Sunday, August 17, 2014

Notes from Ninety-eighth playtest

Left to right: Ryan, Kris, Lester, 
Brandon, Jason

What we tried

  • Hunger cubes
  • Called shots
  • 3 goal limit
  • draw 2 keep 1 goal when re-spawn
  • black disks were just tar pits


Some second and third time players in this group, as well as playtest veterans. One new idea was that variable terrain might be interesting. Hopefully I'll capture a bit of that feel with the new "event disks" (or whatever I end up calling them). An underlying issue the desire for terrain brings up in making board position interesting. Only having one explore per turn (plus possible hunger cube) means less interaction with the board, and tar pits were spread out in this 5 player game. 

Called shots encourage poaching, which I don't think is a bad thing. As I watch new players figure out the game, the most successful beginners are the ones who figure out that the best way to increase your odds is to use the information other players give you when they fail to pick something up.

The 3 goal limit didn't come up. In a 5 player game there's isn't as much time for intentionally collecting goals as there is with any less.

Drawing 2 goals and keeping 1 introduces another decision an the beginning of players' turns. It wasn't an issue in this game, but normally I like to let people ruminate while other people go, that's why I moved the purchasing of equipment to as you leave the village, not as you enter it. If I gave the goal as soon as a character died, I'd have to balance that against intentional last turn suicides.

The hunger cubes seem to balance out the flow of play. People remember to use them better than they remember to claim spaces after a successful hunt/gather. It's nice to be guaranteed to get something at the end of every turn.

The bow & arrow are, if anything, too effective. They are expensive, and it can be tricky when you run out of arrows, but only missing 1 in 10 shots is great.

What's next?

Recommended board setup should have the village near a corner, to make board position interesting, and give more sense of exploration.

I need to try the event disks with more people, I'm sorry I forgot my cheat-sheet this time.

It might be interesting to try putting the atl-atl at a cost of 4 points, so players could start out with it, even if it won't do anything until they gather and score enough for a spear. Alternately, if the sling and club start becoming too unpopular, I could shift Bow, Atlatl, and Pouch all up one or two, and increase the starting equipment points.

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Icon for Animal Hide

The last of my placeholder icons has been replaced with a real graphic! came through with a new original icon for animal hide.

Update: One piece of feedback I received was that the head of the hide was too round, too human, so I've elongated it and tapered it down into more of a snout, while trying to remain at the same level of abstraction as the original design.

Deadly Wolf Exploration Disk (rendered)

Updated mask:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Icon for Meat

Finally, thanks to, I have an icon to represent meat in my game. Better yet, I put in a request on the forums and they're going to do one for hide too!

Wild Boar Exploration Disk (rendered)

Monday, June 9, 2014

London Playtest Meetup and Ninety-seventh Playtest

What we tried

  • black disks with animals/events on the flip side
  • one explore per turn, with a hunger cube if you don't collect anything that lets you explore a second time on a later turn
  • did not use "called shots" (I forgot it, it's not part of my regular teaching flow)
  • 4 goal limit


An interesting mix of hard core euro gamers and amerithrash fans, all aspiring designers.

Per usual, the person with the heaviest European accent liked it the least, would eliminate the memory aspect for deadly animals, and was looking for more economy/control, while dismissing the probability differences in the hunting weapons entirely.

Another suggested was to re-name hunger cubes, the thought being that if you're hungry you should have lower energy. Scout cube was suggested. Maybe a cultural difference? The name wasn't my idea, but I thought it very apt because hungry = desperate = tries harder. Not like they're "starvation cubes".

The bow, recently made extremely powerful by only requiring a 7 to hit (91% chance!) got an odd reception, but I think that was just a player experience level thing. They didn't like how few arrows you could carry, and felt that maybe it should come with an arrow, cost 1 less, or make wood tipped arrows that are free but only do 1 damage. Regardless, they were definitely wrong about this one.

A last idea was that you might be able to consume some of the food that you are carrying in order to explore more. Thematic, certainly, but likely not worth the complexity.

What's Next?

When a character dies and you get a new goal, try drawing 2 and keeping 1, like at the beginning of the game.

It would be interesting to have a powerful weapon like the Bow cost 4, which is the amount you start with. That would mean you couldn't afford any ammunition for it, and would have to successfully gather and score to arm yourself. This is similar to the "pouch+torch" opening gambit, which is sometimes successful but often backfires.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Notes from Ninety-sixth playtest

What we tried

  • New optional rule: calling your shot. A hunter can name an animal before exploring a face-down disk on the board that had been left from a previous turn. If correct, add one point to the roll of the dice.


Both players scored well at their goals, but it did not change a large lead.

What's Next?

The Omnivore goal should probably be removed, It is not one that players are likely to achieve and still play successfully.

A simple language update for the rules: change "Supply & Demand track" to just "Demand track".

Still need a name for these face-down disks that used to be tar pits. "Event disk" seems the closest fit, but I need to avoid having two types of disk that start with "e". Maybe Exploration disks need to become "Plant & Animal" disks?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Notes from Ninety-fifth playtest

What we tried

  • Replaced two negative black disks with ones that manipulate the market, improved Potlatch Ceremony (see previous post).
  • Reduced points of most goals by 1-2.


The negative black disks were too discouraging, so I'm shifting them towards supply/demand stalemate breakers.

Originally goals were 3-4 points. You had to, and some people would, die a lot to win the game with goals. The problem was, if the goals couldn't swing the winner then you know who has won the game before the end. So I raised them to to 6-8 points, with a few higher. Now we've got a 4 goal limit, which I think I'll keep even if the goal points go down to prevent the suicide strategy.

Rolled a 7 with my Atlatl against a Mammoth


The black disks can be exciting, but aren't so good they imbalance the game. It's challenging to flip one over and use it to your advantage if the market changes.

The Woolly Mammoth can be a game changer. At 3 meat and 2 hide, I almost caught Dan off guard and would have scored 20 points if I'd made both my rolls.

The very end of the game was disappointing because it outlined a goal that is still broken: Specialist. At 4 points per set of three and 1 per pair I accidentally scored 10 points to win by 1. This goal is left over from the shorter game is broken now in two player. I think it's time to eliminate this goal. It's not that different from the ones where you get points for collecting the most disks. It would reward a focus on collecting certain animals, but I've never seen anyone adjust their strategy to achieve it.

What's next?

I'd like to come up with some more black disks that are positive events or cool things that you can find to encourage people to flip them a little more.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Black Disks Formerly Known As Tar Pits

Black Disks

I'm exploring the possibility of replacing the static tar pit disks, which acted as minor obstacles, with more thematic event/animal/item disks that can be turned over as a free action. I've played three games with them so far, have gotten better at deciding where they should be placed at the start of the game, and like the changes they are causing. Anybody who has played the game enough times to realize that the supply/demand track is the heart of the game knows that sometimes it will lock up as people avoid scoring until the optimal moment. These disks give me an opportunity to mix that up a bit.

I haven't decided what to call these yet. Right now they do a variety of things. I can't call them events without renaming the exploration disks (although that not out of the question) to avoid alliteration. So I'm waiting to see which ones stick, and would welcome suggestions. On to the rules.

Appendix C: Black Disks

Permanents remain on the space, it cannot be explored.

Animals are treated the same as exploration disks, but may have supplemental rules.

Events are typically one time occurrences which are discarded after use unless otherwise specified. If the disk is discarded the space may be explored.

When an event moves a resource to the top of the supply & demand track, other resources move down to take its place, the same as during scoring, but in reverse.

1. Tall Tree

Permanent. Look at one face-down exploration tile. Roll 3 dice, less than 7 and the active character dies. Limited to one use per turn.

2. Bird

Animal. 1 life, 1 meat, 0 hide. When scored gain one Arrows equipment card.

3. Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Event. Omen of a long winter. Move the nuts to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move hide to the top.

4. Lucky Clover

Event. Use this disk to re-roll one die. Keep this disk with your goal until you use it. After use, pass this disk to the player to your left.

5. Famine

Event. Move the meat to the top of the supply and demand track.

6. Sickness

Event. Move hide to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move herbs to the top.

7. Drought

Event. Move the herbs to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move berries to the top.

8. Potlatch Ceremony

The player or players with the lowest trade value worth of equipment may take 3 points of equipment and distribute it among their living characters.

9. Woolly Mammoth

Animal. Deadly. 6 life, 3 meat, 2 hide. If collected must be scored before either of the player’s characters may explore again.

10. Fall Harvest

Nuts and berries are plentiful. Nuts move to the bottom of the supply and demand track, followed by berries.

11. Spring Bloom

Plants are growing fast and easy to find, lowering demand. Herbs move to the bottom of the supply and demand track.

12. Poison Berries

Event. Move the berries to the bottom of the supply and demand track. If the active player’s gatherer has any berries they are scored immediately.

13. Lost

Event. The player to the left of the current player moves the active character two legal spaces, avoiding other black disks and ignoring claimed space movement rules. The spaces do not count towards the 4 space limit. This disk is discarded and the turn continues like normal.