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Shaolin Temple - 1-6 player Co-op

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JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015

Hi all,

This is another project we're currently developing, a co-op strategy game tentatively called 'Shaolin Temple'.

From Wikipedia:

"Perhaps the best-known story of the Temple's destruction is that it was destroyed by the Qing government for supposed anti-Qing activities. Variously said to have taken place in 1647 under the Shunzhi Emperor, in 1674, 1677, or 1714 under the Kangxi Emperor, or in 1728 or 1732 under the Yongzheng Emperor, this destruction is also supposed to have helped spread Shaolin martial arts through China by means of the five fugitive monks."

Players choose different characters who specialise in various animal styles and special abilities, and work together to defend the temple and it's surrounding lands from the Emperor's invading forces. Both the enemies and the players are represented by miniatures/pieces on a hexagonal board.

Enemies attack in 3 waves, with each wave becoming more and more difficult as they make their way from the outskirts towards the temple in the centre of the board, burning barriers and buildings as they go, before the enemy Warlord arrives in the 3rd and final wave. If the players can defend the Buddha statue in the temple until the end of the 3rd wave, they win. Otherwise, the players lose.

The number of enemies is determined by the number of players, and are drawn randomly each turn and placed on a space on the outskirts of the temple grounds, where they steadily make their way towards the centre. Which way the enemies move each turn is determined by a dice roll.

We've playtested this a few times now with an early prototype in both 1 player and 2 player modes, and we've had a lot of fun with the concept. Things certainly get tense by the time the 3rd wave of enemies comes through.

I'm very interested to hear people's thoughts on the theme and the concept of the game, and I'm happy to go into more details on the different systems/combat if people are interested (though they are still in early development).

I've attached a mock-up of the board for visual reference.

Thanks for your time!

Joined: 01/29/2015
Sounds interesting. Give me

Sounds interesting. Give me more details! haha, but seriously tell me a little about the fighting styles and how that affects my confrontations with the baddies.

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
So players have a choice of

So players have a choice of different characters that use different fighting styles, and each character has a special ability that only they can use - nothing mind blowingly new there.

For example:

- Striking Snake can move 2 spaces instead of 1;
- Leaping Dragon can reroll their Attack dice
- Roaring Tiger always deals +1 wound

Players begin in the centre of the board, and at the beginning of the game each player rolls 2 dice and places 2 enemies from the cup on their corresponding spaces. The players then go first.

Each turn, a player can move 1 space, and then fight any enemies in that same space.

Combat at the moment is very simple - the player rolls 2 different coloured dice (1 for themselves, 1 for the enemies). The player adds their Attack score (which is noted on the character card) to their roll, and the number of enemies in the space is added to the enemy dice.

For example: Striking Snake has an Attack of 3, and she's moved into a space with 4 enemies. She adds 3 to her dice roll, and adds 4 to the enemy roll.

If the player wins, the difference between the 2 rolls is the number of enemies they've slain. If the player loses, the enemies have managed to fend of their attacks.

In the above example, Striking Snake rolls a 4, for a total of 7, and the enemies roll a 1, for a total of 5. This means that 2 enemies are removed from that space.

After the players have all moved and attacked if they can, the enemies have their turn. They start by having the players roll for each space the enemies are in, and moving the direction the dice indicates, starting with the centre-most spaces and working outwards. If the enemies move into a space with a player, they then attack in the same fashion (the player rolls 2 dice etc.) If the player wins, they have defended their attacks, but if they lose by any amount, they take 1 wound. A player can suffer 3 wounds before they are out of the game.

The board is designed so that enemies will group up into larger and larger numbers as they move towards the centre, becoming more and more difficult to fend off. A Shaolin Monk is going to have no problems taking down 1 or 2 enemies, but fighting 8 or 9 on their own is going to be tough. Players can also support each other by moving into the same space to fight/defend. When this happens, the players decide who is going to fight, and the supporting players each add 1d6 to the attack/defence roll of that player, so there's going to be times when you'll need to get help from your friends to fend off large groups of enemies. If multiple players are in a space and are attacked and lose, they must decide who among them is going to take the 1 wound.

Fences and buildings hinder the enemy advance - they need to break those down before they can continue to the next space. If an enemy rolls to move but there's a fence in the way, they instead stay where they are, and the fence is removed. Buildings work in a similar fashion, but take 2 hits to burn down.

Building that remain standing at the end of the wave may give the players some bonuses, such as rebuilding fences, repairing burning buildings, healing wounds, or they may betray the players and do the opposite.

Things certainly get tense by the 3rd wave, when many fences and buildings have been destroyed, giving the enemy a clear run up to the temple.

The game is all about working out where to move when, when to fight and when to retreat. There's always tough choices to be made 'Do I move over here and support my friend? But if I do that, these guys will destroy this building. Should I stay and defend this fence, or sacrifice it to stop this building being attacked instead?' There's a lot of those moments throughout the game.

The combat system is something we're currently working on. It works incredibly well and quickly, but we feel it could just be a little too simple and monotonous. It feels a bit like Talisman. We're trying to think of ways to make the combat more fun, but still work as quickly and efficiently as the current system does.

danieledeming's picture
Joined: 01/21/2014
For starters, let me say that

For starters, let me say that I really like the theme - it is unique, especially for the co-op, defend the flag style genre, and focusing on that Shaolin culture will really help differentiate your game from others. There are too many repeat themes out there that too easily kill what might otherwise be outstanding board games.

That said, the overall gameplay sounds intriguing. I can see the potential for decisions that will need to be made and the benefits/requirement of cooperation. Definitely keep us informed as this project progresses.

As far as the battle mechanic itself goes, I can appreciate the desire for brevity. I am not a fan of uber-tactical warfare games where you spend more time referencing the rules than you do actually playing the game, so a concise battle mechanic is, IMHO, in your best interest.

- Differentiated starting characters. This will add to replay value as well deepen your theme, wanting to play/win as different characters and seeing the advantages to different characters working together.
- Difference elimination. The fact that you're only eliminating the amount of enemies equal to the difference between your rolls/totals, makes it a) unlikely that you will easily be defeating numerous enemies, b) continue the battle turn after turn, like an actual battle would, and c) allow enemies to build up and potentially force a retreat or cooperative measure. The mechanic does some of your balancing for you.

- Enemy movement. If this is a mass siege on the temple, there is no reason that enemies would ever move backward, but if I understand your movement mechanic, they could randomly move in any direction. I think that either restricting it to the three forward directions for random movement, or establishing a set movement mechanic based on number of enemies, characters, events (burning building) would solve that problem.

Ideas For Improving Combat:
- Custom Dice - instead of a standard d6, each character could instead have their own die, weighted to their strengths. Roaring Tiger might have a d6 with no 1s or 2s, Leaping Dragon might have no 3s (just guessing). Enemies could also be differentiated and each have a different die for their class, so that defeating a foot soldier is easier than defeating a captain and so on. This would add a level of complexity to your battle decisions because certain heroes might be better suited to the various enemies.
- Item Cards - it opens an entirely new can of worms, but single effect item cards could add to your combat without weighting it down heavily. Could be earned by dice rolls, or by protecting your buildings?
- Event Cards - again, adds a whole new quandary, but you could add cards that are flipped either on every attack, or perhaps on certain dice rolls, that have affects for that battle, either for or against hero or enemy. Would likely add some randomness to the conflict, but certainly would keep it entertaining.

Alright, enough from me...hope it helps and let us know how the project develops!


JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
Hi Dan, Thanks so much for

Hi Dan,

Thanks so much for your feedback - much appreciated! Glad you like the sound of the idea.

The idea actually began as a '7 samurai' style theme, but we soon dropped that when we decided that there were already a lot of games out there set in feudal Japan, and it was hard to differentiate the Samurai from one another. The different animal styles of Kung Fu lent itself well to a much more diverse and individual cast of characters.

To clarify your dislike - the enemies never move backwards. They are always advancing towards the centre - whether they advance forward-left or forward-right is determined by a dice roll (reference the map image), until they reach the 'Building' ring on the map, upon which they simply move forward into the main hall.

There's a lot of moments where you're fighting on a space against a group of enemies, and there's another group of enemies in the next space out - when you roll for them to move, you're thinking 'please don't come this way, please don't come this way'. If they do, you might be outnumbered and have to fall back, or hope that help arrives quickly to help you fend them off.

The single-dice combat system certainly works very well with the game, I don't think there's any denying that having played it a few times, I just don't think it's quite as fun as it could be. I'm all for brevity too - don't confuse 'more fun' with 'more complex'. Any alterations we made to the combat would still have to keep it brief and simple - we're certainly not trying to make a wargame here. What I'd really like is for the combat to be so fun that when the game is over, you want to set it up and play again straight away. I've personally never played any board game where I've wanted to do that, so that's the goal. It's fun and it works, I just don't think it's quite at that level yet.

I do like your custom-dice idea however, it could be something as simple as that that makes the difference in making the combat a little more interesting. I'll bring it up with my co-designer when we next meet.

I'm also very much giving an overall summary also - there's more to the game that I haven't gone into, such as Chi. Each character has a single Chi card, and that card can be used at any time to:

- Ignore a wound
- Add an extra dice roll to an attack

Once it's gone, it's gone, so choosing when to use it and for what is another tough choice to be made. In a playtest game with my wife the other night, she used hers in the second wave to add a dice to her attack and take out a particularly large group of enemies in one go, whereas I used mine in the 3rd wave to ignore a wound and buy myself an extra turn to keep fighting (we still lost though).

Perhaps each character could also have a unique Chi power as a third option, though I'd be hard pressed to think of 8 more different effects on top of the one each of the 8 characters already has. The mechanics are already fairly simple and straightforward, so there's only so many ways I can think of to bend them.

If anyone would like me to upload a copy of the design document that contains all the rules of the game (so far), let me know and I'll do so so that you have a complete picture of how the game works.

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
I also like your other combat

I also like your other combat ideas. Item cards is something we've discussed, and Event cards (such as weather changing) is also something I've thought about.

It's something we'd like to do, but it's a matter of figuring out how many more rules we can bend with those that aren't already bent by the character powers. The game is fairly straight forward, and so doesn't have that many rules to bend.

Joined: 01/29/2015
First off, I like the

First off, I like the simplicity of this system. I've got 1 - 2 things to keep up with on my character, not mentally taxing at all.

Combat sounds like it's roll, subtract the difference, next player.

This games seems really fast paced and action oriented. If that's the way it's meant to be played, I'm all in!

MAYBE a timer in the combat phase to push the player into a faster pace. Something like "You have 10 seconds to decide where to move" then combat happens, and next player has 10 seconds.

To go with your wave theme the first wave could be 20 seconds, second wave 15, and the final wave 5/10 or something like that.

Please take all suggestions with a grain of salt. Keep us updated on the evolution of the game!

Supafrieke's picture
Joined: 02/22/2015
Great Co-op idea...

== Combat ==
Since this is a co-op, both sides don't have to play equally. I would suggest slight change to the combat system that only requires one roll for each attack/defense by the attacking or defending player.

Life & Chi: Instead of a card for Chi and 3 Hit points, combine them into 1 statistic. A player could spend Chi to add dice to attacks, move extra spaces, or "power up" and use their special abilities. I wouldn't totally eliminate a player from this kind of co-op if their Chi drops to zero, maybe require them to return to the Buddha and they are restored when the next wave arraives?

Attacking: The attacking player rolls a die and adds their characters Attack score attempting to roll higher than the number of enemies in the location. If successful, the player removes a number of enemies equal to the difference. If another player is in the same space, they assist the attack by adding their own attack die (not their attack score).

Defending: The defending player rolls a die and adds their characters Defense score attempting to roll higher than the number of enemies in the location. If not successful, the player loses one Chi. If another player is in the same space, they may assist in the defense by adding an additional defense die.

If you have special Attack dice for each Monk (I like that idea too), you'll need seperate defense and Qing dice.
If you plan to allow traitors, you'll need to have an additional rule for Monk V. Monk combat.

== Bad Guys ==
I'm thinking there may have been than just temple destruction happening. It might be interesting if your bad guys were to come in different flavors.

Vandals: These bad guys move straight toward the center each turn, attemtping to reach and deal damage to the Buddha. They focus on destroying fences and buildings along the way.

Thugs: These bad guys will always move toward the nearest player character and attempt to fight. Hopefully this will cause some mobbing up and require the players to work together.

Looters: (Have some tokens representing temple artifacts that start the game in the center space.) These bad guys move straight toward the center each turn, once there, they pick up an artifact and start to move off the board. The monks will have to chase these guys down in order to get the relics back.

Warlord: What warlords do.


Such a great theme btw... The legend of the 5 fugitive monks really sells it.

I'd love to see the design docs.

danieledeming's picture
Joined: 01/21/2014
I would love to see a copy of

I would love to see a copy of what you've got so far - PM me a link. Happy to help out :)

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
Thanks so much for your input

Thanks so much for your input guys, all really appreciated.

I managed to finally get the game in front of my co-designer over the weekend for the first time to give him a look at what I'd been banging on about the past few weeks. We seem to work very well together - I tend to be the 'overall idea, concept, theme and here's roughly how I think it should work' guy, where-as he's very good with numbers and mechanics, developing systems and rules and the like to make that concept something that works.

We played numerous games back-to-back - about 6 or so I believe (and got our butts kicked every time, though the dice were against us in a probability-defying display of 1's and 2's), before having a good long chat about what we thought was needed. Here's what we came up with. These ideas are yet to be playtested:

- Rather than all players moving, then all players attacking, we think it would be better to take turns, and give each player 2 actions. This way, they can choose to either move & attack, move & move, attack & attack, or attack & move - in a similar fashion to something like Forbidden Island.

- We were hard-pressed to come up with a combat system that worked as cleanly and simply as the one that's already there, so we decided to increase the 'fun' aspect by adding to this design rather than trying to overhaul it.

- The Chi system has evolved into something much more interesting. There is now a small deck of Chi powers, and 3 of these cards get placed on the side of the board, in a similar vein to something like King of Tokyo.

These are a communal set of powers that the players can buy at any point during the game by spending Chi. Some examples include:
- Ignore 1 Wound
- Roll an additional attack dice
- Roll an additional defence dice
- Instantly move to any other space on the map
- Push all enemies in your space back 1 space
- Rebuild a fence (or X number of fences)

When a power is purchased, the card is given to that player, and a new card is drawn to replace it. This system replaces the old one of each player having a single Chi card - and the abilities that original system let you do have been baked into this new one (like ignoring a wound).

We've also talked about the possibility of including a couple of bad cards in this deck (similar to the Event cards you were talking about, Dan). When a bad card is turned over, it stays in play for the rest of the round, and is then discarded.

Some examples include:
- Players immediately roll to add extra enemies to the board
- A fire that forces the players to move from their current space
- A storm that prevents the players from moving at all that round

- These Chi powers are purchased with Chi points. Chi points are accumulated by defeating enemies. When an enemy is defeated, the player gains a Chi point. At the end of each wave, players reset back to 0 Chi points, but keep the power cards they have purchased.

- In addition to buying powers, players can also spend their Chi points to add +1 to their attack or defence dice roll. So you might really want that power that costs 5 points, but you need an extra 3 on this critical attack, and so have to choose to spend 3 Chi points to make it a hit, or take the miss and save your points for that power.

- Not sure if I mentioned this somewhere above, but enemies now come in varying types, represented by different coloured pieces. At the beginning of the 2nd wave, each player rolls a coloured die and adds an enemy of that type to the cup. Some enemies count as 2 (so 2 attack and 2 wounds), some ignore fences, some destroy buildings in a single hit instead of 2 hits like normal, some lock the player in that space so they can't escape. We're thinking of a couple more to add as well.

That's about all the changes we've made and will be testing in our next meet. I'm very happy with them - I think it finally pushes the game past that point of being an 'ok' game into something really fun.

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
*IcePeddlerGames* - We like

*IcePeddlerGames* - We like the simplicity and the fast pace too, it just didn't seem that 'fun'. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't boring, but it felt like something was missing - the skeleton of a good game. We resolved to keep the system and simply add some new mechanics in other parts of the game with the Chi Powers to boost the enjoyment of combat. I'm excited to try this - the notion of it makes the whole game seem more enjoyable already.

Adding a timer would just add to the stress I think. I see where you're coming from, but it's a very tactical game with a lot of decisions that need to be made as a group. Almost every turn, especially in the 2nd and 3rd waves, you're discussing with your fellow players 'Should I move here? Or stay and fight? I think I can beat these guys, but if I move here it'll save this building. If I move, these guys will break down this fence.'

These tough choices are part of the fun of the game - I wouldn't want to hurry them along too much, especially if there's 5 or 6 players.

You're right on the pace and action though - it's a happy blend of tactical decisions meets fast and action-packed gameplay. An unusual mix, but it seems to work really well in this.

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
*SupaFrieke* Thanks for your

*SupaFrieke* Thanks for your interest and suggestions!

Your suggestion for combat is actually how the game first started out, in it's very first conception. Simply comparing a number rolled with a modifier to the number of enemies.

The issue was that, in lower-player games like 2 or 3, you're often fighting smaller groups of enemies that are 1, 2 or 3 strong. This system would be an auto-win for the player every time if the enemies were basing their strength on numbers alone.

We also liked the idea that you could potentially lose a fight to 1 enemy - the chances is very very small, but there's still a chance. Fights with no risk become boring very quickly, and it becomes more of a movement game than a combat game, if that makes sense? You're sort of just hopping around the board and mopping up enemies, with no real threat. So the system was changed to give the enemy a dice roll to add to their numbers, but still using their numbers as the modifier (so more guys = larger modifier = harder to defeat).

We toyed with the idea of traitors, but decided that the game was hard enough as it is without throwing a player to work against into the mix as well. Given the tactical nature of the game, we really wanted players working together to overcome enormous odds, rather than worrying about who was loyal and who wasn't. I love traitor games, so we've saved that idea for another project that's on the backburner ;-)

I agree with your varying enemies though, and we added them to the game fairly quickly after the first few tests (see one of my above posts).

Glad you like the theme! I think it's something original that hasn't been done before (that I know of, anyway), and who doesn't want to take part in an action-packed Kung Fu epic?

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
I'll get our Design Document

I'll get our Design Document edited into something readable and upload it to this thread for everyone to have a look over. If you print out the map attached further up, you could theoretically have a game yourselves with the design doc using some dice and paperclips/tokens from other games.

JDHultgren's picture
Joined: 02/23/2015
New Board Layout Uploaded

I've added a quick look at our mock-up board we'll be using for play testing by attaching it to the original post. This is printed at A2 size on cloth.

This is by no means a representation of how I imagine to final board looking (I'd like lots of lovely art and colour), but I've always been curious as to how the physical presentation of a game affects people's enjoyment of it. When you're play testing something over and over and over and over, pushing paperclips around a black & white printed page starts to get stale and can interfere with figuring out the fun of the mechanics over the doldrum of the test board.

Supafrieke's picture
Joined: 02/22/2015
Building Tension

Have you guys thought more about how the game might react to player actions? Or have some kind of escalation mechanism that is not strictly tied to the 3 waves of increasing bad guys?

For "feedback", maybe you could have a draw bag that has all the bad guys in it and during each wave, additional guys are drawn from the bag and placed around the board. Have the players earned Chi be represented by similar shaped tokens. When a player uses Chi, add that chip to the bag. If at any point, a Chi is drawn from the bag, have all the bad guys make an additional attack... or something. So the players have to worry about how short term decisions might affect long term state.

For "escalation", maybe consider a domino effect where each time the bad guys make some small achievement, they get an additional bonus. So each time a building is destroyed, all the guys in that space, or of a certain type get a bonus. The players have to react "quickly" so that some group of bad guys doesn't rack up a bunch of bonuses and steamroll their way into the center.

In any case, you probably want a way to build tension over the course of game. While the players will get some build up as the waves of guys get harder, those are "known" elements. It seems that you'll want to throw a few twists that they have to deal with to keep them interested.

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