One of the great things about living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is that we are in a hotbed of game design. Some of the more approachable designers in the industry happen to live just a short drive away, which gives me the opportunity to hang out with and learn from some talented, creative people. On occasion, I even have the privilege of play testing with them.
Circle of the 7 is the latest game I’ve had the chance to check out during development. Co-Designers Dave Ferguson and Joshua Geimer have combined elements of pick-up and deliver and resource management in this second venture into the Kingdom of Dayrm, which we first visited in Succession!
Before I go on, I want to apologize for the lower quality photos. To be honest, I was not prepared to write about Circle of the 7 at all. I planned to just play a time or two, offer some insight, then move on with my life. As it turns out, I enjoyed the game enough that I wanted to share what I am allowed with the rest of you, to give you an idea of what is coming down the pipes. Dave and Joshua have a great game design in the works, and I’m excited to give you a sneak peak.
The game is laid out in a circle, so the title is more than just a catchy name. Set-up consists of combining a House with a Tribute card, a Favor Ability card, and a Goods card. There will always be seven of each in play during a game. These combinations can change from one game to the next, which helps with replay value as well as variable difficulty. What you needed to gain the Favor Ability to move backward may instead allow you to move an opponent’s meeple in the next game. There is also an independent agent, the King’s Envoy, who moves within the circle and influences goods gained as well as tariffs imposed. Each player also has a goods card, which helps keep track of what goods the player has acquired along the way.
During play, players move their meeples- called buyers, I believe- clockwise around the circle. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that meeple movement is determined by the number of other meeples at the starting location. Goods are acquired when the meeple is placed at its destination. The type of goods is unique to that location, and the number of goods acquired is based on how many other meeples are present.
Each House is seeking a particular combination of goods. Some may seek timber and wine, another may desire nothing but pelts. When a player has what a House is looking for, it is possible to pay tribute and gain favor. To do so, a meeple must be present at the House, and an action must be used to pay tribute. Once a player has done this, the player places one of his tokens on that house to represent having gained favor, and now has access to the special ability granted by the house. In addition, if a player has favor with a house, any tariff penalties for acquired goods are ignored. In other words, instead of getting one less pelt than normal, the player is allowed to collect the full number of pelts due.
I really enjoy that players don’t have to be thinking of how to stall out or sabotage their opponents. It certainly is a possibility, but the game doesn’t require it. At the same time, this is not a multi-player solitaire game, in which everyone is just playing their own game and comparing scores at the end. There is a little push and pull, unintended consequences, and interruption of plans. It forces players to think ahead a bit and to choose between patience or flexibility.
There is more testing to be done, so what I saw may not be different from what is finally released. Regardless, I think this game is on the right track, and look forward to having it hit my table in the future. I’ll be sure to let you all know when the Kickstarter launches so you can get in on the ground floor and support this fantastic idea from some great designers.