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!

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!

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 🙂