And we are back with your favourite blog after a well-deserved Winter break! During this time, we had been working hard to get ready for the long-awaited Game fair in Nuremberg, when they cancelled the event due to the pandemic situation. It is a choice that we perfectly understand, considering how fast and uncontrollably the virus is spreading (we were affected too, but luckily with no consequences). Obviously, we are extremely sorry about it, we had prepared a fantastic stand that we were really proud of, and we were looking forward to meeting friends and other board games insiders.
Let’s cut to the chase. Today I’d like to give my opinion on a topic that, every once in a while, have a comeback on social media, with lively debates involving people who see Monopoly and Risk as the absolute evil (often the most dedicated gamers), and who defends them for their historical value (often the professional insiders).I do not deny the definition of intelligent games, which is associated to our hobby: I believe that tabletop games are an intelligent way of spending time, and I do not see any problems in saying it. But if someone said that all the “old” games are stupid, then I would strongly disagree, and I am sure that some older publications can be appreciated and judged impartially. For example, I had the chance, a few times, of talking about Inkognito or Scotland Yard with game enthusiasts, and they all agreed saying that they are good publications that, despite showing a little the weight of the years, do not disfigure among the modern ones.
The fact is that there is a bunch of people who see Monopoly as the absolute evil, and pour scorn upon anybody who plays it, and this is not good. Snob players are no good to our movement. Being enthusiastic about our own passions is good, but if you meet a newbie who is willing to expand their views, diminishing their past experiences is not a good way of welcoming them. Placing yourself on a pedestal is presumptuous and it is likely to result in never seeing the newcomer again.
This does not necessarily mean that when someone arrives at the game club for the first time, we should always suggest a party game or a super easy game, with the risk that they get bored (and we know that it happens). We can just chat for a while with the person in front of you to decide what to suggest. If it is true that games such as Twilight Imperium or Through the ages are probably not the right choice for someone who has never played, this doesn’t mean that you should always put on the table Dixit or Dobble (or better, Brick Party, Fun Farm or Pazzaparola!) For example, I believe that Agricola, in the version without cards is an excellent entry level for a certain type of people, because the rules aren’t difficult to explain or to understand. In any case, I don’t mean to say that suggesting Dobble or Fun Farm is always bad: even if you don’t like the genre you can resist for 15 minutes to defeat the scepticism of people who come to the club for the first time.
To come back on topic, if you meet a person (live or online) who says that they have only played Monopoly, you can say “well, then we’ll introduce you to many games, all different and all super fun, in none of them you need to roll dice to move”, but it is absolutely uncalled for adding that you hate Monopoly, even though you think that (note: I do not like it, I played it recently, analysing it from the most objective point of view, and it didn’t pass the test, but this is not the point).
Most of all, if, despite all your suggestion their answer was “no thanks, I still prefer Monopoly, and I wanted to know if it was better to buy the Harry Potter or the Star Wars version” accept it without too many regrets and do not look at the interlocutor with disdain, and don’t think that they do not understand the real value of boardgames like you do. Not everybody likes the games that we like, but it is a positive thing that people play, regardless of what the game is. Maybe this person will never play anything but that roll-and-move game, but maybe another person will get into gaming while playing with them, and will then move on to more modern games.Remember that every new player is a priceless achievement for all the games enthusiasts!
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This is a BGG copy of the official blog of Post Scriptum Games. Twitter: @Mario_Sacchi_PS and @PScriptum_games
Archive for Mario Sacchi
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Let’s talk about the most obvious fact: for the first time since we acquired it, in 2021 we didn’t have any new Placentia Games publication. After Kepler-3042, Wendake, Wendake: New Allies, Florenza Dice Game and Florenza X Anniversary, this should have been the year of our greatest and most ambitious project ever, Shogun no Katana, but unfortunately things happened that were out of our control (we talked about all the issues here, if you haven’t read that post yet, I strongly recommend it), and the release of that game was pushed back until 2022.
So, how was 2021 for Post Scriptum? How did the horrible global situation affect us? How can a publisher as small as we are, get ready for the future? These are our answers!
HOW WAS 2021 FOR POST SCRIPTUM? HOW DID THE TERRIBLE GLOBAL SITUATION AFFECT US?
Overall, it wasn’t too bad considering the situation. It is true: Shogun no Katana hasn’t been published yet, and it took much more post-campaign hours than expected, especially to design the plastic tray details: it was really a complex process because they have to hold all the materials, they have to combine together perfectly, and they also have to comply with the minimum thickness required by the production machine and be the right size for the game box. Luckily Tambu likes these things (and you, readers, like to find out these behind-the-scenes facts, don’t you?).
Despite this radical change of our plans, last year was quite positive, thanks to some factors:
* For sure, the money collected on Kickstarter was important to dedicate all the necessary extra time to Katana without suffering. I know that many see crowdfunding only as a way to do pre-sales, but for companies at our level it is a fundamental support to create games that otherwise wouldn’t be released.
* The fact that we had physical mock-ups of the game ready, gave us the opportunity to create some important distribution partnerships, both with old and new clients. In the end, Shogun no Katana was sent for print later than expected, but we’re printing 10,000 copies, which is excellent for a game of this range.
* Game fairs starting again, especially Essen, was fundamental for this process, for Katana and for other games that we haven’t announced yet. The B2B meetings went really well, and we can’t wait to go to Nuremberg in 2022.
* Our production work for third parties, even though it is not as visible, it always helps us, and in these 2 years of pandemic it went really well, also thanks to the fact that casual players rediscovered boardgames because they spent much more time at home.
Then, finally, at the end of the year we published Pazzaparola, even though at the moment it is only available in Italy, it is doing great! It is a small portable game, but it required a lot of efforts, both to decide the categories and the illustrations connected to them (splendidly drawn by Sara). And most of all it is a game we are really proud of, because we think it is simple, fun, engaging, and suitable for everybody. We think it has everything a game needs to become a classic!
HOW ARE WE GETTING READY FOR THE FUTURE?
For sure the past two years changed the way we work in a lot of different ways.
* First of all, online playtests took on a pivotal role in the development of future games, Mario, Tambu and Matteo spend several hours every week, testing together with game designers, often until 11 pm. In particular, we’re focusing on two new Placentia Games publications: one of them is by Simone Cerruti Sola, Kepler-3042’s author, and the other one by a debuting author, which we think has all it takes to keep up with the rest of the games in the catalogue. At the same time, we are working on our first Amerigame, that we consider a real strike of genius, and we are enjoying it very much.
* On top of this, there’s all the product development work, in terms of materials, illustrations and design. Sara ilustrated Pazzaparola and 3 more family games, which had excellent feedback during game fairs, and we are looking forward to launching them. Moreover, we have already found an illustrator for one of the games that I mentioned above and we are looking for the others.
* From the production point of view, we strengthened our main partnerships with suppliers with whom we have been working for years, and we have started new ones. At this moment we can say that, even though production problems haven’t been solved yet, we are planning to print over 100,000 boxes in 2022, and it is quite a big amount for a company as small as ours, since we don’t localize other publishers’ games, but we develop everything internally.
* Last but not least, for the first time ever, we are going to host a stand in Nuremberg, because we need to show the results of all our efforts to as many people as possible!
Bye for now, we’ll talk again in 2022. We’re going to take a little break and the next article will be published in 4 weeks’ time, on the 21st of January. We can’t wait to tell you all about our projects that we are carrying out with our usual passion and dedication. We wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful 2022!
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A few months ago, we had the chance to tell you about the difficult production situation in the board games universe (we talked about it here!) but many of you asked us more generic questions about our production work.
Here’s a series of FAQs we received during the life of Post Scriptum.
1) When does the actual production work start for a game that is being developed?
We start the printing process when the game is basically complete. It can happen that the rules’ translation isn’t finished, but it is quite a rare condition. But it can happen to send some components to be manufactured in advance, such as, miniatures, or wooden parts, which require a longer printing process in comparison to other material, and are always the first things that are completely designed. On the other hand, the carboard parts need more time to create the perfect design composition (and, among other things, they often represent precisely the wooden figures and this is another reason why they must already be definitive).
Sometimes, we had to ask our suppliers to replace a file very close to the actual printing day, maybe we realised there was a mistake, but luckily this hardly ever happens!
2) Who is involved in production?
Let’s start from the author, who normally doesn’t deal with publishing. However, we want them to have the chance to give their opinion, and to be able to follow every step of the process, giving their approval, in fact we have added this condition to the standard contract.
Then, first of all, there are two professionals who are involved: the one who deals with illustrations and the one who deals with the design.
Illustration is a very delicate topic: the most wanted artists are in high demand, and not everybody is able to create images in every desired style. In our case we have an in-house illustrator, Sara, who illustrates many of our works, but she can also choose different artists if the game requires a different style, or as it often happens, she simply doesn’t have time to illustrate all the games. Sara’s opinion, as a matter of fact, has been fundamental for Mario, Tambu and Matteo to choose Giorgia Lanza as illustrator for Shogun no Katana.
The illustration work starts from a concept that has to be developed, and this process requires at least a month of research, in which we keep on evaluating new drafts.
Talking about the graphic design, i.e. the creation of all the elements which don’t need to be drawn, such as icons, and the layout of cards and rules, we generally work with Paolo Vallerga, from Scribabs. Graphic design requires a lot of experience in the board games world, because, on top of the appearance, you need to keep into account the functionality of the components, the icons’ readability, the clarity of examples in rulebooks… it is a particularly important aspect of the game’s production, so much so that we organise specific playtests to understand the feeling of the game using its components and the design. For some specific cases we rely on 3D modellers, to create miniatures, like in the case of Alan D’Amico for Shogun no Katana’s characters.
Then we contact both Chinese and European suppliers, according to our requirements, to create all the materials.
3) How are all the parts, such as the cards and the punch-out sheets created?
Without going into details, as it’s not our job, we can say that cards are printed onto very big sheets, which are then cut out by a grid of blades. The grid is structured to have a standard size, like poker cards.
Punch-out sheets are made by cutting cardboard with custom blades, which sometimes are handmade.
All materials are then entrusted to the packaging company, and in the end, everything is sent to the warehouses who eventually will send them to final players (in our case, our Kickstarter’s backers) or to distributors or specific shops.
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Our job is not made only of games to develop and of boxes to fill with cardboard tokens and meeples. For a game publisher it’s also fundamental to build good relationships and to create strict collaborations which often turn into beautiful friendships.
For this, we think we’re lucky: in the gaming clubs where we play every week, we had the opportunity to meet people who are passionate gamers, who recognized the value of our products and they have become real fans of Post Scriptum, loyal supporters and tireless testers. Some of them started to create games, and with great pleasure we supported them with our experience, tested their prototypes and gave development advice.
Danilo Festa, one of our trusty play-testers in the years has become an all-round game designer, who can develop both complex games and fun party games (he is the author of Pazzaparola, the latest amusing card game published by Post Scriptum!).
One day in May 2019 he asked us to try a new game that he had created, a Roll & Write transposition of Florenza, which we immediately tried. Not only it fully convinced us, we even decided to publish it by the end of the same year, with the title: Florenza Dice Game!
But what did we like of Florenza Dice Game? Danilo was great at converting the original game into a portable version which is quick to set up, but also keeping the original flavour and complexity. Opposite to many Roll & Write games on the market, Florenza Dice game is a real Euro Game, challenging and full of possible strategies, which requires one hour of intense playing.
Florenza Dice Game is a great alternative to its predecessors, with the advantage that it can be set up in literally 5 seconds!
The decision to publish the game after only a few months from the first test forced us to speed up development and production times, but we had two big advantages: on a development level, the set-up speed and the game duration allowed us to try the game in many occasions and try it even several times on the same night, thanks to playtesters who were willing to play more than one game in a row, and to the many players who were drawn to the tables and were curious to try the prototype; on a publishing level we had an extensive archive of illustrations that we could use, created for the previous games of the Florenza series, reducing times (and costs!) of production.
During the production stage we worked a lot together with Paolo Vallerga from Scribabs to find the most ergonomic solution, in order to keep the players’ boards as clear and easy to use as possible. We also considered to add some erasable boards, instead of paper blocks, but we soon realised that players love keeping the sheets of paper with the results of their games!
We decided to add pencils with eraser to the box because, even though the game doesn’t entail erasing anything on the boards, playtests pointed out that it was possible for players to make mistakes or to want to undo their last moves.
Short anecdote about this: we had asked the printing factory to add 4 pencils inside each box, but by mistake they added only one. This forced us to contact another company near our warehouse to open all the boxes and add the missing pencils, and to cellowrap them again. This goes to prove that the publishers’ job can have problems even for games that are apparently easy to manage!
In the end, in a few months, we developed a game that we’re really proud of, that is fun and challenging, and I would easily recommend for game nights. After this great experience, the next Post Scriptum game has been created to reduce the set-up time to the minimum and the author is another dear friend, and tireless playtester for our games. We’ll annnounce it soon!
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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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Coming back from Essen and on the occasion of Lucca Comics & Games, I would like to dedicate another post to the game events world, with a couple of observations, starting from what I consider the main question: “who needs game fairs? Expert players? Casual players? Or rather publishers?”
Well, my answer is “all of the above”. I can hear you muttering that I’m just trying to keep everybody happy, but I actually believe that the best way is finding the most constructive balance. Expert gamers are an important part of the sector: they are demanding in terms of mechanics, graphics and production, they are often harsh at judging, but they are as often enthusiastic and can’t wait to spread the word about games that they consider the worthiest. For a certain type of products (in my case I obviously think about Placentia Games) they are fundamental! The role of ambassadors that they play is crucial, and often decisive for the future of a game, and sometimes of the entire publisher. Not to mention the fact that they are the only people who would read a blog like this
However, we cannot think only about gamers. For example, after all the exhibitions people generally complain that we should have let people try the games just for a couple of rounds, so that they could change different tables, and let more people play. These gamers want to try as many new games as possible, to evaluate which of them have a real substance, and if they meet the hype that had been built around them during their promotion. Considering that generally we talk about expert gamers, they believe that a brief trial of a game is enough to evaluate if the game is suitable for them or not.
This is a legitimate request, and, admittedly, during fairs we have often hosted demos with a limited amount of time or a limited amount of rounds.
SHORT DIGRESSION: the time limit has never been less than one hour, it was generally two hours, including the explanation, because we believe that games such as Wendake, and especially Kepler-3042 cannot be appreciated in half an hour, because it is impossible to understand the complexity of the strategic development in half an hour. END OF DIGRESSION
The fact is that a game event cannot be designed exclusively around super-experts: in Italy and around the world there are a lot more casual players and families, they are a huge number of people who might be interested in our hobby. I see it happening weekly in our gaming club, where new people keep coming in, and more than 50% of them become regulars, but the first time that they come in they don’t know anything about what we do. So, we can say that the work of the ambassadors is fundamental, but it is equally important having someone to direct the work to. These “victims” must be found and pampered during the events, which are attended also by families and casual players! These people must receive the right attention to react positively, to understand how good and interesting our world is.
For example, I think about our game Radetzky-Milano 1848 which is a cooperative game, really suitable for families and great for introducing them to our world, and every time I took it to an event I felt the enthusiasm of the battle and the satisfaction of completing it. For these types of people the demo with a limited time, especially if the limit is half-an-hour, would be useless or even harmful, because typically, they need the first few rounds to understand how the game works, face the first few challenges and understand how to solve them. For them all the fun and satisfaction come at the end (even when they lose, because usually the differential is very small).
Finally, of course, exhibitions must be for the publishers, because even though some people don’t like them, they criticise them or they consider them greedy, in practice, without publishers there wouldn’t be any games, and without games… well I don’t need to finish the sentence, do I?
This is the reason why I don’t see eye to eye with people who demand (I’m not talking about kind requests but actual demands!) huge discounts at the fairs: if a publisher decides against them, there must be a reason, which could be a non-competition commitment with the shops, who are their clients, or simply it could mean that the costs of the exhibitions are too high and they cannot afford asking for less.
I am aware that some of you might not be completely happy with this post, and as I stated above, I understand. I know that you are players who already go to clubs and shops that are up-to-date with everything, and I understand that for you an exhibition is mainly an occasion for you to buy (sell or exchange) games, and mostly where you can try new releases, but I think that living it only this way is a pity. A game event is much more: it gives you the opportunity to play live with people with whom you spent hours writing online, conferences to attend, meeting authors and artists, or even just watching another group playing, to start looking at materials, or learning rules, for when you will finally get the chance to touch it with your own hands.
Most of all, game events give you the chance to get together and socialise: even teaching a game to someone who doesn’t know is extremely rewarding, and most of all is important and makes it possible for us to make our hobby grow. I’ve seen it in person at game nights, and I think it is always worth it.
Long live the gaming sector and my favourite part of it: long live the game fairs!
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This blog wants to be a window opened on the game publishing world and to introduce you to the backstage of the life of a board games publisher. The best way to do it is by sharing our deepest and most intense feelings. In my case, these feelings are evoked by the Essen exhibition!
WHAT ESSEN MEANT TO ME: 2005-2019
For our company, Essen has always been the most important event of the year, because it was the event when we used to launch our new games. This always meant high levels of anxiety, as it was the moment in which the efforts of – at least – a whole year had to pay back. In particular:
* We know that games get old really fast, and people have little time to get to know them and fully appreciate them. The exhibition has always been our main showcase, fundamental to build hype around the products, with pictures, reports, and including them in the boardgamegeek list, etc.
* Equally important, of course, is the work carried out in the offices inside the stands, meaning the business to business meetings, where our suppliers can touch with their own hands our projects, to figure out together how to create them, and our customers get the chance to appreciate in person how beautiful they are. In fact, our most successful products have always gone through this fundamental channel.
* Finally, of course, direct sales are always important to generate some immediate liquidity, that goes to cover the exhibition investments, make ends meet… and eventually starting to earn something for ourselves.
Those four days have always been vital for me, on an objective level – for the reasons I just explained, and on a subjective level, because I live Essen fair as if it was a test to evaluate months of work. Fundamental detail: on this test depend the economic survival of the whole Post Scriptum team and mine, (I must admit that to get a stand we spend important amounts).
Going back to the feelings we talked about at the beginning, the days before the exhibition I am always very nervous, impossible to deal with, I can’t sleep, I only think about work, day and night. Which means that yes, game publishers are also human.
Here we are at the 2021 edition. When we decided to take part in the exhibition, things had already started taking an ugly turn, as we explained in a previous post, and we were all but sure that we could publish anything in time. Of course, the publication was supposed to be Shogun no Katana, for which we intended to set up a majestic stand, full of demo tables, with several demonstrators in different languages. But honestly the stakes were too high: the chances that the game wouldn’t arrive on time were too high (in fact, it did not arrive as we explained in this Kickstarter update) and on top of it, we didn’t know how we could do our demos: what interpersonal distance would be required? What other precautions and limitations? And what about the attendance? Would players come to the exhibition? We’ll be honest about it, we though it would be better not to invest between 10,000 and 20,000 euro for the stand. For such a small company like ours, those are big money, and we would rather spend them on the development of new games.
At the same time, we didn’t have any doubt about taking part in the exhibition for the following reasons:
* When we signed up, we had good chances to receive the vaccine in time, as a matter of fact, we have now all received the second shot.
* What we missed most during 2020 were the meetings, the business to business with suppliers, with reviewers, but most of all with possible clients. These meetings are the main distribution channel for our products all over the world. We missed them because, while on one hand we felt privileged that we could work from home, carrying out all our projects without any problems (the inventors of Tabletop Simulator deserve a monument!), on the other hand we couldn’t show in person our mock-ups to potential clients, and in a field in which the physical paper part is fundamental, this was a great problem.
* It is true that, as you all could see, we worked-stop to the Shogun no Katana Kickstarter campaign, but the reason of this blog is also to tell you what you can’t know, for example, that during the last year before the pandemic we had been working a lot on two new family games, for which we had foreseen a massive production, with the objective of replicating the excellent sales of Fun Farm and Brick Party. We had already taken them to Nuremberg fair and to Cannes 2020, receiving great feedback. Then we all know what happened and everything stopped, also because of the well-known production issues. However, we didn’t forget about our projects, so we are going to the exhibition hoping to show them to as many business clients as possible. At the same time, we have developed two more easy-going games, and we’ll also have them with us, they are easier to produce and more suitable to the current situation. We believe that the 4 games are all excellent, and we can’t wait to launch them!
* Finally, even though we won’t have demo tables, we really wanted to have a place where we could show our fans Shogun no Katana’s mock-up, because we really think it is a wonderful game!
We also have a small shopping area where we will have some offers that you can’t miss…
And for our social fans (including you, readers of our blog) there’s an additional discount! Simply show to the desk the image at the bottom of this article to get the discount! Yes, we love you!
So… yes, also this year I’m living the pre-exhibition days with the usual anxiety, because the deals that we will get in Essen 2021 will be fundamental for Post Scriptum’s future, but I’m sure that as soon as I’ll breath the exhibition air I’ll think “finally!” and anxiety will turn thrill and enthusiasm.
My team and I will wait for you at the stand!
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In the last article, (you can read it here) we had the chance to talk about Florenza X Anniversary’s Game Development. What are the choices and the changes that we made to this edition of Placentia Games’ best seller?
For the Florenza’s anniversary edition we wanted to step up the game and bring it to the level of our most recent production, and adding more functional game ergonomics, with clearer iconography and a more readable layout of the elements.
Our aim was to develop a Kickstarter worthy product, while skipping the crowdfunding platform itself: our fans demand for a re-print was really high, so this was the right game with which we could try this approach (you proved us right… there are only a few copies left before it sells out!)
First of all, it was time we freshened up the materials, replacing the obsolete cubes with prettier, modern, wooden components.
Tambu created different versions of the molds for the resources (wood, fabric, iron, spices, marble, and gold), which we presented to our suppliers. They sent us the samples that we used to make a decision for the final shapes, then we updated the games graphics with those created by Sara.
The workers have been updated too, in this case, Tambu had a brilliant intuition: we couldn’t create a satisfying mold of a whole figure, so he suggested using a recognizable icon that could be functional to the setting, Cosimo de Medici’s profile portrait. An idea that fit perfectly the game and with an impactful component that’s also pleasant to handle.
Moreover, we also replaced the notes, that players considered a bit old-fashioned, with shield-shaped tokens, which are smaller and easier to handle. Opposite to what happened with the first edition, now we have providers that guarantee the quality of these components.
Moving on to graphics and illustrations, we had two main needs: on one hand we had to update everything according to the newly added rules, on the other hand, we had to solve a few readability and clarity problems. In particular, Mario and Matteo, who know the game inside—out, followed the restyling to make sure that the most important details were in the most visible positions.
We also carefully designed the iconography, in order to harmonize all the elements of the board, the tiles and the district boards. For instance, now, all the elements that generate income are highlighted in purple on all the game’s components.
The main board has been re-built too in order to make each element more visible and easier to read for all the players, we took the opportunity to reinforce the setting: we asked Sara to draw up some details that we love, such as the paintbrush, the hammer and the geometry compass, which help the players to fit the shoes of the big renaissance designers. We think she managed really well to maintain a stylistic coherence with the rest. Moreover, Paolo Vallerga from Scribabs, our trusted graphic designer, carried out a great “sorting and reusing” job, with all the previous illustrations from the previous editions, and the Card Game, to pick those that are more suitable to the new style.
For what concerns the Workshop tiles, we decided to simplify their aspect, and make them more visible and clear, with identification colours, so that all the players could have a good global vision, mostly on the opponents player boards, which is a fundamental aspect for the gameplay. It wasn’t an accident that we moved District Workshops to the top part of the district boards, i.e. closer to the centre of the table, where the other players can see them.
It took us a year to develop Florenza X Anniversary, including the updates to the game design and the graphics and illustrations restyling. It was almost like creating a game from scratch, however, we’re very proud and happy, we are sure that now Florenza, which we believe a jewel of eurogames, has fulfilled its full potential, and is up-to-date with market’s current production.
What do you think? Do you agree with our choices? Let us know what you think on social media and subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
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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 this second instalment of our blog’s opinion segment, I would like to start to talk about a topic that in future will probably be a recurring one, which is the relationship between gamers and board games insiders, dealing with different point of views. In particular, on this occasion I would like to tackle the topic of how the perception of the game can be influenced more by a group of players than by its objective qualities, and about how important it is to keep this in mind when developing a new game and when we interact with the general public.
This makes me think about an old Facebook discussion among Italians who were talking about some party games with secret roles, deductions etc., I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
In the post a gamer was advising against game "X" because he thought it was broken and two experienced role-play and board games authors were explaining that that wasn’t the case, while it was actually true for games "Y" and "Z" which the player thought to be impeccable. This started a dialogue between two parties who were in complete and utter disagreement. The authors were giving technical reasons about what is a bug and what is not, and the player was answering talking about his group of gamers, that was made up of very expert tournament players, which included and Italian champion, and that the authors didn’t understand anything. It was one of those situations in which everybody loses their patience, feelings were running high, and they ended up blocking each other. In short: the internet.
As an insider, I perfectly understand the authors, because their arguments were objective and it is right for people like them or me, but also for game enthusiasts, to know them and to be able to distinguish between a well-made game and one that has technical problems or that “hasn’t aged well”.
It was also clear that the gamer wasn’t a troll, he was just bringing his first-hand experience to the table.
It is true that the authors were 100% right when talking about the first game: the gamer found it broken after playing it only once or twice and it was clear he didn't fully understand it (knowing what game they were talking about, I know that it does NOT HAVE the game design issues that the player was claiming). Things get a bit more complex in regard to the other two games that the player liked and that the authors found unacceptable. The gamer stated that “you just have to play them well, with expert gamers who make the right moves, and the games work perfectly fine”. Now, as publisher and developer I know that a good game CAN NOT work only if gamers play in a certain way, quite the opposite, it is an objective issue. But the fact is that if those gamers played that game dozens of times and they keep playing it, they clearly enjoy it, and this is a big deal (especially in an internet discussion).
In brief: the experts’ objective arguments are often very valid but when we’re taking into consideration gamers’ choices we mustn’t make the mistake of underestimating subjective reasons, because, at the end of the day, whoever plays a game generally wants to have fun and kill time. Therefore, games creators, while doing it because it’s their job and having fun doing it, should always take into consideration that they’re doing it for the gamers.
Of course, it’s our duty to try and publish games that are well tested, balanced and most of all not broken, but as I’ve often invited gamers not to be too elitist, I equally invite us creators not to lose our gamer spirit, especially when talking about party games, perhaps old ones, that are still having great success all over the world.
While I can see the objective limits that the authors mention, even I regularly play at least one of the games that were mentioned above, with great enthusiasm, and I enjoy it. It’s true that, like in the case of said gamer, my group of friends has always been fundamental for those dozens of games to succeed, and I’m aware that in different gaming room I can’t even suggest playing it.
Obviously, I’m not saying that the two authors were wrong in this case: in fact I agree with them on all of the three games, however, I’m not mentioning their names, nor the games titles, to highlight that I’m not referring to this specific episode but to the idea that as we say “to each their own”, every gamer has their own taste and the same is true for group of gamers. Personally, I see this with the game Citadels, that many consider a filler, but in our gaming club it never lasts less than one hour and a half, we rack our brains trying to unveil all the roles. What was the author’s intent? Did he take into consideration all the different interpretations? How does he play? I’m tagging him on Twitter right away, let’s see if he answers! https://twitter.com/PScriptum_games/status/14340740951262003...
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