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Jon Sudbury
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I am a little groggy from prepping the KS, but I wanted to drop by and say hi!
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Clyde W
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Hi Jon!

Thanks for joining us. Your KS and your game's components certainly look top-notch.

I am worried, however, that the game components lack usability.

Has this game been blind playtested? If so, can you describe the experiences blind playtesters have had with your game?
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Jon Sudbury
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Yes, that is the main question and hurdle people will face with this game. Clearly, no question.

In short, the first game is a learning experience. A key reason we stuck with this design, well there are several reasons, but one was that once people play their first game players are typically amazed that they then know all the cards and how to play them. There is a tipping point, and it surprises people when it happens.

Is Ortus Regni the kind of game that you can pull out to play with the Aunts and the Uncles? I think our experience is probably more realistic, it works wonderfully with a core group of gamers who want to play each other in a game that can last through repeated play-nights without being played out. While continuing to defy perfect play styles that nerf that competition over time. That is essentially what convinced us that this game had merit.
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Jon Sudbury
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Just catching up with some other questions folks had.

The cards of the game and its mechanics are quite open ended, yes very true. On the question of deck design and the number of unique cards one might use that answer is also very open ended. It is completely plausible to design a deck that will win with only, say, 4 of the Earl cards. On the other hand a deck that contains too many unique cards is often going to run into serious trouble. Speed and reliability are eroded fast. It is also, overall, the case that in a 2-player duel one uses less unique cards, while in a larger multi-player game there is time to effectively use a number of cards (and their related synergies), say, 7, 8 ever more, but again you will often run into trouble at those high numbers of unique cards.

For the learning experience of the first game there are some simple deck builds listed in the Quick Reference Guide that comes in the core box, and it is doable to play with a simple deck and even win against a fancier hybrid style of deck.

I am open to more questions
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Jon Sudbury
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A little more catching up.

The aesthetic of the cards began with the very first prototype. And, in the end, we never swerved from that iconographic style. Its effect on gameplay are many. It does mean that we sacrificed a level of approachability (and I do not knock people for being frustrated by that). The gains are interesting though. We find that people are attracted to the game, visually, it draws people in, pulls them to the table. The other interesting aspect of these cards is that, with this finite set, once you have learned them afterwards any text and numbers would forever "paint" the cards that you play with. For an initial gain you then live with the results. Finally, it is hard to put a value on this, but the pleasure we and our play testers found in the visual experience of the game was rewarding enough that we stuck with, what is decidedly, a very unusual choice.

It is perfectly reasonable to question whether these intangible benefits are truly important, but we did find them to be important through the years. There is a cost upfront and a gain going forward, to put it another way.
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Jon Sudbury
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Let me try to wax philosophical for a moment.

This game is a curious mix of complexity and simplicity. Overall, as you know from glancing at the rulebook it is something of a curious pill to swallow. Yet the specific rule interactions are quite linear. It is how they all interwork together that we think is interesting. You can envision much of the card interactions as wheels within wheels. Where each point of strength has built in vulnerabilities. Or, put another way, as a giant wheel of rock, paper, scissors. But when you interweave even that simple scheme into multiple circles things can get a little interesting.

It was this overall notion that limited the cards of the game, as well. And why we cannot easily (nor do we want to!) ever imagine adding cards to the game. It was designed as a whole, in other words.
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Jon Sudbury
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I should also note while I am here, that we certainly do plan to put together a broad selection of very short videos. Each showing in, say, 15 seconds, a given action in the game. And all categorized in a similar manner to the rulebook. We know that in the case of Ortus Regni seeing it in action is not just desirable but may be crucial. Now that we have completed the KS tasks that is our next big project. I can well imagine that people want that up already (at ortusregni.com/learn) and we will move as fast as we can!
 
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Clyde W
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In short, you're saying you have NOT blind playtested this game?
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Jon Sudbury
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We have, yes, sat people down and let them play off of our rules. And first games are very much a learning experience. This is not a game that one pulls out of the box and can really experience straight away (in the classic messiness of stumbling through half known rules). There are enough cross interactions of cards that people do not "own" their first deck (sample deck designs are provided) or their first game in a satisfying way. If you see what I mean. It is only in the second game that players can then think, "oh, I think I might try this out." The combination of grokking the cards and seeing the dynamics on the table, at the same time, in a first go around is awkward. But, again, we have had good luck in the sense that once people stumble through the fist stage they are surprised at their own ability to get Ortus Regni and have wanted to come back to it.

That said, as you and others have stated, this game does require a initial step into the fold that is more demanding than the vast majority of games. That is only balanced by the fact that for people who like dynamic card games it is hill worth walking up. It is a little daunting, and that word is used on purpose.

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Ryan
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Jon,

Is there anything you can do about the crazy shipping costs? It is more than the price of the game itself!
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Rafael Maia
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probably off-topic and I'm not sure if you can do anything about it at this point, but the game is only tagged as "games", not "tabletop games" - which is what I use to filter my search as I'm not interested in computer games, playing cards, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if people who are interested in the game can't currently find it (if they are not on BGG of course, around here the banner is pretty much inevitable ). Not sure if that was deliberate given there's the iOS app but you might want to add it if you can to increase visibility! Best of luck with the kickstarter!

EDIT: just realized this was asked & answered on the KS comments:

Jon Sudbury wrote:
Dave, the tricky thing is that the KS is technically for a software application. The porting of our Unity 3D engine to desktops and laptops. True, the game was born on the tabletop and we are offering actually boxes to backers. But I am not sure KS would have approved us if we placed ourselves in that category while campaigning for an app. If you see what I mean. But I do agree that the category will mean some people do not click through to us.
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rmaia wrote:
probably off-topic and I'm not sure if you can do anything about it at this point, but the game is only tagged as "games", not "tabletop games" - which is what I use to filter my search as I'm not interested in computer games, playing cards, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if people who are interested in the game can't currently find it (if they are not on BGG of course, around here the banner is pretty much inevitable ). Not sure if that was deliberate given there's the iOS app but you might want to add it if you can to increase visibility! Best of luck with the kickstarter!

EDIT: just realized this was asked & answered on the KS comments:

Jon Sudbury wrote:
Dave, the tricky thing is that the KS is technically for a software application. The porting of our Unity 3D engine to desktops and laptops. True, the game was born on the tabletop and we are offering actually boxes to backers. But I am not sure KS would have approved us if we placed ourselves in that category while campaigning for an app. If you see what I mean. But I do agree that the category will mean some people do not click through to us.


I fully concur!!!! Would not have known about the game if it wasn't for the advertising before the campaign and the BGG entry for it. I really feel that the campaign is going to suffer big time for not being more specially tagged on KS. This is a given.

-Ski
 
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Jon Sudbury
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True, I will look into whether KS cares about that category wall or not tomorrow. I agree if we can straddle the fence there that is much better.
 
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Jon Sudbury
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We are about $10 I think over the average for world shipping on a box and that does not scale well as boxes are added. We are trying to pin down whether we can safely drop that, in a couple of ways. One issue is that the size and weight of our core box is not ideal for international shipping. If we are able we will try and ship a partial pallet to the EU, to be distributed for a lower price internally. Ideally this would be confirmed before the end of out KS. I will post news as it comes in on that issue. For Canadians we have put in a tier price with a better rate.
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Clyde W
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JonSudbury wrote:
We have, yes, sat people down and let them play off of our rules. And first games are very much a learning experience. This is not a game that one pulls out of the box and can really experience straight away (in the classic messiness of stumbling through half known rules). There are enough cross interactions of cards that people do not "own" their first deck (sample deck designs are provided) or their first game in a satisfying way. If you see what I mean. It is only in the second game that players can then think, "oh, I think I might try this out." The combination of grokking the cards and seeing the dynamics on the table, at the same time, in a first go around is awkward. But, again, we have had good luck in the sense that once people stumble through the fist stage they are surprised at their own ability to get Ortus Regni and have wanted to come back to it.

That said, as you and others have stated, this game does require a initial step into the fold that is more demanding than the vast majority of games. That is only balanced by the fact that for people who like dynamic card games it is hill worth walking up. It is a little daunting, and that word is used on purpose.

Do the rules have suggested starting decks?

Have you played Fantasy Flight's Android: Netrunner? They solve a lot of usability issues by cleverly crafting the cards included in the box.
 
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Jon Sudbury
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Yes, the Quick Reference Guide does list several standard deck designs to start off with. And Netrunner did do a good job there, agreed.

We do also have the ability to do things digitally relatively swiftly going forward in the realm of game aids and documentation.
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Clyde W
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JonSudbury wrote:
We have, yes, sat people down and let them play off of our rules.
You didn't intervene? Were you in the room or not? (I'm not trying to hound you here, I really am just interested in the playtesting you did for this game. Playtesting is a huge part of game design, and it's something that first-time designers often overlook, or only get half right.)

If you did do blind playtesting without intervention, were your playtesters frustrated, or did they still find their first experiences fun?
 
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Jon Sudbury
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Heh, no worries.

We did test without intervention (as hard as that is).

As you can imagine players do not always play the game, or any game, quite correctly when they first dive into it. And while I, we, have all experienced that moment of figuring you've been playing some rule wrong for the last half hour, in your new game, it is the same and messier on a first go-round with Ortus Regni.

Now, one thing that makes this work is that the basic structure, to win / lose etc. is pretty straight forward. You have your castles that are in a sense your "hit points" lose all your castles and you are gone. Attacking is at heart also very straight forward. All forces accept 1 point of incoming damage, all forces sent 1 point with the exception of four tough guys that send 2 (Knights, Champions, Mercenaries and the Viking Chieftain) and the Monk which sends no damage. A Battle Deck draw determines if the attacker or defender had a lucky day, but most of the cards in that deck, normal battle cards, do not change the standard allocation of damage points.

What I am getting at, is that even when the overlay of more sophisticated rule interactions are miss-played or unknown the main function of learning the cards and playing can go on in a wonderful mess of a first game. People will be checking the cards in their hands at first, several times, from the cloth cheat sheet, to be sure.

I don't want to downplay how tricky that first immersion in this game can be, but I will say that blind testers did actually have fun. Yes, in our experiments, a scan of the rule docs, or the cheat sheet, prior to play really made a big difference. And I don't mean a close enough read that people really played correctly out of the gate either, even a little prior knowledge helped (but of course that statement applies to all games, just more so to Ortus Regni).
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Dustin Schwartz
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JonSudbury wrote:

I am a little groggy from prepping the KS, but I wanted to drop by and say hi!


I don't think that Ortus Regni is my cup of tea, but I've been curious about it ever since the first mystery adverts started floating about. I just wanted to chime in with kudos for carrying yourself with composure here.
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Jon Sudbury
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We made some pretty unusual choices with the game, and gamers rightly want(ed) explanations to things that have (had) gone unanswered. But thank you nonetheless for your interest and composure! Back at you
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Mannie Germain
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JonSudbury wrote:
That said, as you and others have stated, this game does require a initial step into the fold that is more demanding than the vast majority of games. That is only balanced by the fact that for people who like dynamic card games it is hill worth walking up. It is a little daunting, and that word is used on purpose.

I guess this is what boggles my mind a bit (and not in a good way). Why did you make a decision for the game that makes it harder for people to get into? Why make them walk up a hill unnecessarily, or make it unnecessarily daunting?

There doesn't seem to be any payoff for doing so, other than being able to say, "Hey, I finally remember what all these cards do, and now I'm playing a game that consists solely of artwork!", which isn't really a payoff. It's just frustration for the sake of a minor novelty.

Games generally use text and iconography for a reason, and that's because people want to play them. A ton of games pull off the task of being both beautiful and functional, and it really seems the same could be done here.
 
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Jon Sudbury
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Actually, as odd as it might sound (because it does qualify as novel), that decision, which I made from the start, was not for novelty's sake. I had been pondering such a game for years, before even making a prototype of Ortus Regni. We all design the games we want to play, of course.

And the effects of having purely pictorial cards is maybe more subtly powerful than your might imagine. Both in your hand and on the table, we found it creates a visual landscape that added to the pleasure of playing the game. The reaction we got from playtesters was similar. Some people do like it. Even taking into account the hill, they decided that they appreciated the end result in gameplay. But, and this is a big but, they had made the choice to learn the game (be they playtesters or friends) and not everyone will make that choice.

That is, in our experience people saw it as something additive, and it was not added, of course, to make the game daunting but a side-effect is that hill. Whether it is a large hill or a small one will depend on the gamer. It is certainly true that a larger pool of people would step into Ortus Regni with some other version of the game. And several participants here on BGG have convinced to me explore an inexpensive training Earl gameplay deck with text (i.e. cheat sheet versions of some basic beginner 24 card decks). We do remain in deep like with the current pictorial cards, despite the drawbacks you fairly point to, and still think that this is the most appealing way to play this game. I am being redundant there, I accept that, as we brought it out in this style.

[edited yet again for excessive groggy typos]
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Seeing the ads managed to really pique my interest, medieval art having long been one of my big interests, and I've been following the newsletter in anticipation.

I believe a purely pictorial design language can work for games, if done right. I think you've used color extremely well, making fairly busy art easily distinguishable. Perhaps I differ here from others, but cards like Market and Palace seem easy to distinguish. Just glancing at the different cards and reading some other peoples' concerns about the learning curve makes two other games come to mind: St. Petersburg and Mahjong. In St. Petersburg I have always primarily recognized cards by their art and the resource icons, the actual text seems to serve little purpose for me after the initial learning period. There's a myriad of different buildings and people, yet their name and function is readily distinguishable from the graphics. As for Mahjong: the sheer amount of likely unfamiliar iconography combined with a very complex scoring system is daunting for new players (especially if using a set without arabic numerals). Yet with a good player aid and a few dozen hands, symbols are able to be immediately recognized and cognitively grouped and scoring starts to make sense. Tarot games are also quite similar, as numerical rank was only represented pictorially in many early historical decks. All these games offer some challenge initially in graphics recognition, yet with familiarity it becomes a time saving asset.

Which is to say...I agree that the visual appeal of highly graphic tabletop games is a huge factor, just look at Carcassanonne. I remain fixated by how absolutely beautiful your cards look and I would like to follow any discussion and learn more about the mechanical design but there's one MAJOR obstacle.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use a readable modern typeface in the rulebook. I know it's tied with style of the cards but it's really such a challenge to read and creates a general sense of disorganization that would make rulechecks such a chore. At the least, restrict the gothic script to titles. I just can't force myself to read through 48 pages of faux blackletter.

 
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goodpoints wrote:


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use a readable modern typeface in the rulebook. I know it's tied with style of the cards but it's really such a challenge to read and creates a general sense of disorganization that would make rulechecks such a chore. At the least, restrict the gothic script to titles. I just can't force myself to read through 48 pages of faux blackletter.



I couldn't agree more. I think this is one area where even Fantasy Flight, with their completely overwrought graphic design, manages to mellow down with a nice readable serif font with a good x-height.

Edit:

That said, it's not nearly as bad the typeface they chose for the Fief rulebook. My god it's terrible! (https://www.spiele-offensive.de/gfx/cf/fief/fief_summary_she...)
 
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Fief rulebook
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That said, it's not nearly as bad the typeface they chose for the Fief rulebook. My god it's terrible! (https://www.spiele-offensive.de/gfx/cf/fief/fief_summary_she...)



That post is not the official or final rulebook and Uwe at Academy was very unhappy to see it and asked them to remove it.
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