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Subject: The story behind Brides & Bribes! rss

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Pedro Spaceballoongames
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In this thread we’d like to share with you the story behind Brides & Bribes: when the idea came and why!

Which is the idea behind Brides & Bribes?

We wanted to create a game with a lot of players’ interaction; where each player can have access to many choices. But, were to set it…Italy of the 16th century of course! What an amazing country!
Arts, culture and…..conflicts, intrigues, struggle for power! It would be incredible to relive it in a game!
But, there are already so many games set in the Renaissance time…..Yes, that’s true, but no one give you the real feeling to be part of that period. We could invent it we thought!
We always wondered if in a board game the mechanics come before the theme. For us there was no doubt: Theme first!

We started to develop our game in 2011, after a wonderful holiday in the Italian Dolomites!
As in all projects development, we started with a brain storming and we thought about the right city where to set our game. Venice? A beautiful city but maybe a bit overused. Florence? A wonderful city but there is not the sea….and…what about Genoa? It was perfect for our game! It was a maritime Republic, ruled by the Doge, the Lord of the city, elected by nobles families always fighting with each other.
Immediately we came up with a first version with bloody battles, menagement of resources, trade, a huge game board with a ton of tiles and then…..we realized that we created a monster!

We decided to restart, this time using more logic and patience. We wondered which mechanics could help us to recreate a medieval environment full of intrigue where each player could identify with a nobleman, head of a genoese family.
But, what had to do a lord of a genoese family to increase his power? We thought a lot and then we wrote down 4 basic points:
1)Have henchmen to manage all the family activities;
2)Increase his commercial power;
3)Create partnership with more important families;
4)Interact with other families and prevent them from achieving their purposes.
To develop each point we decided to do what we like best….play lot of board games!
We think that if one is not a genius (definetly not our case)then only playing a lot of different games you can discover interesting mechanics to apply to your own creation.


The game core had to be something simple and fast. We didn’t want to make the game boring, we wanted a strong interaction so that the players could enter in conflict with each other as soon as possible!
So we thought to a normal workers placement, in a “german” style, where each player chooses what to do by placing a worker in a well defined area. In this respect Stoneage and Caylus were great examples to follow.
But, in this way the game lacked the interaction between players and feeling of the historical period. Where no one knew exactly what the rival family was going to do “behind the scenes”.

So we started to think how we could resolve the interaction problem and we thought that the interaction works very well in cards game, where players keep secretely the cards in their hand.

Thus we thought of using the cards as characters. However the cards are thin and difficult to grasp from the game board. For this reason we decided to make the characters as tiles and from here came the idea of playing with tiles of thick cardboard, representing the characters to send in Genoa. The tiles are the noble henchmen: they can marry the Lords’ daughters, they can collect money or hire new employees with their unique skills/abilities.

We had our basic mechanics: a worker (as tiles) placement to play as a card game….hmm…not easy!

Another big problem that we faced was “how” to send the tiles to Genoa city, our game board. All players had to be able to place their characters on the game board and then take them secretly in their hand. So, two point arose:
1) When a player places his tiles on the game board, the others can not recognise which tile is. To solve this problem, all tiles’ back must be the same!
2) If the back must be the same, how can a player place them on the board without mix them up?
Concerning the second point, we remembered a vehicle so nice and typical of that time that was impossible to ignore. The coaches of the 16 century!

Using the coaches as delegations we solved two problems:
1) the limit of the number of placement;
2) the “ownership” of the tiles.

After two years of tests and dozens of versions, finally we reached a fair compromise: each player can send his tiles (characters or objects) with three coaches in to the boroughs of Genoa. In each borough the player can make one of the five possible actions. But, also the other players can send their coaches in the same borough interacting with each other using the characters’ special powers.
Thus, the mechanics consists in a worker placement but in each turn it is possible having until three small cards (tiles) games in each borough. The player’s deck of tiles is built by the characters or objects chosen during the game like in a deck building system.


To build the game board we thought: “How to scale the game depending on the number of players?” “Does the game board change?”
We did many prototypes before, to determine which board could be the right one.

Here you can see one of the version of the game board: it is composed by seven hexagons and each hexagon represents an area of the city. The idea was to create a variable board to increase replayability. In each game you could, in fact, choose which area to play with.

But, this versions didn’t convince us. We thought that this board could confuse people and we wanted to design a game with a great graphic experience. Where was Genoa? The feeling to walk between the alleys of Genoa or along the docks?!
Thus, we started to design a game board that could do two things: help the players to place their tiles in a easy way and give the idea to be part of a beautiful Italian city.
We did an accurate study of Genoa during the 16th century.

Thanks to our very talented friend Francesco, we started to design the first layout of our game board. After a day work Genoa was before our eyes!
After an accurate study of the positions of the neighborhoods, we called our artist: Alan D’Amico, who helped us to make our sketch in a true game board full of life

Finally it was possible to see all the areas of the game:
• The five boroughs where the players can send their delegation to take resources, recruit new employees or ask to marry one of the beautiful local Ladies.
• The distant colonies where it is possible to exchange or acquire workers not readily available in Genoa.
• The Doge’s Favor track where it is possible asking for an audience with the Doge and try to obtain his favour.


How to make the tiles? Especially a tile that will be used as a card?
The tile should not be too small otherwise it is not readable. But, it should not be too big otherwise also the game board would be bigger and the box could weigh too much. We became crazy searching for the correct size and thickness. We looked carefully the other board game with workers placement as carcassone family or Lancaster and we decided the the correct size was the same of the Lancaster’s war tiles.

The tiles are used to describe the different conditions and abilities for each character/object:
- The prestige value. Each character has a prestige value on the top-left corner inside a shield and it indicates how the characters is famous and renowned in Genoa.
- The charm value. Each Loyal character has a charm value on the top-right corner inside a ruby and it indicates how much appeal and charm he has.
- The special ability. Each character and object has a unique ability that help to make particular tasks (assasinate, buy, build, steal,….)

We wanted the tiles to be language independent.

Why language indipendent?
Because we love games where there is no text! We think that a card or a tile language independent is more practical. They can be understood by everybody and it is not necessary to print them in different language for each country.

As you can imagine, it is not easy to find the right design of symbols. To help us on this we studied many games that rely heavily on symbols as Smallworld, Roma, Race of the Galaxy, etc..
We think that the result is not bad but we can improve the symbols and make some changes before considering our work finished.


In Genoa during the XVI century and due to the reform of Andrea Doria, the families were linked in 28 Alberghi. Albergo was a term used during the Renaissance to indicate an organizational structure in which several families linked by blood or a common interest banded together.
Therefore, in Genoa, many noble men could gain more power and honor entering in one “Albergo” becoming part of another family, often marrying between each other.

We looked for the surname of the old families and we tried to find out stories and anecdotes about the families. For this reason we decided to give a special power to each family, to differentiate one from the other and giving more feeling to be one of these genoese families!


A special mention for the coaches meeples!
We wanted at all costs to make a game not only with a unique mechanics but also well looking.
The coaches were to become the symbol of our game: unique meeples made exclusively for us!

We created our prototype and we asked to different manufacturer if our coache meeple was feasible. They approved the design but we discovered that the maximum size of custom meeples is 35x25x15 mm and….the bigger they are, the more expensive! We cut and painted more than 200 coaches meeples to send out the prototypes to different reviewers! It has been a huge undertaking but it was worth it! The satisfaction to see them on the reviewers’video around the world is immense!

Final words

Thank you very much for reading the story of our game Brides & Bribes!
The game is on Kickstarter until Oct 4 2016, 11:30 PM CEST. If you are interested and want help us to realize Brides & Bribes, check it out here:

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Mark Stanoch
United States
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Thanks for sharing. It was quite interesting to see how Brides and Bribes developed. The game is truly a labor of love and I for one am quite excited to set it published!
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Pedro Spaceballoongames
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Thanks Mark for you kind words,
We dedicated so much time to this project that to see it become real is truly amazing! from today we are funded on KS! let's see if we can make the game better with some stretch goal!
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