Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tales of the Horn: Tevash

A board game made for the Tales of the Horn/Legendfall Game providing play and full resolution rules

I love designing games of any type.  From roleplaying homebrews to simple little dice games I enjoy them all.  When I was working on the Tales from the Horn/Legendfall campaign I created an entire in-game game to be played by noble and peasant alike.  As I had generated the information I figured you may enjoy reading it, so here is the game of Tevash.
The board that initially inspired me
Tevash (Zaj: Խաղ հիմար, or Ildi Tevash, The Fool's Journey) is a traditional Zajan board and tile game played with specially carved sets of two interlocking tiles.  The traditional Zajan Tevash board is a thin trifold board made of Zajan alabaster with a carved field and small ebony boards to place Family tiles.

The two sided tiles consist of a Plan (պլան, traditionally painted alabaster) tile that has a slot to place the Result (արդյունք, traditionally thin copper or gold) tile.  Results are marked with either a simple pip symbol (in the 'common' game) or intricate symbols (in the Royal form) that indicate each pieces value.  Players have thirty Plan tiles that are the same for every player (except for color), signifying twenty Courtiers (միջնորդ), five Councilors (խորհուրդ), and the Family ,consisting of a Prince (իշխան), Princess (փոքր), Vizier (կարգադրիչ), Lady (թագուհի), and Lord (ինքնակալ).  The game is to be played by three or four individuals, though two individuals may play due to its random nature.

The players draw out their Result tiles to slot with each Plan.  The player must blindly choose his Courtier's and Councilor's tiles, placing the pieces together by sliding them to lock.  The Royal side are chosen face presented to the player, and may be arrayed.

Result tiles are labeled 1-5, with 16 tiles representing 'trump' symbols for the Four Sultans of the Dunes of Zajara.  Depending on the location these Sultans are ranked by local enmity, but outside of Zajara they are ranked North-East-West-South (worth 10-8-7-6).  The games rules are simple; each side 'wars' (պայքար) with the other, placing a certain amount of tiles on the central 'field'.

The initiating player (պատերազմող կողմ, or Belligerent), declares the 'war', placing a certain amount of Courtiers on the field, and offers a sacrifice value of pieces he is willing to take to prevent conflict.  The Defense (պաշտպան, Defender) may choose to accept this sacrifice of Courtiers, or place his own pieces.  The Defender may place additional pieces on the board up to the amount of players - him.  The Defense then offers the option to flee (with a sacrifice amount), battle, or Escalate (բարձրացնել, 'Rise up') for another round.

The same process repeats for the Councilors, and if the War is fought they match.  Each side flips a single tile.  If the tiles flipped match the two opponents remove that tile from play.  The higher tile remains on the board, and the opponent who drew the lower must then flip tiles to match or exceed the higher tile.  Each tile flipped is lost, then the next move is taken.

The army with remaining pieces marks all captured pieces.  When one player only has his Family left the game ends, with all captured pieces counting for 1 pt per 'face/pip', and any Family counting for 5x their face/pip value.

The interesting aspect of the battle system is the interference of other players.  Any player may pause the combat after any round of 'battle' and offer to trade a certain amount of captured tiles for a certain amount of either his own tiles in return or a player's Family tiles.  Great strategy must be used on the part of the Player as they may as the offer on family tiles may be 'blind' (the family card is selected at random by his benefactor) or 'open' (the player chooses the family card to give), or 'ransom' if the opponent blatantly asks for a specific tile.  Captured tiles offered in this way are known as Fallen tiles, and count against a player at the end of the game for 1 pt each if they outnumber his own standing Army.

This game is considered a traditional game of Zajara, and is common among soldiers, traders, and kings who have dealings with their people, along with those who live in metropolitan communities with concentrations of Zajan.  The game is popular as a long-term gambling game, with a round paying out based on the separation of points between the winner and each loser.

Players of the game usually use a system (պատվավոր, Honor Seat) whereby a commoner can play with a king.  Each individual at the table chooses Copper, Silver, Gold, or another medium of exchange, and pays/is paid out at a rate in accordance.  The name is in reference to the Zajan system of the Honor Seat, whereby a man who is not born into the higher classes who earns trust through shrewd insights can rise in their hierarchy.  The Zajan phrase միտքը ոսկու եւ ձեռքին կավի (Mind of Gold/Hands of Clay) is commonly carved into the positions surrounding the Tevash board, and is prominently displayed on the top of finely-crafted Tevash sets made by Zajan gamesmiths.

Roleplaying Tevash:

A traditional game of Tevash, while played for money, is also set at a leisurely pace.  Much table-talking occurs, and the game may last between 30-90 minutes.  Since much of the game is focused on an element of chance alongside diplomacy a Tevash player may use either his Gambling OR Diplomacy check at most tables, with the required Check DC being set at the beginning of the game.  Most gambling parlors set the check as equal to changing an 15 + Cha modifier of the highest CHA player.  Every game is treated as a Skill Challenge lasting 1 check/10 minutes of play.  At the end of the game the Total of all checks is added and the tally is divided by 10.  The individual who succeeded at the most checks adds +1 for each check he has completed against the table DC, and an additional +1 for every check he bested the worst player by, and subtract the Worst Player Total (no bonuses).  This is the amount of 'units' that player has won against his Table Bet.

A skilled Tevash player may, at his discretion, lower his own Check by up to -5 by performing a Bluff using the table's overall DC.  If caught the player is considered to be in bad form, as the game is considered a game of skill, and may suffer roleplaying penalties for his bluff.


A merchant lord has invited a dock commander, a noble, and a renowned Tevash master (and rumored member of the Thieve's Guild) to play in his rooms as part of a discussion of matters important to his business.  The game lasts for 60 minutes, during which much discussion occurs about matters pertaining to their individual needs, and then the board is put away.

The Table DC for a friendly game is set to a DC of 15.  The players make their rolls but due to alcohol consumption suffer a small penalty.

The Merchant Lord: 10, 3, 12, 13, 18, 19 == 75, 7 'points'
The Noble: 6, 15, 2, 11, 4, 12 == 50, 5 'points'
The Tevash Master: 9, 8, 19, 16, 11, 19 == 82, 8 'points', +5/+3/-5.
The Commander: 5, 10, 13, 10, 2, 18 == 58, 5 'points'

The Noble, a bit far into his cups, seems to have been the worse for wear in the game.  The Tevash master, using that to his advantage, is the overall victor for the night.  Having bet 2 SP per point he walks away from the game with 2gp2sp, a nice friendly night.  The Merchant Lord, having bet in 50 gp rubies against the Noble, had 7 points overall, but did not get the Table Winner bonus and thus only collects 100 GP.  The Commander, thanking his stars that he had not lost, walks away having made an initial bet of 10 pp against the Noble, and follows the Tevash Master back to the Dockside to learn tricks of the trade.


Cheating is heavily frowned upon at a friendly or diplomatic table, and the game is difficult to cheat due to the nature of the blind tile selection.  However, Tevash players who desire to cheat may cheat through any standard means.  Most reputable parlors have staff on hand to detect the use of charm, cheat, or similar spellcraft, and will toss a player upon cheating making them forfeit their wagers as if they had scored 1s on all checks made after the cheating is observed.


Tevash is considered a legal game of chance in most of the Horn, and is the National Game of Zajara.  Most regulators of gambling dens mark each board's box with a brand upon import signifying the board has cleared their checks to prevent cheating.  The importation of Tevash boards into Zajara is strictly prohibited by the Gamemasters, at a fine of one week's wages per board imported.


A common Zajan Tevash board costs 45 GP.  These are simply carved boards in plain boxes, and the paints on the tile are simply single toned.  A Noble Tevash board made with golden Results and intricate hand painted Plans can run upwards of 2000 GP.

The Imperial Marriage Board

There are several famous Tevash boards that have been made for various visiting dignitaries or the noble houses of Zajan.  The famous Imperial Marriage board, a triple-sized board renowned for its craftsmanship, was gifted in dowry upon the marriage of Paldo leader Jonathan Paldison and Yilindi, Exalted Maiden of the Court of the Four in the third century AV.

The Imperial Marriage is unique as the Gamemasters claim the board and Plan are made from the bones and horn of a giant beast born of fire and air.  This unique marbled-bone board is carved with scrollwork beyond compare, and each Plan is painted with seventy eighty members of the Court of the Four at the time of the marriage, twenty prominent nobles as the Councilors, and representatives of the Four as each of the Family.  The box is made of finest Methiran ebony, with a perfect-to-life picture of the striking Yilindi.  It is said that the hair of the Maiden was worked gold, and the lines made up of linking verses of Zajan poetry of love, strength, and protection.

The tiles alone (with their Results made from flawless gems) are worth thousands of GP.  There are those who consider the board as part of the unofficial Imperial Jewels of Paldo, including the sword Dawncrier, the Helm of Saint Grigor, and the Armor of the Sun Lord.

I would LOVE to actually make a set of Tevash tiles for playing, as I have tried playtesting with cards and (while fun) the game would be excellent in its 'real' form.  If you have information on ways to fabricate the game I would love to hear about them in the comments or through email at my name at

As Always,

Good Gaming.