Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 3: Borderlords

Day 3 setup: 

Mechanics: Worker Placement
Theme: Confidential, Lords
Victory Conditions: Diplomacy
Constraints: Must be under 15 minutes

This one is mind blowing to me, but that could be down to the fact that I just played Phase 10 for a couple of hours and drank about half a liter of beer.  Phase 10 is not one of my favorite games, by the way, but it does the job sufficiently well when you just want some casual gaming while talking about upcoming vacation plans.

I was happy to see worker placement come up.  I've been working in a significant way on a game with a worker placement element.  Significant meaning that I put more time and effort into it than just one day on a blog.

But there's an immediate conflict with the constraint of a 15 minute game.  The worker placement games I've played are more labored affairs, with the shortest ones clocking in at around an hour.  So cutting it down to 15 minutes will be tough.

Additionally, all the worker placement games I've played use some victory point win condition.  At least off the top of my head that's true.  So trying to tie worker placement into diplomacy is also difficult.  At least that's my first impression.

Also, there is a small conflict with confidential and diplomacy, though there are definitely games that do some level of confidentiality and diplomacy (like Diplomacy itself, even).  But especially in a short game it makes it seem difficult to come to a definitive diplomatic solution.

The final element is Lords.  OK, that's easy enough.  It makes part of my setting for me and that's one of the things I'll work with to make this happen.

Game #3: Borderlords

A 2-4 person game.

Game Parts:

- Resource cubes in six colors (30 cubes of each color)
- Meeples in 4 colors (5 meeples in each color)
- 4 Player mats with removable screens.
- 1 Resource mat with six resource areas.
- 1 tribe mat with five border tribes.  Each tribe has an area for a resource cube and an area for a team's meeple.
- 2 six-sided dice.

Setting and victory conditions:

Each player is a border lord on the edge of a great empire.  They are all trying to impress the Emperor by making alliances with their barbarian neighbors.  Whoever manages to lock in the most alliances after three rounds wins the game.


Player boards have 11 total spaces, and the screens conceal their boards from all other players.

There are six resources:
1) Wheat (Brown)
2) Gold (Yellow)
3) Weapons (Gray)
4) Cloth (White)
5) Wine (Purple)
6) Olive Oil (Green)

There are five tribes:

There is a space on each player board for each tribe and each resource.  The screen can be flipped up to reveal all the resource areas.  The tribe areas on the player board have a hidden resevoir/cup to hold resource cubes and keep them hidden at all times from other players.  This is known as the tribute box.

Each player gets five meeples.

Before the first round, players roll two dice to see who goes first in rotation.  Highest roll goes first.  Play proceeds clockwise thereafter.

The first player rolls one die for the Elk tribe.  The number corresponds to a resource.  If they roll a 1, it is wheat, 2 is gold, and so on.  They place one cube of that resource in the tribe's resource area.  Players proceed clockwise to roll for the next tribe, until all the tribes are allocated one resource.

Over the course of the game, each tribe values this resource most highly.  It is double the value to that tribe of any other resource.

Over the course of the game, players try to earn resources and covertly pay off the tribes to gain their favor.  The player who has provided the most value to a tribe at the end of the game will win the alliance of that tribe (in the case of a tie, the tribe will ally with the player who provided the most of their favored resource, if it is still tied, the tribe allies with no one).

Round 1-3:
Each round, players continues around in their clockwise order.  Each player rolls 2d6 for a resource (in order 1-6) and then places that number of resource cubes on the resource mat.

Players are given 1 minute to place their meeples behind their screen onto the resource areas they most want to gather.  They may place meeples in any combination they want.  Five meeples on one resource is valid, as is spreading their meeples over five different resources.

The timer is set, and then the players must place their meeples.  When time is up, the players must reveal their meeple placements to the rest of the players.

Each player that has placed a meeple for a particular resource earns a stake in that resource for the round, divided by the number of meeples that have been placed in that resource type.  Remainders after division remain on the resource mat for next round (they go to waste in round 3).

For example, if there are 8 wheat and only player 1 put any meeples on wheat, they would collect all 8 wheat cubes.  If player 1 and player 2 both put 1 meeple on wheat, they would both collect 4 wheat. If player 1 put 2 meeples and player 2 put 1 meeple, then player one would take 4 wheat, player 2 would take 2 wheat, and 2 wheat would remain on the mat until next round.

After all the resources are collected, each player has one minute to secretly place the cubes into their tribute boxes.

On rounds 1 and 2 the play then proceeds to the next round (rolling to add resources, allocating workers and then distributing hidden tribute).  Each round should have 1 minute for allocating workers, one minute for distributing tribute.

After round three, each player must reveal how much tribute he paid to each tribe.  Elk tribe is first, and each player reveals how much tribute they paid to Elk, based on the value to the Elk tribe (their primary resource worth 2 points each cube, all other resources being worth 1 point).  The player with the most points wins their alliance, with tiebreaks explained as above.

The player with the most alliances at the end of the three rounds is declared the winner.


  1. Random balancing tweek: Preferred resources might be three points...?

    Component wise, lots of pieces. And I don't believe the meeples need to be colored: Meeples don't mingle off of their own player board, so getting people's meeples confused won't be an issue.

  2. Alexander, thanks for the feedback. When I prototyped it the other night, I did end up using just flat black for the meeples and it worked fine, as you say.

    Interesting tweak with the three point preference. Could you explain why you would go that direction? :)

    Also, I think I've decided that in a 3 player game there needs to be awards for 2nd place with a tribe, and in a four player game maybe even go down to 3rd place. I'm imagining a 3-2-1 declining reward at this point. 4 player games just rushing two tribes became a bit too dominant, it seemed.

  3. WHAT??? you have time to write and prototype!!! =) lolol! well... i envy you... just a little bit!

  4. I've been lucky that this week my wife has needed to study for exams. It's given me a bit more time than normal. Still, I just try to carve out an hour or two a night to write and think about these games. Less time for Netflix, more time for games. :)