Monday, December 11, 2017

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Six

Playtesters: Dan, Kris, Ryan, Lester
What we tried
It had been a while since we've played, so this is a reminder of the current rules, and new experiments:
  • Movement reduced to 0, 1, 2, or 3 spaces
  • Explore cube lets you move again
  • 4 points starting equipment (should have been 5, I remembered wrong)
  • 2 points of equipment when a character dies
  • Simplified hunting: if you hit you can attack again, no limits (can kill a bear with a sling, but it requires 4 hits in a row)
  • One Hunger/Explore cube is collected any turn that you don't claim a space. No limit on the number you collect or spend in a turn, but you can't spend one if you have collected something.
  • Encounters
    • Draw a card, do what it says, and then keep the card. At the bottom there are 2 resources. The card can be spent to move the value of the resources up by one.
    • 12 encounter disks mixed in with a bag of 24 plants & animals (this was bad, with 1 in 3 odds, Ryan kept drawing them). Made the executive decision as a non-playing observer to correct this by adding 12 more plants & animals.
  • Hunger/Explore cubes should be called "Retry" cubes.
  • Need to clarify/simplify when you can collect and spend a Retry cube, simple hard & fast rule like "if you claimed a space you don't get one, otherwise you do. You can spend one unless you claimed a space or an event told you to end your turn."
  • Encounter disks should be called "Event" disks for simplicity.
  • There were too many events, instead there should be:
    • 12 events to 36 plants & animals, or
    • 8 events and 24 plants & animals as a shorter game option.
  • There should be more simple events.
  • Poaching is harder now that you can't move as far, which is an improvement because poaching has always been an over-powered strategy.
  • With the reduced movement, goal with no spaces touching is much harder! But it does score a lot, so might not need an adjustment.
Event Notes
In general, each event needs to be clear whether your turn ends, or you explore again.

Lost should say your turn ends and the note about ties should go at bottom.

Wandering Trader should be clear it's optional.

Village on Fire: nearest space without a claim or explore disk. Village moves, character do not. Idea: Characters in village roll or die.

View from a bluff: hunter becomes active character.

Strange mushrooms: clarify what to do with events that you draw.

What's next?
Here's a prioritized list of rule ideas that came up:

  1. Spend a retry cube to re-roll the dice, or re-roll one die (have to decide which rule to try).
  2. Should be able to pay for equipment from both tracks, splitting the cost of even a single piece of equipment. This would be a change to a long existing rule, but one that doesn't need to exist.
  3. A goal, or simply a rule: score for extra retry cubes. Either 1 point each max 4, or 1 point for every 2.
  4. Clarify the rules about if missed what a deadly animal was when it was revealed, should be able to ask what it was until the next player starts their turn.
  5. Consider if trade value should be at -1 cost. I'm not super keen on this, I think the game is more interesting when people can upgrade.
Event ideas:
  • Force a trade with another player for a collected disk of same type (animal or plant) with one of your characters.
  • Put retry cubes on the board people can pick up. 
  • Reduce movement.
  • Increase movement.
  • Split the village, move half the village to your spot. 
  • Name what another player collected, if correct they replace on of their claim markers with one of yours on the board.
  • Reshuffle market.
  • +1 hunt/gather points.
  • Name a space of another player that you want them to lose claim of. Fail a roll and they get to unclaimed one of yours.
  • Somehow return a scored disk to the board.
  • Instead of using an event for market manipulation, use it as a one shot element
  • Blood moon - until the start of your next turn, all animals are deadly, explore again.
  • Plants become deadly until your next turn.
  • Create a dead spot on the board.
  • Everybody moves one space less until your next turn. (Snowstorm)
  • Bees! Nobody can move to the village until your next turn.
  • Everyone needs to do something or a penalty is imposed for everyone.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Encounters will be mixed in with the exploration disks. When the encounter is drawn it will be resolved, and then the player will keep the card, using it later in the village to consume (increase the value of) the resources at the bottom of the card.

Here are the encounters that I have been thinking about. I need some more and would welcome suggestions, especially ideas about rules that an encounter could break.

Roll the dice. +2 if the character has not collected any disks.
3-11: injured ankle. Until returning to the village this character may not be chosen 2 turns in a row, including next turn. Now, and after taking a turn with this character, set the piece on its side. Stand it up when taking a turn with the other character.
12-18: escape unharmed, continue your turn. May explore another space, if movement remains.

Roll the dice. If there are ties in distance, the player to your left chooses the space.
3-6: move to the furthest corner of the board from the character's current position.
7-12: move to the nearest corner of the board.
13-18: player to your left moves you four spaces.

Rabid Animal
Surprised by a rabid beast. If the character is carrying a club or torch, escape unharmed, continue your turn. May explore another space, if movement remains.

Otherwise you are bitten. The character lives if they return to the village by the end of the your next turn. If the character does not make it back, they die at the end of the following turn, regardless of which character acted. All normal actions may be taken during these two turns.

View from a Bluff
If both characters are alive, your hunter has a weapon, and you can correctly name a face down animal on the board, move both characters to that space and hunt it with +2 to your rolls.

Standing Stones
Claim this space. Choose one of your claim markers that is closest to this space and move it one space in any direction. Move your character to that space.

Tall Tree
Roll the dice.
3-5: Your character falls from the tree and dies.
6-18: Look at a face down tile on the board. If one of your characters if it is within 3 spaces of the correct character type, you may move that character to the space and attempt to hunt or gather it and your turn ends. Otherwise continue your turn, you may explore again.

Meet a Trader
You meet a wandering trader who moves between villages. Choose one option:
1. Score one disk, but instead of moving the resource(s) to the bottom of the track, move it to the top.
2. Trade equipment back for points, scoring the trade value on either track.
3. Trade equipment for other equipment for its full value minus one.

Set a Snare
Draw 6 disks, revealing them one at a time.If you draw a rabbit or a squirrel stop drawing and claim the space. Leave the animal under your claimed disk. Your hunter, and only your hunter, may collect it on a future turn passing over the space without having to explore. Put back the other disks that were drawn and end your turn.

Potlatch Ceremony
The player, or tied players, with the highest combined score give one piece of equipment back to the supply. The other players, in clockwise order starting with you, take one equipment costing 2 or less from the supply for one of their characters.

Rapid River
Attempt a crossing, +2 to your roll if you have a spear.
3-7: Lose one equipment. The player to your right moves you 3 spaces away from the village.
8-12: Move 2 spaces away of your choice from the village. End your turn and collect a hunger cube.
13-18: Move one space away from the village and continue your turn. The space does not count toward your movement limit.

There is a fire in the village. Move this character to the village and roll the dice:
3-5: The village is destroyed. Move the village, but not your character, to any 2 unclaimed spaces on the edge of the board.
6-14: The village is damaged, move it to the nearest 2 adjacent unclaimed spaces.
15-18: You put out the fire. Score 3 points on either the hunt or gather track.

Other Thematic Ideas

  • Mushrooms
  • Lightning
  • Out of watec
  • Celestial event
  • Encampment
  • Cave
  • Hollow tree
  • Clouds
  • Medicinal Plant
  • Exotic berries
  • Found item

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Anything can happen in the woods

I'm starting to develop encounters, brainstorming thematic ideas for good and bad things that can happen in this prehistoric forest. For some I've got an idea of how they'd work. I've also got ideas for game mechanics but no story behind it. I'd be happy to take suggestions for either or both in the comments.

I'll probably use tarot sized cards, so there's plenty of room for variable outcomes to an encounter, rolling dice for resolution, with bonuses or penalties based on what equipment you have, or whether you're using your hunter or gatherer.

The back of the encounter cards will have resource symbols to be used in the consume action, so the encounters do not need to manipulate the demand track, although they could.

Encounter Theme Ideas

Forest fire
Rabid animal
Found something (equipment?)
Found exotic berries
Found trap
Seasonal mushrooms
Clouds gets dark early
Run out of water
Meet a stranger trapper/trader/enemy
Celestial event (shooting star, eclipse) - fear or inspiration (draw one goal per player and hand them out).
Temporary encampment


Force trade between character that are nearby
Get shoes, character moves 5
Luck - re-roll one die, single use (then pass to next player?)

Theme & Mechanism

Make a poultice - next time would be killed, instead are wounded, movement reduced by one while that character lives.
Lost - roll one die, the player to your right moves your active character that many spaces. Each torch you cary reduces the move by 2, nothing happens if negative.
Climb a tree - (draw a tile and place it )
Potlatch Ceremony - players may trade equipment for points, or get free equipment.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Five

What we tried
  • 4 points starting equipment
  • Spear hits on a 10 or higher (1 lower than before)
  • Club hits on an 11 or higher (1 lower than before)

Significant second mover advantage this game, something to keep an eye on. Poaching drastically improves odds. Encounters mixed in with the plants and animals might help, since exploration failures won't always leave something to pick up.

The consume action made it so that there was never a demand track stalemate, which used to be very common in 2 player games.

What's next?

New idea: when you have reached the maximum number of goals you can still draw more, but have to discard down to the limit afterwards. This could let you get rid of a goal you'll never make.

Combine new encounters that are mixed in with the explore disks, and the consume action. The consume might be triggered automatically, or saved for later. Maybe the back of the encounter card has the name and one or more resource icons, and you can keep it to manipulate the demand track later.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Even Simpler Hunting

In the last playtest we tried a version of hunting that is even easier to teach, which gets at one of the ultimate goals of game design: delivering the most play value with the easiest learning curve.

The rule is this: if you hit, you may roll again. The two shot limit was removed.

The game balance impact of this is to improve the Sling. It can kill deadly animals like Wolves and Bear that it could only previously fend off, or needed to be combined with another weapon.

Let's revisit the basics before looking at the odds behind each weapon. Here are the odds of rolling at least the given number on three six-sided dice:


These are the animals we're hunting, and the damage required to kill each.


Now let's look at each weapon and weapon combo, how much damage they do, and the odds of hitting multiple times. Note that there's no need to hit more times than required to kill a bear, and weapon combinations assume hitting with both.

Weapon / Combo
DamageRollHitx2 Hitsx3x4


7, 9 (9)67%50%
(Sling x2)

Spear+Sling411, 937%

Finally, the cost in points (players currently start with 5 points worth of equipment).

Weapon / ComboCost
Bow6 (Arrows free)
Atlatl5 (Spear required)

Now, let's say I like how fun it is for someone wielding a Sling to be able to brave the odds and take on a deadly animal, or more hilariously for everyone else, attempt it and die trying. In that case the Spear and Club start looking a little sad by comparison. It doesn't make thematic sense to increase the price of the Sling. Let's try improving the Spear and Club. Conveniently, nothing is new set at a 10 (63%), so we can slide those both down by 1.

Weapon / Combo
Hitx2 Hitsx3x4


Bow+Sling(+Sling)7, 9 (9)67%50% (Sling x2)

Spear+Sling10, 947%

Update: some other ideas that came up in conversation with playtester Kris Davidsohn. One is that the Atlatl may be slipping now, since the ammunition is so expensive. It could go down to 4. I'm also considering dropping the starting points down to 4. Another mechanism to play with for spears and arrows is only discarding them when you miss, or when you hit (missing is already really bad in this game, especially if you don't die). 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Four

Close end-game score.

What we tried

  • Simplified hunting rules: if you hit, you may roll again (or run away). This only changes the Sling, because other weapons kill anything in the existing two shot limit.
  • A new action available before or after scoring a disk: Consume. Choose one of 3 face up consume cards to increase the demand of one or more resource.
  • Events were removed for this playtest.
  • Pouch is priced at 4, bow 6, arrows are free if one of your characters has a bow.
  • Players start with 5 points of equipment, get 2 points worth when a character re-spawns.
  • "Hunger cube" rule is in place, you only explore once, but if you fail to collect something you get a cube that can be turned in later to continue moving and exploring after a failed explore.

I need to calculate the odds on the Sling with the simplified hunting rules. It's definitely fun to play this way, adds a lot of tension when trying to kill a wolf or a bear with 3 or 4 successful shots in a row (Lester killed a bear, it was awesome!) I may need to raise the cost to 3, or lower the numbers needed to hit with the spear and club (both of which have lost ground to the other weapons).

I will also consider lowering the points that you get towards starting equipment to simplify that decision at the beginning of the game.

The goal cards (/player aids) should say "draw 2, keep 1" on the back, one less rule to remember, and it's the same at the start of the game and when you re-spawn.

Need to double check that the rules are clear that you score one disk at a time, and that the meat/hide from an animal are also scored separately, and each move the demand track.

What's next?

I'm going to add encounters back into the game, with encounter tiles mixed in with plants and animals. There will be corresponding encounter cards with simple to resolve events. I briefly considered "choose your own adventure" style encounters, but that has problems with unfair knowledge advantage, and would disrupt the flow of an otherwise very smooth game.

I think most players have figured out that it is very effective to follow behind someone else, pay attention to what they fail to pick up, and poach it for themselves. I'll have to keep an eye on that with the encounters mixed in with the explore disks. There are few enough turns in the game that so far nobody has intentionally not explored new ground themselves in favor of always poaching.

We'll need to test whether a player who draws an encounter gets a hunger cube. It may depend on the particular encounter.

Given that the goal of this playtest's "consume" mechanism was to prevent the demand track from stagnating, not really increase scores, I will try integrating demand track manipulation with the encounter cards. That way there's only one new deck being added to the game. (Thanks to Kris for that idea).

Friday, October 31, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Three

triple threes followed
by triple sixes
What we tried

  • 24 plant & animal disks.
  • 1 event per turn limit.
  • If you kept an event disk don't get an explore cube.
  • turn in 3 events for a goal, but not equipment.
  • called shot gives a -1 penalty if you get it wrong.
  • simplified Trader event doesn't change demand track.


This game had the craziest luck differential, as you can see from the photo, and it was reflected in the final score. What's changed though is that an unlucky player who died a bunch of times didn't win because of secret goals, so that's progress.

Play length was restored to an hour, but we still had time to upgrade equipment. Need to see what narrative arc is like with more players.

End Game

What's next?

Tree is unpopular, maybe it should let you look at 2 or 3 things?

Time to start scaling back experimental rules. Called shot makes poaching too powerful. Turning in event disks is fiddly and rarely done.

starting setup