An old classic returned to the table:
Explorers & Exploiters! I attended a one-day designer meetup
and decided to revisit the old Hippodice finalist. It was well received and I returned with ideas
for making the exploring phase more interesting by allowing mapmaking (to reduce the memory
element) and adding shrines (to add another exploiting option, earning you wildcard
victory points the more shrines you connect). I also took the opportunity to upgrade the
base color from heaven blue to parchment brown. After all, it is a map game.
August also saw some other games than my own. I volunteered to playtest Chicago Mobster, a
retheme of a favorite game of mine, Hansa Teutonica.
For my monthly review, I visited the Paradise Island of Vanuatu.
Besides all those small projects, I devoted most of my time to the development of
Peoples - Civilizations. After the game testing before the summer, I had evaluated options
for streamlining the game, particularly when it came to the rather drawn-out production.
A break-through came when I, inspired by the economic wheel of many economic games, realized that I
already had the solution on the box: a time wheel!
By linking production and revolutions to a
time wheel, where each people's position depends on its size, I could comprise all bookkeeping actions
into one phase while letting the more interesting civilizations take place in all phases.
In addition, I also decided to replace all the development cards with buildings, providing
another balance challenge between quantity (more buildings = more actions) and quality
(higher advance levels = better actions). Coming up with all those actions and balancing took
much more time than coming up with the idea and the testing will take even more time but at
least Peoples - Civilizations is progressing again!
Last month's Boardgamegeek entries
required some more work before I could return to my new game projects.
Designer notes were published at
a strategy article was published for
and the video for Dyce was updated with the new board.
As if that wasn't enough, the Kickstarter for
started earlier than expected so I hurried to complete and publish my
review. This review turned out to be my 50th
review published at Boardgamegeek and earned a Silver badge!
With all this done, I could finally focus on Glasnost.
The rules were written, the components designed, the print & play files created,
and the video animated. Last but certainly not least, a game test
was annotated, resulting in a lot of tweaks and tunings of the Coup rules
before I was satisfied enough to submit Glasnost to the
Social Deduction Challenge.
Since I also took the opportunity to order extra components, a lot of time was spent on
sorting the components, after which I could prepare images, update boxes and create
Boardgamegeek entries for them.
After that, I could finally start on an idea I got already previous month, inspired by the
Social Deduction Challenge.
The contender is Glasnost. The idea was to combine the ideas
of the successful microgames Comrade,
Gulag, and Politburo into one
big game with the working name of Glasnost. Such a game would see the
players working together (Gulag) but with both team and individual goals (Politburo)
with the ultimate goal of identifying your team mates (Comrade) with the addition of a
game board for a spatial dimension and a third traitor team.
Among other things this month, I recorded a sale of a classic game
(the second one from Nova Suecia Games): Bellum se ipsum alet
and I also sold Biblios
to give room for .
The Comrade series have got French fans! Mr Ludovic Nieres was so intrigued by the games
that he offered to translate them into French. It was more work for as well, as the French text required more space than the
English one, but the resulting Print & Play files got great and can be downloaded from the game pages of both
Nova Suecia Games and Boardgamegeek.
After that I returned to the preparations for this month's game test. Unfortunately UPS failed to deliver my package
from The Game Crafter in time so I had to do with handmade components. Nevertheless, I got very valuable feedback.
Apokalypsis was very well received, Peoples - Civilizations
proved to have enough game in it to pursue further (and I shared my lessons learned in my blog
The Quest for the Holy (Civilization) Grail,
and even my latest idea C64 Board got the thumb up.
The latter was an idea inspired by the
Simple Elegance Contest.
The games uses simple programmable "joystick cards" and generic boards to recreate old C64 games.
Among the games included are Tanks
(move tanks and fire bouncing shots at opponents), Monsters (move hero and monster with the same
action), Maze (find your way through a maze with movable walls) and Cars (use gears and turns to
race your opponents, forcing them off the track if necessary). However, even a simple game like
this required a lot of work to get all the rules, cards and video ready and took most of the time
I still had time to visit the
Arctic Game Conference and
although Apokalypsis failed to attract the interest of the judges (having a background in card games,
they were more interested in card duels and card combos), it was interesting to meet fellow designers.
I also had time to review a game that is more in line with the games I like to design and play,
namely Leo Colovini's masterpiece Carolus Magnus.
Finally I pulled the trigger and submitted an order to
The Game Crafter for prototypes of
Find the Bug! - Project and
Suecia, including some updated components for other games such as
The main reason was that Apokalypsis reached the final in the designer contest of
Arctic Game Conference (Nordsken).
The competition will be tough as always but I also look forward to an opportunity to network and
listen to interesting game speeches.
This also meant that I had to finalize the testing
of Find the Bug! - Project. One of the final adjustments was a retirement rule, forcing the players
to plan ahead for changes in their project teams. The other two games, Warring States and Suecia,
need more testing as well but with human players rather than simulations. Hopefully some of them
will get to the table during a game test session scheduled in May.
Another game that will need more testing is the long awaited update of
Nova Suecia, where the turns are broken down into separate actions for
a quicker and smoother gameplay. The basic economy from the "big turns" was solid enough to remain
unchanged but I did add tax rules depending on the movement of the Swedish and Dutch ships to create
a spatial challenge and a more scarce economy. Massive updates of the rules, the print and play files
and the game video were required but fortunately, most of the components could be reused and didn't
have to be included in the order to The Game Crafter.
Another game test that continued was that of the duel version of
some additional rule changes, the game appears more balanced, and it has been an interesting experience
to follow Lewis Pulsipher's approach to game design.
Finally I managed to complete yet another review, this time a light-hearted analysis of
chess from a modern boardgaming perspective.
It required more work than expected but after many design changes (I really need to get a program
that automates card design) the shop page
and the video for Find the Bug! Project was completed. It was
particularly the scoring that was subject to changes as a result of the testing, partly simplified
(simple arithmetics instead of range conditions) and partly enriched (quality awards and penalties,
risk bonuses for difficult projects, program bonuses for being first at certain patterns). The testing
also showed that the struggle for steering board seats was interesting so
the budget margins for senior teams was lowered to prevent the game from being all about efficient teams.
I had hoped to find time for the new version of Nova Suecia but a
successful designer test meeting gave inspiration to changes in Apokalypsis.
Some simpler changes were implemented immediately (no apocalypses the first round to prevent bad starts,
4 colors instead of 6 to ensure that a player color is
always relevant to 2 players and 3 cards on the hand to mitigate the risk that a player gets 2 similar
omens). This also increases the player control, something that some players perceived that they lacked.
Other ideas included 2 apocalypses before a tile is flipped (though I fear this will only prolong the
game ) and open omen cards (though I fear this will only remove tension). I may test more omen cards,
though, to increase the time before late omen cards return to the top of the deck again.
Last but certainly not least I received my Excellence Award from Yoka Games for
Dyce (Hangzhou). I've not yet decided if and how to promote this
rather unique but perhaps too abstract AI trading game but who knows what the future holds for it?
With the new edition of Christina Regina completed, I put all my focus
on Find the Bug! - Project. Thorough
simulations of various strategies eventually led me to a balanced set of
project members, an annotated game helped me balance project tasks and project
reports for a good timing between completed projects and full steering groups, and the writing of the
draft rules helped me streamline the gameplay. The actual files for
the many different components took time, particularly to come up with a good iconography, but it also
forced me to come up with book-keeping routines for project achievements and evaluations so simple that
they could be expressed by icons. I was also happy to realize that the game will fit in a medium pro box,
similar to Find the Bug! - Agile.
But in spite of the focus on this new game, I managed to allow time to an updated video for
Peoples - Migrations. With that, only
Bake the Cake is left waiting for an animated video. I also managed to
complete yet another review, this time of Amun-Re.
Another positive experience this month was the hosting of a designer meeting that lasted a full day.
This allowed a much deeper testing of games and is the best option for testing games that I've tried out
Besides this, the major event of the month was the celebration of the fifth birthday of Nova Suecia
Games. Perhaps it was this that finally gave me the inspiration to return to the game that started the
journey, Nova Suecia and "fix" the last part: streamline the long turns to reduce
downtime. After some iterations, I came up with an idea for separating buy actions, sell actions and
reset actions without compromising with the interdependent economy that is the heart of the game. I will
start this work next month and look very much forward to the result!
The first month of the new year was devoted to an old favorite of mine:
Christina Regina. In a too rash acceptance of a fellow designer proposal,
I had simplified the game too much and removed the idea that every color score more or less to
every other color. When a fan of the game pointed out that he saw both good and bad things with this,
I divided the game into the new and simpler "silver" variant and the old and intriguing "gold" variant.
I also returned the layered chambers (central, middle and peripher) instead of quadrant chambers
to make it easier for the Queen to reach different chambers. Another rejected fellow designer proposal
was the idea to use non-colored tiles as "currency" for action cards. The result was a cleaner game
more true to its core.
With the boardgame changes completed, I also took the opportunity to update the cardgame video
with only one small simplification to the game: a player must move 1 card to the bottom in his or
her turn instead of choosing 0-2 cards to move.
A smaller but much welcome change was given to Iconoclasm.
I had never found any elegant solution for which tile to replace when weakening a unit after a clash.
The tile closest to the connection failed to single out a tile in every possible case, since there
may be more connections. Yet, there was a solution that I had failed to see for so many years: the tile
closest to the last placed tile! I also found an elegant solution for the earlier version of the game
where players saved their own elements to last by simply letting the player choose from a common
pool of elements instead of having own pools. The current version no longer uses pools but rather a
mancala mechanic that tells both elements to play and supporting elements but the idea will be
shelved in case of future updates.
Last but not least I completed the video for Suecia and I also started the
game test, although the game still has a long way to go.
My design focus didn't prevent me from enjoying other games.
The King is Dead and Ra both got reviewed
and two more games entered my collection: the negotiation game
Genoa and the simple
stock game Paris Connection.
I also managed to squeeze in six test sessions of the duel variant of
Britannia, although my
results indicated an imbalance in favor of the Anglo-Saxon side.
Speaking about tests, I also tried putting up Apokalypsis at
something that turned out to be pretty simple. Whether Tabletopia will be attractive enough for external
testers remains to see but it's good to know the interface just in case.
Less good news was that the third attempt to use Meetup for game
tests ended with no participants turning up and I decided not to halt further attempts. Instead, I
signed up to test a new 2 player version of Britannia.
Hopefully my test experience can help another designer instead.
Finally I added long overdue homepage entries for
Card Games and Abstract Games,
Warring States and Suecia.
(Regarding Hangzhou, I decided not to add a new homepage entry for it but rather upgrade its component only predecessor game
Dyce with a printed board.)
The first (and so far only) abstract game is Mount Chess,
a kind of chess variant invented in response to claims that ordinary chess need more "compound pieces"
(combinations of rook and knight and of rook and bishop), pieces I personally find bizarre.
Mount Chess' response is to let the players start with generic pieces (moving only diagonally or only
orthogonally) and allow them to compound if they wish. I found the idea so intriguing that I turned
it into a game, although more testing is still needed.
However, I also added a homepage entry for a new game: Find the Bug! - Project.
It's root is an old idea of a blame game with competing project interests (time, cost and quality) that
eventually turned into Gulag. However, inspired by
I decided to make a more serious game about IT projects, where the players allocate roles to projects or
send them to training and engage in steering group meetings - all with the object of outperforming each
other in relation to shifting project goals.
With that done, I found some time to return to Suecia. I wasn't
happy with the idea of letting the players choose any action cards and decided to let them choose from a
hand of action cards, similar to Brass.
For this purpose, I also added city action cards and province action cards to give them more flexibility.
I also completed print & play files so now "only" a game video and an annotated game remains.
While last month was devoted to other games, this month became full of my own game activities.
Encouraged by a successful Meetup test of Crusader Kings last month, I
decided to repeat the event with other games. Again, only a few of the enrolled actually turned up but
Apokalypsis was successfully tested and the players spontaneously
wanted to play it a second time. Another successful test was held at the Stockholm Designer Meetup,
where Find the Treasure - The Card Game won the approval of my
This month was completely devoted to a game other than my own. I was asked by
Fria Ligan to test
and I managed to set up no less than eight test sessions with different players. The result was
a 30+ pages test report with various observations and recommendations and one of the largest
revenues for Nova Suecia Games. Perhaps I should consult other boardgames instead of designing my own?
Unfortunately, this meant that I didn't have time to complete any review or video this month.
Hopefully I'll get more time next month.
However, I did record two additional sales, one for
Find the Bug! Agile to Germany and one for
Find the Bug! to the UK. At least the latter buyer had seen the game
at one of my test speeches. Unfortunately I also learned that the wooden bugs that I recently added to
Find the Bug! are being phased out from The Game Crafter. Acrylic bugs will replace them but, which
at least match the acrylic tester pawns, but there is no estimate yet.
I also received the last of the many kick-started games:
Endeavor: Age of Sail and
This meant that yet another game had to leave my collection, the good but not outstanding
In addition, I invested in yet another book about boardgames,
Stewart Woods. So far it's interesting reading about the history and mechanics of eurogames.
The summer contact about publishing the Comrade series was resumed. Apparently, an artist and an investor have been approached and testing sessions in Gothenburg have been planned. I tried to set up testing sessions in Stockholm as well but the high player count of 5-10 players make it hard.
That didn't prevent yet another sale of the Comrade series, making the games my new bestsellers after Find the Bug! and Apokalypsis!. In addition, I could record my first sale of Lucca.
Returning to my newer games I've struggled a lot to find a good balance between general concepts and specific rules in Suecia. Writing too specific rules for all actions would be repetitive while too many concepts wouldn't make sense for the reader until learning the specific rules. The solution was to add a schematic overview of how building are used for resources to flow into and out of the city and then immediately move on to the specific rules. The rules need more work but a draft rules were finally completed.
I've reached a stage where my old games consumes all my time, leaving no time for new games.
I decided to submit Apokalypsis to
Fastaval's Designer Contest but although
I was happy with the new Gods' Variant, I felt that the one meeple movement was too slow for
managing two colors. The simple solution was a new perspective: one tile movement, whereby all
meeples evacuate from or rally to a tile. It also adds to the panic theme. The
game test was successful and the game submitted.
Another game change was triggered by the new video for
Explorers & Exploiters. I was never really happy with the plastic
sprue figures and the unnecessarily big box. But since the game was designed,
The Game Crafter has added several new wooden components that could
serve as settlements. In addition, wooden components would fit in a medium pro box, so Explorers &
Exploiters have finally found a new and better home!
Finally, I started counting down to the 5th birthday of Nova Suecia Games by offering
the remaining Game Crafter coupons to homepage visitors. Hopefully some of them will use them
for our games.
July was a vacation month with much time for game design but also a very hot month
with little energy for it. I continued the
Peoples - Civilizations game test with never ending
adjustments, mainly of the six civilization traits, until I finally got them balanced. With a
third of a full game annotated it's still very open so the time spent has paid off but it's
still a lot of work left.
To take a break, I finally started working on my next game Suecia. I had hesitated for some time
but a hostile take-over rule inspired by
In fact, I was so inspired that I decided to add not only Indonesia but also the classic merger game
Acquire and the well
reputed economy game Arkwright
to my collection. Most of the Suecia
components were created and hopefully the draft rules will be ready to publish next month.
The work with the additional home pages has already started, not only for Suecia but also
for a collection of my card games (5 Ages and Jelly Mind) and Warring States.
Speaking of Warring States, the month may have started slowly but ended in a rush.
To get something done, I rushed the writing of a review for Settlers (Catan) and
the creation of a video for Turn of Time. I also solved the issue with
Lucca, whereby the weaker tower's top color earned nothing in a struggle,
by simply letting the removed top color take the prisoner.
With that, I thought July would end with a decent progress after all. But at the very last day,
I was informed that Warring States and Hangzhou had reached the semi-finals in the
World Original Design Contest of Board Game.
The components were already prepared but I had to hurry uploading them to The Game Crafter so that I
could send the prototypes to China.
Then it became official that
will get a new edition and that I am part of the
Exciting but a lot of work.
Finally I was approached by a publisher who expressed interest in my
Comrade games Comrade, Gulag and
Perhaps I shouldn't have ordered those new games...
The focus of this month was the long awaited start of the
Peoples - Civilizations game test. As expected,
many tweaks and tunings remained and two distinct categories emerged:
Balancing: The more I immersed myself in the different strategies, the more balance issues
I discovered. I welcomed the combinations that appeared but it was necessary to ensure that the different
strategies differed in opportunities rather than output.
Fun: It turned out that the civilization actions were too fun to be restricted to just a
few times per revolution cycle so I made them "cheaper". This change was not necessary to fix
something but they were certainly necessary to improve something.
Finally I completed and submitted a simple game for the
Jellybean Contest, namely
It's partially a parody on The Mind,
where players are supposed to cooperatively guess the order of the cards they hold. Jelly Mind
simply make this competitive by letting the players gamble to either play early (and earn a
lot of points if they have the highest card) or late (and earn less points but win ties).
It turned out to be quite fun but I'll probably just publish it as a game that can be played
with an ordinary deck of cards in the future, similar to
Last month's video frenzy continued with
Bellum se ipsum alet and
Mare Balticum. The latter was "reengineered" years ago
while the former finally got its long overdue updates. More streamlined phases
(less phases with influence only checked once), a historically more accurate
economic system (supply from cities -> supply from land -> strength to the army) and more
divergent end game conditions (besiege all opponents or survive the war) turned this
my second game into a less fiddly and more thematic experience. The
game test demonstrated a much more dynamic game with
shifting tides of the war, just like Bellum se ipsum alet was supposed to be!
A smaller update was given to Politeia, where only eliminated
citizens count for victory. This balanced the take that effect that long troubled me,
whereby the aggressor gets higher production in the long run while the victim gets more
victory point in the short run.
Regarding last month's tested games, I decided to put them into another test by submitting them
to World Original Design Contest of Board Game.
Dyce was rethemed to its original: dye trading in a medieval (Chinese) city
while Cosmoclasm got new and interesting rules whereby not only
symbols provide benefits (tactical army placements) but also suits (strategic army manipulation). This
idea was actually inspired by the retheme to the Warring States Period and Sun Tzu's strategic ideas.
I expect to give at least the latter retheme a game of its own after the contest.
Besides designing, I spent a lot of time learning new games at various online gaming sites and
even felt prepared to review one of the best of them,
The Great Zimbabwe.
April became a great video month. It started with a game video for the old but newly ordered game
Turn of Time the Card Game and the similar game
Iconoclasm the Card Game. Having completed them, and given last
week's sale of Politburo, I decided spend the Easter updating
the videos for all Comrade games as well.
It was probably the right decision, because another "Deal of the Day" resulted in sales not only of
the featured Gulag but also the other games in the Comrade series.
With that, Gulag has suddenly risen to my third most sold game!
While the Easter holiday made room in the calendar for my own design work, it made less room for the
regular design meetups. However, I did get a successful test of the recent changes to
Cosmoclasm. The game was considered ready and I have to decide on
the next step for it.
April also saw the completion of Lucca's game test. The tested rule
where all players engage in tower struggles made the game more engaging and a strength limit based on
the block size made the game more dynamic. I'm still not sure which audience a game like Lucca has
but this is another game that can be considered ready.
Moving from old to new games, I developed the ideas from Dyce further
and came up with a draft idea for Suecia. Suecia returns to the early Nova
Suecia Series games set in the 17th century Sweden. In this game, the players produce basic domestic
goods that are first sold to foreign merchants to be refined but later refined in own shops. Using the
refined goods, the players finance foreign expeditions to produce refined goods directly, which will be
further refined and used for military conquests.
In essence, the game tells the story of how Sweden grew from a poor farming country, via trading with
the Hansaetic League and establishing own trade routes across the Baltic Sea, to become a major European
power engaged in the Thirty Years' War. What is particularly interesting about Suecia is that all
resource transactions and conversions take place on a city grid where all players are present so the
players may both engage in mutually beneficial trades (or piggy-backing if you want) as well as beating
each others to the best deals.
But although the idea felt good enough to start testing, I decided to let it mature further first
and start on another project idea instead, that of Bellum se ipsum alet
instead. One idea is to allow the armies to reach 0 supply to trigger the end and award the victory to
the army with the greatest supply. This will force the players to fight not only each other but also
starvation. Another idea is the double contribution system, where gold from the cities is used to buy
food from the countryside, which recover slowly (or permanently if plundered). This will force the
players to constantly move to feed their armies. More realism but still in a euro format! Hopefully,
this will give even more ideas to Suecia.
Another source of ideas for Suecia may become the online gaming site
Boardgamecore. Here I finally
got to play not only the elegant
The Great Zimbabwe
but also the interesting Food Chain Magnate -
two excellent Splotter games. Both of those games explore trading and networks in a very instructive
way. I expect Food Chain Magnate to become my second Splotter game in my collection in the near future.
Unfortunately, all this meant another month with less time for reviews but I did find time for a
study in another good game design, namely that of Hansa Teutonica.
Overall it was a fun experience, although it only
generated nibbles and no sales. This was expected, as many in the audience pointed out the high
shipping costs from the USA. Perhaps Find the Bug! is ripe for a Kickstarter campaign soon?
The same can be said for Cosmoclasm, which was
well received at Stockholm Board. The only update to the rules was a drafting in the setup, where the players
start with 8 cards, choose 6 and leave 2 for the drawing row.
Another game well received both at the meetup and at
was the this month's focus game: Dyce. The rules went through several
iterations but has now become the tense and strategic game I wanted it to be. Let's just hope that the
Game Pieces Only Challenge
jury thinks the same.
With Dyce completed, I could finally start opening the other games shipped from The Game Crafter
together with Find the Bug! and the discount coupons.
Explorers & Exploiters, Lucca,
Turn of Time the Card Game and Find the Treasure the Card Game
are all games that I want to run further test games of the next few months, not to mention
Peoples - Civilizations, where the test has only started.
For all those games, I also ordered more sleeves for the cards, and then took the opportunity to add
two more games to my collection: Patrician,
because it reminded me about Lucca, and Res Publica,
because I found the "silent" trading mechanic interesting.
I also signed up some of my games for the new The Game Crafter feature
"Deal of the Day", which features games at a discounted price. It resulted in one more sale:
The Stockholm Board Game Design Meetups started again and I took the opportunity to bring
Apokalypsis to get fresh ideas. The result was a new
"Gods Variant", where they player have two secret colors each, one that they want to save and
one that they want drown. The result was a success (although I lost miserably) and the variant included in the updated
Speaking of reviews, I finally got my promised copy of
a thank you for letting the company use my review in the Kickstart campaign. I look forward to revisit the final game,
but it's literally a big game and I expect it to take some time. At the same time, I invested in some more sleeves and
took the opportunity to add Patrician
and Res Publica.
Industry on the other
hand had to leave the collection.
Lisboa also reminded me of my loose idea to create a city building game set in 17th century
Stockholm, where the city planning would "evolve" due to game events in the Swedish Empire (the need
for certain goods, the tendency of similar shops to group together etc.). Hence, the city building would
only be one mechanic in the context of the greater empire building game, but it struck me that this
mechanic could be used in the Game Pieces Only Challenge,
a contest for non-printed material only. Using colored dice to represent both goods and prices, I could
let the players build shops on an imaginary grid to attract merchants buying and selling those goods.
The natural setting was dye merchants in a medieval city with the fictive game of Dyce (Dyes + Dice) but
when I realized that there is such a city in Scotland, the setting was changed to whisky blending. It's
too early to tell if the idea will work but the initial game tests looked promising and the game
of Dyce was born!
Finally I was happy to record yet another sale of Gulag. My Comrade
games will soon compete for the title of my best selling games!
My ambition to focus on old game failed quickly, however, as I got a stroke of inspiration and
designed a game for the Game Crafter contest
Hook Box Challenge:
Find the Treasure - The Card Game!. The idea is that the players get
to lay the map themselves first and then compete to find the most treasures on it. It was so simple and
yet unique that I couldn't resist designing the game.
Speaking of Turn of Time and last month's updated Comrade series, I could record additional sales
of those games, which of course further boasted my energy. I had already decided to order more copies
of Find the Bug! for my presentation at
in March and took the opportunity to replace the bug gems with real bugs.
In addition, I rushed to complete a prototype of
Peoples - Civilizations to test more effectively. The work
was further prolonged when I finally found a good mechanism for the events: a book of events
inspired by Africana.
Another updated game was Apokalypsis, where I shortened the game slightly
by letting it end when the last meeple of any color is removed. This was a learning from a game during last
month's game convention, where a game proceeded until the very last tiles were removed.
All this work didn't prevent me from adding new games to my collection: