(Being a hideous contraction of Straw, Domino, and Scrabble.)
This week was intro week at the IT University, where I will be studying Game Design and Analysis (but mostly design) for the next 2 years (hopefully). For the intro week, we were divided into groups of about 6 people and tasked with designing an analogue game playable by at least 5 people, built around straws (each group got a bag with a different item in it – play doh, balloons, rubber bands, etc). We decided to do a board game.
It’s called The Shortest Straw. The original idea was mine, but it was half-baked, to say the least, and it took some play testing and a lot of good collaborative design to make it playable.
You have to match the colours of the straw pieces to the colours of the dots on the board in order to get points. The first player to reach 40 points wins. Our teacher suggested we should’ve used area domination instead of a point-based scoring system, and while that would probably have been easier to work with as a player, we would’ve needed more straw colours – we only had 4 colours, and the game had to support minimum 5 players. I must admit I like the points system – it can be fidgety, but it’s the foundation of most of our game’s strategy elements.
This is the board:
Click to get the full A3 version to print out and play. I recommend laminating it so the pieces more easily stay where you put them. You’ll have to buy some straws and a die yourself, if you want to play.
My very first version was immediately surprisingly well balanced, but it lacked randomness and the tactics were too simple. Our second version added black dots to encourage more long-term planning, but the beginning of the game was still too boring. Then we added the extra-turn bonus dots around the start to speed up the beginning, but the experience was very variable – the game would either be lots of fun or extremely boring. To add a little more variation and introduce more interesting tactics, we added the dice rules.
My favourite dice rule is number 4, where the player before you has half of the points you get added to his/her score (but you still get the full amount as well). I like how it encourages small alliances between players when it’s suddenly worthwhile for a player to open a red dot up to the next player. There’s also an interesting twist to Dice Rule 5 if you have a two-coloured bonus piece on your hand, which is explained in the rules.
The Sudden Death rules that were added during the final play test were a lot of fun, it’s just a shame Sudden Death doesn’t happen that often.
My group mates were Asmus, Michael, Rasmus, Robert, and Simon. We didn’t exactly design the new Chess, but I think it’s a pretty entertaining game, and our teacher was quite impressed that we’d managed to pull it all off in less than a week. In a hilarious twist of fate, he turned out to be completely colour blind, so he would never be able to play our game unless we changed both the dots and the pieces.
If you actually give it a try, please drop me a comment and let me know what you think.