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Designer Diary: Lofoten

by sébastien dujardin

Lofoten is the most family-friendly game I’ve had the chance to create and publish. I’m not just talking about its family aspect, but also because it owes a lot to my little family.

First, I wanted to highlight this magnificent Norwegian archipelago after I returned from the holidays we spent there.

Another great pillar at the origin of this project is a great two-player game by Sébastien Pauchon that has become a classic: Jaipur. In the same way that I like the intertwining of the elements, our stay in Lofoten and Jaipur are very linked; we played a lot in Jaipur with my big daughter in Lofoten. Yes, you have to follow…

Starting from these two postulates, I made quite quickly a pale copy of Jaipur that’s a little different for fun. You should know that I start a lot of creations for fun, creations that either fall into complete oblivion (even in my own brain) or reappear some time later to be edited…or fall into oblivion again! That sorting is difficult but just as exciting!

So the idea was there: trade between Vikings using a central market and resources from that era. Obviously, the Viking museums on the island emphasize their commercial development more than warfare. (We made the same observation at the Titanic museum in Belfast, which talks more about its construction than its little accident with the ice cube of the seas.) But it turns out that the Vikings really developed mainly because they were skilled traders. Talking about them from this point of view seemed interesting to me.

This pale copy probably had some subtleties that made me want to go further, but I absolutely don’t remember them. What I do remember very clearly is that there was still a wheel of Troyes Dice on one of our two work tables. While thinking about the future of this game, I was handling this wheel when suddenly I had the idea of slipping a card between the two superimposed parts of this wheel. Then I placed this wheel on the table before me and realized that it can turn. Swiping and jamming cards in a wheel, spinning the wheel to collect tiles from a central market, say, I like all that! We’ll keep it! Not immediately forgotten!

Not bad…but all this still does not make a good game. I like card games, but I also like not having ten cards in my hand. Yes, those who know my games a little know that you can have ten cards in your hand in Deus. You start with five cards, and the first action of a beginner is to draw to have ten. Hello, discovering the game with these ten cards in your hand to decipher!

Deus has had a great reception, and I’m delighted with it, but these ten cards…it’s not me. I allowed this to deal with the luck of the draw, but luckily I found another system upon which to build. Spoiler alert…

Let’s go back to our sheep resource cards. (There are sheep in Lofoten, so they must be in the game!) You need them to place them in the wheel, a wheel to move them, but of course, let’s pilot this wheel with the cards in your hand: the left one to go left, and the right one to go right, yes! Obviously, since we are talking about a wheel, playing a card allows you to turn this wheel, and the value of the card (from 1 to 3) corresponds to the number of moves. The gymnastics of this move requires a little practice at the beginning; it is important to correctly match the iconographs to the directions of movement and to remember that it works like in a car: You turn right to move right. Not to spoil anything, all of this corresponds well to the movements of a fleet of four longships under the orders of its Jarl. You have two cards in hand for left and right; that’s not too much, is it?

Yes, it’s not much…but of course! Let’s use a central card to load the boat into dock! Yes, let’s place an order card in the boat in front of the player that corresponds to the goods expected by the Jarl. Then, to add a little spice, let’s draw a card that we have to place either on the left or on the right, making it fun to manage just two cards. Then, by moving the fleet of longships, the order card of a boat must face one of the four order tiles on the market. But of course! By making these loading and unloading actions automatic, we can chain actions in an exhilarating way because in addition, we can take the tiles coveted by the opponent.

Once I was satisfied with the heart of the game came the most complicated moment: how to manage the other aspects of the game without forgetting the most fun part, but while adding sufficiently exhilarating stakes. Storing resources made perfect sense. Resource tiles would have different values, and by forcing each player to store in the same warehouse as their opponent, a game of majority made sense given the war that players wage to recover these. This “simple” majority worked perfectly and allowed you to discover the game and the originality of its mechanisms at your ease.

I like the idea of a version giving access to the mechanical heart of the game before discovering several modules that embellish the initial version. Once you have played, it is possible to give power to your boats, to add the services and therefore the power of a Jarl, or even to modify the game of majority to make it more complex.

Have fun in Lofoten…and everywhere else.

Sébastien Dujardin


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