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The Simurgh Kickstarter campaign going on right now has brough on an interesting discussion about what has been labelled as "resource consistency" - or the basically having all of the resources in a game made the same way (using cubes, wooden meeples or cardboard tokens). And since Simurgh includes all of the mentioned types, we decided to give you a bit of an insight into the process that led to making such a choice. Ready? Here we go.
In the early development stages of Simurgh, resources came in three actual types, some of the elements would refer to. There was food (vegetables and meat), building materials (wood and stone), and abstracted goods (prowess and wisdom).
Although we finally went with a more unified system, which introduced symbols that simply allow players to choose from two types of resources when performing some actions (like wood/stone, vegetables/meat), and gave us more freedom in building different actions, we decided to stay with the three visually different resources. And here’s why.
The resources as they are serve as a bit of the mnemonic device, to make it easier to approximate what you might need for your future plans. So, if you want to breed dragons or multiply your Vassals, you know that you would definitely need food, or the wooden elements that take two specific shapes (just like specifically and deliberately shaped Spearmen and Dragonriders).
The two “building blocks” of most victory point gathering plans are, on the other hand, exactly that: wooden building blocks. Big chunky cubes were supposed to be evocative of what they are usually used for. And although they are needed in many actions that interact with your workforce, they are also a solid base for gaining Power Points, as the actions that generate them (to symbolize the work put into expanding the White City), will need you to spend significant amounts of wood and/or stone.
The two more abstract and manipulative resources are cardboard tokens. And although prowess was dropped in favour of more tangible weapons, these two resources still remain the most valuable to any player who wishes to stay on top of the situation on the game board. After all, weapons can be used to change the situation in the wilds, or draw random Action Tiles, and wisdom is essential for complex exchange operations, if a player concentrates on research – or on Spells in Call of the Dragonlord.
Finally, there is the last matter, and it’s the aesthetic choice we’ve made while choosing components for the game. We knew we wanted resources to be clearly different from each other, and we made the choice that – in our opinion – served the game clarity and presentation the most. The resources are well represented, players have no problem recognizing which are which, and everything looks the way it should in terms of what they represent.
Now, with all of the ins and outs explained, you know everything there is to be revealed today. However, with the truly incredible development of this Kickstarter campaign, much may yet happen. Please know, though, that we are listening to your voices and considering each and every one of them – and that we will do what we can to accommodate your expectations. But, for now, let us all see together where this amazing ride will still take us.
The moment you take the first step into the fabulous world of designer board games, many things change. You find a new way to enjoy time with friends and loved ones. You embrace a pastime that is analogue and social, but does not require physical exertion or alcohol consumption. And you start to look at “regular” board games as if they were guilty of stealing away time you will never get back.
This is probably why there is a list of games true gamers really like to hate. Games that become the butt of crude jokes, games used to show the inferiority of the gaming habits of casual players, and games that are a source of campfire horror stories, often involving excruciatingly long play times, mind-numbing boredom, or physical altercations.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Roll a die, move, acquire a space if you have the money, or pay some money to the owner. Occasionally, draw a card. Rinse, repeat, fall asleep waiting for victory or bankruptcy, whichever comes first – if any. So, here’s a (not so) modern nightmare of a game.
When compared to modern board games, Monopoly offers very little choice – and, seemingly, even less strategy – so it’s a perfect target to show how awful a game is, and how silly those casual gamers are for playing it.
Still, Monopoly can be useful (as I suggested in one of my previous articles) as a stepping stone to what we perceive as better gaming. After all, it does have decisions, it does have negotiation – and these are things we can build upon when trying to propose a different game to play with people who enjoy Monpoly.
A game still fiercely loved – and bitterly hated by those who made their first steps into its magical, fantasy realm years ago. Reasons for hatred are very easy to track down: much like Monopoly, it’s a game with very little choice, especially when a roll of the die sends a player allows the player to choose between two locations, each differently named, both mechanically identical.
I myself like to joke that a six sided die is in fact a travel version of Talisman. Sit down wherever, roll the die on your turn, add pips to previous score, repeat until one player reaches a total of 300. Inventing stories to go along with your rolls is optional, but encouraged.
What people seem to miss when hating on this classic, is that for many of us it was the first contact with a world of different gaming – and one that showed us that abstracted mechanisms can create an experience vastly more thematic than any other roll and move games. Plus, if you suffer through some frustrations of Talisman, you will probably be much more ready to face the horrors of games like Merchant of Venus – excellent, but still wrapped around a roll and move mechanism.
I’ve not lost any friends over a game of Diplomacy, but I’ve seen some folks completely lose over A Game of Thrones. I’ve seen to adult men on the verge of going physical over Republic of Rome. And I was mere seconds from being smacked in the face after nuking an opponent’s city in Civilization. Board games can be stressful.
Whatever you think about Diplomacy – and you might think that it somehow resides within the real of modern, designer board gaming – or Monpoly for that matter, it’s hard to get more irritated, than while playing this classic. Perhaps then, it’s not that bad of an idea to try to pull the people who play it deeper into our hobby?
It’s true that this may backfire horribly, as we might invite someone who lives for backstabbing to our gaming table, and unless we’re all fans of the genre, we’ve just made our games of Agricola so much more stressful. On the other hand, after opening up a world of games without the frustration, we might also gain an opponent who will keep their cool at all times, as with what they encounter playing Spartacus is but a pale echo of the villainy they had seen in Diplomacy.
I’m not saying that the above examples aspire to being a comparative list, neither am I saying we should suddenly fall in love with the games we simply don’t want to play. What I am saying is that looking down on them all the time might be a little unfounded. Sure, they do have flaws, but they are also experiences on our way that make modern board gaming richer and more satisfying.
Plus, admit it, you probably had some good time with one of them at least once in your life. I know I have.
Is there any real innovation in board games lately? I've heard opinions in both directions and the truth lies somewhere in the middle... or does it?
Let's start with a bit of background, and take a look at the truly innovative board games which were also commercially successful. First on the list is Catan, the father of modern German-style board gaming, still a best seller after more than a decade, a game with player interaction, light enough to entice casual players and strategic enough to attract a more demanding community. Carcassonne followed introducing tile-laying as a core mechanism, Ticket to Ride was another huge hit which still sells well today and the last two I can think of are Dominion, famous for establishing deck building as a genre of its own, and 7 Wonders for making card drafting a relevant and wide spread core mechanic and shortening the length of a complex game to 30 minutes.
Although this isn't necessarily my personal opinion, most gamers I spoke to acknowledge these titles as innovative and trend making in the board games industry. But 7 Wonders was published in 2010 and we're now at the end of 2015 and most people I asked failed to see any other big title as a candidate for trendsetting and eternal fame. More than this, every year upon returning from Spiel Essen, people I talk to are saying the same thing over and over again: this Essen was not as good as last year, we found some interesting titles but none I couldn't live without. So, more often than not, frequent Essen attendees tend to come back rather disappointed.
So, what are the big hits of last years and why have they failed to become "the new Catan"?
2011 - the biggest hit I remember was Eclipse. The game is brilliant, it gather a lot of fans and it revived the 4x genre, but as far as I know it did not come close to selling 100,000 copies, thus it cannot qualify as a great commercial success, although from the innovation stand point it ... something.
2012 - Terra Mystica is now on the second place on Board Game Geek with a (small) chance of gaining the crown. In my opinion it is one of the best games I've ever played and yet I fail to see how Terra Mystica is an innovative game. There is no new mechanic and all it does is bind together a bunch of existing ideas in an almost perfect way. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar is only innovative in the way it displays its concepts, while the latter are still the same, worker placement and action selection.
2013 - Caverna: The Cave Farmers made it highest in the BGG rankings from all 2013 releases and yet it is still the same old worker placement game (Agricola) made a bit better , Eldritch Horror is a new and better Arkham Horror and Russian Railroads is a solid yet in no way innovative title.
2014 - Star Wars: Imperial Assault sold very well but with a Star Wars license behind almost anything sells well and it's not too different from Descent to call this game innovative, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game is seen as quite innovative by many, yet I fail to see this as a trendsetting game and Five Tribes or Istanbul are very solid designs without reaching that critical mass to make them huge. Alchemists had the innovation element is introducing successfully a mobile app in a board game, but the game itself was simply not good enough to be placed in the same category as Dominion or 7 Wonders.
Is 2015 the same? Full of solid games which will be easily forgotten is 3-5 years? I hope not. Codenames has already impressed me through its simplicity which makes it a great game for casual players, yet attractive enough for my gaming group which is quite demanding. 7 Wonders: Duel is also a jewel, it makes a 2-player draft not only possible, but interesting and demanding, making it my option for this year's top hit. But will they make the bif step into history? I surely hope so, because back in my home country, Romania, the sales are still driven by Catan, Carcassone, Dominion or Ticket to Ride and I would love to see people going to game stores for something new.
Last week Andrei shared with you some of his impressions on games we played over an awesome gaming weekend hosted by Ania and Kuba of the Board Game Girl fame. Following in his footsteps, I take a turn talking about games not only played then, but also the ones I managed to experience over the last month. So, here it is: my best games of the Essen Spiel 2015 haul.
I was a bit regretful driving back from Essen. With only twenty-odd games in our trunk, I felt that there were some good games I managed to miss out on this year. On the other hand, with the workload we had between demoing games, I still consider myself quite lucky – and very efficient at maximizing he slivers of time spent outside the gaming pandemonium that was the NSKN Games booth.
So, without further ado, here’s a list of games I liked, in (mostly) no particular order.
I must admit that my first game left both me and my wife somewhat flat, and a little confused. What looked like a must buy before Spiel, felt too light and a bit too random for both of our tastes. Luckily, the game would still draw both of us in to play again – and then a few more times after that – growing on us with every play.
Now Dice City is a small gem, which we have almost discarded back into the rough. Surprisingly sleek, with just enough heft to feel relevant, and with the simplicity to flow really nicely from turn to turn. And although we found a four player game way too heavy on downtime for what Dice City does, as a two player experience it is a tiny treasure, and a definite keeper.
New York 1901
Here’s a game that’s getting pretty mixed reviews among my friends and fellow gamers here in Poland. It seems that many people are unhappy with the fact that (instead of being a heavier game) it’s mostly taking the same spot as Ticket to Ride.
Personally I’m absolutely fine with this, as the only version of this seasoned Days of Wonder classic I own is the Android one – and I’ve played the damn thing to death. So, now I have the perfect entry level game which I can play. It’s gorgeously inviting, simple to learn, fast playing and a lot of fun. Say what you want people, but New York 1901 is a great game. And I am hoping to see more cities introduced as expansions in the future.
I’ve never been a fan of the original Village. The worker death mechanism some people seemed ridiculously excited about left me a bit cold, and the rest of the game seemed to me a mostly standard point salad with not enough bright spots to carry me over an aesthetics I found mostly off-putting. All this made me almost pass on My Village, and that would have been a big mistake.
Utilizing a fun dice drafting mechanism and (again) a death clock that sends our craftsmen to point scoring graves, My Village is almost everything I like in modern eurogames. From multiple ways of scoring points, to some extremely satisfying combo making potential, My Village makes for a thoroughly delighting experience every time we sit down to rewrite the stories of our little settlements.
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
I already own and try to follow too many LCG-style games, so getting a copy of Ashes was something that really didn’t feel right there and then, as I was coughing up the cash at the Plaid Hat booth. To add to my anxiety, I had (and still have) kind of mixed feelings about the aesthetics of the game. On the one hand, I remain enchanted by the boldness of the clean white box and cards. On the other hand, I am somewhat disheartened by the art style, reminiscent of modern manga, and making for a vision of a world perhaps vibrant and interesting, but completely lost on a brute like me.
Nonetheless, I brought Ashes home, and after a few games I fell completely in love with the mechanisms, the design choices and important pubslishinge decision by Plaid Hat Games. An innovative and smart resource system (cool dice!), thirty-card decks (something I consider one of the best CCG and LCG ideas popularized by Hearthstone), and a current card play set right out of the box made me realise, that Ashes will be making itself comfortable on my gaming shelf.
I have a bit of history with What’s Your Game and by “a bit” I mean being successfully convinced by Vinhos that a set of tables thrown on a board, even thinly veiled by putting an outline of some country in the background (yes, I know it’s Portugal), and decorated with some art is probably great for gamers that are generally… well, not me. So, I had very mixed feelings about Nippon, a game that piqued my interest because of its theme (a very rarely explored time in Japan’s history, and the topic of my wife’s MA Thesis), and managed to keep me mostly away with its looks.
Now, while the art and graphic design of Nippon is – let’s be generous here – serviceable, the gameplay is incredibly solid and satisfying. Make no mistake, Nippon runs on an engine built with a set of mostly disassociated mechanisms, making it nothing more than a point salad. However, it is one of the best salads I’ve had for a very long time. So, once again, it’s a keeper, and one I would have most probably passed on, if not for Paul Grogan who visited the NSKN booth, gave Nippon a casual, but nonetheless glowing review, and by doing so, pushed me to make one of the best purchases of Essen Spiel 2015.
Champions of Midgard
Boy, is this game fun! Okay, it’s fun if you like light and fast eurogames (very much like Lords of Waterdeep), that are also deeply thematic (according to many, very much unlike Lords of Waterdeep), and if you can turn a blind eye to a few minor component issues. Still, Champions of Midgard is one of two games brought from this year’s Spiel, you’d probably have to pry from my cold dead hands to make me part with it. Nine games in, both my wife and I cannot get enough, and although we can now see a few warts (some of which may turn out to be actually features after a few more games), Champions of Midgard hits it out of the park.
The gameplay blends tactics with a bit of risk management, building on a solid foundation of classic worker placement. The player characters seem pretty balanced, while nicely different from each other. The length of the game seems perfect, the pacing keeps everyone engaged, and the balance between resource conversion and combat is spot on. Finally, the art is amazing (well, maybe not the way too crowded cover, but to each their own, I guess) and evocative enough to make playing Champions of Midgard a wholesome gaming experience. Truly, a well-deserved Dice Tower Seal of Excellence it is!
Sir Not Appearing In This Film
There are still a few games I brought but have not yet mentioned. Some of them will simply never be spoken of (as they underperformed severely, and are now awaiting their fate on the Trade Pile of Shame), some will be featured in future articles, and some… well, some are still unplayed.
As for games to be featured, I will devote a separate article to games by Splotter Spellen, with Food Chain Magnate making a deservedly prominent appearance. Epic and Star Realms: Colony Wars from White Wizard Games remain shamefully unplayed, as does Concordia Salsa – an expansion to one of my all-time favourite games, and something I’m crazily excited to play soon.
Finally, there is also one game that is a category in itself, and it’s Through the Ages: a New Story of Civilization. Simply put, that is the other “pry out of my cold dead hands” game brought from Essen, or (more accurately) a “if you pry it out from my cold dead hands, I will come to haunt your sorry arse” game. And to end my personal run through my Essen Haul on a very high note, let me review it thusly: it’s the good old Through the Ages in all its glory and magnificence… only even better.
You’ve read this far? Great! How about sharing your own Essen haul impressions in the comment section below?
Among the many games we brought from this year’s Essen Spiel, there is a nice little cache of prototypes from newbie and veteran designers alike. This blog post is not about these prototypes. It’s about the ones we did not collect – and what made us pass on them the moment they landed on our table.
Some time ago I wrote a short series of articles on how to build a prototype in a way that will make a publisher be more inclined to play your game. What you are reading now is a spiritual successor to those posts, and what has been somewhat missing from them: what not to do. So, if you want to know how to make a publisher instantly uninterested in your prototype, just do one of the things listed below.
Before you continue though, please remember that what you read here may be an industry standard (as we are a part of the industry), but is a rule only when it comes to NSKN Games. Other publishers may be more (or much less) gracious than us, so your mileage may vary.
Also known as Extreme Cubeage. Easily recognizable, as you take fifteen minutes to set up your game due to the number of components barely fitting in that old Ticket to Ride box. Cubes, tokens, meeples, eight types of resources, each requiring fifty wooden markers, one hundred tiles and over two hundred cards.
I’m not saying that your game is bad just because there’s a lot of stuff inside. After all, there those notoriously lavish games like War of the Ring, but what you need to do is be sure that all of the components you bring are really necessary. So, before you significantly lower your chances, think about maybe switching out piles of tokens for player board tracks, and make sure that your thirty minute family game does not cost as much as Cthulhu Wars to produce.
Poker or Chess
While there are some games that are incredibly successful variants of Chess or Poker, introducing your prototype by saying: “It’s like Poker but…” is an almost certain way to make our minds instantly wander off. Both Chess and Poker are established games, with sets of rules that have been polished by millions of plays around the world. Unless you want to compete with that, think of a different mechanism to put under the hood of your creation.
However, remember that there is a difference between a game being a variant of Poker or a variant of Chess, and a game that draws from one of these classics to create an interesting mechanism in an innovative design. So, if you only collect resources using a mechanism reminiscent of Texas Hold’em, or make something work like a Chess Knight, by the love of all that is good and pure, do not introduce your design as a variant of the game you took the page from, as it will win you no friends.
Okay, we know that prototypes exist to be played over and over again. They exist to be handled (and occasionally mishandled) by many people and touched by many hands. We get that they are not as durable as professionally printed games. So, it’s okay when a prototype is worn out, as it even instantly suggests that the game has been played. What’s not okay is when we’re scared of touching your prototype without rubber gloves, and possibly a gas mask.
If you have any doubts when it comes to whether your prototype is still acceptable or not, consider erring on the side of caution. And if dozens of test have also added notes, scribbles, multiple corrections on top (or actually below) the oily crust on the cards and tokens, simply sit down and redo the prototype. Yes, we will probably see through the rough exterior, but why not better your chances?
Is that all?
Probably not, as going through prototypes is something we do on a regular basis. Maybe, though, you’ve come in contact with a prototype that made you want to run for the hills? Remember, sharing is caring!
With Essen fading slowly from memory, it was high-time to switch off the publishing/designing mind for a weekend and simply play games. So we did! We happily accepted the invitation to join the board games party organized by the amazing people behind BoardGameGirl.pl and drove 2 hours north of Warsaw to an idyllic region, set camp in a gorgeous wooden house and... stayed in for the next 48 hours playing games almost non-stop.
It's hard to put the games we played in chronological order, so let's just go through them as I remember them, leaving the best for last:
New York 1901 is a city building, tile-laying gateway game. Most of us liked it, but it is not one of my favorites of this year, perhaps a bit too light for my taste.
Skyliners (in the back) is load of fun, quick and innovative, also a bit too light for my taste, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Every time people played it they had fun and their laughter was disturbing our "serious" quest to become a Food Chain Magnate. The game from Splotter Spellen which generated huge queues at Spiel does not disappoint. After 3 hours of playing, I must admit that I came last by a long shot and yet this is one of the games I enjoyed the most. Neatly constructed game mechanisms combine euro mechanics with a race element making this game cutthroat in a very good way.
Grand Austria Hotel and Porta Nigra are other euro games fresh from Essen which left me high and dry. They are both very solid designs, with perfectly constructed game mechanisms, but they lack the wow factor. With two players they would probably feel more engaging because the down time between turns would be shorter.
Nippon on the other hand is one of the best euros of 2015. At first we were a bit overwhelmed by the iconography, thus my expectations were lowered. But with the quick and thorough explanations of Błażej Kubacki, we powered through the game and it suddenly felt a lot more fun. And the compliments won't stop here. This worker placement game which gave me the impression that it will be completely dry and disconnected from its theme managed to surprise us all once again. It actually felt like we're trying to industrialize the early 20th century Japan and our efforts were rewarded by plenty of victory points (that was only half true in my case, I would have to leave the word plenty aside).
In the back side My Village was just being set up and in the end felt like a solid game, nothing less than we had expected.
Curse of the Black Dice stirred quite a controversy. A semi-cooperative game in which players lose together or win alone made a split impression. Love by a few and hated by others, it gave the overall feeling that it could be more than it is, which the production quality is on par with more established titles.
2-player games had a special place in our weekend getaway. The series was opened by Kune v. Lakia, a small cutthroat head-to-head between a princess and a duke splitting bunny possessions in a royal divorce. The princess seems to always emerge victorious. And after the yelling and screaming of a divorce, what can be better than to hold hands? ...and then, we held hands. was quite a controversial title as two player games are usually war games, not mind twisting cooperative games.
But the jewel of the crown was 7 Wonders: Duel, by far the best game of this event in the opinion of the majority of the participants. I must admit my initial skepticism - I was simply not sold on the idea of a 2-player drafting game and I could simply not see how a best seller like 7 Wonders can be perfectly adapted to be played with less than 3 players. I am happy to admit that I was wrong. The game is great, if not perfect, highly competitive and still quite short, with several paths to victory and huge replay value - basically everything a gamer could wish for.
Not to make anyone jealous, but I simply have to add that all of the above took place in the middle of the nature, surrounded by lakes and forest, in the amazing company of friends, children and cute medium-sized dogs. What more can one wish for?
Expanding games is a bit tricky. A very good game can be lessened by an expansion that destroys its balance, its flow, or its overall feel. A solid but imperfect design can be either improved, or made worse, depending on whether its flaws are tackled, or ignored. And the perception of any game can be spoiled by making the fan base perceive an expansion as a simple money grab.
Expanding games has changed over the last few years, and one of the most notable aspects of the change was how many publishers decided to do away with secrecy. Nowadays publishers are not afraid to outright admit that they are thinking about possibly expanding their games in the future, often introducing symbols or other elements of the game for future use – and revealing the plan right from the start, in the game rulebook itself.
I first encountered this in Race for the Galaxy, and then later in Core Worlds, the latter going so far as to have each card exhibit a symbol unused in the base game. The idea of leaving some stuff for later – and freely admitting it – is much more popular. I’ve done that myself with Mistfall, introducing a symbol and a rules reference that will be used by a future expansion. And I’ve done that so that I would not have to paste it in retroactively.
It’s quite obvious that setting up for future expansions is a logical way to go, and yet, for many years this has not been done. Instead designers and developers would always have to create workarounds, reprint some of the components, add paste-ups to the expansion boxes, or simply create lists of changes players would simply have to remember. Even the biggest and most successful would not freely admit that expansions for their games are coming – and yet they would go so far as to finally produce an expansion for the string of previously produced expansions (Arkham Horror, I’m looking at you).
Still, the industry needed a few good years to finally work up the courage to freely admit – right from the start – that there will be (or at least might be) an expansion. And the initial trepidation is easy to understand, as it seemed that talking about expansions right from the start made the base game announce itself to be a somehow incomplete product, or (even worse), a collectible game with a blind purchase model.
But that was a few years ago – before FFG found a way to make money off of collectible card games without going toe to toe with Magic: the Gathering. It turned out that by being open we can all gain, as some gamers are naturally drawn to expandable and customizable products, while others will simply feel happy that the complete game they got might be expanded in the future. And instead of thinking that it is a money grab, they will embrace the idea, and make the most of their experience with the game.
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!
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