Once More, From the Beginning

Back in the fall of 2014, I began working on a solo game about a struggle to complete a journey from point A to point B (with a lot of hurdles to get over in between). Initially, this had its own generic “hero’s journey” plot, but then I saw an opportunity to use it to tell the extended story around my fictional “Land of Danger,” which had been the subject of a few unfinished written stories and games (and 1 completed game — Castle Danger).

I fleshed out the full timeline of the land, from its discovery in the middle of the Atlantic in 1293, through its many years of internal conflicts that eventually results in it being named “Brykovia” by its first ruling family, to its ultimate supernatural disappearance from the surface of the earth (as well as all history books) in 1580. I divided the land’s pre-Brykovia timeline up into 7 eras, with the intention to develop a game for each of these eras.

Days of Discovery - Iterative DesignFrom that, I announced in December of 2014 my plan to create this 7-game “Tales of Danger” series, with each game having both solo-play and multi-player modes. And if I had followed this original plan, I would have just released game #4 in the series … but that’s not quite how things worked out.

Instead, what actually happened was that I struggled to get this game to work the way that I wanted. But now, after 8 different major versions (dozens of minor versions), a few “put it on the shelf for a while” pauses, a couple of jump-the-gun Kickstarter near-launches, and an inside-joke spawning number of appearances at various Protospiels and GenCons … it’s 3-1/2 years later.

And it’s finally ready. How do I know? Because I’m done finding things to change about it. There’s nothing new to add on. No more experiments to see if something works better. Just this final result culminating from the years of work.

Skipping over the things that were tried and eventually dropped from the game (I’m looking at *y’all* sponsor-specific event/action decks, detractors, scoring track, and bidding-with-sailors!), here is what has been constant from the start of the design:

  1. The Story & 3-Act Structure – This has always been about the discovery of the Land of Danger … you start in Lisbon in 1290, you find a Sponsor for your voyage (act 1), you gather crew and supplies (act 2), and you make the ocean voyage (act 3).
  2. The Multi-Use Cards – The game has always been structured around the people of your city and how they are able to help you by providing evidence of the land, a plan to get there, and crew and supplies … and the act 3 parts (sailing difficulty and costs) have been semi-randomized along the right edge pretty much the full way along.
  3. The Sponsors – The VIPs of the time — the King, Queen, Bishop, etc. — have always played an important role. No one was doing these sorts of open-ocean voyages yet (this is about 100 years before the start of the “Age of Discovery”), so someone with money and power is needed to make this possible.
  4. The Solo Game – As mentioned at the start, this began as a solo game. Even after deciding to make it solo + multi-player, I kept a number of criteria around the solo game: it needs to feel similar to the multi-player game, it needs to have player-chosen variable levels of difficulty, and it needs to take up a small footprint (about the size of an airline tray table).

So … what are the details on how the game actually works? I’ll save that for the next post. šŸ™‚

Next Post: Days of Discovery, Acts 1 and 2

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