Back to the Trees

In a change from the recent obsession with one game, I recently dusted off an old design and gave it a test play at work.  The game in question was An Angel On Top, which was my entry for the 24 hour game design contest back in December 2015.  I just figured that it might be worth a look to see if it had any merit.

An Angel On Top (previous post here) is basically a simple, area control game where you score points for putting the most decorations onto Christmas trees, and more points for putting angels on top of them to finish the tree off, with your opportunities and choices constrained by a bit of dice rolling.  I tidied the old prototype up and tried it out with a friend at work, Phil, who happens to also be a game designer.  We sometimes play each other's prototypes over lunch, and this was what I brought in one day.

The game sort-of worked, it was a bit of fun, but got frustrating when the dice ended up combining with the available tree cards to give little or no choice on your turn.  We had a useful discussion and ended up with a few ideas for improving the game.

A bunch of components that comprise version 2 of An Angel On Top.
The trees could do with being coloured in.
A week later we got to try an improved version: bigger cards (tarot sized) with different sized trees on them, decorations that you could add as long as you could physically fit them on the tree without touching another decoration, special actions you could take when you placed an angel, and a few more dice to increase the available options.

The improvements were definitely improvements, and there was definitely more of a game there, though it still felt like it was missing something.  I think that the main issue is that the dice selection mechanism is a bit dull.  Our discussion on this suggests that maybe if you could use different sets of dice to take different actions (a pair does one thing, three-of-a-kind does another; a run-of-three is something else, etc.) you might have some more interesting decisions to make.

So, that's what I will do for the next iteration.  I doubt this game will ever be particularly unusual or groundbreaking, but it might be nice to have a half-decent, light Christmas game in the collection.

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