Designer Journal: Four Tribes 2nd Edition.


Four Tribes is a game I designed a few years back for a design contest on the Game Crafter, where it went on to be a finalist. I made quite a few changes to the design after that contest and I ran a Kickstarter for it in January of 2014 where it raised over $30k and went on to become my highest rated design on Board Game Geek. Four Tribes has recently sold out and I have decided that instead of making a 2nd print run, that I would offer a new version on the Game Crafter.

00-cardrender7The Game Crafter is a Print-on-Demand service based out of Madison Wisconsin, which is just two hours from me. I know the staff there pretty well and I am a curator in their chat room. There is a great community of designers and indie publishers that are very active in the industry that call the Game Crafter home. It felt natural to bring Four Tribes back to the place it started and allow it to live on.

Bringing Four Tribes to the Game Crafter brought a few design challenges and most of them center around getting the game to fit into their “Small Pro Box” (which is by far my favorite box they offer). This box is of very good quality. All the rest of the components are the same as you would get from a larger printer. Their cards are very nice as well, and I upped the quality to include UV coating and a linen finish.

Let’s look at what has changed between the original and the newest version.

Card Count

00-cardrender3The original version had four suits with seven cards in each suit, for a total of 28 cards in each player deck. On top of those basic cards, there were also eight special cards with unique powers, which brought the card count to 36 cards per deck. Lastly, the Kickstarter unlocked an additional ten special cards that players were to choose four of to add to their deck. This brought the grand total to 46 cards per deck with each player only using 40 during a game.

I needed to reduce the card count in order to get everything in this smaller box, so the designer in me got busy trimming the fat. This was a very liberating experience as it allowed me to strip the game down to the basics of what makes it so fun. Once I did that, I was able to add some of the special cards back. So what do the card counts look like now and how does it effect game play?

In the new version each player deck still has the four suits, but this time around there are only five cards in suit. In the original the cards valued one or two in each suit were Dragon Cards which could be played on either side of a village during play. These were nasty cards to play on your opponent. With a reduced deck size only cards valued at one are now Dragon Cards.

00-cardrender8.jpgIn addition I have integrated the Solstice Expansion into the new version. Cards with the value of two now have a snow flake icon on them that allows a player to move and place the blizzard token on a village card, which essentially shuts down that village until the blizzard token is later moved.

I included four, instead of eight, of the basic special cards (Catapult, Guardian, Offering, & Sanctuary) in each player deck. During playtesting this seemed to work out very well. The ratio of special cards to provision cards (standard cards) remains close to the same, making the game feel much like the original, but you need to be a bit wiser with your timing.

Lastly, I chose four of my personal favorite bonus cards from the Kickstarter and added them to each deck . Players will secretly pick two of the four to round out their 26 card deck. This gives each player a bit of a unique deck that is personal.

Other Changes

00-cardrender6The trimming of total cards was the biggest adjustment in the game, but I also reduced the total number of houses to ten of each of the four colors (blue, green, red, & yellow) and two black houses. The original had twelve of each and two black houses, so I was able to drop eight houses and the game play remains the same.

There is also only one set of village cards for a total of six. The original had a bonus set. In addition, there is just one longhouse card to store the yet to be used village elder pawns. The number of village elder pawns remains at twelve and there will be a nice drawstring bag included.

How does all this effect play?

00-boxrender2I honestly find the new version a much tighter and cleaner experience. The smaller box makes it even easier to take with you places and the reduced card count makes you have to think just a bit more. The inclusion of the Solstice Expansion brings another layer of depth to the game that really makes it shine.

I feel that there is enough new stuff here to warrant a purchase if you own and enjoy the original. I personally love the new clean look of the artwork and graphics. You may notice that each deck has an army icon in the bottom right corner. This really helps when cleaning up a village during play, and when putting the game away at its conclusion.

Future Expansions?

I this this base game is a complete experience, but I know there is a nice core of fans out there that would like to see more cards that add variety to the game play. My plan is to release new versions of some of the other Kickstarter Special Cards and well as some new village decks to switch things up. I want this little expansions to be thematic as well and I look forward to putting these together.

Four Tribes 2nd Edition should be available this November at the Game Crafter. I will certainly let folks know in advance.


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