Gaming for a living

When one designs and published board games for a living, one tends to rant a lot about it. This is where we do that, the folks involved with NSKN Games and our special friends and supporters. We'll post here our ideas about gaming, about life, about gaming more often than not, about the specific challenges of making a business out of a hobby and... did we mention games?

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Pros and cons of standardizing in board games (II) - Cards

Andrei Novac
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Last week I talked about standardizing components in board games, covering the box, the rules and the game board. There's yet another type of components which come in various sizes, thicknesses and sometimes even shapes, and while we all think we know all about them, they still hold many secrets.

I am talking about playing cards, of course.


Image source: ebay.com


Size

At some point in our lives we've all touched or, at least, seen playing cards. We're mostly used to the standard poker size or bridge size cards, but we are aware that there are more common types of sizes out there. Us gamers would probably have no problem with any size of cards if we didn't care so much about our game pieces that we want to sleeve them.

The most common types of cards used to be:
- standard poker size: 3,5 x 2.5 in / 88 x 63 mm
- standard bridge size: 3.5 x 2.25 in / 88 x 57 mm
- tarot size: 4.75 x 2.75 in / 120 x 70 mm

But with the rise of the board gaming phenomenon, we are now accustomed to:
- "7 Wonders" cards - roughly 100 x 65 mm
- "Corey" cards - roughly 62 x 41 mm
- square cards - 70 x 70 mm
and many more.

Luckily, sleeve manufacturers have upped their game and they're now offering a lot more sizes. To have an idea what your options are, have a look here. But does having access to all these sleeves should grant game designers and publishers infinite freedom to make their own special cards?

We have discovered that any non-standard (bridge / poker size) cards come with an extra cost, other that the material. This cost covers custom die-cuts and it can be as high as a few thousand dollars. Overall, 5 decks of cards in a game printed in 5000 copies will cost roughly 50% more if they are a non-standard size compared to their price if they are a standard size.

I prefer standard poker size cards, they're easy to sleeve with old sleeves from Magic: The Gathering, without passing by a hobby store. These cards also usually come with better quality material than "special" cards and... I got used to them.

What are your preferred sizes of cards? Does this aspect of a game make a difference when you decide to buy a board game?

Material

This is when things get really technical, at least when you talk to a manufacturer ready to impress. Do you know the difference between Blue Core, Grey Core, Chinese Ivory Core, French Ivory Core, Casino Black Core, French Black Core and so on? I don't, and I've been dealing with these terms for the past 5 years. I have a booklet somewhere where I wrote down all the specs for each of them and when I have to make an informed decision I check it out.

But I was intrigued by the price difference and the multitude of options, so I asked for samples and compared them from a gamer's perspective: I bent them, look "through" them using powerful light sources, shuffled them about 250 times to check wear and tear and I am probably missing some other tests.

The truth is that I am still not able to distinguish between Blue and Ivory Core if the weight of them is the same. In my opinion, putting casino quality core (light doesn't pass through, therefore it is impossible to cheat by seeing through the cards) into board game cards is a waste of money which is supported in the end by gamers - the final customers.

The industry standard for producing cards is a 290 gsm (grams per square meter) Grey Core. I have noticed that upgrading the cards to 320 gsm requires an increase in price of 30%, which of course, reflects in the MSRP. Upgrading to a 345 gsm cardboard is even up to 60% more expensive!

I was temped to think that thicker cards would deal a lot better with wear and tear and their life span would be a few years longer (without sleeves). I was wrong. The biggest difference is the finishing and the core only affects marginally the durability of the cards.

Did you notice differences in core quality of the cards between various games? Do you have and tips?

The part which does make a difference, both visually and when we look at the resistance of the cards in time is made by the finishing. I personally love the FFG linen finish, it gives a great feeling but I like even more the matte varnish on borderless cards.

I must admit that I am no expert when it comes to the type of finishing and I don't even have a strong preference between matte and linen paper. Most manufacturers I've talking to have failed to explain to me what is the advantage of a certain type of finishing. For example, we asked what the best type of finishing for cards which require shuffling all the time is - this has happened with Mistfall(our next release). The answers were:

- linen finishing (3 out of 9)
- matte AQ varnish (3)
- upgrading from Blue core to Casino Ivory core (1)
- upgrading from 295 gms to 320 gms (1)
- our quality is the best (seriously!) (1)

So, it looks like there is no consensus among the manufacturers on the best possible way to make more durable cards for an acceptable price.

What was your experience? Do you have a favorite finishing type? Or perhaps a publisher whose quality you admire?
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Thu Mar 5, 2015 2:19 pm
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Pros and cons of standardizing in board games

Andrei Novac
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Standardizing - yay or nay?

To even begin the discussion about standardizing game components, we need to ask ourselves if this is an actual improvement.

Having lately dedicated more than a fair share of my time to publishing rather than designing, I realized that there is a downside of standardizing - it sacrifices some of the creativity of designers (myself included) on the altar of delivering a marketable, user-friendly, industry standard product. The designer in me is trying to fight the other side of my board gaming personality (the publisher) screaming for more freedom and less standard components.

I - the designer - wish to have a giant board in one of my upcoming titles depicting a detailed map of the world, something which would make the War of the Ring giant board seem average, but I - the publisher - will most likely deny this request on grounds of being unreasonable, too expensive and almost impossible to manufacture.

And that's not all... I - the gamer - had the pleasure of opening 46 game boxes brought from Essen, and some of them gave me great joy of discovering clever assembly mechanisms and cute little tweaks which made some games special right of the box, while some others had some of the most twisted annoying components that went straight to the "I am not emotionally equipped to deal with this" shelf.

So, perhaps there's a middle ground and an agreement can be sought by the dreamy designer, the pragmatic publisher and the exigent gamer.

Almost two years ago when NSKN Games was even younger than today, we decided to approach board game publishing with a specific set of mind - making each game component as functional as possible and packing everything in the least possible amount of space.

Same size boxes


In a post on the NSKN Games website called "Less is more" we described this "discovery" and its core principles. We adhere to these principles fully and Exodus: Proxima Centauri (revised edition), Praetor, Progress: Evolution of Technology and Versailles - board games published by NSKN Games since then - are all built accordingly. Our two upcoming titles for the first half of 2015 - Exodus: Edge of Extinction and Mistfall - are following the trend and will have the same ergonomic design. But is this all we can do?

The short answer is no, there's definitely room for improvement and this is what I want to explore together with you today.

Game components one by one - standard or not?

1. Game box - it's the first thing you and I see and 90% of the times the box is the decisive factor in our interest and later buying the game or not.

My first few games were of various sizes and shapes, from the standard square Ticket to Ride box, to the monstrous Twilight Imperium "coffin" and the tiny Catan Card Game. Through the years I have become pickier and the box of Dungeon Fighter caused me head aches because it's just marginally larger than the standard square and yet it does not fit on my very standard IKEA shelves... so I had to let it go.

My plea now is for standard boxes which save shelf space. Fantasy Flight Games - one of the trend setters in the hobby industry - has given up the iconic "coffin" boxes and switched to square boxes of various heights. I do not know the actual reason behind this move but I can speculate that they are standardizing and making their products gamer-friendly. Think only of Imperial Assault or Descent 2.0.

What is your opinion, do you prefer standard boxes or are you a fan of unlimited creativity and prefer cubical or cylindrical boxes?

2. Rules

Squares, rectangles, A5, A4, letter... the rules in modern boatd games are all over the place. We at NSKN tried our own standard, 285x285mm booklets which are roughly the size of the box. It was our choice for the past 2 years because it allows large graphic examples, the page can be divided into 2 or 3 columns according to needs and it is cost effective.

Cost effective is one of the keys for small publishers like us to succeed. Once we evolved past the point of mere survival (as a company) we had the luxury of rethinking our publishing paradigm and looking again for better solutions.

I have been advocating for "our size of the rules" for quite a while until I have recently made an experiment of my own: I took the rules of a random game, put them in both the large square format and A4 (which is almost the same as letter size) and read through them timing myself. Reading the same amount of rules text in A4 format took me about 25% less time. Therefore, the rules of our next game are coming in A4 format, even if that adds a few cents to our production costs.

Which is your preferred rules format? Do you even have one? Is this a key aspect for you when it comes to buying or even playing a game?

EDIT: Added a poll to ask about your favorite support for gaming rules.

Poll
How do you usually read rules of board games?
On paper, from the game box
Electronic format on a table or smart phone
Electronic format on a PC or laptop
      80 answers
Poll created by anovac


3. Boards

This is the point where the discussion gets complicated.

Having analyzed 50 games with non-modular boards published after 2012, I found the following distribution: more than 50% are a 4-fold square or rectangle, 30% are 6-fold rectangles and the rest are... all over the place. When it comes to modular boards, the most common shapes are rectangles, hexagons and starred hexagons, but the distribution here is too difficult to assess because of the wide range of options.

Furthermore, less and less of modern board games have an actual board, with German style games sticking more to the original conservative model with an actual board.

I mentioned before that the designer in me wants a giant game board. I have spoken to a few manufacturers and the largest single piece board they can make is 100 x 70 cm and this is not really what I had in mind. Anything beyond that would require all kinds of non-standard "stuff" (I was afraid to ask) and the price would increase five to ten fold for a board just 1.5 times as large.

Comparing boards with the same total area, a 4-fold cut is 30% cheaper in average than a 6-fold cut, thus the industry preference for the former. Even when it comes to ergonomics and table space, a square 4-fold cut seems preferable. And yet in Versailles we went with a larger 6-fold board very close to the manufacturer's upper limit because it suited better the game's needs. My inner fight between the designer and the publisher was a clear victory for the designer, while the publisher saw the margins decreasing under his eyes.

Using any standard game board will also save significant costs with the cutting knives when manufacturing with an established large board game factory. For small publishers saving this kind of money may very well make a big difference.

Modular boards offer a greater flexibility and sometime much greater replay value. They do not necessarily increase the manufacturing costs, but they usually do. Yet more and more designers and publishers walk this road, because creativity is no longer limited by a rectangle.

So... what is you view on game boards? With or without? Modular or classic? Does this aspect even matter when it comes to your liking and buying games?


Conclusions?

Writing for quite a while now, I have only covered about half of the topics I had in mind. So. I'd love to see your opinions and I'll resume my train of thought next week.
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Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:44 pm
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A sad day for all of us

Andrei Novac
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Today I will not talk about board games. I usually try to stay away from topics unrelated to board gaming, but the events which took place yesterday in France are too important to be overlooked. It was a sad day for all of us who saw, heard or read the news about the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

There is no excuse for such an attack, no justification. Only compassion.

This blog, just like any other blog, magazine, radio or TV station, podcast, videocast, etc is a living proof of the freedom of expression, a fundamental right which many of us sometimes take for granted.

Very few of you reading these lines were born in a country where the freedom of speech is something you have to fight for, but a small minority, including myself were born in a place where this basic right did not exist. I was too young to remember much about the Romanian revolution of 1989, but what I do remember that one thing changed over night - our right to state our opinions out loud without the fear of the political police or any other kind of police. The price of this freedom was paid in blood.

source: Twitter @jean_julien

Yesterday, people from Charlie Hedbo magazine, from writers to policemen, lost their lives in a mindless attack against themselves and their core beliefs - the liberty of expression. Besides mourning for them, there is one thing that any of us can do - no matter how far away we are - to prevent this from ever happening again. Whether in a public gathering, talking to our friends or on our social networks, we can use our words to defend our freedom of speech - not only ours alone but also of those who are the public message carriers, who put themselves in the spot light so that we can speak freely whenever and wherever we want.

We should all be aware that someone, somewhere is fighting not for a cause, but against all of us who choose to live in a free world. Yesterday's events have nothing to do with religion or politics. We should not condemn a belief system, a nation or an ethnicity for the horror which took place in Paris, Fighting back with the same weapons, stigmatizing an entire group of people for the madness of few would not make us any better than them.

Our weapons are much more sophisticated and a lot less deadly. We can remember those who fought with their pen and paper for their (and inherently our) freedom of speech and defend this basic right which will always make our countries part of the free world. We can speak against racism, religious and political intolerance and fight with words for our freedom.
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Fri Jan 9, 2015 1:01 am
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An expansion for Exodus - X. Blackwater

Andrei Novac
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Happy New Year everyone!

After well-deserved holidays we have returned to work and gaming with renewed strength preparing the last details of our upcoming Kickstarter project for Exodus: Edge of Extinction.

With that in mind we are presenting today the sixth and final faction of the expansion, the warmongers of Blackwater.



Blackwater is the most conflicted oriented faction in Exodus: Edge of Extinction. Their whole existence revolves around a single goal - their total domination over mankind. To implement this philosophy, they have developed powerful weapons, such as EMP Cannons, investing massively in offensive space combat technologies. The leaders of Blackwater are not naive and they acknowledge the threats posed by other warring factions, thus they did not neglect the development of defensive research, leaving almost no aspect of space conflict uncovered.



Precision and reliability – these are the concepts that made us into what we are today. But make no mistake, although we draw from the past, we are the future of mankind, whatever others might want you to believe. In the old days we were able to adapt, displaying power in all kinds of conflicts and proving that we will always exist and remain in a prestigious position of power and influence. Now comes the time when we take the gloves off, and swap our obscure influences for open and total domination.

Blackwater is more of a corporation than a faction, changing and adapting with time, but still holding on to what made it economically strong before leaving Old Earth. Although much had to change in the faction’s structure, the basic ideas remained immutable, serving as obvious proof that some of humanity’s flaws prove to be an infinite resource to be properly exploited.

Built around a vast economical power, Blackwater believes itself to be the true heir of humanity: a faction stemming from an organization that had existed on the top of the world’s food chain for decades before the Exodus. Now, through intensive development of space weapons, Blackwater is gathering strength to strike at its enemies with the cold precision and the dauntlessness that had forged its name in the old days.

Blackwater is a goal oriented faction – perhaps even the single most objective-focused one in this new world – and the goal is to make the final transition from an almost all powerful organization to a truly omnipotent one. After all, the laws and regulations that had curbed the corporation time and time again back on Earth no longer apply, with almost no obstacles standing in the way of total domination.

Now everything Blackwater does is means to an end, with no humanitarian laws putting a damper on what the faction’s specialists are able to achieve. And soon, very soon in fact, all those who want to win will find out they are playing a game not only invented but also arbitrated by one of the opponents. The one that is invading their borders, destroying their fleets and holding their assets, before their own aggression can finally be stopped.

If you're curious about the other factions in Exodus: Edge of Extinction, check them out:
Titan Diarchy
Arctic Dominion
Han-Xia Dynasty
Sirius Theocracy
Confederation of Sol
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Wed Jan 7, 2015 9:37 pm
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Gaming with children - should we let them win?

Andrei Novac
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I must confess that I do not have children yet, but like every other self-respecting adult I have been a child once - some friends claim that I still am - and I also know quite a few families with children. Parents play games with their children - a very good endeavor - but some also let their kids win to protect the little ones' self esteem. Is that good practice?

When I was about 5 years old I saw this TV show about people playing chess and since communist Romania had exactly one TV channel at the time, I watched and became intrigued. I was also a lucky child because my parents always believed in me, so they taught me how to play chess. One lovely summer day after claiming that I understood the rules of chess and my father agreeing with this conclusion, my father and I played a competitive game of chess - my first chess game ever. I lost. I was a competitive man ever since I can remember, but so was my father.

That day a tradition started. Over the next many months, almost every Sunday morning my father was making time to beat his 7-year old son in a game of chess. I don't recall single duels with details, but I do remember a faint feeling of frustration. After every game which inevitably ended in my defeat, my father would explain how I could have played better. My father was no Kasparov, but his adult mind could easily devise the right strategy to defeat me.

I heard my mom on several occasions scolding my dad for not letting me win even once and my father saying "that's how he'll learn" and not giving in at all. It was even more frustrating to know in advance that things would not change, but I was still looking forward to my next Sunday morning.

What my father did not know back then is that I kept count of the games we played and he was the proud winner of 41 consecutive games of chess against his son. But all that was about to change. I don't exactly remember how - I suspect that my mother had something to do with it - but I got my hands on a chess book which I read religiously several times. Since I am not a great chess player today, I probably did not understand much, but I had a very good memory and so I learned by heart as many opening as I could.

On our 42nd chess morning my father's winning streak was over. I took the time to think about my every move and after a few long hours, I could finally lift my fist up and scream "Victory!". My parents were surprised. After having seen 41 defeats in a row, I knew that my father had not let me win, but I still had to ask, hoping for a confirmation of my legitimate victory. He confirmed, and it made me feel so proud that I can still remember this story almost 30 years later.

It's been a while since I last thought of this story, but with my adult mind I realized that it was one of my most relevant childhood experiences and one that shaped my life. I learned not to give in to anything and anyone and I also learned that with a lot of hard work and persistence there is no mountain too high. But as a child, the one thing I took (without even knowing it) from my chess weekends with my dad was self confidence. I had found out that adults are not invincible and if they find their ways to deal with grown-up stuff and I can beat them, then I will also be able to handle anything life throws at me. Sadly my 42nd chess game against my father was also the last due to some family issues which are beyond the scope of this story. I was lucky enough to have just enough time to learn my very valuable life lesson. I still remember the frustration of more than a year of chess loses, but the feeling of victory and the lesson learned are the most vivid and sweet ones.

Fast forward 26 years into the future. A few weeks ago I was playing Galaxy Trucker with my 10-year old nephew. In the second round, his space ship was heavily damaged by evil aliens and asteroids, he realized that he could not win anymore and thus got upset and flipped the board. The game ended right there, with the adults explaining why that was not the right behavior and the child crying from anger.

Another awkward experience was with an adult friend who dislikes every game she cannot win, blaming the game for being "stupid". In theory, dealing with adults should be easier, we are all supposed to have the ability to listen to reason. After three consecutive sessions of Ticket to Ride all in the same weekend, the friend qualified the game as "illogical" (defeat), "absolutely great" (win) and "stupid" (defeat). I believe that this kind of behavior is as a result of not having the relevant childhood gaming experiences. I am not referring only to board games, but to all childhood games. If adults offer their children a false sense of security and shield them from any kind of defeats, they shape the reality of their kids into a dangerously long streak of fake successes. As soon as children grow into young adults, they simply cannot be shielded anymore and the fresh adults stand to get heavily hurt.

Two years ago during the UK Games Expo I noticed a family with two children not older than 12 sitting at our demo table with Exodus: Proxima Centauri. At first I had doubts that they would understand or enjoy an empire building game focused on combat, but their father looked confident and reassured us that their kids play anything up to Agricola or Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. So, after a very brief explanation, I saw a kid getting his ships blown up by his father, without tears in his eyes, without even a word of protest, eager to keep fighting and relentless in his pursuit of victory. In the end, he won.

Dear Parents, the holidays season is upon us and thus you have more time to spend with your children. I am not a parent and thus my experience is incomplete, so let me ask you a few questions. How do you play with your kids? How protective should one be with the young ones? How important are the lessons learned and what is the right balance between teaching and creating joy?
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Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:42 pm
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An expansion for Exodus - IX. Solaris Confederation

Andrei Novac
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We're presenting today the one but last faction of Exodus: Edge of Extinction, the Solaris Confederation. Originally reuniting the peoples of Latin America, the Confederation has evolved past its historical ideological boundaries, while keeping the essence of its ancestry.



While the Confederation is not favoring open conflict, their history recorded many asymmetric responses they offered to various threats. They have mastered the weapons of mass destruction while developing almost impenetrable protection against them, making the Confederation less vulnerable to surprise attacks. And since the people of Sol do not like surprises of any kind, their technologies include Advanced Cloaking and Dark Energy Shield, making their space ships very difficult targets.



If the years since we left Earth has taught us something, it’s that we just want to exist. Without poverty, without threat, without revolutionists and warlords telling us what to do. We are happy with the status quo – or we would be, if other weren't so unhappy with it. We don’t want a war, but if we are to face opponents who think they are stronger than us, then so be it. They will be in for a surprise.

The Solaris Confederation originates from what was known back on Old Earth as Latin America – a place filled with wonder, but also with social inequalities and injustice. From corporations eagerly exploiting the people and the lands, to power hungry local leaders, the faction’s ancestors rarely had had an easy life of the rest of the world. That is probably why the Confederation now just wants to exist in peace and be left to its own devices.

Many other survivor factions boast their reputed technology lead, the might of their fleets or the superiority of their way of life. In comparison, the Solaris Confederation does next to nothing in terms of flexing their political muscle or displaying their military might, believing that when the imminent conflict finally comes, there may still be hope that the warring factions will leave Confederation alone.

Rapid technology development is not the main goal of the Confederation – or at least does not seem to be. A very cautious observer might notice, however, that research was a discreet focus of this particular faction. There are even those few who, after repeatedly provoking the Confederation, lived to tell the tale. And it is a horrifying tale of whole fleets silently materializing in the emptiness of the void to strike with surgical precision and wreak unspeakable havoc before disappearing once again, without a single ship lost.

Survival and a relatively comfortable existence are the current goals for the Confederation’s leaders. Simply put, they want to live their own life and are perfectly content with letting other survivor factions do the same, going so far as to easily forgive minor infractions that would set others off – and buying time to mount a sudden, unstoppable and crippling counteroffensive. That is also why they fight most their battles on their own territory, and with ages of guerrilla warfare experience behind their belts, the members of the Confederation will usually only defend their homes, and do this effectively enough to put all else to shame.

If you're curious about the other factions in Exodus: Edge of Extinction, check them out:
Titan Diarchy
Arctic Dominion
Han-Xia Dynasty
Sirius Theocracy

Edit: Changing the faction name to Solaris Confederation.
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Tue Dec 9, 2014 1:14 pm
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An expansion for Exodus - VIII. Titan Diarchy

Andrei Novac
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The new faction of the Exodus expansion we are presenting today is Titan Diarchy. Before we get down to business, we want to thank you once again for helping us choose the name of the expansion, Exodus: Edge of Extinction.



Titan Diarchy has a special appetite for science and while they are willing to share some of their knowledge with the others, their awareness that knowledge is power guides their philosophy of existence. Several unique technologies give the Diarchy the upper hand in the tech race and provide them with the means to assert they supremacy through technology. Even if war is not their main focus, with their almost limitless access to science, Titan Diarchy has all the means necessary to reach to an immediate or long term threat.



We know what war is, we have seen scars left on our lands time and time again. We were taught that the future lies not with the strength of arms, but with humanity’s true achievements: scientific discoveries. Over time we have learned to excel in what everyone needs to build a better life. And we will share our knowledge with those able to aid us in further research, to build a better future for all mankind.

Although many survivor factions claim to be the most technologically advanced, the members of the Titan Diarchy are the true masters of research and the leaders of innovation. With the skills and traditions of the scientific and academic Europe of the Old Earth, the Diarchy is able to use its specialized workforce with utmost effectiveness and precision, becoming the only faction able to come up with a few groundbreaking discoveries in the time it takes others to make a single breakthrough.

The technological lesson is, however, not the only one the Titan Diarchy decided to never forget. The 20th and 21st century wars left Europe destroyed and rebuilt time and time again, which taught the Diarchy that even though fighting on home territory comes with some advantages, the losses usually outweigh the benefits.

This approach has seeped into the Diarchy’s attitude towards armed conflicts. Although the leaders of this scientific faction will always choose peaceful coexistence, they will not run from combat when war is inevitable. In fact, the Diarchy will be the first survivor faction to aggressively attack an opponent, trying to ensure any conflicts play out as far from their own borders as possible.

The main goal of Titan Diarchy is not an all out war. Its members knows how to fight, but it is science they truly excel at. A strong belief that developing new technologies will allow all humanity to live in peace means that the faction’s leaders will always seek a peaceful resolution to any possible conflicts, trying to negotiate and share their technology for the greater good of mankind – and for a profit that will put them in a position of true power in the futuristic technological utopia they are hoping to build.

If you missed our earlier articles, you can read here about Sirius Theocracy, Arctic Dominion and Han-Xia Dynasty.
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Thu Dec 4, 2014 5:07 pm
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An expansion for Exodus - VII. Han-Xia Dynasty

Andrei Novac
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As promised, we continue to present the different factions present in the Exodus expansion. Before we get to the main topic of the day and talk about the Han-Xia Dynasty, let's have a quick look at early sketches of the artwork by Odysseas Stamoglou


Box cover sketch


Han-Xia Dynasty faction sketch


Han-Xia Dynasty is the faction with the best skills during space combat. Using Advanced and Fringe tactics, the Dynasty can create positive outcome out of almost any space confrontation. With their unique Hyperspace Drives, they also have the ability to move unrestricted throughout space, surprising their enemies and engaging in fights they almost always win. Without being neither moral nor immoral, their simple yet effective set of laws and amoral vision among the most powerful and fearsome factions, equaled perhaps only by Blackwater.



When others were leaving Earth in panic, escaping the cruel fate of a dead world, we were ready. We had the best and brightest of us chosen to become our future. We did not escape into the far blackness of space. We went as conquerors. We have a history longer than many other nations of the world. We stood the test of time when others faded. We flourished when others merely survived. As our fleets dominate the void of space, so will we dominate all those who try to oppose us. And who are you to judge our ways?

The Han-Xia Dynasty originated in greater China, which probably explains why this specific faction seems more closely tied to its nationality than any other. Centred around effectiveness and unrelenting exploitation of its seemingly endless human potential, the Han-Xia adapted to the new world with astonishing speed, assimilating and modifying Centaurian technology faster than any other survivor group.

Although the Centaurians welcomed humanity and peace and did a lot to impose their pacifistic doctrines upon their new protégés, the Han-Xia Dynasty knew from the start that humanity will need a single leader – a leader forged in the rapidly dying flame of an exploding enemy fleet. With that in mind, the Dynasty introduced a cruel but frighteningly effective training regime for their pilots, quickly building a force of specialists able to best any opponents in space combat.

However, the war for domination requires not only strength, but also speed, and the Han-Xia’s ships are quickly becoming a legend, for the Dynasty is the only faction controlling the technology of faster than light travel – and this but one of many technologies the Han-Xia scientists were able to not only learn to use, but also modify heavily so that it would serve the Dynasty’s purpose.

The Han-Xia Dynasty works with the fearsome effectiveness of a human hive, able to react to change with incredible speed and to respond violently to even the slightest of provocations. Some believe that it is because of its leaders inborn cruelty. Others, better schooled in the ways of Han-Xia know that the truth is far more terrifying. The Dynasty is here to rule, its purpose is clear, and it will not shy away from achieving its goal in the most effective way possible, even if the effectiveness means resorting to lethal brutality or cold genocide.

If you missed our earlier articles, you can read here about the Sirius Theocracy and the Arctic Dominion.
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Tue Nov 18, 2014 6:46 pm
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    An expansion for Exodus - VI. Arctic Dominion

    Andrei Novac
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    Two weeks ago we started presenting the factions fighting for supremacy in Exodus: Proxima Centauri. We continue this series with the Arctic Dominion, the experts of trading.

    The Dominion is the single faction with the ability to convert resources into victory points. This ability is backed by their trading, banking and mining skills supported by specific technologies, allowing the Dominion to convert very fast their territorial claims into power. Another unique technology of the Arctic Dominion, the Quantum Reflection, is their key to take full advantage of fighting the Centaurian Resistance, getting both the victory points and the direct benefits from the resistance cards.



    Some see space as a dark, cold and unwelcoming place. In the ancient times seas were similarly perceived, but even then our ancestors braved the freezing blackness, acknowledging the dangers, but also seeing the possibilities it offered. They were warriors and traders; we are businessmen. If there is a price on something, and if it is the right price, we can deliver. And as far as we know, there is a price on everything.

    On Earth the Arctic Dominion grew where all else would either freeze, or have the right mind to leave. The cold and unwelcoming place of the northern part of North America and the territories north of Siberia, though rich with natural resources, forged the shrewdness and mettle of the people living there. With time it became clear that the common focus on turning a profit became more unifying than any particular nationalities and beliefs, becoming a deciding factor in the origin of Arctic Dominion.

    There is and has always been only one guiding force behind Arctic Dominion: money. Leaders of the faction believe that although Old Earth might be merely a legendary home world with a legacy many hope to fall into oblivion, there are still lessons that should never be forgotten. And for the Dominion, those lessons allow them to flourish and profit where others struggle for survival.

    Members of the Arctic Dominion are descendants of Earth’s miners, traders and bankers, today unified mostly by a mutual desire to build the wealth and power of their organization. A long tradition of trading with yesterday’s enemies and tomorrow’s allies makes them a group of business negotiators, with a level of skill unmatched by any other. Their economic potential allows them to also remain a challenging wartime opponent. It is not unknown for the Arctic Dominion to profit from their conflicts by auctioning off carefully obtained POV’s that are the key figures for other factions.

    Although concentrated on their own power, the Arctic Dominion managed to maintain the closest relations with the Centaurians, learning as much as possible from humanity’s benefactors and supplementing civil science research with a focus on Centaurian technologies that allow them to maximize the gains even from fighting off indigenous resistance.


    Arctic Dominion faction sketch
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    Tue Nov 18, 2014 6:39 pm
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    An expansion for Exodus - V. Sirius Theocracy

    Andrei Novac
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    With Spiel Essen out of the way, our focus is back on Exodus: Proxima Centauri. The long awaited expansion is our current top priority project and things are looking good. The prototype is ready and the we have a play testing session at the end of this week.

    Since the major feature of this expansion is the asymmetric game play, let's start talking about the different factions in Exodus... today, the Sirius Theocracy. First, the technologies...



    The Sirius Theocracy is a faction with a unique way to control the political aspect of the game and new means to assert domination - scoring VP from turn order cards and laws on the table. Their cunning political abilities are doubled by the clone factories which allow a quick spread of population across planets and the tachyon scanners providing an early advantage in combat.

    The Lord has always provided, the Lord has brought us from the malice and destruction of Old Earth, and the Lord will bring us into a better future and this new world of His, before our lost Eden is once more restored to us. And when we return, we will rule it in His name.

    The roots of what is known today as the Sirius Theocracy stem from the southern part of the former United States of America and northern territories of Mexico. Bound together by a mutual belief in a higher power watching over them, the Sirians believe that their destiny life both with Gaia, their new world, and Earth, were they are planning to return to rebuild and restore its former glory.

    Although the Sirius Theocracy is unified by an idea of a benevolent deity being their creator and protector, perceiving them as simple minded religious fanatics would be a grave mistake. Members of the Sirius Theocracy are known as true masters of politics: they are cunning and deceptive, often hiding their true agendas behind an image of zealots driven solely by religious beliefs.

    The immutability often associated with any societies bound by religious belief has never stopped the Sirians from committing to scientific research, allowing them to not only be the first to master human cloning, but to spearhead any new research in this field and become the only faction able to construct cloning factories not only on their home planet, but also on any world they decide to incorporate.

    The leaders of Sirius Theocracy know that their power lies in their ability to exert political influence, so they are more eager to choose diplomatic solutions over open warfare. However, they do not shy away from armed conflicts when peaceful options are exhausted or when openly provoked. Although not as skillful in combat as in politics, they are still a formidable force one should never disregard.

    We will continue our detailed presentation of the expansion next week with the Arctic Dominion. Stay in touch and get the latest updates on the Exodus expansion by signing up to our newsletter at http://www.nskn.net
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    Tue Nov 4, 2014 12:36 pm
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