Monday, December 9, 2019

A tiny game about creating tiny spaces

2019 9 Card Game Print and Play Design Contest - Condense the Code

As a lazy PnPer, this contest was an enormous boon to me. One sheet of components is pretty reasonable as a project, even when I’m low on time and energy. And the returns I’ve gotten from the entries I’ve played have been a great return for the time and materials I’ve put into them. I will admit that I focus on short solitaire games so I’m sure the be missed some gems. But I keep going back and exploring more ideas from the contest.

Condense the Code consists of nine cards that each have twelve squares on each. The squares come in white and dark flavors and every card has a different pattern.

Shorn of its backstory, Condense the Code is a tile-laying game where you can (and need!) to overlap the cards as long as the squares match. You’re trying to make the nine cards take up as little space as possible. Your score is the longest width by your longest length plus their difference multiplied by three. And you’re going for a low score.

There’s also a three-game legacy variant. After each game, you can rip off two squares from a card, which actually will make the game easier.

The developer openly notes that Condense the Code was designed to be a simpler version of Orchard, the winner of last year’s game. It’s pretty easy to see how Orchard influenced Condense the Code. And it’s a tough comparison for Condense the Code. Orchard is one of the best nine card games I’ve played and I’ve looked at a lot of them.

The real brutal comparison is that Orchard uses double-sided cards while Condense the Code has single-sided cards. You only use half the possible patterns in Orchard while you use the same nine patterns every time in Condense the Code. It got to the point that I started planning ahead, knowing which cards I hadn’t drawn yet.

Condense the Code’s biggest strength for me (and I admit that this is damning it with faint praise) is that it has no additional components. All I have to do is shuffle the nine cards and I’m ready to go. And sadly, there are times when that’s what I’m looking for. A itty bitty mental break that can be over and cleaned up in a few minutes. I don’t lack for fidgeting games but it’s nice to have variety.

But I also have to give credit where credit is due. Condense the Code is an ink-friendly, one-page project. If you wanted to do a legacy copy where you’re ripping off pieces, you could just do it on regular copy paper. It is very much something I’d recommend to someone dabbling in Print and Play, just getting their toes wet.

Condense the Code isn’t brilliant game that shakes up the world of micro games but it is a fun way to fidget. When it comes out, it does lends itself to ‘one more time’ replay. It has flaws and limitations but I do keep pulling it out now and then.

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