It was March 2011. I finally had rules for The New Era expansion. I had new cards and I was ready to test it. I came back from work, eat supper, say good night to kids and sat at the table with my wife, Merry. I needed to see how those new rules worked. We played.
Merry was playing terribly. Chaos on the table. No good decisions. No strategy. It was terrible and yes, I really mean it. I was tired after work and I was disappointed with Merry’s approach. At some point I just put my cards away and say: ‘OK, we stop. You are playing like moron. Thank you very much for such help!’
I was really disappointed that she didn’t want to help me with testing.
Merry however didn’t say sorry. She reacted quite the opposite. She exploded. Yes, woman do that.
‘What?! I don’t care?! I fake that I am doing my best?!’ and it was just beggining… ‘I am playing here with you though you didn’t even care to explain me rules! I didn’t play 51st State, remember? I don’t know what I am doing and I am desperately try to understand this damn icons! I don’t care?! Are you kidding me?!’
It always ends like that. Man is the one who is guilty. Man is to say ‘sorry’. So I did say sorry. I took my cards back. I spent 20 minutes explaining rules. We played again. Merry was playing really good.
That very first night of testing she felt in love with The New Era.
Since then Merry played countless games of The New Era. It can be more than 300 or 500 games. I have no idea. She is playing all the time. She was testing it with me. Then, when The New Era was balanced and I was really sick of it, she decided to find new players. And yes, she found them.
Are you going to visit Mr. and Mrs. Trzewiczek’s house? You will play The New Era. Merry will explain you rules and make you play it.
Did you invite Mr. and Mrs. Trzewiczek to your house for a nice evening? Yes, Merry will, ‘by accident’ have The New Era with her. She will explain you rules and make you play it.
Are you on convention? Merry is there too? She will hunt you down and teach you and play with you The New Era.
Boardgames club in Gliwice? Sure! Every single Monday she is there. Playing The New Era…
‘It has the same problem like Race for the Galaxy’ once she said. ‘You’ve just developed your state, you have great cards built, you want to finally start scoring big points, but the game suddenly ends. You have 12 cards in RftG, or 33 points here and that’s it. I want it last longer.’
She looked at me. ‘Could you…? Please.’
What a man can do? Can he resist that look?
So I designed ‘Winter’ expansion.
I changed pace of the game. Now it takes always six turns. Game is much more strategic now. You plan your actions for all following turns, you plan how to develop your state and you plan how many points you can make in that time.
It is so much satisfying. Or so much frustrating when you see other player is developing better, having better plan, having their combos working so smoth…
I moved Leader cards and Contact cards out ouf the deck and put them into Frozen City section – now it is no longer luck that decides whenever you have Leader or not. You just take him if you need.
I changed production – now it follows players needs, in every turn it changes a little bit, so players get additional workers, additional cards or resources. It gives them great possibilities to create new combos and develop their state.
I played many times Winter and I am proud of it. I tested it for few months and I believe it is great. But what is more, I saw Merry playing it hundred of times with people. She is die hard fan of 51st State line and every time she played Winter I saw in her eyes that this is it, this is the expansion that fans were waiting for. I am happy seeing that every time she plays Winter.
Writers sometimes, on the first page of their novel, write dedication. Something like: ‘For my beloved wife and kids’ or ‘For Jenny’ or whatever.
Winter is not only dedicated to Merry. Winter is designed for her.
What can I say. You, 51st State fans are lucky bastards. You have die hard fan of the game living with me. She will be forcing me to design new cards for next 20 years. Stay tunned 🙂