While on holidays, I played that old (bought in the 80's) board game called Fief. After several games I wanted to point at the good and bad things about this game in order to find some general rule.

Fief - Board Strategy Game

Fief - Board Strategy Game

Some assets of the game are innovative and worth mentioning.

The resources are really limited. It is common to have limited number of soldiers or houses, but the limitations are often relative to a player. In this game, there is a limited amount of money. After several rounds, there's no money left in the bank and people cannot earn their income. This opens the possibility to organize bankruptcy.

Movement design is clever. The only way to move your army from town to town are Lords. They are special soldiers that can walk 2 towns a round. While moving, they are able to carry any amount of soldiers with them. Once they are well positioned, the Lords allow you to move around the map really fast.

    However, that's not a perfect game, the main problem could be summarized with the statement "10 pages rules book". Here are some consequences of that fact.

    • Many rules leads to contradictions and unclear statements
    • The learning curve is disastrous
    • More time spent reading and discussing the rules than playing the game

    In order to find a solution, we are going to analyze some facts and get general rules off them.

    Could we play without this rule? Yes. Drop it.

    In the game, there are 2 types of building that gives resources: Mill [cost 300, give 200] and Press [cost 200, give 100]. Basically, you first buy all the Mills and when there are no left you start taking Presses. These two buildings are just about the same, do not give any kind of reflexion but have to be learned by the players. Removing one building would not affect the decision range of the user and would make the game easier to play.

    Ten things doing slightly different things? Merge them!

    There are lots of cards but you can never use them. There are offensive cards and their respective defensive cards. Offensive cards are targeted against a player and aren't that common. No need to say that you never have the defensive card when needed. That's about the same for cards that gives money, you either have to be Clergy, have a Fief or be King to use them. Since most of the time you are nothing, these cards are trash. Being given useless card over useless card is a really bad feeling.

    A solution would be to transform these useless cards would be to make them generic. What about having a rare card that can counter any offensive attack. As for the money card, it would give money based on the highest rank you have. By changing how to attribute the cards, we could keep the same usage rate. They would be seen like a great reward and as a side effect simplify the game.

    Simple rules, great flexibility.

    The methodology adopted by the game is: "There's a problem? Add a special rule for this exact problem". What if we let the user the possibility to do it anyway? It will give flexibility and make the game easier to understand! For further thoughts about this philosophy in the web development, i would suggest you to read the free book Getting Real.

    If you liked this article, you might be interested in my Twitter feed as well.

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