It's spring 2013, Modena Fair. I run demos of Robinson Crusoe, one after another, but at some point I am asked to run demo of 51st State. 'Why not' I say. It seems like a good break from playing Robinson Crusoe all the time. Excited I sit down with two Italian players and they begin to play.
'You can't do this.' I say, when one of them wants to make 4th Agreement. 'Your Base has space only for 3 Agreements. I'm sorry.' He is not happy, but well, he is not going to argue with me, right?
'You can't do this.' I say 2 minutes later, when he decides to Attack a card and put in under his Base as a Spoil. 'Your Base has space only for 3 cards, whatever these are Agreements or Spoils.' I say. He is not happy. In a fact he looks irritated.
'You can't do this.' I say 3 minutes later when he wants to earn some VP. 'Your card can score only 3 times in the game. You already scored three times.' You can imagine. He is just one small step from throwing his cards right into my face.
'You can't do this.' I say 2 minutes later when he wants to activate one of his cards again. 'You can activate cards only twice a round.' I say.
I feel like a fucking jerk. The guy looks at me and his look confirms it – he indeed thinks I am a fucking jerk. He is irritated. He is frustrated. He is pissed off.
And as you can imagine - these are not emotions I had in mind when I was designing 51st State...***
I was devastated. Believe it or not, but since then – since April 2013 – I have never run demo of 51st State again. I don't know if I ever will.
This everything-is-forbidden hour was one of the most horrible moments in my gaming life.***
51st State is a great card game. It got Golden Geek Best Card Game nominee and plenty of other awards and nominations. It has two big expansions (The New Era and Winter) and one small (Ruins). It has very strong fan base, it has very good rating at BGG, it has devoted players who love it. Zee Garcia from The Dice Tower few times put it in his Top10 lists, Paul from CBJ podcast put it on the 1. spot in his Top10 games ever.
Without a doubt I can say this game had a success and yes, I am really proud of it.
When I got back from Modena I began to destroy 51st State. Yeah, you heard it right. I torn it into pieces.
In 51st State your Base has space for only 3 cards. Let's try this - fuck that limit.
In 51st State you can use your Contact ability only once per round. Well... screw it.
In 51st State you can send workers for resources, but you can't send them for a card. Bullshit!
In 51st State you can have only 10 cards in your hand...
Imperial Settlers was born on the fundaments of 51st State. On one hand it has some similarities to 51st State. On the other hand... On the other hand this is a brand new game. I made it open. I let players do everything they wanted to do to score VP. While play testing every time I was asked 'Can I do this?' , my answer was 'Yes, you can.'
It is really interesting to see two very different games that were born from one idea, but with two different design approaches. With two different philosophies. With two so different outcomes.
Imperial Settlers is easier. Faster.
And I can't wait for you trying this out.