Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news – Ragnar Brothers will be launching a new project for their latest game, DRCongo


Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter news – Ragnar Brothers are will be launching a new project for their latest game, DRCongo

My friends, the Ragnar Brothers are at it again. Seriously, they can’t help themselves but to create yet another game on an interesting topic.

The game is called DRCongo and will be coming to Kickstarter soon.  If you are a Ragnar Brothers fan, get your cash ready. If not, this looks like a great place to jump on board. In any case, I will post a note here when I know when the project will go live…

From Boardgamegeek –

The game explores a hopeful hypothesis that if enlightened industrialists worked to develop the economy of this mighty country then it would escape the clutches of a crippling insurgency.
Players build industries and expand a transport net-work of river, rail and roads. Oil, minerals and crops are produced and if sold via the Atlantic port of Matadi will reap rich reward. Players develop their own cities and Hydro-electricity can be sold to these.
The game is built in four game layers with layer two introducing Insurgents and Peace-keepers, layer three the Government and layer four strategic interventions by other countries.

The art looks truly lovely as you can see from the images I’ve posted here.


Designer’s notes have been posted here –

I asked Steve Kendall a few questions which he has answered below.

1) The wargamer in me wants to play the insurgency bit of course so my first question is why did you go down the road of an economic game rather than a political/military struggle? Any thoughts in terms of the rising influence of radical islamist groups in Africa? 

You’ll have to leave your war-gaming instincts behind, Mark. The game was always set to explore the economic potential of the country and we wanted the Insurgents to be seen as a brake on this happening, rather than the central issue of the game. It’s difficult to fathom the political / military turmoil of this tragic country and we have been very quick to emphasise that we are NOT trying to make play out of an on-going conflict. That said, I think we should also point out that in the game (as at present in the country) there isn’t an out and out war going on. ‘Insurgent’ was the best term we could find as description, but we also considered ‘Bandits’ and ‘Militia’, both of which are perhaps a little less political.

Just to say that at game start there is one Insurgent playing piece (Major or Minor) per province and that players use their Peace-keepers (of which they have just five) to ‘suppress’ an Insurgent by simply being in the same province. Players may also make a simple dice roll to try to eliminate an Insurgent – or lose their Peace-keeper should they fail.

Radical Islamists? No.

 2) Can you enlighten us with an overview of the current and potential future economic, political and insurgency situation and who the players are? 

The players in the game are ‘Industrial Barons’. I like this term because players have to carve out their position across the map-board in quite a free-booting way – they can do their business in any province. Building industries is restricted by the spaces available in each of the ten provinces. Some have two spaces, most have three and Katanga (the great mining area) has four. Not even Katanga has just one type of industry, so there is always a mix between Crops, Hydro (electricity), Minerals and Oil. Furthermore there are ‘single’ and ‘double’ production spaces.

The Insurgents of course are the fly in the ointment. In order to build an industry at least one Peace-keeper must be present to suppress or eliminate any Insurgent there present. Similarly the Barons may place transports and develop cities, but are always hampered if Insurgents are in affected provinces. It’s probably best to point out that three Insurgents appear each phase as dictated by the current Action card.

The economy is always tending to improve – and quite rapidly. In the first phase cycles the Barons will be scratching around for a few $1000 dollars here and there. Later in the game a single type of resource can bring in over $15,000. The reason for this tremendous increase is the driving development within the game; the opening up of transport routes (rivers and railways) to the Atlantic port of Matadi. All resources exported through the port earn the full revenue value as dictated by the International Market. Resources that don’t reach the coast are exported ‘over-land’ i.e. through neighbouring countries and thereby earn only half the revenue value. Worse still, some resources can’t reach the over-land routes and must sell to the Local Market, receiving hundreds instead of thousands of dollars.

There are four ‘layers’ to the game and the rules are therefore divided into four different games, each later one building on the previous systems. The third game introduces the Government. Players must bid to take the role of one of three Ministers: Defence Minister (operating Government Peace-keepers), Interior Minister (buying and operating Government industries and transports, selling any Government resources and developing Government cities) and Finance Minister (adjusting resource values on the International Market). I wouldn’t say it’s very political, but it works well and builds player interaction. The Interior Minister is able to siphon off Government funds – this feels sadly appropriate.

 3) Any chance of an option for a player to represent the insurgency?

No. It might be best to compare the character of the game to that of Viking Fury (Fire & Axe). Players have a common aim; in this case to build the industries and transports of DRCongo and thereafter (and during) to develop cities. Throughout the game, players will help each other in the struggle against the Insurgency. Of course players vie with each other to maximise their score (‘medals’), but never actually conflict. ‘Support cards’ are generally beneficial, but there are some that can be used to hinder other players – and to target a ‘tall poppy’. The Insurgents have no constructive role in the game – I’m afraid you can’t be the Colditz Security Officer!

4) What influenced your design choices for this game? Any tips of the hat to your Angola game? 

We have always enjoyed economic building games and I suppose our games Canal Mania and Workshop of the World are pre-cursors to some extent. However the route building in DRCongo is quite restricted with just four boat counters and three railway counters to place between all players – that’s the total, no more. Players can also place a couple of trucks each onto borders, but this is often a last turn play in order to gain a cheap medal.

We had been playing Planet Steam and I was fascinated by the way the market for resources worked in that game – quite chaotic, yet also strangely logical. That was certainly an influence.

Most design choices sprang from the necessities encapsulated in the theme – so jump to the next question.

Angola? No – although Angola is one of the forty countries represented by the Support cards.

 5) It’s nice to see you guys choosing yet another obscure theme. How did this come about? Tell us about your inspiration.

I read a book called Blood River, written by Tim Butcher. The journey he made down the Congo river (following in the adventures of his forbear, Henry Stanley) mirrored a trip I made up the river some fifteen years earlier. Things had got worse it seems – and it was pretty bad when I travelled.

 Most Ragnar Brothers’ games are driven by a real sense of passion for a theme and DRCongo probably heads that list. I probably spend too much time designing games (my wife would certainly agree) and feel a certain amount of guilt that I should be doing something more useful, if not more altruistic. This is one game (History of the World would be another) where I hope some learning and thereby some good might come about. 

I digress….. of course the designer in me couldn’t resist the elements of play that Tim Butcher inadvertently pointed out; the potential wealth of the country, four different resource types, the defunct transport system, the need to access the Atlantic port, the Insurgent menace …..

6) Do you design with mechanics first or theme first, and why. Any particular innovations?

Theme drives our designing. I’ve tried starting from abstractions (abstract themes or isolated mechanics) and always find myself grasping for a ‘story’ like a drowning man. Any innovation in our games spring from the needs of the theme. Generally we assemble lots of mechanics gleaned from the hundreds of games we have played recently or in the past. This isn’t done in any conscious way, we just find what we need and stick bits together. However we always try to make the games ‘elegant’, by which I mean things should run sweetly and smoothly – but ‘character’ elements are also very welcome. 

Innovation in DRCongo ? Not certain. How about ….

  • Players can use each others’ transports free of charge – that’s quite unusual. It prevents lots of small (and dull and ultimately meaningless) transactions
  • Industries ‘flip’ to produce resources or to help develop cities
  • Hydro sells to cities
  • International Market / Local Market variables
  • Players who ‘drop out’ last, go first (not at all common, that one!).

7) What are your Kickstarter and publication plans and timeline?

 We’re on schedule to Kickstart mid-January. Hopefully Christmas will not have left everyone skint. In order to produce a better video demo we paid rather a large sum to have a ‘digital sample’ made up. This has proved very useful and with blind testing also going on we are confident that the final product is going to be great. More-over it won’t take that long to produce given that the art-work and rules should be totally finished before the end of the Kickstarter. Games should be ready to send to customers by early summer (and that’s 2015 folks!).

Advertising will happen on BoardgameGeek and we will also flag up the project via social media. The target is due to be set at £10,000 – which doesn’t cover our costs, but we really want to get this game out. It will be a tremendous addition to the Ragnar Brothers portfolio.

Oh and ‘yes’, there will be a cloth map available in the Super Deluxe game!

Steve Kendall – Ragnar Brothers


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