Thursday, August 8, 2019

Collusion: the religious question

Solo tests of the streamlined turn system described in the previous post have gone very well so far. The more limited scope of your turns -- on two turns, place an action; then on the third turn, place support -- helps you to focus more without needing to switch mental gears mid-turn.  I've gone from about 120 minutes to about 100 minutes in my solo tests.  I think I'm nearing the point where live play is likely to be more efficient than solo play so I hope, hope, hope that we'll see this thing clock in under 2 hours next live test.

Encouraged by the increasing stability of the game, I tried a solo of the expansion with 5p.  I think it shows some promise.  It didn't add any length nor does it add too much complexity.  You have to opt in to the church and/or the rebellion, and only a few players do, so for much of the game, for most of the group, the rebellion and church are something you have to think about but not necessarily a whole additional layer of stuff you have to actually do.  And they don't change the core turn mechanic.

The rebellion is neat.  In this game, one player opted in and was alone in rebelling the whole game.  Because of the automatic actions, you can make some progress with the rebellion even on your own, but it eats up a lot of your actions, meaning you're not doing other stuff too; this player scored poorly in the end.  I think this is good; there's a bandwagon/critical mass thing about the rebellion that will make its role in the game highly variable depending on what the players do as a group.  Sometimes there won't be a rebellion at all; you need rebels to have a rebellion.  

But when it's present, it gives rise to a neat symbiotic relationship.  The rebellion scores points dependent on the number of buildings of rebellious factions that have been built on the board, but other players need to build buildings to meet their goals, so you end up proposing stuff with the expectation that the rebellion player will probably support it, and you decide to let that faction rebel (increasing the rebellion players' payout) because it probably means the rebellion will help you as to try to grow that faction.  But if everyone thinks that way, the rebellion can snowball, and then it requires a concerted effort to rein them in.  I like that the rebellion seems to have a thematically-appropriate story built around its actions.

The church may not have this to quite the same degree.  In the version I tested, the church has two goal cards associated with it, meaning at least two players want to build churches, and it confers votes: players with an heir deployed to the church (off the board) get one vote for each church adjacent to the barony that is being contested.  This injected a huge number of votes into the game, which was good but maybe too much of a good thing.  And the church is built in a way that elbows out other entities (baronies and factions), which is fun.  But it didn't give a strong sense of, well, "churchliness".  There isn't as clear of a story that emerges surrounding the church.

It feels like what you want is some entity that you can enlist for their help, but over time you end up regretting having asked.  I don't currently have an idea for how to do this but I do at least have one church idea that might move a bit in this direction. 

I previously said that each territory can hold one barony shield (indicating which barony controls it), and one faction, but that the church moving into a territory pushes one or the other of these out (depending on which action was used to move the church in).  Thus, a territory containing a church has either a barony, or a faction.  And, each barony and each faction has two goal cards associated with it (A/B, or C/D, respectively).  Each goal has a numerical condition that the entity in question must meet.  For example, D is "[This faction] controls 2/1 cities".  The goal pays out more if the faction has 2 cities rather than 1, but it pays out nothing if it has zero.  Controlling a city requires owning two territories touching a city.

What if the church's role was as a 'fixer' for situations where a goal is going to go bust?  For example, if a faction has only one territory next to a city, but that territory has a church in it, close enough -- the goal still scores.

Well, sort of.  It would score half, but the church takes its cut. 

During the course of the game, churches are built and players can deploy heirs to the church.  Then, at the game's end, in the order in which players added heirs to the church, each of them gets to deploy their churchly heir to a particular church on the board.  Then, they announce which goal that church is helping.

So if the territory has a church and barony "blue-and-white", the player would announce, "the church is helping blue-and-white's goal A".  (The person holding B may be disappointed by this).  If goal A is then able to score, the person holding A gets half the points (rounded up) for the goal, and the player from the church gets half the points (rounded down) for the goal.

But, no helping yourself!  If you help your own goal, you only get half the points.

Thus it would behoove you to be attentive to what goals people are pursuing and which ones seem likely to need a nudge, so that churches can be built in helpful places to promote those goals AND so you can be wise in selecting which church to deploy your heir to, so that you get the biggest payout.  But of course doing so also earns points for the person whose goal is now 'fixed'.  It is called Collusion, after all.

I think this ties up all the loose ends so I'll probably give it a dry run in the next week or so.  Hopefully I will run a live test of the full (base) game next weekend, so we'll also get info on how that's coming along.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Collusion: too much collusion

In the last several months I've solo-tested Collusion a little over a dozen times and live-tested three times.  I can get through a 5p solo test in about two hours, but in live tests, we have yet to get through more than half of a game in that same amount of time.  What is happening here?

The lesson I'm learning is that there's only so quickly that certain processes can happen, and negotiation is one of those things that just can't be done quickly.  At issue is the support phase.  On your turn, you propose an action and then provide three support to actions other players have previously supported.  But you can also cut deals with people.  I had thought, and I have found in my solo tests, that in many turns, you have a general sense for which actions you like, and will tend to identify and support those very quickly, and maybe if you have a spare support or two you'll see if you can shop it around, usually in a quick little deal: support-for-a-support, that sort of thing.

What actually seems to happen is that players, when the support phase comes up, consider themselves "open for business", and survey the board, and canvass the other players, quite slowly and deliberately to see where opportunities for deals lie.  Then, once the deal-making starts, it can get deep into the weeds quickly.  "I'll give you this support disc, but I want to know what you're going to do with that, and I want a give-back clause if you change the arrangement at a later time".  

Now it must be said that players seem to really enjoy the deal making.  Every single player has said that they like the game and like the negotiation and haggling.  And every attempt I've made at adding rules to restrict the scope of deal-making has been promptly ignored by the players, usually within the very first turn of the game.  But, if each player gets (on average) about 12 turns per game, and every turn has a negotiation phase, it's easy to see how this is a recipe for extreme game length.

But what worries me even more is whether all of these individual drawn-out negotiations are necessary.  Between my turn and yours, the board hasn't changed that much; do we really need to start over, as if from scratch, and have a drawn out negotiation just a minute after we just had one, about roughly the same overall board state?  I think maybe we don't.

This makes me think that a phased structure might be better, to ensure that the negotiations are sufficiently consequential.  Thus I'm toying with replacing individual turns with a three-round 'year': in rounds 1 and 2, you propose actions in any of three baronies, and then in round 3, you provide support to actions others have proposed.  Then we evaluate all three of those baronies in one shot.

This would help deal-making in that it removes the need for "I want to know what you'll do with this disc" deal stuff; it will be much more concrete, just "I support this, you support that" -- although, I expect players will still find a way to be creative.  And we'll still provide support in order, so it's not going to become a wheeling/dealing game.  But it will mean that instead of 12-or-so negotiation phases per player per game, there will only be 5.  Could that get the length down under two hours, or will those phases balloon to occupy the vacuum that the more rigid structure leaves behind?  I'm not sure.

One concern is whether the game's rhythm still feels the same.  There's a lag between when your actions hit and when they land, there's a pacing issue where being at the front of the pack gives you freedom of choice but last in the pack gives you more control over which actions land, where in the pack do you want to sit?  This version of the game would lose some of that.  But if the payoff is a negotiation landscape that's just as satisfying but half as long, it may be a justifiable price to pay.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Collusion: scoring variant

Expansions can take many forms, but one that's not too uncommon is the "kit of parts"; the expansion has several different elements and players can use some or all of them.  Broom Service, though a standalone game, has a few modules that fit this model.  So does Escape with its various expansions that make the game more challenging.  The Lord of the Rings expansions each introduce two different additional gameplay elements that can be used together or separately.  And War of the Ring includes additional content for the base game and a whole additional game that can be played with the pieces of the original game.

I say all of that to preemptively justify any expansion idea proliferation that takes place in this blog or in actual playtesting.  The previous post identified two possible modules, the 6th player and the church/rebellion expansion.  You can play with the latter only, but if you use the former you must also use the latter.

Anyway, Collusion has a number of different player pieces: power discs, influence discs, heirs, action tiles, and cubes.  All of these have multiple in-game uses, but the cubes are something of an odd duck.  Their two uses are to signify control of baronies and to protect scheme cards in your possession, i.e. to keep you from having to reveal them publicly.  Thus if you become baron of more than one barony, you'll have to reveal a scheme to retrieve the cube that protects it and place it in that barony.  This is nice.  But it doesn't feel like there's much you actually do with the cubes.  If you don't gain a second barony, you'd never feel especially tempted to reveal a scheme that's protected by a cube.  What would you do with it?

I've thought about all sorts of additional expansion ideas and most of them seem to swirl around different ways to get additional pathways to support (to land actions) or votes (to gain baronies); these seem to just offer more paths to muscle your way through the game.  But the church and rebellion already do this, and it seems like another path to votes or support is largely redundant and will also tend to dilute the existing infrastructure by which these are already resolved.  Thus it seems that if the game is going to add something, it needs to be a different kind of voting concept or a different kind of action concept.  And it would be nice if it was also something players could haggle over or favor-trade.

My first idea is incredibly simple but also quite consequential, maybe too much so.  At certain points during the game, you'd have the opportunity to allocate one of your available cubes to the "score board".  (You only have 3 cubes in the base game and one goes to the first barony you're given, so maybe in this variant you'd get another cube, say).  The "score board" has a box for (almost) each of the game's main scoring contributions:  Scheme 1, Scheme 2, Scheme 3, Scheme 4, Baronies, and Player Discs.  At the end of the game, whichever box received the fewest cubes would not score for anyone. Thus if "scheme 3" received the fewest cubes, each player would get zero points for the scheme card that they selected as their third during setup, whether they met the condition or not.

Of course the problem with this is how to resolve ties or what to do if multiple boxes get zero cubes.  So it's not a certainty this works.  But I do think it meets all of the desired qualities.  It's a voting concept that rhymes with support/voting but is entirely different than both.  It makes the cubes very important in the game, and makes them a precious commodity that you're willing to trade to an opponent for the right price, or willing to allocate in a requested way for the right price.  And it gives you some interesting avenues to problem-solve.  Is your scheme 1 going bust?  Then reveal it, grab the cube, and allocate it to something other than "scheme 1" on the score board.  Did you just lose control of a barony?  Then take the cube that you just reclaimed, and allocate it to something other than barony scoring on the score board.  

I know there are games that use variable scoring concepts in different playings (e.g. Isle of Skye) and I think there are even games where players get to select the order in which the game's scoring systems trigger, but I'm not sure if there's a game that does "vote for scoring" in this way.  It's definitely weird in that you have to still work on all 6 of the scoring concepts since you don't know till the end which one is the cancelled one, but then the game ends and at least some of your progress is negated.  I usually don't like that kind of thing, but because this is an interactive game, the point should be to try to shape public opinion such that the thing that doesn't score is the thing you care the least about anyway, i.e. that it swings harder for everyone else than for you.  And it could be swingy.  Scheme 1 is worth up to 10 points, scheme 4 up to 3.  If scheme 1 is canceled that's a huge blow to a player who was poised to score it, so correspondingly you'll work hard not to let that happen.  But you also have to work to make your scheme 1 come true, so dividing your attention between these aims adds an extra challenge. 

It's definitely a variant but it might be a variant worth trying.  It gives you another thing to haggle over, think about, and fret over, but it's not exactly an additional system with a lot of additional rules. Thus it's probably strictly better than, say, adding an economy or events or direct attacks or something like that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Evangelists: new scoring concepts

A game of mine, Evangelists, was returned by a publisher after about 10 months.  I haven't worked on the game at all while it was under evaluation, but in the intervening time, I have been thinking about trends in gaming, and wrote this piece, in which I argued that there are two core gaming preferences that seem to be, if not at odds with each other, at a minimum, quite different.  These are, namely, those players who prefer puzzle-like gameplay problems to try to solve, vs. those who prefer games that let them try things out to see how their opponents respond and react.  I determined based on this that I lean strongly to the latter preference, both in games that I like and games that I design.

But I realized after writing this that Evangelists is actually rather puzzle-like, and am not sure what to make of that, and am questioning whether I should leave it that way.  Now that the game is coming back to me, it's an appropriate time to think about such questions.

The gist of the game is that we are the authors of the texts that have come to be known as the Christian gospels.  We travel around the Roman world gathering tradition cards which represent stories about Jesus of Nazareth, then we place them onto page cards (kind of cool, actually: to record a story in your book you physically place a little card onto a bigger card, and each big card has two slots, the 'front' and 'back' of the page).  We try to arrange the pages in such a way that symbols on the tradition cards give us literary devices, and we also interview eyewitnesses to gain attestation to our stories.  Scoring at the end game comes from eyewitnesses that we met, literary devices we've constructed, and having tradition cards that match our gospel's theme (which is assigned during setup).  

The gameplay works well, although it's a bit prone to analysis paralysis.  On your turn you receive four cubes, one in each of four colors, with each color signifying a kind of action you can take: travel, gain a tradition, interview a witness, or use a special power.  These cubes then seed the event cup, you pull some out and add them to event tracks, and when a track pegs the event associated with the event happens: an eyewitness dies, Rome institutes a persecution, etc.  Thus we have a nice little action/event system rolled into one.

But as one can see, gameplay is rather heads-down, and because turns take a while it's not always the good kind of heads-down gameplay.  And then at game's end, we tally up our scores and see who had the highest.  It really is more puzzle-like than I'm entirely comfortable with, and while players' actions affect each other, there's not much opportunity to harness this in a purposive way.  You're not really interacting, just affecting each other.  But, it is reasonably well balanced and it works, so is it wise to tinker?  And moreover, the gameplay seems to fit the theme.  Direct attacks or interference or blocking wouldn't make thematic sense.  But it may be that changes to make the scoring system more relative wouldn't affect the rules of the game but would certainly change the strategic landscape, and maybe that's a way to get interaction more prominently featured in the game.

I think there's at least one thing that's perhaps worth a try.  There are, essentially, six ways of getting points:  eyewitness points, four literary devices, and theme points.  What if, instead of scoring for all of those things separately, you scored for each one relative to how you did compared to your opponents?  The obvious thing is rank-based scoring, i.e. "Most inclusios = 10 points, 2nd most = 7 points", etc.  But I am interested to try something a little more dramatic than this. 

The idea would be that if you have outright most of X, you get (say) 10 points.  If you're within 1 X of the person who has the most, you get (say) 7 points.  Within 2 X's, you get 3 points.  Further than that, you get nothing.  But, if there's a tie for most X, these all bump down one click.

This means, effectively, that you're in six separate simultaneous races, and you have to decide in which ones you're going to try to keep pace, in which ones you're going to do nothing, and in which you're really going to try to skunk your opponents completely.

I think it could be interesting, but the problem is tracking.  It seems that to play well you have to be paying attention to what your opponents are doing but this may be hard if you're supposed to just look at their gospel at a glance and see what it looks like.  Thus we may need to introduce some tracking discs for each scoring category, such that you move your marker up on that category's track each time you achieve one of that thing.  E.g. when you form an inclusio, move up one on the inclusio track.  Thus our relative standing is always transparent.  

This is complicated a bit by the fact that the game lets you rearrange your cards, which could mean in some cases that you actually lose some scoring.  But in the previous iteration this is always a matter of simple arithmetic: if by giving up an inclusio I get a better chronology whose value is more than the value of the inclusio I give up, it's worth it.  Now the matter would be much more dependent on what my opponents are doing and how I'm doing in each scoring category relative to them.  And the decisions might feel much more painful as a result of wanting to keep pace.  

I think that this scoring concept has potential beyond the scope of Evangelists as a twist on majorities scoring.  It's rank-based, but the absolute position of our possessions in each ranked category matters, and putting a big gap between yourself and your opponents actually is worthwhile, sometimes.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Collusion: expansion

I'm not certain that expanding games is always a great idea, but I do think that if a designer is going to consider it, best to consider it early so that the appropriate "attachment points" are built into the design, and the expansion can bolt on to those attachments.  My favorite example of a game that was clearly designed this way is Knizia's Lord of the Rings; the board numbering leaves room for the Bree and Isengard boards, and the symbols on the dice change meanings when the Foes, and then Sauron, are added.  The core mechanics remain the same, we just repurpose the meaning of some things. 

I've kicked around ideas for Collusion's expansion earlier this year, and ordering some wooden bits for a new proto this week pushed these ideas back to the forefront of my attention, as I figured I'd get the expansion pieces now just in case, but had to think about which pieces exactly I would need. 

One motivation for an expansion is the question of whether the game could work with 6 players.  Many of the great negotiation-heavy games play with 6 or more and really thrive with a big group.  Could that be the case here?  It would be longer but the depth of negotiation could possibly be richer.  There's a neat effect whereby with 3p, you align with two goals for each of your opponents, and with 5p you align with one goal with each of your opponents.  With 6p, you'd align with one goal with four of your opponents and none at all with the fifth.  That could be interesting, maybe.

But with 6p, there's another asymmetry:  there are only five baronies, and only five barony-based schemes.  Thus someone is not getting barony points, and we need to add another scheme for that sixth player, and it can't be barony-based but somehow has to correspond to a barony-like concept.  

This leads to the addition of two new entities, which aren't exactly factions, as they function in different ways that perhaps add some richness to the core mechanics.

First is the church.  The church has wooden pieces that can be added to territories.  In a twist, though, each territory can usually contain a barony shield and a faction, but the church, if added to a territory, that already contains both of these, displaces one of those two, and you choose, by the action you propose, which.  Thus the church has some sharp elbows.

Now the church becomes a sixth barony for scoring purposes, in that the sixth scheme says that the church is present in more territories than the size of the largest barony.  But the church doesn't have to grow contiguously, and has two ways to grow, so it's powerful.

Of course, it's a game of collusion, and if my goal is to grow the church, there needs to be a reason -- other than just bribery -- why someone else wants to help me.  And that reason is that we can install heirs into the church, which do two things.  First, they provide points, for all of the heirs that are added to the church after yours, so getting in early is good, and getting in late means you're giving someone else points, but maybe it's worth it for the benefit of being in.  Which is, namely, the second point:  they provide votes.  In a baronial election, each church in or adjacent to (I think) the active barony gives you, a member of the church, one vote.

Second is the rebellion.  As with the church, you can add an heir to the rebellion.  But the rebellion itself has no board presence.  Instead, there's an action that flips a faction to the rebellion's cause.  This impacts scoring: the more buildings for rebellious factions there are on the board at game's end, the more points you get from the rebellion, but if there are too few you get negative points.

Additionally, though, if you're in the rebellion and are acting in a barony in which a rebellious faction is present, you get to place a red support disc, in addition to your usual three support.  

Thus, the church influences baronial politics, the rebellion influences ways and means, and both may be courted even by those not explicitly aligned with them.

There's one other twist.  If the rebellion and church were strictly opt-in actions, they'd be relatively easy to suppress by the other players: just don't support the actions that promote them, support other actions instead.  That's why adding an heir to the church or to the rebellion, or flipping a faction to the rebellion are automatic actions.  That means that when we evaluate the barony and see which actions are the most supported, we treat those actions as those they happen, automatically, unless they are the most-supported action.  Thus to prevent a person from joining the church or from the rebellion from flipping a particular faction, you have to provide support to that action, but your efforts will probably only succeed if a few players band together, so is it even worth bothering?  

Thus both entities have the potential for some bandwagon dynamics, whereby it's advantageous to join at some point but before that it might not be worth the trouble; taking an heir out of circulation weakens your deal-making potential a bit, after all.  Yet they're both a bit hard to stop so at some point everyone may find that they wish they had gotten on the train.  

I like the potential of these two ideas, and the idea of automatic actions, to interact with support and voting in interesting but not-too-complicated ways, and to give some scoring dynamics that feel pretty orthogonal to the main systems in the problems they present to the players and the risk/reward considerations they introduce.  This isn't the kind of expansion that adds wildly different mechanics -- direct combat, randomness, or something like that -- but I suspect/hope that for people who like the base game it may make the experience even richer, and I especially think that it will make the 6p game feel not just longer but incredibly intricate and challenging.  

As soon as those pieces come in I'll probably start giving this one a few run-outs in solo tests to see how it looks.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Collusion: edge case

It's hard, in solo testing, to keep everything straight, and the other day I made the first bad mistake I've made: a player proposed an illegal action.  Specifically, the player proposed to support a faction that the player already supported.  Other players went on to support that action, and I only discovered the error when it was time to resolve the action.  Presumably in an actual game, a player would have caught this.

But it creates an interesting problem if it happens.  Obviously you can't allow the illegal action to happen, but what is the mechanism for invalidating it?  The obvious thing would be "as soon as it's discovered, the action is removed", but this creates an incentive for the other players, noticing someone has played an illegal action, to stay silent until that player's turn ends.

And if the action makes it through to the barony resolution phase with no one catching it, it's disallowed, but does it count as one of the actions for the purposes of deciding which actions are the most-supported and happen, or does it automatically become, effectively, the least-supported action, and all the other actions happen?  That's not a satisfying outcome either since other players have provided support carefully trying to arrange that their preferred actions will be the most-supported.

It's also a concern in that some actions may be legal when placed but may seem to become illegal when resolved, or vice versa.  As an example of the former, baronies have to grow contiguously, so placing a 'barony grows' action in a territory next to barony X may seem to be illegal if barony Y takes over the territory, originally part of X, to which the targeted territory was adjacent.  As an example of the latter, you can't support an a faction you already support, but if, between the time you propose the action and the barony comes up for resolution, someone else may have kicked you out of support for that faction, in which case, upon resolution, the action is actually legal.

The surprising consequence of this, actually, is that it makes me think that the right answer may not be to have rules about how to nullify illegal actions, but instead to expand the range of what is allowed to be legal.  For example, usually you can only support each faction once, and can't re-support a faction.  But why not?  If you have two power discs in that faction, it's twice as useful to you.  If players think that's too powerful, they shouldn't support your actions that put you in that position, or they should use the influence action themselves to kick you out.  

I think in some ways this game will mess with players' understanding and expectations of balance.  "But [X] is too strong!"  Yes, it may be, but in all cases the players' collective actions have allowed [X] to happen, and in the case of an action, they actively provided support in a way that caused it to happen.  This was anticipated in the previous post about elections.  Yes, it's powerful if a player has 5 votes in every election and can control who wins each one.  The point is, don't let that happen if you don't want one player to have so much power!

So I think perhaps the rules have to state explicitly what are the rules about placing actions, and then just have it be that, if the time comes to resolve the action and you're unable to (whether, say, because it's an estate action and you already have an estate there or because it's an estate action and you have no available power disc to use in an estate), the action doesn't happen but it doesn't change the outcome of which other actions happen.

One other edge case came up in testing.  What happens when a player reaches the end of the barony track and can no longer propose new actions?  I had previously ruled that you took one final turn to provide support and then were out of the game (at least with respect to actions and support).  But this has two problems, both of which manifest if you're well ahead of the other players on the barony track.  First, it means you're sitting around watching for a while.  But second, and more consequential, it means you don't have a chance to provide support to actions that are proposed by trailing players, i.e. after you've left the game.  This seems to doubly punish players who skip ahead:  they get to propose fewer actions than their opponents, and they lose the ability to shape which actions are selected.  But even more than the negative experience it creates, I think the game's interdependencies of support and favor-trading really depend on all players being able to participate throughout the game.  If I want you to support my late-stage action, but I'm unable to reciprocate simply because I'm disallowed from doing so, that's going to strain the interactive systems of the game, and right at the end when presumably it matters the most.

I think the solution to this one is easy, or at least it's easy to try:  once you pass the end of the barony track, you don't keep taking actions, but you may keep providing support each time your turn comes up, with the added rule that you aren't obligated to provide 3 support each turn.  Now this exception may make skipping ahead too strong, so it may not work.  What we see in the late game is that players have run out of actions that they're allowed to provide additional support to (maybe they've previously supported them), so players are forced to pile 3 support onto a single action, and usually one that they dislike, and so the end game becomes configurational in a different way.  Relaxing the support rule for the final turn may give them more control so that the actions players collectively want to happen are the ones that come off.  

Monday, July 1, 2019

Collusion: contest feedback

I've never won a design contest or even placed very highly in one, but it's still sometimes fun to enter them.  I like the Board Game Workshop design contest in an odd way.  The first round is to make a 2 minute video describing your game, and a bunch of judges rate it and provide feedback on it.  Now I have no video-making skills and generally find this kind of thing annoying as a contest requirement.  And 2 minutes isn't nearly enough to say very much more than the really basic gist of a game and one or two compelling things about it.  

But I think it's at least useful as a bellwether for whether your game presents well.  Are the things you're saying about it resonating with the people hearing the pitch, or should you be talking more about other things?  

Here's the video I submitted.  It's a cell phone camera video and is obviously not that great.  I spent just a few minutes shooting it.

But to my pleasant surprise, the judges' feedback on the video interacted with the game and was helpful for thinking about what came through clearly and what may have been confusing.  That will probably be useful in thinking about how to start pitching the game when the time comes.  I think for most of the judges, the idea of what Collusion is trying to do, even based just on my short description, made sense and had some appeal.

Here's the feedback (judges names' stripped out for anonymity's sake):

Judge 1

Innovation: 4 Elegance: 4 Excitement: 4 Presentation: 3 Overall: 4 Score: 19
Feedback: Positives: I really like the way in which you are forced to cooperate with others to achieve goals.  The idea that other players have the same goal as me really forces some level of cooperation, as part of my strategy aligns with theirs and from what I can tell my victory is contingent on convincing them our mutual success is worth the votes.
Concerns:  I would like to see how this inter-connectivity plays out.  Will all my goals perfectly match up with every other player, or will I have some that are mine only? With some level of negotiation present, this game may tend to become very group-dependent like many other social deduction games.  Is there a way to design it so that it does not fall into the same trap?  I really like the idea of everyone voting on other projects that will either help them or encourage another player to return the favor in order for you to complete one of your goals.
Comments on the explanation:  I realize you only have a couple minutes here, but from the video I do not see how moving on the barony track affects which barony is selected to activate.  From the video it sounds like it's down to the one with the most discs.  I watched a couple times to see if I could grasp the correlation and I'm just not sure with the information provided.
I think this game idea is good, and hopefully it has some legs and can get the attention of a publisher.  Good luck with your design!
Word Count: 261 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 2 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 5 Elegance: 4 Excitement: 4 Presentation: 4 Overall: 4 Score: 21
Feedback: A game that I need multiple support just to make my actions?? YES, SIR, I WANT THAT GAME!
It's amazing that just one solid idea can sell a game to someone (at least to me). For some reason I would prefer these kind of games remain in the up to 60' bracket, probably because of my previous bad experience with Diplomacy games dragging for hours. But still, 60'-90' seems very reasonable and I really wish to learn more in the second round!
Good luck!

Word Count: 82 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 3 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 5 Elegance: 4 Excitement: 5 Presentation: 5 Overall: 5 Score: 24
Feedback: I really like how you have setup the cards that results in the formation of natural alineces with other players.  What I would like you to study is to track to make sure the game does not get decided by specific distribution of the cards.  The game is meant to be about who is the best at working with lots of people, not about the card distribution.  So really making sure there is no winning card combination is critical for keeping your audience happy with your game.
Word Count: 87 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 4 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 5 Elegance: 5 Excitement: 5 Presentation: 5 Overall: 5 Score: 25
Feedback: I want to play this game now. Right now. This really hits all the buttons for me. I know I'm working from limited information because of the briefness of the video, but it seems that you've built a very solid set of gameplay mechanisms, founded by straightforward rules, and spiced up with the cooperative/competitive nature of the goals and support tokens. Off the cuff, I don't really see anything that strikes me as problematical, though I do want to see the full rulebook so I have a clearer understanding of how it all works together. Really hoping to see this in Round Two so that can happen! Thank you for entering it.
Word Count: 112 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 5 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 3 Elegance: 2 Excitement: 2 Presentation: 4 Overall: 3 Score: 14
Feedback: Cutthroat cooperation, an interesting idea. Not sure how well it will play out and if there is a need for it. Couldn't tell a lot from the video about the gameplay. Be interested to see how this progresses.

Word Count: 38 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 6 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 3 Elegance: 3 Excitement: 3 Presentation: 4 Overall: 3 Score: 16
Feedback: I feel like the 3 actions might be a bit clunky. The proposing actions bit sounds different, but I think the experience might vary a bit much depending on who you are playing with. I think I want less things to have to remember to do. I feel like the main bit of this game is the collusion part, but now I think I want to see you honed in more of the collusion aspect of it. But I do think you have something there.
Word Count: 85 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 7 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 5 Elegance: 4 Excitement: 5 Presentation: 5 Overall: 5 Score: 24
Feedback: This looks awesome! I love the concept of a mixed cooperative/competitive game. You need to help others so that they help you and the goals intertwine. Very clever. I hope to see this in the market!!! Good job. Solid.
Word Count: 39 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 8 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 4 Elegance: 3 Excitement: 3 Presentation: 4 Overall: 3 Score: 17
Feedback: I think your game sounds pretty fun and I'd be willing to give it a try, even though I don't tend to gravitate towards games you'd consider "cerebral." I do like your competitive co-op mechanic and I'm interested to see how that plays out. In your pitch, I definitely would've liked to hear more about the theme rather than just "fictional realm." I know your game is in prototype but the theme appears to be a bit lacking. Is it a fantasy setting? i.e., orcs, goblins, knights? Are we settlers like in Catan? If you can next time, give more about the theme of your game and also maybe some specific examples of what kind of Actions you can propose on your turn. That might help entice me more to play the game. Otherwise, decent presentation.
Word Count: 136 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 9 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 4 Elegance: 3 Excitement: 4 Presentation: 4 Overall: 4 Score: 19
Feedback: Collusion seems like my type of thought-provoking game. I love the pre-planning aspect and the forced teamwork required to succeed. The idea of barons working together to accomplish their political agendas, yet coordinate efforts to actually carry out their wishes is an interesting design choice, and I honestly love it! As far as some suggestions go, I would suggest displaying the way actions are carried out once the majority has chosen one. In the brief video, I was unable to clearly differentiate between territories and baronies on the board. It would be nice to see the distinction clearer and to learn how a barony grows. I know an in-depth overview would help me understand these items better and I am excited to see the progress of Collusion in the next few months. Great job presenting your design! I am very interested in following Collusion to completion!

Word Count: 146 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 10 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 5 Elegance: 5 Excitement: 4 Presentation: 5 Overall: 4 Score: 23
Feedback: Looks like a very elegant and interesting turn mechanic system. I'm a fan of the play length and the common goals. I'd encourage you to sound more enthusiastic when pitching :) Looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Word Count: 38 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 11 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 4 Elegance: 4 Excitement: 3 Presentation: 3 Overall: 4 Score: 18
Feedback: The main mechanic of this game sounds engaging. Executing a turn is clear, even if there is a lot of decision space during that turn.
IΓÇÖm a little unclear on a few things that might be helpful to clarify when pitching the game. How does a player control and grow a Barony, and how does that score? Do players have their own pieces on the board, or is everything on the board community pieces? Are goals all public knowledge (using the word private or public would help)?

A few initial thoughts that may or may not relate to the game:
-My impression is that this game would be more effective as a quicker game. IΓÇÖm guessing that behavior dynamics might become fairly set after a while each game and feel drawn out or have a clear winner decided.
-If goals are assigned randomly, IΓÇÖm wondering if there is a situation where a group of players gets a stronger advantage, as they can continually team up. If not in game already, maybe it is worth including something as a catchup mechanic or that shifts power around that a player can accomplish on their own, such as become the tiebreaker or having a game piece that hinders certain actions on the board.
-There should probably be some intermediate scoring in this game. Scoring more before the end of the game can reward players, encourage more diverse gameplay, give a better sense of progress, and switch up alliances more. It can also give a better sense of how players are doing. Related to this, maybe some of the scoring is done through secret goals so players are not encouraged to math out the game state. Perhaps goals are revealed or are added over time.
-There should probably be some rule structure for player discussion to keep things tighter. Possibly, players can only talk directly with whoeverΓÇÖs turn it currently is and not each other.
Thank you for your submission, best regards.
Word Count: 322 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 12 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 2 Elegance: 3 Excitement: 2 Presentation: 4 Overall: 2 Score: 13
Feedback: Not my personal cup of tea, but that's not really a criticism of the game, just an explanation for the scores. I think you did a good job explaining the flow of the game, though some context around which actions are available or how they work (even an example) might have been helpful for clarifying what's going on in the game for me. Either way, interesting concept.
Word Count: 67 ---------------------------------------------
Judge 13 Game: Collusion
Scores Innovation: 2 Elegance: 2 Excitement: 3 Presentation: 2 Overall: 2 Score: 11
Feedback: Open information semi-cooperative - very interesting. Check you audio volume, its somewhat low. Additionally, when recording for viewers, go horizontal. Something with this depth usually has some flavor - give that to us! Your excitement will make us excited about the game as well. A title card with the basics at the beginning or end might be helpful as well. Best of Luck!

Word Count: 63 ---------------------------------------------
Feedback Count: 13 Average of Innovation: 3.9230769 Average of Elegance: 3.5384614 Average of Excitement: 3.6153846 Average of Presentation: 4.0 Average of Overall: 3.6923077 Final Score: 18.769232