Interview with Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami. I am the second of five children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was six years old. I grew up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

Describe Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart is a fast-paced role selection robot building game. Seize control of the Coal Heart and siphon the health of your enemies. Will you stand as the last unbroken champion, or will you fall to the wayside with the rest of the junkyard?

What other games helped inspire Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart?

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart was inspired by the main mechanic in the game Puerto Rico. It is a role selection, resource management game about building your own little agricultural island nation. I thought that its role selection mechanic would make for a very different feeling fighting game. Role selection means each turn, you get to pick a role that lets everyone do something but for being the one that picked it, you get a perk. I knew I wanted the combatants to upgrade and improve over the course of the game, so robots made perfect sense. Using the expectations inherent in a Robot game, the mechanics of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart are easy to understand and play wonderfully.

What aspects of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart do you believe cause it to stand out from other role selection games on the tabletop game market?

Robots stands out from other role selection games because there is a high level of player interaction and the ability to directly impact other players. Most role selection games fall into the Euro game category, but Robots feels more like a hybrid between Euro and American games.

If Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart proves to be successful, are there any expansions you would like to release?

We have an expansion for Robots (pending its success). In the expansion, a bigger threat is looming over the world and the Robots must team up to defeat the newest threat. It transforms the game into a co-op game with various villains for the players to fight against. It adds new parts to each robot and an alternate Coal Heart! The playtesting for the expansion has been quite fun!

In the City Tournament & Other Sherwood Games

Duncan Davis of Sherwood games will be hosting his normal pick up demos of In the City as well as his new MACE exclusive game, 9RedChan the Game of memes.  He is also hosting a In The City Tournament Saturday afternoon.

About In the City

The king has died! To save the city from usurpers, you must use guile, stealth, and cunning to outwit your enemies. Shifting alliances, unreliable partners, and devious opponents all complicate your path to the throne. Manipulate aristocrats, generals, and ignoble citizenry as you seize the crown and save your city.

In the drafting-style game In the City: Origins for 2-5 players. Each player starts with a leader card (different every game 20 in all in the base set) and each turn they recruit a person from the city square. This gets them victory points, influence to recruit bigger and better people, the ability to manipulate the cards you are recruiting, and the ability to interfere with you opponents. The game is over when 2 out of the 7 columns in the city square are empty. At the end of the game, the victory points are totaled and the winner is the player with the most.

The winner of the game becomes the new King of the city. As such, the people you recruit have a certain amount of sway in choosing the new king so those with more sway are worth more victory points. For example, an aristocrat is worth more victory points then a hired digger. Each leader is named after a position of importance or power showing that they would want to take the throne.

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Interview with Duncan Davis, Sherwood Games

Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games is currently Kickstarting a card game, Missing Link.  He took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjfhfqAv1mI). I am the 2nd of 5 children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was 6 years old. I grow up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

How did Missing Link come about?

Missing Link came about because I once took a physiology exam to test creativity and one of the questions was to come up with as many ways to use a brick in a given amount of time. I had a lot of fun with the question and tweaked the idea a bit to turn it into a group deduction game.

Could you give us a brief description of the game and why you are so passionate about it? 

The active player draws two objects from the deck, reveals one object, and keeps the other one hidden. That player provides hints to help the other players guess the name of the hidden object. The trick is that all the hints must be true about both of the objects.

For example: If you had an apple card and a skyscraper card, you might reveal the skyscraper and and say “Both objects are associated with New York,” “These are both bigger than a strawberry,” etc. When someone shouts out APPLE! They get one card and you keep the other. The first player to get to 7 cards wins.

Each card is a one-word, physical object. This helps because people always have physical characteristics to work with – you can always compare size. The active player has 2 minutes to get another player to guess the hidden object (although new players get to wave this time limit).

What do you feel separates it from other party games of its nature?

Missing Link makes you think in a very different way than any other game on the market. You are restricted in what you can say in a very interesting way and many times you have to take a few turns before you get a handle on the game. One of the goals I have as a designer is to make fun games that secretly teach you something important without the player realizing. Missing Link does this beautifully because it helps players become more creative. By making you think in a new way and compare things with nothing in common, you have to be creative with your hints. A Wack on the Side of the Head is my basis for making this claim – if you are interested in creativity, I highly suggest you read it (it is a quick read)!
What do you see for the future of Missing Link?

If Missing Link does well, I plan on releasing a ‘dirty’ expansion focused more on adults. I think that players will have a blast trying to compare objects that are more risqué then an apple and an elephant.

In the City: Origins

In the City: Origins
From: Sherwood Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

In the City: Origins is a new Card Drafting Game from Sherwood Games.

In March of 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Duncan Davis at MACE West.  There he demonstrated a game called Into the City: Origins.  The following June, I ran into him again at Origins and he was gracious enough to demo his game for me.  I had a great time learning it and I bought it from him there.

From page # 1:
“The King died.  Assume the role of a prominent town leader vying to become the new king.”

The theme of the game is that you are a town or city leader vying for power to take the place of a dead king (as the quote says above).  The cards represent various influential and powerful people in town that you recruit to your faction to help you become king.  These influential people are found in the City Square. The City Square is set up with the various cards in the deck of 105 cards that are laid out a specific way.  Each player is given an Influence Track card, which keeps track of your influence as the name implies.  Influence is gained through drafting from the City Square (explained more below).  Each player chooses a leader card from 3 they are given randomly from a stack of 20.  The Leader has a special ability that affects game play in some way.

Into the City: Origins is a drafting game.  In a drafting game, each player takes turns picking cards from the selection available. In a very dynamic and fast paced way, In the City: Origins engages you into resource management, maximizing selection potential and hindering your opponents at key moments. Each card that you recruit (called creatures) has a Prestige Score, Influence Bonus and a Victory Point Value.

The City Square is created in setup but it is not static.  There are 7 columns of cards, and at the start of the game 6 of them have two face up cards topped by the draw stack.  The 7th stack is the Mercenary stack and only comes out when a certain tier of cards are revealed. The first column is the Tier 0 (zero) stack and are by far the easiest cards to recruit.  These are relatively mundane creatures, some with some simple abilities.  The middle 5 columns are made up of Tier 1 through Tier 3 cards.  First to come out are the Tier 1 cards, followed by the Tier 2 and so on.  You can only recruit from the bottom row of cards, which is one aspect at the core of the strategy in the game.

To recruit from the City Square, you must have an influence greater than or equal to the cards prestige.  Prestige ranges from Tier 0 cards with minimum zero to Tier 3 cards with maximum of 23. You can use your own abilities from your leader and abilities granted to you by cards in your faction to further gain influence, move cards around in the square, destroy or otherwise hinder cards, and a variety of other things to make it easier for you while making it harder for others to gain influence and grow their faction.

The demo I played at Origins 2013, which was admittedly somewhat contrived and shortened, really illustrated the speed of play and complex strategy in play. Going beyond the basic demo and reading through the rules, I really began to see the complexities and the replay potential of the game. For instance, with the leader-leader interactions, the leaders both feel different from one another and feel different when playing against particular leaders.  The variety of cards allows for great interaction between factions as well.  Also, not restricting the game to a 2 player game (which I can easily see) makes the game even more desirable.

Visually the game is very pleasing to the eye.  Using a variety of classic public domain images to represent the various creatures shows the resourcefulness and creativity of the designer.  When I met him he was very passionate about his game and I could see why.  If you have a chance to sit down with Duncan and see his game played, I highly recommend it.

In conclusion, card games have always sat on my lower tier of games I want to play, probably in most cases because of my aversion to collectible card games as well as deck building games.  However, in recent years, more and more card games have come out that have really drawn me in.  This is one of them.  It is a fun and fast game.  And it can be faster once you get more and more familiar with the cards.  It would take a while to get to that point, but each game would feel so different that it would be easy to get there.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

In the City: Origins
From: Sherwood Games
Type of Game: Card Drafting Game
Game Design by: Duncan Davis
Developed by: Duncan Davis
Cover Art by: Auguste de Forbin
Number of Pages: 12 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 20 Leader Cards, 105 Creature Cards, 5 Influence Tracks, 3 10-sided dice, 9 glass gem markers
Retail Price: $30.00 (US)
Player Ages: 9+
Play Time: 45 to 60 mins

Reviewed by: Ron McClung