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A father-son project produced with 100% wooden components

Hello! My name is Nick Chira. I am a web developer, stay-at-home parent, and more recently–a game designer. I have been an avid gamer since I was a little kid and I, like many people, have had a ton of ideas for games over the years. Sovrano is the first time that I’ve taken my ideas, developed them, and produced them as a finished game.

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The game of Sovrano is a straight-forward and easy to learn game of strategy and cunning. However, beneath the relative simplicity lies a depth of complexity that will keep the game interesting and re-playable. It is a strategy board game for two players. The object of the game is to be the player that scores the most points by capturing one or both of the tower-spaces located at opposite sides of the middle row. Players must also protect their emperors and attempt to move them to the board’s center space–the throne.

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Each player has 1 emperor, 8 guards to protect him and capture towers with, and 2 archers to supply support fire from a distance. Players may move up to 3 different pieces each turn, but must always move at least one. As you might expect–and this is perhaps where most of the strategy lies–each piece moves and/or attacks differently:

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Guards may move one space forward, backward, left or right. They attack the same way. Guards also have a ‘counter-attack’ mechanic which allows them to retaliate against attacking pieces during the attackers turn. This is somewhat unique in the world of abstract strategy games.

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Archers may move the same way as Guards. Where they differ is in the way they attack. Archers can only attack pieces that are 2 diagonal spaces away from them and can only do so if there is clear line of sight. They cannot fire and move on the same turn and they do not move to the space they attacked.

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Emperors may move one space in all directions and may attack the same way.

The original ideas behind Sovrano actually came to me one night when I couldn’t go to sleep. I know, I know. This sounds cliché, but it’s true! The initial inspiration was more Tafl games than it was Chess. I really liked the idea of having to move to an objective space in order to win. But I wanted it to be a little more than that. This is where–strangely enough–League of Legends came in. I stopped playing the game months ago and I don’t know why I even thought of it, but the game has three important places on the map.

In League of Legends there is the dragon, the baron, and the enemy base. Killing the dragon or baron gives your team buffs throughout the game and destroying the enemy base wins you the game. That is sort of where the Tower-spaces came into Sovrano. The idea being that it would be just as vital to capture and hold those spaces as it would be to capture the Throne-space.

That is all Sovrano has in common with League and I realize the comparison is shaky, but that’s where my mind went that night… it was also 4am at this point.

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The first question after I had the basic concepts written down and the board drawn on the computer was, ‘how do I make this game?’ The answer came quickly–my father has been working with wood for over thirty years and built his own CNC mills for wood cutting. The next day, I called him and he thought it was a fantastic idea.

We got to work almost right away. I drew the designs on the computer, we tested different sizes, spacing, and what type of wood would be best to use–for us as well as potential buyers. I began playtesting the game and continued doing so throughout the entire prototyping phase. I think I wrote the rules and went over them at least 15 times before I was happy with them. I did this a few more times after more people playtested the game–I found very kind playtesters on Twitter who were extremely helpful!

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I chose the route of creating the game entirely out of wood as I had not seen a ton of games on the market that are produced this way. If you do a Google search, then you will find wooden games, but they are mostly chess, checkers, Tafl, Mancala, etc. There are probably good reasons for this:
1) It is much harder to mass produce games this way.
2) There would be definite issues with weight for a large game.
3) The expense could be quite high for everyone involved.

I do not believe that the inability to mass produce a game like this is a negative. In fact, I think it is probably a selling point. It is just my father and I working on Sovrano and each game is being made by us. There is a lot of time and care that goes into each copy of the game. Weight is not in issue as Sovrano is not an especially large game in terms of size.

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My father and I also decided to start Cambium Games (cambium is–in case you don’t know–the tissue in trees that produces new growth). The idea being that Sovrano will be our premiere title and that we will continue producing games made with 100% wooden components. I set up the website during the initial development phases of the game and have been working on it since.

So far Sovrano has had nothing other than positive responses. People really seem to enjoy it. The struggle has been in spreading the word that it exists, but I will continue to do my best to get it out there. We are really proud of our game and want people to enjoy it as much as we do.

Sovrano is now live on Kickstarter.




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