King's Critters

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2012 Kai Jensen and Victory Point Games. King's. Critters ... of play, and easy to understand victory condi- tions. .... map in order for a player to receive its points.

A fast, sy ea to learn kid’s game!

King’s Critters Me & The Kids #2


King’s Critter s


Dragon Asleep

© 2012 Kai Jensen and Victory Point Games

4 5 GAME DESIGN Kai and Chad Jensen

Player Actions

 Place one of the units in your Reserve onto the map (but not in the Chip space).

DEVELOPMENT Noelle Le Bienvenu GRAPHICS Jessica Schultz MAP ART

Noelle Le Bienvenu ©2012 Kai & Chad Jensen and Victory Point Games (VPG) “King’s Critters” is VPG’s name for its children’s game of heroes attempting to rescue critters from the dragon.; [email protected]; (714) 957-4066

King’s Critters Designer’s Notes

DESIGNER’S NOTES It all started back in 2001. I was learning about wargames, card games, and Euro games from my husband, who is a game designer. My background at that time was all in board games and miniatures gaming. He was teaching me how to read and write proper rules and I was just starting to learn about the development of games once the initial design work was done. During one of our sessions, we were working through a problem and I suggested we “just add…” a rule to cover the issue. Cue the extended lecture. He explained how everything in a rulebook is interrelated and you can’t “just do” anything and be done. It creates a cascade of effects throughout a rulebook, sometimes with unintended consequences. Cue the homework assignment. I was asked to design a game – any game, keep it as simple as possible – and then he would take me through the development process to show me how there is no “just do” anything in good game design. If I was keeping it simple, that implied to me a children’s game. Some elements I was looking for included straightforward rules, no exceptions, simple sequence of play, and easy to understand victory conditions. The theme for King’s Critters came from many, many hours of reading fantasy books and a love of the dragon vs. hero interplay. So I had a theme, I had a list of elements I was looking to stick to, and a sketchpad full of game board ideas. I went to our game closet and pulled out the children’s games we had there for our own kids – Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly, etc. – to get an idea as to just how simple a child’s game really needs to be. Answer: it depends on the age of the kid. So I decided the kids would have to be able to read at least a little, which opened up the design space to allow a few more elements. I liked the simplicity of the Candyland board, so my dragon’s cave took on pathways and stone bridges with colored squares for spaces. © 2012 Kai Jensen and

Dividing the game into colored zones created the possibility of having color-specific effects. I was drawn to working with cards for the effects, as I had recently been introduced to a lot of card games and card-driven games (Magic: The Gathering, Totaler Krieg, Legend of the Five Rings, etc.). I was originally considering movement à la Candyland (card drawing with colored square icons), but also wanted to have cards create effects in the game. That’s just too many cards. So I fell back on the “roll the dice, move your … hero” approach also popular in kids’ games. My idea was to have the heroes creep into the dragon’s cave and try to quietly nab some critters and spirit them back out to the zookeeper, waiting at the cave’s mouth. It’s a fact that, at some point in creeping about a dragon’s cave, someone will wake the dragon up. That’s just how it works. I decided to split the cards to have effects that take place dependent upon whether the dragon was still peacefully snoozing or had been rudely awakened by the heavy-footed and delicious-smelling heroes. And, of course, the heroes would have to be able to defend against the dragon, so shields were added to the card deck. At this point, I had a cave with colored spaces, cards for each colored zone, some sort of effects for sleeping/waking dragon states, shields to protect against the dragon, dice to move the heroes around… what about the critters? In my head, the fuzzy guys are scurrying around the dragon’s cave in little-critter panic. So now the critters have to move – okay, there was one of the card effects I was looking for. Once the heroes started scooping up the critters for rescue, I needed more critters to appear – more card effects were born. And everyone loves a surprise – so some of the cards don’t do the now predictable “move a critter” or “place a critter” actions, but have a small effect of their own or a variation on one of the predictable actions (i.e., place several critters instead of one, move anywhere instead of just moving a number of spaces, etc). (Continued on back page). Victory Point Games

King’s Critters Rules v1.0


King’s Critters INTRODUCTION For many years, the King’s Royal Zoo has housed an odd collection of exotic Critters from across the kingdom. Only now, the Zoo is empty. A Dragon has been sleeping for centuries beneath a nearby mountain and has recently awoken. Intrigued by the King’s menagerie, the Dragon has stolen all the Critters from the Zoo and taken them back to its lair! You and your fellow adventurers have answered the King’s call for help and volunteered

to enter the Dragon’s lair to rescue the Critters, with the promise of great rewards for your efforts. The more Critters you bring back, the greater the reward. Carrying a Magical Cart for your journey, how many Critters can you rescue? Sneak around the sleeping Dragon, and be careful not to wake it as you attempt to capture the King’s Critters!

COMPONENTS Parts Inventory: One 11” x 17” map, 28 Critters, 4 Heroes (with stands), 1 Dragon, 46 Event cards, 4 Magical Cart cards, and 1 Rules booklet. You will also need one 6-sided die and a medium-sized cup. The Game Map: This map shows various colored Tracks that the Heroes move along to collect Critters. Each Track belongs in one of the seven color Zones: Blue, Green, Ivory, Orange, Purple, Red, or Yellow. The Zookeeper space on the board is where Heroes return any Critters they Capture. The Discard Pile is where all Discarded Event cards are placed.

The Magical Cart Cards: Each player receives a Magical Cart card used to Capture Critters. Each Magical Cart can hold one Critter at a time. Each card has a color and a symbol that matches a Hero’s playing piece. The Event Cards: Event cards tell you what to do each turn. You’ll take different actions if the Dragon is Asleep or Awake. The cards are placed in the Draw Pile that matches their color, and are drawn when a Hero ends their © 2012 Kai Jensen and

movement on a space of the same color. Example of how to read an Event card: “If the Dragon is Asleep, move a Critter 1 space. Then, add 1 Critter to the Red Zone.” “If the Dragon is Awake, move it to the Yellow Zone. Dragon Attack Strength = 2” There are also six blank Rainbow cards to create your own Event cards for this game! The Playing Pieces: There are four large Hero counters and one Dragon in the game. The Heroes represent the players. The Dragon counter has two sides: Awake and Asleep. The Dragon counter may be flipped at any time during the game when instructed by an Event card. Critters: Each round marker represents a Critter in the game. Each has a color and a victory point value which can be earned by successfully returning a Captured Critter to the Zookeeper space on the map. Critters are randomly drawn from a cup (the “Critter Cup”). Critters may be placed on any space in the colored Zone indicated on the Event card. Victory Point Games


King’s Critters Rules v1.0


1. Place the game board where all players can easily reach it. 2. Separate the Event cards by color into seven stacks, then shuffle each stack. If using any Rainbow cards, shuffle them into any stack of your choice. Place the red Event cards facedown in the red Draw Pile space in the middle of the board. Then, place the remaining card stacks face-down covering the matching Draw Pile spaces along the edge of the map. 3. Place the Dragon counter on its designated space on the map with its Asleep side face-up. 4. Take the Critter markers and place them

into the Critter Cup. Randomly select two Critter markers from the Critter Cup and set them face-up on the red Critter Start spaces, one per space. 5. Each player takes one Magical Cart card and places it in front of them. They then take the matching colored Hero counter. Insert each player’s Hero counter into its colored stand. Then place the Heroes on the Zookeeper space. Set aside any unused Magical Cart cards and their matching Hero counters. 6. Finally, each player rolls the six-sided die. The player with the highest roll will go first. Play then proceeds clockwise around the table.

HOW TO PLAY The game is played in turns. When it’s your turn, you do three things in the following order:

3. Draw Event Card: Draw a card from the Draw Pile of the same color as the space where your Hero ended its move.

1. Move: Roll the die. Move your Hero that number of spaces along the Track.

Repeat these three actions every turn until victory or defeat occurs.

2. Capture: Capture a Critter, if you can.

MOVING At the beginning of your turn, roll a die and move your Hero that many spaces along the Track, in any direction. Heroes can share spaces with other Heroes and/or Critters, but cannot enter the same space more than once per turn.

You do not need an exact roll to land on the Zookeeper space. When you land on the Zookeeper space you stop immediately, even if you could have moved further that turn.

CAPTURING To Capture a Critter, your Magical Cart must be empty and you must either end your move in a space occupied by a Critter, or a Critter ends its movement in the space that you occupy. If your Hero passes through a space containing a Critter, that Critter is not Captured. If an Event card moves you onto a space occupied by a Critter (and your Magical Cart is empty), you Capture the Critter. If a Critter ends its movement in a space that © 2012 Kai Jensen and

has two or more Heroes, the player whose turn it is chooses which one of those players gets that Critter marker. When you have Captured a Critter, take that marker from the board and place it on your Magical Cart. A Magical Cart can only carry one Critter at a time. Using later movement, Captured Critters must be taken back to the Zookeeper space on the map in order for a player to receive its points. When a Hero lands on the Zookeeper space with a Captured Critter, they take the Critter Victory Point Games


King’s Critters Rules v1.0 marker from their Magical Cart and set it faceup next to them and add its points to their score at the end of the game.

Once a Critter has been taken to the Zookeeper space, the Dragon cannot take that Critter back.

DRAW EVENT CARD After you are done moving (and possibly Capturing a Critter), draw an Event card of the same color as the Zone your Hero is in. Follow any instructions on that card (dependent upon if the Dragon is Awake or Asleep), then Discard it immediately, face-up on the Discard Pile on the map. Event cards in a Draw Pile cannot be drawn if the Dragon is currently upon that pile (see The Dragon below). A player who is currently in the Zookeeper space cannot draw any cards. You do not draw another Event card if your Hero is moved to a new space by the card you just drew. Once all of the Event cards of a certain color have been drawn, no more cards of that color can be drawn. Note: When the last Event card in the Draw Pile is drawn, resolve the card and then move the Dragon (if it is Awake) to any Zone, Dragon Attack Strength = 1 (ignore if the Dragon is Asleep). This occurs only on the turn that the last card is drawn from the Draw Pile. This does not Awake the Dragon if it is Asleep. The game ends if there are no more Event cards to draw from any Draw Pile, or the Dragon is currently on the last available Draw Pile.

Reading Event Cards: Examples include: =

This means: Discard 1 Shield

This means: Swap = spaces with any Critter on the map This means: Move to = any empty space on the map Shield cards: If you draw a Shield card from a Draw Pile, place it face-up next to your Magical Cart card. These cards can protect a Hero’s Captured Critter from a Dragon Attack, if the Dragon moves into the same colored Zone as a Hero. In order to protect a Captured Critter from a Dragon attack, you must Discard a number of Shield cards equal to the Dragon’s Attack Strength. Shield cards are not dependent upon color. After you’ve drawn your card and followed its instructions, your turn ends. The next player’s turn begins!

CRITTERS Critters are the counters in the game that each Hero may Capture, each listing a certain amount of points on them. Critter Movement: If an Event card asks for a Critter on the board to be moved, the player who drew the card moves a Critter of their choice. For example:


This means: Move a Critter 5 spaces © 2012 Kai Jensen and

Note: The Critter illustrations used on Event cards is a generic picture, and for decorative purposes only. It is not an actual Critter in the game, but represents any type of Critter. Critters may move in any direction, but may not enter the same space more than once per turn. Critters may share spaces with other Heroes and/or Critters. Critters cannot move on their own into the Zookeeper space. Victory Point Games


King’s Critters Rules v1.0

Placing a Critter: If a card asks to place a Critter in a certain color Zone, the player who drew the card randomly draws one Critter marker from the Critter Cup (unless the Dragon is next to the Critter Cup) and places it on any space in that Zone. For example: This means: Place a Critter in the Green Zone


If a Critter ends its movement, or is placed, in a space shared with a Hero whose Magical Cart is empty, that player automatically Captures the Critter. If two or more Heroes are in the same space and both of their Magical Carts are empty, the player whose turn it is determines who gets the Critter.

THE DRAGON The Dragon loves its Critter collection! If awakened, it will try to attack your Magical Cart and steal back any Captured Critters (and even un-Captured ones!). Each Event card tells you what to do depending on if the Dragon is Awake or Asleep when you draw the card. Dragon Asleep The Dragon starts the game Asleep on the space marked on the map. To represent this, one side of the counter has a sleeping Dragon on it. While the Dragon is Asleep, players ignore the Dragon Awake part of Event cards. Dragon Awake There is one card in the Red Draw Pile that awakens the Dragon. When this card is first drawn, the Dragon counter is immediately flipped to its Awake side and placed next to the Critter Cup. No new Critters may be drawn from the Critter Cup until the Dragon moves to a Zone. Once the Dragon is Awake, it cannot go back to sleep. The Dragon can only move and attack

while Awake. When the Dragon is Awake, players ignore the Dragon Asleep part of Event cards. Dragon Movement: When the Dragon moves to a Zone, its counter is placed on top of that Zone’s Draw Pile. While the Dragon is on a Draw Pile, no new cards can be drawn from that pile until the Dragon moves to another Zone. When the Dragon moves to a Zone containing one or more un-Captured Critter markers, any Critters in that Zone are immediately removed from the map and placed back into the Critter Cup. Dragon Attack: If the Dragon moves into a Zone with one or more Heroes, their Magical Carts are immediately attacked! Any Hero in that Zone with a Captured Critter must place that Critter back into the Critter Cup, unless that player Discards a number of Shield cards equal to the Dragon’s Attack Strength number shown on the Event card in order to protect their Captured Critter. The Dragon does not Attack again until it moves to a new Zone.

HOW TO WIN A game of King’s Critters immediately ends in one of three ways:

3. The last Critter is drawn from the Critter Cup.

1. When the last Event card is drawn and played.

When one of these events happens, each player adds up the points that they earned from their Critters. Whoever has the most points wins! In the event of a tie, the tying players are declared as the winners.

2. When the Dragon is on the last available Draw Pile. © 2012 Kai Jensen and

Victory Point Games

King’s Critters Designer’s Notes (cont) (Continued from front page). Now, that sounds pretty simple, but there is a LOT of math involved behind the scenes in this game. I had a spreadsheet with probabilities, statistics on probable effects during certain stages of the game, etc. Part of finding the balance point between effects is a matter of managing the probabilities and still accounting for the odd outlier results. (I owe a shout-out here to my calculus and statistics instructors in college for helping me to love mathematics and to my hubby for showing me how all that related to games.) I created my own graphics from a publicaccess clipart collection, tweaked the graphics to suit my taste and laid out the board to make sure everything would fit. This was also a lesson for me in using Photoshop and Illustrator, which we had recently purchased. The rules were written up using InDesign - more lessons for me. Then I printed and assembled all the bits and pieces and declared myself ready for the first playtest. I had enough experience with early game development at this point to know that the first game would be rough, might fall apart mid-game, would reveal the flaws in my rules and my math, and could highlight odd events which I had not even foreseen. So high hopes were held in check as we worked our way through the first game, which went as I expected… well enough to know the game design was sound but the card effects would need adjustment. Now came the moment this had all been leading up to – trying to fix the balance by “just doing” something. Here the lesson became clear that every one thing affects everything else. If the dragon is too strong, you need more shields. But if you add more shields, some other cards have to be dropped. But if you drop other cards, the balance between placing and moving critters becomes skewed. Then you either have too many critters that don’t move around or you have very few critters that are running some © 2012 Kai Jensen and

sort of manic marathon in that cave. After working hands-on through all the design steps and starting to understand the fine balance needed between the actions, I finally got it. There is no “just do” something to fix an issue. Everything must be taken into account when making a single change. End of lesson. I continued to tinker with the game until I found the balance that suited me. We played it, our kids played it, my niece and nephews played it, other friends and family played it and I received favorable feedback, so I was happy. I even got so excited at one point that I entered King’s Critters in an amateur game design contest and got an Honorable Mention. But nothing came of that and the game went on a back shelf for years. Last year, Alan Emrich asked me if I happened to have any kid’s games in my portfolio that would be looking for a publisher. Excited, I brought out my game files, dusted off the map and cards, and looked them over again to see if the game still held up after several years of learning about games had intervened. A few more adjustments and, voila, the finished product. I hope you enjoy my “homework” and have as much fun playing it as I did creating it! Enjoy the game! - Kai Jensen GAME CREDITS Game Design: Kai Jensen Additional Game Design: Chad Jensen Development: Noelle Le Bienvenu with Alan Emrich Additional Development: David and Aidan Spangler Critter and Dragon Art: Jessica Schultz Map Art: Noelle Le Bienvenu Playtesting: Carol Alexander, Devon Biasi, Keith Brush, Doreen Calderon, Nathan Hansen, Sydney Jensen, Dezmin Jones, Jeremy Lennert, Kris Skold, Mike Rettinhouse, Garrett Rettinhouse, Meagan Rettinhouse, Patrick Rettinhouse, Esme Young, Malcolm Young, Willow Young Proofreading: Brad Bernstein, Hans Korting, Rick Partin, Ian Wakeham Victory Point Games

King’s Critters Me & The Kids #2 For many years, the King’s Royal Zoo has housed an odd collection of exotic Critters from across the kingdom. Only now, the Zoo is empty. A Dragon has been sleeping for centuries beneath a nearby mountain and has recently awoken. Intrigued by the King’s menagerie, the Dragon has stolen all the Critters from the Zoo and taken them back to its lair! You and your fellow adventurers have answered the King’s call for help and volunteered to enter the Dragon’s lair to rescue the Critters, with the promise of great rewards for your efforts. The more Critters you bring back, the greater the reward. Carrying a Magical Cart for your journey, how many Critters can you rescue? Sneak around the sleeping Dragon, and be careful not to wake it as you attempt to capture the King’s Critters! Number of Players: 2 - 4 players Ages: 7 and up

Game Components:


Playing Time: 15-20 minutes Complexity: 2.5  Solitaire Suitability: 3  $17.95


 One 4

11” x 17” map

Magical Cart cards

 46

Event cards

 28

Critter markers


Hero counters (with stands)


Dragon counter

 One

8-page full-color Rules booklet