News – Promised Land 1250 – 587 BC Up-date!

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Promised Land up-date 

Pre-order Promised Land to reach target to fund the Wooden Ark!

We are trying to keep the ‘kettle boiling’ in order to encourage pre-sales to reach the third stretch goal (wooden Ark). Details for ordering can be found on the Ragnar Brothers web-site http://www.ragnarbrothers.co.uk/  We’re also trying to create space for storage by selling ‘bundles’ of our games – much as we did at UK Games Expo. Details of this also on the site.

Design final touches

Now where did we get to…. ? It seems a long time already since UK Games Expo and the end of the Kickstarter campaign. During this period we have had a series of games with Peter, Chris and Nick where we tested with 5-player and the no-dice system. Meanwhile Phil has had a separate trial in the north and the three of us (RBs) have been trying to tighten up the rules. This is typical of Ragnar activity as a game nears production and I suppose we should be more relaxed about the chaotic feel; but being fastidious is central to getting the quality right.

Peter and Nick were roundly thrashed playing the Heathens and complained un-reservedly that they were not to blame. And they were right. Trialling solo is extremely useful, but understanding game balance needs other players to contribute. In this instance, it wasn’t that the Heathens couldn’t win, but that those playing the Heathens felt they couldn’t win. With many of the Heathen points coming in the last Book and in the game epilogue, the resulting experience was of feeling disempowered through the majority of the game.

As with many good modifications, the changes made resulted in the game / rules becoming more straight-forward and elegant. In this case, the key change has been that the number of Patriarchs placed at game start by the Heathens has increased from three to six . And instead of being purely in Canaanite lands, the Start-lands of other kingdoms have become permissible for placement.

Secondly the initial allocation of Artefacts was tidied up. Whereas before a player drew 3 points worth of Artefacts (which might mean drawing 1,2 or even 3 Artefacts), a player now simply draws one Artefact and then takes coins depending on the strength of that Artefact. After the trial with P, N and C, the number of coins increased to 2 / 4 / 6 with 1 point / 2 point / 3 point Artefacts respectively.  The inherent balance of this system is a big improvement.

Having addressed the ‘front’ of the game, attention then switched to the end of the game. Here there was a major puzzle to be worked out. For many tests, the values of Weaker cards had fluctuated. In the P,N,C trial the formula progressed as 2 points / 6 points / 12 points / 20 points / 30 points / 40 points etc. This was very radical in order that a player using Weaker cards throughout the game would have a reasonable chance of winning.  However, the high increments meant that a player would always be driven to take these cards as a best option, sacrificing other opportunities that would be more entertaining to play. This is counter to a basic Ragnar Brothers premise; enable players to have a good time!

And so … the ability to win by a pure Weaker card strategy has been ditched. Once this happened, a few other anomalies were ironed out; notably that some Weaker cards were of the same unit value as some non-Weaker cards. Nick was rather put out by this, particularly  as his 3 point Philistines gained him no advantage, despite being no better than the 3 point Moabite Weaker card.  The modified system is that any 2 unit card is worth 3 points, any 3 unit card is worth 2 points and any 4 unit card is worth 1 point. Simple!

At game end , points had been awarded for Patriarchs on the map. This rather muddied the waters with regard to Patriarchs, as their function throughout the game is simply to garner revenue, which in turn generates points through Artefact purchasing and movement on the Royal track. These functions are still important in the last player turns, so why have points attached to Patriarchs in addition? Answer: only to give Heathens extra points at game end.  With the Heathens now more revenue rich from game start, this could also be axed. Consequently the game end is neater and the Score pad has one less row of additions.

Somewhere around the same time, a fresh look was made of the Remnant rules. Again, the Heathens no longer need the final boost that had been available, but the Hebrews seemed to need something more to make them commit to a final defence (rather than cashing in early and heading out of town).  An idea from way back has been restored; the Hebrews collect points equivalent to the revenue value of whatever they hold on to. e.g. a temple in a city on a road in the hills would score 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 (5 points). Each land held thereby contributing more or less in a similar way.

You may remember that it was Peter who had suggested devising an introductory / shorter game. For some time this ‘Kingdom Game’  had sat on a page on its own, towards the end of the provisional rule book. With so many changes would the game balance of this game be affected? A quick solo trial revealed this to be the case. Moreover the game felt ‘like butter spread too thin’.  OK, some inexperienced gamers might have found it adequate, but anyone playing it as a first encounter with the game, might not come back. So the Kingdom Game  has been axed and the rules are a page shorter.

Several of the Artefacts have been tweaked:

Treaty is more simple and less punitive for the attacker.

Treachery becomes a single three dice attack (previously this Artefact had been of little or no worth to the Heathens).

More importantly the Royal Track token ‘Justice’ was proving too powerful and therefore too influential in determining player strategy. Being able to make an extra action each turn meant players could speed along either of the two tracks and gave the scoring a predictable sameness in many trials. Also the extra action proved a regular banana skin as players mis-calculated in turn after turn. Justice has therefore been reduced to ‘Place one Patriarch for free each turn’. Good move.

And that’s about it …. so far. To paraphrase an artist whose name I know not; ‘A board-game is never finished, only aborted’. So I anticipate more alterations before the game goes to print and no doubt some superior modifications after that. We try our best and keep trying.

Steve Kendall

Below are some images from Vicki Paull

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