Made in Britain Designer’s Diary Part 6 – Ragnar Brothers are working on Promised Land for a Kickstarter project
Designer Diary (part 6)
Phil joined us for the week-end. He had meant to bring down costumes so that we could start videoing for a Kickstarter presentation. True to form, he forgot the hats. Never-the-less the three Ragnars (i.e. the three of us who run Ragnar Brothers) sat down for a morning of trialling.
The three player version hasn’t been played too many times (not even in solo plays), so this was a good opportunity. We decided to play with dice as this would be new to Phil (remarkably, Phil hasn’t played the game at all since summer 2012). Explaining the rules didn’t take too long and away we went.
Ragnar Brothers trial games quite often and with quite a wide range of folks who are prepared to help. However, there can be no doubt that nothing compares to trialling with just the three of us (or throw in a few of the other Ragnars). Any such game gets a ‘damned good Ragnaring’ – and some don’t survive. I’m glad to say that on this occasion Promised Land held up very well under the strain. There were however some moments of contention:
1. Gary disliked the terrain restriction that occurred in the 2 dice over-run rules.
2. Siege-craft and Treachery seemed too strong when coupled with the 3 dice over-run.
3. Having to collect weaker cards from one of two colours sets, seemed un-necessarily complicated. I don’t think I have actually explained this part of the mechanics – for precisely the same reason!
Otherwise the game played to a close finish with Phil (Heathen 1) beating Steve (Hebrews) into second place. Gary (Heathen 2) was some way back having failed to negotiate chits on the Kingdom track.
Initially the ‘contentions’ above were quietly forgotten. But a follow up solo trial (aimed at checking play balance in the 3-player game) high-lighted the same disquiet. ‘Over-run’ as a term also didn’t feel to sit well. The up-shot was to change the terminology to ‘Force Victory’ and to introduce the ‘Half unit’ mechanism. Basically, instead of paying one extra unit to conquer two lands of the same terrain, a player now pays half a unit for each land. One unit is paid and placed on the Half unit space on the Combat Modifier chart; if a second half unit is spent then the unit on the space is removed to the supply. This allows the lands to be conquered non-consecutively and they can be different terrain types.
A quick fix for the weaker card contention, was to make each such card worth 3 pts – simple, can’t think why it was anything other.
And so to the Ragnar Bash. This annual event is held in a converted farmhouse, high on the hills of Staffordshire. Twelve Ragnars and associates turn up from North, South, East – but not West – and a good variety of games, quizzes, meals, banter and boozing takes place. Promised land was brought along on the off-chance that some might be prepared to trial it. If this sounds a little negative, please bear in mind that different versions of Promised Land have been turning up at the Bash for something like…. twenty years! As it happened three volunteers were happy to be rounded up. Jason and Nick had certainly played in the dim and distant past and Charlie had played about a year earlier. So this Promised Land would be relatively new to all. It was agreed to play with dice.
From the start it was clear that some things weren’t clear! Jason in particular found it hard to comprehend the differing roles of units and Patriarchs, particular because of the close colour-coding in the mock-up. Playing red, he naturally associated with the Southern Hebrew kingdom and only gradually realised that his interests also lay with the yellow Northern kingdom. Even the pawns on the Kingdom and Royal tracks caused him confusion – perhaps he’d drunk a little too much on the Saturday.
None-the-less the game progressed well. When Nick announced he had to leave at 12.00 noon, the pace was successfully increased and the game played through to a close (and un-expected) conclusion.
Charlie had some helpful comments:
1. Much better than when he last played.
2. Liked using the dice.
3. Progress along the Kingdom track was a little predictable.
4. The Royal track could be developed.
And that led to the following changes:
1. The Kingdom track chits to be placed totally randomly (not 1pts first, then 2pts then 3pts)
2. Three chits added to the Royal track and each chit to be individually valued.
When trialling these changes solo, a couple of other rules were further developed.
1. If two Heathen nations become adjacent then they become united as one kingdom. This may make a significant difference to achieving a Kingdom track chit.
2. When moving on the Royal track, the benefit of a chit can be immediately used i.e. in that turn.
Such is the nature of designing a game; one change leads to another. And a key thing to look out for (as in this case) is that the rules overall actually reduce in complexity and length.
Finally, we have just received some initial sketches from artist Vicki Paul. Looking good!