Board games that tell stories

You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik I update this blog every Wednesday. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com

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Empires of the North GDJ - Boost and Underwater Cities

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.

#4 - Boost and Underwater cities


Underwater Cities is the best game released at Essen 2018. I haven't - obviously - played all the games released in Essen. I cannot compare party games with trick-taking games; I cannot compare dexterity games with heavy euro. I know all of that. Still, I freakin' love Underwater Cities.

I was lucky to discover the game when working on Empires of the North. I was building the action wheel; I was playing with all different variants. Empires of the North was like a building site — every day different rules and variants.


Underwater Cities couldn't have better timing.

***


In Underwater Cities you will find all the same type of cards as Imperial Settlers. It has Production cards that activate in each of 3 production rounds in the game. It has Permanent effect cards that work precisely like Feature cards in the Imperial Settlers. It has Action cards that work like... Yeah, I know, you get it.

Underwater Cities also has two more types of cards. Instant and End-Scoring cards. 5 minutes into the game and I fell in love with Instant cards.

'I salute you,'Mr. Suchy, I said and sat to design something similar in Empires of the North. We called them Boost cards. How do they work?

When you use your action pawn (we call them Clan tokens), and take a particular action, you may additionally play from your hand for free a Boost card if it matches the type of the action.

You take Sail action, you may play Quick raid card, and your ship is immediately back with all the loot. Boost cards influence the action you take and add some additional effect. They are another tempting choice you are making when playing. It's another great choice - do you go for Harvest action, because you need more resources, or go for Sailing because you have in hand this great Boost card?

We decided to use Boost cards for one more thing - differentiate faction decks. Each deck has a different distribution of Boost cards; Wandering Inuits have a ton of Boost cards for Explore action while Pillaging Vikings have boosts for Sail action. While designing decks, we were able to strengthen the theme of the deck just by giving a different number of boost cards dedicated to particular actions.

Boost cards fit the game as they always were there. They match the game perfectly, and I guess there will be some players who will praise Joanna and me for this smart concept.

We introduced and executed this idea pretty well; that's a fact. But the idea belongs to Mr. Suchy. So let me once again salute the genius and once again recommend you Underwater cities.

***
Learn more about Empires of the North here.
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Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:06 am
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Empires of the North GDJ - Drafting cards

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.

#3 - Drafting cards


Some geeks might assume I a not a big fan of Terraforming Mars. Two games about Mars were released in 2017; one reached Top5 Best games according to BGG and became a bestseller, the other got on sale everywhere with the bad press all over the Internet. Terraforming Mars is the one with success. First Martians, the game I designed, is the other one.

The fact is, I love Terraforming Mars. I play it quite regularly, I have all expansions, and the disappointment I had with the reception of my First Martians has nothing to do here. Terraforming Mars is a great game.

We designers respect great games. And we love to get inspired by great games.

***


I probably never ended a game of Terraforming Mars with less than 15 cards left in my hands.

I cannot help it. During the draft phase, when I get all these interesting cards into my hand, and I can keep them all if I only want...

Yeah, I keep them. I keep them all.

Draft phase in the Empires of the North is a draft phase directly inspired by Terraforming Mars. At the beginning of the round, you gain 4 cards. You can keep any of these by just spending a worker. The same worker, you'll need later, in the main phase of the game, phase in which you activate cards.

That's a tough choice. Keep cards or keep workers.

The draft phase is so much more exciting compared to what was happening in the Imperial Settlers. You have all these awesome cards in your hand, you look at your pool of workers, and you count. I need to spend one dude to activate Tavern. I need one to activate Port. I need one to activate the Northern Festival card. I have only two to spare, but these four cards I have in hand can make a difference. If I don't do Tavern this round and keep this card instead...

Want to keep this awesome card?
Want to have workers to activate cards abilities?
You have 4 cards in your hand - make a choice.




***
Learn more about Empires of the North here.
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Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:45 pm
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Empires of the North GDJ - Harvesting

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.


#2 Harvesting


It all started with us looking for pillaging villages and stealing sheep. The first prototype had all production cards with wooden pieces put on them. We called them fields, and they represented our lands. Another player was able to raid our fields and steal those resources.

Viking theme, you know. Raiding the coast. Taking stuff. Making noise. Fun stuff.

It had a great theme. And it put the whole resource management off balance. One moment you had 4 sheep, next, you had none.

***


We came back to the basic Imperial Settlers rules with the Production phase, but I was not happy, and after a few games, I got rid of the whole Production phase. I said, 'Want stuff? Send your people to harvest.'

It was new - the player doesn't get free stuff at the beginning of each round. No Production phase. That changes a lot in a game. Now you value your resources. Now you care about every single wood piece you have. Now you pay attention to details.

It's just one rule change, but the whole dynamics and economy of resources flipped. The safe haven - Production phase at the beginning of each round - was gone. You were entering dangerous seas. You were on your own. When playing Empires of the North, you better manage resources wisely because nobody will back you up with free stuff.

It worked well. It was challenging. It was fresh. And although overall there was no pillaging other players fields, there was something new here.

And I did like this something.
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Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:17 am
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Pret-a-Porter and the unexpected stretch goal

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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The element of Pret-a-Porter I like the most is The Plan. The fact that at the beginning of the game, in the setup phase, we laid out all the exhibition shows tiles and The Plan for the game is ready. Every single person at the table knows when Quality will matter. Every single person knows when to invest in Trends. Everybody sees that Public Relations will be worth a ton of points in the third quarter.

We all see the plan. We all have it set up in front of us. We all are going to prepare for this roadmap and decide how to shape our company and how to navigate between shows - to have the best Quality in the first quarter, the best possible PR in the third and to not ignore Trends during the whole game, because they are low, but at the same time, will score in every show.

We all see The Plan. And yet, only one player will win the game. Only one player will navigate the best, their company will adjust to each of the shows, their long and short time strategy will have the best synergy.

What does The Plan have to the new content? Well, I have a new plan for you.

***


It's called Modern Times. It moves Pret-a-Porter to the present day. You have online banking - you can use Bank space without action pawn. It's so much easier to get credit and increase your company's cash flow.

You have a home office culture, so you can hire employees without having a building for them.

You have Twitch streams and e-shows, so in August, before September show, you can present your collection on a special streamed show and get additional prestige for your brand.

Small tweaks in the gameplay that are presented on the scenario sheet in the setup phase. Every single person at the table knows when Twitch show starts. Every single person knows they can invest heavily in Employees. Everybody sees that we have easy to get a credit line.

We all see The New Plan. We all have it set up in front of us. We all are going to prepare...

***


Scenario-based Pret-a-Porter is aimed at the players who played the game a few times already and want a new challenge, want new scoring possibilities during the year, want small tweaks in the base engine of the game. Want a new plan.

Last week I opened the gate. Opened an endless sea of possibilities. I gave you a tool to develop Pret-a-Porter in the directions none of us could ever dream. Because of this fantastic Kickstarter campaign, I made the first step in this journey.

I will design a Modern Times scenario, offer it as a free PDF content for everybody and as a nicely printed of thick sturdy 350 g paper for every backer.

What's next?
You tell me. Cannot wait to see your ideas.



***

Check out this amazing Kickstarter campaign here.
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:10 pm
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Empires of the North GDJ - The wheel

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.


The wheel


It took us some time to discover the wheel. It all began with production cards. I put them on the table, I put sheep, wood, and fish pieces on them, and it just looked good. Let's change how the production works I decided. Let me keep these pieces on cards. Let players harvest them. Let's shake things compared to Imperial Settlers.

So harvesting became a thing.


There was also this 'seas and oceans' thing. The game is called Empires of the North so there must be ships and ports, and raids and Islands and sailing.

So sailing became a thing.


And there was this Architects of the West Kingdom board game and its unique workers economy, with one closed pool of dudes you must carefully manage. I really liked it and decided to play with this concept. A player starts with 5 people in their Empire. It's their pool of workers. Want a bigger pool? Populate.

So populating became a thing.

***


I had these actions listed on big tiles. I gave each player 2 action pawns, and it worked. I added two more actions, Explore and Construct, and that's how we played for some time - besides playing cards and activating their powers, each player was able to do two actions from the five tiles.

We really liked this part of the game, and I felt like it could use more prime time in the gameplay, it could play a more important role. After a few days of playtesting, I allowed players to spend an apple to flip the action pawn, put it on adjacent tile, and activate it again. Suddenly placing the action pawn became an essential part of the strategy - you could move it to adjacent spaces, you had to think ahead, and decide what action to do now, and what you gonna do next, on adjacent tiles. The five available actions became a vital part of the game.

***


And then Asia came to my office, she cut tiles into a new shape, placed them in a circle. 'It makes more sense now,' she said, smiling.

And that's how we discovered the wheel.
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Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:45 pm
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GDJ: Never before in my life I was so close to a heart attack...

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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Today I present you the story I published in October 2011, when the first edition of Pret-a-Porter was released. It's one of my favorite articles I wrote. The day it talks about is one of "these days", day I remember vividly after all these years. Enjoy.




Talks with the National Bank of Poland have lasted for months. We knew there was an NBP department of education that finances educational projects. We knew we had a game that can teach finances. Perfect match.

So there were offers, there were talks and there were first prototype versions of the game. I have repeatedly visited Warsaw presenting draft stages of the game. It was a journey into a different world. In the world of the National Bank of Poland, there are people who dress in suits. At 7 AM they come to work with briefcases in their hands. They use a coded badge to enter the office. They have lunchbreak at 1 pm, and they have a vacation once a year which they spend in exclusive resorts abroad. And they use language I heard once in my life - when accidentally put Bloomberg on TV.

Each time I was there, dressed in my flannel shirt and combat trousers, with a rucksack containing a broken laptop that accompanied me on more than one incursion outside the city on my back, I felt I entered the world of adult human beings. Not exactly my world.

***

Finally, in early September, Pret-a-Porter was ready. The final, finished prototype. We had received a number of postulates concerning financial and market mechanisms to appear and changes we had to make in the game during those long months of discussions and consultations with representatives of NBP's Board of Experts. Some of these demands had been included, some rejected, as they made the game less exciting and playable, and those had been our top priorities. Above all, we wanted to make an interesting game that would smuggle in the meantime, a bit of knowledge about the world of finance.

There came a time of the final meeting.

I have never felt such dread in my whole life. The fate of the project depended on this presentation - NBP wanted to subsidize the game's production.

And so I'm going to Warsaw with a box under my arm, and the whole time I'm just a step away from the retreat. I'm terrified.

***

Finally there - as it is typical there - a lot of suits, guard at the entrance, passes, phone calls, ya know, the capital. The National Bank of Poland. I'm being led into a conference room; I prepare the game's setup. There comes the project supervisor, the man who finally decides whether to give the game the green light or to pause the entire project.

"Have you met all the experts' demands posed during our past meetings?" they ask bluntly.

"No, not all of them." I answer.

"And why is that?"

The conversation heads in the wrong direction. I feel the room lacks oxygen. When I entered here, I think I saw an air conditioning. Apparently, it just broke.

"Maybe we should play first, and I will show you how the game works, and then I will explain what we haven't done."

"Great, then we should play."

OK, the execution postponed.

***

And so we play. I analyze what is essential during the first fashion show, I look at what comes later on, how to plan the play. I'm awfully stressed, there's emptiness in my head. I see only that the Quality will be most important now, yet from my experience, I know that opting for expensive high-quality materials strategy in the first quarter is very risky. I watch the first opponents' moves. One seems to go for the Quality, the other was lucky with designs and will probably exhibit three. I will try to win Trends and PR and hope it will work out somehow. We play. One move, two, three, boom, the first maintenance phase. I can see that one of the NBP employees, the one responsible for this project, practically spent everything he had. The second player, the invited financial expert, plays without hurry. I play chaotically; I cannot help it, I'm devoured by stress.

February. The first and the second move. I see what the project manager is doing and I see that he is on his way to bankruptcy, he bought what he wanted, yet he doesn't have enough for the maintenance. Damn. He will have a surprise in the maintenance phase; he will have to get a loan. The expert, on the other hand, did what he wanted to, he calmly took Credit, bought the materials in the Warehouse, and he will go for the shows with three Designs absolutely undisturbed.

And I. I don't even know what I'm doing. Chaos. I just stare at project manager board and I know what's coming...

***


The second maintenance phase comes, the project manager, the guy who now has to accept the game for its production and confirm the NBP grant is in deep shit, his company is going through a rough time with no money for employees' salaries. I explain to him this massacre, and I tell him that he must get an expensive loan because he overinvested. "Hard luck," he says. Meanwhile, the expert paid all the salaries ending up with 2 $ in cash left. He cut it fine. Either he is fortunate, or he can count. I bet on the latter.

***


Finally, the fashion show comes, our supervisor wins in Quality, the expert is a leader in Quantity, and we have a tie in Trends. I get the scraps in the form of winning PR. We count our profits after the first show. My outcome is poor, the expert has earned quite well, after Credit's repayment, he gets a nice profit. My project supervisor earns a lot from winning the most important feature, but after repaying the private loan, he barely makes any profit.

"Well, I think we have seen enough to assess the project. We don't need to play more.", he says pushing his cards, money and the board to the further part of the table.

In this split second, my heart stops working. I think I am having a heart attack. Shit.

The guy played only the first quarter, lost it completely and now he stops the game and says he is done with it.

I could have advised him not to go for the damn Quality in the first quarter. Shit. Shit. Shit.

"I do not know about you, Marek," he says to the expert, "but I'm delighted!"

Whaaaat? Did I just hear him saying the word "delighted"? My heart is confused. Do we proceed with this heart attack, or what? Maybe just faint?

"It is an excellent game." The expert answers.

"I intentionally risked too high costs to see whether the game reacts. As you well know, Mr. Ignacy, above all, this game has to be educational, has to show young people the consequences of certain actions. I have overinvested, I didn't take care of a credit line, and it ended up with my company being barely on plus even though my clothes collection was the best. In turn, as I have seen, Marek played very calmly, when he needed to push forward he took Credit and ended the first part of the game with the best result, right?"

"Yes, I wanted to see to what degree taking the Credit and obtaining additional funds would allow me to invest in larger purchases of materials and exhibiting more extensive collection. The return rate seems to be very well balanced. "

I hear what they say, but at this very moment, a little reach my brain. They begin to talk about numbers, whether the private loan has an appropriate handling fee, whether employees' salaries are well balanced and whether the dependence of credit value on the investment size – that is the size of collection – is a suitable solution.

At some point, I realize that they are talking to me.

"I congratulate you, Mr. Ignacy. You have made an excellent game. I am glad that we have trusted you and undertook this project. The project has my full acceptance, and Pret-a-Porter can move to the production stage. " my supervisor says.

I have worked for months to hear those words. I tell you, it was worth it.

"I'll accompany Mark out and get back to you in a minute, we have a few formalities to determine," he says and leaves. After a moment, the door opens again, and I can see Mr. Marek.

'When this game is published, I could count on a copy for NBP here, yes? I want to play with our team here. I like it a lot." He says with a conspiratorial tone.

'Yes, by all means." I answer.

I'm left alone. The feeling is amazing. I'm here, in the heart of National Bank of Poland. Yes, the National Bank of Poland. I have just played a game with Bank's experts. And they are delighted.

This is it. The moment.
Still, though, I think I might faint.



***


LEARN ABOUT OUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR THE NEW EDITION OF PRET-A-PORTER HERE.
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:31 am
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Under pressure

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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I am strangely wired. My brain loves stress. The more pressure there is, the more clear I see the world, the more precisely I work, the best effects I get. The bigger the problem, the bigger shit I landed in, the happier my brain is. It somehow cuts any situation into small slices of issues, prioritizes them, and step after step fixes it. I am deadly precise and effective under the pressure.

Here is how it affects you, dear gamer.

***


In 2013 I ran a KS campaign for my book. The campaign needed more Stretch goals because it turned out to be far more successful than I expected. Every day I was looking at the KS page thinking "Shit, shit, shit!" I felt I am disappointing loyal fans because I cannot reward them with new goals for their support.

Late night few days in the campaign, I came up with the idea for mini-expansion for Robinson Crusoe. It was called Beach, it had a deck-debuilding mechanism. It was both very thematic and frankly speaking pretty smart. Fans put me against the wall, the campaign was going very good, and I knew I must design something awesome for them. And I did. Beach is my favorite mini-expansion for Robinson.

Why do I mention it?
Because it's July 10, 2019.
And it happened again.

***


Pret-a-Porter is a game I designed in 2010. Over the years, I received so many different questions from fans. They asked about the 5th player variant. They asked about the solo variant. They asked about new cards.

Over all these years, I came up with nothing. The game was a finished product — the closed chapter. I was happy with the game as it was. I had nothing more to add.

This year we decided to release a new edition. For the purpose of this new version, I spent some time playing the game again. Who knows, maybe I can come up with some improvements, I thought.

Indeed, I found a few small things to tweak. I changed how the Contracts worked, added an advanced variant with complex, but smart player order rules, and obviously, I changed and rebalanced a few cards — overall it was polishing. The game is as good as it always was, and I am proud of it. Closed chapter, as I said.

And then you know, Kickstarter happened.

***


The funding goal of 35k was reached in 41 minutes. More than 900 backers backed the game in the first 90 minutes of the campaign. 3000 backers in the first 24 hours. Planned stretch goals were almost all unlocked after the first day of the campaign. And I had 13 days in front of me.

Some people call it a success. I call it pressure. Shit. Shit. Shit.

There is no more bits we can upgrade, every wooden bit in the game is already custom and screen-printed, cardboard is thick like dinosaur skin, the insert is not only plastic, it also has added the removable plastic tray for all resources. Cards have the best illustrators in the industry.

We cannot upgrade the game anymore, there is no single game piece left not upgraded already.

We are done.
Or not...

***


It's Wednesday morning when I am writing this post. 48 hours in the campaign. I have new content for Pret-a-Porter on my desk. Needs polishing. Needs playtesting. But it's here. If the campaign still grows, I have material to work on. Brand new content.

I haven't designed anything new to the game over the past nine years. I haven't created any new content while playtesting it recently and preparing a new edition for KS. It only took 48 hours of a Kickstarter campaign to put pressure on me and put my lazy brain to work.

Thank you.


***


Check out this insane KS campaign here.
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Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:54 pm
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I want exactly what you’re the best at

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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I've approached the pinboard to add yet another cut-out newspaper piece about an unexplained accident near the abandoned factory on the north side of the city. It's the seventh case in the last half of the year. Young people die in these empty facilities, and the only thing that connects those kids is the fact that each of them was a metallurgy student of one of the local universities. Another look at the pinboard - all those pictures, notes, and newspaper pieces - I know the answer must be somewhere here, a thin thread that ties it all together. I need to find it.

To write the story for the Detective I've hired my all time friend. We know each other since college. He was the best Call of Cthulhu DM in the entire area. After college, I've chosen the path in the gaming industry, while he became a well-known architect. Next thing I know, 20 years have passed.

I gave Przemyslaw all the freedom that he needed to create the story for the Detective. I remembered the fantastic stuff that he was creating years ago for the Call of Cthulhu, so I had only one demand: 'I want exactly what you're the best at - I need a story with a number of layers, plot twists that players will reveal when they get further in the story.'

It's what he is best at - an amazing ability to create simple at first sight plots that are not simple whatsoever. He masterfully combines different threads into one single master plot that connects everything. He spends countless hours searching through the internet and looking up different facts and slowly builds a story stretched through different times and places, that somehow, in the end, create one big picture. Playing either Call of Cthulhu with him or the Detective is like watching outstanding Netflix show filled with surprises and plot twists over the whole season.

I've experienced it so many times during playtesting - that stunning moment, that frame of a second when one of the players suddenly stops reading a card in the middle of the sentence. The player raises their head and looks at everyone else. There it is. Everyone at the table realizes it, this detail, that missing piece that allows you to see the whole big picture, a small crumb that turns everything around, a fact that ties with everything else, and connects things that had no connection at all just a second ago. Goosebumps.

For all these moments, for those chills running down your spine, when everything is finally making sense, and you're nodding silently impressed with how deep it was all hidden. For all of the above, you have to try and play the Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. Przemysław Rymer is a genius.

Once again, I'm going through the box filled with everything that we've secured at the house of one of the victims. I grab an invitation for the Metal Heads Competition that took place in April, last year. A hunch? I reach for the phone and dial the number listed next to the company responsible for the organization and ask for the list of participants. A few minutes later I receive an e-mail, I print it out, highlight some names and stick it to the board. Twelve people were participating in this competition, and seven of them are dead, sitting there on my board right next to this list. Is this the thread I was looking for...?
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Thu May 30, 2019 11:12 am
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The missing piece

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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The basics were simple. Roll dice. Get resources. Make a choice - spend them to build a building and gain special ability or spend them to gain Victory Points.

The game was short. Buildings and abilities were tempting, but you knew, if you spend too many rounds investing in your village and constructing new buildings, you will end up with a ton of awesome abilities and no points whatsoever.

We had a good time with it, we were playing with different sets of buildings to see which ones offer the biggest replayability and fun.

Everything was working nice and smooth.

And yet, something was missing.

***


I asked Asia to come to my office and I said: "The game is ready, it may go to print, we are happy with the result. But..."

"But?" she asked.

"I don't know. Play with it. Do whatever you want. Something is missing here."

"OK" she said and took the prototype.

She needed less than two days.

***


"I added to each building Tetris shape," she said showing me the boards. "When you score here on Empire sheet, as the game progresses you create a large area of crossed out spaces. You could use this area to draw these Tetris shapes. They would make the particular building stronger. Now, when the game progresses, you decide which buildings to boost by drawing these shapes."

I smiled.
She found it.
The missing piece.

***


To the basic choice, I created in the game - the standard engine building game choice - spend resources on Victory Points or continue to invest in your engine and build new buildings, she added another layer, another simple but meaningful choice.

It's no longer only which building you build. It is now which one you build, and then, which one of the built ones, to upgrade.

Simple game, and yet interesting choices. Do you upgrade the one that gives you 1 free Apple, to get 2 free Apples or even 3 free Apples, or you go after the one that lets you Harvest +1, and then when boosted +2, or +3 Resources from your Field...

There are only 6 buildings in the base game. There are only 4 of them that have abilities you can upgrade. And yet, there is so much fun.


---

To learn about the game, please visit it's dedicated website at Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write!

---
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Fri May 24, 2019 9:58 am
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How Keyforge inspired my roll and write game

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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We have new hotness. It is called Roll and Write and every publisher on planet Earth is jumping into the hype train. It’s a new deckbuilding. It’s a new legacy. It’s a new story-driven game. Every publisher is now telling great stories and he rolls and he also writes.

Anyway, this fascinating genre of games was present in the market over many years. I fell in love with Rolling Japan back then in Spring 2015, Dice Stars in 2016, and even earlier, some around 2013 I played and loved Qwixx. The genre was growing on me and obviously on my fellow geeks all around the globe. It was 2018 when two titles finally made a difference and started the whole phenomenon – it was German game Ganz Schon Clever and it was French title Welcome To.

At some point, I decided I want to do my own roll and write. It was in Autumn 2018.

***

The basic idea behind Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write is very simple. Most games in that genre offer players a ton of options at the beginning and then, with each round there is less and less empty spaces to write in and choices are gone. The base game of Imperial Settlers is engine building game, so I wanted its roll and write variant to keep the identity of the precursor. I wanted to shake things a little bit. In my game, you start the game with only a few possible options, but as your Empire grows and you build new buildings and get new abilities, you have more and more new choices. It’s engine building roll and write.

The first draft worked nice and smooth. Each player had a Village section on their sheet where they could construct buildings to get unique abilities and also an Empire section where they could build walls, cottages, and granaries to gain Victory Points. As with every good engine building game, it is always the fundamental choice – when to stop building new buildings for abilities and start spending resources to score, score and score more! The sheet was a bit crowded with all these options, but I knew we have here something. It was a natural port from the card game into the roll and write genre. You got resources from dice, you got apples, wood, stone and it was up to you to decide how to spend them. Playing the game was natural for anybody who ever played Imperial Settlers.

***

Imperial Settlers is a strong seller for Portal Games since 2014. The game won dozen of international awards, got 13 different language editions and 6 expansions. This beloved IP combined with cute cartoonish artwork sounded like a perfect choice for a roll and write game. It looked like publishing it is a safe bet.

And then Keyforge happened. Fantasy Flight Games revolutionary concept of each copy of the game being unique blew my mind. The fact that each player has their own unique set of abilities and powers in Keyforge or Discovery was something never seen before. And my brain began to work. I asked myself a question – can I do a game like that? My production department began to cry when I said something like “I have this idea…”

What if each game that we print has a different set of buildings to build? Can I design 50 or 100 different abilities and then mix them on a single sheet to get thousands of unique sets?

How the market reacts for that? We were debating it in the office and my production department was already checking possible option with the manufacturer when I got another idea – what if every sheet in the game is unique? What if instead of the block with 50 the same pages like in every roll & write on the market, I could have a block with every single page being different? Every single time you play, you play with different abilities. Every time you play, the game is different.

This is it. I knew it. Instead of producing 10k boxes that differ between each other, I will print 10k boxes that are the same, but in each box they have 48 different sheets.

I challenged myself and my dev team. I challenged my production department. I challenged the artwork team. I challenged the whole company.

I asked for a unique experience each time you play this roll & write.

***

After a few months of work, I can say I am proud of my team. The final box of the game comes up with a block of 48 standard pages like in every good roll and write game. These standard pages can be played in the basic, family oriented variant or an advanced variant with one small change in the rules that add the whole new level of decisions. It’s a regular good roll and write game.

Besides that, I have more. We put in the box one more block. We designed and produced an additional 48 pages with every page being different. 48 different sets of buildings, unique abilities, and challenges for players. Weeks of work of dev and artwork team. We called this block adventure mode, as each time you play, you have a new set of buildings to construct, new challenge and strategies to discover. Every time you play, it’s a new adventure.

And that’s how Keyforge inspired roll and write game.

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To learn about the game, please visit it's dedicated website at Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write!

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Sat May 18, 2019 1:39 pm
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