I played Star Wars Life yesterday. It's a game inspired by the game "Life". Not the Cells-that-Breed Life, but the Need-More-Little-Pink-Tokens Life.
I understand that it's supposed to be a half-hour game, but it is painfully badly designed. Lemme sum up. No, there is too little. Lemme explain.
In SWL, you play a Jedi's life. The tokens are of all the really unappealing Jedi, except Obi-Wan. That is Obi-Wan, right? I'm only marginally up to date on the latest "movies".
You parade around a board by rolling a d10 and moving that many spaces. Technically, you're supposed to spin the spinner, but it's so badly designed that (A) it doesn't feel good to spin and (B) since it is arranged 1-10 in order, it's easy to land in the 8-10 range every time you spin it.
There are more choices than in the standard game of life, which is good, because the standard game of life is really, painfully low on choices. A lot like Chutes and Ladders, really. But not SWL!
First, there are four skills. A lot of tiles and challenges let you pick up more of a skill of your choice. Challenges are fairly common, ranging from lessons to missions to directly challenging another player. You roll a d10, add the relevant skill, and hope for a number higher than the difficulty level. If you win, you gain more skills. If you lose, you frequently lose skills.
That's the first problem. Do you see it?
Yeah, a big-ass positive feedback loop. The more skills you have, the more skills you can get. The less skills you have, the more unlikely you are to get more skills. This leads to an absurd stretching, and if you're one of those in last place, it's not even worth playing to the end, because you can't possibly accomplish anything worthwhile.
Another problem is that the skill distribution is poor, but that's minor and forgivable. The evil feedback loop is not.
Continuing on, there's a lot of cool stuff. You get a mentor (wow! Look at that list of third-rate mentors!) and a light saber as the game progresses. This gives the game a delightful "chunkyness". There are some minor issues with balance - not all light sabers and mentors are equal, but they appear to be at first. These issues are minor. The chunkyness is great.
The big "draw" is that the board is criss-crossed with "dark side" paths, which are shorter than their parallel "light side" paths - sometimes much shorter. Usually, they are also cooler - many dark side tiles give you three skills or let you steal two. Every tile you stop on gives you a dark side point, and most of the paths have a mandatory stop, so you're guaranteed to gain skills and a dark side point.
The problem is that they aren't more powerful. In fact, they're less powerful, because at the end you lose your mentor. While you blaze through, the rest of the characters are sauntering along collecting slightly more skill points.
This wouldn't be bad if the reward for being the first Sith was big enough to make up for it. But, no - the reward for being the first Sith is about as much as the reward for being the second Jedi. I guess the dark side paths are intended to be shortcuts for Jedi who are racing to the Jedi end gate and are willing to lose a few skills due to dark side contamination. Which is, you know, precisely the wrong lesson.
At the end of the game, the best Sith fights the best Jedi. But get this: the Sith has to win all three contests, or he loses the game.
The Jedi has more skill points. As far as I can tell, the odds are something around 100:1 in the Jedi's favor. That's not exaggeration. That's about right.
Now, there are all kinds of things you can say to try to redeem the game. "It's teaching that the dark side is bad!" "It's just a fun half hour!"
The game is badly designed. A badly designed multi-million dollar board game.
It does not include any team work. It does not include any drama. It is a race, even though Star Wars is not. It is fluff, and badly designed fluff.
So, I'm gonna redesign it.
A parody, of course. That's still legal, over here.
I have some ideas. :D
Have any of you played it? Any of you have ideas?