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Legends of the New Year

By Mark Stamp

Legends of the New Year is a board game set in the depths of
Chinas past, in an age where myth and history blurred. Once a year,
for one night, the dreaded spirit lord Nian emerges from the
Shadow Realm to devour entire villages and their livestock.
One night, four mysterious travellers arrived in one of the villages
living in fear of Nian. The travellers promised to rid the villagers of
the beast and promised that with their wisdom, Nian would never
terrorise their village again.
The game itself is the night these travellers made good on their
promise. And it will be up to the players to use the knowledge of
these mysterious travellers to protect the village from Nians terror.

How to Play
The goal of the game is to trap and capture Nian beast while
ensuring as few villagers die as possible. This is done by herding
Nian using a mix of good and bad fortune items that will either draw
him somewhere or drive him away, leading him though the village
into a trap zone.
Players will have five rounds to search the village for fortune cards
before Nian shows up. When Nian does appear he will run around
the village eating villagers.
The game is considered lost when Nian eats all of the villagers on
the board. And considered won when no set of moves made by Nian
can threaten any of the surviving villagers.

Game rules

Players pick up to four hero characters

Players gain fortune cards by visiting houses and combating the Sha within them using dice rolls.

Discovered Sha are given a strength score (between 1 and 5, determined by a dice). A player must roll a higher score to
defeat the Sha

If a player fails to defeat a Sha they cannot re-enter that house for three turns

When a Sha is defeated, the player must draw from a gift deck. Pulling out a card at random.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are gained from defeating Sha

Each gift will have a fortune score between -4 and +4, but not 0.

Fortune cards can be placed on the board using a token.

A cards fortune score represents the effect radius of a card on the board, the positive or negative status represents the
effect the card will have on Nian.

bad fortune cards will attract Nian while good fortune cards will repel him.

Nian will be under the effects of a card when he is in a square adjacent to one occupied by the radius of the fortune card.

Cards can be placed adjacent to each other to combine their fortune score.

Combined cards can never have a fortune score greater than +/-4

Fortune Cards
The travellers protect the village
using various items imbued with good
or bad fortune. These trinkets are
represented by various cards that are
divided into two broad categories
based on what they are.
Good fortune cards would include
red items, precious stones and edible
prosperity and life.
Bad fortune cards would include
black items, blades and clocks.
Things that represent cutting of ties,
death or things drawing to a close.
The clear distinction between the
two card types will allow for easy
identification during gameplay. Each
item has a fortune score between -4
and +4, which represents how
powerful it is. These cards can be
utilised by identifying their area of
effect on the board with a set of
tokens that can be stacked.

The Mysterious Traveller

Coming from parts unknown, the traveller is
an outsider to the village. He is known to
wander the valleys and mountains of China,
protecting villagers hunting Nian wherever it
appears. Why he does this is unknown, as he
rarely speaks about anything beyond
protecting people from becoming Nians
Despite his human appearance, the traveller
has an in-depth knowledge of Nian and his
weaknesses. Which he uses to drive the beast
away wherever it emerges. He is a man of
few words, and disappears as abruptly as he
arrives once he has driven off his quarry.
The traveller can be recognised by the red
cloth draped over his body, a colour that in
Chinese culture symbolises luck and health,
and is a colour that Nian fears due to its
vibrance and association with life. The
travellers signature weapon, a simple
wooden quarterstaff, is used primarily as a
walking aid and a means of defence against
less supernatural opponents such as animals
and bandits.

The Mysterious Traveller

The hero represents the player in the story. In the original mythology there is only
one, but Legends of the New Year is a game that is designed for up to four people to
play as heroes. I kept to looking at one hero design that I would focus on for the
puirposes of the project, and the one that stuck out most was one wearing a straw hat
as it had the most distinctive features without looking too militaristic.

Nian, Shadow Lord of the Winters End

Nian is an ancient spirit of the wilderness.
Every spring marks his brief emergence from
the shadow realm, where for one night he
descends upon the people of China. Starving
and eager for the taste of living flesh. He is
not particular towards either animals or
humans, he hungers for both.

Nian is an embodiment of all things ending.

Of life and of time. Things that represent
tiem running out or death empower him.
Implements of death and tragedy such as
knives, blades and spears merely shatter
upon his body and for this reason he has
vulnerabilities. Tings that embody life and
continuation frighten him and drive him
As a spirit beast, Nian relies on his own
body to defend himself. Mortal weapons
cannot hurt him and when he has to fight, he
has large, sharp claws on each foot and a
bountiful set of large teeth. His smoky mane
can serve to aid him in hunting, either
obscuring him or providing an environment
that renders his prey completely helpless as
he closes in.

Nian, Shadow Lord of the Winters End

Nian is a significant feature in Chinese folklore and one of the things I wanted to do with his design was nail a sense of
fear and mystery in the creature. The Chinese feared him, he was a manifestation of the end of the old and his rampages
were winters last attempt at harshly taking life. So I imagine that he is going to be large, powerful, but fast.

The Sha
The Sha are inhabitants of the shadow realm, a
twisted negative representation of the physical
world. To most people, the Sha are invisible, their
primary interaction with the physical world being
ther involvement in the manifestation of
misfortune or negativity.
As spirits of negativity, Sha are drawn and
emboldened by negative or foreboding feelings
such as anger, sadness, misery, fear and envy.
They are repulsed by positivity and life. Lesser
Sha will be desperate to counteract this positivity,
but all Sha are repulsed by powerful presences of
positive nergy and their own appearances. This
dissatisfaction of their own appearance stems
from their grotesque nature as creatures of sorrow
and despair, but they cannot stand to see
themselves as the twisted figures they are.
The sha that terrorise the village act in fear of
Nian, a greater spirit whose ancient power
commands an authority for them to follow. They
act as his heralds on the night he emerges, soaring
across the world looking for villages ripe for his

The Sha
creatures, and in Chinese
mythology are a negative
counterpart to ChI, which
describes breath, wind or
appropriate to design the
Sha, bad spirits that
counter ChI, to appear to
be some kind of corrupted
spirit of air or wind. There
was some experimentation
into varying kinds of
inhuman face including
eyes-only, wraith-mouthed,
and no face at all.

The Village
Before China was united under
the Xia dynasty many thousands
of years ago, China was a land of
isolation, mountain villages and
bandits lurking in the woods. It
was a time when the next valley
away may as well have been the
next world away, and that your
world was the village you grew
up in. The occasional travelling
merchant would be the only good
outsider to visit such places. But
whenever these villages came
under attack, it was either the
peoples own responsibility to
protect themselves or the
responsibility of a local warlord.
To protect his lands and his

The Village
The village had to have a timeless feel.
Fortunately, eve that have beenn modern
China is littered with villages built using
traditional materials such as wood, straw
plaster, more straw and clay tiles. Such
places also lack signal aerials, mobile phone
masts or telecom wires, giving the feeling
that the visitor is transported back to a time
long before Chinas modernisation.