Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 3 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project
Promised Land – Designer Diary (part 3)
By the time Paul Bruce and Peter Champion joined us on a Ragnar Games-night, the game had made two significant leaps forward. For some while Gary had toted the idea of specific short term objectives, something akin to those in Ancient Conquest (now there’s a game from the past). For example, ‘Conquer Jerusalem’ or ‘Smite a Midianite’. Because the suggested examples tended to be very specific, I must admit that I confined the idea to the long grass. However when playing Tzolk’in (back to the present again), the variety of strategy within that game made quite an impression.
Introducing more general objectives (that the active kingdom might achieve in any one turn) seemed like a good idea and the twelve objectives needed were quickly determined. Grouped in fours, the first set are each valued at 1 victory point, the next 2 points and the final set are each 3 points. Three of each are randomly placed on a track starting with the 1 points, then 2 pts and then 3pts. This randomisation added further variety game to game.
The choice to move along the track was set against the option to Place Patriarch, with a player having two options (‘actions’) per turn. As with ‘Un-used units’ the fail safe action of ‘Collect coin’ was also incorporated.
Almost immediately after this track materialised, another one appeared. Like the ‘Kingdom track’ the ‘Royal track’ had been an idea waiting its time. Amidst the original Artefacts had been two that gave a distinct strategic advantage. One of these ‘Royal Powers’ allowed a player to buy 2 Artefacts per turn , the other allowed a player to play 2 Artefacts per turn – and their usage was permanent. Whenever I trialled the game I found myself willing players to buy one of these, to see if they could really profit. Inevitably their usage was not as spectacular as I had hoped.
Placing them within a random placement of five tiles on the Royal track also introduced two elements that had been lurking in the shadows for some time:
- To progress along the track a player has to pay a combination of the three types of coin.
- The three other tiles (Palaces) are allocated with victory point bonuses.
Moving along this track now became a fourth option in the action phase.
During the trial with Paul and Peter, Book 1 was played with just two actions per turn and though this had a ‘tight’ feel, the game was not developing quickly enough. By agreement the number of actions was increased to three per turn; which worked more satisfactorily.
Sometime before this, another issue had surfaced and a resolution found. At game end it was often of no advantage for the Heathen player to conquer all the Hebrew lands. This not only failed to describe the history, but also meant the game played out rather more slowly, with players looking to maximise points rather than driving to a conclusion of conquest. A simple formula was introduced:
If Hebrews occupy 5 lands: Hebrews score 5 points each, Heathens score 0 points
If Hebrews occupy 4 lands: Hebrews score 4 points each, Heathens score 1 point each
If Hebrews occupy 3 lands: Hebrews score 3 points each, Heathens score 2 points each
If Hebrews occupy 2 lands: Hebrews score 2 points each , Heathens score 3 points each
If Hebrews occupy 1 lands: Hebrews score 1 point each, Heathens score 4 points each
If Hebrews occupy 0 lands: Hebrews score 0 points, Heathens score 5 points each
Paul and Peter enjoyed the trial and requested and played a second game. Their thoughts on possible developments filtered out slowly (Paul wrote me an e-mail some two months later!). However, our experience with trialling is that if anything feels remotely wrong, simply get on and try to fix it. The main concern in these trials was that there was rather too much dice rolling, which in turn added un-necessary length to the game.
This is familiar territory for Ragnar Brothers and anyone who has played A Brief History of the World (and any of its forbears) will know of the system changes made to reduce the number of dice rolls, whilst maintaining similar combat / conquest outcomes. We had already adopted some dice roll mechanisms from BHOTW and so we would prefer to find a different mechanism for Promised Land.
Starting from the notion that the Assyrians (and any other 3 dice attacker) should have no difficulty conquering any unit without a +1 defence, the following ‘over-run’ system was developed for attacks against any such un-protected unit:
3 dice – simply replace the defending unit with the attacking unit
1 dice – spend an extra ONE and then replace the defending unit with the attacking unit
2 dice – spend an extra ONE and then replace the defending units in TWO lands (of the same terrain type)
Any attacks against +1 / +2 / +3 defence would continue to be resolved by dice roll.
Solo games of this system were considerably more satisfying. We now needed someone to join us for a another game; someone who preferably had an historic aversion to dice!