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