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Paladins designers announce South Tigris trilogy of board games set in Golden Age Baghdad

Cardinal cardboard.

The designers of Paladins of the West Kingdom have announced a new trilogy of upcoming board games that will focus on dice mechanics and take place in Baghdad during the 9th century CE. The first of these titles, Wayfarers of the South Tigris, will launch a Kickstarter campaign early next year.

Garphill Games designers Shem Phillips and Sam J. Macdonald took to YouTube to provide details about the new trilogy, which will follow the same model as its West Kingdom and North Sea predecessors - set in an historical governance, illustrated in a particular colour palette and broadly focusing on a suite of related mechanics. Wayfarers of the South Tigris is up first, followed by Scholars of the South Tigris and capped off with Inventors of the South Tigris

South Tigris will sport vibrant yellows in its portrayal of Baghdad under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate, which saw the region through what is known as the Golden Age of Islam and a period of scientific flourishing. Phillips and Macdonald have decided to use six-sided dice as their method of translating those themes into tabletop mechanics. “We want to use dice in different ways - fun, and hopefully, interesting ways,” Macdonald said in the video.

Wayfarers, which will launch its Kickstarter campaign early next year, was apparently the second game the pair designed as they began exploring concepts for the South series of their cardinal direction-oriented portfolio. Macdonald was particularly taken with Baghdad scholars during the 800s CE who made huge advancements in astronomy and used their knowledge of the stars to make an extremely accurate estimation of the Earth’s circumference.

Players will control the explorers who charted longitudinal and latitudinal distances one degree at a time, vying for resources on a central board as tableaus of vistas and discoveries build out on its edges. Dice will be placed on a player board to gain access to certain actions during their turn, and those can be upgraded over time with things like camels, tools and equipment. Macdonald used an example where a telescope enhancement was attached to the player’s board, augmenting their die rolls of one. From that point onward, those results can perform “astronomy-type actions”.

The workers who gain resources from the center board can be controlled by anyone, and the game will make use of an influence economy whereby players can charge each other money to use placed workers. The design will embrace a lot of random elements but also include plenty of ways for players to invest in mitigating that randomness as the session advances.

Scholars of the South Tigris will be a much crunchier and weightier title that gamifies the knowledge sharing and translation work done in the House of Wisdom. Prior to its destruction, scholars would gather scrolls of science, medicine, philosophy and more from across the world and translate them into Arabic to create a central store of knowledge. Players will engage in similar work, collecting scrolls and bringing them back to Baghdad to be translated. The folks doing this will have a variety of languages, and the path to Arabic won’t be so tidy. Translator can be accessed by any of the players for the right price.

Instead of drafting dice onto a board, players will instead build a bag of available dice and spend the game adding and removing different colours to better suit their dominant strategy. Phillips likened the complexity to Paladins of the West Kingdom and hopes Wayfarers will provide new players a solid introduction to their design and make approaching Scholars much more friendly. The pair mentioned working with consultants to create dice for this trilogy that better accommodate colourblind players.

Inventors of the South Tigris is still in the process of being designed, though it will be based on the Kitab al-Hiyal, or Book of Ingenious Devices, which contained notes on roughly 100 mechanical devices and automata designed by three Persian brothers known as the Banu Musa. Phillips said the current shape is a “dice-drafting rondel game” that will take a different track from either of its predecessors in the trilogy. ““It’s a public dice game where the colours aren’t player colours, but they are important for actions,” he said.

All three will remain Euro-style board games that run roughly 60 to 90 minutes and facilitate up to four players - Phillips confirmed he will design solo modes for each one. Garphill plans to release one a year, starting in 2022, with each coming to Kickstarter in the Spring. The pair are currently aiming for March but admitted that the current shipping and paper shortage will likely mean delaying until May. Phillips also explained that the rise in cost of board games has led to the decision with publisher Renegade Games to increase the size of South Tigris’ boxes to match the inflated price points.

Series artist Mihajlo Dimitrievski has returned for the South Tigris trilogy, having already provided the cover art shown during the announcement video. Phillips and Macdonald both joked about their excitement to bring him back for the last trilogy after their "beards have gone all grey."

Wayfarers of the South Tigris will come to Tabletop Simulator “quite soon” for playtesting, but neither provided more solid dates. They talked briefly about the final trilogy, set in the Eastern Byzantine empire, but said they won’t be touching that design for at least several years to come. Dicebreaker has reached out for more information about the dates of playtesting and the upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

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