest is to get feedback. But at a certain point, you won't have the time...

I'm aware that the people entering my design contest will have had to ponder my deck. They put in more effort and I feel duty-bound to give them more insightful feedback. Of course, building up things too much is how I got to the point that one designer didn't get any feedback until now.

I hope that with time I can improve the process. I did have some help - David Brain and Tom Coldron (both of whom are 'banned' from the competition) agreed to judge. I played all-but-one of the games several times and pondered them all. I rewrote the instructions for my favourites so David and Tom could play them without bias. These were good practices. But each year, I hope it will run a little smoother. People deserve better.

Anyway, thanks to anyone who read this far. Soon, I'll let you know about my top 5 before revealing the actual winner.

Hopefully I've given you some assurance that the process, as disorganised as it is, is fairly thorough. I take this very seriously.
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Mon Jan 6, 2020 3:32 am
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Announcing an announcement. (the 8th core game for Wibbell++)

Bez Shahriari
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At 16:30 (local time in Essen) I will be in front of the BGG live-stream camera.

I will be showing off Mickell/Muckell and then...

I will announce the 8th core game.

If you're interested, please listen in.

After playing the 17 submissions thoroughly, I quickly determined that there were about 3 that maybe deserved to be a core game without major work.

Not to disparage the other entries. All had worth and most were really enjoyable to test.

Though I'd maybe initially represented the competition as having 3 rounds before the winner was selected... that's not the way it worked out.

At this point, everyone who entered the competition has been emailed a thing from me. There will still be some decisions made and lots more feedback given via recorded videos, along with some determination of the top 5 and whatnot.
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Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:00 am
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