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Welcome to the final part of our short series revealing the secrets of some of the dragons of Simurgh. With just three days until we head to Essen, bringing copies of Simurgh fresh off the printer, we have just enough time for one truly unique beast.
Although the centre ability of this dragon is one of the simplest and easily least impressive, the other two make up for it in spades - or will make up for it, if a player is willing to use them at just the right time.
The leftmost ability allows a player to make a double movement on an Exploration Tile, which may be hugely beneficial, as this type of tiles do not simply feature resource or transformation spaces, instead making players race in order to gain Power Points and valuable bonuses. However, each movement on such a tile comes with a cost, and players are usually restricted to performing the move once per turn. Using this ability allows them to ignore this restriction, which may be absolutely crucial, as only one Dragonrider may ever reach the final space of an exploration.
The rightmost ability can be so powerful, that its use is restricted to once per game, as shown by the crossed Dragon Ability symbol. It allows the player who is in the process of placing a new Objective Tile on the board to exchange one of the tiles already on the board with the new one. This not only creates new rules of scoring, but also removes some of the previously established ones, which in turn may become a real game changer.
This concludes our Daily Dragon series. Simurgh will debut at Spiel 2015, so if you're around Essen next week, come see us at Hall 1, booth G-124. See you there!
On Wednesday I started telling you the story of how Simurgh became I game we wanted to publish. It's time I tell you the rest - as we are nerely days before the game officially launches.
In 2013, with a cool name, dragons and a designer on the rise, Simurgh seemed ready to “go to Essen”, and have its first encounter with the general public. But before we present a game to such a demanding audience, we usually take the game through a stress test – those of you working in the banking system should know exactly what it means.
So, just a month before Spiel 2013 we organize a large play-testing session of Simurgh with heavy gamers hellbent on breaking the game. Let me alleviate your concerns: the game almost came out on top. It was not broken in any way, it was simply too long even for experienced players. And what do you do when you have some great design concepts, a theme you believe in, consistent rules and yet a game isn’t quite ready for the market? The simple answer is: you develop.
Simurgh as you see it today (or you will see very soon in Essen) is the same game it used to be two years ago – but with a few tweaks. The biggest change was the elimination of elements generating the most Analysis Paralysis, which reduced the game length from over 2 hours (sometimes even 3 hours) to 45-75 minutes.
The first step was the reworking of the dragons. Dragons in Simurgh are represented by tiles with special abilities ranging from simply gaining resources to interrupt abilities able to create quite intricate combos. This part was taken care of by the designer himself, who brought us a lighter, faster version of the dragons roughly one year ago. The abilities became easier to understand, combo-making became really straightforward.
Simurgh was originally structured to play out in 5-7 turns, each of them consisting of players taking 4 to 9 actions. While the first two turns were short and somewhat scripted, with players collecting and stockpiling resources, the last two turns were lasting around 45 minutes each, as everyone was trying to gain the most victory points in the very last moment. This made the ending so prolonged that really made us want to rethink the whole system. And so we did!
The core mechanisms of board building and worker placement are still parts of the game, but the turn system has since been radically altered. Simurgh is now played over a variable number of turns, until a game end condition is triggered, and each turn a player takes exactly one action, making the game streamlined and leaving each other player just enough time between turns to plan their next move.
Our first play with the new system made us go “wow” because the time to set up, play, and then remove Simurgh from the table was just a little over one hour. The next plays simply confirmed our assumption that Simurgh had evolved past its prototype stage and became a finished board game.
The story does not really end here, although the rest is not something I can simply relay to you in writing. It's something you need to experience as you sit down to play a game.
So, are you ready to follow in the footsteps of the Dragonlord?
Welcome to Day Three of our Daily Dragon series! The third unique dragon you’ll meet when playing Simurgh is waiting for you below. Today’s mighty creature comes with a theme. What is the theme, I hear you ask? Opportunities. And a little bit of tough choices.
Despite its fearsome exterior, this dragon can be a sweetener. Both its leftmost and centre abilities work only at a specific moment – and it’s when you give up a Spearman (left), or a Dragonrider (centre). So, if you’re planning on doing something spectacular and paying a truly high price, why not take the opportunity, to make the hard exchange even more lucrative? It’s never easy to make your work force smaller – but this dragon will help you maximize your gain, should you decide to go with this risky course of action.
The third ability provides you with an option to instantly exchange one of your Dragonriders for a tempting cache of resources. You can make the deal even more tempting, if you decide to take advantage of this dragon’s centre ability, while you’re giving up a Dragonrider. And no matter how valuable a Dragonrider is, exchanging it for a pile of seven resources – at just the right time – might make for the difference between victory and defeat.
Still hungry for more? Come back tomorrow, and we’ll have another Daily Dragon for you!
Having introduced one of the dragons of Simurgh yesterday, we continue our journey, taking a closer look at another dragon at the disposal of ancient noble houses struggling for dominance over the White City, under watchful eyes of the Dragonlord statue.
The above unique beast possesses transformation abilities, similar to those appearing on many of the game’s Action Tiles. The crucial difference here, however, is that the player may use any (or indeed – all) of these abilities not only within a single turn but also without spending a single of their Vassals, the only limit being the Dragon Ability markers.
While not being as versatile as yesterday’s dragon, this Simurgh opens up lucrative opportunities – or simply allows the player not to waste resources (as they have to discard anything they cannot keep at the end of their turn). The leftmost and rightmost abilities allow the player to expend meat and stone, transforming them directly into Power Points – which decide who wins each game. The middle ability allows the player to do almost the opposite – to take a step back to get those few last resources needed to complete a more complex action, or to simply pull off a quick combo, if the tile is pulled close to the endgame.
Do you want to know more? Tune in tomorrow for another Daily Dragon of Simurgh !
Simurgh was the first game ever picked up by NSKN Games after a pitch, and it is the first ever project in which we had to work with a designer who was not part of NSKN Games.
It all started at the Nurnberg Toy Fair back in 2013. It was our first appearance at a large fair besides Spiel and it was as surprising as our first presence in Essen. A lot of famous designers come to Nurnberg to present their new ideas because unlike Essen, which offers some incredibly busy four days, Nurnberg is 6 days long and quite relaxed, with fewer visitors and time to catch a breath.
That’s where we met Pierluca Zizzi, a charming Italian game designer who pitched a “board building game with some awesome worker placement mechanisms and… dinosaurs”, and we were intrigued. The game was sharing some game design principles with one of Pierluca’s other designs, so we had to wait for another five months to actually play the game.
Our first game of Simurgh(which back then was called Mu) took place in GobCob later that year. We said yes to the game the very same day and we brought along the prototype for further testing, but we already knew that we had found a gem.
You need to know a few things about the earliest prototype we’d seen. It did not feature dragons, but dinosaurs. Everyone, including the designer, knew that dinosaurs are not there to stay, nevertheless we had lots of fun imagining dragon… pardon me… dinosaur raiders foraging through some ancient forest. Dinos are not a bad thing – take a look at Evolution or Dominant Species – they were just totally out of place, not fitting at all with the game mechanics. But the game itself was so good that we decided on the spot to publish it - we only needed to find the perfect theme.
It wasn’t long until Simurgh found its name and theme. It took some 12-hour car ride, a ridiculous amount of emails (if you have not tried brain storming by email, do not miss out on this unique opportunity), and a few months later we were ready to dress the game into some beautiful artwork, and present it in Essen. That was still back in 2013.
A legitimate question at this point is “Why dragons?” and what does the name of the game mean. We must admit that we were somehow conditioned by the original dinosaur theme and we were not able to shift our thinking into a completely different plane, so we gravitated around “stuff which can fly, stuff which can be ridden” and “a mythical universe”, “of man and… (add word here)”. Add to this mix another key ingredient – we like dragons – and we had the cocktail ready for a dragon themed game. The truth is that all the game mechanisms fit perfectly with the theme we chose and we were very happy to see the metamorphosis of Mu into Simurgh.
Our dragons were never meant to be evil. Scary – yes, by all means, but never evil. The legends of many peoples are filled with dragons, from Asia to South America and from Europe to Africa. We search the mythology for a perfect match and the Persian Simurgh came as the obvious choice. Now, we knew what to do...
Say tuned for the second part of the story, coming up on Friday.
Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:12 am
With Essen Spiel being a mere week away, we’d like to show you a little more of the ins and outs of Simurgh – our newest and hottest game, which will have an early release during the fair. During the next few days we will present you with some of the mighty titular dragons, showing off both their spectacular artwork, and demosntrating the game mechanisms that they introduce.
As every dragon in Simurgh , this maginificent creature brings into the game three unique abilities, each of them exclusive to the player who owns the dragon tile. Whenever a player wants to take advantage of an ability, they remove an ability marker from its socket. Thus, until refreshed, each ability can be used once at a time.
The first dragon we present is deceptively simple to use. Its leftmost ability allows the owning player to simply receive two vegetables. The other two are a bit more complicated, as they offer bonus resources: two extra Wisdom tokens when receiving Wisdom, and an extra Power Point when receiving Power Points. This allows a shrewd player to play around these abilities, making them useful over a well planned and executed sequence of turns.
Do you want to know more? Tune in tomorrow, for another Daily Dragon of Simurgh!
I’ve recently heard that with specialist software and high quality printing services so widely available, there is no reason (and no excuse) for a prototype to look much worse than a finished game, and that designers should really make their prototypes look great to improve their chances of being published. Ladies and gentlemen, that is bad advice.
During the last few months at NSKN Games I’ve had some prototypes pass through my gaming table. Some of them looked really impressive, with “near final” artwork and graphic design. Some of them looked merely serviceable, with simple clipart or symbols representing different game elements. And we’ve both accepted and rejected games regardless of how lavishly or how simply their prototypes were produced.
Now, I cannot speak for all publishers in the world, as maybe some of them will have a different approach to prototypes, but I’m still relatively certain that the following list of things you really don’t need to do (and a few things you most certainly do need to do) is one that will work in most cases. So, here we go:
Do not overproduce your prototype. We will not be more impressed if you go with fancy stuff instead of simple stuff. We will honestly be looking at how your game plays, not at how your game presents itself on the table (in its prototype incarnation). Believe me when I say we’ve seen a lot of games, and we will be interested in mechanisms and ideas, not at shiny things.
However, do make sure that your prototype is serviceable, easy to read and complete. Even the most lavishly produced copy will fail to engage us, if simply playing it seems the biggest challenge. So, make sure that we know which element is which, and that we can read what’s on them without a problem.
A simple but effective prototype.
Do not commission artwork or graphic design, unless you really know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you may end up with an expense that will never be covered, as the materials prepared may turn out to be unusable by the publisher you’ve chosen. And if you designed a Eurogame, it may also happen that it might be rethemed, which usually means that none of what you’ve prepared (and/or paid for) will be in any way useful.
However, do use the internet to help you with making your prototype more accessible. You can find caches of simple artworks and/or symbols, which you can download and use for your game. Some clean and simple icons or illustrations might make the experience of playing your game easier and more enjoyable for us. So, by all means, make your game look good, but don’t overdo it.
Do not waste your time on unnecessary “improvements”. Unless you are an artist or a graphic designer, your job is to design a game – and nothing more. Spending months on making components look better will be a time wasted if you skimp on polishing the gameplay. Seriously, when it comes to production quality, we’ll have it covered. You just worry about making the game itself really cool.
However, do make sure that what you send us is, well, neat. Some wear and tear is acceptable (it only goes to show that you’ve actually played your game), but be sure that none of the elements look like something we’d be afraid to touch without tweezers or latex gloves. Also, if some of them have more annotations than original content, you might want to redo them as well.
The above tips cover the basics, and if you follow them, you should be fine. And if you are interested in other aspects of prototyping, I'll be glad to share our way of putting prototypes together within the next few weeks.
Today we continue the list of Mistfall biggest evildoers, introducing the one but last villainous boss enemy the players will face: Sycra, a fallen priestess.
Sycra the Dawnbreaker
Already at an early age Sycra would display the gifts bestowed by the Dawnmother upon those destined to serve her. Able to spontaneously call upon the Light of Dawn without any training from priests or Loremasters, Sycra became a bit of a problem for the clerics deciding her fate, as it seemed she displayed an aptitude for both healing, and striking down the servants of the Mists. Finally, taken in by the order of the Dawnbreakers she became a battlefield healer and a fierce foe of the nefarious Mists.
During the first few years she had spend in the Valskyrr, she also made some friends among the people of Frostvalley Keep, as she would eagerly accompany Shieldbearers into battle or on missions that would lead them deep into the territories of the undead. And although Frostvalley had an almost permanent Dawnbreaker resident, the Lord Commander would always welcome another bold warrior priestess, happily putting her unique abilities to work.
All changed during what seemed like yet another expedition against a band of brigands aided by a necromancer threatening a small fortified village in the northern Valskyrr. Ambushed in an already overrun settlement and surrounded by enemies, Sycra’s power failed her for the first time. Seeing Shieldbearers fall in battle around her, unable to properly protect or aid them, she reached further and more furiously than ever before. She called out - and something answered. But it was not the Dawnmother.
The Black Crusader
The battle ended in a tragedy. Although Sycra suddenly gained the ability to smite her foes with a power she’d never seen before, she was still the only one to survive. Wounded and exhausted, unable to heal herself, and seemingly cut off from the Dawnmother, she wandered away further into the Mists, burned by fever and plagued by horrifying visions of great suffering, punishment and betrayal.
When she finally emerged from the Mists, her mind and heart were changed by the understanding of what the malicious power threatening the world truly was. And as she entered the first hold of the Blackwood lords, she already knew how to touch the hearts of the ruthless brigands, how to open their eyes to the truth she’d seen - and how to make those already touched by the Mists follow her.
Although Sycra’s connection to the goddess Dawn seems forever severed, the priestess still exhibits the ability to heal her allies and smite her enemies, and a conviction as strong as before she was taken by the Mists. Seeking final retribution, she now leads a growing army of fanatics who had seen the same truth as she had, and if her Black Crusade is to be stopped, much more than the strength of arms will be needed.
Sycra in the game
In many ways, Sycra is a very different type of Special Enemy, as her power is partly a reflection of what the Dawnbreaker Cleric has at her disposal. When facing Sycra, players will have to make a few hard choices and adapt a clear approach to deal with her servants, remembering that simply eliminating them may not only prove more difficult, but also not the best course of action.
The world of Mistfall is a perilous place, and the Mists can transform the both the righteous and the wicked. What happens when the ruinous might touches ones that were never pure? The story of Maelgar answers that question.
The Brigand Chief
Nobody really knows where or when Maelgar was born, but most believe he spent his early years in the northern part of the Valskyrr, in a village long since wiped out by beastmen or brigands. Most probably sold into slavery as a child, he was one of the few youngsters who managed to survive long enough to win their freedom by spilling blood, or by proving too useful to a Blackwood lord or a crafty Ghoren warchief to simply be killed or sacrificed.
Maelgar most certainly did not belong to the latter category, as when he finally let himself be known to the Shieldbearers of Frostvalley Keep, it was not due to his intellect, but because of his cruelty and brutality rivalling those of the fierce beastmen blood hunters. And although some of the expeditions meant to bring Maelgar to justice where overseen by the Lord Commander himself, the brigand chief managed to fight his way out of every trap and finally either evade, or – more often – slay his pursuers.
The string of Maelgar’s victories made him a prominent figure with the Blackwood brigand lords, so prominent in fact, that more than one of them started scheming against him. However, it was none of them, but a young Frostvalley Loremaster by the name of Rahlfors, that finally managed to take him down. Leading a group of Shielbearers, Rahlfors found one of Maelgar’s treasure hoards, and knowing that the brigand chief would visit them only alone, he set a trap that finally ended Maelgar’s scourge.
The victory was short lived. A little over a year later reports came in of an abominable beast wreaking havoc on a territory Maelgar had used to consider his own before his demise. Shortly after, it turned out that it was Maelgar himself, brought back from the dead by the Mists and transformed into an abomination that seemed to have focused all his cruelty, his malice, and his insatiable hunger for blood.
Having murdered all his past subordinates and demonstrated a rage capable of destruction that would impress even the most Mist-crazed of the Ghoren warriors, Maelgar went on a further killing spree throughout the lands under the protection of Frostvalley Keep. Now, surrounded by a herd of undead – some of them his own comanions he’d killed, others merely his victims – he prepares to strike a mighty blow against Frostvalley Keep.
From a handful of notes left by Rahlfors after his sudden departure, it seems that the former chief’s treasure hoards might contain powerful artefacts or at least answers that may help in defeating Maelgar once and for all. However, an ominous side note also mentions a strange ritual that may have not only been responsible for bringing Maelgar back, but might also imbue him with even more strength should he be opposed in battle.
Maelgar in the game
As many of the Special Enemies, Maelgar’s card is double-sided: with one side being his starting, already twisted form, and the other showing his further descent into becoming a raging minion of the Mists. Unlike other Enemies, Maelgar grows stronger when the card becomes flipped, and as Heroes come closer to their victory, they are also in greater peril of falling to his fury. So, with Malegar’s treasure hoards being spread across the land, and remembering his martial prowess and resilience, the right preparations are the key to surviving the battle against him.
The time has come to introduce the story of the final character that joined the ranks of the Hereos of Mistfall. Born in the shadow of Ravencrag, raised in a land of perpetual winter and gifted with a rare and powerful talent: Hareag the Frost Mage.
Dawn of the Frost Mages
The Frost Mages are a product of an age old alliance between the eight tribes of Ravencrag and Frostvalley Keep. Before the alliance was forged, the tribes would occasionally send small war parties to raid on the territories under the protection of Skard Windbane, the Lord Commander of the Shieldbearers. These groups would often be supported by shamans wielding the power to command ice and snow, using the magic of cold as a weapon against their enemies.
Windbane had fought the Ravencrag Furies and the wielders of the frost magic on multiple occasions, knowing full well that the Ravencrag people mostly worshipped the Nightfather, but also being certain of them being enemies of the Mists, so when a Shieldbearer patrol came back to the keep bearing news of a Ravencrag raid against the beastmen ending in a slaughter, and a beastman horde preparing to deal a final blow to the eight tribes, he decided to act immediately. Leading his Shieldbearers he came to the aid of Ravencrag, turning an almost certain defeat into a costly victory, but createing grounds to forge a lasting alliance.
The Lord Commander’s bet paid off, as the eight tribes’ new Jarl formed a blood pact with Skard Windbane, forging an alliance that would last for over a century, serving both the people of Ravencrag and Frostvalley Keep.
However, Windbane had one condition. Advised by his Loremasters he made it clear that the alliance would go on only as long as the boys exhibiting the talent to wield the power of the frost were properly schooled in the art of arcane magic, as uncontrolled use proved to twist their minds and open them to the corrupting influence of the Mists. The Jarl agreed somewhat begrudgingly, but agreed nonetheless, as those who survived the failed Ravencrag raid had already told him that the defeat was brought on not only by the numbers and the ferocity of the beastmen foes, but also by a sudden corruption and madness many of the shamans would fall victim to shortly after the Furies engaged the enemy.
Hareag the Frost Mage
Like all boys that during their early teens reveal themselves to be the wielders of the frost magic talent, Hareag accompanied the Lord Commander of Frostvalley Keep on his way back home after his custmoray visit to meet the the new jarl of the eight tribes. After six months of being schooled by the Frostvalley Loremaster, he was shipped to Dathnafar to become a Frost Mage, his apprenticeship ending with the customary oath to oppose the Mists no matter which path (Dawn or Dusk) he chooses.
After returning the the Valskyrr, Hareag wandered the cold wastes and the Deadlands for years, aiding Ravencrag Furies in their pursuits, and earning the respect that would make him an advisor to each of the jarls for the last sixteen years. He only recently resigned from the position and moved to Frostvalley Keep, the true reasons of this known only to a handful of those old enough to know his family’s history, or perceptive enough to see through Hareag’s motives.
Regardless of any reasons Hareag might have had to relocate to Frostvalley Keep, he has quickly become a trusted ally and a well respected part of the questing company, as, despite his age, he decided not to continue advisory work, and instead become once again an active part of the struggle against the Mists.
Hareag in the game
The Frost Mage is an interesting and powerful twist on the already known Arcane Mage. Being less able to avoid battle or use the advantage of arcane fire against his enemies, he instead strikes at them with the cruel cold, not only able to attack them directly, but also weaken them before dealing the final blow.
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