Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Stretch Goal #3 Unlocked!
Well, after our big up and down weekend (see Update #7), we still managed to crack the next stretch goal: the Imperial Court! This introduces three more characters as roles you can select during the game. Again, until I get my webcam figured out, I'll just have to settle for typing this out.
In the story, the Minister is actually the first to go visit the swindlers to inspect their work, because the Emperor doesn't want to risk appearing a fool himself. But the poor old minister gets swindled, and because he wants to keep his job, he pays close attention to the swindlers' description of the fabric so that he can repeat it to the Emperor. In a sense, he's the one that really gets duped first and starts the ball rolling. In the game, the Minister can have an effect on the Emperor—if the Minister is duped, then the Emperor is more likely to be duped as well; but if the Minister manages to see through the ruse, then it benefits the Emperor. It means that the two players who pick the Emperor and the Minister are actually cooperating to some extent—but you won't know who it is until the roles are revealed!
Although the story doesn't have any other members of the court (other than another official whose role is similar to the Minister's), I've added two others. The Knight acts as a sort of defender—if he can figure out who the Swindlers are, he can kick them out of town (causing them to lose a turn or at least give up some resources). The Lady-in-Waiting, meanwhile, has the ability to charm the Knight out of some resources, though she has fewer scoring opportunities, so it balances out.
Today I'm introducing another artist, and I have another Designer Diary entry about one of my favorite soapbox topics: choice!
Meet the Artist: Vera Brosgol
I first heard about Vera Brosgol because of her graphic novel Anya's Ghost, about a teenage girl who meets a ghost, but then when I got the chance to interview her at Wordstock, I learned that she also works at LAIKA, where she worked on ParaNorman (which also features ghosts). I'm glad to have an artist on board who has experience in the field of "things that not everyone can see." Also, because of her lament last week about International Women's Day (March 8) I promised her that today would be the start of International Vera Bee Week. So, celebrate with us by checking out Vera's artwork on her website!
Vera says: "I'm really excited to be a part of the Emperor's New Clothes Kickstarter. I'm interested in both fashion illustration (Draw This Dress) and board games so this is a perfect fit!"
Designer Diary: Truth in Consequences
Growing up, I played some of the typical games you're probably familiar with: Monopoly, Stratego, Scrabble, Clue, a lot of card games, Risk—though I'll admit that the only game of (traditional) Risk I ever finished was the day I taught my dad to play and he beat me in 45 minutes. And then I got to high school and discovered video games, and I really didn't spend much time playing tabletop games for a while.
It wasn't until well after college that I met some friends who introduced me to games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. I was hooked. I discovered BoardGameGeek and was blown away by the vastness of this world that was so much bigger (and better!) than the games section of Toys R Us. You've heard this story before. Chances are, you have your own version of it, or you wouldn't be here looking at Emperor's New Clothes. (Well, that or because you're related to me.)
Over the past decade or so, I've played hundreds of games and the truth is … I've liked most of them. I'm that guy who loves sushi but I'll also eat a Vienna sausage wrapped in a crescent roll. I just like to play games. But I do have one criterion that has become my mantra, and I've repeated it so often that a friend of mine calls it Liu's Law (though I certainly don't take credit for it): A game involves choice. If you don't make any decisions, if there are no choices during the course of the activity, then it is not really a game.
Okay, there are lots of "games" (particularly intended for kids) that don't involve choice: War, Chutes & Ladders, Candyland. But as soon as you're old enough to know that those are purely deterministic activities, ones that require no skill and, in fact, don't really even need players, then it's hard to sustain any interest in them. Worse yet, games like that have soured many a player on board games altogether, a sentiment shared in Cracked's 6 Board Games That Ruined It for Everyone. (Note: Cracked does contain strong language, but it's the article is quite funny and oh so true.)
For parents with young kids who say: "Well, I want my kids to play these games because they need to learn to take turns, how to count, how to identify colors," I say, there are plenty of other games that teach these, and also include choice. (I know, my insistence on "Liu's Law" makes me a bit of a game snob, and I'm trying to learn not to shout "CANDYLAND ISN'T A GAME!" but instead say, "You know, Gulo Gulo also teaches color and taking turns but is much more fun for kids and grown-ups.")
Because you know what else a game like Candyland teaches kids? That their actions aren't tied to the consequences. That victory and defeat, success and failure, are the results of some force outside of their control: luck, destiny, fate. It teaches them that when they face a challenge, their own effort or practice or training or skills don't play into it. You just take the cards you're dealt, and try to keep a good attitude about it. But what good is getting cards dealt to you if you don't get to decide how and when to play them?
Sure, in reality there are things that are out of our control, situations in which the only things we can control are our attitudes and reactions. But much of what happens in our lives depends on the consequences of our decisions and the decisions of those around us—just like in a game.
So that's one of the things built into Emperor's New Clothes, a non-negotiable: players have choice. You get to choose your role; you get to choose dice to keep or re-roll; you get to choose when to play cards from your hand, whether that's during your own turn or an opponent's. Granted, there's a framework there—unlimited choice leads to chaos or analysis paralysis—but I do feel that my game gives the players a significant amount of control in how the game plays out. Even the type of play is up to you, whether you prefer to be more social, playing the game casually while chatting about movies you've seen recently, or if you really want to hunker down and play an intense game that's focused on the gameplay with minimal distractions.
Of course, the first choice you get to make, as with any game, is whether you wish to play at all.
3DTotal Games, updated print-and-play rules
Thanks to Greg at 3DTotal Games for posting his experience with the Emperor's New Clothes print-and-play!
I realized after reading his write-up that we'd made a tweak to the Role Selection phase after the video was shot. The print-and-play rulebook has now been updated with this change, but here's a quick note on the change. Before the first player chooses a role, one of the role cards is randomly removed and set aside. That way the second player doesn't have a guaranteed guess about which role the first player selected. Likewise, there will always be enough role cards (based on the number of players) so that the last player will always have at least two to choose from. I think this change makes for more balanced gameplay. We realized that people were dreading being first player, but this makes it a little more balanced. This is exactly why we've got the print-and-play out there, because our own playtesters will only catch so much. While I'm not aiming for a "design by committee" feel, I do think crowdsourcing is a great way to catch typos and bugs before we go to print.
If you downloaded the print-and-play files earlier but haven't tried it out yet, be sure to grab the updated rules (the cards haven't changed) before you give it a shot!