Boardgames in Blighty International TableTop Day Event


Boardgames in Blighty International TableTop Day Event

I sponsored an event for International Table Top Day yesterday and it went really well. To be honest, I didn’t know how many people to expect but guessed that maybe 15 or so would be a good result. I was so pleased to see that around 40 showed up. I made new friends and welcomed a number of non-gamers and I think that everyone had a great time.

Here are some photos  –

First game of the day, Ace of Spies!
Wilderness, a game of survival was enjoyed
Great fun playing Love Letter
The SpyMasters contemplate their next move
Setting up Dominion
Ace of Spies reaching its conclusion
Play testing Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice
A family enjoying a game of Family Business
Building a Big City
On The Road to Canterbury
The kids loved KingBrick
A Coup is underway
Even Fluxx got a look in
New gamers being introduced to Carcassonne
Looney Pyramids
Who will be the King of Tokyo?
Ending the day with Riff Raff, a cool dexterity game

Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 5 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project


Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 5 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project

Promised Land

Designer Diary (part 5)

You may remember that we wanted to create a game for 2-6 players. 4-players is the natural and probably best number for the game, but there’s not a huge number of 6-player games around, particularly in this genre. That wasn’t always the case. History of the World was first produced at a time when playing in larger groups was, I think more common and there were plenty of games to give that opportunity (chicken or egg?). Anyhow, here are some bullet points on making Promised Land work for 2,3,5 and 6 players.

  • As far as possible we wanted the rules and set-up of the game to be the same, irrespective of the number of players.
  • Using more or less kingdoms wasn’t a good option as the game balance and game length would be adversely affected. Therefore, unlike History of the World the game could not ‘self-balance’ i.e. if two players play against three then the two players will have more kingdoms and more turns (three per Book as opposed to two per Book).
  • Card distribution was therefore set as follows:

2 players per team – deal 4 cards and discard 1 (3 cards per Book)

3 players per team – deal 3 cards and discard 1 (2 cards per Book)

1 player per team – deal 6cards and discard 1 (5 cards per Book – 1 less than the norm)

  • Using just two other variables it was possible to give players the same amount of buying power (revenue) and activity (actions).
  • You may recall the revenue rates for Patriarch’s in a 4-player game (2 players on a team):



If the number of players in a team is increased to 3 (i.e. 5 or 6 player games) then these revenues increase:


  • Similarly the number of actions (placing Patriarchs, moving on Kingdom track or Royal track) also increases from 3 actions per turn (2 players in a team) to 4 actions per turn (3 players in a team).
  • If only 1 player is in the ‘team’ then revenue collection remains the same as the 2 player per team. However the number of actions decreases to just 2 per turn. In addition the phases are limited so that in a turn a player may either ‘collect revenue’ or ‘buy Artefact’. The player may not do both.


We anticipate getting this information neatly organised and placed on a crib sheet / card for each player – which will also double as a supply base. No doubt some of the combat rules will also appear there.


Through the post-Christmas period some of the details in the game were modified. The Artefacts fell into two categories; those that had been incorporated into the rondell and whose  problems had long been sorted (e.g. ‘Recruit’, ‘Siege-craft’. ‘Masons’) and those more recent ideas that needed to be honed and also correctly valued (e.g. ‘Alliance’, ‘Warriors’, ‘Capitulation’). Only repeat trialling with different players can knock these into final shape. When solo trialling it’s difficult not to have favourite strategies.


Currently there are no icons to go with the Artefacts; trial tiles are simple with plenty of room to cross out and re-value.


Currently there are no icons to go with the Artefacts; trial tiles are simple with plenty of room to cross out and re-value. Note: the larger square designates an Artefact that may be used throughout the game. Smaller squares show once only use. We will have to show which Artefacts are used in one turn, but where that use may be more than once e.g. ‘Siege-craft’.

This period of solo trialling took the game through the winter months. As Spring approached (it’s still approaching, even now!) so did opportunities to trial again with the Ragnars.


Meanwhile here’s another glimpse of the box-top.



VPG Press Release – For the Crown expansion 1: Shock & Awe released!



VPG Press Release – For the Crown expansion 1: Shock & Awe released!



Tensions mount in the war for the crown, and both sides are turning to new tactics and strange allies. Battlefields are haunted by ghosts, buffeted by invisible forces and wracked by lightning. Armies march under the auspice of statues, and secure formations are breached by attacks from odd directions. Which side will best master these new devices and capture the enemy sovereign?

For our popular deck-building game, For the Crown 2nd edition, comes the first expansion,Shock & Awe, introducing 13 new cards and 10 new unit types to pit against your opponent. Bolster your economy with the Caravan, duplicate key assets with the Changeling, and rule the battlefield with the mighty Amazon. Who has the wit and will to lead these new forces to victory, and who will succumb to Shock and Awe?


Note, the For the Crown Expansion Kit 1: Shock & Awe is not a ‘stand alone’ game. You must own a copy of For the Crown 2nd edition to use this expansion kit. This expansion kit cannot be used with the first edition of For the Crown.

Click here for all the details and to order For the Crown Expansion #1: Shock & Awe.


Out of nowhere comes Carnival Zombie from Albe Pavo and we have an introduction to whet your appetite!



Out of nowhere comes Carnival Zombie from Albe Pavo and we have an introduction to whet your appetite!

Ok, another Zombies game is in the works but this one definitely sounds different! Here is an introduction from the guys from Albe Pavo to get you interested and as the rules become available, I will be doing a preview.

This is the introduction to Carnival Zombie!

The ancient manuscripts speak of a Leviathan. A huge creature lying on the muddy bottom of the Lagoon and on whose back rests the foundation of the city. All manuscripts agree about his eternal sleep and they tell that the beast will wake up one day, shaking the city from its muddy roots, smashing the petrified piles on which it stands and crashing it into the seething sea where the monster will rise. The ancients say, however, that there will be signs. It is written that the Venetians will feel the tremors, that they would therefore save themselves from the monster, who will recover his freedom plunging into the waves with the deserted city.

But there were no signs. What the ancients did not know, is that the Leviathan is not alive. For centuries, the city lived and prospered on the back of a corpse. Now that corpse began to awake. And with it the dead arise from the Lagoon.

In CARNIVAL ZOMBIE Players lead a group of Characters fleeing to the mainland, away from the terror emerging from the Lagoon. CARNIVAL ZOMBIE is a cooperative game where players win or lose together as the enemy is the game itself.

The Group of Characters must make their way through hordes of rotting “Infected” to leave the city. Players must, however, make haste: the Leviathan, upon which the foundations of Venice are built, is awakening and it is only a matter of time before the city sinks in the dark waters of the Lagoon.

Each game is divided into several nights and days. During the nights, Players will fortify behind the Barricades to resist the attacks of the Infected. They will instead move through the city shaken by tremors during the day, when the Infected are recalled by the groans of the Leviathan into the abyss, to help their master freeing himself from rotting piles that nail him to the muddy bottom.

Players will have several ways to get out of town, but little time to do it. And their path is hindered by the Boss, the most implacable servants of Leviathan.

If the Players get out, they can assess their skills by counting the points scored during the game.


Interesting… I look forward to hearing more about Carnival Zombie.


Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 4 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project


Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 4 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project

Promised Land

Designer Diary (part 4)

Nick Case had a burst boiler or radiator or maybe it was just a pipe. Whatever … Nick had to cry off a games’ evening at Peter’s. And so it was that Nick received an invitation to trial Promised Land.  Nick has had several traumatic experiences in recent years when rolling dice (though he used to role play with the best of them). So much so, that he now has a general rule NOT to play games where dice are involved. We were delighted when he accepted.

Peter was also invited and he’d had a ‘thought’; would Promised Land benefit from an introductory game that helped players initial understanding – provided this ‘basic game’ had intrinsic worth. Why not? And (if it could be designed in time) why not trial it with Nick straight away?

Peter’s initial suggestion was to reduce the number of turns, but personally I regard learning the game shape (Hebrew expansion and decline) as absolutely vital. A better idea would be to reduce complexity by stripping out the Patriarchs and the collecting of revenue; thereby the Artefacts and Royal track must also be jettisoned. What’s left is the dancing inter-play of the various kingdoms as they gain and lose control of land. The objectives of the Kingdom track remain in play, but each tile is worth just 1 victory point each. Similarly the weaker cards are worth just 1 victory point each, their cumulative effect being ignored.

With only a few days to go, several solo games were squeezed in. Two surprisingly major changes were made:

  • The Kingdom track was extended to include all twelve tiles.
  • Collecting revenue for cities, temples and the Ark was re-introduced; only the gold coins would be needed. Five coins of a type, in a player’s ‘treasury’ at game end is worth 1 victory point (that’s a general rule I should have mentioned earlier).

There was one other major development that had occurred since Peter’s previous trial. The choosing of Kingdoms had been a perennial concern going way back. In previous incarnations there had been experiments with moving along a time-line in measured leaps. With the consolidation of Books of nine cards and the determining of ‘weaker cards’, the last hurdle was in getting the distribution of the cards into an elegant formula. We had tried a system something akin to that in 7 Wonders; look at a dealt hand, choose one card, pass the hand on. But with only three cards to examine (in a 4-player game) the system was over-weight. Finally a solution emerged – again, the description is for the 4-player game:

Deal four Book 1 cards respectively to each Heathen and each Hebrew player. Each player then discards one card back to the supply.

Infuriatingly simple! If there happens to  be three players in a team (5 and 6 player games) then deal three cards each (that’s all nine cards) and discard one.

I haven’t included any images as yet, so here’s a close-up section from the box-top.


Why we already have box-top art-work is another story …. but I’ll include some other images from it as we go.

So Nick and Peter joined us and we fairly romped through the Introductory game. Nick demonstrated the paucity of his dice rolling, but achieved better results once he started rubbing the dice on his cheek (?!?). Immediate response: perhaps not enough meat on the bone for the well-seasoned gamer, but real value in suggesting some might like to try these rules first. Nick was keen to return and try the full version.

The rules of the two versions now meshed closely. From a designing point of view, having this kind of challenge is very stimulating. It forces you to look at the essential mechanisms, how they are constructed and how best they might be de-constructed to help teach the game. In the course of doing this, good alterations are inevitably going to be made.

Nick’s reluctance to use dice presented another continuing challenge. Ragnar Brothers style is typified by careful planning being married to calculated luck – ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. It’s not to everyone’s taste and indeed RB games have generally moved towards chance-reduced design (e.g. Kings and Castles, Canal Mania, Workshop of the World). Providing a no-dice alternative for Promised Land seemed like a good idea and by extending the new Over-run rules it was easily achieved. The rule writing for these is still in the clumsy stage, but if you’ll forgive this, here’s what you need to conquer defensive positions:

2 dice   –   spend an extra 1 unit if +1,   2 units if +2,   3 units if +3. (i.e 1: 1)

1 dice –   spend an extra 2 units if +1,   3 units if +2,   4 units if +3. (i.e 1: 1  +1)

3 dice –  spend an extra 1 unit if +1,   2 units if +2,   3 units if +3.  However may conquer TWO such lands (of the same defence and same terrain type). (i.e. 1: 1 x2 lands)

Played solo this system works well. At time of writing I await a suitable opportunity to try them in company – watch this space.

Here’s another close-up part of the box art-work to conclude.





Victory Point Games Press Release – Star Borders: Humanity 2nd edition has launched!


 Victory Point Games Press Release – Star Borders: Humanity 2nd edition has launched!


In Star Borders: Humanity 2nd edition, two factions: the Grand Imperium and the Free Allianceare fighting to establish control of a contested (if not particularly important) ‘backwater’ region of the galaxy. Each player represents the commander of one faction’s forces. Unfortunately, each player’s position as a Governor / Viceroy / Satrap is tenuous in relation to their larger civilization which is why you were assigned here, to the armpit of space and with scant resources, instead of to your glorious core worlds controlling the newest and best forces.

Click here for all the details and to order Star Borders: Humanity 2nd edition.


Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 3 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project

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!