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The Great Library, worker placement with area control, Input/Advice/Collarborators wanted!

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Joined: 02/17/2011

Hey everyone,

So, I've decided to start designing some games of my own, and after reading this forum for some time, thought I would share my idea with you all. The game is currently called 'The Great Library', and is based on the Great Library at Alexandria in Roman times.

Players control workers, which can be used as Scholars, studying the tomes of the library to gain actions and benefits, as Scribes, copying the tomes in the library so they might be able to use the tomes whenever they want, and as Explorers, as they help to discover and study the cities around the world at that time. I've put the rules as they are at the moment at the bottom of this post.

I've done a really quick job at making a gameboard, and some functional sample cards, which can be found here:

What I'm looking for are some thoughts, opinions and suggestions for improving the game, especially what other effects I should have on the tomes. It seems that there is some extra element missing at the moment, and there isn't much variety in the actions as I see them at the moment.

The other thing is that if you read this and are particularly interested in the idea, I'm really looking for people to collarborate on the design - I always appreciate working as a pair or group rather than just by myself! So send me a message or post here, and thank you for the interest!


The Great Library

Players take on roles as some of the greatest thinkers, writers, and scribes as they travel from all round the world to visit the Great Library of Alexandria. In their employ they have scholars, scribes and explorers working to study the tomes in gain knowledge and to help in discovering the world around them. Players work towards victory through careful study of the right scrolls, using scribes to copy important works, and even add new tomes to the Great Library’s collection!

It is a game for 2-4 players.


Throughout the game, players gain Renown Points (RPs) through various actions. The winner is the one with the most RPs at the end of the game, identifying them as the most famous scholar within the ancient world!

At the Start of the Game

Players start the game with 2 (or 3 – I haven’t decided yet) workers in their supply (with more to be gained throughout the game through certain actions).

Shuffle the Tomes, Special Tomes, and Head Librarian Request Decks, and place on their spots to the side of the board. Reveal the top 3 cards of the Head Librarian Deck and place them face up next to the deck. Reveal the top n+1 (where n is the number of players) cards of the Tomes Deck and place them next to the Tomes Deck.

Determine the player order in some fashion.

Available Actions:

Each player has a number of workers which can employed in various ways, whether they be Scholars and Scribes (in the library itself), or Explorers (in the world outside the city of Alexandria). Each worker can perform one action on each player’s turn:

Study: A Scholar can study a tome available at the Library, or can study a tome from the player’s personal collection, gaining the benefit listed on the tome card.

Scribe: A Scribe can take a tome available at the library and take it to the Copying Room, where they may work at transcribing the tome to make a new copy for the player.

Explore: An Explorer can move around the board between various cities. The number of spaces they can move depends on that player’s movement value (a number between 1 and 5). They are also able to collect information in order to produce new tomes, or satisfy missions as they appear from the Head Librarian or other institutions on the gameboard.

A player’s workers are represented by meeples of that player’s colour. During the game, their identity (Scholar, Scribe or Explorer) will be determined by their location in the game. Workers may be assigned to any identity, and the identity of a worker can change many times during a single game. For example, if one turn you use one of your workers as a Scholar in the Reading Room, and that turn they successfully finish studying a tome, the next turn you can use them as an Explorer, placing them on the Alexandria space on the gameboard and then moving them accordingly. The only exception to this rule is that workers that were previously Explorers can only be used as Scholars or Scribes if they ended their previous turn in Alexandria. Similarly, new Explorers always start their turn in Alexandria.

Each Turn

1. If there is a card in the leftmost space in the Reading Room of the Library, put it in the “Old Collection” Pile faceup. Regardless, move each of the remaining cards one space to the left, and place the top card of the “Tomes” deck faceup in the rightmost space.
2. Turn the topmost card of the News deck face-up, and place it in the appropriate space on the gameboard.
3. Turn over more Head Librarian Requests if there are less than three requests available.

Then, the play goes in player order through two phases:

Library Phase: The players may place scholars and scribes from workers in their supply in the appropriate locations in the library. Each player may place one worker at a time or pass, going around the table, until all players pass. Once a player passes, they may not place a worker later.

Once the placement is finished, all scholars and scribes are moved up one space on their respective tracks. If this movement would move a worker from the final space in the track, they are returned to the players supply at the end of the turn, and the player takes the action indicated on the tome. Starting with the first player in turn order, they may resolve one of their completed tomes’ actions. Then the next player may do the same and so on, until all completed tomes are resolved.

Note: As the workers are returned to a player’s supply at the end of the turn, finished Scholars and Scribes cannot be placed as Explorers in the same turn as they finish studying or copying a tome.

Exploration Phase: Players may move their explorers on the gameboard a number of spaces currently indicated by their movement value. Players may also place new explorers by taking a worker from their supply and placing them on Alexandria, and then moving the explorer. Players may move and place explorers in any order, but must complete all their actions before the next player does theirs.

At the end of this phase, if a player has one or more explorers on Alexandria, they may remove some or all of these explorers from the board and return them to their supply.

The Library (placed on the sides of the gameboard)

The Reading Room

Not all titles within the collection are available at the same time for study, and are available for only a limited time.

In the room there is space for up to 5 tome cards at any one time (the number of available spaces is reduced by 1 for every player fewer than 4, e.g. 5 spaces for a 4-player game, 4 spaces for a 3-player game, and 3 spaces for a 2-player game).

During a player’s turn, they can choose to send a scholar to the Reading Room to study a tome on display there that isn’t already being studied by another scholar. To study a tome, the player places his scholar token on the 1 space of the studying track on the card (left hand side). For each turn spent studying the tome, the scholar will move up the track one space, and the player will be able to use the action on the card once his/her scholar reaches the final space on the studying track.

The Copying Room

In this room players are able to use Scribes to copy tomes available in the Reading Room so that they can add them to their personal collection and study them exclusively whenever they wish for the rest of the game (in comparison to studying a tome in the Reading Room, which is only available for a set number of turns).

There are two spaces for tomes in this room – when playing with 2-3 players one of these spaces is not available.

On his/her turn, in the Placing Scholars/Scribes phase, a player may choose to copy a tome in the Reading Room. They may only copy tomes that do not already have a Scholar on them, and that are able to be copied (if they are not able to be copied, there will be a red cross on the card where the Scribe Track would normally be), and if there is an available space in the Copying Room.

To copy a tome, a player takes their chosen tome from the Reading Room, and places it on an available space in the Copying Room. They then place a Scribe on the 1 space of the Copying Track on the card (right hand side). For each turn spent copying the tome, the scribe will move up the track one space, and the player will be able to use the action on the card once his/her scholar reaches the final space on the copying track. In addition to this, the player then takes the tome and places it in front of him/her. That tome is now available to be studied by that player as if it were in the Reading Room in the following turns.

A player may only have a total of three copied tomes in front of them at any one time. If, after copying a new tome, the player would have more than 3 copied tomes they must choose three to keep in front of them and place the remaining tomes in “Old Collection” pile faceup.

The Head Librarian and the Turn Order Track

From time to time, the Head Librarian has certain requests for new tomes to be added to the library, and rewards players if they are able to fulfil his needs. On any given turn, there are three available requests from the Head Librarian, which have a requirement that must be fulfilled by the player, and a reward that is earned if the quest is successful.

Players must pay careful attention to the Head Librarian, as it is only through satisfying him that the players can change their position in the turn order. Whenever a player fulfils a request, they take that card and place it in front of them for the rest of the game, and carry out the rewards on the card. In addition to this, the player may move their turn order marker down to a new position on the lower track to represent where they would like to be in the turn order. They can only take a spot if it hasn’t already been taken by another player earlier in the turn, and cannot take the same spot that they already occupy (for example, a player in the first spot cannot fulfil a request and then move their marker to the first spot in the lower track to block later players).

Note – a player may only claim a request on his or her turn.

At the end of a turn, any markers on the lower track are moved to those positions in the upper track, and the remaining markers are moved down to make room.

The Gameboard

The Map

The main part of the gameboard shows a map of the cities of the Mediterranean around the time of the Roman Empire circa 200-300 BC. Between cities are routes indicated in different coloured tracks: circles, squares and stars. Circle routes are the only ones available to players at the start of the game, representing travelling via the coast between cities. As the game progresses, through the study of various tomes, players may gain the ability to travel via the Square routes (sea travel) and Star routes (difficult mountainous travel).

At the start of the game, Explorers are only allowed to travel two spaces in a turn. Later in the game, the study of certain tomes can grant a player’s Explorers the ability and travel more spaces in one turn.

Each city has a space for a fieldwork cube next to it, and some cities have spaces for more than one cube. When a player’s Explorer visits a city, they may place one of their cubes in an empty fieldwork space, to denote that they have visited the city and have studied it. If a player wishes to place a cube and there are no spaces available, they may displace another player’s cube. However, this comes at a hefty cost: the player must give three of their RPs to the displaced player, indicating the acknowledgement of their earlier study. The displaced player may also place one of his workers from his supply as an Explorer on the city which he was displaced from. Note that a player does not need to end their turn on a city to add fieldwork cubes. However, if a player’s explorer is on a city at the end of the turn, if they have a fieldwork cube on the city it cannot be removed until the explorer moves away from the city.

Additionally, some locations are not known at the start of the game, and are indicated by face down location tiles on various parts of the board (placed on the grey square areas randomly at the start of the game). The first player to reach this location flips the tile (often taking advantage of a benefit of doing so), and from then on, the location is treated normally. Completing the study of certain tomes may also reveal unknown locations.

Research Track

In one side of the gameboard is a figure with 10 numbered spaces. As a result of studying certain tomes and visiting certain locations, a player may be instructed to place a certain number of their cubes on the track, representing their contribution to the research and writing of a new special tome for the library (indicated by a number pointing to a sundial symbol). When a player completes studying such a tome, they must place their cubes one on each number, starting with the lowest number available.

If when placing cubes, a player places a cube on the 10 space, he/she immediately stops placing cubes and does the following:

• Reveals the top card of the Special Tomes Deck, and places it above the rightmost space in the Reading Room, indicating that it will be placed on that spot at the beginning of the next turn rather than a tome from the normal Tome Deck. To reward them for being the player to complete the writing of the tome, they may immediately place one of their free workers on the card as a Scholar, effectively reserving it for their study the next turn. At the start of the next turn, the scholar is placed on the 1 space on the tome (and it is moved to its place in the Reading Room), as if the player had placed a Scholar on it normally in the Library Phase.
• Each player who has a cube on the Sundial currently (i.e. contributing to the new tome) gains 1 RP.
• The player with the majority of cubes on the Sundial gains an extra 2 RP. If more than one player is tied for having the most cubes, each of those players gains an extra 1 RP instead.
• All cubes are then removed from the Sundial and returned to their respective owner’s supply, and then the active player may continue adding cubes if they had not placed all of those that they could from their action.

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