Absence makes the mind go wander

It’s been about 2 months since Collin and I last met to work on this. Work, summer, and family time keeps us busy. But down time on a project is seldom a complete waste for me. I have some of my best ideas when I’m not actively working on something.

Case in point: I had some huge ideas today that seemed to pull this game right into focus for me.

In search of a theme to tie it all together

We toyed around with the idea that players are Greek gods looking down as they create the world out of nothingness, but without any real conviction and nothing was really fleshed out or integrated with the mechanisms in the game. What follows is a conversation I had with myself today:

The gods are competing with one another for…. what? Points? Victory points. Since when do gods care about victory points?

They don’t.

Okay, fine. Then what do gods care about?

…belief? Faith. Gods care about people believing in them. Belief in a god is what gives the god power. The gods are competing to have the most believers / followers!

How would I show “followers”? A point tracker? No, that’s just points again.

Meeples. What if the god places meeples on the map and the population of meeples in that god’s color are their score? As the game progresses, the map will communicate the state of things by the huge swaths of blue meeples following Poseidon and the narrow bands of red meeples following Ares.

That’s pretty good. You should do this for a living!

At this point, I started writing the idea to Collin. We chatted a bit back and forth and it sounds like this is the direction we’re going.

Coming into focus / What is this game?

We don’t have a title yet, and the theme is just a rough draft, but the elevator pitch is as follows:

___________ is a tactical tile placement game of gods competing to create the world, accumulate followers, complete quests, and reap the rewards. The god with the most influence at the end of the game, wins. 30-60 minutes, 2-4 players, ages 8+.

How does it play? On your turn, you place a landscape tile adjacent to other tiles in a shared landscape map (like Carcassonne, but with hexagons).

If the tile you place satisfies one of the conditions described on a card in your hand, you may resolve that card to gain one of the rewards shown.

These rewards give you:

  • a one-time benefit
  • an on-going ability (like the action tiles in Kingdom Builder, see below)
  • more followers in your supply
  • the option to place or move followers on the map
  • allow you to draw additional tiles or cards
  • etc.
  • If you choose an on-going ability reward, socket the card under your player board like so…
Example of one of the Kingdom Builder action tiles players can earn in the game, giving them additional abilities on future turns. This particular action tile allows a player to add a new settlement at the end of a straight line row of 3 existing settlements. Over the course of a game of Kingdom Builder, a player might accumulate 4 or 5 of these action tiles, giving them an assortment of extra powers on their turns. This is similar to how the on-going ability reward of the cards in our game would work.

How should the game feel?

  • Quick, tactical turns with satisfying card combo chains leading to extra actions or other rewards.
  • Some short and long term strategic thinking, but primarily a tactical skirmish.
  • Not as cerebral as Chess and a smidge more than Carcassonne or Kingdom Builder, ideally sharing the same quick turns.
  • Players should feel excited to place a tile and nervous about tiles their opponent might place.
  • Players should feel that their choices had an impact (on where they placed tiles as well as which cards they chose to complete to propel them to victory)
  • Players should feel a sense of growth as the game goes on, as their god board gains new abilities, giving them greater and greater strength in relation to their growing following of meeples on the map.
  • There should be some exciting tension in calculating the points at the end. It should not be 100% obvious who won before the game is over.
  • When the game is over, players should enjoy looking at the unique map they’ve created together.
  • It should play in about 40 minutes for 2 players with a quick setup and tear down.

How do you win?

Most points wins. (yes, I know I said no points, but everything is points one way or another)

How do you earn points?

  • During the game:
    • choose the point reward when you resolve a card. (not sure about this yet)
    • perform some action that your specific god cares about that earns immediate points. (not sure about this yet)
  • At the end of the game:
    • 1 point for each of your own followers on the map (or for territory they control like in Fjords?).
    • half a point for each follower still in your supply.
    • personal scoring criteria from special cards you earned during the game. (maybe)
    • personal scoring criteria unique to your god.
      • Example: Poseidon earns an extra point for each follower on or adjacent to water.
Fjords is a tile placement game where Vikings explore and settle an island. The clan controlling the most territory at the end of the game is the winner.

Still working on the tiles

I’ve made another version of the tile set, but after playing around with it for a bit, I can already see some problems. The X roads and mostly-water tiles tend to be problematic. I think I’ll try removing them and swapping in simpler stuff to see if tile placement is more flexible. I haven’t had a chance to meet with Collin, so this is mostly just me messing around on my own. I shared a few iterations with him and he had some good ideas. I’m trying not to do too much until we can get things on the table again.

Version 2… Collin liked the simplicity of the singular icons. It’s more easily readable.
Version 3: A step closer to a more cohesive landscape, but …still not quite right.

Action Items

I’ll keep working on tiles until I have a set that works together smoothly. I might try ditching roads and opting for mountain ranges instead. And I’ll type up some ideas in a spreadsheet to help Collin create the deck of cards. We’ll probably meet next in early October.

Question for the Audience:

Might it be more interesting to have gods from multiple pantheons competing to see who is the best?

You can play using just the Greek deck, or just the Norse deck, or just the Celtic deck… or you can shuffle them all together and randomly have Odin duke it out with Aphrodite, each bringing some unique god power and scoring method to the table, resulting in variable twists on strategic approaches in each play of the game.