Hivemind

An entry for game-fu 1 by Secant
Elements used:
Unique mechanic tied to the setting.
Economic crisis.
Unrest.
Cloning.
Author's Description:
HIVEMIND is a game which players take on the trials of members of a Hive, or instead play as the Hive itself in a more competitive take on the game.
GavKen's review:

Character Options (7/20)

There doesnít seem to be that much choice for characters in this game as there are a minimal number of members of the hive that you can play and only a minimal customisation on your character. The character sheet is very basic and due to the fact that everyone is a clone in the hive, most of the abilities on each character will be the same. The designed has stated that this is designed to be a one-session game and I agree that the premise would not hold much more than that.

Mechanics (13/20)

The game is played in a series of rounds that gave me the initial impression that this was more of a war game than a role-playing game. Each round the hive rights down an action that it takes. Given you only have one action it looks like you have to take a guess whether you can attack or defend in the round. A random event card is drawn each round which seems to just add a degree of randomness to proceedings. The mechanics of contests seem to work well and the powers can add in to do special effects that gives options to the players.

Setting (9/20)

The setting describes the competition for precious food and resources in the wastes. Itís not very detailed in describing what the waste is like nor what other beings are there (apart from other hives). The hives themselves are also not really described as to what type of being you are and you need to describe this yourself for the setting. The section at the end with plot ideas is useful in that it helps flesh out the setting a little bit more.

Integration (16/20)

The special powers ensure that they really represent the idea of a hive mind with the abilities geared to link between hive members. Being able to swap cards in multi competitor challenges really adds to this. The individuality mechanic lets players have an added bonus, but at a cost to their powers and also by making them less a member of the hive as a whole.

Ingredients (17/20)

The game has done a good job of tying in the various ingredients chosen. The unique mechanic tied to setting is individuality that seems to work well as a way of getting a character out of a problem but also losing hive abilities in the process. The economic crisis is at the heart of what the game is about, competing for the shared resources. Clones are intrinsic to the game as everyone is playing a clone. The unrest ingredient is sort of there in that there is competition between hives, but I didnít feel that this fit in really.

Rating: 62%
King Turnip's review:

Hivemind: We are ALL the one

Summary

Hivemind is about eusocial hives in a world that has died. Trivia for the day: Triceratops was the last true dinosaur to go extinct, and it lasted a full million years after whatever extinction event did in the dinos. Everything else has died out, and now these hives look out at the blasted wasteland and wonder how that happened all of a sudden. Like the Triceratops: "what happened? you mean that meteor that hit the Yukatan 400,000 years ago? You're kidding, right?"

Mechanically, there is a macro-phase that revolves around maintenance of a starving hive. Events are drawn on a dialy basis, and resolved by the PCs.

On a more personal scale, these telepathic creatures must struggle with the temptation to become an individual. The mechanics are simply a draw (or as I call it d52) plus a bonus against the GM defined target. Taking a point of individuality gives you another draw, but reduces the benefits of being part of the hive.

Character Options

The characters specifically don't have non-trivial options. As a member of the hive, they are exactly identical to all other members in the same role. During play, as they gain individuality, they become more independent and able to express themselves more, but there is still a strong biological component.

Justin gives it a 8/20.

Mechanics

The system is simple enough that a non-gamer could pick it up in about thirty seconds. It is robust enough that I don't think that it needs much more refinement. I like it that you took some of the elements that make cards unique and included them in the game (passing cards, frex.)

The macro-scale feels a bit out of place. Some additional mechanical interaction between the two scales could resolve this.

Justin gives it a 14/20.

Setting

The setting is worthwhile, but could use some discussion on the topics of eusocial behavior, hive inteligence, and so on. I do like that the hive creatures are largely undefined, allowing the play group to decide what they are.

Justin gives it a 12/20

Integration

The game does fit together, but cards don't scream hivemind to me. The system is nice, and you've gone to lengths to get the cards to work into your setting, but I'm still not sold.

Justin gives it a 14/20

Ingredients

The setting mechanic is well used, and the economic crisis is in full gear. Many of the draws in the event deck bring Unrest to the hive, while the characters are all clones of the previous person in the position.

Justin gives it a (4+5+3+3) 15/20

Oh, and before I forget, I will offer the obligatory advice: Hire an editor if you plan to publish in any capacity. Really, editors are that important.

Rating: 63%
Codex Arcanum's review:

Sicant presents a survival game about living or dying as one in the endless Wastes. Muddy focus and mechanics cloud a thoughtful concept.

Character Options - 2

With only two stats and a scant selection of powers, there is little to distinguish individual members of a hive. Of course, that is the goal, isn't it? But if you account for entire Hives being an option as well, then you still have only 2 stats, 2 resources, and a scant collection of powers. Now, for a light game meant for a single session of play, that's not too bad, but I think that this game's premise might be better served with some elaboration on characters and at the very least a larger selection of powers.

Suggestions: As said, more powers is a solid start. Perhaps look to add further stats in as well, and round the game out a bit.

Mechanics - 2

I had trouble on this score, I'm thinking it's more of a 2.5, and that's added into the final score. I like card based mechanics, and I like "Events" as well, but I feel like the execution is handled without enough care. The first problem, it must be said, is I have no idea when the game should be played with Hives and with Individuals, or is players are meant to mixed, or play just one at a time, or play both at a time. It seems like, roughly, Sicant is going the REIGN route of having players play indiviual members that aide their Hive in war and diplomacy against other hives. If not, maybe consider that route?

This central problem filters into the rest of the game. If I don't know when to play Hives, when do we draw event cards? And while I like Events, haivng to consult the chart every few minutes (assuming all players play just hives) is going to require a printed chart or something. I think it works better, again, if all players collectively control a hive and maybe draw cards once per game. Take a page (or rather, steal several pages) from In a Wicked Age: start off each session with a few draws from the Events, and have them be of broader scope than just stat modification, and that sets the story for the session. So like, you draw "Meteor Falls in the Waste" and "A Lone Tree is Discovered" and that sets up two concurrent plots that could both yeild interesting play, and it has the automatic conflict of forcing players to choose which to attempt first.

Beyond that, the card based mechnics are used in a pretty neat way. I like how certain powers can modify the means of drawing, and that players can exchange and share cards under some circumstances. That multiple cards are only drawn for combat (and for the standard Initiative, Damage, Defense trio) is a shame, because one of the big draws (badumptish) of card mechanics is the way you can gather, hold, and play many of them at once.

Suggestions: Clarify whether this game is about Hives, members, or some mix. Make one your main focus and hone the game towards that, with the secondary option supporting the first. Clean up those mechanics, and take some time to see what other card-based games have done with them.

Setting - 3

I think post-apocolyptic settings are groovy keen, and so I have a natural affinity for that aspect of Hivemind. I like even more the idea of an apocolypse in motion, and the depressing tone of inevitable destruction present here is a bit refreshing from the usual overly optimistic post-apoc games. I think there's a lot of potential here to explore how a group meets an unstoppable end, how fleeting hope can be (those events that are like "A single flower blooms"), and how maybe a group effort can stave off the end. The game itself only hints at all this, but I like where it's going.

Suggestions: A little more description, and some more hooks. I think a lot of RPG writers, especially indie gamers and contest entrants don't want to tie themselves down to one specific setting. And there is a nobility of design in letting the end-user have some choose in the setting they use. I think, however, that many gamers really want a solid setting foundation that they can add on to. Time and again, the big sellers in the mainstream are games that have pretty good settings that are well fleshed out. So yeah, add more to this "Wasteland" and inject some other Hives and conflicts and really push the setting.

Integration - 4

I'm scoring higher here because I think the card-based gimmicks (like Exchanging) really sell the idea that players are working as a collective and I like how the Events work into the setting. This game has a really strong integration and I commend you on that.

Suggestions: Fix the mechanic issues above and any problems here should resolve themselves.

Ingrediants - 3

Sicant went with a Setting-Tied Mechanic, Economic Crisis, Unrest, and Cloning. I've already commented that I feel the card mechanics tie in really well to the setting. I also think Economic Crisis was used quite creatively to create the constant struggle for resources in a dead world that the hives face. I think the game falters a bit on the one-word flavor ingrediants, which I often see troubling designers in these contests. Unrest, I just don't see it. As it ties to the indiviuality mechanic maybe, or restless hives struggling for resources? The phrases really need to be sprinkled all over the game, not overpowering the game but certainly adding their flavor to every bite. Cloning is a bit stronger here: hive members are all clones and have very similar stats.

Suggestions: To bring unrest in, I'm not sure I can help. Maybe focus on how individual members can grow "restless" and start longing for individuality. Other than that, not too bad.

Final Thoughts and Suggestions

Hivemind feels very, very rough. This is a solid first draft, but it needs a good bit of work. And some editing, but I didn't take any points out for that. I think you could take this somewhere Sicant, I see a sparkle in the rocks, but you need to polish and grind at this uncut gem a bit longer. If you do make a second draft, post it into the Art of Game Design board here at RPG.net and I'll be sure to come in and comment on it again.

As a side note, with the limited selection of powers and simple mechanics, you could very well make this into a really fascinating board or card game. If you want to keep in those elements of quick, single session play and light mechanics, definately look into doing a different sort of tabletop game with Hivemind.

Rating: 58%