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Subject: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest Entry rss

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Brian Garthwaite
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Entry thread for Snowbirds
This is an entry in the 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest.

Snowbirds is a solitaire card and dice game in which you guide a flock of snow geese along their annual migration south. The flock must manage their limited resources to travel, forage for food, and fight the exhaustion of an arduous journey. Can you lead them there safely?



Components: 50 cards; 2 standard six-sided dice; several small tokens.
Optional expansion: 18 additional cards; requires a third die.
Approximate playing time: 10 minutes

I would like to enter this game into:
Best Game by a New Designer
Best Game Designed in Contest Timeframe
Best Graphic Design
Best Rule Book
Best Regular PNP Build
Best Push Your Luck/Survival

I would happily welcome volunteers. Big thanks to all of you!

UPDATE 22 June 2017 - Rules updated; color files added; minor card modifications.
UPDATE 2 July 2017 - Rules updated. Clarifications only; no substantive gameplay changes.
UPDATE 26 July 2017 - Rules updated - clarifications only. Color card backs added. 3-card playmat version added. Player aid cards added.
UPDATE 7 August 2017 - Rules updated. Optional Sunset Sky expansion (low-ink version) added in a separate zip file.
UPDATE 11 August 2017 - Rules updated. Minor revision to player aid cards. Player mat limited to 3-card option.
UPDATE 18 August 2017 - No changes to content. PDF files combined to simplify printing. (Except for optional card backs.) As contest-ready as we're gonna get, folks.

Download files: Snowbirds
Snowbirds: Sunset Sky
Snowbirds: Storms

Also, if I ever get around to making a grandparents-in-an-RV-themed multiplayer version of this, I'll call it Snowbirds II: Geriatric Boogaloo.

* * * * * * *
Everything below these asterisks is not part of the Solitaire PnP contest. Updates regarding future expansions, possible 2-player variant, etc., will be noted here for ease of organization.

UPDATE 11 August 2017 - First draft 2-player rules added. Low-Ink files only.
UPDATE 18 August 2017 - Snowbirds is now part of the BGG database. (Base game only.)
UPDATE 6 September 2017 - New thread to discuss Snowbirds Expansions.
UPDATE 27 September 2017 - New expansion files available.
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Idea Phase]
Gameplay begins with two shuffled decks of 'action cards' and 'map cards.' The former appears hand by hand, incrementally; the latter includes more cards than are needed for a single play to mix things up.

Map cards create a series of waystations, which have three variables on each of two paths (in and out): distance, hunger, and risk. 'Distance' must be matched (or exceeded) with a 'flight' value; 'hunger' must be offset with 'foraging' in advance; and 'risk' sets a meet-or-exceed value on a 2d6 roll. Each of these may be modified by player choices at each turn. Increasing hunger makes distances longer; it's hard to keep going on an empty stomach. Failed risk rolls introduce exhaustion, which amplifies future risk unless the flock rests.

Action cards, which the player draws up into a hand at each turn, may be played in four distinct ways. Card faces have a 'flight' value on the top, a 'forage' value on the bottom, and a die value in the middle. Combined flight values cover the distance between waystations, and foraging offsets the increasing hunger of the journey. Played sideways, the card's die value may be used to replace a poor die roll. And played face-down, a card may be used to rest and remove some of the flock's exhaustion.

If the flock reaches the southern terminus, the player can measure their success with a points system that combines their unused cards, flock survival, exhaustion, and hunger.
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Marc B
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Idea Phase]
I glanced at the title and "Sandy Beach" card, and really hoped it was a game about guiding a team of Canadian octegenarians to safe refuge on the beaches of Florida
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Idea Phase]
marcusesses wrote:
I glanced at the title and "Sandy Beach" card, and really hoped it was a game about guiding a team of Canadian octegenarians to safe refuge on the beaches of Florida


If my artistic skills could have handled it, the game would be my grandparents in an RV in 1987, doing just that. Except that half of the deck would be "Pointless Anecdote" cards.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Idea Phase]
I like the theme! Keep us updated. I'm excited to try this one.
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Janine Viglietti
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Quick question: I forage ahead of time to offset hunger accrued on a trip as indicated by feathers. At the end of the trip the rules indicate I am to increase my hunger by 1 (I assume this is regardless of my ability to forage appropriately). How do I decrease the hunger track? My guess is by foraging more than the upcoming trip requires on the next leg.
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
thevig wrote:
How do I decrease the hunger track? My guess is by foraging more than the upcoming trip requires on the next leg.


Pretty much. I've made a note to clarify this when I next update the rules.

You can think of each turn as two phases: on the ground, where you can rest and eat; and in the sky, where you can fly (which makes you tired and hungry). Hunger, especially, is going to seesaw up and down as you progress. You (probably) need to move it down by foraging once you land, to offset its increase over the next leg of your journey. You might, at times, find it advantageous to fly on an empty stomach instead.

Does that help?

Thanks!
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
bgarthwaite wrote:

Also, if I ever get around to making a grandparents-in-an-RV-themed multiplayer version of this, I'll call it Snowbirds II: Geriatric Boogaloo.


As a Minnesotan, I was really imagining this was the game, based on the title. Very cool theme, though.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Hi Brian,

I took some time today and played three rounds of "Snowbirds", scoring 12, 13 and 15 points.

Rules:
* Generally spoken, the rules are well structured and I found most of the questions I had... what I think could be improved is:

- add a sentence saying that the Action Cards Discard pile is reshuffled once the Action Cards pile is depleted. It is the logical way to do this, but it does not hurt mentioning it.
- A Setup diagram would be helpful to visualize how everything should be laid out at the start of the game.
- You could mention that each turn the player can play as many cards as he likes and will keep unplayed cards for the next turn.

- I think it might be useful to have a turn sequence described in more detail... something like:

Preparation Phase:
* Rest: As an option, you may now play one or more face-down cards to show that your flock takes a short rest. If you do, reduce the exhaustion number by one per played rest card.
* Forage: check and sum up the number of wheat icons on both journey cards. This is the number by which your flock's hunger will increase after landing on the new card. To prevent this from happening, you have to play action cards with the Forage action side up. The shown value(s) are subtracted from the number of wheat icons after landing and the hunger value is adjusted by the resulting number.
* Check your current hunger stat and modify the distance of your next route accordingly.

Flight Phase:
* Flight: You must play a number of action cards with the flight side up to reach or exceed the sum of both distance values of both journey cards.
* Events: Unfavourable events during flight may cause additional exhaustion to your flock. Roll two dice and compare the cumulative result to the one shown on the dice symbols on both cards, possibly modified by the current exhaustion stat on your board. (See chapter Risk for details)

Landing:
* After this Risk or Event check, your flock lands on the next journey card.
* Modify the Risk and Hunger stats as described above.

That is just an example how you could do it, but it guides you through a player's turn.

- I missed a sentence clearly stating, when a card effect is applied... when the flock starts or lands on a given card with text?


Toughts:
Pros:
* I liked very much what you did with the cards and they are also well laid out and drawn.
* The theme fits well in my opinion, you never know what will happen next.
* The playing time is short enough to play a number of games in a row.

Cons:
* I think the game is too easy in the current state. I never felt a sense of danger in any of the three games and I was worlds away from ever risking to lose a single bird.
By just looking at the mechanics am sure that the game gets more difficult once you lose the first bird and your hand is shrinked to four cards only. Maybe this will then form a vicious circle and you lose more and more birds. I cannot imagine how you are going to realistically win with only three cards in hand.
* Because of that, the game feels pretty repetitive with only little tension and I didn't feel I wanted to play another game.

The good thing is, that you have several choices how to tweak the difficulty.
- Harsher Penalties on the board.
- Fewer high value cards.
- Events which temporarily reduce your hand size.
- ...

To sum up, I think the theme, artwork and principle mechanics are well done and I like the game but you should make it harder to win.

Dark.
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Thanks, Dark. I appreciate the testing and feedback. It's helpful to have another set of eyes to find the gaps in the rules.

DarkPadawan wrote:
I took some time today and played three rounds of "Snowbirds", scoring 12, 13 and 15 points.


I knew I'd missed something in the rules when you mentioned such high scores. By my estimate, there's a nigh-impossible theoretical maximum around 22, assuming you only ever roll boxcars and draw perfect hands.

DarkPadawan wrote:
- add a sentence saying that the Action Cards Discard pile is reshuffled once the Action Cards pile is depleted. It is the logical way to do this, but it does not hurt mentioning it.


Here's my error. Once your Action Cards are spent, they're gone. Permanently. No reshuffling, no recovery. That ought to ratchet up the tension and difficulty dramatically. Apparent in my head, clearly not to others.

I'll highlight it in the next revision.

The other comments are pretty straightforward (and quite helpful) clarifications. I'll take them under advisement as I revise the rules.

DarkPadawan wrote:
I cannot imagine how you are going to realistically win with only three cards in hand.


If that happens early on, you very well might not. In my test plays, most flock losses happen at the end of the journey, while attempting to stretch the last few cards all the way to the finish.

DarkPadawan wrote:
To sum up, I think the theme, artwork and principle mechanics are well done and I like the game but you should make it harder to win.


Vielen dank! I know you've got a plethora of other games here to try, but if you run through this again with just that tweak, I'd be curious to know how your impression changes.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Brian, thanks for the quick replies.

So the action pile is only played through once?
I must say that has a HUGE impact. I reshuffled in all of my games, in one of them about 2/3rds into the journey.

So basically, it is 10 game turns and 30 action cards... 3 per turn on average. This explains, why you need a certain amount of high cards to compensate for poor draws in the first few rounds.

I have a lot of other games to try for this contest, but I am sure I will find time to give it another try before the contests ends.

Dark.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
DarkPadawan wrote:
So basically, it is 10 game turns and 30 action cards... 3 per turn on average. This explains, why you need a certain amount of high cards to compensate for poor draws in the first few rounds.


Yup. The three-card average also makes it easy to gauge how well you're doing by simply looking at the table. Even if it does take up a sizable chunk of real estate with it all spread out.

Next time you try it, good luck!
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Last few games, scored: -7, 2, Fail, 0, 2, -8, 10.
 
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Just completed my first game. I played quite conservatively, and tried to keep my flock at maximum, and hunger very low. Towards the end I ran out of cards and took 2 exhaustion on the last two journeys. So no cards left, but 5 mostly exhausted and hungry birds for -3 points (I think!)


(Yes I played on the floor.)


I enjoyed it, there is a nice decision space with the different interacting stats.

One very minor thing. I found it tricky to get into the zipped folder (on mobile) to read the rules, could you have an unzipped version available?

Have you considered adding choice to the map cards? If you could draw an extra map card and place it face up as a 'spare.' Then you could have a choice whether to swap it for the map card you draw, and thematically your flock would head towards the best destination for them.

I found the game very smooth, and the turn phases are nice and intuitive.

I particularly like your board where the 'exploding' effects of each track is listed (although I would prefer then written out.)

Hoping to play more, maybe I'll even get a positive score! (Have you considered adding a victory bonus to make more scoring a positive figure?)
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
AlexCannon wrote:
Just completed my first game. I played quite conservatively, and tried to keep my flock at maximum, and hunger very low. Towards the end I ran out of cards and took 2 exhaustion on the last two journeys. So no cards left, but 5 mostly exhausted and hungry birds for -3 points (I think!)

Looks solid to me!

AlexCannon wrote:
(Yes I played on the floor.)

I like that Kanga's watching from off to the side.

AlexCannon wrote:
I enjoyed it, there is a nice decision space with the different interacting stats.

Glad to hear it's not just the voice in my head saying that. I was hoping to use a similar mechanic in another game design, but felt I needed to test it out in a lower-stakes situation.

AlexCannon wrote:
One very minor thing. I found it tricky to get into the zipped folder (on mobile) to read the rules, could you have an unzipped version available?

Good idea. Done.

AlexCannon wrote:
Have you considered adding choice to the map cards? If you could draw an extra map card and place it face up as a 'spare.' Then you could have a choice whether to swap it for the map card you draw, and thematically your flock would head towards the best destination for them.

I hadn't, but I'll see how that feels. The initial design had a large, static map with branching possibilities, but it was messy. Since shifting to cards, I haven't revisited it.

AlexCannon wrote:
I found the game very smooth, and the turn phases are nice and intuitive.

I particularly like your board where the 'exploding' effects of each track is listed (although I would prefer then written out.)

I'll see what could change but still keep it clean.

AlexCannon wrote:
Hoping to play more, maybe I'll even get a positive score! (Have you considered adding a victory bonus to make more scoring a positive figure?)

If I get in enough plays to have a strong sense of the points distribution, I might. Then again, I like the idea of success even with negative points. I've been mulling over assigning a points system for failed migrations, which could incorporate that more cleanly.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
I've got it all printed out and sleeved and I'm hoping to get a few games in this weekend. I've been looking forward to this since finding the entry list!

I really like the theme and the layouts are all crisp and nice. The one thing I did was that I cut the main tracker board into 3 card-sized pieces so that, even sleeved, I could lay them out side-by-side. Having the entire game fit so very nicely into a deck box is absolutely splendid!

All in all, can't wait to take these birds out for a test flight.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
clubspecialbee wrote:
The one thing I did was that I cut the main tracker board into 3 card-sized pieces so that, even sleeved, I could lay them out side-by-side. Having the entire game fit so very nicely into a deck box is absolutely splendid!


Ooh, I like that. If you snap a photo, please post it. When I take a look at design revisions, maybe I'll make that standard.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Of course! As you can see it's so very close to fitting perfectly on 3 cards as you have it already, which is what gave me the idea in the first place. I bet with some minor tweaking it'll fit just right.



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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Love the art on the cards

Going to print out the low ink version and give it a go.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Sat down and played a game of this after digesting the rules.

The rules are clear and easy enough to understand, and by the time I had read through the rules fully I understood the game well enough to play with, only needing to flip through the rulebook a couple of times.

It would have been nice to have a summary of the game steps/flow on the gameboard (perhaps instead of the scoring summary?) especially for new players, as for that I needed to refer to the longer section in the rulebook.

The rulebook doesn't explain how to use flight or forage cards until you get to the game flow section, while risk is explained in full in the action section. I had expected to see that also explained in the action section.

In a number of cases you also only explain something while giving an example at the same time, in particular when explaining scoring, which threw me a little until I gathered that that was what you were doing.


Managing your limited pool of cards to get to the destination is a clever mechanic, and overall works quite well - deciding if you are going to take the risk and (potential) loss of flock vs spending extra cards and risking running out adds quite a bit of tension to the game. The only downside to this is the luck introduced by the risk roll, and some bad rolling can cripple your migration, but that is part of the game, and managing that luck is also part of the game. The benchmark seems to be spending around 3 cards per location, and saving where possible in order to use them later when things go worse.


For my first run through the game I had both some good rolls and some terrible rolls, so it all balanced out. I rested twice at one location, not wanting to risk losing my flock to early, and while it paid off getting to the end with most of my flock intact my score wasn't too flash: 1 point. But at least they made it.

I like it a lot, and am going to add it to my solo rotation (after I get a full colour version printed tomorrow). Well done on a solid design, and I really like the art - it looks gorgeous. Will you be creating a BGG entry for it at some point?

This game has also the potential for expansions - easily done by creating additional locations, some of which could have some special rules or an additional twist. Food for thought anyways ^^
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
mogust wrote:
(after I get a full colour version printed tomorrow)


You deserve a thorough response, but with two sick kids, I'm really short on free time right now. So until then: I am working on a set of optional card backs for the color version (which, honestly, I never expected anyone to print). If you'd like to include those in your color print version, wait a week or so.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Saw this in the news and couldn't help but think of your game - a good sign!

One tough bird: Father goose carries on despite arrow through belly

Prbobably a good thing you don't have humans in the game...
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
clubspecialbee wrote:
Saw this in the news and couldn't help but think of your game - a good sign!

One tough bird: Father goose carries on despite arrow through belly

Prbobably a good thing you don't have humans in the game...

That's one hardcore motherfu- father... uh... honker.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
bgarthwaite wrote:
mogust wrote:
(after I get a full colour version printed tomorrow)


You deserve a thorough response, but with two sick kids, I'm really short on free time right now. So until then: I am working on a set of optional card backs for the color version (which, honestly, I never expected anyone to print). If you'd like to include those in your color print version, wait a week or so.

Thanks for the feedback!


No worries. I hope your kids get better.

I'm not to worried about the backs, as I usually don't print them as well, but will be interested to see what they look like.
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Re: [WIP] Snowbirds - 2017 Solitaire PnP Contest [Components Available]
Brian, your files are just now winging their way to my printer for playtesting. Is there anything specific you would like me to focus on? (Hope the kids are getting better quickly.)
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