Mister Phes

Ambassador Project - Definition of Design Constraints

46 posts in this topic

Design a NEW LEGO Pirates Sub-Theme

DEFINITION OF DESIGN CONSTRAINTS

Those who wish to participate should first read the Design a NEW Pirate Sub-Theme Project Overview.

Objective

To determine design standards for the proposed LEGO Pirates sub-theme.

The group as a whole shall define the details of what constitutes a legal build.

The collaboration and discussion will allow the participants to understand where the rules have originated.

What has been defined

  • 10-12 new printed torsos
  • Torsos, head pieces and leg pieces can have a maximum of four printed colors, NOT including base color and black is counted.
  • 5-6 new printed legs or skirts

What Needs to be Defined

  • Build style and technique - target audience
  • Number of minifigs, amount of printing, number of colours, design style (black lining) printing constraints
  • New parts
  • Minimisation of the number of unique parts
  • Legal connections
  • Connected builds - no loose bricks
  • Accessibility - gap/door sizes, interior depths
  • Play function / story telling

Timeline

This thread will run in parallel with the LEGO Pirate Sub-theme suggestions thread and Voting Poll.

What happens next?

The standards determined in this thread will be adhered during the Prototyping Stage of Phase 3.

A peer review process will be conducted to ensure these standards are maintained.

Rules

Project management holds right of veto on the final set of rules to ensure that they are in line with what we assume the The LEGO Group group uses internally.

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Placeholder post for listing the Design Constraints as they are determined.

This will be updated periodically as constraints are determined.

Edited by The_Cook

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Anyone that has been building Lego for any significant length of time will realise that sets designed by the The LEGO Group have a specific style of construction, to ensure that the builds can be replicated by children around the world, rather than the more free-form building practices of the wider MOC building community. If we are to create a new theme that the LEGO Group could potentially produce then we need to work to a set of design rules that emulate theirs. Rather than just impose a set of rules on the project the project management felt it important that all participants should understand how the design rules that they will have to work to have been determined. Collaborating as a group is the best way to achieve that and it allows everyone to see the decision making process in the open. It also keeps us honest, there's no point trying to cheat the rule and setting down rules that allow us to design sets with twice the number of minifigures than usual because the Lego Group would look at that proposal and turn us away.

I'll get this topic going with a conversation that Admiral Blockbeard and I were having earlier so that you can see the sort of things that need discussing:

My first thought is that we do not particularly want to restrict our target market more than saying that the design should be 5+ for small sets and 7+ for large sets. Avoid gender issues, and limits on upper ages. It should be clear though that the designs (when we get to that) use simple, sturdy techniques able to be built by kids and stand up to rough play.

As for proper designs and rules the best guide is always the past. In each release by Lego there have been 1) pirates 2) non-pirates. This is something to continue with. Each release has also got different sized sets and price points. Often including the following;

Minifigure + small amount of environment

2-3 Minifigures + Animal/ environment /transport

4-6 Minifigures + 16x32 baseplate base/ medium-Large transport

6-8 Minifigures Big base/ big transport. Most expensive set. The "Dream Set"

A good reference to illustrate what I mean is the sets released in 1991. (stolen from my own post on aussielegofans forum)

...1991 Sets...

tn_6234-1_jpg.jpg - Renegade's Raft

tn_6259-1_jpg.jpg - Broadside's Brig

tn_6267-1_jpg.jpg - Lagoon Lock-Up

tn_6273-1_jpg.jpg - Rock Island Refuge

Using the 2009 Pirate Theme for guidance...

$4.50 - 8396 Soldier's Arsenal & 8397 Pirate Survival

$8.00 - 6239 Cannon Battle

$15.00 - 6240 Kraken Attackin'

$30.00 - 6241 Loot Island

$60.00 - 6253 Shipwreck Hideout

$80.00 - 6242 Soldiers' Fort

$120.00 - 6243 Brickbeard's Bounty

Prices are based on approximate Australian retail values which are more expense than anywhere else...

So there are 8 sets not including the Battle Pack, Advent Calendar, Imperial Flagship and whatever else there was.

We can probably do an analysis of all the recent single year themes from the past 2 years such as Castle, Monster Fighters, Pharaohs Quest they all have a roughly similar pattern of the size of sets and price points that they're targetting. Prices shown are US dollars, information taken from Brickset.

Castle (euros) - 10,20,30,50,100

Monster (euros) - 8,10,20,30,40,50,80,100

Pharaoh (euros) - 5,10,20,30,50,100

The common points are 10,20,30,50,100 and the euro prices I was looking at equate to the dollar prices. Perhaps we aim for an $8 set as well, so the 5 or 6 sets.

Instructions should state that we're focusing on the core of the theme, not polybags, advent calendars, minifig only battlepacks or high complexity store exclusives like the Imperial Flagship.

The research should be written up so that they participants have some background and context for why we're asking for those price points and associated piece counts. I think the majority of the builders understand that a successful theme can't all be battlepacks and flagships and that majority will be able to guide the rest.

I agree that aiming for 6 (sizes) could be best.

Taking on both of your points I propose the following so that a revised release looks something like this; Cost in Aus $ for now. Added pound for comparison.

1) 1 minifig - (x2, one for both factions)

Small character pack, just accessories.

20 pieces

This is a $5 option (£2.45)

2) 2 minifigs - (x2, one for both factions)

Small play set, play functions, (boats, animals, cannons) no base just main items required for interaction of elements,

55 pieces

This is a $10 option (something between Cannon Battle and Kracken Attackin) (£6.99)

3) 3 minifigs - 2 of one faction 1 of other,

Medium play set, small base and additional small accessories.

150 pieces

This is a $30 option (£17.99)

4) 5 minifigs - 3 of one faction 2 of other,

Medium play set, medium base and additional medium accessories.

250ish pieces

This is a $50 option (£26.45)

5) 6 minifigs - 4 of one 2 of other

Large play set, large base and extra accessories

400ish pieces

This is $80 option (£39.99)

6) 8 minifigs, 5 of one 3 of other

Dream set - captures essence of theme, Large playset

600ish pieces

This is $120 option (£59.00)

Not included - Advent Calendar, UCS, Battle Packs and Store Exclusives.

Approximate 5 pieces per dollar. Obviously in design stage the more expensive pieces included the less the count.

I wouldn't state the mix of minifig factions for each price point leave that to the designers.

Do we need to provide more advice on 5 pieces-per-dollar or is the community going to be sensible enough to embrace that? Hull pieces, horses, sharks, crocodiles aren't the same as a cheese wedge; do the the aforementioned large parts cost the equivalent of 10 bricks? Do we just trust people to be sensible?

Similarly do we need rules on printed pieces such as tiles? Does a printed piece cost 5 bricks?

The intention isn't to impose sheets of translation tables to convert specific bricks to different brick counts but to make the designers aware that there are cost implications to their actions and that they can't have everything.

Through individual research and group discussion we've established a reasonable outline for the target sizes and make-up of sets that The Lego Group have released in the past. The mix of set sizes seems to be consistent between the different single release themes so the project should try to match that mix.

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Next topic really ought to be "deterime the number of unique minifig designs within the series".

I'll do some research on the old pirates waves and the same set of 1 wave series from more recent years to establish just how many unique minifig parts are actually produced per wave.

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One thing I would suggest would be to try to keep the "unique" minifigs to the bigger sets and more "generic" sorts for the lower points so it's easier to mix-and-match figure parts to build a bigger force. (For example, I bought a number of extra Soldier's Arsenal packs to do some custom fitting on my IFS, and a number of the small set with the cannon to up-gun both IFS and Brickbeard's Bounty.)

Also, I'd suggest if possible ADM Blockbeard's #1 and #2 listings should ideally be designed either to have secondary parts-pack use or to integrate with larger sets, like how there's that small spot on the soldiers' base that seems almost purpose-designed to have a Soldier's Arsenal set drop right into it.

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The use of the 1991 sets as a model seems like a good idea. Not so much the 2009 pirates theme, as it had too many bases and only one actual ship.

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Here are my suggestions/hopes:

  • Build style and technique - target audience:
    ---target audience should be kids, with a build style similar to the old pirates. Blocky forts that look sturdy, and ships that are meant to be played with and not sit on a shelf.
  • Number of minifigs, amount of printing, number of colours, design style (black lining) printing constraints
    ---I would like to see a return of white and yellow for land buildings vs the new white and tan scheme. Definitely yellow minifigures! I always prefer printed pieces as well, but understand not always reasonable. Should have printing on smaller pieces like maps/signs, but if have to use stickers for exposed bricks on walls, that is fine I guess.
  • New parts
    ---Minimal new molds (exception for minifigure accessories), what I am interested in is new printed tiles like maps/signs/etc. I think a great theme could be created from the molds Lego currently has.
  • Minimisation of the number of unique parts
    ---I think the bulk of the construct should be made from the standard brick, not a fancy new piece/minifigure. Especially no new large pieces. What is unique should not appear in every set either.
  • Legal connections
    ---Would prefer simple old school builds with maybe a touch of new. Nothing along the lines of the modulars though where a bunch of new uses are thought up and used.
  • Connected builds - no loose bricks
    ---I would prefer sets be on base plates if land themed. Other than that I don't mind loose cargo, cannon, etc so long as it blends ok.
  • Accessibility - gap/door sizes, interior depths.
    ---Standard Lego style with open back design and some interior. Doesn't have to be too detailed, so long as it gets the point across and helps the story
  • Play function / story telling
    ---I don't like/need flick fire missiles or collapsing sails. I want the play feature to be derived from the story. The fun should be kids pushing their ships around or marching their minifigures. A strong story would greatly enhance the sets I think.

I am on my mobile so can't get into too much more depth, but happy to expand if needed...

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I would actually suggest that there be two ships, one for each faction. There could be one in the 50 range and another in the 100-120 range so that kids could still get a pirate ship without spending as much. A kid would also be able to create a ship battle if they got both sets.

Target audience should be for young kids, maybe 5-6, with the bigger sets for slightly older than that.

Both factions should have relatively the same number of figures. Each one should also have the equivalent of a Captain, First Mate... Even sneaking in an old torso or two would be alright. New printing is good, but it should not be excessive (resort to using stickers?).

Colors should be bright enough to attract a kid's attention if they would happen to pass it in a store. Not everything needs to be one color- factions can have many colors, especially if the pirates are piecing things together from whatever they can find.

New molds are really not necessary. Recolors are fine, but we can create a new theme with what we have available to us now.

Loose bricks are fine as long as there is a place to put them for storage.

Play functions- launching cannons, possibly even the new spring shooter; exploding rocks, ship parts, and walls; customizable buildings and ships, so one could swap out sections of a ship or base from one set to another; and army/armada/crew builder packs, whether in a traditional battle pack or a smaller set which can be easily collected and expanded upon.

The story does not need to be deep. It needs to be something that kids could figure out from the sets and/or instructions with an additional storyline that could be found on the LEGO website if one would want to expand upon the sets' story.

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I would actually suggest that there be two ships, one for each faction.

As we haven't determined the factions yet so this is a bit premature. If we decide upon an Islander-like faction then ships aren't really applicable.

The sets will be determined after the sub-themes have been determined.

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I'll echo Mister Phes thoughts. All the points that you've raised are good and valid opinions but some of them we need to defer until a little later in the project.

I would actually suggest that there be two ships, one for each faction. There could be one in the 50 range and another in the 100-120 range so that kids could still get a pirate ship without spending as much. A kid would also be able to create a ship battle if they got both sets.

This is a decision for the design teams working on the whichever proposal(s) we take through to the next stage. So hold those thoughts and bring them back up again once we've got through voting and moved into the stage called "Determining The Sets".

Target audience should be for young kids, maybe 5-6, with the bigger sets for slightly older than that.

That echoes our thinking.

Both factions should have relatively the same number of figures. Each one should also have the equivalent of a Captain, First Mate... Even sneaking in an old torso or two would be alright. New printing is good, but it should not be excessive (resort to using stickers?).

The assumption that we're working on is that if TLG produced this they would produce it as a fully fledged wave therefore they would invest in new printing on torsos.

Colors should be bright enough to attract a kid's attention if they would happen to pass it in a store. Not everything needs to be one color- factions can have many colors, especially if the pirates are piecing things together from whatever they can find.

This is one to defer until a bit later. At the same time, or shortly after the sets have been decided, there will be a phase of the project called "Determining A Deseign Aesthetic", which is working out the colour palette and any common design themes that the sets should incorporate, each faction within the theme would probably having it's own design aesthetic.

New molds are really not necessary. Recolors are fine, but we can create a new theme with what we have available to us now.

I think we're in agreement.

Loose bricks are fine as long as there is a place to put them for storage.

Agreed. It's main a note to the MOCers who use scattered bricks for effect, in TLG terms this isn't a legal build technique. These are the sort of things that we're trying to get straight here in this thread.

Play functions- launching cannons, possibly even the new spring shooter; exploding rocks, ship parts, and walls; customizable buildings and ships, so one could swap out sections of a ship or base from one set to another; and army/armada/crew builder packs, whether in a traditional battle pack or a smaller set which can be easily collected and expanded upon.

It could be any of those mention, details we'll leave to the set designers. The key thing here is to remind them that there should be play functions within the sets because they are intended for children who will want to play with them. Again, bring this one up again when we're discussing the set details, question people on what the play functions are.

The story does not need to be deep. It needs to be something that kids could figure out from the sets and/or instructions with an additional storyline that could be found on the LEGO website if one would want to expand upon the sets' story.

I agree that it doesn't need to be deep, but it should be obvious; as you say figure it out from the instructions or a simple cartoon on the back of the box or instructions. A little bit of conflict and storyline will generate a lot of play even if there aren't obvious play features such as exploding hulls, or firing canons.

By the time we've finished identifying the sets there should be a coherent overall storyline for the theme and individual stories for each of the sets. The storyline needs to be language independent, ie. it can be expressed in pictures, rather than written form because the product is international.

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The use of the 1991 sets as a model seems like a good idea. Not so much the 2009 pirates theme, as it had too many bases and only one actual ship.

Also consider the market demand 23 years ago is possibly different to what it is now. If modern children want bases over ships, then it makes sense to be producing bases.

However we'll probably end up with more sets than we need to allow the LEGO Group to decide which concepts they wish to pursue.

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Also consider the market demand 23 years ago is possibly different to what it is now. If modern children want bases over ships, then it makes sense to be producing bases.

True, but the original 2009 line also had that large Imperial Ship that we probably couldn't get away with, so if kids saved enough, they could still have two ships battle. :P We wouldn't really be able to do something at the $200 scale.

However we'll probably end up with more sets than we need to allow the LEGO Group to decide which concepts they wish to pursue.

Ah, okay. Sounds good.

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True, but the original 2009 line also had that large Imperial Ship that we probably couldn't get away with

The Imperial Flagship actually wasn't part of the 2009 Pirate Theme, it was an exclusive released afterwards.

so if kids saved enough, they could still have two ships battle. :P We wouldn't really be able to do something at the $200 scale.

Let's not assume what children or their parents can afford. We can certainly produce something at $200 scale and the LEGO Group can choose to minimise the design if they like the concept.

And that's the important thing... Not to assume too much because we don't have the market reserach data to support our assumptions.

So what we're really aiming to achieve here is consistency and guidelines so we don't stray too far from the objective, but I don't think producing a $200 set is doing that.

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The Imperial Flagship actually wasn't part of the 2009 Pirate Theme, it was an exclusive released afterwards.

Let's not assume what children or their parents can afford. We can certainly produce something at $200 scale and the LEGO Group can choose to minimise the design if they like the concept.

And that's the important thing... Not to assume too much because we don't have the market reserach data to support our assumptions.

So what we're really aiming to achieve here is consistency and guidelines so we don't stray too far from the objective, but I don't think producing a $200 set is doing that.

The Flagship still had the same characters as the 2009 theme, though, and was basically released in the same time frame. Anyway, insignificant allusion discussion aside, a $200 set is considered a possibility? I wasn't really thinking about market research or whatnot when I expressed my doubts... it was mainly the fact that the stated aim of the project was to be like past City and Castle themes, which generally don't have such big sets (or, for Castle, not in the first wave).

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it was mainly the fact that the stated aim of the project was to be like past City and Castle themes, which generally don't have such big sets (or, for Castle, not in the first wave).

We don't get to decide how many waves there are, so it'll be a case of giving the LEGO Group as much as possible and let them determine how and when the set concepts should be released.

It's a case of offering them a $200 set concept and seeing what happens, opposed to not even trying.

And if we come up with something brilliant, then why hold back?

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We don't get to decide how many waves there are, so it'll be a case of giving the LEGO Group as much as possible and let them determine how and when the set concepts should be released.

It's a case of offering them a $200 set concept and seeing what happens, opposed to not even trying.

And if we come up with something brilliant, then why hold back?

True. :P

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I agree about presenting also the idea of large "exclusive" set, but it must selected in such way that it will not ruin the concept if it will not be chosen.

Other comments:

Build style and technique - target audience:

I suggest that we aim for more spohisticated style, with use of SNOT and rare colours. I think that we must really try and avoid the childish look of last Castle line. Target audience is of course 5-12 year old boys, but we should aim for older (nostalgic) audience too. This theme should have some kind of "premium" feeling of licensed sets, but without licence itself.

Number of minifigs, amount of printing, number of colours, design style (black lining) printing constraints

Number of minifogs of course depends on set size, but two should be minimum, expect for possible polybag. Complex printing shouildnt be a problem (TLG advanced a lot here). Printed legs and back sides should be standard, but I suggest to also probe the new bi-color molding technique used in simpsons line. TLG delepoed it and they might wanna use it again.

New parts

Main question/request should be new medium sized hull pieces. As it is now, we are seriuosly limited to building only small boats and large ships.

Minimisation of the number of unique parts

Special care should be taken to check and use all usable and curently available designs from LoTR, PoTC, The Movie and other subthemes.

Connected builds - no loose bricks

I agree, with the exception of coins and weapons in a barrel.

Accessibility - gap/door sizes, interior depth

Open back sides, ships without hull, removable cabin roof ... We've seen it all and they are there fo a reason.

Play function / story telling

Maybe include 1-2 page comic? Paul Lee cold help here, but I would rather not contact him before getting any green light from TLG (after all, he works for them)

Play functions are of course very nice to have.

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New parts

Main question/request should be new medium sized hull pieces. As it is now, we are seriuosly limited to building only small boats and large ships.

We can certainly request new hull pieces but...

  • How feasilbe is molding our own hull pieces for the prototype sets?
  • How likely is the LEGO Group likely to replicate our custom mold?

Connected builds - no loose bricks

I agree, with the exception of coins and weapons in a barrel.

Or to generalise... "Accessories"

Play function / story telling

Maybe include 1-2 page comic? Paul Lee cold help here, but I would rather not contact him before getting any green light from TLG (after all, he works for them)

Play functions are of course very nice to have.

We have other artists here who may wish to contribute.

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We can certainly request new hull pieces but...

  • How feasilbe is molding our own hull pieces for the prototype sets?
  • How likely is the LEGO Group likely to replicate our custom mold?

Moulding seems unlikely since the costs of moulds are astronomical, especially for large parts. We could potentially get pieces 3d printed to illustrate concepts but that involves money and the war-chest here is running dry, we'll be lucky to get a rum tot, let alone the gold required for a new hull.

TLG can always replicate our ideas, they have the experience and the ability; but I would expect them to completely re-engineer them from scratch first! They are the experts at understanding how plastic behaves and flexes in order to create that all familiar click as bricks go "in-system". I believe part design at TLG runs between 6months and 4years, larger or more complex parts typically take longer. I recall reading an interview with Mark Stafford about the new ball joints and him saying something like 4 years of development. I believe of the Technic part designers frequents Eurobricks, it might be possible to get some generalised information from him with regards to timescales although he is under contract so probably can't do more than generalise.

So, whilst it's do-able, I think we have to say no new parts. Same rules as CUUSOO (or whatever they're callling it now!). Any new parts would detract from the viability of our proposals since they would incur significant additional expense.

Edited by The_Cook

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Minifigure statistics - taken from Brickset / Bricklink. I'm no Lego historian so some of what I consider to be new might actually be existing moulds from much older sets that I'm not as familiar with.

A quick analysis of recent 1 wave themes - I ignored the recent Dino theme because the antagonists are the moulded dinosaurs rather than other minifigures.

Pharaoh's Quest - 12 minifigures total - 8 printed torsos, 3 printed legs, 6 heads, 3 new headgear moulds all of which are printed and one of which has 3 printed variants, 1 wing mould.

Monster Fighters - 20 minifigures total - 19 printed torsos, 10 printed legs, 2 printed skirts, 19 heads, 3 new headgear moulds, 1 (pair of) new arms

Agents - 32 minifigures total - 9 printed torsos, 4 printed legs, I can't work out how many heads are new, some have been re-used in other themes.

Looking at the last pirate wave:

Pirates - 63 minifigures total - 11 printed torsos, 1 printed legs, 3 printed skirts, 1 printed mermaid tail. I can't work out how many heads are new, most of them have been re-used in other themes over the intervening years. I believe all the headgear is old, or remoulds of existing headgear.

The key learning point here is that for a fairly limited number of torsos a lot of unique minifigures are obtained just through swapping heads and hats. This is especially true for themes that are not character orientated because they're army builders, eg. Pirates and Castle.

We should probably limit ourselves to between 10-12 new printed torsos, 5-6 new printed legs or skirts. From those we should be able to build a large number of minifigures by swapping heads, hats and changing leg-colours.

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Moulding seems unlikely since the costs of moulds are astronomical, especially for large parts. [...] So, whilst it's do-able, I think we have to say no new parts. Same rules as CUUSOO (or whatever they're callling it now!). Any new parts would detract from he viability of our proposals since they would incur significant additional expense.

Yes, I must concur with this.

And CUUSOO has become LEGO Ideas.

Minifigure statistics - taken from Brickset / Bricklink. I'm no Lego historian so some of what I consider to be new might actually be existing moulds from much older sets that I'm not as familiar with.

Thank you for that evaluation, it seems reasonable enough.

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I couldn't face analysing the Castle lines this morning, but I have done so now.

Castle Kingdoms - 74 minifigures total - 20 printed torsos, 6 printed legs, 6 printed skirts, 3 printed armour

Castle Fantasy - 104 minifigures total - 18 printed torsos, 4 printed legs, 6 printed skirts, 3 printed armour

considering that both lines ran for at least 2 release waves that's 10 printed torsos and 6 legs/skirts per wave; which tallies with the previous analysis.

I couldn't analyse the heads for uniqueness, but there is significant overlap on the civilians between the two waves and even pirates; the dark green bar wench gets around a bit...

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I couldn't face analysing the Castle lines this morning, but I have done so now

Good work Cook! thumbup.gif

But how do these analysises fit with what we're attempting to achieve?

Maybe we've been slightly overambitious by proposing three factions per sub-theme but we are endeavouring to keep the possibilities as open as possible.

Or maybe it's my old fashioned mentality which harks back to when a faction was an entire sub-theme.

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Maybe we've been slightly overambitious by proposing three factions per sub-theme but we are endeavouring to keep the possibilities as open as possible.

It's a little ambitious, but if sets are limited where there's generally only two factions per set, and the factions are sort of evenly spread out (or, alternatively, one of the factions plays a smaller role), then it'd probably work. Castle's 2008 year had three to four factions spread out this way; even though they were generally allies, they often appeared separately in the sets from one another.

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