Game Design

Clans of Caledonia – A Walk Through Game Design With Juma Al-JouJou

Hey folks,

After a short hiatus due to intense work on Arkon, a Walk Through Game Design is back and we have an epic interview for you today! Clans of Caledonia jumped on the scene in 2017 with a kickstarter that pulled in nearly a half a million dollars! Quickly jumping into the slot of a seminal game in the space, Clans of Caledonia is a phenomenal example of a light weight euro with great replay value and depth. Let’s get to the questions:

How did you work to foster increased interaction in your game design and how important was interaction in your game development?


Interaction is very important for me as a player and game designer. I started with games by being a competitive chess player in tournaments in my youth. An abstract two player game like chess is very interactive since it is zero-sum: your loss is my gain and vice versa. That is why I consider two player abstract games optimal for strategy games. 
Once you introduce more players you either have strong king-making effects or you need to decrease the interaction to avoid that. Both are not optimal in my opinion. 
Nonetheless I try to foster interaction by introducing zero-sum subsystems like scorings with a fixed number of victory points to be distributed among players. Also, I try to make certain options attractive for all players. Cheap hex spaces are attractive for all players in Clans of Caledonia.

How did you consider replay value in the design process? What ways did you work to increase replay value?

Replay value is also very important for me. I am into sustainability and I like the idea that the resources used for the production of my game are used very often due to high replay value. I just try to make the setup as variable as possible, like adding different scoring tiles, a modular board and of course player powers.

What was the most substantial change that happened during playtesting?

The most substantial change was changing the market such that one can not only sell but also buy goods and limit those trades by your merchants.

How did you find the artists and graphic designers for your game?

Quite easy, I just contacted Klemens via FB since we were already connected.

What are the major dynamics that make your game unique? How did you brainstorm or come up with the original concepts behind those?

The interplay between the market and the option to produce goods yourself in combination with a production chain and contracts: If the basic good is cheap you may buy it to supply your processed goods buildings. If the price of your processed goods is low at the market you might rather export than sell them etc. That makes the game quite tactical and you need to adapt to the market changes to play optimally.

How did you think about barrier of entry when you designed your game?

I try to make the game as accessible as possible by not introducing mechanics that are overly complex. I want the decision tree, the interaction between players create interesting complexity but the complexity shall not be created by the mechanics or rules.

What is one piece of advice you would give to new game designers trying to get into this space?

Always assume that your game is not perfect yet and be your critical playtester. Do not fall in love with your game.

To buy the game or check out more info on it, read up here: