Designing Glim: Dominions

Early in 2023, Gregg Hale—one of the creators of The Blair Witch Project—came to Twogether Studios with a challenge. Gregg was developing a setting called The Emerald Anvil, a magical world that would be explored through many different mediums… including a podcast, a novel, and—if we were up to the challenge—a game. As with out game Illimat, we wanted to create a game that felt as if it was part of the world of Hada, something that would draw you into the setting as you played it. We came up with the idea of a dice game, something based on a Hadeen gambling game that had evolved into a sort of teaching tool for learning about the Dominions of Hada—the powerful factions that drive the story of the world.

The basic gameplay of Glim is simple. Six resource cards are laid out on the cloth board, each paired with a symbol on the board. On your turn, you roll a certain number of dice. Choose one of the symbols that you’re rolled, and place a number of your influence tokens on that card equal to the number of dice showing that symbol. So if you roll 2 Trade and 1 Force, you can place one influence token on the resource in the Force position, or two influence tokens on the resource in the Trade position. Players take turns rolling and placing until all influence tokens have been placed; at that point, if you have the most influence on a resource, you collect the card. Resource cards have a Glim Value, and these are how you win the game; at the end of three rounds of play, whoever has the highest total Glim is the winner. But resource cards also grant you special abilities you can use in subsequent rounds. So the first round is fairly simple, but in each round that follows, players have more tools and options to work with.

At the start of the game, each player chooses one of the four Dominions. There are thirty-six Dominions in the world of Hada. Each has a unique culture and ways of manipulating the mystical power of glim. Pydos are brutal and militaristic; Hogo Sha seek serenity and balance; Auga is wealthy and hedonistic; and The Walking are enigmatic sorcerers, who manipulate glim in very different ways from the other Hadeen. Gregg Hale has shared more of the lore of the world on the Kickstarter Page. In designing the game, the challenge for Jenn and I was to find a way to capture the flavor of each Dominion without presenting a lot of exposition—to have the Dominion feel like it should, so as you play as Pydos you feel aggressive and when you play the Walking you feel like a sneaky puppet master.

Each Dominion is represented by a double sided Persona card, and when you choose your dominion you decide which of the two Personas you will use. So for Pydos, you can be the Crown Priestess or the Zealous Knight. Let’s start with a look at the Crown Priestess of Pydos.

The core mechanics of Glim are simple. Each Persona has two tactics. On your turn, you choose one of those two tactics; that determines how many dice you will roll to place influence, and adds special rules. Each Persona within a Dominion shares one tactic. So in the case of Pydos, both the Crown Priestess and the Zealous Knight have the Relentless Barrage tactic, which lets them roll all six dice. This is a simple, brutal move—it gives them lots of options, but it lacks any sort of finesse. It helps Pydos feel powerful, as you scoop up all the dice and throw them on the table… but it’s not very subtle. It’s also a strong basic tactic that is always going to be useful.

Each Persona also has a second, unique tactic—and these are more specialized. The Imperial Siege ability of the Crown Priestess only gives her four dice, but when she places influence on a resource she also removes an opponent’s token from that card. This is an aggressive move that helps the Priestess dominate her chosen resources. However, because the token is returned to the original player, it gives them a chance to place it again—potentially adding unexpected drama to the final turns of a round. Between these two abilities, the Priestess feels forceful and aggressive—exactly what we want from Pydos.

The Walking are enigmatic sorcerers with a hidden agenda. Where the other Hadeen use glim to soar through the skies, they prefer to walk in the shadows. So with the Walking, we wanted them to feel magical and manipulative. The two Walking Personas are the Grand Mage and the Keeper of the Eye. Both share the Shackled God tactic, a reference to a powerful entity the Walking have bound with their rituals. This workhorse tactic only rolls four dice, rather than the six dice Pydos can use. However, when the Walking roll Knowledge icons, they can treat them as any other symbol. This makes them unpredictable but potentially highly flexible… and reflects the idea that for them, Knowledge is power.

The Keeper’s second tactic, Visions of Strife, is one of my favorites. It’s essentially the opposite of the Crown Priestess’s Imperial Siege. When the Priestess uses Siege she removes an opponent’s piece from a card. When you use Visions of Strife, you force another player to commit an influence token wherever you put yours. It’s tricky, because you’re inherently creating a head-to-head contest with another player. But used properly you can force a player to commit resources to a weak position, or block their plans to reinforce another resource. It’s a subtle ability, and you might go an entire round without ever having a time where it feels like the best move to make. But there are times when it’s absolutely perfect—and when it’s not, Shackled God is a strong reliable move. Comparing the two, Pydos is a simpler, blunt instrument—while the Walking are subtle, but have a devastating potential to interfere with the plans of the other players.

These are just two of the eight Personas, but they give you a glimpse of the flavor and mechanics of the game. Gameplay is simple, and yet the Dominions feel very different… and very quickly you’ll find there’s Dominions you love and Dominions you hate! Keep in mind that your initial tactics are soon supplemented by the resources you acquire: while you start with only two moves you can make, each round has more options than the one before.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the design of Glim and the world of Hada. The game is on Kickstarter now, but there’s only a few days left to make it happen—check it out now! And shout-out to artist Ren Lindroos and graphic designer Adi Slepak, who created the Persona cards seen here!

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