Alright! Lots to discuss.

We’ve tested the game 3 times since Chapter 8: once solo and twice 2p. (I’m starting to think we’re not even really testing because so much is in flux lately. It’s more like we’re just designing still, but we’re starting to get a clearer picture on this game, so just go with it).

Solo Test

In my solo play, I gained a few redundant god power tiles and a very aggressive one that converts an opponent’s follower into one of my own when my followers flank them. This is a lot more aggressive than we want this game to be and I only had to show Collin one example to convince him we should rethink several of the more aggressive power tiles. It’s cool. It’s just not the game we wanted to make. Feel free to take those ideas and run with them. 🙂

2-player Test

After our 2p session, Collin asked:

“Are we too fixated on always making cool characters with variable player powers in every game we design? Is that fixation painting us into the same corner? Does this game even warrant that level of depth?”

We didn’t have an answer at that particular moment, but that sort of question rattles around in my head for weeks and weeks and then I start turning it over and looking at the game from new angles, asking myself what the game might be like if I ditched the player boards entirely.

Combine Collin’s question with a comment from Michael Sprague of Backwards Cap Games on BGG where he said:

“The combo chains are what draw me to this game. I think it’s the bread n’ butter and I wouldn’t deviate away from it until testing proves it isn’t successful. It should take a little time to establish these combos so that it is satisfying when they pay off.”

And later, he expressed some disappointment in hearing that we decided to ditch the cards entirely.

Sometimes it takes multiple inputs to get a different output, but the alchemy of those three comments drew me in.

What if?

To Collin’s question: Step 1 of getting rid of personal player boards is just tossing the board away and only having power tiles. If you earn one, place it face up in front of you and you now have that ability. No player board needed.

The player board had unlock / size requirements, so let’s just move those right onto the power tiles themselves. Now they’re behaving more like missions where you need to have the requirements in order to get the rewards. What other sorts of things might a mission require of you beyond earning a worker or reaching a Sacred Site?

Collin and I were already dabbling with gathering some resources from the map. What if certain power tiles wanted you to cash in resources you’ve collected? This is a very familiar and accessible mechanism in boardgames. It’s very easy to explain and have new players grab onto.

So stop calling them Power Tiles. Call them missions, but missions for whom? We’re supposed to be gods. And while we’re on the subject of gods, I’m creatively frustrated with mythology at the moment.

  • Mythology has already been written. How creative can you really be within established pantheons? Athena is always Athena. Thor is always Thor. Their powers are already decided. Your only hope to break those molds is to suggest that the followers on the map are creating you with their belief. The more they worship you, the more powers you gain, and your powers are accumulated pretty randomly (like the Tapestry Cards in Tapestry). It tells a little story, but that’s not really important for this game.
  • So many other games have thoroughly tapped the mythological wells. A new game isn’t going to stand out using the same theme as 50% of boardgames. (Don’t quote me on that statistic)
  • If I’m ditching player boards, then I’m also ditching my innate god ability and scoring objective. Toss it all to the curb for a second and see what’s left.

If I free myself from the mythological theme, what alternative can I apply that gives us enough context to hang some mechanisms.

Welcome to the Jungle!

For a brief moment, let’s say we’re competing expeditions, exploring the Amazon rainforest, mapping the terrain, and collecting valuable resources like frog poison, crystal shards, insect pheromone, fish eggs, and tropical plant pollen. Let’s say we’re racing to find the cure for cancer. Let’s say we’re doing this because it’s a convenient way to avoid the typical conquistador / tomb raider theme… (bear with me).

Aside: I’m exploring alternative themes mainly because I’m trying to get to the point that I’m more comfortable being flexible. Maybe a mechanisms first approach is better? I dunno. I’m new at this. Let’s try it out.

So we’re rushing out to explore the territory by placing tiles. We place flags on the regions we’re working on and when those regions are complete, we get a token matching each resource icon in that region. Other players can then rush their workers over to that region to pick up any leftover resources.

As I started building the deck, I simplified things further into just red, green, blue, yellow, and star stickers. They were easy to add to the landscape tiles, removing any need for me to redraw all of them with new symbols. So I quickly ditched the frog poison in favor if a small red sticker.

Aside: This abstraction actually helped me quite a bit from freeing my mind from thematic constraints and finding other themes much more quickly. I get so caught up with theme that I think it boxes me in. I need to start with primary color stickers from now on.

My brother-in-law upgraded his Wingspan resource tokens so I asked if I could have his unneeded cardboard ones. They worked perfectly and even match the color of the stickers we used. If you’ve got spare boardgame parts, send ’em my way!

We have mission cards that require certain combinations of tokens. Go out and collect and cash in those tokens to complete the mission to earn points and other rewards and propel yourself to victory!

Missions come in 3 tiers of difficulty. When you complete a mission, draw from whichever tier you want. Harder missions come with greater rewards.

Sacred Sites appear on the edges of the map and players rush over to them to gain immediate rewards.

Not bad. Not super original, but not bad. Feels a lot like Hexagonal Carcassonne: Traders & Builders with mission cards to spend your resources on and a few special locations you can travel to for a quick reward.


The Bad

  • The river is still broken. We were using it as a sort of super highway to aid workers moving around the map. I won’t go into all the reasons why it wasn’t working, but it really wasn’t adding enough over the course of several iterations that we decided to ditch it and see how it feels without it.
  • Sacred Site placement logic was broken. Players would always put them closest to their worker so they could reach them right away on subsequent turns. (not pictured)
    • We introduced a hex grid map with preset Sacred Site locations that you place at setup. This forces you to build terrain out toward the Sacred Sites and constrains the map a bit. (pictured below)
      • This was fine, but because movement rewards were so prevalent, we were both able to reach nearly any Sacred Site without much effort, even with a broken river.
  • The game rewarded us with more workers than we needed.
  • The map got very cluttered and became hard to read with all the flags (cubes) and excess workers (cylinders).

The Good

  • Tile Placement + Resource Gathering + Mission Cards -> Rewards
    • This formula is very close to our original design statement. It turns out that resource gathering was the missing piece. It feels good to be back where we started, but with the wisdom from experiencing the journey out and back. We fought our inner demons every step of the way not to stray too far, strayed too far anyway, and forced ourselves to return to our original intention. It feels like a real victory that we had fun playing the kind of game we set out to make, even though there is plenty of work left to do.
  • We loved having the cards in the game again. Somehow our long and winding road away from cards, through scripted god powers, into variable power tiles, to missions, brought us back to where we started, but with enough additional information and an in-game currency to make the cards more interesting and more likely to trigger.
  • It feels good to gather resource tokens and spend them to complete missions — like little positive feedback loops.
  • We had semi-regular milestones on the score track rewarding stuff, too, so that we were both guaranteed certain rewards regardless of random tile and card draws. These little milestones allowed us to chain together a few interesting combos by completing a small area > to gain points > to reach a milestone letting us swap tokens for the ones we needed > using those tokens to complete a mission > using that reward to reach a new scoring milestone > getting an extra turn > completing another region > gaining more tokens > etc. We had the longest combo chains in any test so far. And it was fun!

Post-Game Discussion

  • We’ve fought the river for awhile. What if we remove it entirely?
    • If not a river, then what? Roads? (It’s starting to feel like our very first ideas were the best. Oy!)
      • Why roads?
        • roads can intersect in weird ways without breaking immersion, where a river shouldn’t be able to flow back on itself. Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers has weirdly shaped river networks. It works as a game, but I want our game to be pretty and make some visual sense.
        • I can run a road right into a mountain cave. If I add another mountain cave to that same mountain range, I can pretend the road connects under the mountain. Same goes for the forest. It allows some more freedom in connecting tiles.
  • What about allowing a forest edge to touch a grass edge? Can that be ok?
    • It can be if I draw it a certain way. This is the Dorfromantik approach. You can “end” your forest anywhere you want, but you must obey the road connection. I think that would return me to a 2 phase hexamorph (road edges / grass edges) with floating terrain layers that do not have to be adjacent (fields, forests, sheep).
  • Are we changing the theme again?
    • Yep! Let’s return to a pastoral village setting (where it all began).
  • Let’s simplify the local contracts so they’re easier to complete, and make their rewards mostly about movement, and we’ll make the export contracts harder and more about rewarding gold and gaining ongoing buffs.

Coming Into Focus

Theme: We are merchants from the same village, competing to explore the region, gather resources, establish road networks out to neighboring towns (formerly Sacred Sites), spend resources on local contracts or ship to neighboring towns in exchange for gold, abilities, and points.

Mechanical Summary: It’s Dorfromantik Tile Placement + Carcassonne: Traders & Builders resource gathering + Local & Export contracts.


  • place home village tile in center of the table (no hex grid, no preset sacred sites)
  • place the bag of export contracts nearby
  • place the bag of home contracts nearby and deal 1 to each player.
  • place the bag of landscape tiles nearby and deal 1 to each player.
  • place 1 meeple per player color onto the home village tile
  • each player has 2 additional workers they can earn, and 6 flags in their player color
  • place the score track nearby with 1 of each player flag


  • the winner is the player with the most points after someone completes their 6th export contract.
  • …or the first player to reach 100 points.
  • …or something else. We’re flexible here. It’ll likely be something that affects the duration of the game so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.


  1. Place a tile. At least 2 edges must touch other tiles.
  2. Claim a landscape feature with your flag OR move your meeple 1 leg of movement along an existing road network. Each intersection / fork in the road costs you 1 leg of movement.

Completing a Landscape Feature

If your tile placement terminates a landscape feature where you have a flag, remove your flag, and gain points for the number of art objects in the feature you just completed (not points per tile):

  • 2 points per tree
  • 2 points per farm
  • 1 point per sheep
  • 1 point per road segment (just like Carc roads)
  • 3 bonus points if you place a road tile showing a town

If the feature you just completed contains resource icons, gain 1 matching resource token for each icon. Keep these tokens in your personal supply. These resources include:

  • wool, from sheep
  • wood or fruit, from forests
  • grain or wool or fruit, from farms
  • gold, from roads (rarely)

If you place a road tile showing a town symbol, place 1 export contract onto this hex. Players can race to this location to complete this contract.

If you draw another road/town tile, you must place it as far as possible from other town tiles.

Stealing Resources

The person who completes the feature does not have be the same person who has a flag on that feature. When this happens, the completer gets the resource tokens and the flagger gets the points. (Same as Carc: T&B)

Completing LOCAL Contracts

At any time on your turn if you have the right combination of resource tokens and other criteria to complete one of the local contracts in your hand, pay the resources to the supply and gain any rewards listed.

Local Contract Rewards Include
  • points
  • immediate meeple movement
  • extra turn
  • draw 2 tiles, keep 1
  • draw local contracts
  • exchange resources
  • gain small amounts of gold

Completing EXPORT Contracts

Once the road network connects your home village to a neighboring town, any player may travel along that road.

To complete the face up export contract on a neighboring town…

  • move your meeple to that town
  • pay the required resources and other criteria
  • take the tile and any rewards listed, keeping them in your personal supply
  • add a new export contract face up to this location
Export Contract Rewards Include
  • gain large amounts of gold
  • immediate meeple movement
  • points
  • draw 2 tiles, keep 1
  • draw local contracts
  • exchange resources
  • extra turn
  • ongoing abilities / buffs
    • +1 wool whenever you gather wool
    • +1 wood whenever you gather wood
    • +1 grain whenever you gather grain
    • +1 gold whenever you complete a neighbor order
    • 1 wool discount on orders involving wool
    • +1 leg of movement
    • +1 meeple added to home village
    • +2 points when you compete a forest
    • +2 points when you complete a farm
    • +2 points when you complete a road segment

No Camping

Your meeple cannot complete another export contract in the same town without first traveling home or to a different town. Maybe they put their flag on the town to mark it as last town they visited.

Overall Feel

  • Players compete to explore the surrounding terrain and are rewarded for building the map
  • Players work together to establish a road network to find the neighboring towns
  • Players compete to gather resources that they’ll use to complete contracts at home and abroad
  • Players move their meeples along the road network they’ve built, delivering goods to neighboring towns to complete more lucrative contracts.
  • Players race to be the first to complete a certain number of export contracts, ending the game when they have the most points for doing all the things in the game.

Next Steps

  • add roads + intersections + towns to tiles
  • add resource stickers to more tiles
  • add sheep to meadows
  • add gold to roads (rarely) ?
  • revise contracts (local are easy & export are hard)

Questions for the Audience

Should we ditch victory points and just let gold be your score?

  • The first player to reach 50 gold wins.
  • Gold can be used to modify movement or resources. Examples:
    • Spend 2 gold to gain 1 movement.
    • Spend 2 gold to swap 1 resource token for any other resource token.
    • Decide if it’s worth it to spend points to perform actions in the hopes of gaining more points later.

This gold-focused approach sounds like an interesting simplification. Although, Collin was quick to point out that he would quickly fall into doing math to figure out if pursuing a given contract is even worth it. “Alright, so I have to spend 4 gold to earn 3 gold…not great, but I also get an extra turn, so it’s a gamble.”

Should gold just be a simple wild resource?

This is how we played it. It felt fine and fun and light.

Should we keep the score track of victory points with intermittent rewards?

We enjoyed the score track giving us little bursts of momentum. It allowed us to plan ahead a little bit and program a few moves to take advantage of the boost and is likely the one thing that makes combo chains more likely to occur. It’s not broken. This might be reason enough to keep it for awhile.