STAGE -1: Reviewing “All Cosmos”

November 8, 2011

This is a review of All Cosmos (inspired by Katamari Damacy) by Jonathan Walton, i.e. myself. I’m reviewing my own game first to demonstrate the invitation process that follows this event, which is a bit like the peer-review process for a journal (“revise and resubmit!”), except open and public.

What’s Great

Katamari Damacy is an amazing and innovative game! A brave, terrific choice.

The overall setup is pretty solid, reminiscent of the way you “shift up” in die size in Formula D, but instead modeling how your Katamari gets bigger and allows you to pick up larger objects. Sweet! Also, just the fact that you’re rolling your dice into other dice has a very Katamari-like feel. Everything rolls!

Additionally, it’s great that the game actually gives you a concrete reason to buy a scoop of dice from the Chessex booth. People do that anyway, so why not take advantage of the dice fetish that already exists!

What Needs Work

Without the missing tables and bonus rules for combining certain objects, it’s hard to know whether the exact objects you collect will matter at all to the game, which is a mixed bag. The exact objects only matter in certain missions in Katamari, but having the game constantly tell you the wacky things you’re picking up is a key part of the experience and enjoyment of the video game.

Overall, though, there are larger issues, especially relating to the implementation of the “Stage One” concept. This feels like a general Katamari simulator, rather than the first stage of a larger experience that emulates the core of Katamari gameplay. Rather than having the table represent a whole host of random objects to pick up, it might be better to have a playmat that you can print out, representing an early Katamari stage (the kid’s bedroom is classic!). Then, you could subdivide it into regions (under the bed, on the desk, on the bookshelf, etc.) and have the actual objects you pick up — when you hit different dice — listed on the playmat instead of having to look them up in tables.

That streamlining of the experience could be applied elsewhere too. Having to re-roll the dice you have the possibility of grabbing seems like an unnecessary step. The dice have already been rolled when you throw them out on the table/playmat in the first place, right? Even if the playmat requires placing dice in certain areas, you can roll them before placing, giving them results that are “fixed” before play begins. Then, when the players roll their Katamari dice across the table/playmat, you can go ahead and grab any touching dice that have a lower number than what you rolled, glancing at the sheet to see what they represent (a rubberband! a matchbox car!) and writing them down in your collection before it becomes the next player’s turn.

Really, if you wanted to streamline it further, the “bonus rules” for combinations could take the form of a Bingo-style sheet where you check off things as you pick them up, rather than writing them down. You could even move the object list off the playmat (which will be covered in dice, making it hard to read) and onto a playcard or something that each player has. So you got a 3, 3, 4 in the region “top of the bed” and you cross off those numbers on your playcard and see that you now have two themometers and a thimble. That saves the players a lot of writing and makes the game quicker, which is critical for making the silliness sustainable. It’s harder to be silly for long stretches of time, through a lot of waiting.

For the “Stage Two” section then (not included in this game), you could offer some thoughts about how to create a playmat and playcards for the next level up (inside a house, in a front yard, whatever). This is just one suggestion of the direction the game could go in — the author may hate the idea of playmats and playcards — but I think it illustrates what the game needs to fit better into the “Stage One” concept and be of-a-type with the other games in the booklet anthology.

Invitation Status

Revise and resubmit! As it stands, this game doesn’t seem ready to begin hardcore playtesting and editing, since (1) it’s not really complete, (2) it doesn’t really follow the “Stage One” concept, (3) it doesn’t sound thrilling and exciting quite yet, and (4) the mechanics could use some streamlining to reduce redundant rolling and unnecessary mechanical steps. The overall structure and mechanics of the game are sound, but it needs a bit more work first: some more design to make a complete draft, some internal playtesting, some better-designed materials to make play easier and more exciting, and some rethinking of the bigger picture to fit with the “Stage One” premise.

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