The Campaign – Playing Solo vs Co-op in The Missing Expedition

Previously, we looked at some of the unique new meta game elements that add a lot of choice, story, and replayability to the expanded Search for Professor Kutil campaign that’s included in our upcoming Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition expansion. Next up, let’s explore what playing cooperatively brings to the experience.

The challenging six chapter campaign can be enjoyed entirely as a solo experience, but it also takes on a slightly different shape when you dive into it with another player cooperatively. In the newly added co-op mode, two players team up against an AI rival, while striving to complete the main challenges and bonus objectives of each chapter. Even with each other’s help, that’s no easy feat—by design.

A team building exercise

One of the bigger design challenges that arose in developing content for the expansion came from the decision to turn the campaign, which was a purely solo experience in the free PNP version released online previously, into a mode that could be enjoyed with a friend.

“We wanted it to become a cooperative two player campaign, and we had to think about ways to make that work,” says co-designer Mín. “Because, currently the player kind of accomplishes a lot in the solo campaign game, and if you add another player into the mix, then you need different goals. So we needed to mix it up a little bit and make it tougher, and make it possible for two players to play the game.”

As such, the scenario win conditions, as well as all of the bonus achievements in each scenario, scale upwards to boost the difficulty in a two-player game. It’s quite tough to complete all of the achievements in a given scenario on top of the main—even in a co-op game—which plays nicely into the teamwork aspect of this new mode. If you don’t work together carefully, you’re going to struggle. Fortunately, we’ve also added some new friends to give you a hand in your fruitful collaborations. 

Birds of a feather

We’ve added a few more layers to encourage teamwork and interaction between players, as well. Including…[checks notes]…errr…cute carrier pigeons?

“The carrier pigeons add a cooperation element, where you can send your friend a resource,” says Mín. “It really helped us to make it even more cooperative, because now you can send jewels or something else of high value that can help them a lot, or you could be needing their help in return.”

Pigeon tokens are a free action that each can be used once per round to send a resource to the other player. They get exhausted after each use, and are flipped over to the nesting side of the token. The twist is that they don’t get refreshed until the next round. Also, the carrier pigeons don’t automatically return to their original owners each round; they stay with the player they’re with until they’re sent back. “So if I send you something with my pigeon, if you don’t send yours with something that round, the next time I can’t send anything,” she adds. “I really like that element of it.”

That’s not the only way players can interact either. In some scenarios, players will need to spend actions and resources to fulfill special goals on the board. In a co-op game, you can pool together the necessary resources for that between players, even though one player will still need to spend an action to complete the goal.

Some encounter card choices also give you an action or benefit that you can hang onto and use later in the game at any point you choose—these can be used freely by either player, not just the person who earned them. All of these nuances add up to a lot of interactivity in a co-op game, which is a very fresh and different way to play Arnak if you’re used to the flow of a regular game. We can’t wait to share this expansion with you soon enough!

Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe to the Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition BGG page so you don’t miss any important updates!

Mining for Prosperity in Kutná Hora

In our last article, we covered the strategic essentials of building out the shared city board in Kutná Hora, as well as some of the historical building elements the game is based on. Next up, we’re taking a different kind of deep dive: straight into the mines.

Mining was an essential part of the city ecosystem in Kutná Hora, and the city might not exist today without having brave miners who were willing to harvest ore to smelt into silver. It was a dangerous job that paid extremely well, considering the risks involved in delving far underground in narrow tunnels to dig out ore.

In the early days of Kutná Hora, there wasn’t much of a city to speak of, beyond a few scattered nearby settlements. Things kicked into high gear in the second half of the 13th century, when rich silver ore veins were discovered in the area, drawing thousands of people to the region from all across Europe. Everything temporarily sprouted up around the mines, initially.

“During that period, when a new city was founded, it was typically well planned, with a central square, good defensive positions, and often regularly squared town blocks. That was definitely not the case with Kutná Hora,” notes history enthusiast and co-designer Ondřej Bystroň. “First settlements were built around mines, unconnected. Chapels for the miners stood literally in the middle of the mining operation, and when mines turned out not to be prosperous, people moved without hesitation to different settlements.”

This historical tidbit is reflected in the building aspect of the game, as extra neighborhood marks are situated at the edges of the game board to motivate players to start building there. As the city became richer and more prominent, more permanent buildings sprouted up, including beautiful chapels and other critical infrastructure to support the ever growing mining operation

Thematic tie-ins

Mining was a complex operation. Getting people in and out of the mine was a time-consuming process, fresh air had to be pumped in through ventilation shafts and surface blade fan towers, and water also had to be pumped out. Ging gangs—large mining machines that acted as horse-powered winches—were used to transport ore and other material to the surface. If you look closely at some of the mining guild building tiles included in the game, you’ll notice many of these important elements are included.

Kutná Hora grew out of industrial roots, and the juxtaposition between life above ground and life below ground—and the contrasting light and darkness—is woven throughout the game’s visual style. “I wanted to recreate that sense of illumination for players, says Ondřej. “Above, you have a busy city, where everything is happening all at once. Below, you have a dark underground, with very narrow shafts and miners working. The city at the time was not particularly beautiful as it is today: there was a huge ore processing industry on the surface.”

How mining works in the game

From a game mechanics standpoint, mining in Kutná Hora is a viable way to earn a substantial portion of end-game scoring. To build a mine, you must play the mine action card on your turn, and have enough money for the permit needed to unlock a miner from your board, enough to pay the wood cost of the mine, and there must be an available space in the mine. When placing a mine tile, you can build it to the left, right, or below an existing mine tile, and you pay the highest of the neighboring costs.

Mine tiles are drawn from the bottom of the stack, and they have a wide range of bonuses on them that get better as the game progresses and the stack thins. Some tiles have rich ore veins, some help you advance further in the mine with greater ease, and some help you gain a technological majority in one level of the mine—each can be useful, but it depends on what your specific plans are game-to-game.

At the end of the game, players will score differently depending on who has the majority of star symbols in each of the four mining levels. The score is also impacted by the total number of stars on tiles across each level of the mine, too.

“Mining creates a small puzzle, where players are influencing each other, and you always have to consider how your mining operation is influencing others and you,” says Ondřej. “Mines, when played skillfully, can be a major source of income and also a huge VP boost. What is happening on the surface is also important for the mines. In Kutná Hora, the more supportive mining buildings there are, the bigger the range of choices players get in the mines, and you want to have good choices.”

Mining’s impact on the game’s dynamic economy

The mines and the city above are directly tied together in many ways, which is both a visual connection and a game design connection, Ondřej explains. “Miners and Metallurgists are economically interconnected. So, when there is not enough ore coming from the mines, metallurgists are not earning. The same works in the opposite direction. If miners produce tons of ore, but there is no one to smelt, prices of ore go down really quickly,” he says.

Scribes, another of the game’s six distinct guilds (which we’ll look closer at next time), are also directly connected to mining. “The whole point of having bureaucracy in the city was to somehow put a legal frame to the mining,” he says. “At its peak, Kutná Hora’s silver mines accounted for roughly 30% of the whole of European silver production. Therefore kings wanted to be really sure, that everyone plays by the rules and everything is in books. But if you want to be a scribe in a city without mining, soon you have to search for another source of income.”

Curious to learn more about the other mechanics and systems at play in our upcoming city-building heavy euro? Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes articles and don’t forget to subscribe to the BGG page so you don’t miss any important updates!

Designing the New Campaign Meta Game in The Missing Expedition

Our last article explored some of the design thought processes that are going into expanding and updating the story campaign in Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition, but we have so much more to show you!

Adding in more layers of replayability, and giving players the opportunity to make choices that can unlock surprises, is an important piece of the puzzle in the upcoming expansion. That’s where the all-new meta game elements come in. They introduce more weight to the choices you make as you navigate story cards and other objectives throughout the campaign. With every decision you make, you’ll work towards more opportunities to uncover interesting story branches and gain rewards to help you in future chapters.

Adding story unlockables

The original PNP version of the Search of Professor Kutil campaign includes story cards that give you a snippet of story and a choice between two options that provide some benefit you can use. We’re adding more story card options and expanding the impact they have on your campaign with a new meta game progression mechanic that carries over across multiple games.

Each choice you make when encountering story cards will also earn you a special thematic symbol that you’ll mark off on the corresponding track of your campaign score sheet. You’ll also earn symbols for any bonus achievements you complete, too. Over the course of the entire campaign, you’ll progress along these tracks based-on your choices from chapter to chapter. When you complete a chapter, you’ll check the progress chart and potentially unlock special multi-part story events and rewards. This can make for some interesting considerations in the moment — for example: perhaps you could really use a particular reward that one option gives you, but the other would also give you the specific symbol you need to unlock the next piece of side story (and a potential carry-over surprise) at the end of the chapter. 

The goal of introducing the story cards was to immerse players in a theme in the moment and give them a dynamic reward for the choices they made based-on each situation. But Arnak co-designer Mín notes that in the original free PNP version there wasn’t anything that would stay with you beyond those momentary choices.

“And I really wanted that to be a part of it…to let the players experience finding mysteries and connecting the dots,” she says. “If you keep meeting different and strange occurrences then maybe one day you will actually find out what it was all about. I really like that approach.”

Note: we’re also adding new sites and guardians that let you use story cards in a regular multiplayer game of Arnak, though they won’t connect to the meta game when used that way. 

Adding more layers of depth and challenge

Creating story and playing around with the way storylines are revealed was one of Mín’s favorite aspects of working on the campaign. “The idea to add the meta game element came about because I wanted to have some way to connect the campaign,” she says. “I wanted to add weight to the choices you make, so it’s not just ‘right now I need gold or I need compasses’ it was more about ‘I could really use the gold but maybe this sounds like an interesting story I could unearth’”

Chapter bonus achievements have also changed a lot in The Missing Expedition. In the free PNP chapters, achievements were basically some extra goals to strive for that would give you victory points. This time around, they have a more thematic twist and more interesting rewards.

“Imagine that the main goal is the basic thing you can achieve, but the achievements further that and give you a lot more rewards,” explains Mín “For example, they can give you a card immediately and then that unlocks it for the next time you play, but also it unlocks more of the story. It also serves to make the game a little bit harder. Playing the lowest difficulty would be just playing the main goals, and then if you’re really feeling tough you can try going for all of the achievements.”

Next up, we’ll talk more about the differences between playing solo vs co-op. Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe to the Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition BGG page so you don’t miss any important updates!

A Closer Look at Kutná Hora’s Dynamic Economy System

A lot of classic euros tend to skew towards players plotting out and executing their own plans each turn, without much interaction or connection between what they’re doing and what their opponents are doing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course, but the designers behind Kutná Hora: The City of Silver wanted to create a very different heavy euro experience.

In Kutná Hora, everything is tied together by a dynamic supply and demand economic system that makes for an ever-shifting journey as the city evolves over the course of the game. Every action a player takes affects almost everyone else on the board in some way, and that keeps cycling in different directions from turn to turn. This makes for highly interactive rounds where you have to keep a close eye on what other players are doing and be willing to pivot, if you want to keep up.

Economic balance is the key to prosperity

“The dynamic economy is something really unique,” says Petr Čáslava, one of the game’s trio of co-designers. “Kutná Hora was designed on really dynamic elements — it’s not just the economics itself, it flows through other areas of the game, too. What we tried to do, and I truly believe we achieved, is to produce new stories around the table each time you play the game.”

Over the course of the game, players will be mining, smelting, acquiring plots of land, building guild structures and engaging in other key activities that go towards enhancing the city’s (and their own) prosperity. Their choices and actions can have a dramatic effect on the market over time, as you might expect with the flow of a supply and demand economy. When someone constructs multiple buildings of the same type and floods the market with a particular resource, for example, the price of that resource goes down — which can help or hinder others, depending on the circumstances. As more people come to inhabit the city and population grows, however, the price of that devalued resource will slowly rise back up. Things are always in flux.

As such, no two games of Kutná Hora are quite the same, which makes for high replayability due to the sheer level of player interactivity with the game’s systems and one another. The first time you play, for example, you could suddenly find that other player’s choices make the cost of wood very expensive. Consequently, this makes it harder to build as often, depending on the configuration of guilds you control, which instead nudges you to double down on mining instead because it’s cheaper for you. Other times, your experience could be the complete opposite, and it will tell a very different story.

Kutná Hora is also not a zero sum game where you can only narrowly focus on your own goals and win easily. All players are tied into the game’s economic systems, which connects strongly to the theme of collectively working together to build a grand city. You have to balance your own self-interest with the greater good of progressing the city, or you will struggle.

“Sometimes in Kutná Hora what you have to do is make decisions that will give points to yourself as well as other players…that’s unique,” adds co-designer Ondřej Bystroň. “You need to think in terms of ‘in this action I will give some points to myself and someone else,’ and if you can distribute victory points cleverly enough, then you can win the game.”

There are other nuances to that across the game’s other systems, of course, which we’ll explore in future articles.

The evolution and design of the dynamic economy

All resources in the game are handled as one currency: coins. When you gain a particular resource based-on what your earning capacity is for that resource, you gain it in the form of coins. When paying for a resource requirement, you spend coins based on the economic market value of that resource. 

Using coins simplifies some aspects of the game’s economic systems, but finding a way to help players easily track the flow of the dynamic economy over the course of the game proved to be a challenge that took several years of iteration to iron out. Early prototypes involved complex charts that only Ondřej could decipher. “Developing the math to make it all work was a very gradual process,” he notes.

The wheel system prototype

The initial tracking system soon evolved from impenetrable charts to a multi-layered wheel system, which worked far better but had some difficulties with readability, depending on the angle you viewed it from. Eventually, Petr and the production team at CGE came up with the idea to create “cardboard computers” — little stands featuring decks of swappable cards that could be slotted in, allowing for much greater variability in the economic systems and easier tracking with simple pull tabs.

Two sets of cardboard computers are used to track various resources tied to the game’s six guilds, which allows for more layers of economic systems to be in play at the same time. One focuses on how much silver ore is being produced in the city — which includes combined tabs for mining and smelting, which are tied together, as well as scribes. The other cardboard computer focuses on population, with tabs for lumber production, entertainment, and food production.

A prototype of the current cardboard computer system

“We had to change our mindset to work with the cardboard computers, but it allows us to do so much more with the system compared to the wheel design,” says Petr.

Curious to learn more about the other mechanics and systems at play in our upcoming city-building heavy euro? Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes articles and don’t forget to subscribe to the BGG page so you don’t miss any important updates!

Kutná Hora: The City of Silver – Official FAQ

Hot on the heels of our exciting new game announcement today, we wanted to share some FAQs and behind-the-scenes info for you about our next big upcoming heavy euro, Kutná Hora: The City of Silver. Curious to learn more? Read on for details!

Q: Errr…a Kutná-whatna now? What’s that?

Kutná Hora (phonetically pronounced as “koot-nah-hor-ah”) is a real historic city in the Czech Republic that you can visit even today. It’s home to St. Barbara’s Cathedral, lots of beautiful views and European architecture, and even the super cool Sedlec Ossuary (The Church of Bones), among other things.

Our euro game follows the discovery of silver in the mines in the region, and the establishment and economic prosperity of Kutná Hora, which quickly became one of the most important cities in central Europe — due to its thriving silver economy that fueled massive growth in the region throughout the 14th century.

Here are some photos of present day Kutná Hora:

Q: Another historical city building euro? What makes this one special?

The dynamic economy mechanics in Kutná Hora are based on real-world economic systems that shift and change in response to each player’s actions turn-to-turn. The choices that each player makes will affect other players, too, depending on which guilds you’re playing with. The heart of this game is not about simply trying to outdo your opponents. Instead it’s about making calculated decisions that may help more than one player in the moment, but gradually nudge you ahead in the end game. It’s a highly interactive, always evolving experience that can also change dramatically game-to-game.

Every game of Kutná Hora tells a different story depending on how players engage with the economic systems. Some resources may suddenly become less or more valuable, depending on what types of guild structures are created, or how much mining and smelting has been done in relation to building. It’s all about balance, but also seeking to find creative ways to gain an edge over your opponents. With each game playing out very differently, depending on the choices players make, you’ll find a lot of replayability in Kutná Hora.

Kutná Hora also features asymmetrical gameplay, as every player starts with three different configurations of guilds that each affect vital aspects of the game and economy. 

Q: This economic system sounds complicated…how do you track everything?

Very easily, actually — actions and events in the game will trigger corresponding shifts in the economy, which are handled and tracked via two “cardboard computers” we’ve designed. By swapping out cards slotted into the cardboard stands, or by moving one of several sliders over a notch (depending on the result of the action), you’ll see the immediate result of how the economy was impacted.

Once you understand the systems a little better, it becomes easy to anticipate how any player’s actions will potentially impact the current in-game economy at any moment in the game.

Q: What kind of game can we expect?

Kutná Hora is a fairly heavyweight historical city building euro for 2-4 players. Core game mechanics include a dynamic economy and income system that shifts based on player choices, tile placement on a shared board, area influence, and action selection.

It’s a highly interactive game, where players take turns selecting actions from a hand of double-sided cards to engage strategic plans like mining, purchasing plots of land to build on, gaining permits, raising buildings for their affiliated guilds, gaining profit from their production, and of course working towards the construction of Saint Barbara’s Cathedral.

Q: When will the game be released and how much will it cost?

We’re aiming for an Essen Spiel 2023 launch in Europe and hope to have copies for sale in the US at PAX Unplugged, with a retail launch following shortly after. It’ll be priced at €59.95 EUR / $59.95 USD.

Q: Will there be any chance to try the game before the release?

 Of course! We’ll be demoing the game this year at UKGE, Origins, Gen Con, SPIEL, and PAX Unplugged.

Q: Where can I find out more info?

1) Be sure to subscribe to the game page on BGG! You’ll be notified of updates, as we plan to release a number of detailed articles that explore the game’s key mechanics.

2) Check out the live-stream replay of our interview with the designers over on our new VODs channel! 

3) Join our Kutna Hora mailing list to receive updates about the game’s availability.

Q: Can you tell us more about the designers?

The game is co-designed by Ondřej Bystroň (Bistro-nyo), Petr Čáslava (Chaa-sla-va), Pavel Jarosch (Ya-rosh).

Some of you may recognize Petr, as he previously worked with CGE and is one of the biggest content creators in the Czech Republic. He also lives close to the actual city of Kutná Hora.

Meet the Journalist – The Second New Leader for Lost Ruins of Arnak

Our upcoming expansion, Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition, brings a lot of content into the fold for solo, co-op, and regular multiplayer Arnak games alike. Two new playable leaders are only a portion of what you can expect. We’ll dig deeper into some of the other expansion content in future articles, but for now we’re excited to introduce another new leader we think you’ll enjoy.

In our last blog post, we shared some details on the Mechanic and how her gear system works as it grows more powerful over time. The second new leader included in the expansion, has a completely different set of mechanics and play style. Let’s get to know him a little better shall we? Meet…the Journalist!

All that’s fit to print

The Journalist is a traveler with a passion for documenting the unexplored. He has a keen eye for capturing details that might otherwise elude others. As you’ll see teased in the trailer here, he also has a very different player board from other characters. It includes slots for two double-sided newspaper tiles. These can be chosen at the start of the game or picked randomly, and each has a different set of helpful actions you can take when you fill them in with an article.

Speaking of articles…when playing as the Journalist, you’ll place small article tokens next to every site during initial board setup. When traveling to a site, he can pay one extra traveling cost of a type that matches that site to gain the article token at that location. These articles can either be saved for later or used immediately to slot them into an available newspaper slot on your board, gaining the benefit you cover up.

When you fill up all four slots of each newspaper, you can then gain access to filling in the larger reward in the fifth bottom slot. Also, as you fill in horizontal rows with articles across both newspaper tiles, you can open up additional idol slots.

That’s not all. Because the journalist is so skilled at documenting things as he observes them, he is allowed to move his book up the research track one space higher than his magnifying glass — which other characters cannot do. This can make it easier for him to progress faster, more flexibly, and he can gain his first assistant a bit more easily in the early game.

Behind the scenes

“For the Journalist, I think the inspiration was mainly thematic as opposed to mechanical,” notes Mín, the co-designer of Arnak. “I really wanted to have a guy who was traveling around and writing articles, and the idea to actually utilize spending more travel resources for something else of use was also key. Because sometimes in the game you just find cards that offer you a lot of opportunity to travel, but maybe you don’t always have a use for that, and the journalist is actually built around that. He’s utilizing things that others can’t.”

Both the Journalist and the Mechanic leaders feel quite different from the six leaders found in the previous Expedition Leaders expansion. Coming up with new play styles and character approaches can be tricky. “Designing new stuff is always challenging, you want things to be different and interesting…but also streamlined enough that it’s not overcomplicated and still nice to play,” says Mín. “It’s very satisfying to see that it’s different and fun.”

Stay tuned for our next article and don’t forget to subscribe to the Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition BGG page so you don’t miss any important updates! You can also head over there to comment on this article in the forum, as well!

Meet the Mechanic – A New Leader for Lost Ruins of Arnak

Anyone who has explored our previous Expedition Leaders expansion for Lost Ruins of Arnak will already be familiar with just how much playing Arnak with the asymmetrical leaders injects a fresh strategic element to the experience. It nudges players to focus in specific directions, which makes certain resources and options more valuable to particular leaders’ play styles.

Both of the two new leaders included in the upcoming second expansion, Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition, feel quite different from the six previous leaders. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to The Mechanic, a versatile tinkerer whose skill to repair even the most broken things makes life easier on any expedition.

Continue reading “Meet the Mechanic – A New Leader for Lost Ruins of Arnak”

Playtesting Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders (part 3)

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

In this third and last part of our report, we’ll talk about how we finalized the game design, and at the end also share some interesting stats and give our thanks to the people who helped us on this endeavor.


Based on all the data and feedback we gathered, the game evolved constantly. The game design went through five bigger updates marked by the five phases of online playtesting, and many smaller tweaks and changes. Some things were obviously broken and needed fixing. Some issues were sneakier, and it took some time to recognize them. In the end, we believe that we managed to hunt down and tweak most of them, if not all, and we are happy with the final product of our work.

We spent many hours discussing and debating in our company chat, on calls, and in person. After one physical playtesting event at the end of August, eight people spent nine hours around a table with Expedition Leaders laid out, discussing each and every aspect, little detail, and last-minute ideas about the expansion. Similar meetings have happened quite often throughout the whole development process of course, with many people joining in and debating for hours at a time – but this one meeting was by far the longest.

And right now, we’re entering the very last finishing phase of the development. The scores appear to be in balance, and we are happy with how the expansion plays and feels. The art is finished, the design done, and most of the things were recently sent to print, to be ready in time for SPIEL’21. It’s all exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time 🙂

As always, having a printer here in the Czech Republic is a great advantage to our timelines – we can afford to spend more time on designing because the delivery time is much shorter, and there is a certain freedom in deadlines when one has such close contact with the manufacturers. However, COVID is not making things easier for us – there is a shortage of materials and of workers on all levels of the production and distribution chain. Still, we do our best to make the most of these uncertain times and we are grateful for the unusual and special options we have at our disposal.


The playtesting was possible thanks to many factors and many people all working in sync and helping us on our journey. We would like to thank the folks at BGA for lending their platform for our purposes. Huge thanks also go to Adam Španěl who prepared and fixed the implementation on the go and with incredible speed. To our CGE colleagues and friends who debated and analyzed and worked with us not only during the playtesting but also throughout the whole development process. And of course big thanks to the 102 testers who were willing to spend hours playing the expansion again and again, and giving us their unique perspectives and feedback.

And here are some final interesting stats for you 🙂 From a total of 567 play sessions, players gained:

·      8,484 Fear cards

·      11,123 Jewels

·      6,129 Artifact cards

·      7,852 Item cards

·      1,967 Temple tiles

They’ve also gained 33,368 Coins that would let one buy all items from the base game 330 times, and 37,518 Compasses which would be enough to discover the whole island of Arnak 781 times or buy all the base game artifacts 320 times.

To collect this many resources at once, you would need roughly 1390 boxes of the base game (this many boxes would weigh over 3300kg or 7200lbs which is almost as heavy as one Scorpion Guardian from the base game). And if you put all the gained compasses, coins, idols, and tablets on top of each other, the final pile would be 267.7 meters high which is almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

Playtesting Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders (Part 2)

In this part, we’ll talk a bit more about what information we were actually tracking and looking into, and why digital playtest is not everything and real-world tables actually matter.

If you’ve missed Part 1 of this series, you can check it out here.


During playtesting we were tracking a lot of data, both from the feedback forms the players filled out and from the game stats. The data we’ve gathered was highly rewarding, but processing and evaluation of all this data were also quite challenging.

As was mentioned before, this data is invaluable to us – the data and the option to replay each game session directly on BGA are both the strongest tools we have to make sure different elements of the gameplay are balanced. The expansion is highly asymmetrical, so we had to be extra careful with tinkering and tuning.

One of the most important things we tracked was the average and maximum scores of each leader, to see how consistent their performance is. From this data, we saw which characters needed tweaking, and over time we were also able to define which leaders were more suited for beginner players and which are more difficult to play.

We also tracked other things like what scores were achieved on which of the two new research tracks, the number of cards gained and played, the number of turns per leader and per round, how often different leader-specific bonuses were used in case of the Falconer and the Mystic, and much more.

Often, when interpreting the data, we even had to go through particular gameplays to identify what caused some significant score deviations. Sometimes these anomalies were indeed caused by that leader’s abilities, but often there were other factors in play as well, like big differences in players’ experience or an unusual combination of conditions (like cards in the card row, sites discovered, etc.) that were more favorable for that particular game situation.

Sometimes, the differences between beginner and more advanced players were also quite significant – it was visible both in the base game and in the expansion implementations that some cards and strategies were often neglected by the beginners but turned out to be quite powerful in the hands of experienced players. We had to take these differences into account as well before we could start drawing conclusions.


Of course, digital playtesting is not everything, and it was crucial for us to playtest Expedition Leaders with people on the “real-world” table. Some things that are working smoothly when everything is automated might turn out to be not ideal when translated to a physical environment. To identify this, we had to see how people were operating the game with their hands. How is the tablespace working? Is anything too fiddly? Are players forgetting anything? These and more questions were constantly asked and observed when we brought the expansion to the physical table – various live playtesting events, limited of course by the current COVID situation, helped us check and tweak the experience.

The Mystic, for example, had a special token that went through some iterations after seeing players handling it on the table. Under specific circumstances, players were supposed to store the Fear cards under this token. However, it turned out to be too fiddly and the token often ended up buried under the cards instead of being on top of the pile. So we reworked our original idea and the token became a board on which you could store the cards.

This is just one of the many changes we made thanks to the feedback we got from the people attending our testing events. We feel very fortunate that so many amazing people were willing to help us with the playtesting! Many things were fine-tuned and perfected thanks to their help and we believe these changes, though sometimes seemingly subtle, made a world of difference. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey! Come back next week on Thursday, September 23, to read the third and last part of this series.

Read Part 1

Playtesting Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders (Part 1)

Today, after a month of wild playing, experimenting, and iteration,  the online playtesting of Expedition Leaders is over. Now seemed like a good time for us to look back and reflect on this challenging yet so interesting and rewarding process that we’ve been engaged in for the past few weeks.

Our report is split into 3 parts – we’ll be releasing parts 2 and 3 on a weekly basis, so you can expect the next two articles to pop out on September 16 and 23. We hope you’ll enjoy this little peek behind the curtain and let’s begin!


As usual, the prototype has been developed and discussed in-house for quite some time, with many CGE colleagues playing and commenting on the expansion. And once we saw that the core was solid and we were happy with how the expansion worked and how playing it felt, we decided to take one step forward and let other players from outside of the company join the process. In general, this playtest was important to us on multiple levels.

The base game of Lost Ruins of Arnak is played and enjoyed by many people – the game has a strong fan base with very invested and committed players. This motivated us, even more, to make the expansion as polished as possible, because people enjoy it so much and we don’t want to disappoint our fellow board gamers (which is not a small pressure in itself).

The second biggest reason for the playtest being so important is the element of asymmetry that the expansion brings to the table. Each new leader has their own features, abilities, starting decks, and their play styles are just different. Asymmetry in games is great when it works, as it keeps the games more exciting and fresh, but it’s also so incredibly tough to balance.

Playtesting launched on 10 August, and it was one of the biggest and most intense playtest events we’ve ever conducted.

Its scale definitely added to the feeling of uniqueness and gratitude that we’ve felt throughout the process. Almost 100 active players from all over the world joined our efforts and more than 560 games were played throughout the span of one month – this number roughly translates to an average of 18 games per day which is an incredible number. In the final week of the testing, there was a point where at least one game was played at any hour of the day, including workdays (and nights). It was exciting to see players so engaged!


To make this playtest happen, we’ve had to do a lot of preparation and work on our side before the action even began.

The most obvious step was to put together a concise rules overview because up until that point, the rules were in our heads and in multiple docs and sheets, and we’ve had to translate all this into rough and functional bullet points that people who’ve never seen the expansion would understand.

We’ve also had to prepare a Discord server and, after its virtual gates were open, manage the community there. In order to populate this server, we had to make sure we picked enough players and, of course, prepare the digital implementation itself – the virtual table where the most important things would happen.

Preparing the digital version of the expansion was made much easier because we already have a quality implementation of the base game on BoardGameArena, so the groundwork was already laid with lots of basic rules and processes being in place. However, there was still a lot of work left to be done for the expansion to work. 

This process was made even easier for us because the creator of the base game BGA implementation, Adam Španěl, joined CGE and was in much closer contact with the team and deeply involved in the design process itself. Adam managed to prepare the expansion’s implementation much faster than we could’ve hoped for. During playtesting itself, he was also quick to help the community by fixing bugs and implementing design changes in record time. It was almost unbelievable how fast the implementation progressed in Adam’s hands 🙂

BoardGameArena also served as a strong source of playtesters, since there are many active and engaged Lost Ruins of Arnak players on the platform. That player community has a great knowledge of the game and is well-versed in different strategies and play styles suited for different game situations. We picked some of the best, most experienced, and most active players and offered them a chance to help us perfect the expansion content. Besides the BGA player base, we also talked to many folks in our Czech community and invited them to join us on our endeavor. In the end, we’ve managed to bring together 100 players for whose feedback, comments, and ideas we are very, very grateful. You guys have put a lot of time and effort into this – thank you!

This is all from us for this week’s post – come back next week, on September 16, to check out part 2 of this series 🙂