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I attended Playcrafting’s Fall Expo and got to meet a lot of really cool people. One of those people was Jack Poon of Creative Cove Games. He was showing off the prototype of a board game called The Depths of Durangrar.

Mr. Poon’s table was in the outer hall of the event area and had a very interesting accompaniment – he was sitting underneath a large black curtain. This curtain was necessary for him to properly show off The Depths of Durangrar as it is a board game intended to be played in the dark. That concept got my attention and so I sat down with him to ask him some questions about his project.

TechRaptor: Let me get your name for the record.

Jack Poon: My name is Jack Poon. I am the designer behind The Depths of Durangrar. It is a dungeon crawler that is played in the dark.

Asymmetrical Balance Of InformationTR: What really interested me about The Depths of Durangrar was that when I looked at the picture at first I thought, “Well, it’s a mobile game, it looks nice.” And then zoomed in on the picture and I’m like, “This is a board game. It uses light!” and that was something that was really interesting.

JP: Ah, thank you.

TR: So is this a prototype or this an actual production model that you’re demoing here?

JP: This is a prototype right now.


TR: So you’re still in the prototype phase at the moment?

JP: Yes. I’m doing a lot of playtesting. I’m doing a lot of balancing and trying to get the pacing right. Trying to figure exactly how bright that I want it. I don’t want it too bright where players can see straight down a hallway and illuminate everything but I don’t want it too dim that they can’t see anything.

TR: Are the board pieces modular? Can you pick them up and change the board around?

JP: Yeah. Every wall is modular so you can design a new maze each time. The board tiles are modular as well. It’s an 8 x 5 [tiles] right now, that’s all I can fit on [the table I’m using now]. But normally it’s an 8 x 8. You can arrange the board so you can have one really long maze.

TR: I see they’re like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s very Settlers of Catan-esque. You can make the map bigger or smaller to suit your needs.

JP: Yeah. Exactly.

Gen6 Player View Dark

This is what players in the dark would see. (Image provided by Creative Cove Games.)

TR: Walk me through the game. How do you play?

JP: All the explorers start with six action points they can spend on whatever they want. Moving through spaces, turning around to re-orientate themselves. If a character is facing a wall they don’t see much so they might want to end their turn by facing a new direction and illuminating more. They might want to do that in the middle of their turn. This guy right here, you can see there’s three different ways he can go – back the way he came, he can go to the left or go to the right. He might turn around to get a better look of what’s around in the area. So you can see there’s a sword over here and you might go over here and grab the sword so he can increase his attack the next turn. The explorers can choose many different ways of finding gold to win. Explorers can split up and explore different areas of the dungeon alone in search of gold. An explorer can also choose to attack another player to steal their gold. Explorers can also team up in their search for gold. The reason why explorers would want to team up is that there is another player that doesn’t light up. This player is the monster player. The monster player’s goal is to kill all the explorers.

TR: That’s also interesting. Something about night vision goggles?

JP: Yeah. Here’s one of the monsters. Let’s put him right around the corner. Right now you can’t see the monster until this guy backs up and turns around and now he sees the monster. The monster however can see using these night vision goggles and they see the whole maze. It’s a very asymmetrical balance of information.

I put the provided night vision scope to my eye. The view is a bit flat as there’s no depth perception, but I can very clearly see the entire board.

TR: This isn’t some specialized piece of equipment. This is just a standard NVG scope, correct?

JP: Yeah.

Jack Poon Creative Cove Games The Depths Of Durangrar

My apologies for the quality of this photo, but it was necessarily a bit darker than one would expect at Creative Coves Games’ table.

TR: If you get this game out and shipped, how are you gonna solve this problem? Because NVG equipment isn’t exactly cheap. I also do know that they have like children’s toy night vision goggles that are really short range, which wouldn’t work for hunting or something, but for this would be perfect. So it that the general idea of what you’re gonna go for?

JP: So this is the children’s toy of a night vision goggle. There’s pretty much two schools of thought for night vision goggles. There’s the military ones that are extremely sensitive and extremely expensive sensors that pick up the slightest bit of light and amplify it. Then there’s the more hobbyist more children’s technique which uses infrared. Cameras can see infrared fine, humans can’t. And it’s really the range of the infrared LEDs. So more expensive infrared LEDs can see further. Those are the same ones for the night vision cameras they have for camcorders. So it’s a really, really bright, intense infrared torch that just broadcasts really far that the camera can pick up. These are much more shorter range. These are good for like 20 feet which is perfect for the game.

At this point the combination of the light-blocking canvas and the fleece sweater I brilliantly decided to wear gets to be a bit too much for me and I politely exit the enclosure so that I don’t collapse from heat stroke.

TR: What exactly is the objective of the game?

JP: The objective of the players is the first explorer to 3,000 gold and back out of the maze alive is the winner.

TR: So basically a victory point system. Now when you say “back out of the maze” I see there’s two holes in the maze here, so do those both count as entrances?

JP: So this entrance is where the monster comes in so you have a bit of time. There’s no permanent death in this. You can always respawn, you just lose everything that you’re carrying on you.

Image provided by Creative Cove Games.

Image provided by Creative Cove Games.

TR: Now if I as a player come in on this side and a monster’s chasing somebody [over on the far side of the board], is it legal within the ruleset for me to go out the monster entrance?

JP: No. You have to go back out the way you came [into the dungeon].

TR: Because the board’s modular… have you played Settlers of Catan?

JP: Yes.

TR: You know the thing they have with the number chips so you know how to put [them] out and that’s a balancing thing? Do you as of yet have a balancing mechanic to ensure there’s a fair balance between how tight the maze is? Is that something you’re still getting a feel for, or is that something that you want to leave up to the players entirely?

JP: Right now it feels like no matter how you set up the maze… as long as you can generally access every single corner of the maze it sort of changes the strategy. So if there’s one narrow path all the way to the back corner all the players generally figure that out pretty quickly. Within like the first 15-30 minutes of the game. If they explore enough and they’re like “We [haven’t found] any gold [so] we figure the monster put all of it in one corner. So there’s just this treasure hoard and he’s probably guarding it ’cause none of have seen the monster [so] he’s waiting for us to come to him. Why don’t we all team up and fight the monster?” So now the monster’s information advantage over the players starts diminishing and the monster player will either have to adjust his or her strategy or face the players head on.

Image provided by Creative Cove Games.

Image provided by Creative Cove Games.

TR: And I just realized because I slept very little last night and I’m a dummy, but there’s a self-balancing feature in the game limited by the number of walls. There’s only so many walls so there’s only so much path that you can close off. And I’m guessing you probably a rule for stuff like… would it be allowable within the rules to completely box off a square, or does it always have to be open and you always have to be able to make a path to it?

JP: It’s always open. I’ve been using a maze generator. It’s a very neat maze generator – mazegenerator.net. You can change parameters to have very long hallways or very short hallways with lots of dead ends. I’m planning on figuring out what players like and then writing an algorithm myself for it.

TR: What do these tiles on the map represent? The [mining pickaxe], the treasure chests, stuff like that?

JP: At the end of each player’s turn there’s a random encounter. A player ending their turn on a pickaxe symbol will mine for gold by rolling the dice. The possible outcomes are they may successfully mine some gold and add it to their wallet, they might find nothing at all or they may even get injured.  They’re not wearing any safety equipment and then it falls down on them. Another one is goblins attack. There are goblins roaming through the cave and every now and then you might come across one. You can try and kill the goblins and then when you kill them you find some gold on them but they also ask “Money or life” and you have to hand over some money. You’re trying to get out of the cave, the monster’s chasing you, and there’s some goblins holding you up. It’s like, “Okay, do I want to lose a little health and then I have more gold to get out of the maze and then I’m closer to victory, but then if I lose that health and the monster just hits me enough and that one health could have saved me then I have to lose everything.” So it’s a lot of [pushing] your luck.

The Depths of Durangrar Game Board

The Depths of Durangrar is played in the dark. Only the monster player will be able to see the entire board through the use of hobbyist night vision goggles.

TR: Once you feel like you’ve satisfactorily prototyped the game, what’s your plan for looking for funding? Kickstarter or something like that?

JP: Right now Kickstarter is a very popular avenue. I really like Kickstarter.

TR: And board games do well on there because people like getting an actual [physical] product. It actually might be easier to get a board game made on Kickstarter if it’s good than a video game made on Kickstarter nowadays.

JP: Yeah. Kickstarter also gives me direct access to all the people who back it so I can get a lot of feedback while the campaign goes on. It’s like, “Here’s what a lot of players would really like to see over something else.” And it really helps me make the game for them, what they want, and improve things that I wouldn’t even have thought of.

I’d like to extend my thanks to Jack Poon for telling me all about The Depths of Durangrar. A lot of my friends are tabletop nerds and this is the sort of thing that we’ll have a lot of fun with!

What do you think of The Depths of Durangrar? Would you play a board game in the dark? Let us know in the comments below!


Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!