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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Two

Game End
(paranoid yellow)

What we tried

New event Cornucopia replaces Bird. It's a collection of plants that can be gathered, worth 1 herb, 1 berry, and 1 nut.

Changed Mammoth to Sabertooth, a deadly animal worth 2 meat and 2 hide that has 5 life, which must be scored ASAP.

Trying arrows cost at 0, but you may only buy them if one of your characters has a bow.

Goal points lowered (quantities in parenthesis):
2 (4), 3 (4), 4 (3), 5 (3), variable (3).

Moved event disks at least 4 spaces from the village, they are better mid game.


Before starting the game there was concern that turning in 3 events for equipment (and probably goals too) encourages bad behavior. It hurts the game if people are just running around flipping events, not letting them do their job of mixing up the demand track when it gets stuck. Inspiration (the event that hands out goals) might be enough to get more goals out there.

Some ideas for restricting events:

  • 1 event per turn limit.
  • If kept an event disk don't get explore cube.
  • turn in 3 events for a goal, not equipment.

Called shot should be -1 to your rolls if wrong.

Trader is too complex. Shouldn't change the demand track, maybe shouldn't even change amount you get for trades. That it doesn't change demand is significant. It works awesome with Cornucopia, an event that gives you one of each plant, because it doesn't move meat and hide to the top.

Here is the biggest problem right now: game length has gotten too long.

The events on the board and being able to trade in equipment, have added complexity. Games are lasting 90 minutes or more. In some ways that's good, it gives time for the luck variance to settle out. But it's also hurting the urgency of the game. The end always used to come just a little sooner than you'd expect, and I like that a lot. This playtest I called an early end to the playtest with 20% of the plant&animal disks undiscovered. I'd much rather the game take one hour or less, and leave players wanting to go again.

The reason I decided last fall to increase the length of play by adding 50% more plant&animal disks was to be sure there was time for the game to have a nice story arc, where characters start out weak and grow stronger through a series of adventures. I think with event disks and equipment trading this can be done in a tighter time frame.

Another problem with the longer game is that it actually limits the paths to victory. In a longer higher scoring game you basically need to get the better equipment, Bow or Atlatl, to compete. The cost is absorbed by having more time to use it. In a shorter game you have less time to recoup your investment, so a more frugal strategy could succeed.

board setup

What's Next?

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and One

Lester, Kris, and Ryan

What we tried

  • 3 goal limit
  • Goals are always draw 2 keep 1
  • Players start with 5 points worth of equipment.
  • Bow costs 6, Atlatl 5, Pouch 4.
  • One spear has a trade value of 1.
  • Events stay up, even animals
  • Trader stays until the end of your next turn.
  • Events that change village let you score one disk now.
  • Turn in 3 disk for one equipment or to draw 2 goals and keep one.


Kris, red, killed a mammoth
Ryan, yellow, was paranoid
Myself, purple, eventual wolf master
Lester, green, scored herb in fall
Continued frustration with goals determining the winner, not skillful play. But the game play holds up, even with half the players behaving erratically. The end was exciting, with Lester grabbing the furthest space from the village and then lucking on an event that set the market up perfectly and allowed him to score.

What's next?

Change "hunger cube" to "explore cube", it's a more clear description of its purpose, and the obvious name in retrospect.

New event: Cornucopia replaces Bird. It's a collection of plants that can be gathered, worth 1 herb, 1 berry, and 1 nut.

Change Woolley Mammoth to Young Mammoth, an animal worth 2 meat and 2 hide that has 5 life.

Try arrows cost at 0, but you may only buy them if you have bow.

Goal points move down mostly 3-4. Speaker for dead should be 2 per other goal.

Move event disks further from the village, they are better mid game.