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Review Request: "Coal N' Write"

RULES UPDATED TO VERSION 2. Thanks to the input so far!

Also! New graphic design of the player sheet available, April 2021:

I'm developing a roll n' write game currently called Coal n' Write for fun and contest submissions, and would love some feedback on my prototype components (well, worksheets) and rule set.

-About the Game-

This is a roll n' write game that takes about 20 to 25 minutes to play. It supports solo games as well as multiplayer competitions.

Imagine that it’s the 1870’s, and you’ve just come into possession of a land claim. To your surprise, there’s the beginnings of a mineral mine dug into the side of a hill. You and two of your friends plan to dig out as much of the minerals as you can, cart it off to the General Store, and rake in the cash!

You have cleaned out your savings to buy a bunch of tools and hire six burros for your first foray into the mine. Your goal is to collect and sell as much of the valuable minerals from the mine that you can, and either invest your reward, or bank it for when you go back home. The mining team with the most riches after cashing-in six deliveries wins!

-Direct Links-
Here's a link to the game sheets in PDF form:

Here's a link to the current rule book (version 2, as of this writing):

You will also need something to write with for each player, and 3 six-sided dice. You will not need erasers.

Visuals are not finalized, they are merely functional. Please tolerate those as best you can. It's more the legibility of the rules and how well someone can understand them while I'm not there that I need to know.

If you would like to offer feedback or have questions, please do so in this forum or via email (which is included at the top of the rule sheet). Any input you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time!


Rules Feedback

Here's my feedback just from looking at the rules:

+ It is unclear from "Check for any pairs. VISIT the General Store, if you want." that visiting the General Store is conditional upon rolling pairs.

+ It is unclear from the "HOW TO CLAIM MINERAL DEPOSITS" section that the sum of the dice results is needed to claim the mineral. "You can use one or more dice whose results MEET OR EXCEED the number printed in the mineral box" could be interpreted to mean that you can use multiple dice, each of which meets or exceeds the number individual (as opposed to multiple dice, the sum of which meets or exceeds the number).

+ I like the digging mechanic

+ For the bandit mechanic, maybe give an example that makes it clear that if you have multiple copies of the most valuable mineral, you lose all of them. I know you talk about how clever the player is for just putting one in there, but somebody who is just skimming for examples might think that you only ever lose one mineral.

+ Strike Gold references the marking of initials in Wash Day, but is explained before Wash Day; maybe you should explain the initial marking in detail in Strike Gold instead and then reference it in Wash Day (since it comes later)?

+ On first reading it, I did not understand from the description of Railroad Shares that each share is tracked separately; my first interpretation was that once any share is purchased, all shares appreciate in value from that point on (which doesn't make sense). The explanation in the General Store makes it clearer that each share appreciates separately from the time of purchase. I would change "Thereafter, Shares" to "Thereafter, that share" to avoid this misinterpretation.

+ Varmint hunting seems really good (from reading it, at least). On average, it pays out $16.5 at the cost of 1 worker, which seems like a lot more than that worker could earn in the mines.


Thank you for the input, ananda! This is all helpful. Some responses for you.

  • The phrasing and seemingly-small changes to the wording are the main things I was seeking, so thank you for providing such a bounty of them!
  • I'll update the Bandit explanation with two illustrations, keeping the one I have but also adding another example where multiple minerals are stolen.
  • Yep, the "Wash Day" explanation was when I had the General Store perks listed in a different order. You may notice that even though I attempted to put them in alphabetical order, I still missed a couple...! But I'll revise the wording as you recommend in the next update.
  • When it comes to the Varmint Huntin' I wanted players to see it as valuable, even if it has limited use. It looks inflated on the surface, particularly with that "+6" at the end of it. However, there's no guarantee that players will head off to the General Store several times in a game, so in practice the rest of the perks are chosen much more often after Round 1, and Varmint Huntin' becomes more of an afterthought, or "Plan B." It's perceived as having less value, which is an interesting side effect. I have no other explanation for it beyond that, believe it or not. More testing is needed to see if I should tweak those numbers more.

Again, thanks for all the input! If you actually find yourself with enough time and interest to play the game, please let me know how it goes for you.

I'm 90% done proofing

So far the concept sounds VERY COOL! The only thing that bugs me, is the mineral selection. I would use "Fools Gold" (Pyrite) instead of "Tin" to trick the "Bandits"... So instead of stealing your most valuable SILVER, they would steal the "Fools Gold" and of course "Fools Gold" is worthless otherwise (no scoring value). But the Bandits would not know any better such that they would THINK it's real gold and steal it instead of your silver...

I'm taking a break... Figured I'd write something up (Before I resumed my reading of the rules...) I'll provide you with the PDF so that you can review my edits (of course you are free to ignore some or even all the edits). Some of them are about better "wording"...

Like I said time for a break... Get back to the rules soon enough!

Note #1: I'm at the Appendix... So 3 out of 4 pages done. I'm almost done. I know it's ONLY 4 pages. But reading rules is not something that I like to do (Heck I have a hard enough time writing my own! LOL). And usually I'm reading to understand the Game and to see if the writing is sufficient clear enough (also). Give me another hour or so and I'll post for you the link to the revised PDF document...

You'll be able to download it directly from BGDF...

Note #2: Here is my REVISED version... I'm still not completely done. If you can address my questions in this thread... Then I can see if I can complete the remaining 10%.

Revised 1.0 PDF with comments and questions


P.S.: I recommend to DOWNLOAD the PDF and not just view it. It's much clearer to READ from Acrobat than in the browser.

Note #3: I'll try the SINGLE PLAYER variant to see how the game goes. And if I have additional PLAYING questions, I'll add a comment to this thread with those questions. I'll playtest tomorrow...

Note #4: I must admit this PNP Game is pretty remarkable... You really "out-did" yourself with this design. It's compact and neat too. The only thing that I think can be improved upon is the "Mine". I know you "designed" it to be "compact" but I feel "Tin" could be "Fools Gold" and could be a bit deeper.

I think the SIMPLE strategy is to earn $50 and visit the General Store to buy 5 Pistols and remove all 5 Bandits. IDK ... I'm just planning out my strategy for the solo playtest tomorrow...

I'm not clear 100% about all the rules... So I'll expect some insight into my questions to see how to approach the game.


Lots of good feedback on this, questccg, and I've made a host of improvements. I appreciate your efforts, man!

Here are some specific responses to your questions, both here and in your edits.

  • Regarding Blackjack: After developing the idea, I wanted to make sure that players actually went for it, but not for the easy outcome seen with "Varmint Huntin'." So I amped up the rewards for doing well, and added a more severe penalty for overshooting it. It adds a bit more of a press your luck vibe, and I'm currently willing to test this more to see how receptive players are to the current reward list.

    As for the addition of new minerals to the burro instead of the Ore Stash, this is twofold. First, the primary goal of the solo game is to fill the Ore Stash, but I want that to happen because players should focus attention on the mine. Secondly, there's a thematic piece to this, but primarily I want the player to balance mining Silver, Borax, and more Coal against the rewards offered by the General Store. Again, testing can let me know over time whether or not this is interesting.

  • Regarding Pyrite: you're fixated on this idea, aren't you? :)

    Seriously though, again I have a couple reasons for Pistols vs. Pyrite. Mainly it adds more utility and dependence on the General Store. Additionally, by requiring cash instead of specific minerals, it allows the player some flexibility in how they approach the Bandit dilemma.

Thanks again for your feedback! Thanks to you and ananda, I've made a number of clarifications to the rules text and added in another illustration. If you have any other questions or comments, feel free to post them.

About the Blackjack... and Bandits

What I tried to do is make it the most "standard" type of Blackjack out there. What I mean, it doesn't make sense when you go Bust that you get an EXTRA Bandit!? Nor do you earn more minerals or ore. It's Blackjack...

Make it about monies ($$$) only. Otherwise it's not REALISTIC.

While buying a Pistol makes sense as "gear" ... you should instead have some kind of roll to decide instead of absolute determinism that you have a Pistol, that defeats one (1) Bandit. Why? Because having a Pistol is NOT a "guarantee" ... Your gun could miss the mark or it could jam, you might run out of bullets, etc.

My version would be: A> You can BUY a Pistol for $Y. B>When you encounter a Bandit, both the Player and the Bandit roll a dice. If the player's dice is HIGHER, the Bandit flees the scene. Otherwise the Bandit robs you of ore and takes your pistol.

The Bandits NEVER "disappear"... It's only a way to scare them off.

Another point would be that each burros (that have a Bandit) only have one (1). Same rules apply with the Pistol and Bullets. A player can buy another pistol (if it is stolen) whenever he visits the General Store.

Just some thoughts... I'm just trying to "streamline" the game a bit to be a bit more realistic (in terms of actual western culture).

P.S.: The Bandits always come back! You just scare them away with a lucky shot...

Like I always say, if you don't like it, you can ignore my suggestions. I'm just sharing with you my own thoughts on the game. Feel free to improve or adapt these ideas if you like.



questccg wrote:
What I tried to do is make it the most "standard" type of Blackjack out there.[...] Make it about monies ($$$) only. Otherwise it's not REALISTIC.
Of course it's not realistic. But it's okay. It keeps players focused on minerals and the limited space on their burros.
questccg wrote:
The Bandits NEVER "disappear"... It's only a way to scare them off.
If I wanted the game to more about gunfighting with bandits, I would definitely spend more time on this aspect. But I want the player to spend more time thinking about the mine and minerals. That's why I've drastically streamlined this particular part of the game. Additionally, if there's a gunfight, I would want it to be between players so that everyone's involved (otherwise there'd be downtime for some, which I -definitely- don't want). But as it happens, this isn't that type of game... Otherwise I'd bust out my copy of Bang!. :)

We might not see eye-to-eye on a lot of this game's particulars, but nonetheless I still appreciate all the time you've put into your suggestions and feedback. You've provided me a lot of opportunities to think things out, and add more focus to playtesting.

No worries

I'm not offended in any way, shape or form. Like I said, you're the designer and you know best what you hope to achieve with/in your design. I'm just giving you my own reasoning for the options that I suggested...

You know that ultimately it is your design. You need to be the one happy with it, not me. I just brought out some points in the design, which to me felt like they needed some work.

Keep up the good work... But I'd personally get more eyes on it...


Just bringing this one to the top in the hopes I can receive any additional feedback. The rules are updated to version 2, though the player mats and general store have pretty much stayed the same.

If anyone has additional thoughts, or even managed a play-through and you want to share your critique, please do so here. Thanks!

I read through the rules.

I read through the rules.

There's an item referenced in the rules called Tack and Harness that's not listed under the general store appendix.

There's a tiny line at the beginning of the rules that indicates that all players act after each roll of the dice, but a sample round would probably be a good idea. This seems like a very easy thing to miss.

Along with that, is there anything preventing me from copying another player? I guess turn order does?

What use is Work tonic? I give up 16$ (by not shooting varmint) to give every player more turns??

The game seems really good. I think the math is right in most cases. Varmint shooting is way better than buying shares after round 2, and always better than not going to the general store. (The most you can get from 1 die in the mines is a silver which is only $12 minus a possible bandit so approximately $8 on average)


Thanks for your input, nswoll! I have some responses.

  • I can't believe I left out the description of Tack & Harness in the rulebook...! I will add this in the next version. Thanks for pointing this out.
  • I'm trying to keep the rulebook to a manageable length, but I will strongly consider adding in a sample turn as an explanation.
  • There's really nothing stopping players from mimicking/copying another, but there's no guarantee they'll end up with the same cash at the end of the game (the difference-maker in a multiplayer game). Particularly if players use Varmint Huntin' every round, there will likely be variance in cash totals (as each player throws dice for this separately).
  • Workhorse Tonic is used only in the single player game. The first milestone for solo play is to completely fill in the Ore Stash, so providing additional assignments for miners can help with this. Because the use of the dice is identical for all players in a multiplayer game, I omitted this from 2+ player games. Same with the Burro #7 and Blackjack perks.
  • I appreciate you detailing some of your calculations/ratios here. I'm likely going to clarify in the rulesheet that players may use Varmint Huntin' once per Round so the focus stays on the Mine instead of the perks found in the General Store.

Thank you once again for your feedback, nswoll! It's much appreciated. :)


Just wanted to see if we can get some FRESH EYES on this PNP... It's pretty good and just needs some fine tuning IMHO. If you could review the rulebook and share with us your thoughts... That would be fantastic!


Added: Last Miner Rule

Adding a rule when two dice are in the BUNKHOUSE and only one die remains for mining. I'm adding a track to the side of the mine play sheet, with the numbers 4 through 12 on it.

At the start of a turn when only one die is left to be thrown, first throw the two BUNKHOUSE dice. If their sum meets or exceeds the lowest number on the Lone Miner track, scratch it out and continue the round. However, if the sum is not high enough, the last miner is spooked out of the mine! You must end the current Round.

In addition to maintaining a certain amount of tension until the final throw of each round, this also reduces the "grind time" when there's only a single die left. This also makes the solo game -much- more challenging, particularly in terms of the end-game milestone. The player will need a lot of luck to fill their entire Ore Stash.

I will likely experiment with increasing the length of the Lone Miner track by repeating numbers, or even with numbers that fluctuate up and down instead of a strictly linear increase. I may also experiment with a new track used for each round... Though I am hoping to have enough room somewhere so I don't require the player to use an eraser at the end of each round to "reset" this track. Playtesting and graphic design tinkering will bear this out.

Version 3 of the ruleset is coming. With the addition of this new rule and an example Round, the rule sheet is now hovering round 6 pages. I'm not exactly pleased with this development, but short of shooting video for reference, I'm not certain how to decrease the page count while keeping text at a legible size.

Regarding Lone Miner Track

let-off studios wrote:
I will likely experiment with increasing the length of the Lone Miner track by repeating numbers, or even with numbers that fluctuate up and down instead of a strictly linear increase. I may also experiment with a new track used for each round...
With initial testing, it seems like having a single track for an entire game is too limiting, as luck in early Rounds means that later Rounds end up -very- short. Losing that last die quickly can be debilitating. It's definitely -not- fun, and leads to players wondering why they bother to throw the dice at all.

I thought of a few options to remedy this, and tested a couple of them so far. I am leaning towards not having a track at all anymore and just modifying the mechanic.

  • Having a new track each Round works okay. However, it seems rather fiddly and I'd rather keep this mechanic as streamlined as other aspects.
  • I also thought of having the player write in their own numbers, and include several blank squares the player can use. I thought of this because it's quite likely the player won't make it all the way to 12 in a single Round.
  • What I might do is just set a "spooked" number as a fixed value, like 7, then have the player throw the other two dice and compare their sum against that number. If I want to adjust this number over various rounds, I'll likely reduce it as time goes on: 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, and for solo games the possible 7th Round will also have a spooked number of 5.
  • To add utility to the Workhorse Tonic in solo games, I'll allow its use to counteract being spooked out of the mine.

Lone Miner Solution

let-off studios wrote:
I will likely experiment with increasing the length of the Lone Miner track by repeating numbers... [...] Playtesting and graphic design tinkering will bear this out.
After further playtesting, I sorted this out thusly. Consider this a paraphrasing of what will be in the rulesheet.

When a round begins with only a single die remaining, the player refers to the "Lone Miner Track." This is a set of three boxes in a row, along with a space to write in a desired bonus. Each box represents a single throw of that last die (as in, the player has at most three more throws of that die before the end of the current round).

If the player successfully throws the die three times without a 1 result, they earn the bonus they marked. Players must mark the desired bonus -before- they begin throwing the die.

Options for the bonus are roughly equivalent to a purchase of $10, and are as follows:

  • Pistol x 1
  • Coal x 2 in Ore Stash
  • Railroad Share x 1 (multiplayer game only)
  • Dynamite x 1 (allows 3 more digs in any available Mine box)
  • $10 cash

This adds some complexity, but it prevents a round from dragging on and on and on and on... It also lends a dramatic punch to the end of a given round, regardless of the outcome. The customization of the bonus allows for different player strategies and adds to satisfaction.

CNW Rides Again

So I blew the dust off this old chestnut and decided to act upon my last revisions (from, oh... 2019 or so). The graphic design is an attempt to keep things clear as well as include the required revision changes.

You can view the new design of the player sheet here:

I will be updating the rulesheet and then releasing a downloadable version sometime soon. Ideally I would be able to recruit a graphic designer and find a way to release this in some official capacity.

If anyone has thoughts or suggestions about this updated version, please share them here. Thanks!

Layout Updates

After a couple days away from the graphic design re-vamp, as well as a handful of play-throughs, I'll be updating the graphic design again.

  • Bunkhouse will move allllllll the way to the left, and the mine nudged rightward just a bit.
  • The different types of ore to be mined will have different background textures and a tweaked tunnel pathway to assist with distinction at-a-glance.
  • I'll see how I can fit the burro graphic back into the player sheet (I liked it!)
  • Reduce the real estate reserved for the Lone Miner mechanic (primarily reducing the amount - though not likely the size - of text).
  • Move the Ore Stash to the top-center area of the player sheet, and Deliveries will be moved to the right side.
  • Find a way to fit the 7th optional Delivery in there, available for solo games.

This can definitely be done. Maybe by the end of this coming weekend. I'll update the link and note it here when it comes to pass.

Theme/Flavor Suggestions

This looks like a very fun Coal n' Write game (great play on words)!

Others have done an excellent job commenting on the technical aspects of your rules and gameplay, and I don't want to muddy those waters until you've made revisions and want more feedback. But a couple of things struck me regarding theme and word choice. As it seems you are still in "draft" mode here, I'll offer some food for thought...

COMPONENTS: You start with this. I'd move it below your Introduction. I'd also consider laying it out in simple bullet points, like...

* 3-dice
* 1 General Store sheet (either solo or multiplayer version)
* 1 Worksheet per player
* 1 pen or pencil per player (no eraser required!)

INTRODUCTION: Perhaps rather than "What is this?" consider something more in theme, like "Howdy Partner!" or "Hey thar, Prospector!"

Then, rather than... "Imagine that it’s the 1870’s, and you’ve just come into possession of a land claim...," again, bring the reader/player into your game with some theme. Something like, "It's 1870! Pack yer burros and hit the trail, 'cause yer grandpappy Earl just left you a rich land claim that's practically beggin' to be mined." And so on. In other words, you can get the same points across, but with a little more flavor. You don't want to overdo it, of course. But the Intro is where you can express theme and flavor while presenting your game's overview. And I'd also consider including The Mine section within the Introduction itself as it fits with the game's overview, rather than splitting it out separately.

The remainder of the rules should be as clear and concise as possible, and it looks like you're on the right track (or burro) there!

Hope this helps.


Responses & Updates

First off: thanks for the feedback and encouragement, Tom. :)

And I reckon I'm chalking up another one for the, "inject more flavor text in there, pardner!" crowd. Tom, you're in good company... I recall receiving a lot of positive feedback for adding a bit of slang and colloquialisms in the rule sheet.

Now that the graphical updates are done for this latest revision, it's time for rule sheet edits. I don't want to overdo it, but it seems a little more flavor here and there can add a bit more fun and immersion in what amounts to a variable spreadsheet game.

(personally, I think it's adorable... But it's still all about the numbers!)

Also: updated player sheet to version 3. The link up above in the original blog post has been updated. I think I will stick with this one for quite a while.

Hmm... I have an IDEA for you

I think the latest PLAYER SHEET is a bit "busy". With the sections such as
"Coal", "Tin", "Borax" and "Silver" well identified... I don't see the need for ABBREVIATIONS "C", "T", "B", "S" in each spot for mining.

Instead I offer these suggestions:

1> Remove all of the "Abbreviated" versions of the resources.

So no more "C", "T", "B", "S" in each of the mine locations. This will make the sheet a bit more "user friendly". And less "busy".

2> Make the sheet White not a shade of gray.

This is because people who will PRINT out this sheet want to use the LEAST amount of ink and the shade of "grey" just makes for TOO MUCH ink usage.

3> Clearly identify sections using shades of gray.

So for "Borax" do nothing, leave as is (White). For "Coal" use a another
shade of grey (maybe the current background color), for "Tin" use a dark grey shade and lastly for "Silver"... You could maybe use Black.

These are just some observations that I think would IMPROVE the "busy-ness" of the Player Sheet.

As usual feel free to ignore/adapt/modify these suggestions. Cheers!


I agree with you, quest. I've since modified the player sheet (and updated the link, at the top of this page).

I'll work on a super-low-ink version soon, but I agree with you that the cave sections in particular were waaaaaay too busy and needed some trimming.

Wow ... That actually looks way better ALREADY!

Nice job! Looks much cleaner now. It was too "repetitive" ("C", "C", "C", etc...)

For the low-ink... Or maybe even the "regular" version... Make the BACKGROUND "White" and make the MINES "grey"... This way you will keep the color balance and still use LESS ink than having the entire sheet "grey"!

Just a thought for the "low-ink" version. That's a lot LESS "grey" being printed on your Player Sheet...

It's something you can TRY and see if it still looks appealing. It's just a suggestion.

Again feel free to adapt/use/modify/ignore this comment to your liking!

Note #1: I would KEEP the circles in the mines "white inside" but make the mine itself "grey".... This will give some contrast like with the current version (just inverted).

One Last Change

Made one last little change to version 4. I moved the legend for the Ore Stash to just below the label for Ore Stash.

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