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Subject: Battle on the Skyscraper rss

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Elias Mochan
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BATTLE ON THE SKYSCRAPER




Battle on the Skyscraper is a simple strategy abstract 1 vs 1 board game. The goal is to eliminate all the opponent's pieces by pushing them off the board. To master this game you'll need strategy and a lot of focus, since attacks can come from lots of unexpected angles.

All you need to play is a 9x5 rectangular board, and 9 pieces of each of two distinguishable colors.

It is a game I made back in 2002, when I was 13, but it's only available now. It's my first entry to the 2017 Two-Player Print and Play Game Design Contest.

Designer: Elías Mochán.
Artist: Elías Mochán.
Players: 2.
Play time: 10-15 minutes. EDIT: Feedback tells me playtime may be a lot more. Maybe up to 45 minutes.
Ages: 6+ (PARENTAL WARNING: Although this is an abstract game, it could be considered violent because of the way pieces "die").

Rules and board are available HERE.

Contest categories:
Best Casual/Gateway Game
Best Game with Language Independent Components
Best New Mechanic
Best New Designer
Best Game

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Alek Erickson
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sounds fun!

there are many typos in your rule book!

I recommend using spell check before the tournament begins!

I will be trying this one out, I love abstracts!

good luck!
 
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JK
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Hi Elias,
Welcome. Great to have your entry! Best of luck.
JK
 
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Elias Mochan
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Thanks! I checked the spelling and I added a FAQ section.
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Marty Lund
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Looks cool! Good luck!
 
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JK
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PLAYTESTER SPOT PRIZES

This game is eligible for a playtester spot prize for the next week!

See this post for more details.
 
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Martijn van der Lee
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Hoping to playtest this game later today, but some minor feedback from the start; (A) the gameboard is stretched out when printed. Couldn't you make is square? Perhaps also add some instructions, decoration or atleast the name of the game on the board?
I feel the rules are short enough, and the game is small enough physically, that you might fit the entire game, including board scaled for typical "resource cubes" on a single page, which would make this game even more attractive as a quick P&P game.
Will let you know about my playtest session when it's done.
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Martijn van der Lee
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Just did a full playtest game.

I like this game a lot! It's surprisingly challenging; at several times I thought the game would just end up in a stale state, but it always ended up in a situation where one of the players was forced into a bad move. I especially like you might come back from a loss of gamepieces.

It's the type of "simple rules, deep strategy" that I try to achieve with my own game (66d6).

As I enjoy the mechanics as is, there is little I can comment on that subject, though I'll still try

For statistics; starting player won with 3 pieces remaining at the end.

Theme
* The theme is a bit off. It isn't really reflected anywhere (in the graphics or design) and I think it might hurt the game more than it helps, with all the talking of "suicide" in the manual. I enjoy dark and grim themes, but it just feels off for a game of this type. Perhaps offer an alternative to falling to death; parachutes or bouncy castles or something like that?
Manual
* Figure 2 and 4 have a highlighted black game piece; this doesn't show up well on black-&-white print.
* Figure 3 is detached from the chapter that describes it.
* Reading the "standard move" rule had me confused a bit; it took a few passes before I realized that indeed you can only move 1 (no more, no less) spaces.
Rules
* Gameplay doesn't really start until some of the pieces are gone from the board and the end-game can take quite a while. The real action is at about 4 to 6 pieces each player. Perhaps the board can be a bit smaller (i.e. 5x7) to move it along a bit faster. I don't know how this might detract from strategy though.
Gameplay
* This game is definitely not 10-15 minutes, as the manual states. It took atleast 30 minutes, excluding reading the manual. I imagine more experienced players might take longer due to the strategy involved.
* Despite that the game remains challenging throughout my playtest for both players, I still think this game may have winning strategies. Not much of a problem for a free P&P game, though.

I sincerely hope you can try a smaller board size and give some feedback on that; if that works as I hope it might (avoid a slow start- and end-game), it would be even better.
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Elias Mochan
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Thanks! that's great feedback!

I think the playing time may actually be shorter once the players are familiar with the game.

Mathematically all finite sum-0 games have a winning strategy, but I understand your point: in this case human players may be able to "find it" before they die. Yes, the game may loose it's charm once the players become experts, but from what I've seen it takes quite a while to get there (for most people). When you get there it turns into a game of focus more than strategy and that's when a chess timer or trying a different board may make it exciting again.

About the stretching of the board, that's actually a personal choice, I kind of like it with rectangular spaces.

About the size of the board, I may add alternative boards

I'll try to change the manual to incorporate some of your feedback as soon as I have time.

Greetings.
 
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Elias Mochan
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I just added a revised manual that includes a smaller sized board and is less violent (doesn't mention "dead" or "suicide"). I tried to incorporate all your feedback, except the title is still the same because I can't come with anything better and the board is still stretched and undesigned.
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My two cents.

The rules are clear, well written and address every situation. I played a learning game with my son and, while playing, I was asking myself some questions regarding the design decissions.

I think the game will be cleaner if you try to avoid forbidden positions and ties. I’m concerned if a game with two players of equal level will always end in a draw. Also if one player can always force a tie if he plays for it.

Maybe, If you restrict the simple movement to be only forward and lateral it won’t be necessary to ban some configurations and it can avoid ties. I don’t really now, I need more plays to be sure.

Congrats.
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Alek Erickson
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hey, just spent some time playing skyscraper.

I really like this game, I consider it one of the better designed games entered into the contest. The light theme fits well, its not over-themed.

There seems to be an opening phase (full of standard moves)
a middle game phase (full of pushing and L moves)
and a clearly defined endgame phase (full of standard moves that take advantage of opposition).

After a couple games, we haven't found any major game breaking strategies. I'm only worried that in the opening phase, very careful players will never subject themselves to a position where pushing moves become legal, leading to a never-ending game.

placing stones in between two stones seems like a really good strategy. I would recommend asking whether there would be a "runaway winner" problem, where early leads become impossible to overcome. I say this because the endgame phase, the person with more stones should never have trouble easily cornering the other player.

I disagree with the previous playtester about forbidden squares. That is simple enough and would be game breaking. Squares would never be able to be manipulated by the other player! So I think you're right. In terms of ties, I never came across any problems with ties because of the non-linearity of captures (one piece can push 5 pieces if the position is right). So it would be actually difficult for roughly equal level players to end up with equal amounts of pieces.

Overall, fun abstract, thanks.
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Alek Erickson
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For the record, I lost when my opponent had 3 on the board (but I resigned when I had 2 trapped cornered pieces)

in the second game, my opponent stopped moving when I had 6 and he had 4 in this position.


. . . . . . . . .
. b . . . w . . .
b . b b w . . . .
b . . . . . . . .
b w . . . . . w .

with white to move. of course white needs to retreat or defend, with the extra material black should be able to basically corner white, but at the same time, the game started behaving weirdly at this point. Actually, now we're here...

. . . . . . . . .
. . b . w . . b .
. . . b . . b . w
. . w . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .

now it's really hard to figure out a win!
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Finn
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I've just playtested this game! It was great fun, really simple and deserving of being a gateway game. It actually played like chess, simple enough but with a lot of strategy.

Some pictures:

I used Transformers: Risk for the pieces.


The Autobots spot the Decepticons!


Battle is joined!


Autobot victory!

This game had no noticeable flaws for me, and stopping square formations was a good idea, as they would unbalance the game.

Playtime was only 10-15 minutes for me.

This is a pretty simple game, so it probably isn't the kind of game that gets extended much. I really don't have much to add to this game, it's already pretty perfect!

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Elias Mochan
Mexico
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Thanks a lot! I'm glad you enjoy it!
 
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Elias Mochan
Mexico
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Thanks for your feedback! I'm really glad that you enjoy the game!
 
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Elias Mochan
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Thank you for playing!

Your proposal of forbidding backwards movement doesn't work with this game, because once you get to the other side of the board there's nothing left to do (and it's a pretty short board).

Squares need to be banned because they're absolutely indestructible: it would be a very easy way to never lose. Even if you allow diagonal moves they are no longer indestructible but still way too powerful.

I don't think it's any easier to force a tie than it is to just try to win.

Thanks a lot for your feedback.
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David Sals
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Battle on the Skyscraper playtesting
Hi Elias,

I played two rounds of Battle on the Skyscraper yesterday. My friend and I really enjoyed the game play. Like many of my favorite abstracts, it has extremely simple rules but that's a lot to pay attention to.

What I liked: This game is all about the "L" moves, of course. It was rare that a player put themselves in in danger of a straight push off the board. The two most common scenarios were splitting two vulnerable enemies by putting your piece directly in the middle of them like this: OXO
or finding a push that led to one or more other pushes that eventually led to one or more opponents getting pushed off the board. Tracking and defending against all of these potential L moves was really what made the game.

What didn't work so well: I'm not sure if this is a problem with this specific game, or just a problem with all games of this nature, from Abalone to checkers, but once one player got ahead by a couple of pieces, the game was basically over and it was just a matter of grinding through the rest of the play and trying not to do something stupid. It's almost impossible for a player who is behind to make a comeback, unless their opponent makes a big mistake, because the player with more pieces can always just move the extras around while they wait for the opponent to move into a more vulnerable position.

So ultimately this game became about who could take (or push) first blood without losing a piece themselves. Once one player succeeded in this, the rest was somewhat perfunctory. The game was pretty quick, though, so it still felt okay.

Balancing the game: Like I said at the beginning, I love how simple the game is, and adding a bunch of other rules might take away from that simple elegance. I think, though, that if there is a way to balance, it probably involves having a second way to win. One that I though of was getting 3 of your own pieces on your opponent's starting row. A rule like this would accomplish 3 things: 1) it would give the losing player a way to win even if they only have 3 pieces left, 2) it would add another element to think about and guard against, and 3) it would offer a quick way to end a game once it becomes unbalanced.

This is just one idea - I'm sure there are others. And the game works even without that kind of modification, so please ignore if this doesn't feel useful to you. Either way, I very much enjoyed the game and am sure I will play again.

Good luck to you,
David
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Elias Mochan
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Thanks a lot for your feedback, David. I will try to test some alternative winning conditions. What you say is very true, it is very rare the scenario where the losing player has a strategic way to turn the table or force a draw. If it happens it is usually just a long term exchange: for example, you may have lost a piece, but your opponent is now stuck on your side and can't escape, like this:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ O O X O O _ _ _

(Imagine the X just pushed an O out of the board). The O moves this:

_ _ O _ _ _ _ _ _
_ O _ X O O _ _ _

So that X cannot move without compromising his position (so it moves something else). In the next turn O can do this:

_ O O _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ X O O _ _ _

And now the X is doomed.
 
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