The players earn victory points by removing possessions from the halls. If they save it, they will earn points only if the halls is saved, and if they steal it, they will earn points only if the hall burns down.
The players take turn to play servants to the board connected to each other in human chains. Once a hall is connected with a well, any player in the chain may extinguish a fire (by removing a fire token) or remove a possession (by placing a save or steal marker face down in the hall). The other players can not know whether you saved or stoled the possession, only judge from your interest in extinguishing the fire afterwards.
The fire is simulated through coordinate cards drawn by the player themselves. If and where coordinates intersect, the fire will spread and threaten more halls. A hall is considered burnt down if filled by fire markers. The game ends when there are no fire tokens left.
The challenge of Tre Kronor Infernum is to decide when to save and when to steal from a hall. This depends on the fire which in turn depends on all the other players' actions.
1.3: Cards instead of board to fit medium box, more save/steal markers and ability to place more in halls rather than discard
1.2: More varied scoring (-2 to +2), simplified placement with fire tokens (18) on top of ash tokens (27)
1.1: Simplified scoring; only score for saved and stolen possessions and lose game if fire (18) or ash (18) tokens depleted
1.0: First edition
The complete rules are available in the PDF file to the right. In the following sections,
I will describe how they came to be.
The game board is symmetric but each hall is unique to add a labyrinth feeling to the castle. The placement of wells in the corners forces the combine their servants into chains to reach the halls. The hall have 2-4 entrances, into which water can be thrown but also out of which the fire can spread. Except the courtyard, all squares adjacent to halls are unsafe as they may be reached by the fire.
The human chain
The cooperative aspect of the game was emphasized through the human chain where each player participating in a chain (no matter if they actually extinguish a fire or not) score. Once a chain is started, each player is more or less forced to join the chain to get their share of the scoring.
The save/steal markers
The cooperation to save the castle has both a cooperative and a competitive element. The cooperation is the extinguishing of the fire while the competition is the saving or stealing from the halls, which give the players opposite objectives; saving scores if the hall is rescued and stealing scores if the hall burns down. How should the other players react? It depends on whether they guess the that player's strategy. What if one player saves and one player steals? Well, then we have an interesting conflicting strategy.
The double save/steal
Connecting a servant to a hall only earns you point if you can get to place a save/steal marker there.
Why then be the last to do so and let the other players save/steal, not to mention connection more than
one servant? Initial ideas to solve this included both carrots (points for connecting to rescued rooms)
and sticks (crowded entrances limiting other players' ability to place save/steal markers). However,
a much simpler idea was to allow players with more connected servants to place more save/steal markers.
The fire spread
The idea to let the fire spread when the fire spread markers placed by the players contain
more than one letter or number accomplish several things. First and most important, the fire will
spread unpredictably. Second, the fire will spread with slightly more than 1/2 fire marker per
turn. After the first marker, it is 50% chance that the second will be of a different kind, in which
case only one fire marker will be placed. If not, it is 25% chance that the third will be of a different
kind, in which case two fire markers are placed. (The exact calculation is 0,5*1/2+0,25*2/3+0,125*3/4+0,0625*4/5+0,03125*5/6 and so on, giving
a result of about 0,61). This is good balance since the players may choose either to extinguish a fire
or to do a strategic action such as placing a servant or saving/stealing a possession. Third,
and perhaps most elegant, this works perfectly well with any number of players. Even if there
are many players to extinguish the fire, they will not have more time to place more servants than few
players would have.
The burn down loss
All games in the Nova Suecia series have a potential end where all players lose and that applies to Infernum Tre Kronor as well. If all players choose the stealing strategy, they will lose and to be fair, I think they deserve it.
... and Rejected Rules
There are of course also ideas that did not make it and here I explain why.
Points depending on remaining possessions
For a while, I considered letting the scoring for human chains depend on the possessions
actually left in the hall. The idea was that the players in the chain would have to decide
whether to continue extinguishing the fire (hoping that the savers/stealers stole) or leaving to the
others to do it (hoping that the savers/stealers saved). However, this would make the scoring
complicated and would actually not even be necessary. The incentive for the players in the
chain is not to score in any case (since each player usually has at least one servant in the
chain anyway) but to cross the savers'/stealers' plan.
Alternative scoring opportunities
Initially, I thought additional scoring was required to give the players incentive to
place servants and extinguish fires rather than only save or steal. Such ideas included
rewarding players in successful chains and players with most extinguished fires.
However, with the limited number of save/steal markers and the necessity to save the castle
to prevent a loss for all players, such incentives weren't necessary and only made the
game unnecessary complex. Place and extinguish for the cooperative objective and save and steal
for the competitive objectie - nothing else is needed.
With limited space in each hall, there was a poor incentive to be the last player to connect to
a room, since the other players would get a chance to save/steal before you. One idea was
"crowded entrances" to prevent two players in a row from placing save/steal markers and increase the
likelihood of free spaces when it's your turn again. However, the ability to
place more markers removed this issue and hence the rule became redundant.