Why did we decide to reprint TIoDN?
Short answer: For the fans of the original. To introduce it to new players. To make changes I feel it deserves.
Long answer: There’s nothing quite like seeing your creation in the wild to make you recognize what can improve. When TIoDN was published by AEG in 2010, it was the first game I ever had licensed by a commercial board game publisher. (I realize now that I accidentally fibbed in the campaign video. AEG’s publishing of TIoDN was actually my second commercial game printed. The first was the (now long-forgotten) Pressure Matrix – Also published by AEG.) I’d previously released over 120 complete print-and-play board games to the public on our website (They’re still there! http://www.invisible-city.com/), so I was no stranger to critical feedback and input from the public. But there’s a big difference in the size of audience you get from a print-and-play and a commercial game release. The first edition received its fair share of praise, but also some well-deserved critique.
Bearing that in mind, here are the three biggest mistakes I made in the design of TIoDN: 1st ed:
1) No introductory game: The adventure cards in TIoDN vary wildly in difficulty. Some are completely benign (like helpful events and items) while some can be utterly devastating (Shark Pit, Monofilament Wire Net Trap, Gargantuan Cyborg Ape, etc.). It’s totally plausible (in the first edition) that in your very first game you could draw a series of devastating cards and lose on turn one – especially if your speed is greater than 4. For most players, that’s enough to make them put the box down and say, “Y’know what? Let’s play something easier – like Ghost Stories.”
Happily, the second edition fixes this. We’ve pre-stacked the deck so it’s easy to play your first game, and we offer pre-selected agent skills for your first adventure. Your odds of winning your first expedition are very good. Once you know the rules and understand the game, it’s easy to “dial up the danger.” The second edition scales well from “easy as pie” to “harder than the original game.”
2) Rolling a single die for resolution instead of two or more dice: The game mechanic predecessor to TIoDN: 1st ed was Twisty Passages (It’s available as a free print-and-play at Invisible City.). Twisty Passages was where I first used the “pick a speed to run through a deck of cards” mechanic, except you ran against the other players instead of a countdown timer. Twisty Passages has speed-based traps, but instead of rolling a single die and comparing it to your speed, you would roll your speed in dice and look for specific numbers (eg: 5s and 6es) or sum them and see if you exceeded a target (eg: ≥ 21).
For TIoDN, I wanted players to be able to pick any speed from 1 to 100. It was completely unreasonable to expect a publisher to pack 100 or even 10 dice in a game like Necreaux 1st ed, so I swung all the way over to “one die per player, with some players needing two.” It’s clear now that I was overreacting.
The second edition uses two six-sided dice (2d6) for virtually all of its conflict resulution. 2d6 provide a predictability and “normalization toward 7” that makes the game a lot more fun. Doing this required overhauling the mechanics/text of practically every adventure and skill card, but it was worth it. The way it is now is the way it should have been a long time ago. It also has the nice effect of making the game feel faster (even though it takes the same amount of time to play) because you can pick higher speeds each turn. Higher speeds = drawing more cards = fewer turns to end the game.
3) Keeping secrets from the players: In some ways, The Island of Doctor Necreaux (1st ed and 2nd ed) is a puzzle. To play it most effectively, you must discern and unlock its tricks and secrets. Things that seem harmful can help you, and things that seem insignificant are actually quite important. The 1st edition rules never hint at any of these, and that was deliberate. I thought players would enjoy the iterative process of trial and error – gradually revealing knowledge and gaining insight. I’ve learned that many players don’t like that, and reviewers *hate* it. The most interesting thing about this is that if I’d taken a moment to put myself in their position, I’d’ve seen it coming. Pretend you have a limited amount of time to learn, play, and review a game. You do so, and you play it the way it says to – following all obvious paths and decisions – and it *>wrecks
Oops. My bad.
I like the solution I’ve implemented in the second edition: There’s an entire spoiler section in the second rule book that’s written in mirror writing. It’s there and obvious, but it’s obfuscated. You’ll get tease out the answers if you make an effort to.
...But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The diabolical Doctor Necreaux ***loves*** traps (31% of the adventure cards are traps). The second edition still has hidden secrets – in the mechanics, the art… If you’re clever, you just might figure one or two of them out. :)
It’s a golden age for board games. Look at the explosion of board game projects on Kickstarter. Go to Target and you’ll find Settlers and Codenames on the shelves. The board game industry in the United States had never had it as good as it does today. On one hand, that’s a market with lots of competition. On the other hand, there’s a huge market. Keeping both of those in mind, we’re giving it a shot and walking in with eyes wide open. Why? We have a bunch of great games (both in-house and from other designers) we’d like to share with you.
At Protospiel South (and other conventions), I see so many fantastic board games that’ll never make it to the mass market, and it makes me sad. I firmly believe in being the change that I want to see in the world. I do that through my daily work at TexVet.org, through my work at Austin Furniture Bank, and I want to do that with Invisible City. I want to help these great games that would otherwise go unseen reach a wider audience