Nine Suns: Tragic Co-Op Board Game?

2008 Sep 3

Someone commented over on Secret Wars, asking if I’d given up on finishing Nine Suns Must Fall (a.k.a. the Shang Dynasty divination and disasters game). Honestly, this is the best way to make me work on some set-aside project: ask about it. On the subway ride home from work, my brain imagined this, showing a board game partially begun:

The brownish squares represent Shang communities. The two communities with glyphs on them are Shang, the first capitol, and Yin, the second one established under Wu Ding.

Through divination — poking holes in pieces of paper marked with turtle shell pictures and then ripping them to create random patterns — the players figure out how much rain happens in a given season. If there’s not enough rain, the players may have to dissolve one of their communities. If there’s too much rain, “flood” tokens (the blue squares) are placed on the map, touching the rivers. Based on the number of communities that choose to cooperate in flood-fighting, the players may also earn the ability to remove one or more flood tokens after they’ve been placed.

If too many flood tokens or other minor problems begin to accumulate, one of the nine suns must fall. On the left side of the board, the cards for the nine suns are placed face down. If a sun falls, flip over the appropriate card (two suns have fallen, according to this board) and place the resulting disaster somewhere on the board. The disasters currently on the board are a wildfire and a major flood (the latter of which has to connect to existing flood tokens). If you place a disaster far away from your communities, it’s less likely to destroy them, but it’s also more difficult for the communities to cooperate in fighting the disaster.

There’s also something about the week getting shorter because there are fewer suns, since the Shang had a day of the week for each sun. Currently, according to this board, we’re on the 9th day of a 10-day week, but two suns have already fallen, making it an 8-day week. Not sure how this works mechanically yet, but I think it should cause the disasters to appear faster and faster, with fewer opportunities to fight and remove them.

The game ends when the current capitol is destroyed, ending the Shang royal line. There should be some mechanics for moving the capitol from Shang, where it initially starts, to Yin, during the course of play.

2 Responses to “Nine Suns: Tragic Co-Op Board Game?”

  1. xiaolongnu Says:

    Awesome! I recommend Sarah Allan’s “The Shape of the Turtle” for some great conceptual thinking about the Shang symbolic world. There’s so much to work with there… could you get Great Yu in to counter the floods?

    Do you know about liubo, the cosmological boardgame found in ancient Chinese tombs? It seems to be related to cosmological diagrams found on the back of bronze mirrors of the Warring States and Han. Nobody knows what the rules are, but iirc there was an awesome ivory d20 found with one set.

  2. Glad it looks interesting! I know of Sarah Allen’s book, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it.

    I didn’t know about Liubo actually, but reading about it online is very interesting… hmm…

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