Sorry for the delay. We had a long string of sick children and spouses that kept us from meeting, mixed with scheduling conflicts, after school activities, and family events. It happens. I also said goodbye to my 14-1/2 year old Labrador Retriever. I’ve been trying to pull myself out of a pit of grief and fight off apathy in the hopes of reigniting my own ambitions, or at least trying focus on creating things again while I work through Barley’s absence.

Collin and I started early on a Saturday morning. It had been so long, we had to review where we left off.

Where were we?

Quick Summary: Place tiles to a shared landscape map. Add followers to the tiles you just placed. Earn points for completing landscape features (forests, mountain ranges). Construct temples by surrounding them with a meeple majority to unlock one of your 4 unique god powers on your player board. Sacred Sites act like Carcassonne cloisters + cathedrals, surround and complete to earn big points.

If your tile placement resolves one of the cards in your hand, cash it in for an instant reward.

Playtest #1

Cards were a mixed bag.

With the way things were set up, we each kept gaining cards and tiles in our hands, allowing us more control over how to interweave them and more control over tile placement (which is a very good thing), but it also slowed the turns down quite a bit because we had so much to noodle over (not so great).

Our game group has been trying to come to terms with randomness in games. We’re very sensitive to it — unreasonably so. I happened to draw cards that allowed me to trigger multiple cards on a single turn for most of the game, which felt pretty good. It proved that the card combo idea can work, but Collin had a hand of 7 cards that were useless to him for each of the 5 tiles in his hand, for almost the entire game. Not so great.

We could both see that the cards were pulling our focus away from the map and away from our god powers / player boards.


  • Ditch the cards entirely and try again, see how it feels. (Stick with me)

Temples vs. Sacred Sites

Having Temples and Sacred Sites felt redundant. Temples are Sacred Sites, by definition. In the end, they were fighting with the temples for attention and importance.

Having every Temple or Sacred Site provide the same effect felt flat and uninteresting.

We weren’t drawing Temples very often from a stack of 100 tiles. This is not great when the temples are important to the gameplay. Because Temples weren’t being drawn from the stack, we weren’t able to unlock our god powers by claiming temples.

Sacred Sites mimicking Cloisters is lame and uninspired. We experimented with Sacred Sites behaving like action tiles in Kingdom Builder. For every Sacred Site you occupy, you gain that site’s special action to use on subsequent turns.

Temples and Sacred Sites that require a mountain connection on all six edges might be impossible to place. They look cool, but it stinks when you can’t add them to the map when you’re supposed to.


  • Ditch Temples. Just have Sacred Sites. Alliteration is fun.
  • Sacred Sites appear predictably at 10 points, 20 points, 40 points, and 50 points on the score track. The player who was the first to reach those score milestones gets to place the Sacred Site tile and must place it as close to where they just earned points.
  • Sacred Sites only ever have 6 grass edges, which are always much easier to place.
  • Each Sacred Site offers a different effect.
    • Race: 1st / 2nd / 3rd meeple to arrive earns 15 / 10 / 5 points
    • Menu: first come first served from a menu of rewards. When your meeple arrives, socket them over the reward you choose.
    • Area Control: whoever has the most meeples on this hex at the end of the game earns 15 / 10 / 5 points.
    • etc.

Ownership of territory is important

We quickly discovered that if you aren’t claiming territory when you place a tile, and only rewarding points when those territories are “completed”, then it’s arbitrary which player completes them and where the points go. This is another situation where the Carcassonne DNA seems hardcoded in this type of game. At this point, I can’t see a better path forward than just using the same system, so we’ll use it for now. I’ve got it on my radar, though. It would be nice if we came up with something special here.


  • Each player has a set number of flags that they can use to claim territory when they place a tile.
  • Same Carcassonne rules apply about not placing a flag into a region already containing another flag.
  • When you complete a region, you earn 1 point per hex of the completed terrain type, you remove your flag.

Bring the gods into the spotlight

We weren’t really paying any attention to the player boards because Temples weren’t appearing. At this point in time, the only way to unlock a god power was to claim a temple. With no temple to claim (because one wasn’t drawn), we both sat with our powerless gods.

Rather than have their unlockable abilities be tied to Temples, we decided to reconnect them to the notion that a god’s strength is increased by the measure of belief among their followers. The more meeples in your color on the map, the stronger you become.


  • Each god power is unlocked when the meeples below it are taken off the player board and added to the world.
    • PROBLEM: but this creates a situation where you’re incentivized to complete tiny, 2-hex areas as much as possible so as to get your 10 meeples out on the map and unlocking all of your god powers as fast as possible.
      • SOLUTION: Each god power has a terrain-size requirement. In order to remove the meeple from a specific space of your player board, you must complete a terrain that meets or exceeds the minimum required number of tiles. This forces you to build bigger regions and adds an interesting layer. It also encourages a bit of cutthroat play where an opponent might complete your terrain early so you don’t get to unlock your strongest god power.

Playtest #2: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger!

Quick Rules Rundown

  • on your turn, place a tile, then do one of the following:
  • claim it with a flag / abandon a prior claim by removing your flag (freeing it up to put somewhere else) / move a meeple / use a god power
  • if you completed a terrain type -> score points, remove the flag. If it meets a size requirement, place a meeple.

Approaching the Bullseye

The second playtest without cards felt really good! Our focus was primarily on the map. It didn’t feel like cards were missing from the game. It felt like cards didn’t belong in the game. We both felt very strongly about this, to our mutual surprise.

Claiming terrain with flags felt natural and familiar (because it’s just Carcassonne),

We found some strategic timing decisions with the score track and adding the Sacred Site to the map.

Do I complete this terrain now because I need the points, which unlocks the Sacred Site, or do I wait until this terrain meets my minimum size so that when I place the Sacred Site I also get to remove a meeple from my map and place it nearby, giving me a head start on getting there first?

Unlocking god powers by completing terrain of a certain size and placing believers on the map felt beautifully woven into the rest of the game.

We had so much fun with this version that we played through all 100 tiles. It had that “gaming at the biergarten” feel we were aiming for.

The River Runs Amok

  • the river feels a bit pointless. I don’t want to recreate Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers with their 90° river connections and unnatural loops, but it needs to be something.
  • Starting a bunch of different rivers quickly makes land-hex placement more difficult.
  • We didn’t have river segments so we weren’t claiming rivers at all. Why are they in the game, then? Well it’s pretty, but they could be lakes or ponds, or we could go with a Fjords approach and let them be coastal areas. I’m flexible here. Anticipate some changes to this water idea.
  • I might try a rule that says if you draw a river tile you must add it to the existing river. You aren’t allowed to start a new one. But maybe as a reward for not having choice on your turn, you gain points for something about that river extension.
  • We talked about the river as a sort of highway for meeples to travel along to make faster pilgrimages to Sacred Sites. This feels intuitive and thematic and brings the world to life a bit more.

God Powers are the Secret Sauce

  • We kept it simple and whenever we reached a Sacred Site we got to increase our tile hand size, giving us more choice / control on placement in subsequent turns.
  • I think it says something that we had fun without god powers in the game.
  • We both want variable player powers. I think it’s going to help pull this game away from Carcassonne and give it a different feel.
  • We talked about 3 approaches here:
    • The Obvious Approach: Each player mat is a specific god from a known mythology. The four god powers are printed on the player mat. These powers are thematically tied to what has been written about that particular god. There are so many gods in so many pantheons that this provides us with ample creative fodder. Variety from game to game comes from choosing different gods to face off against one another and to explore how they interact and how best to leverage your god’s powers and in which order. This approach is both a creative crutch and a comfortable handrail for new players when first learning the game or trying out a new god. The downside is that it’s uninspired and yet another game about mythology in a very crowded marketplace.
    • The Tapestry Approach: Each player mat is a blank slate and you draw a power tile each time one of your meeples ends their pilgrimage at a Sacred Site. Each time you play, you piece together a random set of 4 god powers and have to figure out how best to leverage them to win the game. Your powers are given to you by your believers. They tell the stories about you that give you strength. What kind of god have they made?
      • This is directly inspired by Tapestry, where over the course of the game you add civilization cards to your player mat, shifting your play style and purpose as your civilization evolves through the ages. At the end of a game of Tapestry, your player mat tells a little story. I started off as a civilization based on empiricism which evolved into a capitalist society ending up a dictatorship. Collin’s final stage reverted back to Feudalism as the ideal form (and won the game!). It was fun to think about the little stories being told.
    • The Blender Approach: Each player mat is a specific god with 4 printed god powers. Over the course of the game, you can earn new power tiles as rewards and you may choose to overlay one or your default powers with a new one.

Scoring Terrain Types needs a bit of work

There’s really no difference in value between a forest and a mountain range. We’ve kept it simple for now and just reward 1 point per hex in the territory you complete.

We added gold nuggets to a few mountain tiles, fish to some river tiles, and apples to some forest tiles. If you complete a territory containing one of these icons, you double the point value for the entire territory. If the territory contains multiple icons, keep doubling for each icon. This might get out of hand, but it also encourages an opponent to shut down your monster apple orchard before you run away with the game.

We might find a different use for these icons. We talked about collecting the resources and cashing them in for extra turns or power tiles, but got nervous about adding too much “other stuff” right now. We’re gonna keep things fit and trim for a bit while we tinker with how you earn points.

Variability without Increasing Complication

I want game-to-game variability. Here’s how I think we can get it.

  • Draw 4 Sacred Site tiles from a stack of 20, where each tile offers some unique mix of contest and reward. Some games will be about prioritizing mountains or rivers or movement. Some games will be about area control or first to the finish. Some will be a mix. This is sort of inspired by Isle of Skye or Terra Mystica or Clans of Caledonia where the round scoring and end game scoring criteria change in each game.
  • The Obvious Approach: Randomly deal each player 2 god boards and they pick 1
  • The Tapestry Approach: Reward players with power tiles throughout the game. They can maintain a hand of them. When they unlock a god power slot, they may socket one of their collected power tiles in and gain the new ability for the rest of the game.
    • Strong power tiles may only be placed in higher level sockets.
  • And I think that’s plenty for this game.

A quick mockup of the player mat

I’m a web & graphic designer by trade, so part of my brain loves the challenge of communicating without words. Take a look at these icons and see if you can infer their meaning. We all see with different eyes, so let me know in the comments if something isn’t intuitive for you.

Step 1: Place a tile

Step 2: Choose one:

  • Claim a terrain with a flag
  • Abandon a prior claim by removing a flag
  • Move a meeple
  • Use a god power

Step 3:

  • if you complete a territory
    • gain points
    • remove the flag
    • place a meeple* (*only if the terrain-size requirement was met). Hard to capture all that in a simple icon. I’ll tinker with it.

A god specific end game scoring method.

Slots for 4 god powers.

Slots for meeples. Lower slots are unlockable with fewer meeples and smaller territory sizes, but those power tiles will be slightly weaker than the higher level ones.

Next Steps

  • Make 4 different Sacred Sites (endgame area control, first to arrive, first-come-first-served, gain tiles)
  • Make 8 power tiles (move twice, take another turn, earn points if you extend X, etc.)
  • Test it again!