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: