The first idea for Pandora Titania (working title for Panthalos) I had at the end of 2011: In the first part of the game, the players should make points with their goods and prepare for the second part of the game: the duels with other players Titans and the “big” Titan of the underworld.
The first attempts failed significantly. In the following years I was stucked in a fight mechanism on different tiles, which were collected during the game for attack, defense, life and initiative. But this was absolutely too complicated.
Another problem which emerged quickly: you play one hour preparing to get the winner within the final 10 minutes. This balance wasn’t what I want and what my test-players want. With balancing this, I drove into a dead end. Either the winner was almost clear within the first part of the game, what was very unexciting, or the game was much too random, what is a no-go for a larger strategy game.
The thing, that already existed at this time were the followers in form of sixsided dice, which you can upgrade, but had to rest one round after their use… as well as the leader who had certain advantages.
I let the game rest for a time, because I had no idea to solve the problems. I worked out the two expansions: Pax / Pergamemnon and the Goat Expansion for Peloponnese, I wanted to release at the Essen gamefair 2012.
Directly after that I restarted the work on Panthalos again. I planned to have it ready for the game fair in 2013.
I said goodbye to the original idea of dividing the game into 2 parts (preparation end “endfight”) and created the tiles with the values, along with the four elements. After that the it should go forward and I seemed on the right track. The two possibilities to get points (goods, or fight) would be woven more and more. And the next phase, I worked them out well balanced one against the other – that took lots of time. At that time players had to feed their followers with corn-tiles every round, the artisans could only be used once, and you only get new tiles during the evaluation of the places.
I was quite happy at this time and haven’t seen the real weaknesses of the game.
So the plan still was to publish the game right in time to the fair in 2013. Towards the end/beginning of 2012/13 my artist Matthias Catrein started to work out the final graphics for almost all the tiles. While I continuing playtest and calculations for pricing and material/production costs.
In spring 2013 the game was sent to two external playtest rounds without my presence. Here the true weaknesses were revealed. I haven’t seen them before in that way and also my regular playtesters were too familiar with the project, that it wasn’t easy for them to give more needful critics.
The gameplay was too static, development and success were too lengthy and the feeling wasn’t very positive. I was shocked about that, but it wasn’t too late to react.
Another suggestion was about the corn: it would bloat the game and make it slower – that was absolutely correct!
I needed fundamental changes:
The corn was thrown out and the artisans had to be more than one time tiles, without been too strong. I inserted the action discs that allowed to use the artisans and the titan tiles several times. Another important change drove against the static routine: Now I had some fields, on which players receives their stuff immediately.
But I noticed, that I ran out of time to test and balance everything and write down the game rules with the proper care, so I decided with a heavy heart, to improve the game even more and to move it back for another year.
In my drawer I had Palmyra, which doesn’t need a lot of work to get it out for the game fair 2013.
After that, I was very enthusiastic with some fresh ideas and new verve to improve Panthalos a bit more.
One big problem had to be solved:
during the game end some of the fields weren’t very useful anymore. This could be solved by a confused point salad at the end of the game. I decided against this and instead this I added the option to pay unwanted tiles for points.
Meanwhile, the rules of the game grew steadily with each change. Unfortunately we did not make it to Oberhof game festival in 2014. I missed some neccessary playtests there. The latest external playtests showed me the very positive progess of the game: Panthalos will be born in 2014.