There are three ways to win a new strategy game from Soldotna’s Shea and Donica Nash: hoard all of the gold in the land, build the best fortress around, or invade and conquer your opponent’s land. Each session of Serfs & Soldiers is a mixture of strategy and luck and the gameplay has piqued the interest of gamers from several states.
Now, the couple hopes to get through the last few rounds of playtesting and revising the rule book before launching a crowdfunded campaign to mass-produce the board game.
Both games are resource-based which means players must find and spend resources to progress. In Serfs & Soldiers, that means that players must collect wheat, gold, wood, meat and iron to build new assets and gain control of the land.
Donica, Shea and a cousin Braden Nash have been developing, testing and inviting friends to play the game for about a year.
“We played it by ourselves for awhile and then included friends and family and then started branching out last spring,” Donica Nash said. “Our cousin, who has been helping us with marketing, took it to a board game convention in Idaho. We’re trying to get feeback from the various people who play it and get a perspective of what people want.”
Each player gets his or her own board which is set up like a grid. That grid is lined up with an opposing player’s grid and then the battle begins.
“You’re face to face with people, you’re playing it like chess, you’re combating another person,” Donica Nash said.
The artwork, board and original pieces were all designed and built by Shea and Donica Nash, though there have been a few upgrades since then.
The couple got their cards and boards and game tokens professionally printed before sending out versions of the game to various parts of the country to be tested.
“We have one in Kentucky, one in Washington, one in Oregon and one in Idaho,” Donica Nash said. “It’s pretty cool. We’re getting the feedback of people who are touching our game. We made every little piece by hand. There are people who, we have no idea who they are, but they’re out there playing our game. It’s fun and exciting to see.”
For Shea Nash, the idea for Serfs & Soldiers has been bouncing around in his brain since about 2006. Though, he said, playing Settlers of Catan with his family growing up influenced his idea of what would be a fun game. He preferred the game Risk, which allows players to conquer the world.
“I had a gaming group that would get together and play games every weekend in Washington, where I lived. I crafted this one and it’s basically like a real-time strategy game for the computer, but simplified and made really basic for playing as a board game,” he said.
The game has a medieval feel with serfs doing all of the work and armored soldiers fighting all of the battles. The game player fulfills the role of a lord.
The final game started to come together as he sat on commercial salmon fishing boat in Bristol Bay, Shea Nash said.
“We tried four or five different versions that all failed terribly and then I gave up for awhile,” he said. “I had some downtime and I worked it out and developed the strategy of the game.”
Currently, the gameplay runs at about 45 minutes, though Shea Nash said he’d like to see people play it several times in a row.
“If, at the end of the game they think ‘oh man, I could have won if I would have done this, I want to play again’ that’s the kind of thing that I want,” he said. “I want people to kind of grow with this game and just want to develop a strategy and have fun.”
The couple will be presenting Serfs and Soldiers at the Soldotna library on Saturday and part of that debut will include new, sturdier wooden pieces; a gift from a Soldotna man who played the game and wanted to help.
Aaron Gordon said he knew the family and played the game during the summer when Donica Nash’s sister invited him to try it out.
“The first time we played, I was just learning as we went. So, I was making moves and she would tell me if it was legal. We played it maybe two or three times there on the spot and then I actually borrowed it for the weekend and played it with a couple of other people…I ended up playing it like 10 times in three or four days,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he met Shea Nash for the first time in November and wanted to contribute something to the project.
“I heard that he was making eight more sets to play this weekend … some of the pieces were just made out of clay with a cookie cutter, so sometimes they would fall over and they were not perfectly shaped,” he said. “The rest of the game looks like a professionally made game.”
So, Gordon enlisted the help of a friend who works with wood and the two got nearly 100 wooden pieces made to fit with the eight new game sets.
“Now, (Shea) has two or three days left to get those sanded and painted and ready by Saturday,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I think it’ll look a lot nicer with wooden pieces than clay ones.”