A few weeks ago myself and the rest of the Tinkerbot crew attended the UK Games EXPO, the biggest hobby gaming event in Britain. Last year we had an absolute blast, including demonstrating a couple of games we’d entered into the Redesign Competition and had the good fortune of reaching the Finals with.

Original game
My original redesign wasn’t too inspiring…

Well, this year I was lucky enough to have been selected for the Finals again with a redesign of the Z-Man Games title, The Gnomes of Zavandor. This game featured a strange ‘jigsaw’ board with five wings coming off a central pentagonal board, plus a host of cards and tokens with gems, gold and strange constructs on them.

Now my own take on this was to have the cards become mine faces, with the gem tokens becoming ‘Gnolems’, magical and elemental constructs drawn at random from a collective bag. The Gnolems were used to work the mine faces for gems. These could then be sold to a market which was set up to change the values of the various gems from round to round and when several of the same gem type were traded in (essentially mimicking ‘flooding of the market’). Between rounds, players also got the opportunity to add to a ‘machine’ they owned, which allowed them to gain extra gems and gold each round. The player with the most gold would win.

The feedback from the competition was interesting. Essentially, the initial version of Gnolems was felt to be a game of two halves. The first was the Gnolems working the mines, which lacked depth of choice and by extension had a lack of tension past the first round. The second was the market mechanic, which was felt to be much stronger with a few minor tweaks, if a little dry.

Original Gnolem placement
My cute little Gnolems being placed by the ‘Mine Faces’

So what to do? The mining side of the game was essential to generate the resources (gems) needed to sell to the market, but without enough variety of choice it became an activity rather than a game. Also, drawing a random Gnolem from a bag (with a possible bonus of you we lucky to draw the right colour) lacked strategy. It was this lack of choice that needed addressing to gamify my redesign.

Firstly, I dropped the random draw and added a queueing and buying mechanism. Players could now see what they and their opponents would be using on their turn. This opened up further options as players would get opportunities to rearrange their queue, or fiddle with the order of other player’s Gnolems. This in turn will hopefully increase the player interaction, an essential element in any board game.

Secondly, the mine faces were revamped to include different options and stricter rules on placement; in the previous version many of the mine faces were ‘colourless’, meaning any Gnolem could be placed there. In the newer version, you MUST match the colour of the mine face and Gnolem. Of course this would be tempered by finding some way to make every Gnolem useful (I don’t want players to feel like their next turn will be a dead one if their Gnolem doesn’t match any of the mine faces left).

Did these changes work? I really hoped so, and once I review the feedback forms I’ll let you know. In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or comments!

As always, we’d love to hear from you! Contact me on twitter: @bluecatgames and send me your thoughts, or send us an email: info@tinkerbotgames.com

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2 Responses

  1. Sounds pretty cool! I love the idea of these redesign contests – coming up with something entirely new from existing components should be something that all aspiring game designers have a crack at sooner rather than later.

    1. Hi Jamie! Totally agree, it was a real mind melter to try and figure out how to use the components without just copying what was already there verbatim. Hopefully it can be something we cover in one of our design hacks but on a much smaller scale!