Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Knights Templar - new and improved. New title: Crusaders (Thy Will Be Done)

Thy Will Be Done

I've been posting about my Knights Templar game lately, from the inaugural ride to the recent
playtest at Sasquatch,and I'm happy with the development that's been happening on the game. I even sent a copy home from BGGcon with a member of the League of Gamemakers to see what input they have on it.

So far I've been happy with the basic structure of the game, but I have been looking for ways to kick The Knights Templar up a notch, and last week I spent some time updating my prototype to include some things which will hopefully have that effect. Here's some stuff I'm trying, and how it went in yesterday's playtest when I gave it a try...

One thing I'd been thinking is that the earlier versions of this game, the simple mancala-rondel hybrid, might have been good enough 2 years ago when I first had the idea. But now that Trajan has been around, and other games have been exploring the mancala mechanism, my initial rond-cala doesn't seem to stand up - I think there needs to be more. I need to make an evolution in the mechanism. In my game, each player has their own rondel, so I figure the thing that would make that interesting is if players could customize their rondel a little bit. That's something I haven't seen before, and it sounds to me like something a player would be interested in doing.

So my new idea was to allow players to add to or change the action spaces on their rondel. I thought of a few different ways to do that, most of them involved buying such an upgrade with a Build action. However, that's not what I tried... I wanted to solve another problem at the same time.

The thing about the rond-cala mechanism the way I have been using it is that the action tokens build up in the unused action spaces. And while that's good when you're building up to do a big Crusade action (for example), it's not as good when they happen to pile up in some action you're not really interested in. Once in a while you have to take a turn distributing some cubes without making any real progress, just to fix your rondel situation. That's part of the mechanism, and I was OK with it at first, but frankly it's disappointing to have a null turn like that. It's not fun to have to take a turn off, even if it's fair, even if everyone has to do it once in a while, and even if good planning will minimize the bad effect of that kind of thing. Better is to say "whenever you have a null turn like that, you get a consolation prize."


So I decided to make that "consolation prize" a rondel upgrade. Simple as that. Each turn you choose an action bin and distribute the cubes as normal, but in lieu of resolving the action of the bin chosen, you may instead upgrade one of the spaces on your rondel. Here's how I went about that:

Each player's rondel is made up of wedges that are separate tiles, one side is 'standard' - the other side 'upgraded':

Players start with the Standard sides face up, in some distribution (I'm thinking a random distribution, but the same for all players). The order of the actions is therefore different game to game, which could lead to different strategies being more or less attractive. Note that in this picture, the top space has been upgraded from TRAVEL to TRAVEL+BUILD:

On your turn, in lieu of resolving the chosen action as normal, you may instead upgrade 1 rondel piece by flipping it over to the Upgraded side. The action in parentheses indicates what gets added if you flip the tile over (so you need not keep looking on the back side of the tiles):

  • Build upgrades to Build + Influence
  • Travel upgrades to Travel + Build
  • Travel upgrades to Travel + Crusade
  • Muster upgrades to Muster + Influence
  • Crusade upgrades to Crusade + Build
  • Influence upgrades to Influence + Travel


Originally all players were going to be members of the Order of the Temple. The theme actually kind of hinges on that, however, one (fair) question some players had is "if we're all on the same team then why are we competing?" So I've decided to take a little artistic license with the theme, and assume that King Philip went after all of these factions at the same time, which may or may not be entirely true.

Giving each player a different faction offers (a) a reason for players to be competing with each other, and (b) the opportunity to introduce player powers! I have a few game changing powers to try, and I've begun by making 6 factions and giving each faction one of those powers. I'll simply deal one of these cards to each player during setup, and that'll tell them which ability they have for the game. My first draft abilities may not be totally fair or balanced, but it's a starting point:

  • Knights Templar - Once per turn when distributing Action cubes you may place 2 Action cubes into the same Action bin. The nights Templar were the initial inspiration for this game, so of course they became the first faction.
  • Knights Hospitaller - Once per turn when distributing Action cubes you may skip 1 Action bin. The Knights Hospitaller were pretty much the same thing as the Knights Templar, so they were an easy choice for a faction.
  • Teutonic Knights - You may distribute Action cubes either clockwise or counterclockwise. Again, the Teutonic Knights were a similar group to the Templars, so they were an easy choice for a faction.
  • Knights of the Holy Sepulchre - You begin the game with 13 Action cubes instead of 12. Place 1 additional Action cube into the Action bin of your choice. After those first 3 I ran out of obvious choices, but  search of Wikipedia helped me to find a few more groups that could be considered appropriate for the game. Knights of the Holy Sepulchre are one of those.
  • Knights of St Lazarus - You may begin the game with 1 Rondel Upgrade of your choice. I needed a 5th faction, and the Knights of St Lazurus seemed to fit.
  • Order of Santiago - You may choose to only distribute the Action cubes actually used for the action, you may leave unused Action cubes in their original bin. OK, admittedly I just chose another faction at random for a 6th faction. The Order of Santiago existed at about the same time as the other Orders, but beyond that I'm not sure they really fit the theme very well.

As I mentioned, those may not be well balanced. I'm happy to hear comments if you think any of those abilities makes more sense on a different faction, or if a different group makes more sense than one of these.

I had a 4 player test of this last night, and it went pretty well. There are a few tweaks that still need to be made, and I'm still interested in embellishing the Enemy tracks (making the different enemies more different from each other). And there's some question as to whether the buildings should be worth more if built near Paris, or farther from Paris.

So I've still got some work to do, but I'm happy with the progress so far, and I look forward to playing the game again!

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