[FTG] Nine Kings seen in Lightbringer

In the last month, I’ve had ample amount of time to finish reading The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3) and digest everything in this great series. Now Nine Kings doesn’t play as large a role in this book as the previous one, but it’s certainly there in the undercurrent. Once again, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum. However, Nine Kings in particular is very interwoven with the storyline, so if you’re debating reading these books and just stumbled upon this post, nookmark it, go read them, and come back in a month (or however fast you read) and then check out my ramblings. Not too much I can do about that one.

Lightbringer is a relatively new series by Brent Weeks, right now there’s three books out. When I first started reading this series it was tauted as a Trilogy (as is pretty common in Fantasy-land), but it looks like there was a little bit of overflow so it looks like there should be one more coming. I’ll read most fantasy books I hear good things about, but if you’re going to be a High Fantasy setting, I’m a huge sucker for unique Magic systems (like the metal based system in Mistborn). Well, here’s another very interesting Magic system, Chromaturgy is based on light. Each drafter can channel one or more colors of light and create “luxin” which is basically a solid form of the colored light. Anyway, if you’re up for another series, and like interesting magic systems like I do, check out Lightbringer. (The Black Prism is the first book)

THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING: There are definitely going to be some plot related spoilers in this post.

Game Comparison – Magic: the Gathering (with Gambling).

Reading the passages of Nine Kings as a former (recovering?) Magic player, there are many many similarities. Most of the appearances of Nine Kings appear in the second book (Blinding Knife), where one of the main POVs Kip is basically blackmailed into playing the game against his Grandfather. Wagers are placed on each match (not unlike Ante from early day Magic). The biggest difference is card creation, basically anyone can “print” their own cards and use them against each other.

One last important note is that turns are timed. So if you take too long thinking, your turn will end and your opponent will take advantage. The game is on a level with Chess, where the greatest minds of the world play it, people compare it with dealing with people (both diplomatically and on the battlefield), and there are great number of expert level books on the topic.

Book Quotes (mostly from Blinding Knife)

“Andross Guile said nothing else. He played his first card, setting the scene. Kip played. He played one of his good cards too early—which he only realized at the end of the game—and got slaughtered”

This is one of the first game specific elements about 9K. “Setting the scene” sounds something like a “World Enchantment” in Magic speak. I know these cards are no longer printed, but it’s basically a type of card that globally effects things.

“But three rounds in, he lost it. Got befuddled, didn’t move before his timer ran out.”

The timer is an interesting piece. It doesn’t work like a Chess timer, where you get a certain amount of time for the whole game. The books say it’s a sand timer, but how does it work? Does each player get one sand timer for their whole turn? If I play fast enough, does that mean my opponent gets less time (timer not starting at 0)? Does each player get multiple timers, so your opponent is just in charge of giving you a full timers worth when your turn starts?

“It became a game of mathematics, managing piles of numbers and playing odds. Playing against a certain deck in a certain situation, your opponent would have a one in twenty-seven chance of having the perfect card to stop you.”

1 in 27 is a curious reference here. Does that mean deck sizes are 27 cards? 54 would make sense, that’s the size of a standard deck of cards plus 2 jokers (which makes me think of the Doomtown CCG/LCG). So if I only have two artifact removal cards in my deck, and my opponent plays a devastating artifact (Winter Orb, Ensnaring Bridge, etc)

“They’re sometimes known as the black cards, or the heresy cards. The odds of the entire game have shifted without those cards. Some cards can’t be countered in ways they easily could have when those cards were in play, and so forth.  … you won’t win against someone playing with black cards. ”

This game has been around for ages, and keeps evolving. Just like Magic, some of the very early cards are just a completely different power level as modern cards.

“I am a Maker. We are not mere artists; we are the caretakers of history. The cards are history. Each one tells a truth, a story.”

The card designers are unique individuals who craft original cards with special abilities. From these originals, they are copied throughout the world by lesser artists, or skilled crafstmen.

Outside the Book:

“Thank you to mathematics professor Dr. N. Willis, who read The Black Prism and immediately asked me if I’d played Magic: The Gathering. (His sneaky way of seeing if I would play with him, without admitting his geekery straight out.) I had never played MtG, but soon saw the mathematical beauty of the game. The seed for the in-world game Nine Kings was planted there (though the mechanics and play are different). To forestall some emails I know I’ll get about this: Yes… but it’ll be years. ”

Game Setup:

Each player needs a constructed deck of cards. Theoretically, they should agree on which cards are legal (see heresy cards above) and agree on a wager. For now, let’s say this deck is 54 cards.

Card Types:

Settings – These cards affect where the match will take place.(Enchantments?) Typically played by the first player. These a

Sources – How you afford to play your cards. Different colors for each spectrum of Light. (Land) Different Sources provide light of different colors, red walls of a castle, grass, forest, blue sky. Either player are allowed to draft form sources.

Allies – Primary damage dealing card type (“Superchromat” spells wouldn’t fail )

Spells – Cards that have an effect on the game, but aren’t a permanent object. (Disarm)

Items – Permanent objects that aren’t actually people/monsters. (Sword)

While there are limited aspects of how the deck construction and play work, there are some ideas in the books. Andross Variant: Each player has 5 seconds on the sand timer to act during their turn. Players are allowed to influence how long turns are based on playing cards (such as the Green card “Panic”). Going first means you get to declare the Setting (either via a card in your hand, or by simple declaration?). Going second allows you to draw an extra card.

I know the author says the game plays much different, but there are a lot of similarities. Shared Resources allows for players to play more spells, although each turn there’s probably a limit in how much you are allowed to play. Attacking and blocking sound very similar, so it’s hard to see how they are different.

[FTG] Coming soon… 9 Kings seen in Lightbringer by Brent Weeks

Alright, sorry for the preview post. But I mostly just wanted to let everyone know I’m still alive. Beginning of the semester is always a busy time for me at work, and while I’m definitely still reading, I don’t have as much time for writing. I was hoping on having something up for September, and decided I’d go with 9 Kings (a game that I think I’ll have a fair amount to chat about). Of course the 3rd book in this series came out, just at the end of August, and I didn’t get a chance to start reading it till two weeks ago and it should be another few days till I’m finished up. A lots going on in this book, and as usual there’s touch points into 9 Kings, so I decided it would be better to just wait till I finished so I could talk about the complete vision of the game and properly look up quotes without spoiling myself.

Anyway… I hope to start writing the article next week, and hopefully I can get it online within a week or so of starting. If that writes up pretty fast, and I can find another FTG to write about in the abbreviated month, I’ll try to do one for October. Although I was considering talking about the “FTG” that makes a major appearance in Malazan, the Deck of Dragons. Nine Kings and DoD have lots of similarties. Although in Malazan, it’s much more of a mystic/prophecy tool than necessarily a “game” but we’ll see how it turns out, right?


Oh, and if you have some suggestions about what games you’d like to see me cover, please post in the comments! Definitely point a link to the books they’ve appeared in. If I haven’t read them yet, I can put them on my list and check it out.

[FTG] Snakes and Foxes seen in Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

Part two from the first epic fantasy series I read. I believe I read the  The Eye of the World in 2000 and devoured the first 5 books in no time at all and needing to wait around for book 9 (Winter’s Heart) to be released. Now any WoT readers out there can tell you all about the comparisons between the Snakes and Foxes and the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, two alien species that the Snakes and Foxes represent inside the books. But before you get to the two good links I have down below here’s some thoughts from me.

Game Comparison

While I was reading I always equated the game to Snakes and Ladders (probably due to the name similarity and the roll and move mechanic) or Tic-Tac-Toe (due to the “impossible to win scenario” that exists). I guess it was mostly do the simplistic nature of all of the aforementioned games. Be sure to check out the first link below for a game I’ve never heard of and a very similar comparison.


2 black discs (humans) 10 pale discs w/ wavy line (snakes) 10 pale discs w/ triangle (foxes)

Win Conditions

Human discs need to make it out to the outer edge of the web, and then back to the middle where they started. It’s believe to be impossible to actually win, making this a “child’s game.” Most of the time, you don’t even make it to the outer edge. Only one human piece is needed to win the game. If both human pieces are captured, the snakes and foxes win the game.

Board Setup

Black discs start in the middle of the web. Snakes and foxes start stacked in the corners of the web. The web has arrows showing which direction you can move from that point in the web.


There are two steps to each turn. A player’s step, and a snakes/foxes step. Six dice are rolled during each step. It’s unclear what the faces are, but certainly at least there is the icons for snakes and foxes on the dice. During the human’s turn you roll, and move a certain amount of steps, and it’s strategically required to keep the most amount of space between yourself and the snakes/foxes. The automated rules make the game extremely difficult, if not impossible. Some very important unknown factors are the sides of the faces, and the exact way movement works for the human.


“Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to daze, iron to bind,” – Lord of Chaos 13 depository has some great quotes. I highly recommend you follow the link below.

External Links



[FTG] Stones seen in Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

This is going to be a brief one with the other prominent game in Wheel of Time appearing in the normal monthly time slot (I’m sure fans of the series will know exactly which game I’m talking about). My personal narrative can be seen in the next regularly scheduled FTG article. This article is going to be a bit on the thin side (relatively), and is more for completionist sake than otherwise.

Game Comparison


Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the Wheel of Time books in a searchable ebook format like many of the others in my collection, so I can’t give direct quotes. But pretty much everytime you see this game referenced in WoT it just shouts. “This game is pretty much just Go.” 2 players, different colors, place stones, capture enemy pieces. I believe there’s even some mention of them being placed in the same fashion as in Go. Although I may be misremembering. Unfortunately, I don’t have the books in digital form, so I won’t really be able to search for confirmation.


All pieces are the same. Round white or black discs.

Win Conditions

It seems like the Win Conditions are never disputed in Stones, unlike what may be the case in Go. Or at least there doesn’t seem to be the bogged down time of “Oh let me count all of my controlled territory.” and see how it is versus yours. It’s pretty much just “You fell into my trap, now I win.


Ok, what you should do is actually read the link provided in External Links. It’s fairly short, and gives a nice side by side comparison.

External Links


[FTG] Cyvasse seen in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

ASOIAF was always one of the more popular fantasy novels in my eyes, but when the show came out a few years ago it absolutely erupted with new people to watch, read, and generally worry about the characters of Westoros. A quick web search leads to a fair amount of discussion about Cyvasse (not to be mistaken with Kvass, the fermented beverage). So we’ll use that to gauge some of the assumptions on. So I’ll try to keep a similar format as the post about  Keschet so it’s familiar to any of the readers out there, but also improve things over time. I’d imagine it will always be fairly long-winded, as I do go on a bit. Maybe in the future I can break these posts into multiple pieces to be able to post more often, but also easier to consume in one sitting.

I’m not a researcher here, mostly an enthusiast and hobbyist, so by no means will any of this attempt to be complete, but things I’m looking for our direct quotes from the books, and interview questions with GRRM himself.

Game Comparison: GRRM – “A bit of chess, a bit of blitzkrieg, a bit of stratego. Mix well and add imagination.” – GRRM.

Now I’ve never played Blitzkrieg, which is a 1965 war game from Avalon Hill. But for me, Cyvasse always reminded me of Feudal, with the addition of adjustable terrain pieces. This is mostly because of how some of the descriptions take place.

Book Quotes

Feast of Crows

  • “There were ten different pieces, each with its own attributes and powers, and the board would change from game to game, depending on how the players arrayed their home squares.”
  • “He always sets his squares up the same way, with all the mountains in the front and his elephants in the passes…So I send my dragon through to eat his elephants.”
  • “She touched one of the cyvasse pieces, the heavy horse.”

A Dance with Dragons

  • “as they arranged their tiles on either side of a carved wooden screen…Tyrion almost grabbed his dragon but thought better of it. Last game he had brought her out too soon and lost her to a trebuchet…He moved his light horse toward Haldon’s mountains…The Halfmaester moved his spears.”
  • “Young Griff arrayed his army for attack, with dragon, elephants, and heavy horse up front…Tyrion moved his elephants.”
  • “He picked up his heavy horse…Tyrion moved his crossbows…The dwarf pushed his black dragon across a range of mountains…”
  • “Smiling he seized his dragon, flew it across the board…Your king is trapped. Death in four.”
  • “onyx elephant…alabaster army…He moved his heavy horse.”
  • Tyrion advanced his spearmen. Qavo replied with his light horse. Tyrion moved his crossbowmen up a square…toying with his rabble…plucking up his dragon. ‘The most powerful piece in the game,” he announced, as he removed one of Qavo’s elephants…He moved his catapult again, closed his hand around Tyrion’s alabaster dragon, removed it from the board.”
  • “Near the end of that final contest, with his fortress in ruins, his dragon dead, elephants before him and heavy horse circling around his rear…”

Board setup

While originally I pictured a chess-like board (8×8), there are some references to a hex board, one of which appearing in Fantasy Flights CCG which displayed a picture of a Cyvasse game. This combined with the mention of Blitzkrieg leads me to the same conclusion that the westeros.org forums decided on. A large hexagonal board. Additionally, you have specific tile hexes that you place at the game setup, when the pieces are hidden to the opponent via a screen. Now for those of you are unfamiliar with hex based movement the nomenclature is the same as checkerboard movement, but it might be a bit confusing at first. Orthogonal moves are straight lines from adjacent squares. Diagonal moves “hop” over the adjacent hexes, in what looks like a more traditional “horizontal” or “vertical” movements.


10 pieces, each with their own attributes and powers. Here are some potential movements, notes I think each piece could have. (Obviously no playtesting has gone into this, and aside from some light reading of the westeros.org forum post.). The number in parenthesis is hypothetical strength values.

  • King(2) – Starts in the Fortress, limited movement range, player losses if captured.
  • Dragon(7) – Unaffected by terrain movement restrictions. Large movement range. Orthogonal and Diagonal.
  • Elephant(5) – Short Charge Diagonal movement. Maybe 2 or 3 squares. Or 1 square Orthogonal. (Unable to charge through Rivers)
  • Heavy Horse(4) – Medium movement.
  • Light Horse(3) – Long movement. Good for flanking.
  • Trebuchet(4) – Long range attack, can damage Fortress. Slow movement.
  • Spearman(2) – Medium movement.  +1 when attacked by Horse
  • Crossbowman(2) – Medium movement. Medium range attack.
  • Rabble(1) – Short-Medium movement.

Terrain types

  • Fortress – A defensive structure, potentially the King has to start inside the Fortress. Probably multiple squares in size. Each tile has a full fortress on the front, and a damaged fortress on the back to represent damage.
  • Mountain – Each player would start with a number of these, able to create a “range” of restricted movement or “passes” to funnel traffic through.
  • River – Unmentioned, but I’d be surprised if Rivers aren’t another terrain type. You’d get a handful, and pieces couldn’t move through and past a River during it’s movement.

Strength Values

One interesting addition that some people were considering were strength values of pieces. Now in most abstract games, the pieces don’t have strength values (or all values are 1). So in Chess, my Pawn can always capture your Queen if need be. One example of strength values is Stratego. I think they recently changed the ordering of the numbers in Stratego but basically your stronger pieces appear less often and always defeat weaker pieces. Except in the case of the Spy who can defeat the strongest piece, but nothing else. There are also Attack/Defense values like you see in Magic. When two pieces fight, there isn’t a guarantee that one of the pieces are removed. This isn’t very interesting from an abstract game perspective. Any time two pieces conflict you want at least one of them removed from the board, otherwise you might have to keep track of damage which usually doesn’t fit on a gameboard. Another way of handling strength values is the way Axis and Allies handles it. Each of your pieces that attack rolls a die. If you roll your attack value or higher, than you score a strike. Each strike removes a piece from the skirmish. This certainly fits a bit in the theme of fighting mini-skirmishes across the board, allowing the army pieces to work together. But it’s a fair amount of overhead, especially given the abstract nature that Cyvasse appears to be.

I think the simplest way to handle it is to just do straight number comparison. Ex. My Charging Elephant is worth 5 +1 from an adjacent Flanking Light Horse, +1 from a nearby Crossbowman is 7. Your Dragon is worth 7, so both the Elephant and Dragon would be killed. Supporting units aren’t destroyed in this manner.

Some final thoughts

Hidden deployment with the big reveal is a neat mechanic. Seeing exactly how you’re opponent places his pieces and starting terrains can greatly impact how to play the game and what type of game will be played. Related to this is the terrain pieces. I could easily setup a trap with my terrain pieces around my Fortress, forcing my opponent to deal with heavy losses just to attack. It’s hard to have a planned opening, when you don’t know exactly what you’ll be facing across the board.

Ranged attacking pieces are interesting. Capturing without movement, forces your opponent to extend into you, allowing you to create a trap at a mountain pass with crossbows and trebuchet.

All of the above is assuming single piece unit back and forth. But maybe you could move more than one piece during each of your turns. Maybe you could move up to 10 strength values a turn. This could make the landscape change drastically from turn to turn, as pieces you think are safe become surrounded and destroyed before you realize.

External links:

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/58545-complete-cyvasse-rules/ – One ruleset

http://gameofcyvasse.com/ – Another ruleset

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:92172 – 3d printed set


[FTG] Keschet seen in Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Well, as I mentioned in the last post about this series I thought it might be a fun thought experiment to maybe write some rules, or game structure for games referenced in some of the fantasy books I’ve seen. Now this write-up is about one of the two games I’ve read of recently called Keschet, appearing in Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. The first book in the Raven’s Shadow Series. Now firstly, if you enjoy your Epic Fantasy, I’d highly recommend Blood Song. I looked around briefly and I believe this is a planned trilogy. With the second book coming out later this year. So for those of you with “waiting for next book” anxiety could probably be fine with putting this on a normal spot on your reading list. Lastly, this write-up is a bit of a cheat, which is why it’s happening first for this series as there was a surprise in store for me as I finished Blood Song earlier this week. Apparently Mr. Ryan decided to put together an abbreviated rules list for Keschet! So, the following will more be a reference for Keschet, along with some discussion of the pieces, and some optional rules that could be considered.

Keschet Rules
From Appendix II in Blood Song by Anthony Ryan: Keschet is played by two players on a board of one hundred squares. Each player begins the game with 1 Emperor, 1 General, 1 Scholar, 2 Merchants, 3 Thieves, 4 Lancers, 5 Archers and 8 Spearmen. At the start of the game a player may place any piece in any square in the first three rows at their end of the board. The opposing player will then place a piece of their choosing in the first three rows of their end of the board. All pieces are then placed on the board in turn. The player who placed the first piece then makes the first move. A piece is taken if the square it occupies is occupied by an opposing piece. The game is won if the Emperor is taken or if the Emperor is the only piece remaining the losing player. Any piece in an adjoining square to the Scholar is protected and cannot be taken. The Scholar may move one or two squares in any direction. The Emperor can move up to four squares in any direction. The General can move up to ten squares in any direction. The Archer can move a up to six squares vertically or horizontally. The Thief can move one square in any direction. A player has the use of any piece taken by the Thief. The Spearman can move up to two squares vertically or horizontally. The Lancer can move up to ten squares diagonally. The Merchant can move either one square in any direction or can move to any vacant square adjoining the square occupied by the Emperor horizontally, vertically or diagonally, if the route is unobstructed by another piece.

Right away this game feels like Chess++, and I’m sure that’s exactly the author’s intention. Played on a 10×10 board, instead of an 8×8. Emperors (4′) are Kings (Player loses if their Emperor is captured, or if the Emperor is the last piece the control). Generals (10′) are Queens. Lancers (10′ diagonal) are Bishops. And lots of other similarities. The board is setup an interesting manner and since the “White” player needs to place his piece first to give information away to his opponent it nicely balances the ability to go first, which is typically considered an advantage in chess. It also allows for tactics rather than opening studies to be the preferred strategy. Sure certain openings or piece pairings would be more popular, but much is given away during this opening placement, and could be counterbalanced if appropriately considered.

A few things to note that pique my interest as a former Chess player.

  • Opening – Interesting that the opening is neither standardized, nor hidden (like in stratego) but each piece is placed one after the other in the first three ranks. With 25 total pieces and 30 squares to fill up, there are plenty of opening positions. Although I’d imagine you’d place pieces in a way to draw out when to reveal where your important pieces will sit. With your back center pieces commonly being placed in the last 20%.
  • The Scholar – Probably the most powerful piece on the board, as it protects all adjoining pieces from capture. I’m sure most strategies create a Scholar block, where the scholar is surrounded by 8 other pieces, one of which is the Emperor.
  • The Thief – Another interesting piece, reminding me of Bughouse. The game that filled up the afternoons of my youth in between rounds at large chess tournaments. Now the author mentioned his interpretation about how exactly the Thief works, since it’s pretty unclear in the rules provided. Basically it sounds like when the Thief captures, he was picturing placing the captured piece (switching sides!) to an adjoining square immediately upon capture. A reader stated he had played a few games, and they were placing the captured piece on the first 3 ranks but couldn’t place a capture. It sounds very similar to how a Bughouse player might place the piece. Your turn would be taken up by reintroducing the piece to the board on your side.

In some ways, I’d kind of like to see Keschet take a page from Bombalot‘s playbook. Instead our primary differences between pieces is “how many of each do I have?”, “how far is their reach?”, and “which direction can they move?” and each piece with a special ability is so weak it may not even matter they have an ability.

Special Abilities:

  • Scholar (2′) – As I mentioned, this piece seems like the strongest, especially in the middle of a block since nothing would be able to disrupt it. A player could just play with their heavy pieces and not worry about their defensive front. With 25 pieces, would holding 9 of them in a block for protection cause strategic impairement?
  • Merchant (1′) – Another defensive piece, as it moves slow, but it can always run back to the emperor if it has a direct line to an adjoining square. The ability is interesting but it seems like it will never capture anything (1′ reach normally, and doesn’t seem to be able to capture on it’s return flight)
  • Thief (1′) – I really like the flavor of the ability but with the short (1′) reach, it’s rarely going to proc, except when used defensively.

tehdiplomat suggestions:

  1. The thief “steals” the movement type of the last piece it captures similar to the “Imitator” in Bombalot . Place that piece in the same square as the thief to denote how it moves. The next time the thief captures remove the previously captured piece, and place the newly captured piece next to the thief. (Should stealing be optional? Should stealing be a single instance? Should thieves have more interesting movement, one square at a time won’t allow them to capture very much?)
  2. Different direction and length of movement isn’t enough to make the pieces unique. Where is the interesting jumping movement of a Knight? Where’s the awkward Pawn capture (I’ll ignore en passant for now)? The Merchant has something similar to a Castle, but it’s a weak piece to begin with, so “castling” with it doesn’t really protect the king from harm, nor move a powerful piece into striking position. Where’s the Pawn upgrades by reaching the last rank? We have 8 different pieces, 5 of which can move in any direction (2 with 1′ range + special powers, 1 with 2′ + special powers, 1 with 4′ range + !important, 1 with 10′ range). Of the rest, the most common piece moves 2′ orthogonally. The second most common moves 6′ orthogonally. And the last moves 10′ diagonally. With all those pieces, we could have added some further variation in. The thieves especially deserve some interesting movement (Thieves can move further, but can only capture short). And why do Archers have to move to capture?
  3. Reduce the power of the Scholar. Being able to protect 8 pieces at once is way powerful, especially when one of those is your leader piece. Now obviously, if you only have 9 pieces on the board, you wouldn’t be able to do anything, but I’d imagine skilled players would be able to force a draw by evasion if the board got thin enough at some points. Maybe each time the scholar moves, it chooses 1 or 2 adjoining pieces to be protected. This prevents the scholar from burying itself in a corner and protecting all three pieces. Obviously those pieces would lose that protection if they moved (or moved away from the scholar?). This should prevent ties and stalemates, although I guess Scholar blocks would be an interesting reason for games that span multiple days. Anyway, it feels like an “unfun” mechanic so I’d limit how it works.



Book References:

“Games can last for days”

“masters devote lives to the intricacy”

“Only about 200 openings”


Named moves/openings:

“Liar’s Attack” – Brings victory in 10 moves, by concealing an attack in a defensive opening. Targets the Scholar to shatter defensive formations.

“Bowman’s Switch” – Moving offensively against two objects, leaving an opponent ignorant of the ultimate target as the game develops.


Fictional Tabletop Games in Fantasy Novels

Of course tying two of my hobbies together is something I like to do, and try to do it as much as I can. I read a fair amount, having a decent length commute on public transportation. And I choose to fill that time relaxing via really fat Fantasy books. I generally don’t give lengthy reviews about the books I read, but I do generally rate them on goodreads, and will generally consider recommendations for people who read similar books.

Anyway, where I was going with this is it seems that these authors of speculative fiction, understand the importance of table top games in their created cultures. And while none of these authors are game designers, they do give some high level description of how the games work. And sometimes even some specific game examples. While I’ve always noticed and appreciated the game references, early on with the many games Robert Jordan had in the Wheel of Time. I plan to have a recurring series of posts all based around this concept, specifically talking about the game, and some background info on the novel, potential game play choices. And maybe if I’m motivated, even a sample game design.

I think I had considered doing this when Dance with Dragons, book 5 of the (now) super popular A Song of Ice and Fire, was released and the game Cyvasse had some shining moments in relation to a specific plot element. Cyvasse reminded me of a game I played with my dad called Feudal, that was kinda like chess, but on a huge board, and had some other things mixed into it. I’ll probably even use Cyvasse as my first part of this series, but lost the motivation when I found out there already was a fan-made version of Cyvasse, but it took a ton of different turns than I think I would have.

But recently, I’ve had a few books have some interesting sounding games that resparked the interest. Currently, I’m reading Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (Never trust a man with two first names, unless he’s writing your epic fantasy) where I’m only about halfway into the first book and there was a reference to a game. But what really refired my interest was 9 Kings in Brent Weeks Lightbringer series. 9 kings has some strong comparisons with Magic, which apparently were an inspiration for his descriptions.

Anyway, my plan is to be as spoiler free as possible, but when major plot points surround the game, I’ll try to keep spoilers marked off as I can for those of you who dislike spoilers as much as I do. Really the goal here is to chat about the games, and how they might actually exist, using modern board games as a reference. Many of the games referenced in Fantasy books are abstract games that are Chess-like or Go-like. But there’s a fair amount of selection. In general, if I haven’t read all of the books that have been released in a series, I may not actual talk about a specific game, mostly to avoid spoilers myself.


I think the idea of Kickstarter is pretty solid. I’ve backed a few things that I definitely would have passed up if I saw them in the store, just so I could be a part of the process, and help see something happen that may not have otherwise. I want to talk briefly about two huge Kickstarters that seem to be suffering similar problems.

If you made it to my small little corner of the interwebs, I’m sure you are at least remotely familiar with the Ouya. These folks are trying to take back the TV with a console that has the specs of a phone (that’s a scary thought). But having a controller and hdmi out. $100 was the base price to actually get a controller, and they were so successful that they were able to fuel a huge upcoming launch. Now I haven’t received my Ouya yet, which is understandable since I had been debating back and forth whether I actually thought it was a good thing to back. So I backed it pretty late after I decided it would be nice to have a second console in my “Den” next to my Genesis. The 360 that I have from my Microsoft days lives proudly in the living room with it’s Massive faceplate.

There is a fair amount of frustration being posted by users on the Ouya kickstarter comments. I think some of the frustration is legitimate, the poor communication including a line graph that is very informative, and a reddit AMA that dodged all questions that would yield any useful information, and an upcoming retail launch that backers were promised to receive their Ouya’s before official launch. I know just recently they pushed the launch date back most of June, but here we were sitting in the first week of May, very very early backers hearing no word, and people started to get nervous. I would hope that a little bit of communication could have eased a lot of this, but a lot of marketing hoo-rah also caused these same issues. Now I’m not one of these folks that are disappointed in backing Ouya or needing to get a refund or anything like that. But a more precise method of how shipments were going out (priority queue) along with more raw numbers about how many have gone out, would be more than enough to make a lot of the dissenters feel more comfortable.

I also backed Reaper’s Bones kickstarter. Now I don’t consider Miniatures to be inside my realm of expertise for my gaming knowledge. Board games, video games, Magic: the Gathering (even though I no longer collect cards) all fit comfortably in. I’ve been playing RPGs since I was in 7th grade, even though I don’t have a regular game right now. But miniatures? No, they seem cool enough, but they are way expensive. But I couldn’t resist when I found out about the Bones kickstarter. Not only was there a huuuge amount of value (as opposed to Ouya, where you’ll pretty much be able to get the exact same stuff for the exact same price), but their goals were fantastic. Every odd numbered goal, something was added to the base Vampire package (also $100 for those counting at home). Every even numbed gave you extra add-ons to choose from. Some of the add-ons were ridiculous too. Take Kaladrax here. This was one of the last add-ons available for the Kickstarter. The price for me as a backer was $10. The retail price is $75. If I realized what a bargain all of the add-ons were, I could have easily spent another $100. So before even being tempted by add-ons I was receiving 241 models for $100. What a steal!

Now, onto the communication issues. I thought Reaper did a pretty good job explaining how things were going to work. They said that they were building all the molds, getting all the stuff produced overseas, and then had to package them up in their HQ in Texas before sending them out. They were planning on doing the simplest orders first (so they could get in a good groove of how shipping  works). They said their estimates would be when they would start shipping, and hit those dead on. They warned us about RepearCon (which was already in the works before the Kickstarter) which meant nothing would happen that week and in general made me feel pretty confident I was gonna get my stuff in a reasonable amount of time. I wasn’t expecting shipping miracles, but I was (and am since they haven’t come yet) pretty damned excited about having all of these bones, and painting a few of them for different things. But as soon as shipping started, all of the updates stopped. Early on I think one of the guys was in the comments trying to reexplain what they had mapped out, but no official updates came through. No Friday evening post saying “hey guys, things are going great, we’re still working our way through plain Vampire levels” or “I know you ordered a lot of stuff, but if you included the 4 pound Kaladrax, that pushes your order backwards in the priority queue”. Thankfully they did post very recently saying that they’ve made it through their whole first round of boxes, and are waiting the second round. I hope mine come soon, the stretch goals and the pure awesomeness of this has been an experience I hope can be replicated by other Kickstarters I back in the future.

Greenland: How do I win?

If you missed last week’s segment, feel free to check out the backstory first.

As much as I love playing board games, describing the theme sometimes just confuses first time players. While I’m trying to create a nice atmosphere for the game, certain games definitely skim over the strong thematic need for a backstory. Like Dominion. That game is a ton of fun to play, but what’s the theme? You are some type of royalty and you are trying to collect more land than your rival royalty? What? Something like that. I don’t even go into the theme when I describe the game. I hope that people will describe the theme to new players, because I think it’s part of the fun (and will hope for a small bit of roleplaying for those interested).

Anyway, for those not interested in a theme the first thing they might care about is “How do I win the game?” which is pretty important to know. In a lot of the (euro-style) games, the answer is “Get more victory points than the other players” and then expands out to something like “Create the most diverse Farm” (Agricola) or maybe “Control the most territory and take the most advantage of your Race abilities” (Small World).

Since GGLF is an asymmetrical game, victory points don’t really accumulate in the same way that they do in other games. Instead Greenland as the aggressor will accumulate Water Flow Points for each ton* of water that reaches two designated points on the log flume. Denmark starts with a set number amount of Flood Level Points and accumulate a much smaller amount during the course of play. Greenland must accumulate at least this amount to win.

* Volume of water hasn’t been determined yet.

The following is exactly how I have this written in the current written up rules:

Goal: As Greenland, your goal is to build a giant log flume able to collect the melting glacial caps and carry the water over 4000 kilometers (2400 miles) to Copenhagen.

As Denmark, your goal is to prevent your annihilation by disrupting the log flume. Also, you promised all the other Scandinavian countries you wouldn’t blow up anything near their countries so you can’t just drop a bomb on the flume. That and any such Actions would probably obliterate the Faroe Islands where King Christian-Frederick I has a summer home.

Greenland Storyboard

To me one of the most important games is the flavor. While strong mechanics and game play that sucks you in are important, there are very few games that I play and enjoy that miss the “flavor element”. So when developing the idea for Greenland, the first thing I came up with was the story behind the game. I’m not sure when I became interested in Greenland’s controlling country, but I bet it had to do with Wikipedia. Anyway, I had been tossing around the idea to do a subtheme about Global Warming Flooding the Earth in the other game I had been brainstorming (Global Skirmish) when it struck me that the subtheme was much too large to be contained wholly in GSkirm. This doesn’t mean it won’t appear eventually in GSkirm if it ever makes it into a fully developed scope, but since I’m fleshing out the idea fully now, I can ease up on the subtheme later.

So Greenland was chosen because there aren’t very many huge land masses that are in the same predicament that Greenland is in. Plus since it has Glacier access, it makes for the perfect launching point for the Global Warming theme. One day I was brainstorming up names and came up with a Log Flume and pitched it to one of my buddies. He immediately took out his wallet and asked me how much. So Greenland took form and while some of the baselines of the story have grown as the game has been fleshed out, the central theme is right in your face. Greenland is trying to gain their freedom by unapologetically dumping their glacial reserves onto Denmark, and Denmark is tasked with preventing this in a non-disastrous method so Europe doesn’t get pissed.


The land of Greenland may be the least densely populated country in the world. But it’s only a country in name. Greenland is really controlled by the totalitarian monarch of the Danish! On June 21, 2019 the 10th anniversary of the day they were upgraded from home rule to “sub-country of the Kingdom of Denmark”, the native Greenlanders decided it was time they became free. The ice caps were still melting from the Global Climate Change, but they thought of a wonderful idea. Instead of ruining their lands with overflowing Arctic waters, they would funnel it down a Giant Log Flume, targeting Denmark with the worst water ride of its life!