(a summary of play-tester feedback on the rules here)
Happy to report that folks seemed to enjoy playing this game as much as I enjoyed coming up with it.
Many of you seemed to enjoy the casual, “relaxing and summery” theme:
This game is as joyful as a field of yellow dandelions and hopefully will spread just as fast.
At the same time, there’s real mathematics happening. As one player astutely put it:
The player that wants to spread can’t spread, and the player that wants to block can’t block.
Though experiences varied, it seems my own learning curve was typical. At first I found it hard for the dandelions to win. I often found myself with one blank square remaining.
Then I realized that, once two dandelions are on the board, certain squares become “guaranteed.” For example, if a blank square is South of one dandelion, and West of another, and the wind has not yet blown South or West, then it cannot avoid that square.
This insight changed the dynamics of the game, and I now found it easy to win as the Dandelions. (As for the 6-by-6 board, I’m less sure.)
Several of you suggested excellent variations. For example, playing as the wind against random dandelion placement:
“A solo variation where you play the wind and the Dandelions are dropped at random (roll two dice to use as coordinates). You can play either to maximize coverage or minimize it.”
Another idea I liked: play on a larger board (say, 10 by 10) with two colors of dandelion, competing to cover more spaces in response to a randomly generated wind.
Another cool idea: change the topology of the board. You can play “on a torus,” for example, so that the board’s left edge is “linked” to the right, and the top to the bottom. Or, perhaps more interestingly, you can use spherical topology:
I really liked the sphere version. The cardinal directions are a little boring on a sphere, but the diagonals are interesting, as some of the cardinal directions maintain an “absorbing state” as in the original version while the others don’t.
Several suggestions revolved around the cooperative version. For example, simply enforcing silence changes the game:
We played coop without discussing strategy before or during the game. Fun and frustrating.
Or you can change the goal itself:
We tried playing the cooperative [version except the question was] can we make dandelion lose, with the followup of how much space can we get uncovered. The best we did was 5 uncovered squares.
Thanks so much for all of this; every survey gives me so much to think about!
Last thought: several of you suggested that this game would make a good phone app. I agree! I’d love to try developing something like this. (Perhaps for other games, too.) Please feel free to get in touch if you know someone who would be a good collaborator.
To give you a hint of the possibilities in this direction:
I could also envision a version of this game where you the wind can blow more than once in a given direction. Seeds could have a certain number of rounds before they grow into flowers, but if the wind blows over a seed (after initially spreading it) before it becomes a flower then it is cleared away. Just a thought (better suited for an app than a paper and pencil game, because the app could keep track of the number of rounds a square has been occupied). I may just code this version and see how it comes out!