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Dragon Development or Embracing the Roll & Move Mechanic

Originally published August 27, 2015

When I was in Wellington to attend It’s Your Move in July, I delivered an order to the Hobby Stop in Kilbirnie, where staff member Richard introduced me to a self-published card game called Hoard. I scooped up the last copy and had some play tests that evening and the next day at the event.

Hoard has you rolling a die and moving around a slumbering dragon, discovering and stealing as many treasures as possible before it wakes up. The game itself felt like a treasure to me, albeit a bit of a diamond in the rough. Hoard stood out for its exquisite artwork. I also liked its hand management, set collection, and press-your-luck mechanics, but what excited me the most was actually its roll and move aspect.

Although much derided, roll-and-move remains an undeniably popular, if not beloved, mechanic. Personally, I think people really enjoy both the physicality and the gambling aspect of rolling dice; the trouble arises when dice are wedded to a static board, depriving players of variability as well as strategic choices.

In designing Hoard, Tim Kings-Lynne and his wife Beck Veitch came up with a clever way around this constriction: the board is constructed of twelve facedown cards, arrayed around the dragon, that get taken and replenished as the game progresses. I have tweaked their original concept further, to give players a choice of moving forward or backward on their dice roll and also the ability to reject a card they land on and take a blind draw from the deck instead. If they take the card they land on, it is replenished from the deck and they are allowed to look at the replacement.

Knowing what some of the facedown cards are as the game progresses helps to guide players’ movement choices, rewarding those with good memory. Using a custom D6 die further spices up matters.

Game Over: the dragon, fully awake and not happy about his missing loot!

The game, with these and other changes, was played 20 times during Board Games by the Bay Hamilton on August 15-16. Tester reaction was quite positive and one even wrote the word ‘addictive’ on his feedback form. Most testers wanted to play more than once. The next event I’ll bring Hoard to is the Ink Forge Games Deuce in Auckland in late September.

I have been communicating via email with Tim and Beck, and they have been receptive to my proposed changes. I am looking forward to meeting them in person next month. We intend to sign a formal agreement to allow Cheeky Parrot Games to further develop and publish Hoard.

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