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Subject: Design Diary: The Journey Thus Far rss

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Ben Moy
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It has been almost three years since the idea of Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté was born, and some pretty incredible things have happened because of it, like attending our first full Gen Con (49) as exhibitors and getting to meet some heavy hitters in the industry.

As you can probably imagine, the game itself has seen a couple different iterations since its inception, though with each version we strive to keep the core values intact while offering the best experience we can. The purpose of this post is to more or less catalog our progress in Sabotile's development for your reading pleasure as we continue to refine its gameplay and mechanics.

We would love your advice on how to make Sabotile even more engaging or your perspective on the direction it is headed, and we hope that this read will inform you on some of our [educated] thought processes.

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Version 1 - CUDO Plays


CUDO Plays is the local board game design competition we created Sabotile for in 2015. If you haven't already heard the story, the idea was really birthed at a gamestorming workshop event called the Boardgame Bootcamp, where each team was given a theme and mechanic to run with. Our combination was mystery and tile placement, and that afternoon we walked away with a semblance of Sabotile in tow.

The components of the game have remained mainly unchanged from what we entered to the competition judges, as have the mechanics; it is worth noting that a friend of ours gave us the idea of 'forced' tile-activation, now the backbone of Sabotile. Originally, players had the option on whether or not to flip over and use the tile they landed on but we quickly found that no one would choose to for risk of landing on a trap. This implementation remedied that somewhat but to this day we still see players largely land on the tiles they have placed, which is the most safe and sensible option, but we are looking for how the perception of pushing your luck can be more rewarding.

Also worth noting is the roll-to-move mechanic; Sabotile for a long time had a die that would dictate how many spaces players could move on their turn. The wide swing between 1 and 6 (we had not fabricated a custom die) and frustration of losing to luck prompted us to remove the dice at the end of last year and adopt a new system to be detailed below.

Perhaps the last thing to bring up is the different actions players could take; when entering the competition, there were four: taking a tile from the board and putting it in hand (with a maximum hand size of six); placing a tile from hand anywhere onto the board; picking up a totem; and attempting to steal a totem from another player on the same tile. A little before nixing the dice, two more actions that gave the temple more importance were tested and added: in the very middle, players could claim two new tiles from the deck instead of one off the board or pay/discard a tile from their hand to move a second time that turn.

Slowly, Sabotile was beginning to feed into itself.

Version 2 - "Current"

If Version 1 is the rule set we brought with us to Gen Con last year, then Version 2 is the one that we will bring to Gen Con 50. Consistent across all the below is the new movement system, which is indirectly related to hand size of tiles; i.e. the more tiles you have in hand, the less spaces you can move your player piece on your turn. This is meant to encourage more strategic thinking and give players more control over what they will do on their on turn, instead of waiting to see what number they are given and working with/around it.

The following are all currently being tested; some, all, or none may appear in the final version of Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté:

-Version 2A: Standard. The basic version we will be showing to Indie Boards and Cards at Geekway to the West 2017 later this month; hand-movement, 6 actions.
-Version 2B: Action Point. Each action in the game is given a value, and players spend the action points allotted to them each turn (determined on hand size) to perform the actions. Hand-movement, 6 actions.
-Version 2C: Bridge & Shrine. These next two versions are in the first experimental stages but this one infuses more narrative to the game and makes reaching a totem more challenging. Without tiles immediately surrounding the temple, players must use directional bridges to enter. Based on previous feedback about playing games without seeing nearly any totem contents, a motion to allow players to view a totem they are carrying on a Shrine (Holy Ground) tile was seen.
-Version 2D: Simultaneous Action Phase. To cut down on down-time between turns, potentially changing the game so that all players would perform their chosen actions at the same time is an option just recently being investigated. Phases would follow a certain order (1. Movement, 2. Taking a tile, 3. Placing a tile, etc.) and resolution presumably passing around the table in some way.

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With that, you are up to date in where we are on producing a copy of Sabotile worthy of your table. We would love to go into even more detail in the comments if you have any specific points you would like to go into further.

Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté is currently slated for Geekway to the West, Gen Con, Stonemaier Games Design Day, and Protospiel - Madison; if you will be in attendance at any of these events please do not hesitate to reach out and we can plan to play through some of these possibilities and whatever you would like to bring with you!
 
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