Design Journal - Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery

My design journal for the first of a 7-game series covering the alt-history timeline of the Land of Danger. This first game -- Days of Discovery -- starts players in Portugal in 1290 with the tasks of gaining a sponsor, crew and supplies and conducting the voyage to find the fabled lands to the northwest. It is a card game for 1 to 6 players that will take 30 to 60 minutes.

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Days of Discovery -- Solo Play

Matt Worden
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Minnetrista
Minnesota
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Note:
- This game is currently on Kickstarter
- This post was originally posted on my website

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Board Game: Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery
The original game design that lead to Days of Discovery was a solo-play game of a branching path with a target end location. And even the first drafts of Days involved having to get specific cards to trigger the movement between acts, as well as needing to have certain cards in a specific order to show the path from Portugal to the Land of Danger.

But with the addition of multiplayer rules, a lot of things had to change in order to make it work with the chaos that other players add to the system. A good portion of the 3-1/2 year development time was dealing with balancing the multiplayer game play with the solo game play. Generally, tweaking for an improvement in one mode meant weakening something in the other mode. Finally, it came to balance, and I’m really excited about it.

Touch-Points ...
Along the way, I used a few touch-points to focus the solo game design. I want to thank folks in the BGG "1-Player" Guild for discussing what they liked to see in serious solo games. Here is what I came up with:

* Nearly the Same Game: The solo game should be pretty much the same game as the multiplayer game. They didn’t need to be 100% perfectly the same — but the decisions, feel, and strategy should be close.
* Small Footprint: I wanted to be able to play this game in a small area. I generally referenced a TV tray or airline tray table as the size of the play area. This was pretty arbitrary, but one that I stuck with as my own preference.
* Deck as a Timer: For there to be a sense of tension, there had to be something driving the game to an end-point whether you completed your voyage or not. The deck, in this case, becomes a timer — you get one trip through the deck.
* Win or Lose — Only Score the Wins: It’s possible to lose. Only the wins matter and get a score to show the quality of the win.
* Variable Difficulty (the special sauce): From the beginning, I wanted the player to be able to choose how difficult the game would play. I wanted players to be able to proudly say "I won with the King!" and understand how much harder that was than winning with one of the lower ranked Sponsors. Originally, you would pre-select the Sponsor (or, in some versions, Sponsors) that you would use in the game as your difficulty level. But I discovered a major improvement when I began with all Sponsors at the start of a solo game, and had the player work through securing as many of them as they could, with the final Sponsor being the one to determine the difficulty of the voyage itself. This added a very satisfying press-your-luck element and increased the value of the decisions you make around the order in which you will secure Sponsors. It took the game from 6 specific levels of difficulty to 36.

Acts 1 & 2 Intertwined ...
The solo game starts with all 6 Sponsors on the table and a shuffled deck of cards. That’s it — no hand and no pool to start.

Then, the turn sequence for Acts 1 and 2 is slightly different than the multiplayer game — mainly to manage the pool more tightly:

1. Create the Pool
2. Draft Cards from Pool
3. Discard Remaining Pool Cards
4. Check Hand Size
5. Secure a New Sponsor or Move into Act 3

And, yes, the same turn sequence is used for both Act 1 and 2 … in fact, the two acts become intertwined as soon as you secure your first Sponsor. Because, instead of immediately moving into Act 2 and then on to Act 3 with that first Sponsor, you have the option to try securing another Sponsor ... and another after that.

In fact, the main thrust of the first half of the game is to figure out how many of the Sponsors you can secure before you *have* to load up your hand and launch your voyage. Wait too long, and you won’t complete the voyage (you lose) ... go too early, and you win too easily — meaning you didn’t maximize your score, because you will have left some Sponsors on the table that you could have landed.

Act 3’s New Difficulty ...
From gallery of Brykovian
Act 3 plays very similarly to the multiplayer game — you setup Segments in the same manner, and on each turn you either complete the current Segment or you Forage. But, there’s one new wrench thrown into the solo game. On each card, above the ship icon, there is a section marked "Solo:" followed by one or more Sponsor icons. For you to use a card as your Segment Difficulty card, it must contain your final Sponsor’s icon in that section.

From gallery of Brykovian
This card can either come from your hand or be drawn from the top of the deck ... if you draw from the deck and it doesn’t have your Sponsor’s icon, it is discarded and the next card is drawn. This can be a little nerve-racking as you burn through the deck trying to build the next Segment. As you probably figured out, the higher ranked the Sponsor, the fewer cards in the deck have their icon ... and the more likely those ships are 2’s and 3’s.

Ending the Game & Scoring
The game ends one of two ways ... you complete your 5th Segment (you win), or the deck runs out and you are not able to complete your 5th Segment (you lose).

If you lose — that’s it, you take the “L” and reconsider some of your choices along the way ... or just blame it on bad luck with the cards!

If you win, you get a score based on how many Sponsors you secured, and who the final Sponsor was.

The Full Rules ...
If you’d like all of the details, you can check out the Google Doc of the Solo Rules ... you will need to first read the Multiplayer Rules to understand everything that is going on, since the Solo Rules just tell you how the solo game differs.
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Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:55 pm
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Days of Discovery -- Act 3

Matt Worden
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Minnetrista
Minnesota
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Note:
- This game is currently on Kickstarter
- This post was originally posted on my website

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From gallery of Brykovian
Act 3, in Days of Discovery, covers the actual ocean voyage to find the Land of Danger, and it is where all of the points are scored. The first 2 acts are there to set you up as well as possible for Act 3.

A full Voyage in the game is made up of 5 completed Segments ... storywise, each Segment is about a week at sea. It consists of a Segment Difficulty card, and the difficulty number on that card (1, 2 or 3) determines the number of Cost cards that will randomly determine what sort of conditions you were sailing under and how many crew and supplies were lost. All of this information is given along the edge of each card.

From gallery of Brykovian
While the Segment Difficulty card can either come from your hand or be flipped from the top of the deck, the Cost cards are all added from the top of the deck. So, while you can prepare for the voyage in Act 2 by building your hand to have a wide variety of things, you really won’t know what your voyage actually holds until you are on it.

To complete a Segment, you must discard cards from your hand whose "Market" items will cover those costs shown on the Segment. Some cards actually cancel out the costs associated with certain conditions — Priests cancel Bad Luck, Doctors cancel Illness, Merchants cancel Rough Seas — while most others just provide some combination of crew and supplies. You must pay for all costs on a Segment to complete it, and you are allowed to (and will likely need to) overpay.

From gallery of Brykovian
Once the Segment is paid, the payment and cost cards are all discarded and the Segment Difficulty card is added to your “voyage tableau” for scoring at the end of the game. The "1" difficulty segments are pretty easy to pay for, but won’t score you many points at the end of the game.

You will also add another card to your voyage tableau — your "Journal" card. This card is played face down from your hand. The value shown in the ship on that card is the quality of the journal you wrote about that segment of the voyage. Because history not only rewards a difficult trip, but also a well written story! The Journal cards are not revealed until the end of the game.

From gallery of Brykovian


Sometimes, you are unable to pay the costs on your current segment ... so you are forced to "Forage" instead. Foraging adds 3 cards to your hand, but at the cost of adding 1 extra cost card to your segment. To Forage, you flip over the top 4 cards from the deck — pick one to add to the segment, and put the other 3 in your hand. This does use up your turn, so you really only want to Forage when it’s a necessity.

Once a player has completed their 5th Segment, then all other players get one final turn. The Journal cards are revealed and all ship values on each player’s voyage tableau are summed to get a final score. If there is a tie, the rank of the Sponsor you secured in Act 1 is the tie breaker.

From gallery of Brykovian
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Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:27 pm
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Days of Discovery -- Acts 1 and 2

Matt Worden
United States
Minnetrista
Minnesota
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Note:
- This game is currently on Kickstarter
- This post was originally posted on my website

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From gallery of Brykovian
In the previous post, I wrote about the long development path for Days of Discovery, and gave a list of items that have remained part of the design along the way. This post will give details on how the game works.

The first point to get across is that all of the points scored in the game happen during Act 3. Acts 1 and 2 are there to put you in position to score points as easily as possible in Act 3. Act 1 gives you a sponsor, which impacts how you build your hand in Act 2 (the sponsor you gain in Act 1 also becomes the tie-breaker in what can be a pretty tightly-scored game) ... and Act 2 gives you the cards you will use to get past the challenges of the voyage in Act 3.

To secure a Sponsor, you need to provide them with enough evidence that the Land of Danger exists (represented by scrolls) and plans on how to get there (represented by maps). If you look at the picture of the Queen's card to the left, you’ll see that she requires 4 scrolls and 6 maps to be convinced to sponsor your voyage.

From gallery of Brykovian
These evidence and plans come from people that you recruit during Act 1. Each turn, you draft 2 "people" cards from a 5-card pool. Each of the people cards shows their evidence and/or plans in their upper-left corner, and indicates which sponsors they can present those evidence/plans to.

You have a hand size maximum of 7 cards, which you build and hone into a group of people that can give one of the sponsors what they need. Once you are able to do that, you claim that sponsor and move on to Act 2.

From gallery of Brykovian
If you notice the icons in the lower-right corner of the Queen’s card — under what looks to be a hand of cards — you see 3 different numbers. "Start" is the number of cards you are allowed to start Act 2 with. When you claim your sponsor, you need to discard down to that number. "Market" is the number of cards you can draft from the pool on your turn. "Max" is your hand size max for Act 2. Each sponsor provides a different set of these numbers.

The purpose of Act 2 is to build up a hand of cards that will be useful during Act 3. All that matters at this point is the items shown in the bottom half of the people cards, under the word "Market ..." You will use the things here to pay the costs of the voyage in Act 3.

While each player will move into Act 2 individually, all players move together into Act 3. This happens once all players have a sponsor, and have built their hand up to the "max" hand size allowed by each of their sponsors.

During Act 3, "we'll all go down together when we go" ... meaning, everyone sets sail on their voyage at the same time. And that, my friends, is a blog post for another day ... cool
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Sat Jul 7, 2018 4:01 am
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Once More, From the Beginning

Matt Worden
United States
Minnetrista
Minnesota
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designer
publisher
www.mwgames.com/JumpGate ... check it out! ;-D
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Microbadge: Board Game Designers ForumMicrobadge: Jump Gate fanMicrobadge: The Game Crafter fanMicrobadge: Cancer SurvivorMicrobadge: Green Bay Packers fan
Note:
- This game is currently on Kickstarter
- This post was originally posted on my website

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Board Game: Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery
Back in the fall of 2014, I began working on a solo game about a struggle to complete a journey from point A to point B (with a lot of hurdles to get over in between). Initially, this had its own generic "hero's journey" plot, but then I saw an opportunity to use it to tell the extended story around my fictional "Land of Danger," which had been the subject of a few unfinished written stories and games (and 1 completed game — Castle Danger).

I fleshed out the full timeline of the land, from its discovery in the middle of the Atlantic in 1293, through its many years of internal conflicts that eventually results in it being named "Brykovia" by its first ruling family, to its ultimate supernatural disappearance from the surface of the earth (as well as all history books) in 1580. I divided the land’s pre-Brykovia timeline up into 7 eras, with the intention to develop a game for each of these eras.

From gallery of Brykovian
From that, I announced in December of 2014 my plan to create this 7-game "Tales of Danger" series, with each game having both solo-play and multi-player modes. And if I had followed this original plan, I would have just released game #4 in the series ... but that’s not quite how things worked out.

Instead, what actually happened was that I struggled to get this game to work the way that I wanted. But now, after 8 different major versions (dozens of minor versions), a few "put it on the shelf for a while" pauses, a couple of jump-the-gun Kickstarter near-launches, and an inside-joke spawning number of appearances at various Protospiels and GenCons ... it’s 3-1/2 years later.

And it’s finally ready. How do I know? Because I’m done finding things to change about it. There’s nothing new to add on. No more experiments to see if something works better. Just this final result culminating from the years of work.

Skipping over the things that were tried and eventually dropped from the game (I’m looking at *y’all* sponsor-specific event/action decks, detractors, scoring track, and bidding-with-sailors!), here is what has been constant from the start of the design:

- The Story & 3-Act Structure – This has always been about the discovery of the Land of Danger ... you start in Lisbon in 1290, you find a Sponsor for your voyage (act 1), you gather crew and supplies (act 2), and you make the ocean voyage (act 3).
- The Multi-Use Cards – The game has always been structured around the people of your city and how they are able to help you by providing evidence of the land, a plan to get there, and crew and supplies … and the act 3 parts (sailing difficulty and costs) have been semi-randomized along the right edge pretty much the full way along.
- The Sponsors – The VIPs of the time — the King, Queen, Bishop, etc. — have always played an important role. No one was doing these sorts of open-ocean voyages yet (this is about 100 years before the start of the "Age of Discovery"), so someone with money and power is needed to make this possible.
- The Solo Game – As mentioned at the start, this began as a solo game. Even after deciding to make it solo + multi-player, I kept a number of criteria around the solo game: it needs to feel similar to the multi-player game, it needs to have player-chosen variable levels of difficulty, and it needs to take up a small footprint (about the size of an airline tray table).

So ... what are the details on how the game actually works? I’ll save that for the next post. cool
Board Game: Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery
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Fri Jul 6, 2018 4:44 am
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