The designer behind award-winning tabletop RPG Coyote & Crow is creating a “semi-cooperative” board game inspired by indigenous gift-giving traditions. Wolves, which is crowdfunding now on Kickstarter, only crowns a winner if every player survives the harsh winter together.
Wolves is the first board game from Conner Alexander at Coyote & Crow Games and also marks their first title not set in the post-apocalyptic world imagined around the indigenous culture-focused scifi RPG.
Three to six players will take on the role of community leaders cooperating amongst themselves to prepare for the coming winter. The seasons of one year play out over eight simultaneous turns, with each player making decisions for their own people while also gaining social standing by helping neighbouring communities meet their needs.
Three different resources are earned by playing cards from your hand. More corn, buffalo meat and fish can be gathered during the plentiful seasons, but hoarding that excess may very well create problems when biting winds herald leaner months. Particularly healthy communities can help out by donating their excess resources amongst the rest of the leaders, helping everyone meet their goals and impressing everyone with their generosity. Sharing wealth is the main route to earning Wolves’ version of victory points - status.
Alexander says this gift-giving focus - pulled from indigenous cultural practices such as potlatch ceremonies from the US’ Pacific Northwest region - is a new way for board games to consider resource management strategy. That’s because everyone must survive all eight turns for a winner to eventually be crowned. If anyone fails to feed their community, the game ends. While one player will eventually earn enough acclaim to don the mantle of chief, that victory means nothing unless everyone crosses the finish line.
Players can choose to deny a gift knowing that the giver will rise in social standing, but those vital resources might mean the difference between starvation and survival. Every choice comes layered in questions of status and politicking - until the harsh realities of nature come knocking. Focusing on this dichotomy is an intentional choice meant to highlight the philosophical difference between Western ideas of profit and gain and indigenous communal thriving.
“In many board games, winning is often presented as a zero-sum game where one player's victory comes at the cost of another player's defeat,” Alexander writes on the campaign page. “Wolves is about people working together to survive, often referred to as ‘gadugi’ in the Cherokee language. While you may make choices that benefit you individually, the game's overall theme is that we are all better off when we work as a pack.”
Wolves is illustrated by Sadekaronhes Esquivel on interiors and Ovila Mailhot on the box’s cover. Coyote & Crow Games says the title will contain no plastic components, and every part is FSC certified - the team has even eschewed shrink wrap for shipping and used recycled materials wherever possible.
The Kickstarter campaign for Wolves will run through August 7th and is aiming to produce a physical box priced at $55 that will ship to backers beginning in March 2024. A broader retail release, including international stock, will roll out after Kickstarter fulfilment is underway.