What an incredible success!
At Modena Play, the most important board games fair in Italy, our new game, 21 Giochi Minuti, sold out in only two days, selling hundreds of copies.
After a series of gloomy news (have you read our latest post on our blog?) this blast of enthusiasm has made us proud and is pushing us to keep going towards new horizons. For whoever follows us from abroad, 21 Giochi Minuti (the temporary English title is 21 Games from Microgamesia) is the latest of a series of lighter games that we have published in our Country, and we hope to export to the rest of the world soon.
21 Giochi Minuti, by Matteo Boca and P.S. Martensen, is the peak of our growth path in family games: it is a collection of high-quality micro games, of any kind and for any type of gamer, that range from party games to miniature worker placement. It is a game that couldn’t exist without our experience in game development, both in complex games such as Florenza and Wendake and light games such as Fun Farm and Brick Party.
To be honest, our publishing career started with a children game: BauSquitMiao. It was an unnecessarily complicated game, so much so, that we used to tune the rules a bit during its promotion events.
After years of work, we think we have acquired a certain degree of experience in these light-hearted games, and a proof of it is the success of Fun Farm and Brick Party, that have become best sellers all over the world.
What is the difference between developing a complex game and a light, family or a children game?
There is a small but substantial difference between the two types, i.e. the materials.
When we develop a game for the most demanding gamers, especially if launched on kickstarter, we can get creative with the components. Of course we always try to avoid adding unnecessary elements, but if we believe that rules would work better if we added some cards, or tiles, or tokens, we don’t think twice: rules and setting come first, and we’re not afraid of a (small) increase of material.
The market placement of light games has some specific prices, which are lower than hardcore games, and this implies that, from the beginning, we have to study what can fit in the box.
For instance, for Brick Party, we asked the author, Luca Bellini, to design the shape cards with a maximum of 9 bricks per colour, and we chose the rule cards thinking about their ergonomics, discarding some that looked fun but were too uncomfortable to play.
For 21 Giochi Minuti we made a further leap, setting strict boundaries in regards to materials. For some of them we had to design some very clever ideas to avoid adding more components that were needed only for one of the 21 games.
Dear aspiring family games authors, keep in mind this information: when you are developing a game think about what materials you’ll need to express your idea as well as you can, and try to limit yourself to them. It doesn’t matter how many materials you add (there are some family games with some nice, hefty boxes) but try to eliminate all the useless or redundant elements which are not fundamental for the rules or the ergonomics of the game. It is good for the sake of the game, not only to cut costs.
For everything else, the development of a simple game is not too different from the development of a complex, rules-riddled Eurogame, except that, for the latter, we need to make more parts of the same game work seamlessly together and make them communicate properly.
For family games, obviously, we put a lot of effort into eliminating elements that can interrupt the game flow, and we focus on what is the real core of the game.
Due to the pandemics and all the issues arisen in the last couple of years, our most recent family games have been published only in Italy, but we are sure you will see them soon on boardgames shops shelves all over the world.
About that… we have a big announcement: soon you’ll get the chance to try our latest game of this kind, which will be ready for Essen 2022.
We proudly present Legend Raiders!
Legend Raiders is a family game created by Dario Massarenti and Francesco Testini, exquisitely illustrated by Mateusz Mizak. We loved developing it, and we’re sure it will be a good surprised even for the most skilled gamers, thanks to the many strategies that can be applied in a simple and fluid game system.
Moreover, it includes a dieless version for who is looking for a more strategic experience!
Are you curious to find out more details about Legend Raiders? Follow us on our social media and keep up to date with the blog articles subscribing to our Telegram channel!
This is a BGG copy of the official blog of Post Scriptum Games. Twitter: @Mario_Sacchi_PS and @PScriptum_games
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Worker Placement: “Gaming mechanism that involves individual players’ actions chosen from a set of actions available to all players. In each round one player at a time, in turn order, chooses until everybody has had the chance to make a choice. There is usually a limit on the number of times a single action may be taken. Once that limit for an action is reached, the action can’t be taken for the remainder of the round or until the action is refreshed. As such, not all actions can be taken by all players in a given round, and “action blocking” occurs.
Typically, actions are selected by placing meeples on them. Each player has a limited amount of actions and, in theory, these pieces usually – but not always – represent their workers.
To sum up, gamers place workers to select one of the available actions.”
(from “Meccaniche e affini: piazzamento lavoratori”, article in Italian by Agzaroth from the website “la Tana Dei Goblin”)
Since the beginning of our partnership with Placentia Games as consultants and then when we acquired the brand, we have had the opportunity to put our hands on substantial games that incorporated in their structure this mechanism that euro gamers love so much.
Often, in our Placentia games we find engaging and peculiar solutions for the selection of the actions, but workers’ placement is still an excellent way to provide gamers with interesting choices and a good level of interaction.
And let’s admit it, seeing your own empire rise thanks to your meeples’ hard work is quite satisfying, it takes you back in time to when you were playing real time strategy videogames (above all Starcraft).
Like other mechanisms well known by passionate gamers, such as draft and area majority, worker placement is a recognizable genre (hence quicker to explain), but by nature It includes many variables and customizations, depending on the type of experience that you want to trigger.
Talking about our two main worker placement games: Florenza and Shogun no Katana, the use of this mechanism is almost the opposite, while in the first one the worker placement is at the heart of the game, and the gamers’ mental effort mainly revolves around it, in Katana the main focus is about building katanas which happens in the forge, and workers have a side role: there is some level of interaction between players on the main board, but to a much lower extent in comparison to Florenza (it becomes more central playing the Wandering Characters expansion, which adds engaging players dynamics!).
In Florenza almost all the slots where you can place your workers (actually, your family members!) are unique and exclusive. Moreover, the actions are taken after all the meeples have been placed. This implies calculating timing thoroughly and cautiously and paying close attention to the opponents’ actions. Moreover, one of the main aspects of the game is the option to place your kinsmen on other players’ buildings, so that there is more interaction (a possible strategy is to build buildings that might attract others in your own district, so that they place their kinsmen there and give you victory points in exchange).
In Shogun no Katana on the other hand, each action has more than one allotted space, putting less pressure on players’ choices, even though in more advanced stages there can be a lack of spaces availability, then you also have to pay attention to this aspect. Moreover, actions are taken immediately, so that they don’t become too complex, moving the focus away from the core of the game i.e. the player’s forge. In this case, worker placement is a mechanism aimed at creating an interesting game interaction, this aspect wasn’t needed neither in Kepler-3042, due to its setting and its pacifist spirit, nor in Wendake, where the interaction is created directly by conquering territories.
What we like most about worker placement is that it is a really versatile system, that can be immediately understood by everybody, it easily balances itself, and it allows a certain flexibility in the game development: as we explained in this article we soon understood that too strict balancing makes games sterile and doesn’t allow gamers to visualise a goal or a game direction. Worker placement is ideal for this type of process: you start adding actions that work in the same way, balancing them so that they have the same strength, afterwards you can add spaces that work differently, finding the widest variety of solutions to provide the game with diversity.
Sometimes we do it to make the game less punitive, for instance, in Florenza managing the family activity is accessible to everybody without restrictions, while the Market is accessible to everybody but with the limit of one kinsman each. They are both weaker slots than the rest, but they make it possible to easily adjust your strategy, achieving small results that can be extremely precious to make ends meet in a game in which super precise planning is fundamental.
In Katana we opted for adding the Monks, i.e. more powerful workers, who trigger additional effects which can be used only paying a certain amount of money. Thanks to this you can make tactical moves or elaborate additional strategic variations to the usual ones with the basic workers, without adding “weird” action slots.
At the end of the day, for us, worker placement is an excellent tool, and we will keep using it. However, we always put some boundaries: the first, obviously, is that there cannot be dominant strategy or obligated moves, the second is that all the game’s effects, even the most bizarre and different from the usual, must always have an explanation that is coherent with the setting, they must never look artificial, only added to make ends meet. That’s not how we like to work.
Dear Post Scriptum blog readers, are you curious about the development of a game, or you would like to know what we think about a game mechanism or a game type? Feel free to ask us any question and we’ll reveal our most mysterious secrets!
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It was 2016 when, for the first time, we explored the Kickstarter world with Kepler-3042, by Simone Cerruti Sola.
Since the very beginning we had to think about new solutions to promote the game on the crowdfunding platform, such as the exclusives for the most affectionate backers and the most innovative and creative stretch goals. These included the solitaire mode, which has become fundamental to expand the range of options that we want to offer to our players, and by now, it is a must for all our games that are thought for expert players.
More and more often players need to live boardgames without having to be bond to other people. With the pandemic this has become even more important, and we noticed that for board games enthusiasts who want to play by themselves, solo play mode is the first choice, commonly preferred to videogames.
Often, players, especially for more complex games such as our Placentia Games, use this game mode to study rules and to get ready for when they play in groups.
Let’s get to the most technical part of the article: what is our procedure to create a solitaire mode? Since the beginning, we’ve always tried to understand what type of experience we want players to live, what are the pros and the cons and what solutions make the experience compelling even without a confrontation with other players.
So far, we’ve found 3 ways:
1) Assigning tasks for players to create pressure during the game: Kepler-3042’ solitaire (entirely designed and developed by the author, Simone Cerruti Sola) is structured this way. In a game that is intrinsically tight, with few rounds, he chose to give the gamer target points objectives that get increasingly more difficult, compensating the increasing amount of requests with the possibility of starting with additional resources according to the results of the previous games.
2) Evaluating the result according to the number of points obtained in the solitaire game. We believe that this is the most dangerous way, it risks to be not engaging enough and to leave the player unsatisfied or lacking the sense of victory. For this reason, we used it only in Florenza Dice Game, which is intrinsically suitable to this mode, but we made sure we would also add a good level of variety and unpredictability adding a ghost player who chooses the dice and advances on the Captain and Bishop’s paths, making it impossible to always play the same way. This mode’s basic mechanisms were initially designed by Mario and then tested and developed by everybody, in collaboration with the author Danilo Festa.
3) Developing a real AI that actively impacts the game, acting like a human player. Below, we are going to talk about this option.
The most interesting and challenging choice for game developers like us is to develop an AI: you have to find clever solutions to make the bot as interactive and compelling as possible, similar to a real opponent. It has to be structured in such a way that it can interact with the game sets, being Florenza workshops or Wendake’s territories, all with practical and fluid solutions, that don’t force the players to manage a huge amount of components.
Wendake’s bot was designed by Tambu, who created 4 Ghost Player cards with different backs and fronts. 3 of them are drawn at the beginning of a game and placed in random order. This makes it possible to have a different opponent for each game. Coherency of the actions carried out by the bot in its turn, is guaranteed by the fact that each round a Mask card is drawn (already existing in the multiplayer mode for different aims) and this determines what action row should be considered. This mechanism made it possible to balance the bot’s moves in a fair, always different and realistic way.
For Florenza X: Anniversary we made a further step forward, offering the possibility to face more than one bot (also with different levels of difficulty) at the same time. Mario was the one who had the initial idea for this mode, and put forward the idea of designing a Ghost Player card, placed on the back of the players’ board. The balancing of the actions was first based on Matteo’s calculations, which we discussed in this post, and then on the many tests that the three of us carried out individually and separately. We believe that the result is a gameplay that can come off as coherent to the main game, but also unique and fun.
Another aspect that we implemented in Florenza: X Anniversary, which you will find in Shogun no Katana is the option of adding a bot to a multiplayer game, in order to offer an even wider range of possibilities. This option was especially appreciated by couples who often play at home, giving them the chance of playing with “3 players”.
Well, for Shogun no Katana there’s much more: a challenging and structured bot, with 5 difficulty levels, and a campaign mode which we find fun and engaging. It will be a 14 chapters journey, from the foundation of your school to your affirmation as smith masters, even going through wars.
But this will be the topic of another episode of Game Design Diaries!
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It was December 2015 when we invited for a simple playtest night the author of a game with whom we had a contract and with whom we were having troubles.
The development process was taking too long and we were stuck on some aspects, so the author offered to test another of his prototypes. “I wasn’t sure to bring it here, I was afraid that then you’d want to publish this game instead of the other!” commented the author. These words were prophetic, because, at the end of the test we were so excited about the game that we gave up the previous one to take on this game!
The author was Danilo Sabia, the game was the first version of Wendake, one of Placentia Games greatest successes.
What convinced us so much of this eurogame with such a peculiar setting?
Danilo is passionate about Native Americans’ history and about Avalon Hill’s complex products, and he developed a solid thematic game, whose underpinning mechanism was original and funny.
Wendake has always, since the very beginning, transpired the spirit of the Wyandots, the native population of the Great Lakes, who, opposite to the more popular people of the Southern grasslands, were sedentary and well integrated with these beautiful territories.
Compared to Danilo’s prototype we didn’t make many substantial changes, since the game was already working well (you remember how to play it, don’t you? Have a look at the rules on this link!).
Fun fact: some reviewers accused us of introducing the Masks track after finishing developing the game, to make the numbers work, and this is quite funny, because this aspect of the game has always been there, (since it is one of the characteristics of these people) and it never changed
Instead, our most important changes were the following:
The fight system
Danilo, being a euro gamer, hates chance and luck. He had developed a fight system inspired by Avalon Hill’s Advanced Civilization, which was very deterministic. It was an extremely complex system, in line with that famous game publisher. After many tests and a lot of work, Matteo had the perfect intuition to find a system that would be simpler, but without distorting Danilo’s initial idea, to make sure that game is not risk-ridden.
Please note: We would like to specify that in the beginning we had some doubts about the direct interaction of the players, but we soon accepted it, both to be coherent with the setting and because it is not the central aspect of the game, in fact, if your style is too aggressive you’ll hardly ever win.
The development of the player board
In the original version, the evolution of the tiles on the player’s board used to be more complex and difficult to achieve, because it involved sacrificing the player’s canoes. Mario and Matteo thought that the growth of the player’s board was a strong point of the game and had to be more straightforward, without any limits. Therefore, it was decided to allow for the tiles’ evolution since the beginning: in the Restore phase, when all the tiles move down, the players acquire a more powerful action tile, generating an immediate growth of the game.
Rounds numbers and scoring system
The number of rounds was reduced from 8 to 7 and the halfway scoring system, that interrupted the game, was removed (it took a lot of Tambu’s work for this to happen).
Moreover, the victory system was made more variable: at first the scoring tracks pairs used to be fixed (mask points+military points and economic points+rituals) now it is possible to create random scoring pairs.
The Turtles system
Once we had almost reached the end of the development, we asked Danilo to include a secret scoring system which could make the end of the game more tense and less certain. It was him who thought about the turtles system, small targets to meet during the game to earn extra points.
When the game was almost completed, it only needed a couple of more things: the tribe cards, to create variability, the swap tokens, that make it possible to swap the position of two of the player’s tiles during the game, to unstick a possible stall situation, and the solitaire play, created by Tambu, which we will explain in a separate article.
What else can we say? The game was solid, exciting, fun. It was all properly put together and coherent with the setting.
What about the expansion?
Wendake had been a great success, so we asked Danilo to create an expansion. For that occasion, we decided to extend what in the original game was only mentioned, meaning the presence of the French and the English who, during the Seven Years’ War, fought for the territories. At the same time, Danilo took the chance to implement new game dynamics, bringing back the interaction amongst canoes in the lakes, which had been eliminated in the original game (even though we must say, it worked in a different way).
For the expansion we needed a new resource that could be integrated with the basic rules which could characterize the gameplay: Danilo said we could add rifles, which could be obtained trading pelts with the European people, exactly like it used to happen historically. The expansion too has great coherency with the setting, and it emphasises more military and competitive strategies.
Wendake has been a source of great pride, we got excited when we tried it back in 2015, we were afraid during the Kickstarter campaign in 2017, but then we met all the stretch goals, and we’re still very proud of it. Danilo’s work fascinated us and allowed us to discover places and historical periods that we didn’t know.
If you feel the urge to play another game of Wendake (and you haven’t got a copy, you can still buy a copy here) let us know if you agree with the changes that we made, and follow us on our Telegram channel, for any update and to talk about this and the development of all the Post Scriptum games!
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It has been almost a year since Florenza X Anniversary was published.
Florenza’s third edition represents the crown of everything we had wished for this game: Flawless materials carefully looked after by Tambu, the illustrations have been touched up by Sara, and most importantly, the rules have been updated, to reach a more fluid and seamless experience. Every change we have made to the game is the result of long thought-out research, that started 10 years ago, when we were only Placentia Games’ consultants, long before we acquired the publishing house.
Now that we had the chance to revisit what we consider a jewel of a eurogame, we mainly focused on smoothing the rough edges, such as the rules that were too complex, game actions that weren’t interesting enough, and the general game balance, in order to speed up the game experience.
Our follower Alain Rameau, a.k.a. karamo, did an excellent job which you’ll find here on BoardGameGeek, and that we gladly share: a list of changes between the current third and the second edition. Thank you very much karamo!
We decided to use this document to review our revision with a clinical eye, focusing on every little change, to analyse and motivate every design choice.
Note: we strongly advise that you read at least the latest version’s rules in order to have a clear idea of the game flow and of the different elements that make it up.
Following karamo’s scheme, we’ll try to justify all our design choices:
1) Why did the rounds decrease, from 8 to 7?
This is easy: after all the changes that we’ll list below, we realised that it was possible to fulfil all the strategies in a lower number of rounds, shortening the playing time and making it “tighter” just the way we like it.
2) Why did we reduce life in Florenza, from 7 to 6 rows?
This was due to necessary balancing, considering the decreased number of rounds. And to avoid that Artists could stay in play for the whole game.
3) Why did you change the beginning of the game?
In the first two editions, at the beginning of the game, players could choose between 2 different Workshops from a limited pool, and during the first round the Collect Income phase was skipped. All this, according to P.S. Martensen (in this case Mario), represented A HORRIBLE EXEPTION to the game flow.
We decided to simplify the preliminary choice of buildings, and reinstate the Income phase, in order to even out all the rounds. We simply reduced the number of Fiorini available at the beginning of the game, and revisited the costs of some of the buildings, so that the building purchase limit is determined by actual resources and not by a quibble in the rules. Genius, isn’t it?
4) Why did you change the Palace and the Church?
After playing a great number of times, we were aware that these buildings were not used properly: often they ended up being completed only towards the end of the game, if there was time and available resources, without adding anything to the game. We changed it in such a way that they wouldn’t just give Victory Points (VP), but that they would also generate income every round, making them interesting from the beginning. This mechanism was inspired by an idea of Danilo Festa’s Florenza Dice Game. You’ll notice that the Florenza universe (Florenzaverse) games have been a great inspiration for X Anniversary.
5) Why did you change the Captain of the People?
Considering that we have reduced the number of Workers (who became Kinsmen in this edition) available to each player, the previous Captain of the People, who used to steal Workers from opponents, would have definitely been too powerful, so we took away that power, leaving the power of detaining a Character. However, now it’s the Captain of the People who chooses the extra Resources that will be assigned to all the players at the beginning of the rounds, leaving a margin of indirect interaction. This idea was “stolen” from Florenza – The Card Game, and was a Stefano Groppi‘s original content which we liked very much.
6) Why did you change the Bishop?
Some of the bishop’s rules weren’t very polished, and it was too different from the Captain of the People, which resulted in ANOTHER HORRIBLE EXCEPTION to the game flaw, and P.S. Martensen (again Mario) found it unforgivable. We decided to simplify it and align it with the Captain of the People, adding the VP grabbing to make it more interesting to get.
7) And the preachers?
We found them weak, so we created a series of effects that are activated when selected.
8) Did you add any rules?
Yes, without turning the game upside down, we implemented a few ideas that had been introduced with some promo cards, remodelled for the occasion: The Captains of Fortune, totally revised and insipired by those in Florenza Card Game: War & Religion, and the Muse, essentially unchanged. We also added the Special Crests, which offer extra incomes to who completes an Artwork.
9) Why did you change the turn order?
This is the rule that P.S. Martensen liked the least (in this case all of the components). In the previous versions it could happen that some players were forced to play last or second last for rounds that were considered decisive for the game, without having the opportunity of reacting. We decided that the turn order should be based on the number of VP that a player has achieved in that moment.
10) Bottom line?
Finally, we created the solitaire play, which we really like. But this will be the topic of our series of posts about Game Design!
Now Florenza: X Anniversary is fresher and more intuitive than its predecessors, and with a more reasonable game duration (with 5 players we used to run over 3 hours, it is not acceptable anymore).
Obviously, in addition to the changes described above, we also tuned the balance for many buildings and characters. Here is where Matteo comes to play, developing complex excel tables to keep into consideration every single mathematical factor. But this will also be the object of another post!
We hope that you enjoyed this dive into a game’s design, let us know on our social channels if you want to look more into the game design of another of our games, we’d be happy to tell you about the behind the scenes ?
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In the list of Post Scriptum and Placentia’s authors there is one name who has worked on all the latest productions… just have a look: Shogun no Katana, Radetzky: Milano 1848, Florenza: X Anniversary Edition…. These titles all include a mysterious signature;
Who is P.S. Martensen? Why do we believe in them so much to entrust them with all our latest games?
Let’s lift the veil: because P.S. Martensen is us! Unexpected, right?
P.S. Martensen is the nom de plume that we chose for our work as authors, carried out by Post Scriptum’s partners, Mario, Matteo and Marco “Tambu”.
It’s the name that we actually chose to differentiate our publishing work from our game design effort.
Since the beginning of Post Scriptum we’ve always been particularly meticulous in the development our games, both for our productions and when we were working as advisors. As time went by, we realised that our job wasn’t limited to game development – meaning balancing and refining rules that had already been written, i.e. playtesting – we often had the chance to create brand new rules taking on the role of co-authors.
We felt the need of being recognised as such.
The first game that we signed, together with Alberto Barbieri, was Radetzky: Milano 1848, published in 2018 together with Demoelà. Since then, the name P.S. Martensen has appeared in almost all the games published by us.
But what is our contribution as authors?
The needs of every member of the “P.S. Martensen” team are different but go really well together (there isn’t one rule or any mechanics that get introduced without unanimous approval by all of the partners!) Mario is meticulously thorough at removing any exceptions to the rules. Mario believes that games should be fluid, with as little rules as possible, while respecting coherence and settings. Matteo’s job is to to minimize downtimes (between different turns) by finding solutions that can offer a good control for all the players during the opponents’ turns. Tambu comes up with varied and interesting solutions, he’s the innovative one. P.S. Martensen’s mission, hence the mission of all the team members, is the creation of elegant, neat and fluid designs.
What is the relationship with Post Scriptum and Placentia Game’s original games’ authors?
First of all, we would like to clarify one thing: even though we ask if we can sign the games if we deem it necessary, we do not take any cut off the original games authors’ percentage of the revenue. We respect their work and fully recognise their merits (at the end of the day, it’s them who had the initial genial spark).
Moreover, we always try to build a balanced relationship with the authors, working on the development together, playtesting and having continuous brainstorming sessions, leaving our notes on shared documents and talking in person. Their idea might end up being very different from the original, but we try to respect the spirit that brought to life the first creative intuition.
P.S. Martensen is also a way of conveying that the game has been developed with care and respecting the ideas of the original creator. A sort of warranty seal on the quality of the work.
What did P.S. Martensen create concretely?
We can talk about Wendake’s fight system, Florenza: X Anniversary solitaire mode, or Shogun No Katana’s Palace mechanic… but we prefer to talk about all this in the next articles of Inside the box – Game Design Diaries.
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