Bonus points if you get the title source. Most of this blog post isn't actually about that kind of reaver though, it's about Reivers. With an 'i'. Border Reivers to be precise. In 2002, after an incredibly long and unsatisfying game of Mighty Empires, I had an idea for a light civilisation/wargame that eventually became Border Reivers. Published in 2006, I made 100 copies by hand and sold them all over the world. It was the first game I designed and the first game I published, and while it obviously holds a special place in my heart, it was one of the weaker games I published, which partly explains why I never reprinted it. Over the years (as this post attests) I've toyed with the idea of doing a second edition, with some changes to fix the reported weaknesses, but nothing ever came of it. After the poor sales of Carpe Astra I lost confidence in my ability to design games and decided that I needed a checkpoint between designer and publication which I could provide for other designers but couldn't for my own designs, since I didn't have the required distance to objectively critique my own games. So Border Reivers II withered and died.
Until a month or so ago. As part of my goal to play all my games at least once this year, I played a game of Border Reivers against my boss at the end of one of my Games Nights. He crushed me like the proverbial grape, in part assisted by some lucky reinforcement dice rolls - which relates to one of the criticisms I had received about the game.
So that got me thinking about Border Reivers again and, now I'm not looking to self-publish and have the excellent Newcastle Playtest resource available to me, I've decided to brush BR2 off again and see if I can do anything with it. On Tuesday it was the aforementioned Newcastle Playtest so, as well as a new version of Zombology, I took Border Reivers along. There was lots of interest in playing it, but one of the changes I'm keen on is to switch it from 2-4 players to 2 player only, so Paul Scott and I had a game. We played the good old-fashioned rules, and then at the end I asked Paul for ideas on how to improve it, before a lengthy discussion about the criticisms I'd received from players/owners of the first edition.
Border Reivers is a light wargame with some civilisation aspects, set on the English-Scottish border during the late middle-ages. It was a time of continual skirmishing along with frequent livestock-rustling (or reiving as it was known). In the game, you start with a city and five armies and have to cultivate your territory, raise armies, build fortifications and settlements as well as going to war, ambushing and reiving your opponent. In the original rules there were two ways to win - either by annihilating your opponents (which only really happened in a 2-player game) or by being the first to accumulate 40 cash. Each turn you got to gamble on reinforcements, either armies or cards that gave you several interesting hidden tactics to assault your opponents. You spent an amount of cash between 0 & 9 and then rolled a D10, if your die roll was less than or equal to your spend, you got a reinforcement. Lots of people really didn't like this and, in fairness, lucky dice rolls early on could really swing the game. One of the ideas I've had is to keep this mechanism, but take away the chance of a free reinforcement and reduce the variability - i.e. roll a die with fewer sides. I'm also considering replacing the cash victory condition with a victory points one, where you get victory points for a variety of things throughout the game. I'll need to try some of these ideas out over the next few months and see which of them stick. Mal, I'm assuming you're up for a game?
Back to the title, after the crazy success of my BoardGameGeek collection Windows Phone app (now up to 9 downloads, that's got to be almost everyone who owns one, right?) I've now published my Firefly: The Game app too. This one is designed to streamline the Full Burn movement action in the Firefly board game by reducing the number of 'move a piece, draw a card' cycles you have to go through. It's called Keep Flyin' and is available in the Windows Phone Store now.
Finally, we played a couple of seven-player games of Zombology at Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday. The new version has another card type removed, more of the new style art and a few informational changes requested by testers. It went pretty well and on the train on Wednesday down to Sheffield for my quarterly MS check up I made some more cosmetic changes to the cards. This is feeling pretty finished now, so I ought to step up my efforts to contact some publishers.