Archipelago II

After a year or so of playtesting with friends, and having other people pick up the game and play it without my supervision, I’ve done some rewriting and redesign. Feedback on the previous version was very positive (i. e., people had a lot of fun playing it). From the new version of the game:

About the game

Archipelago is a story/role-playing game where each player controls a major character. Player take turns directing and playing out a part of their character’s story, leading them towards their selected point of destiny, while other players interact with and influence that story.

Who is this game for?

If you like the story-telling part of games, and enjoy the creative challenge and inspiration that comes from working with others, this game is for you. If you like tactical mechanics, resource management, or player-vs-player competition, there are other games that might work better for you.

The vibe I’m aiming for

I wrote this game trying to capture the feeling of Ursula K. LeGuin’s «Earthsea» books. I wanted a game of grand destinies, that at the same time had time to dwell on the details of plants, words, everyday lives. I wanted a game that was about great conflicts, but at the same time treated its characters’ stories with respect. I wanted not a steel framework, but a spider web of thin threads creating subtler stories.

This game works best if you play it slow. Sometimes, the best thing to do is wait a little and see how things unfold. Ged stayed with Ogion for years, learning about the old language, the names of flower petals and bugs. There’s time to let the characters evolve.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Take your time.

Changes from the previous version
  • The wording of the ritual phrases has been changed; some phrases have been added; and the effect of some of them is different. Yes, that means you need to re-read them all if you’ve played the game before.

  • Fate and resolution cards have been added. Fate cards make ownership more active, and get the map more into play. Resolution cards are more fun than just red vs black cards.

  • There are a lot of little clarifications and expansions – on creating characters, creating destiny points, using the map, active ownership etc.

  • I’ve included a section on group dynamics from Wikipedia, along with my comments relating to Archipelagoan design.

    Download the newest version of the rules (Archipelago III) here!

Download Archipelago II here!

Try out the new techniques!

Check out the card deck!

Play the Spanish version!

…or the French one!

Mix it up with “Once Upon a Time”!

Try the “I Wanna Be a Stormtrooper” playset!

Download the steampunk playset “Anarktica”!

Grab your miniatures and dice and download the “A Grail Epoch” hack!

53 thoughts on “Archipelago II

  1. Pingback: Archipelago « Nørwegian Style

  2. George, thanks for recording it! And putting it on the net! And letting me know! It’s great fun to hear that people are actually playing my game, and it’s incredibly useful for me as a designer to hear how you’re playing it.

    I’ve listened through the first hour. It sounds to me like you were all contributing a lot, and it’s cool and interesting stuff. You do seem to interrupt each other a lot, but that might just be the effect of my listening to the recording without being able to pick up cues such as body language.

    The group seems to play pretty loose with the rules. My experience with trying new games from different design cultures (such as PTA) is that it’s often useful to stick very closely and explicitly to the written rules at first. Saying stuff like “I’m starting my turn now, and here’s how I set the scene”, for example, can sound very formal, but at the same time it prevents confusion and interruption later.

    Looking forward to listening through the rest of it! Again, thanks for putting this on the net!

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      • I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. Reading it was fun. But I like Commedia dell’Arte.

        You earn a token by drawing from the Mayhem Pot (full of paper slips of troublesome or funny things that everyone has made up). One example is “Another member of the cast (pick one) has stolen a small but important item belonging to you. You MUST get it back by the end of the scene.”

        Your fate card, “Something important is stolen from this character by someone connected to the element you own.” struck me as similar.

  5. Having played the first version of Archipelago several times and enjoying it, I wasn’t sure how different the game was going to be with updated rules. But honestly, the cards added a lot of meat to a game that was mostly skin and bones.

    The new rules and cards add just enough of a random feeling and jolt to the game to make it sing even better.

    Download the rules and try it yourself!

  6. Hey Matthijs!

    I hope you are well. I was wondering what the status of Archipelago II
    is – I really like the game and would like to hack it in my own
    directions, and wanted your approval before I started. Let me know how, if at all, you’d be comfortable with me using your work. I’m not considering a commercial thing, but perhaps a hack that would be freely shared.


    • Hey, Jason! Take it in any direction you like; feel free to use any part of the text non-commercially. I’d like you to mention my name and the Nørwegian Style blog somewhere in your text, though.

      And thanks for asking!

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  8. Hi Matthijs! I’m an Italian rpgist and I’m glad to taste your excellent job. I’m translating it in Italian and I’d like to publish (on the web) this translation in order to give you a lot of feedbacks from a lot of Italians. May you allow me to do it? In what terms & conditions?
    I am NOT interested in business or trade (NO MONEY PURPOSE): I just want to free publish it on the web.

    I hope you’ll read my message, so THANKS.

  9. Finally got time for reading this. At first I was set aback by how similar it seemed to my game, storyboard. However upon completing it I recognice it has a quite different aproach. I still think storyboard are better for new, unexperienced groups – But for the target audience of this game Archipelago seem supreme in every way!

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    • Hei! Jeg skrev det på engelsk for å nå ut til et litt bredere publikum. Den første versjonen var på norsk, men jeg klarer rett og slett ikke å finne den igjen – tror den må ligge på en annen datamaskin fra tidenes morgen et sted! Så nei, dessverre…

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    • Hey, Federico!

      Glad you liked it! Yeah, people have different views on how to handle several PCs in the same scene. As long as you know who’s supposed to be in focus, and respect their story/protagonism (is that a word?), it should work out fine.

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    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for playing Last Train Out of Warsaw! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Personally I think skipping that scene was smart, since it sounds like no one was prepared for it at the start.

      I wrote it with the assumption that those things happen in a fixed progression if the player characters do nothing, like a countdown clock in Apocalypse World. In practice they usually take action to prevent atrocities and foil the bandits in some way.

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