Some games are about innovation. A great new idea that you’ve never seen used in a game before. Cog wheels. Sand timers. Inventing a whole new branch of deck building or worker placement… Dice Settlers was never exactly that.
With the Dice Settlers Kickstarter campaign live and unlocking new achievements daily (go here if you’d like to hop on board), we asked designer Dávid Turczi to guest post his designer diary here, at the NSKN Games Blog. Here’s the first part of the Dice Settlers story:
Dice Settlers was looking at a few games I liked, a few games I wished I liked and asking myself, how I could make it better for myself, and how I could create a game that would banish my own favourites from my game table.
Why would I do that you ask? Well, my brain is a funny place.
It all started with the feeling you get when you get deeper into your first fast paced deck builder AFTER Dominion. Your eyes go wide, you say “oomph”, and “ah!” and slowly realise the potential of the deck building mechanism. For me, I think it was Eminent Domain, followed closely by Quarriors (which is mechanically Dominion on dice), on a sunny-in-a-British-way afternoon in the summer of 2015.
To fully understand what was going through my brain, you’d have to understand I was but a novice dabbler in game design – my second game [microfilms] had not even been released back then, and Anachrony had only just been accepted for publication. The first prototype of the game that would become Kitchen Rush had only been played twice, and Days of Ire was little more than a glint in my eye.
So, I played Eminent Domain and I was blown away. The way constructing your deck feeds back into engine building was amazing. However, there were two things keeping it from being a perfect game for my group: my housemates at the time weren’t particularly heavy gamers, so turns would take a long time to complete. The other problem was the technology cards, but I didn’t know it at the time — there were just too many options available, and the newbies “missed out” on the fun.
All these feedback got built into a light 4X game I was working on: make a deck builder, be simple, and use dice. I needed dice, because I really wanted to like Quarriors – but really couldn’t. Quarriors is a “fun-first” game, but in the end if you roll bad, it doesn’t really matter which dice you bought. I wanted to go for something more strategic. So I wrote down 6 actions, which quickly turned out to be the 6 actions of Eminent Domain – and asked myself, what else they could do. The solution was easy: be interactive.
So I designed the map, and I designed 2 abilities for each. I designed 6 different coloured dice: all of their faces being equally useful for some of the actions and each die colour being more useful towards a particular strategy, thus solving the randomness issue: if you buy all yellow, you’re more likely to be better at researching, but even if you don’t roll the research icon you’re not losing, you’re still good for a harvest strategy.
Fun fact: the die face distribution of the game hasn’t changed since July 2015!
I playtested it with my friends, they all loved it, so I did what a good fanboy would do: I sent an email to Seth Jaffee, to ask him permission to pitch Eminent Domain: The Dice Game. He told me he had already designed one, ready to be published (I’m still waiting for it!), and I smiled, thanked the pro advice, and walked away heartbroken.
Still, that was not the end of the story.