In 2008, I had just a germ of an idea for a new board game. Players would be natives racing around gathering items for a big feast. After a bit of thought, I had two important realizations: I wanted the challenge of addressing cannibalism in a fun and quirky way, instead of a serious socialogical/historical sense and the board part of the game was unnecessary. I tried to solve the first problem by making being eaten the desirable outcome, and printed up cards to alleviate the second problem.
Those first few playtests went well, at least as well as alpha playtests of new games ever go. But I had elected to go for hidden roles, and for each role to have unique victory conditions. The original intent was for the identity of each role to be revealed in the game by the player’s actions, but revealing the role didn’t score any points and usually didn’t measurably change how the players played… they were too busy trying to fulfill their own victory conditions. Plus the hidden roles bothered me as well from a theme point of view… why did all these tribespeople not know their fellows’ preferences and quirks, and why did they not realize there was a Stranger among them that would rather not be the main course? I tried to solve it with Tiki masks, but didn’t want to offend any real world people. So I had reached Balin’s tomb and halted there for a long time.1
1 This is of course, from the foreward to the Lord of the Rings. Reading the foreword and the ancillary materials published by Christopher Tolkien gives me hope… if the Professor struggled, then it’s okay if sometimes I struggle too.