Most games are conceived over a long period of time by people who know what they want the product to look like and who have the money and resources to get the materials they need. Nomad’s Land started life quite differently. Instead of starting with dice, cards, or any sort of coherent set of items, we were presented with miscellaneous materials from play-doh to clown noses to random game pieces to dice with unusual symbols on them. We couldn’t even necessarily take what we wanted, since other groups got to choose before we did from the rapidly dwindling pool. What we ended up with was a set of gold and blue glass tokens, and 5d6, each with different themes. One has the word “challenge” followed by anywhere from -2 to +3 on each side, one has different weather on each side (sunny, snowy, tornado, the usual), one has various verbs, one has various symbols that could either be related to combat or fireworks, and one gives directions. While we discussed the possibility of creating some sort of wargame, we quickly realized that about 42 glass tokens and five dice would not be enough to create a solid wargame, so we instead started thinking about how the dice could instruct movement. Once the idea of the combat die being linked to a trap mechanic was brought up, the natural jump to a survival game was made.
The primary issue was how to make such a game with our limited materials. How much movement? How big of a board? What do we do with all these unrelated dice? The weather die presented little challenge to work in. Tornadoes would move players, everything else would hamper movement around the board. The movement die could choose the next destination, and how the tornado might move players around the map. As we designed the game board, we considered having the verb die be special actions, but as we came up with different tiles to alter movement, we decided to use it to determine where the resources would move to on the map. We entertained the idea of the challenge die allowing players to increase their forces, but instead it ended up as a turn counter. We even added a rebound mechanic, where players willing to brave a harsh desert could bring back a group of their people.
As work continued, we refined the mechanics of Nomad’s Land and invented lore to accompany it. An oasis spring of immortality, an ancient civilization lost to insane weather patterns and sudden desertification, and a group of nomads struggling to survive in the new and hostile environment. In the end, we spent a few days tweaking the lore and mechanics to line up properly, and by the end we felt ready to begin testing.
– Jaden Smith-Borne