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The Masters’ Trials: Design Diary Introduction – How it all Began



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Posted 13 September 2017 - 08:16 AM

After designing Dice City I knew that the “dice-crafting” mechanism it had could find many uses in other games as well. That’s why, even before Dice City was actually released, I began to explore other options and see where I could go with this “system” I had come up with.

At its core, the mechanism in Dice City is about “crafting” your dice. Each die is represented by 6 cards (one for each side) and by putting new cards on your board, on top of the existing ones, you are effectively changing the faces of your die. As a concept, this could theoretically apply to all kinds of games that use dice.

The idea that I initially wanted to explore was that of a dungeon-crawler. Going with that idea would also define the first characteristic of the game: This would be a cooperative game (as opposed to the competitve nature of Dice City). The players would not compete with each other but they would work together instead. In turn, this would allow the core mechanism to be tweaked a bit, to give players the option to interact more with each other. For example, you could spend one of your dice to move one of another player’s if needed.

Another key characteristic also came from the theme. Since the dice would correspond to various attributes of the characters (like speed, combat, magic etc) why have a single board for all of them and not separate ones? If one die for example was the race, another one the class, another the weapon etc, why not allow the possibility of mix-and-match? Not only would it increase replayability, it made perfect sense with the theme – each player would be able to create their own character (similarly to an RPG), a hero with the attributes they ‘d want.

I made a rough prototype and started testing the idea. I sketched some rooms with tiles, I came up with rules for their placement, I made a few quick enemies and some simple player abilities and started playing. Although, way too early in the process, the experience was fun and I knew this could lead to something good. To check if I was on the right track, I showed it to some people and explained the concept behind it. EVERYONE loved the idea behind the modular boards. It was really cool and seemed very promising. However, they weren’t thrilled with the dungeon board. As one friend put it: “There are actually 2 games on the table. One here (pointing to the player boards with the dice and the character abilities) and one there (pointing to the board with the mockup enemies)”. There was simply too much stuff going on for the game to be viable. Not only would it be insane production-wise (tons of boards, cards, miniatures etc – less than half of the game was more than all of Dice City) it would also ask a lot from the players, especially in their first games.

Thus, a decision was made to make the “dungeon-crawling” a bit simpler. Perhaps just cards that would be drawn or something along those lines, in order to keep the focus on the advancement of the character in front of you.

So, the goals of the game were more or less set:

  • Dungeon-Crawling Theme
  • Cooperative Game
  • Modular Player Boards (and as a consequence Variable Player Powers)
  • Relatively simple (card-based perhaps?) mechanism for the dungeon/enemies.
  • Multiple Paths to Victory

And that’s how this journey began… For more developments on this journey, check back next week!

Vangelis Bagiartakis

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!


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