Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Sometimes, the process is the reward of the game

As I’d written earlier, I just discovered that there was a Roll and Write contest in 2018. Fortunately for me, the files for all the entries that wanted to share their files are still around so I’ve been sifting through them. 

Some of the more interesting items don’t have solitaire options so they are on the back burner for me. (For many reasons that i’ve discussed before and will discuss again, it’s always easier to get a solitaire PnP on the table, regardless of its format) I printed off a couple of the quicker and more ink-light of the solitaire options.

As it happened, they had the exact same theme, coloring in autumn leaves. But one of them left me meh and the other one I enjoyed enough that I can see it part of my regular rotation.

Autumn Tree is a game where you are coloring on circles on a stick tree, with restrictions on the order you color in branches and how often you can use each color. You also have to deal with black leaves that worth negative points.

Man, I feel bad slamming someone else’s work. (I haven’t ever tried to design a R&W so I don’t know if I could do better) Autumn Tree is an example of a game that isn’t broken. All the parts work. But it’s sadly boring. (Sorry, sorry!) The decision tree is very simple and kind of obvious. It doesn’t engage me with either its decisions or its use of its theme.

Autumn Leaves is a game where you color in six different leaves, each one divided up into sections. You get points for completing leaves and using the same color. You also have to deal with a decay track, the dreaded color brown and a table of bad things happening to your leaves.

I’m honestly not sure that the decision tree in Autumn Leaves is actually any deeper than Autumn Tree. However, the process is more engaging. Each decision is binary but still involves sacrificing one leaf in the hopes of doing well with another. The decay track and the table of bad stuff helps keep the tension up.

And, while the art is just clip art that looks like it is from a free coloring book you might pick up for your kid at a local park, it does add that extra bit of visual pop. Really, you are pretty much coloring a picture as you go.

I have a theory that short, simple solitaire games can be as much about the process as the actual game. Last year, I made a copy of a game called Mariner from the Nine Card Contest. The game borders on being solved but I like the process of cycling through the deck. Autumn Leaves may not actually be a good game. The dice do control a lot of what goes on. But the procedure is fun.

On the one hand, I think there is value in exploring the PnP games that are out there. You can learn a lot of mechanics and the application of theme. In that sense, every game is worth trying. However, I also like finding a game that is fun.

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