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Cultivate





Cultivate is a game wherein the player tries not to kill a plant.
Which is harder than it sounds.
We've all been there - "Can you water my new ferns while I'm on vacation?" "A dog? Let's see you keep a cactus alive first" "Your Grandfather wanted you to to have his prize orchids. He said you'd know what to do with them. He said it's in your blood."
- In Cultivate, Stem tiles on the board sprout new Leaf tiles every turn, which you harvest for Victory Points.
- Manage your Actions to maintain optimal Hydration and Sunlight, as well as pruning back buds as the plants begin to flower.
- Leaf tiles harvested, in addition to granting Victory Points, go into an Effects track, where they bestow either a positive (Green tiles) or negative (Red tiles) effect on your turn.
- The game utilizes a fun new rotational mechanic; every turn you rotate the entire board 90*, which changes the orientation of the leaf tiles; the orientation of the tiles determines how much they're worth, and where new leaf tiles sprout.

PHASE: Withdrawn from Contest
CATEGORY: Resource Management
MECHANICS: Tile Laying, Board Rotation, Risk Management
COMPONENTS: 1 d8 die, 1 page (A4) PnP tiles, 1 page(A4) board
PLAY TIME: 30 min


The design of this game has mirrored my purchase of a basil plant from Trader Joe's; that plant has been a learning experience, but ultimately I'll have to try again next year. Feel free to check out the files below; I'll be thinking about this game, and how I can improve it, for the next contest.

I hope you enjoy Cultivate!

Rules
Components
Board
Tracker
Reference
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
(Cracks knuckles) Ok, here we go.

Cultivate
Cultivate (Working Title) is a game wherein the player tries not to kill a plant.
Which is harder than it sounds.
We've all been there - "Can you water my new ferns while I'm on vacation?" "A dog? Let's see you keep a cactus alive first" "Your Grandfather wanted you to to have his prize orchids. He said you'd know what to do with them. He said it's in your blood."
I've never seriously entered any of the Design Contests here, but the Solitaire 2013 PnP seemed like a good place to make my first real stab at this. I also just purchased a basil plant from Trader Joe's, and am determined to prove to myself that not every living thing in my care need languish and drop dead. So I've decided to incorporate that into my PnP entry.

So what does this entail?

- I'm thinking of a tile-laying game, where stacks of tiles represent the growing shoots, and the player has various actions she can take to keep her crop healthy.
- Limited pools of variability: Bit of a hobbyhorse of mine, but I like looking at the management of small, separate instances of randomness, instances that can be modified by the player.
- The crop will grow according to certain triggers, based on height of stacks, proximity, and number of turns. Shades of The Game of Life there.
- The starting stalks will be determined semi-randomly, and there should probably be some random-ness introduced at certain turn numbers, in order to make each game unique.
- Pruning/harvesting the plant provides you with the currency to afford your plant better care/options.

So that's the beginning thought bubbles on the subject. I'll start kicking around more mechanics and some starting points. If anyone has feedback or is interested in the game, let me know.

Latest:
- NEW 10/04/2013 I'm withdrawing from the contest, as I'm just not satisfied with having this game be judged in its present state. This is what's best for the design, I promise! Cultivate will rise again.

- First Full Rules and Components for Cultivate - Please take a look, any and all feedback appreciated!

- Cultivate: Project Blackberry Initial Presentation - Here's a first look at one of the possible Cultivate models.
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)

Random ideas;

- Water the roots/soil
- Spray a mister on the leaves
- Spray insecticide to kill bugs or prevent them
- Harvest fruit
- Cut away plants/leaves
- Cut away infected leaves/branches
- change soil/pot
- sing to plant
- talk to plant
- yell at plant in frustration
- say supportive, nurturing things to plant
- add fertilizer to dirt
- Get one of those water-orb thingies
- adjust shade/temperature
- place wooden stakes to control direction of growth
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Santiago Eximeno
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
I like the idea. Try differente plants (different final tiles configuration) for the player can try differente strategies.

 
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
Excellent idea. I love gardening so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one grows
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
lordrahvin wrote:

Random ideas;

- Water the roots/soil
- Spray a mister on the leaves
- Spray insecticide to kill bugs or prevent them
- Harvest fruit
- Cut away plants/leaves
- Cut away infected leaves/branches
- change soil/pot
- sing to plant
- talk to plant
- yell at plant in frustration
- say supportive, nurturing things to plant
- add fertilizer to dirt
- Get one of those water-orb thingies
- adjust shade/temperature
- place wooden stakes to control direction of growth


Thanks for the suggestions! Some of these had occurred to me, in one form or another; some I may steal. A few I think will likely be too complex for the game I have in mind. My thoughts on the plants (and how to care for them) are currently very influenced by Ozy (the name I have foolishly given to the Basil plant currently looking thirstily at me), and as such, there are fewer demands required to care for the plant.

eximeno wrote:
I like the idea. Try differente plants (different final tiles configuration) for the player can try differente strategies.



As I mentioned in my comment to Brook above, I'm currently modeling it around the potted basil I got; however, I'm toying with the idea of having the starting plants determined randomly; perhaps certain combinations will represent certain difficulty levels / breeds of plant; perhaps I will have different decks of tiles for a different growing experience.

mjrobertson wrote:
Excellent idea. I love gardening so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one grows


Glad to hear it, I may ask for advice since everything I touch turns to ash.
 
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
I am getting a Friday vibe with the theme where you are playing against the initial incompetence of a virtual character.

It might be an appropriate mechanic to have to expend some kind of "effort" resource to actually remember to water the plant regularly.

Maybe there are also random events that take place, like temporarily having a cat in the house that threatens to destroy parts of your plant.
 
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
Donkler wrote:
I am getting a Friday vibe with the theme where you are playing against the initial incompetence of a virtual character.

It might be an appropriate mechanic to have to expend some kind of "effort" resource to actually remember to water the plant regularly.

Maybe there are also random events that take place, like temporarily having a cat in the house that threatens to destroy parts of your plant.


I'm currently toying with a mechanic I call "Blunders", wherein a given number of tiles with potentially negative effects are shuffled in with the rest; one that I had in mind is "Harvest three additional leaves", which would not be revealed until the end of your turn. I say "potentially negative" because they're more wild cards: perhaps you didn't have the actions to harvest all the leaves you wanted to, so it's a windfall; on the other hand, perhaps you did a lot of harvesting this round, and this Blunder will cause you to over-pick and kill one of your shoots.
There may be a cat. I do share space with a really dumb cat.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
I've got a couple of different ideas going right meow. I lurk a lot on these boards, and I was reading what people had to say over on the Design Styles thread currently going, and I especially resonated with the first commentor, who said "Mechanics > Theme > Mechanics", i.e. a mechanic presents itself, a theme follows, inspiring further mechanics.
This was the case with Cultivate. I looked at my slush-pile of game ideas, but I've never really put much thought into solitaire games (which is odd, considering what a misanthropic solo gamer I am), and so I began thinking about what kind of mechanics would be fun to play without the benefit of other players.
It occurred to me that preventing something bad from happening, or rather, trying to prevent growth from getting out of hand (a la, say, Pandemic) would make for a fun solitary experience. Then I looked over at Ozy, and the theme leaped to the head of the queue. A number of different possibilities opened up.
Thing is, those possibilities are still open! I heard a while back that the way Apple creates each new device is to develop product lines in parallel, and then take the strongest option, borrow the best features from the other lines, and voila; you have the iPhone.
To that end, I'm going to try something a little different; I'm going to see if I can develop the basic game based on a number of different boards as starting point. I thought cool playspaces (especially since this is PnP) might be a chessboard, the Catan hex grid, a bullseye, and then for fun I threw in two boards from games I'm working on / have designed, Black Sky and Flect.
I'll see which, if any of these boards, lends itself to a fun tile-stacking game.

 
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
For everyone that follows my game design blog, and saw that I'm working on a couple different parallel development lines for this project, here's some notes I came up with.

Project Honeycomb
- Catan board has 19 hexes. Roll d20 to determine where new shoots grow? 20 is choose your own.
- Catan Terrains = soil types? (Meh.)
- Water-edges = water amount / temp?
- Hexes mean that you can have 6-way or 3-way orientation.

Project Chestnut
- 4-way orientation.
- I should just rotate the entire board.
- Lots of edge negative space on a circular mat for tracking Time, VP, Water/Sunlight/Fertilizer, Player orientation.

Project Buckeye
- Bullseye could be "trunk"; each quarter would be a branch. Trimming a branch at its base yields you that WHOLE branch, for better or for worse.
- 5 tiers; Trunk, branch, two tiers of leaves, fifth tier is flowers, triggering end of game.

Project Blackberry
- Each macrocircle is a shoot.
- Use the outside medium-size circles? They flower when leaves crowd them?
- Hexes in circles?

Project Snowdrop
- I honestly don't see anything coming out of this board, for what I have in mind thus far.


Conclusions
So what are my "breakthroughs"? Well, I've fairly eliminated using the Flect Board (Project Snowdrop) as the playspace, but the other four projects still have some promise. At this time, using a chessboard or Catan hexes seem like the most viable.
One thing I'm kind of pleased with is the mechanism I came up with for aging leaves. I figure leaves (for this initial plant, anyhow) will be the harvestable currency, and I realized that the orientation of the hex tiles can serve as a timer for how the leaves mature. Each leaf will be a hex tile with a hidden piece of information on the bottom side, and a maturity timer on the top. As the tiles rotate, the leaves become more valuable (if harvested) although at a certain point they begin to wilt and decrease in value.



This lead to the realization: Well, it's a solo game. You don't have to worry about your view of the game messing with other players. How about each turn, you rotate the whole board, thereby aging all the existing leaves, before adding new leaves at the "new" position?



Now as you may or may not know, I'm new to this, and have a limited knowledge of boardgames in general. I don't know if this is old hat, but I'm pleased with this mechanic, and it's really getting me going with this design.

Til next time.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
So! While Project Honeycomb looks like a frontrunner in viability for this contest entry, I thought I'd give a little love to Project Chestnut and Project Buckeye; Buckeye especially utilizes a dartboard, an odd inspiration for a playspace, much less a solo heady-type game.
Some notes.

Project Chestnut
- 8x8 board, 63 possible spaces (duh).
- 4 starting "stems", randomly selected out of 8 possible stems?
- Number all tiles evenly 1-8 so that you can pull tiles to "roll" a d8 in order to determine coordinates for new shoots?


Back and Front of Leaf Tile for Project Chestnut


- (Rounded) Diamonds or Squares? I kind of like the idea of the chessboard being turned on its point, so that all the pieces are diamonds instead of squares. I can't explain why, but it feels to me like they're more organic, even if they're just the same shape from a different angle.

Project Buckeye
- So Project Buckeye can't easily utilize the rotating piece timer I have going for Projects Blackberry, Chestnut, and Honeycomb. The "tiles" don't seem like they'll really work at all, on the board itself.
- Cubes on the board?
- What do I always like better than cubes - Tiny Dice?!
- Cards for the effects, perhaps a red deck and a green deck, and red and green dice to show how each leaf ages? Yellow or white dice for flowers?

I'll try and get working prototypes up next. Things I want to integrate; The List of Phases, Aphids, and the Ladybug.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
So! It's not quite a prototype, but it's at a point where I'm looking for feedback. I wouldn't call it a pitch either, so - how about I call this the presentation for Project Blackberry?
Click here to see the Presentation here.



For those who don't know, I'm developing multiple prototypes in parallel with one another for this contest. For the final game, I will pick the game I like the most (or which YOU all like the most) and incorporate the best features from the other paratypes.

Any thoughts on this first look?
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
It's difficult to keep track of so many different project names and looks. You may get better feedback and participation if you narrow down your projects and ask people to choose a between a or b. If you develop too many project concepts you may end up wasting a lot of time on things that you later discard. It's good to have choices and options but if I was you I'd focus primarily on what you want the game to achieve and start eliminating prototypes on that basis. Other than that, the concept looks good.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
mjrobertson wrote:
It's difficult to keep track of so many different project names and looks. You may get better feedback and participation if you narrow down your projects and ask people to choose a between a or b. If you develop too many project concepts you may end up wasting a lot of time on things that you later discard. It's good to have choices and options but if I was you I'd focus primarily on what you want the game to achieve and start eliminating prototypes on that basis. Other than that, the concept looks good.


You make an excellent point. With so much time in the Contest, and my self-set challenge to parallel prototype, I'm committed to developing the different prototypes (now just four of them, though) and seeing what happy accidents arise. However, in terms of readability... yeah, I should probably keep all of my "in-the-lab" mental wandering on my blog. I'll let people know when I've got just one or two working prototype I feel good about.
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
I think once you've boiled it down to a couple of options then you'll also be much more able to explain the core ideas to people and they in turn will be able to feedback more usefully. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and interesting to see your ideas but it is a little difficult to say anything meaningful or helpful about them if there's a lot of them. Anyway, I'll stay tuned for further updates.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
Whoo. This has been tough but steady going. I've got two prototypes in a ready-ish state (one of which is even built!) and I have to say; working on multiple prototypes has already been tangibly useful.
I wrote up the second prototype out of sheer squeamish procrastination, in order to avoid having to actually BUILD the first prototype. I found that attacking the same "problem" (the basic premise and fundamental mechanics of Cultivate) from a different angle allowed to me come up with new solutions to problems that I hadn't bothered to solve or sand down in the first prototype. So while my Project Blackberry prototype has a more elegant board, it's my Project Chestnut Prototype that currently has a better game, and actually got built.
I'm making myself playtest Project Chestnut before I hare off and develop another prototype, but so far, so good. Just got a couple of sticky wickets that I may need to appeal to all of you for help on.
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Ideas Phase)
Good progress. Building a more robust/usable prototype can be time consuming but is essential as it immediately tests all the paper rules and in your head assumptions about things that you think will 'just work'. I have made the mistake of glossing over small details of mechanics due to too much mental designing and later found major issues, and so it's good that you've avoided this mistake.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
Hello All!

So after a long self-imposed break from all things boardgame (I had a show with a ridiculous amount of text, music, etc to memorize and turn into, you know, a performance) I have re-entered the design process for my PnP Solitaire 2013 entry, Cultivate. Unsurprisingly, I no longer have time to pursue all the different parallel prototypes I originally planned, though the work I did on them was incredibly helpful as a learning process.

So after two days of furious working, I have a full nice prototype; components, rules, tracker, board (you can also just play on a chessboard), heck, even a fun reference guide.

I've also formatted this thread to look like a proper PnP Contest Entry, so let's keep chugging to the finish line, folks.

Per contest entry standards, I have all the stuff in the first and second entries of this thread, but you can also find all of the documents for PnP here. I'm very behind on this contest, but I'm excited for this concept, and for people to try out this mechanic/theme mashup. Any feedback, whether you can actually print it out and play it or not, would be immensely helpful. Thank you!
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Aleksandar Saranac
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
I really like the idea with board turning mechanism. Is it yours, or have you seen it in some other game?
I am asking because I have recently had similar idea for board turning game, just with two boards, one turning clockwise and other counter clockwise, and I plan to implement it until next year contest

I will print your game tomorrow, and try to play it.
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Chad Mestdagh
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
Just read the rules to this game and I found it VERY interesting. And it is killing me that I am not sure that I can come up with a way of making a vassal module for it. I am sure that there is a mathematical formula that could be made that would allow for the board to rotate, but I don't know that I could come up with it.

With that said, I am going to pnp it tonight.

Also, what happens when the two stems start to touch each other?
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Chad Mestdagh
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
You should also let Chris know that the game now has components ready via email.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
saranac wrote:
I really like the idea with board turning mechanism. Is it yours, or have you seen it in some other game?
I am asking because I have recently had similar idea for board turning game, just with two boards, one turning clockwise and other counter clockwise, and I plan to implement it until next year contest

I will print your game tomorrow, and try to play it.


Aleksander, thank you for taking a look. The mechanism is not borrowed; I do not know if it has been used elsewhere, but I came upon it independently when I was thinking about Solo mechanics, and some mechanics I have in mind for card-orientation representing different things in games beyond just "tapped". Thinking about those two things and playing a lot of Hive led me to come up with the board-rotational mechanic.
I'd also be interested in whether or not any other games use this mechanic!

radchad wrote:
Just read the rules to this game and I found it VERY interesting. And it is killing me that I am not sure that I can come up with a way of making a vassal module for it. I am sure that there is a mathematical formula that could be made that would allow for the board to rotate, but I don't know that I could come up with it.

With that said, I am going to pnp it tonight.

Also, what happens when the two stems start to touch each other?


Chad, Thanks so much for your thoughts! I'm looking at a more elegant means of stem placement/distribution, but it was always my hope that some stems would wind up touching, triggering the Flowering condition much earlier for both stems. At one point (not in this Prototype, I think, but perhaps in Project Honeycomb, my Catan-board Prototype for this) I had leaf tiles growing on top of stems, and on top of other leaves, which is aesthetically very fun but was a bit too unwieldy.

Don't worry about the Vassal thing. While it would be GREAT to have Vassal to playtest this game, you've already done the community a huge service with the other modules you've made. Thanks for taking on that huge and helpful role.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
Woof. Well, October just barrelled its way in here, didn't it?
Does anyone have any feedback on the game? I've just been written up at work for spending too much time on BGG, and don't know how much more work I can get done on this before the deadline. If I can't get it to where I really want it, I might have to pull the plug at the last minute, and shelve it until (yeesh) next year's contest. I really, really want to do this concept justice, as I think I've stumbled on a cool, fun mechanic for solo play.

A glaring issue that some may have noticed is that there are endgame conditions, but not really a "Winning" gamestate condition. I just haven't been able to get the necessary playtesting in to establish the numbers data for average victory point score, difficult victory point score, beginner victory point score, etc. I'm thinking of writing up Objective Scenario's, to give some guidance to the game (as of right now, it fits the definition of "toy" better than it does "game") and to increase replayability, and vary up the gameplay. I envision them being very much like Achievements in GameCenter; Get 100 points with only half of the green tiles, get six blooming flowers in twenty turns or less, etc.

Well... we'll see. There's a lot of work to be done in three days, and I'm not going to switch this over to "Contest Ready" unless it all gets done.
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Re: [WIP] Cultivate - 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest (Components Ready) - Looking for Feedback!
I'd strongly urge you to post whatever you've managed to come up with by the time the deadline approaches. While some people have managed to create what appear to be 'complete' games, I'm sure that almost all of them will have glaring omissions and various balance problems as well as features that their designers just couldn't manage to include in time (my own game is exactly that).

One school of thought as to how you should approach the contest is that you should aim to produce a decent proof of concept of your game. You want to produce something that shows your core ideas and the most important mechanics, so that people who play it can see what the game is generally about and appreciate the design decisions that you've made. It doesn't have to be 'complete', it just needs to demonstrate your main idea.

The contest is only really the first step on a long road. Post contest you can look to develop the game with the luxury of unlimited time and player feedback.



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Cross-posting from the Contest Thread, I am officially withdrawing Cultivate from the 2013 Contest.

Thanks to those who have followed my progress, and to anyone who has taken a look at or printed out my design; I have not given up on the game, but for the health of the design, I'm not going to submit it to the contest. To be perfectly honest, I felt unsure about listing it as "Components Ready", as I had committed a cardinal sin of game design; I put it out there and solicited feedback before adequately playtesting it myself.

I also had a huge time-gap where I simply couldn't work on either game design or the contest, and that's an instance of real life just getting in the way. Now, I can tinker with the design, or, more likely, go back and experiment with some much deeper, broader changes. I can also return to the parallel design process, and proceed with my original plan, minus the urgency (admittedly, a very creatively helpful urgency) of the contest deadline.

Thanks to everyone for your helpful words, and I hope to be back soon with new, better work done on this design!
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