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Subject: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest Entry rss

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Brian Garthwaite
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An entry in the 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest.



Certain Stars
Designer: Brian Garthwaite

Certain Stars is a light tile-placement and pattern-matching game for 1 or 2 players. While out camping, the kids want to learn the constellations, but you’ve forgotten your star guide. As the stars begin to twinkle, can you point out just enough bogus yet believable sky shapes to keep them entertained?

No. players: 1-2
Play time: 15 minutes

Components:
24 double-sided sky cards ('domino' size)
11 double-sided constellation / horizon cards ('domino' size)
5 double-sided shooting star / cloud tokens
5 bright star bonus tokens (double-sided optional)




Rules and components available:
Certain Stars

UPDATE 14 September 2017 - First draft components available.
UPDATE 19 September 2017 - A few rules tweaks; low-ink cards re-hatched; constellation cards revised for easier 2-player readability.
UPDATE 7 October 2017 - Revised rules for a cooperative-first game with competitive variant; new constellations added; additional printable tokens to accommodate rules changes.
UPDATE 1 November 2017 - Now part of the BGG database.
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Idea Phase]
Rules and component changes under consideration:

- Constellations are always up for revision or replacement. Tin's full, though.

- Considering a second tin (eventually) to incorporate more cards for a four-sided, four-player version of the game.
 
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Idea Phase]
The idea for this came about because my 4-year-old daughter loves to ask questions, and isn't always happy for an "I don't know" answer. I imagined what it would be like if she asked me about the constellations, of which I can reliably identify... say, four? Maybe five?

I can usually find Polaris, anyway.

I also wanted to set myself a challenge of creating a game that fit within the constraints of the mint tin, but didn't look like a tiny game on the table.
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Jesse Worsham
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Idea Phase]
As a terrible amateur astronomer myself, I love the theme of this game and the idea of making up constellations to entertain children. Looking forward to seeing where this idea takes you!
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giampiero randazzo
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Idea Phase]
jdub027 wrote:
As a terrible amateur astronomer myself, I love the theme of this game and the idea of making up constellations to entertain children. Looking forward to seeing where this idea takes you!



me too!
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
First draft components available for download!
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]

let me download it and try it right away!
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Israel Waldrom
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Looks interesting - printing it out now.
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Israel Waldrom
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Played a game solo - it's a lot harder to make multiple constellations than you'd first think!

Rules overall are pretty clear - I had no real issues picking up the game.
It might be worth mentioning for the solo game that you don't need to earn the clouds/shooting star tiles, but have them all available for use (at least that is the assumption that I came to). It also might be worth explicitly mentioning in the components that the cloud/shooting star tiles are a double sided tile with one on either side.

An additional rule that would be useful for solo play is that you can finish the game once you are sure you can no longer (meaningfully) complete any constellations.


mid/late game


End game

I finished the game with 6 points. I placed the horizons face up so that the constellations could be referenced in the photos - they were originally facedown. Also, as the faint hatching on the tile backgrounds didn't show up on my printer the horizons and night sky are identical, so this way I couldn't confuse them.
Mid game I was on 5 points with 3 constellations completed - I had wondered if I should finish it there as I wasn't sure that I could complete any more, but with a little tinkering with shooting stars I did manage to complete one 3 pointer, but only for 1 point as it required 2 shooting stars. And that was the end of the game - there was no way I could complete any other constellations.

Interesting game (reminds me a little of Carc Island), and more thinky solo than 2 player I would suspect. Will have to give it another go soon.

Oh, and no bright stars, so no easy bonus points ^^
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Brian Garthwaite
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
My goodness. That was some seriously quick playtest turnaround.

mogust wrote:
Played a game solo - it's a lot harder to make multiple constellations than you'd first think!

Okay, good. It's not just me! I have yet to test it out with two players, so one of the big issues I have to tackle is balancing the difficulty there.

mogust wrote:
It might be worth mentioning for the solo game that you don't need to earn the clouds/shooting star tiles, but have them all available for use (at least that is the assumption that I came to). It also might be worth explicitly mentioning in the components that the cloud/shooting star tiles are a double sided tile with one on either side.

Good call. You assumed correctly, but as there's space enough to be more explicit, I ought to do that. I'm skeptical that I could fit the rules on a single page, so why not make use of what I've got?

mogust wrote:
An additional rule that would be useful for solo play is that you can finish the game once you are sure you can no longer (meaningfully) complete any constellations.

Probably applies to a 2-player game, too. At some point, it becomes apparent you've tiled yourself into a corner.

mogust wrote:
I finished the game with 6 points.

That's... a decent number? I managed 7 in my last game, but don't have enough under my belt to set a decent difficulty scale. I felt like playing a good game should be higher (and I think I've figured an upper bound on solo scoring), but only time and playtests will tell.

mogust wrote:
Also, as the faint hatching on the tile backgrounds didn't show up on my printer the horizons and night sky are identical, so this way I couldn't confuse them.

At least the hatching's an easy fix. I'll try to get that revised this weekend.

mogust wrote:
Interesting game (reminds me a little of Carc Island), and more thinky solo than 2 player I would suspect. Will have to give it another go soon.

Big thanks for giving this an early test!

Gonna have to pull Carcassonne out one evening, it seems. Totally unaware of Carc Island until now.

mogust wrote:
Oh, and no bright stars, so no easy bonus points ^^

Shucks!
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Israel Waldrom
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Solo Carcassonne is the thread for Carc Island.

Balance of the constellations will be the biggest issue. It will be interesting to see how easily they can or can't be completed in the two player game. Also, in 2 player, one player or the other will be initially looking at the constellations upside down, although they will both have to complete theme right side up. I would suggest a reference sheet, but the tin constraint would be an issue.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
mogust wrote:
Also, in 2 player, one player or the other will be initially looking at the constellations upside down, although they will both have to complete theme right side up. I would suggest a reference sheet, but the tin constraint would be an issue.

Instead of a reference sheet (which would be irritating, even if it fit), perhaps a revision of the card design?



It loses the decorative star arrangement - which, I guess, saves me the future task of crudely sketching a narwhal - but lets the cards function without having to spin them over and over.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Color version in action:



Note: not a real game. It's late. I just slapped cards on the table for a photo.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
bgarthwaite wrote:
mogust wrote:
Also, in 2 player, one player or the other will be initially looking at the constellations upside down, although they will both have to complete theme right side up. I would suggest a reference sheet, but the tin constraint would be an issue.

Instead of a reference sheet (which would be irritating, even if it fit), perhaps a revision of the card design?



It loses the decorative star arrangement - which, I guess, saves me the future task of crudely sketching a narwhal - but lets the cards function without having to spin them over and over.


That would work well. Perhaps the decorative star sign could be worked back in at a later date once balance is achieved. They'd have to be smaller but could fit.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Wow! This looks like a very interesting game. Thanks for thinking of solo players like myself. I will give this a try now.
 
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
I have to say, after initial playtesting, the draw 1 play 1 aspect of this game is killing it for me. It's challenging enough to get the stars to line up anyhow, without having to figure out what to do when they don't get drawn in proper order. I'd recommend probably a hand of 3 or 4 to pick from.

Question: Do the blanks in between the constellations absolutely have to be dark sky? In other words, can my constellations overlap?

I also am not a major fan of the "from your vantage point" aspect of the game.

What I'm saying beyond all this extra text is this: There are not enough options in play.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
this game has a good appeal to the kids ... they tried it and liked it!

they are curious about them, since in a big city the starry sky is pure imagination!

I would try an appropriate graphic for them ... if I can have the permission of the author, could I make a more ... imaginative and colorful version?
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
XendoBreckett wrote:
I have to say, after initial playtesting, the draw 1 play 1 aspect of this game is killing it for me. It's challenging enough to get the stars to line up anyhow, without having to figure out what to do when they don't get drawn in proper order. I'd recommend probably a hand of 3 or 4 to pick from.

If you have a chance, give it a shot and let me know what you think. I assume it'll make the game easier, but it's supposed to be hard. Too easy, and it becomes a throwaway little puzzle.

XendoBreckett wrote:
Question: Do the blanks in between the constellations absolutely have to be dark sky? In other words, can my constellations overlap?

They can overlap and reuse stars (and dark sky) over and over again as much as you like, provided the patterns you've played match the constellations. For example, a double star used for constellation A can also play as a single star for constellation B. Or you can collect constellation C, use a cloud to cover up (what had been) a part of it, and collect constellation D that didn't exist before.

XendoBreckett wrote:
I also am not a major fan of the "from your vantage point" aspect of the game.

What I'm saying beyond all this extra text is this: There are not enough options in play.

Without the vantage point limitation, in the 2-player game, the points go to whichever player slaps down the card that completes the constellation, which hardly seems fair. And in both 1- and 2-player games, it forces you to be selective about the few points you can actually achieve. Being able to rotate them to fit like Tetris pieces means that you get arrangements where one constellation can be a trivial subset of another. Or the patterns need to grow larger and more complicated to maintain a challenge. They're intentionally poor fits with each other, and part of the challenge is determining where you're going to spend your extremely limited resources.

The other part is keeping conflicting pattern sets aligned in your head. It's supposed to trip you up.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
etacarinae1965 wrote:
this game has a good appeal to the kids ... they tried it and liked it!

they are curious about them, since in a big city the starry sky is pure imagination!

Fantastic! If you don't mind my asking, how old are the kids? I'm trying to get a sense of the ages that can have fun with this sort of puzzle. My kids are much too little.

etacarinae1965 wrote:
I would try an appropriate graphic for them ... if I can have the permission of the author, could I make a more ... imaginative and colorful version?

Have fun! Make it your own! It's a Creative Commons Non-Commercial sharing license, which means that you can do anything but sell it. The design's pretty much the aesthetic I imagined when jotting down ideas, but, hey, send pictures of what you come up with. I'd love to see it.

There's the possibility - likelihood, even - that details like the constellation patterns may change throughout the contest period. Feel free to work with what exists now, wait for revisions, or even make up your own. Or build a triple-size set and let the kids go wild.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
bgarthwaite wrote:
etacarinae1965 wrote:
this game has a good appeal to the kids ... they tried it and liked it!

they are curious about them, since in a big city the starry sky is pure imagination!

Fantastic! If you don't mind my asking, how old are the kids? I'm trying to get a sense of the ages that can have fun with this sort of puzzle. My kids are much too little.


children ages 8-10 years...

bgarthwaite wrote:
[
etacarinae1965 wrote:
I would try an appropriate graphic for them ... if I can have the permission of the author, could I make a more ... imaginative and colorful version?

Have fun! Make it your own! It's a Creative Commons Non-Commercial sharing license, which means that you can do anything but sell it. The design's pretty much the aesthetic I imagined when jotting down ideas, but, hey, send pictures of what you come up with. I'd love to see it.

There's the possibility - likelihood, even - that details like the constellation patterns may change throughout the contest period. Feel free to work with what exists now, wait for revisions, or even make up your own. Or build a triple-size set and let the kids go wild.



OK
thank you very much
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
Had a chance to play the 2-player version of the game over the weekend!

My girlfriend and I love your game and think you've got an amazing theme and design going already. Putting something together out of nothing like making up constellations out of a random night sky is a very refreshing idea for a game.

We did have some questions/comments:

Is the scoring at the end of the game altered based upon placement of shooting stars/clouds later on? That is, if I have finished a constellation and a dark sky space is later covered by a shooting star, have I lost those points?

Why are the double stars allowed to count as either one or two stars? Further, why would I want to cover up one of the two stars with a cloud if I can use it as either one or two stars? Or is this solely useful as a take-that option?

Our comments/suggestions for 2 player games specifically:
Laying out all constellations for both players to look at simultaneously ended up being a little busy. Especially with having to flip them around throughout play. (Something that I see you have already taken care of with the double sided constellation cards)
However, we had a slightly different approach on how the 2-player game might look: you could deal both players 3 constellations and have each select 2 to complete in order to win the game. They would still have their constellations face up to the side, but they would be oriented correctly to both players. i.e. you'll get to see how your constellations will be oriented and how your opponent will be trying to orient their constellation in the night sky.

Another issue we had was with the end game sequence. Your rules currently state that the game can only end if all star cards have been placed or when all 8 constellations have been claimed. We ran into the issue of having several 1x1 gaps that could not be filled and were left with at least 2-3 cards unused. Also, the last 4-5 cards played had no chance of fulfilling a constellation and were placed simply to allow for the game to end.

While we may not have been planning sufficiently ahead, I think, in a 2-player game, it would be a little more exciting to be able to overlap one edge of a card when placing a new card into the night sky. (Maybe even if this were only allowed for the last 6-8 cards or something) I know this makes the shooting star/cloud cover a little obsolete, so this may not be the best option. We were just a little disappointed that we weren't able to make all of the fun constellations in one game. Hopefully we'll figure it out next round!


Thanks for such a fun game! We really enjoyed playing it, and we hope to get it back to the table soon. Maybe even with a few new constellations!
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
jdub027 wrote:
My girlfriend and I love your game and think you've got an amazing theme and design going already. Putting something together out of nothing like making up constellations out of a random night sky is a very refreshing idea for a game.

That's just aces! Many thanks for giving it a shot, especially with a second player. I'm hoping to test with others this weekend, so I can see what hiccups we find.

jdub027 wrote:
Is the scoring at the end of the game altered based upon placement of shooting stars/clouds later on? That is, if I have finished a constellation and a dark sky space is later covered by a shooting star, have I lost those points?

Nope. Once you pick up a constellation, it's yours to keep. I've added a line to the rules to clarify. In the solo version, this is essential to scoring well.

jdub027 wrote:
Why are the double stars allowed to count as either one or two stars? Further, why would I want to cover up one of the two stars with a cloud if I can use it as either one or two stars? Or is this solely useful as a take-that option?

For game mechanics reasons, double stars can pretend to be single stars so you've got more to work with. Thematically, it shows up in constellations like Orion, where the imaginary lines tracing its form use a pair of closely-spaced stars as a single node point.

As for covering them up? A defensive take-that move's the likeliest reason you might do it. But it's also to make it tougher to convert a double star to dark sky, which you might consider doing to grab a new constellation.

jdub027 wrote:
Laying out all constellations for both players to look at simultaneously ended up being a little busy.

It's a lot to look at. I'm considering changing the 2-player setup to use a subset of constellations, either randomly drawn or selected, to speed things up. I'm leaning toward keeping them all for solo, where no one's waiting for you to hurry up and go already. Possible changes like this'll be logged up north in the second post, before rolling the best ones into the "official" rules.

jdub027 wrote:
Especially with having to flip them around throughout play. (Something that I see you have already taken care of with the double sided constellation cards)

That's fixed now, at least. New files are up.

jdub027 wrote:
However, we had a slightly different approach on how the 2-player game might look: you could deal both players 3 constellations and have each select 2 to complete in order to win the game. They would still have their constellations face up to the side, but they would be oriented correctly to both players. i.e. you'll get to see how your constellations will be oriented and how your opponent will be trying to orient their constellation in the night sky.

I'd thought about something like that, too. There's a likelier chance of take-that play, since you know specifically what your opponent's after - maybe that's good or bad. Or perhaps you each choose the constellations to use, but you pick the ones for your opponent to find. Or one for yourself, one for your opponent.

Or the 1-point constellations could be free for anyone, while each player has to complete a specific pair of 2- and 3-point cards. Options abound!

jdub027 wrote:
Another issue we had was with the end game sequence.

Made explicit in the rules. There's probably a few other assumed rules hiding in there. (Usually are!)

jdub027 wrote:
While we may not have been planning sufficiently ahead, I think, in a 2-player game, it would be a little more exciting to be able to overlap one edge of a card when placing a new card into the night sky. (Maybe even if this were only allowed for the last 6-8 cards or something) I know this makes the shooting star/cloud cover a little obsolete, so this may not be the best option. We were just a little disappointed that we weren't able to make all of the fun constellations in one game. Hopefully we'll figure it out next round!

Maybe? The tokens were designed to help correct mistakes and reward some really good planning. I'll have to try it and see how it feels.

As for getting all of the constellations... I don't know that you can. Not sure I want that possibility, so there's no perfect puzzle solution. I'm reasonably certain that it's impossible for a single player to get all 8. I haven't found a perfect 2-player solution, either, but there are a lot more possibilities there. Best I could find was 7 constellations, with a 2-pointer left out in the cold.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
how does this version look like?

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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
etacarinae1965 wrote:
how does this version look like?

Pretty gosh-darn adorable.
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Re: [WIP] Certain Stars - 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest [Components Ready]
etacarinae1965 wrote:
how does this version look like?


AWESOME!!!
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