Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2nd Edition Events

Atlatl & Spear

Celestial Phenomenon


Cold Snap





Potlatch Ceremony


Rabid Beast


Set a Snare



Standing Stones

Strange Mushrooms

Tall Tree



View from a Bluff

Village Gossip

Village On Fire

Wandering Trader

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Re-Thinking The Torch

Torch card, full bleed art prepped for printer

I've been thinking about the role the torch plays in the game, and considering making it more powerful so that it's more interesting early in the game.

With the current rules a torch is a mid to late game purchase you make only to protect a Pouch. Experienced players realize that early in the game it is better to die than to fail to collect something. New players will make the mistake of buying a torch because they think dying is bad.

My new idea for the torch is that it pushes the deadly animal to the nearest empty space, and you get to explore the space you are on again. It is still then discarded.

But, as Dan pointed out, maybe the torch shouldn't be a sure thing? If you still had to roll to survive against the deadly animal it would add another moment of dramatic tension, compared to now where you just discard it. It would also be another opportunity for risk assessment. Looking at the numbers, having it give a +2 to your role takes the odds from 50-74% to 74-91%. +3 would probably be too goo at 84-95%, although we'll see.

Cybil pointed out that having to roll a different number against different animals and then having a weapon with a bonus to that role is actually the same as the old hunting system, which was too complicated for people without a D&D background. It would better to have the torch change the number that you need to roll against any animal, rather than having to teach people to make a die roll with a modifier. I'm thinking it should either require you to roll an 8 (84%) or a 7 (91%).

The next concern, especially in a 4 or 5 player game, is that the at the start of the game the first players might grab all the torches. Two solves for this would be providing more of them in the supply, or increasing the cost to 2.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Eight

What we tried
This was an opportunity to teach the game to a new player who was not a regular gamer. She had at least heard of Catan, although I'm not sure if she had played.

We played with 2nd edition rules, including all the new events, and players starting out with points on the score tracks.

Since it was a learning game I shortened the play length, taking out 12 plants & animals, and 4 events (leaving 24 and 8 respectively).

I'm going to work on a demo script for teaching a few sample rounds of the game, probably with a fixed scenario. The game is very free form, there's nothing telling you where you should go, or which character you should use. I think providing some more structure for a few rounds of play would help. Our guest this time felt she fully grasped the game a few turns before the end.

The Atlatl & Spear event just needs to say how much it costs, not the discount it gives. It should end the turn.

The Cornucopia event did nothing, which would likely often be case. New idea: each player, starting with you and proceeding to the left, scores as if they had just turned in a value 1 plant of their choice. After being scored that plant value drops to the bottom.

What's next?
There's a little more work I think can be done balancing out hunter and gatherer abilities. I could try limiting the animals a hunter can carry, something like no more than 3 meat 3 hide. But, rather than start with limitations, I'm going to experiment with some improvements to the gatherer side. One thing I've included in my trial print run of 2nd edition is higher value plant tiles.

Another new idea is to allow players to combine and score multiple plant tiles at once. So if you had one nut, and two nuts, you could score it as 3 nuts, which could make as many as 12 or 15 points, depending on the number of players. Right now higher point scoring is far more common on the hunting side. Since there are 3 different kinds of plants, this won't be as common as you might think, but it might lead to new strategies.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Seven

Playtesters: Cybil and Beejell
What we tried
  • Movement reduced to 0, 1, 2, or 3 spaces
  • 4 points starting equipment (this was a setup mistake last time, but I'm sticking with in)
  • 2 points of equipment when a character dies
  • Bow costs 5, Atlatl 4
  • Equipment can be paid for from either or both tracks.
  • Retry cubes are collected if you explore and didn't get to claim a space, whether you fail or die.
  • Hunter can use retry cubes to re-roll attacks.
  • Retry cubes introduce a strategic approach to hunting deadly animals that have been revealed by another player. You can wait until you have one before hunting it.
  • The market manipulation action (needs a better name) that you can invoke by turning in an event card that you found earlier, evolved in the middle of play. From that discussion I did not agree with the idea that a resource pushed beyond the top value in the village should wrap to the bottom. But the rule we did change was allowing a resource to be moved either up or down. This gives players much more control of the market.
  • The "village value track" should just be called the "marketplace".
  • Idea: retry tokens could score points, or get equipment.
  • Most events should let you explore again. This is twice in a row the least experienced player drew the most event tiles.
  • Component mistake! Two of the events that should have been able to manipulate the value of berries had herbs instead, the ones paired with meat and with hide.
Event Notes and Ideas
View from a Bluff worked!
Injured would be more clear if it sayd "not carrying anything".
Lost you should roll to see how far you move.
Idea: Turn one market tile face down until until somebody scores again.
Idea: Move something in the market up to top.
Idea: Market manipulation events give you something different, like +1 movement.
Idea: Move one character back to village.

What's next?
After this playtest I did a complete overhaul of all the events. The each were each updated to clearly state whether your turn continues or ends. I worked with Cybil on the flavor text and interactivity level of every events. It should now be rare that an event can be drawn and you escape it with nothing good or bad happening. More events were added, most of the new ones are much simpler, like gain a piece of equipment. I added 10 more events with only a single resource icon.

The big next thing is the 2nd edition board, with hex spaces. The text of all the goals was updated since orthogonal vs. diagonal is no longer a concern.

The new board is also irregularly shaped. I want to try starting the game with face down events in the far corners of the board.

I'm also going to try having players start the game with points on the board that may optionally be spent on equipment. This will simplify teaching the game, because the first turn will be no different than any other. Players first turn choices will be easier too, since they will not be pressured to spend all their starting points. 

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.