The Meeple Guild - Duwen new game under development

While social media can be a time sync littered with silly cat pictures and sillier political memes, it can also be a great place for the hobbyists.

You can sometimes feel alone in terms of a hobby, especially in smaller communities, so it's great to be able to connect with like-minded people online.

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In terms of board games there are generalist pages to all things game-related, to game specific pages if you love cribbage, crokinole, chess and others.

Then there are 'genre' pages, for example abstract strategy games, a hunt I of course was drawn to.

The great thing about such a page is that at times you are allowed sneak peeks at new games, at time well before the final fine tuning of rules is complete, which allows some insight into that process.

So recently a YouTube video was posted on a new game in development called Duwen.

The game uses dice, which are game pieces although never rolled, which intrigued. The best game to use the common D6 dice as game pieces in an abstract strategy game was Tom Kruszewski's 1985 release Chase, a classic that deserves far more recognition than it has.

While Duwen may never match Chase, frankly few games do as Chase is likely top-25 abstract strategy game material, I still found the video interesting enough I wanted to know more.

Dice are pieces that players use to ascend a pyramid, know gems off the top to get them down to the ground level to eventually win. The trick, dice start out with the six face up, and every square moved reduces that number. Hit one it goes back to a player's pool where it can be re-entered on the base level on a future move. There is a strong resource management aspect to this game.

Fortunately game creator Jeremy Lounds was good enough to answer a few questions via email, starting with what was the idea which led to the game’s creation?

"I really like abstract strategy games (Chess, Hive, Mancala, etc), and I wanted to create a game that is elegant but is deep with lots of interesting choices," offered Lounds.

I was also curious where the name came from?

"'Duwen' means 'push' in Dutch," said Lounds. "I don't have any particular tie to the Dutch language personally, or in the game, but it is unique, and I thought it could be memorable."

Lounds said in creating Duwen he was looking for balance between being able to learn the game easily but having it be challenging to be good at.

"I wanted to create one with deep strategy if you want to really dive into it, but also simple enough to learn so people of many ages and skill levels can enjoy it," he said.

"Also, one that stands out and could be left setup on a bookshelf or coffee table."

While the game is not yet fully developed Lounds has invested a good amount of time in it before showing a peek.

"It has been about one-year now," he said. "It was rolling around in my head for a while, but I heard about a design challenge that Chris Anderson (The Board Game Workshop podcast) was doing and I knew entering into a competition would provide me important motivation and feedback.

"The process has been great, and I would recommend that others check it out. Chris opens up the judging to volunteers, so it is really a competition for and by the community, with Chris doing all of the hard work behind the scenes."

So what was the most difficult aspect of designing the game?  

"This is a great question! There have been so many different directions I 'could' go with the rules and complexity of the game, so I think finding a balance for the base rule set has been the hardest so far," offered Lounds.

"I am working on a machine-learning algorithm so that I can have the computer play itself several thousand times. This should give me better insight on the current balance and potential depth.

"I don't want a game where the first player has a clear advantage.

"And I don't want one that ends up in a draw more often than not.

"I am guessing that the ruleset is going to look a fair bit different when I am satisfied with it versus what it is right now. But part of the fun and excitement is this journey, right?"

That doesn't mean Lounds isn't happy with aspects of Duwen as it now stands.

"I think my favorite aspect is the 3D board and being able to arrange it in different configurations," he said. "It opens a whole world of possibilities and nearly endless replayability."

The board is part of what Lounds sees as being different with Duwen.

He pointed to the "customizable, 3D board for lots of replays and a unique ;push' mechanism using dice as your pieces," as elements that set the game apart from others, adding "and depending on your taste in decor, it could be one you leave set up on your shelf or coffee table!"

So what fine tuning does he think is still required? 

"As mentioned it is hard to say for sure. I think once I have my AI programmed, it will reveal quite a bit," reiterated Lounds. "I want to find ways to allow for more choices but I don't want the ruleset to become burdensome so you have to check the rules on every move."

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