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The Masters’ Trials: Here I go again, on my own!

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 08:49

In the past few years, more and more games have started to include ways to play them solo. This is usually easier in cooperative games where a single player can play the “role” of different players at once.

The Masters’ Trials is a cooperative game and right from the start we knew it had to be solo-playable. And not just “play with 2 characters as if you were playing with 2 players” solo. We wanted players to be able to take a single character and play on their own.

However, there was an additional challenge to consider. Each of the characters plays differently, having their own strengths and weaknesses. The game on the other hand has some specific threats that it throws at the players. How do you make it so that the challenge remains the same when each character deals with each threat differently? Something that may be too easy for one of the characters, may end up being way too hard for another  to deal with.

On top of that, in a multiplayer game, each character fills a different role, performing different tasks. The Avenger for example, will deal with most of the minions while the Mystic will focus on generating more and more mana to take down the Seals. If you take the Avenger out of the equation though, you are left with a Mystic who has to fight minions. To do that, he will have to focus on damage dealing spells which will result on him not being able to gather the mana he needs.

That problem bothered us quite a bit during the game’s design. We had asymmetric characters and each of them played differently in a multi-player game. They couldn’t all play the same in the solo game!

The solution to this problem turned out to be much simpler than we thought.

Instead of having a solo variant, why not have 4 solo variants?

In other words, since each character plays differently, why not make the solo experience different for each of the characters?

Indeed, this is what you will be getting when the game is released. 4 different ways to play the game solo. Each character has their own setup, their own special rules and a different win condition.

Do you want to do a ton of damage and kill minions?

Play with the Avenger. You will be facing more minions than normal and a tougher Magmaroth at the end but play well and you will be able to handle it.

Do you want to focus on mana?

Play with the Mystic. You will have fewer minions to care about but lots and lots of Magical Seals to break in order to defeat Magmaroth!

Do you like to collect artifacts?

Play with the Loremaster. The more Artifacts you ‘ll get, the easier it will be to defeat the evil elemental!

Can you survive for many rounds an onslaught of attacks?

Play with the Warden. You will have a companion that you will need to protect and you will have to survive inside Magmaroth’s lair for many rounds in order to win.

Each character offers a very different solo playing experience. On top of that, each solo mode has 2 difficulty levels for players to master.

If you like playing solo, make sure to check The Masters’ Trials. You won’t just be getting a game that plays solo. You will be getting 4 different single player experiences, all in the same box!

Vangelis Bagiartakis & Tassos Grigoriadis

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

The Masters’ Trials: Play it Again, Sam!

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:49

One of the key characteristics that The Masters’ Trials has, is the ability to customize your characters. Here is a brief description of how exactly this works:

In the game, each player has a board in front of them that represents their character. These boards consist of 3 parts:

The first part is the character’s class. There are 4 classes currently in the game:

  • Avenger: Emphasizes on dealing damage
  • Mystic: Adept at generating and converting mana
  • Loremaster: Good at searching rooms for artifacts
  • Warden: Focuses on healing and protecting the group

The second part is the Order in which the character was trained:

  • Order of the Glowing Embers
  • Order of the Everlasting Waterfall
  • Order of the Celestial Tide
  • Order of the Scorching Winds

Finally, the third part is the character’s weapon of choice:

  • Sword of Fury
  • Orb of the Elements
  • Staff of Enlightenment
  • Chain of Balance

The combination of these boards create a character. The one shown above for example is an Avenger of the Order of the Glowing Embers that carries the Sword of Fury.

Each board contains a different combination of starting abilities. Most of them are mana-generating abilities, with the rest focusing on dealing damage or gathering Insight.

However, each board also comes with its own deck of cards. When you create your character, you take the cards that correspond to your 3 boards and you shuffle them together. These cards will now be the deck from which you will be mastering new abilities during the game.

Matching a class with a different Order and a different Weapon allows for different combinations and a different playing experience. One Order for example may have more copy effects while with another one it may be easier to generate mana. One of the weapons may make it easy for you to hit multiple targets while with another one you will be able to push more damage through to a single target.

This gives you the chance to explore each character’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to try different things each time you play and discover new combos!

In the end, you can create characters based on your personal playing style, making each game much more memorable!

Vangelis Bagiartakis & Tassos Grigoriadis

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

The Masters’ Trials: Design Diary Part 2 – Achieving Mastery

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 17:29

This is a continuation from last week’s article.

Vangelis Bagiartakis (VB): With the game’s “basics” in place, it was now time to deal with the difficult part: the details. The first thing to do was “define” our setting and the exact way the resources would work. Having played a lot of Magic: The Gathering I was aware of the importance of a “color wheel”. Each type of mana should have its own identity. It would be associated with certain things and the various classes would have different access to it.

For example, fire mana would be used mainly for abilities that caused damage. On the other hand, water would be used mainly for healing. The earth mana would be associated with mana generation/conversion while air would be used to stun/disorient the opponent along with searching the rooms.

Since we had shifted to elemental warriors, we spent quite some time examining what the races should be. At some point we realized that in the theme we had chosen, it made more sense to go with monastic Orders instead of races.

Anastasios Grigoriadis (AG): Every resource should be used differently inside the game but at the same time they should all have equal value (Fire=Air=Water=Earth). In the color wheel no resource is above any other. All are equal but at the same have a different impact on the “world”. Also, based on the wheel we could safely say that:

  • Fire is the opposite of Water
  • Earth is the opposite of Air.

VB: What we needed to settle on pretty early, was how the “mix-and-match” of the boards was going to work. In other words, what was each part of your board (class/order/weapon) bringing to the table? What abilities would they have?

This was very important because we wanted every combination to be viable. However, that was harder than it sounded. We had assigned some characteristics to each type of mana and as a result, each class was focused on one of them (based on the same characteristics). But what about the Orders? If we also focused the Orders on the types of mana, then there would be certain combinations that would be way more advantageous. The other important aspect that we needed to nail down, was what exactly their abilities would be. The abilities between all 3 separate boards needed to be distinct – to have their own identity. If we were going to focus the damage-related abilities on the fire-class, then what would go on an Order ability? And how would we make them feel different?

After a lot of brainstorming and many playtests we settled on this: What would define each character would be the class. That’s where most of the abilities that would determine each strategy would be. Then, the Orders would all have the same abilities but in different quantities. Each Order would be focused on 2 of the mana types and it would offer higher quantities of the abilities that required them. It would still have the rest of the abilities though (in small quantities), to give access to everyone if they so wanted.

This solution offered some important advantages:

  • The Orders had focus but were not limiting the class you could match them with.
  • Having the same abilities in all of the Orders made learning the game easier. Less information to overwhelm you with when trying a different combination.
  • It gave us more flexibility with the design of the classes’ abilities. We didn’t have to worry about putting a new ability on an order.
  • When combining a class with an order that focused on other types of mana, it allowed you to play the same character differently and do new things. That was exactly what we wanted in the first place!

AG: In the RPGs the races are actually templates that can be used to alter the way classes are played, for example Elf Warrior and Half Orc Warrior. This was exactly what we wanted to achieve with the Orders. In our game our heroes are trained differently in each Monastery Order. They all share a basic training but focus on a different path and obtain a different mastery. In game terms we needed to create a pool of abilities that would be bound to a certain color and then distributed to each order based on their focus. It was again harder than we thought because we needed to create 4 universal (for our game) thematically driven powers. If I remember correctly, all but one changed – some of them more than once!

We also did another cool thing with the Orders. We added a static (“ongoing”) ability to each of them, which we called “Masteries”. Each Order’s mastery is unique and they give a special ability that actually changes the way a player interacts with the game.

VB: The next problem that we had to solve was that of scaling. Changing the numbers of minions drawn each round or the seals that the players would have to break was the easy part. The biggest problem was elsewhere and it was rooted in the game’s design.

The “threat” in the game consisted of mainly 2 parts: The minions drawn each round and the boss at the end. The minions would have to take damage in order to be defeated which meant having the fighter-class (which we ended up naming “Avenger”) crucial. The boss on the other hand was made powerful through the seals that needed mana in order to be broken – that also made the mana generating-class (a.k.a. the “Mystic”) very important. But what about the other two? What were they adding to the game? Moreover, if the first 2 classes were that crucial, was there a point into playing the other two races in a 2-player game?

We considered various solutions to this problem. One thought we had was to dictate the exact classes that the players would get at each player count. Unfortunately, that was a very bad solution – it meant that certain classes would never be played in a 2-player game and it made them feel like lower-class citizens.

What we needed was for the classes to be equal. Each of them should be able to hold its own and be fully playable, offering a different experience/playing style. They should all have equal chances of beating the game, regardless of the players’ combinations.

AG: One of the most important things that we try to keep in mind when developing a game is that “The number of players must not affect the experience you get from a game”. In RPGs the narrator reveals the challenge of the party following certain rules (how many are playing and what is their current level) thus keeping the session challenging. In board games we have plenty of examples where the number of turns, the number of VP that you need to score or the number of foes and obstacles are changing based on the number of players. In our case this was more complex since classes have equal roles in the game but are totally different at the same time:

  • All classes can do damage but none can be as good as the Avenger
  • All classes can generate mana but none can be as good as the Mystic
  • All classes can heal themselves but none can sustain an entire party as the Warden
  • All classes can try to search rooms and improve their characters with artifacts but none is as good as the Loremaster

We decided that since the class affects the way our players interact with the game then the challenge rating would be created by 2 things:

  • The minions (in quality and numbers) are generated by the classes that participate in a game
  • The seals (in quality and numbers) are generated by the number of players that are playing

VB: The main problem in scaling was the minions drawn. If the Avenger was in play, things were easy – he would deal with them and everyone else would be able to advance their character as needed, to achieve their own goals (the Mystic would add mana-generating abilities to their board, the Loremaster would generate Insight to search rooms and the Warden – the healer of the group – would work on those crucial healing spells). However, when the Avenger was not in play, the rest of the classes would have to compensate. The threat however was that big that everyone needed to focus on dealing damage, neglecting their previous focus. Even when they weren’t losing horribly, the experience was not fun.

Since the problem was in the minions, the solution that we settled on was based on them. The minion deck would change its contents depending on the classes present in the game. If the Avenger was present, it would include more difficult to beat monsters. If the Mystic and the Warden were the only ones playing, it would contain mostly small monsters, easier for the players to handle. They would still pose a threat, however not one that would distract them from their main goal.

Although we were a bit skeptical to try this solution, it worked like a charm. It achieved exactly what we needed and helped the different classes to stand out. We were no longer worried about the class combinations. Each and every one of them could stand its own.

While the Avenger and the Mystic were quite straightforward, the Loremaster – the character that searched the rooms – was trickier to design. We had settled on having another resource in the game, called Insight. Players would gather Insight and that would be used to search the rooms. It would work similarly to damage in that, if unused, it would reset at the end of the round. If a character was to match the room’s Insight difficulty, then they would draw Artifact cards that would grant them powerful ongoing abilities.

Even though the Loremaster would have no trouble gathering Insight and using it to get more artifacts, the other players would completely ignore it. That wasn’t necessarily a problem but it would get worse due to another factor: After a point, experienced players would become quite powerful and near the final rounds they would generate a lot of Insight, but they would no longer need it as much.

It was clear that we needed to find other uses for Insight as well.

Around the same time, we had another problem to deal with. They way the Seals worked, one player had to generate enough mana to break them. More often than not, that player was the Mystic. However, inexperienced players would have a hard time generating enough mana for the more expensive Seals. Since they were the more powerful ones, not dealing with them usually spelled their doom.

During development, we examined a solution that solved both of these problems. What if you could spend Insight in order to “unlock” the Seals and allow everyone to spend mana on them? That provided another use for Insight (which all of the classes could use on the small seals) it provided interesting options to the Loremaster (do I go for another artifact or do I help the group by unlocking a seal?) and made it less demanding for the Mystic who now didn’t have to generate all that mana on his own.

AG: Although this is a dice rolling game we love the idea of “tough” decisions. During your play you will always have to decide “Do I spend the resources I gathered to remove an obstacle or do I improve my character?” Insight was straight forward since the beginning and needed no alternative. You were generating insight to search the current room and there was nothing else to do apart from improving your character. We were also experiencing an issue with the Seals – players had problems dealing with 2nd and 3rd level Seals. The solutions to both problems combined and Insight became the party tool to deal with high level seals.  Insight was now an equal answer to threats and was helping the party to interact with the seals more efficiently.

 

VB: Near the end, most of the issues had been solved and we were very happy with how the game was playing. Although it was already quite challenging, we thought of some additional hurdles to throw to the players who wanted more.

There was now only one thing remaining: The solo game.

With the game being cooperative, we knew that it was suitable for solo play. The problem was that it would be difficult for a single character to deal with everything that was happening in the game. Not only that, but, since each class focused on different things, the experience would be different with each of them. If we were to make the game easier for example, one of the classes would still struggle while another one would find it way too easy. On top of that, we wanted the players to play differently with every class. If only one was present in the game, they would all have to play the same way to defeat the game.

That’s when it hit me. Why not change the requirements? For each character, the goal would be different. The Avenger (who could easily generate a lot of mana) would focus on killing minions and would have to kill the powerful boss. The Mystic (who could easily generate a lot of mana but had trouble with dealing damage) would not have to worry about killing the minions or the boss, but would have to break numerous Seals in order to win. The Loremaster on the other hand would need to gather as many artifacts as possible while the Warden, would bring a companion along but would have to make sure they stayed alive.

This way, not only would each character play the way they would in multiplayer, the game offered 4 different solo experiences. It felt very different with each class and we knew the solo gamers would absolutely love it!

AG: Regarding the solo version of the game I wanted 3 things:

  • to be fun and challenging for all classes
  • to be an excellent tutorial for new players that wanted to explore the game before playing with their friends
  • to give players the opportunity to explore all aspects of a class

I strongly feel that we addressed all the above.

AG-VB: All in all, we are very excited with how the game turned out. It went through a lot of rough periods, with many changes and complete overhauls, but in the end we created something that we are really proud of. The work we put into this game is probably more than what we’ve put in any other game we’ve worked on, but it was totally worth it.

As soon as you open the box, we are sure you will agree!

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

The Masters’ Trials: Design Diary Part 1 – The Designers’ Trials

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 14:10

Read the introduction of this article series.

Vangelis Bagiartakis (VB): With the goals set in place, I started exploring how the dungeon-crawling aspect of the game would work. Around that time, my friend Tassos (full name is Anastasios but we call him Tassos) got the chance to see the rough prototype in action and loved the idea. He has a vast (and when I say vast I mean vaaaaaaast) experience in role playing games so, when he expressed interest in helping with the game, I immediately agreed to bring him on board. His experience would prove to be very important while designing the game.

Anastasios Grigoriadis (AG): I’ve loved the idea of dice crafting since the beginning. I’m a huge fun of Dice city and I’ve worked successfully in the past in many projects with Vangelis. So, when I actually put into the basket the words – Dice Crafting – RPG – Bagiartakis – I knew that this would be an awesome journey.

prototype 1 enemy card

prototype 1 player board

VB: For our first attempt, we took the rough version I had initially made and tried to adapt it. Since we were working with cards, the “dungeon” became more abstract. The enemies would be cards they would be placed on rows, simulating enemies coming to you in a dungeon corridor.

The player boards represented the characters and the first problem we had to deal with was what the players’ “resources” were going to be. In the first rough prototype I had gone with Strength, Dexterity, Mana, Cunning and Movement. For this version, some changes needed to be made (like the removal of the movement – it no longer made any sense) and we ended up with Melee Damage, Ranged Damage, Mana and Defense. The goal was to have each player be able to specialize in one and pursue a different strategy.

Regarding the enemies, each monster would give you XP after being killed and you would spend those to upgrade your character with new cards (abilities).

AG: Basically we needed to create a board game that would simulate an RPG session in an hour. You live your adventure, you gather experience and you upgrade your character. Sounds simple but it is not.

 

VB: We did some playtests with this version and while there was some potential in it, there were many things bugging us. The most important one was the resources.

AG: We knew from the beginning that Melee Damage, Ranged Damage, Magic & Defense were not working as resources but we had to start out of something to reach our goal. The basic problems were:

  • Melee Damage and Ranged Damage were almost the same thing.
  • Magic essentially was the only attribute that you could call a resource as it was producing mana but again, only to do damage.
  • Defense had the same problem as Damage, it was not a resource to be spent.

In other words the main problem was that there was no economy based on the resources that players gathered and needed to spend in order to achieve goals and upgrade their player boards. In a sense, we only had 2 types of resources, Health and Damage, which essentially were not enough or interesting to build a game around.

 

VB: Defense was the most awkward of them all. It didn’t help you win – it just prevented the damage you would be getting. While it could be important in the game (for example a character could play the role of the “tank” and absorb damage while the rest of the players would attack the enemies) it wasn’t very fun to play with and it also wasn’t a viable strategy on its own – you couldn’t play solo and win just with a “defender”.

This inconsistency in the resources also made creating new abilities problematic. While it was normal to say “I have 5 mana” it was weird to say “I have 5 Melee Damage”. Damage should be the outcome of your actions, not something you accumulate to spend. Moreover, the way mana worked, also had some issues. The spells you had on your character required mana to be used. That meant that not only did you have to land on them, you also had to land on mana producing spaces with your other dice, to cast them. Double the work for something that should be much simpler.

We knew we could do better so we decided to start from scratch and try a different approach.

prototype 2 enemy card

prototype 2 player boards

prototype 2 cards

VB: For our second attempt, we decided to examine everything from the beginning. The basic goals were still there but the approach could be anything we wanted – we wouldn’t be tied to the previous version. The brainstorming started with what was creating the most problems last time: the resources. They had to be thematic and fit with the dungeon-crawling theme and they had to allow for different strategies. A fighter and a wizard for example would focus on different ones but they should both be able to defeat enemies and win the game somehow.

AG: When something doesn’t work you go back to basics. The goal now was that each player would chose a different class (basic archetypes: fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue) and all together would fight the big bad boss at the end of the game. We agreed on Combat, Dexterity, Magic, Holy, and Cunning as the resources that would be used based on what the characters could produce and what they would need to defeat the monsters. Those 5 attributes could create various combos and thus different sets of actions for each class allowing each player to interact in different ways with the monsters.

 

VB: For the monsters, we decided to go with a very different approach. Enemy cards would be drawn each round and they would have 3 options on them: Evade, Push, Defeat. Evade (which would require very few resources) would just allow the players to prevent the damage the monster would deal. Push (costing slightly more) would be a temporary solution to the problem – you would scare the monster off but you would have to deal with it later on. Finally, Defeat would be a permanent solution – it would get rid of the monster forever but would require the most resources to do it. The concept behind this approach was that each monster would ask for different “resources” on each level which in turn would allow each character to deal with them differently. Some of the monsters for example would require a lot of Combat in order to be defeated, which the fighter would be able to easily provide. The wizard however would have a hard time defeating them through combat, but would be able to drive them away via magic or just evade them. On the other hand, against monsters like ghosts the combat would be useless but magic or holy would be very useful. Depending on how you dealt with each monster, you would draw cards that would be the upgrades going on the players’ characters.

When the final boss would appear, it would be accompanied by all the monsters the players pushed. It would have to be dealt with differently compared to the monsters but the players would still be provided with some options (so that each class would have a chance against it).

AG: This implementation was closer to what we wanted and the feeling was much better. Now the players were focusing on how to advance their characters and how to interact with the monsters which was closer to the basic concept of Dice Crafting: Roll the Dice, Do something (in our case: Fight the Monsters), Upgrade your character.

 

VB:  We did various tests with this build but once again, the actual game turned out differently compared to what sounded cool in theory. If you made the monsters easy to defeat for one class, the others would struggle too much. If we made monsters meant to be defeated by all classes (containing different combinations of all the resources) then every class would struggle since they wouldn’t be able to produce everything. Therefore there would be enemies that could not be defeated and would have to either be evaded constantly or driven away, only to make it harder at the end.

AG: Welcome to asymmetric balancing! In RPGs, every player usually has a different role that works in different ways from the others. Players should feel important during the game no matter the role they play and characters must be balanced and most importantly, feel balanced even when they do totally different things. RPGs usually are played in groups of 4-5 players plus a narrator and in my groups when someone is missing we play a board game or do something else because the absence of that player will have a significant impact in our game.

Board games of 2-4 players on the other hand must give the same gaming experience whether you play it with 2 or 4 players. That means that with 2 players you are lacking 2 characters and what they bring to the party. Usually this is not a problem but when a game wants to be theme-driven and has different roles, then you have issues that need to be addressed.

Another issue was the resources that our characters were producing. Although closer to our goal, the economy of the game was again not solid. Removing a class was weakening a resource. The classes that were played were trying to match up the lack of other classes but not very effectively and that lead to weaker characters overall, characters that could not interact in a proper way with the game.

 

VB: Essentially what we had was not necessarily resources but different types of attacks. It still was a bit weird to say “I get 5 Holy” but if everything else played alright we would have worked with it. Unfortunately, everything else didn’t play like we wanted. Players weren’t as excited as we’d like and it gave the impression that it was lacking something.

Back to the drawing board…

 

in progress!

VB: Once again, we started from scratch and again the brainstorming focused on the resources. We knew that it was the most crucial part of the game and if we could fix that, the rest would easily follow from the theme. We needed resources that you could gather. Resources that made sense having a lot of them, that it was intuitive to say “I have 3 of X”. Up to now, the only one that came close to that description was mana. With that as a basis we decided to explore the option of having different types of mana. We could go the “elemental warrior” path which would mean 4 different types of mana (earth, fire, water, air). The players’ abilities would then all be spells, each requiring different mana and focusing on different aspects. This also meant a change in the theme. Instead of “sword-and-sorcery” fantasy we would go to eastern fantasy with focus on the elements and different types of magic. That was not necessarily a bad thing since sword-and-sorcery has been overused in gaming and something different would look more appealing.

As far as the mechanics were concerned we also tried another approach. Dice City had a system with 3 resources and it worked. You would spend those resources to get new cards on your board (which in turn did not require resources to use them). You could also use those resources to get closer to winning (Trade Ships). The abilities you got on the other hand would grant you other things (like Army strength or VP) which would also lead you to win through other means. Was there a way this approach could be applied to this game? Why try to re-invent the wheel when you have something that works well?

We started with the abilities. Each would cost an amount of mana to “build” on your character just like in Dice City. Some of these abilities would generate damage which would be used against minions, a similar approach to the army strength and the minions of Dice City. This covered one way to win but there needed to be more. An interesting thought we had was that of large spells that in order to be cast you had to spend a big amount of mana and they would provide a big effect. This was something similar to the way Trade Ships in Dice City made use of resources. In the end we changed it a bit and instead of them being spells, we had the cards represent Magical Seals that granted abilities to the boss, making it uber-powerful. You would be able to break these Seals before reaching the boss, thus weaking it enough to kill it more easily. That added another strategy. Could we do one more?

Dice City also has the cultural strategy. Building locations that don’t do something when you land on them, they just grant you many victory points. Since we wanted to have a rogue-like character, we combined the two and ended up with another strategy: What if you were able to search the dungeon you were in and come up with magical artifacts? You would add them to your character and they would grant passive abilities (like deal 1 damage for free wherever you want, get free mana etc). It made sense thematically and it if you were to focus on it you would become powerful enough to overcome even the boss.

So, the basis of the game was this:

  1. Players explore a dungeon and each round they are in a different area/room.
  2. They are attacked by minions which they need to destroy.
  3. They can search the rooms they are in to find artifacts.
  4. They can break magical seals that make the boss very powerful.
  5. After a finite amount of time, they come upon the boss and they must destroy it.

AG: Abandoning the classic path of fantasy RPGs was the right call and it was not the only one. Keeping basic mechanics from Dice City actually solved most of our problems. This affected a lot the way we designed the game. If we wanted to have different roles, equally important in the game, we needed to create different ways to interact with it.

In the end, we had 4 different types of resources and 3 key characteristics that players advanced in to interact with the game: Damage, Insight and Health.  Based on that we instantly knew that we had created four distinctive roles in the game:

  • The character that would focus on damage. They would deal with the minions and apply a lot of pressure to the final boss, despite it being very powerful.
  • The character that would focus on gathering mana. They would break the boss’ seals and make it much weaker.
  • The character that would focus on items. They would search each room, getting a lot of magical artifacts that would “work on their own”. Effectively he would become “Robocop” (as Vangelis used to joke) before getting to the boss, dealing damage and generating mana without even needing to roll the dice.
  • The character that would focus on the Group’s Health. They wpuld ensure that the party would reach the boss in a good enough shape to have a chance defeating it.

Although this is almost the classic archetype of fantasy RPG (wizard, fighter, rogue and cleric) our characters were using different types of mana that they needed to produce and spend in different ways to activate their cool powers.

 

VB: After some tests it was clear we were on the right path. Going with mana solved all the problems we had with resources and the different paths to explore made each character unique and interesting to play with. That was obviously the way to go.

But there were still many things ahead of us…

AG: The theme was ready and now more issues needed to be addressed:

  1. Could we play without a class (a game of 2 for example)?
  2. Were all the classes fun to play with after several sessions or compared to each other?
  3. Were we going to dictate a certain setup of heroes based on the number of players or were we going to allow players to choose any characters regardless of the number of players?
  4. How were we going to address the character build up? Would it be totally random, totally balanced or thematically driven?

to be continued…

Check back next week for the final installment in this Designer Focus!

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm Article – Glorus

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 15:22

This article features the new leader Glorus from the Mana Storm expansion and a bonus preview of a new vale. Click here to check it out!

Categories: Company News

The Masters’ Trials: Design Diary Introduction – How it all Began

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 14:16

After designing Dice City I knew that the “dice-crafting” mechanism it had could find many uses in other games as well. That’s why, even before Dice City was actually released, I began to explore other options and see where I could go with this “system” I had come up with.

At its core, the mechanism in Dice City is about “crafting” your dice. Each die is represented by 6 cards (one for each side) and by putting new cards on your board, on top of the existing ones, you are effectively changing the faces of your die. As a concept, this could theoretically apply to all kinds of games that use dice.

The idea that I initially wanted to explore was that of a dungeon-crawler. Going with that idea would also define the first characteristic of the game: This would be a cooperative game (as opposed to the competitve nature of Dice City). The players would not compete with each other but they would work together instead. In turn, this would allow the core mechanism to be tweaked a bit, to give players the option to interact more with each other. For example, you could spend one of your dice to move one of another player’s if needed.

Another key characteristic also came from the theme. Since the dice would correspond to various attributes of the characters (like speed, combat, magic etc) why have a single board for all of them and not separate ones? If one die for example was the race, another one the class, another the weapon etc, why not allow the possibility of mix-and-match? Not only would it increase replayability, it made perfect sense with the theme – each player would be able to create their own character (similarly to an RPG), a hero with the attributes they ‘d want.

I made a rough prototype and started testing the idea. I sketched some rooms with tiles, I came up with rules for their placement, I made a few quick enemies and some simple player abilities and started playing. Although, way too early in the process, the experience was fun and I knew this could lead to something good. To check if I was on the right track, I showed it to some people and explained the concept behind it. EVERYONE loved the idea behind the modular boards. It was really cool and seemed very promising. However, they weren’t thrilled with the dungeon board. As one friend put it: “There are actually 2 games on the table. One here (pointing to the player boards with the dice and the character abilities) and one there (pointing to the board with the mockup enemies)”. There was simply too much stuff going on for the game to be viable. Not only would it be insane production-wise (tons of boards, cards, miniatures etc – less than half of the game was more than all of Dice City) it would also ask a lot from the players, especially in their first games.

Thus, a decision was made to make the “dungeon-crawling” a bit simpler. Perhaps just cards that would be drawn or something along those lines, in order to keep the focus on the advancement of the character in front of you.

So, the goals of the game were more or less set:

  • Dungeon-Crawling Theme
  • Cooperative Game
  • Modular Player Boards (and as a consequence Variable Player Powers)
  • Relatively simple (card-based perhaps?) mechanism for the dungeon/enemies.
  • Multiple Paths to Victory

And that’s how this journey began… For more developments on this journey, check back next week!

Vangelis Bagiartakis

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth The Prophecies Are True

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 17:51

The legend used to say that in a time of grave danger, masters of the elemental orders would leave their ancestral retreats and join forces to restore peace to the world.

From the once-dormant Tekirin volcano that towers over the peaceful entrance valley, the vengeful Magmaroth has emerged. Born of earth and fire, its goal is to cleanse the world and mold it to its image : primal and ruthless. Left unchecked, there will soon be nothing left.

To deal with this great threat, four masters have arrived.

Traveling under cover of the night from the burning southern desert came an ageless man with a glowing staff at his hand. The villagers recognised him as a Loremaster from the introspective Order of the Blazing Winds. He slowly approached the volcano, closed his eyes, and an eerie glow appeared around him.

 

 

 

 

 

A woman then came from the endless northern steppes. From her clothing it was clear she was coming from the old monastery of the Order of the Glowing Embers. The fire in her eyes, on the other hand, made it obvious she had trained as an Avenger and had mastered the martial arts of old.

 

 

 

 

From the western peaks, a handsome young man rode the great river, pausing frequently to contemplate and embrace the elements around him, as Mystics from the Order of the Everlasting Waterfall have been trained to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, an enigmatic girl emerged from the shores of the tumultuous eastern sea, sporting a dangerous chainball over her shoulder and manipulating the water as only Wardens are known to do. She could only be coming from the Order of the Celestial Tide, an Order many had thought existed no more.

 

 

 

 

 

The four heroes met at the foot of the volcano, and paused for a minute. They looked in silence at each other and then one by one, they entered Magmaroth’s lair, determined to face this trial.

Magmaroth would have to be defeated quickly or everyone would be doomed…

The Masters’ Trials: The Wrath of Magmaroth is a co-operative dice placement game for 1 to 4 players. On sale in November with Pre-release at Spiel Essen in October!

Categories: Company News

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm article – Xanos

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 01:59

This article features the new leader Xanos from the Mana Storm expansion and a bonus preview of a new vale. Click here to check it out!

Categories: Company News

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm article – Vale Bearer

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 01:52

This article features the new Vale Bearer advancement from the Mana Storm expansion. Click here to check it out!

Categories: Company News

The Players Are Voting For New Smash Up Factions!

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 18:25

We are conducting our second player voting promotion to select new factions for a future set of Smash Up. The set, to be released in 2018 is entitled “Oops You Did It Again!”. Players began the process by submitting ideas for factions they’d like to see in the set. We selected the top suggestions (and similar ideas) and created a Round of 32 and asked players to vote for 16 factions. The Round of 16 further narrowed the contestants to 8 finalists – but there were four factions effectively tied so we promoted 10 factions to the Final Round which is ongoing now!

Anyone can vote – even if you did not vote in previous rounds.

Click here to vote for your favorite faction!

We’re providing this update to the voting to help players gauge where their favorite factions are in the race to get into Oops You Did It Again. Remember, one vote per person but we do encourage you to ask your friends to help support your favorites!

As of noon on Friday August 23rd the current standings are:

 

 

The battle for 4th and the last place in the set is nearly a dead heat! Only 112 votes separate Cowboys from Cartoons! All week Cartoons, Egypt, 80s Action Heroes and Cowboys have been trading places from 4th to 7th place as more votes are received!

Voting will remain open until the end of the day on September 1st.

To join the Smash Club and make sure you get all the Smash Up News, please visit The Smash Club Signup Page!

(Voting requires submission of a valid email address which will be added to our database for future communications.We reserve the right to modify this contest, alter Faction names, and add or remove Factions during the voting if we deem those actions necessary.)

Categories: Company News

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: Closing the Pledge Manager to Reward Changes

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 17:05

Backers, the pace of new users closing their Rewards on Backer Kit has ebbed, so we are going to be closing the Pledge Manager. This means that you will not be able to add Add-ons to your Reward, or change your Reward from Adventurer to Champion. The changes to the Pledge Manager will be effective sometime tomorrow (Saturday) so please make any last minute changes today.

You will be able to continue to update your ship-to address until just before we ship.

If you have funds left on account and you miss the closing of the Pledge Manager please email [email protected] and we will try to help you. We cannot guarantee the availability of Add-ons or other changes after today.

— The Thunderstone Quest Team

Categories: Company News

Lovecraft Letter The Art of Lovecraft Letter

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 05:44

The Art of Lovecraft Letter

“E pericoloso sporgersi”

Last year, my colleague Jade Yoo from Board M (who publishes Love Letter in South Korea) brought back a copy of Lovecraft Letter from Japan and showed it to me. A new variation on the game, still by Seiji Kanai, with more cards, a strong theme well displayed in the card effects and a new Sane/Insane mechanic adding push your luck elements to the game and making choices a little more risky for players.

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has the International rights to Love Letter and, after an initial contact, and due to common passions and interests, I ended up accepting to illustrate and graphic design Lovecraft Letter for its English edition, that I would qualify as “Deluxe”.

I have to say that creating artwork for Lovecraft Letter was a very interesting challenge.

First of all, it is quite the opportunity and honor to be able to work on Seiji Kani’s Love Letter, a micro game which due to its accessibility, originality and re-playability has reached a very large audience of gamers, be they family, expert or casual and has already had various licenses attached to it.

As a huge fan of the original fantastic fiction literary genre (my pillow book is The House on the Borderland from William Hope Hodgson– a novel that Lovecraft himself called a masterpiece!), it was sort of a “at long last” sigh of relief to me to be able to be the sole artist on a game that would involve the creatures and the odd world borne of H.P.L’s imagination. I had worked 10 years ago as an artist for Fantasy Flight Games on their “Call of Cthulhu” CCG but unfortunately not enough to let my imagination loose.

When you undertake a task of such magnitude, you have to slow the process down, find the right tone, hit the mark before you can grab your pencils and brushes; something that isn’t easy to do when you consider that you have to merge two very important pieces in Lovecraft and Love Letter. For some time now, akin to when Lord of the Rings released on the big screen, the fantastic genre (and especially horror) and everything that revolves around Cthulhu has become more and more mainstream across the board (in cinema, games, literature…) which invites further caution to make sure you stay true to the source material.

I have always approached my work in a very direct fashion. For this, I thought to myself that Love Letter is now a reference in gaming, a classic. Cthulhu and his cast of friends are a classic in the “monsters, horrors and fantastic creatures” genre. As for myself, my training is classic as well. By that I mean that the traditional technique that I use (pencils, brushes on paper, by hand) gives my artwork a very unique non-dated feel that tries to give life to the illustration itself over time.

So, without trying to reinvent the wheel, we elected to stick as close as possible to the source material. Alongside Nicolas Bongiu (who lead the project for AEG), we have researched descriptions and texts in the Cthulhu mythos to showcase in the most accessible manner his very particular universe, and therefore present it to the Love Letter audience of gamers and mythos aficionados alike. Of course, we didn’t shy away from giving our own take on the source material when we felt it was needed, which is often the case when you’re tying a theme to a game.

So, without trying to reinvent the wheel, we elected to stick as close as possible to the source material. Alongside Nicolas Bongiu (who lead the project for AEG), we have researched descriptions and texts in the Cthulhu mythos to showcase in the most accessible manner his very particular universe, and therefore present it to the Love Letter audience of gamers and mythos aficionados alike. Of course, we didn’t shy away from giving our own take on the source material when we felt it was needed, which is often the case when you’re tying a theme to a game.

Those artistic ideas taking form, AEG decided to bring the game to the size of previously released Love Letter Premium: large box with magnetic closure, tarot-sized cards, custom envelope-looking sleeves and double-sided poker chips for the victory points. This contributed in my opinion to a classy and supercharged edition, of which I’m personally elated.

Those artistic ideas taking form, AEG decided to bring the game to the size of previously released Love Letter Premium: large box with magnetic closure, tarot-sized cards, custom envelope-looking sleeves and double-sided poker chips for the victory points. This contributed in my opinion to a classy and supercharged edition, of which I’m personally elated.

Lovecraft Letter is my first collaboration with AEG and the result and process by which the game was made fully satisfied me (something tells me that you can expect more collaborations in the future!). it is not every day that you can delve into themes and formats that you love, with – as if it wasn’t enough – a good deal of control over the end result.

I hope that you enjoyed this sneak peek inside the process of making Lovecraft Letter … one that comes with a word of caution from Lovecraft himself:

“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Thing on the Doorstep

Vincent Dutrait

http://www.vincentdutrait.com
https://www.facebook.com/Vincent.Dutrait
Lovecraft Letter a mind-shattering journey into the world of HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos warped into the shape of a Love Letter experience will be on sale 19 July 2017!

Categories: Company News

Lovecraft Letter Designer Diary

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 20:00

The core of the Cthulhu Mythos is of course the stories about incomprehensible beings, and the concept of sanity. I felt that if I were to make a game for this world, it was absolutely necessary for me to include both the meeting with these creatures that went beyond human understanding, and the people being affected by them.

Lovecraft Letter AEG5123, on sale July 19th!

After considering the Mythos through that lens, it became apparent that there was a wonderful cast of actors waiting to be used.

On one hand we have the Great Old Ones, and all the items and servitors that surround them; Cthulhu itself, Nyarlathotep, the Mi-go, the Hounds of Tindalos, the dreaded Book of the Dead (Necronomicon), the Golden Mead that allows one to see the unseen etc.

On the other hand we have the heroes of the Role Playing Game, the Investigators and the allies they encounter: Professor Armitage from Miskatonic University, the Cats from Ulthar in the Dreamlands, Randolph Carter and his family heirloom etc…

First, I had to figure out which characters should be incorporated into the game. Of course, there was the option of simply replacing the eight cards in Love Letter with eight characters from the Cthulhu Mythos, but I felt I couldn’t limit myself to just eight of them. And, with a Cthulhu theme, I felt the game couldn’t do without having the players make some kind of “sanity check” – the most famous words from the roleplaying game, uttered from table to table since the release of the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying game.

So, I divided up the characters into those who are on the human side, like the investigators or Professor Armitage, and those who are against the human side, like Cthulhu, the Deep Ones, and other items related to them.

The first set kept the same effects as the base game, and I just chose characters that would fit. The Elder Sign that would keep dangerous beings at bay was perfect for the Handmaiden effect for instance, and a card where you guessed another player’s card and could make them lose, felt to me very much like what an investigator could do.

The second set, I made into special cards that spread insanity. To use them meant to get in contact with forbidden knowledge, and get closer to madness. And I decided that they would have large advantages, and disadvantages above the regular cards (a high risk high reward type of effects) since I figured that a lot of players would walk this road to destruction.

The regular effect of the insanity cards would keep the same effect as their normal counterparts. However, if a player had at least one of them among their discard, it would mean that they had encountered these horrors, and therefore would slowly risk becoming insane, and would need to make a sanity check every turn to not get knocked out of the game.

On the other hand, the insanity cards would also have a power that fit the demerit – players who are close to madness would also be able to wield incredible power. The Hound of Tindalos can attack, Mi-go collect brains, and so on. These cards could not only make other people lose, but also let you win immediately! How could anyone resist this sweet temptation?

And this is how Lovecraft Letter  was born. The Love Letter  system, where anyone could be knocked out of the game at any moment, fits very well to the world of the Cthulhu Mythos, where danger is always looming.

My hope is that everyone will enjoy this new version of the game, where you can as easily capture the truth, as fuel your run to victory thanks to your command of the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Oh, I can hear the doorbell ringing. That’s a little bit odd? Who may be coming to visit me at such a late hour? I guess I need to go check for myself …

Seiji Kanai

Categories: Company News

Mystic Vale Wins ORIGINS Award for Best Traditional Card Game

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 23:45

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MYSTIC VALE HAS WON THE ORIGINS AWARD FOR BEST TRADITIONAL CARD GAME

COLUMBUS, OH — 17 JUNE 2017 Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) is pleased to report that Mystic Vale has won the 2017 ORIGINS Award for Best Traditional Card Game and has been recognized as the Fan Favorite Card Game.

The ORIGINS Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, at a ceremony traditionally held during the ORIGINS Game Fair in Columbus, OH. The awards were announced this evening.

 

 

Mystic Vale is the first game to feature AEG’s card crafting system. Players in Mystic Vale take the role of druids working to heal a wilderness blighted by dark magic. Each turn the players acquire new Card Advancements from a shared pool, and add them to their existing deck, upgrading and changing their cards as they play. After a pre-determined number of victory points are scored, the player with the most total victory points from the shared pool, and from cards crafted in play is the winner. The game is designed by John D. Clair, and was released in 2016. Learn more at https://www.alderac.com/mystic_vale.

 

 

AEG5861 Mystic Vale

A tabletop board game for 2-4 players. MSRP $44.99.
ENDS

About Alderac Entertainment Group

Alderac Entertainment Group (“AEG”) has produced award-winning games and game worlds for over 20 years. Alderac publishes the popular games Smash Up, Love Letter, Mystic Vale, Istanbul, Automobiles, Valley of the Kings, Thunderstone Quest, and many more. Visit www.alderac.com for more information.

Categories: Company News

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: New Card Reveal #1 Fire & Brimstone

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 20:32

Over the next few weeks we are going to bring you some of our favourite cards during playtest and what we did with them. The first instillment is from Erik Yaple.

Fire and Brimstone

So, during one of our playtest sessions, I just was not feeling it and thought I would take it easy – but the forces that be, sometimes have other ideas. One of the characters, Brimstone, is one I had not personally playtested much, so I was requested to check on that hero in our next session.

One of the Quest cards that I drew was The Dragon’s Hoard, so I thought I would retry a previously unsuccessful strategy and spend the majority of my time in the village buying high VP cards for my deck with little concern for the dungeon itself.


Well, fate had other plans. On my first hand, I drew a perfect dungeon hand: all Adventurers and Daggers, which led to more Adventurers and some light from my Lanterns. I ran past the Wilderness straight to a level 2 monster and slayed it.

Knowing my next hand would be a great village turn, I planned on leveling up and buying Lightstone Gems until they were gone.

Which is exactly what I started doing when it came my turn, leveling into Brimstone. For the next few turns I revealed darn near perfect dungeon turns, then village turns. This killed my no-dungeon strategy pretty quickly. I soon acquired a few level 2 Brimstones, which, back then, had a very similar ability to the level 3 Brimstone.

With all of the Lightstone Gems I was rocking, I was slaying monsters left and right, regardless of their drawbacks and abilities, just through sheer force. When you have multiple Brimstones they all benefit from your cards that produce light, and since I was the only one focusing on that character, it was easy for me to get double, triple, and quadruple duty out of my light cards.

Based on that day, we toned down the second level Brimstone – now he has sort of an ability that plays off of your other heroes that provide light – much less susceptible to abuse. That was a day when I tried to play passively, but the card gods drew me into the game, and I was forced to adapt to my shuffles and make the best of my situation. There are a lot of paths you can take in Thunderstone Quest, but there is a random factor that may make some of those paths more attractive despite that not being your original plan.

That’s a sign of a good game. Adapt or perish!

MAKE A LATE PLEDGE NOW!
Categories: Company News

Edge of Darkness: Coming Soon!

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 16:42

The first glimpse of Edge of Darkness was included in the Mystic Vale rulebook. You’ve heard hints of this game since but never more than whispers…

Subscribe to our Edge of Darkness mailing list to ensure you get all the breaking news about AEG’s next evolution of the Card Crafting System as we take you on a journey to a world in crisis and a city filled with intrigue, danger, politics and heroes.

SAVE THE CITY!
Categories: Company News

Cutthroat Kingdoms Designer Diary #2 Total Immersion

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 19:21

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out when I was a kid. It forever changed my world. Before I played AD&D (or even knew it existed), I’d go into the backyard, deep into the woods, and I’d take a stick and cull the field of weeds with swipe after swipe, leaving my hands blistered and raw.

That was… kind of fun.

But after I found AD&D, I went back into those woods, and looked for seed pods (that were ingredients for a potion of invisibility). I would take a stick, cut it in half, whittle a design into it, and instead of a weedbeater, it became a magic wand, capable (as long as I charged it) of casting incredible druid spells. Little stones became runes imbued with magic, the stream became an elvish river, a tree house was a magical fort, protected with crow feathers that warded away vampires.

I was completely immersed in an experience.

To begin to be immersed in an experience requires a trick of the mind. You need to forget about yourself, for a while. You know, the part of you that says:

“Magic isn’t real.”

“Rocks are rocks.”

“Garlic repels vampires, not crow feathers…”

We need to put ourselves aside, and live in a state of temporary disbelief. But to be wholly and utterly immersed in something does not require a trick. In fact, you are not completely immersed if you are doing anything at all other than experiencing what there is to experience. And that’s what I aimed to do with Cutthroat Kingdoms.

Cutthroat Kingdoms began as an idea to let mere mortals, like you and I, experience what it would be like to be inside a movie. I don’t mean as actors who have to speak a script, or pretend they’re falling when they’re just suspended by fishing line in front of a green screen. No. I mean… I wanted people to be able to know what it would be like to be sitting around a grand marble war table in a castle high above the town, elbow to elbow with the other five highlords or ladies of the realm, negotiating title, land and birthright. I didn’t, actually, want it to be a game. I wanted it to be an experience.

Games have very concrete mechanics. These mechanics make a really good game feel like an amazing puzzle. They’re a toothbrush for the brain! But when a player gets lost in an experience, and becomes the game, without even noticing… that’s the real magic. The best magic trick is the magic trick that is real.

In Cutthroat Kingdoms, I designed a way for players to interact with one another freely, and openly. In a normal game, you have very clear rules on what you can, and cannot do. In Cutthroat Kingdoms, you make the rules. A lot of people thought I was crazy.

“Nobody will know what to do!”

“If I can do anything I want, won’t it just be complete chaos?”

“That’s not a game, that’s life.”

The last statement was music to my ears. The actual mechanics of the game pull players (slowly at first) into their roles as lord or lady of a highborn family. You’re deploying soldiers to territories, purchasing mercenaries from the market, or trying to avoid the plague. But, ever so slowly… the game begins to take on a very different feeling.

The very first time a player wants to pass through a neighbors lands to acquire new territory, they must ask the intervening player permission. This simple mechanic isn’t even really a mechanic. You’re literally asking them…

“Hey, can I do a thing?”

In that moment, the game, and therefore the immersion, begins. The neighbor may not like this person. In fact, the neighbor being asked may want that territory for themselves. Maybe she is appalled that this player would move through her lands only to take possession of an area that brings in a substantial amount of revenue. Could you imagine him doing this without even giving her a smile or a gift? So the neighbor answers:

“Why do you want to pass through my lands? What’s your intention?”

The player stops. This gets complicated. Does he tell her the truth? That he secretly wants to wedge her out on both sides and force her to have to deal with him every time she wants to move? Of course he couldn’t say that, she would know he had dark intentions.

“I want to share in the profit of your neighboring territory.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well, what’s your idea of sharing?”

That’s when he’s forced to acquiesce. He needs to do something for her, so he doesn’t burn a bridge. If he acts on his initial plan to wedge her out, he may lose a potential political partner later in the game. What if he needs her to form a wall against his right flank in case another house comes storming in on him? She could be useful. Besides, if she says no, his only option is to go to war with her, and the cost of that war would be not in his economic interest.

“If you let me pass through your lands,” he says, “I’ll give you half of what I make on Corynthia.”

She smiles, sticks out her hand.

“It’s a deal.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Cutthroat Kingdoms. Above is an actual moment of gameplay. It’s not a game, it’s an experience, and it’s certainly something you can get lost inside for a very, very long time. To be completely immersed inside an experience requires a certain level of freedom, freedom for a player to actually become the game itself, to become the characters, the coins, the meeples, the little wooden cubes. When your own words, the deals you craft, the lies (or truth) you tell, when all of that matters in the context of the game, you’re living inside it, not playing it. I wanted to get lost like I did when I was a kid, to see the woods in a whole different light. And in Cutthroat Kingdoms, I can. The stones turn into runes for me now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

– Bryan Merlonghi, Designer of Cutthroat Kingdoms

Categories: Company News

Cutthroat Kingdoms Designer Diary #1 Not Everyone Is Going to Like Your Game (and that’s okay)

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:13

There is, without a doubt, nothing more unnerving to a budding game designer, then a gamer who doesn’t like your game. Your beautiful creation sits on the table, shining in the pristine newness of its inception. Around you is the hum and bustle of a full convention hall, happy people walking up and down aisles, laughing, throwing cards on tables, pointing fingers at cool toys on vendor shelves… and there’s you, the budding game designer, with a beautiful new child on the table, a nifty sign to draw in potential fans, and the feeling (in your gut) that you’ve done something incredible.

That’s when she walks over to your table. The very first potential gamer willing to try your new prototype. That very first cherub face that took a remote interest in your sign. To you, new designer, that first look was total recognition of a perfect masterpiece. But in actuality they may have just sneezed, and their rolling eye just happened to swing in your direction post sniffle.

It is here, that my story begins:

I cannot tell you how many times a person would walk up to my table at UnPub in San Jose, California.

Actually, I can. It was 352 times. Secretly I had a little silver number counter that I flicked every time someone passed my table a.) because I was excited to tell a potential publisher just how many people were interested in my game, and b.) (truthfully) I was a complete nervous wreck and needed the fidget spinner of my generation to keep from running out of the convention hall screaming like a crazy person.

352 people came up to, or passed, my table. How many of those 352 people actually liked my game?

Seven.

I’m kidding. But what happened was that whenever a person passed my table, initially, I would yell:

“HEY!”

And they’d look at me and probably wonder why I’m shouting at them, they were just going to get a Coke Zero.

In my mind, getting as many people to the table to play your game was the prime directive. And my logic followed that the more people that sat at my table, and therefore played my game, the more interest I would get, the more fans I would get, and the more successful I would become. And then, if you will, travel with me here… that’s when I could buy my yacht and sail to the private island located in a beautiful part of the Pacific Ocean that I purchased off my first game royalty check.

Here’s the important lesson I learned. The more people who sit at your table, who are interested in playing the exact game you created, the more successful you will be. Now that sounds obvious, but it involves a critical lesson that I learned the hard way: you need to be okay with turning players away from your game.

Initially when I pitched Cutthroat Kingdoms to a potential playtester, I would tell them anything and everything they wanted to hear:

“Do you like worker placement?” I would ask.

“Yes.”

“This is worker placement–”

“–but my favorite genre is really pip manipulation dice games,” they continued.

“Ah! Cutthroat has a lot of that!”

The person looked down, noticed there wasn’t a single die on the table, and looked back at me relatively perplexed.

Eventually I understood the importance to pitch the game exactly as it was. That it was a card game, had area control, negotiation, deal-making, hand-building, political relationships and that it would take a minimum of 90 minutes to play. And you know what? That turned away a LOT of that 352 people.

At first it really freaked me out. For every person who walked away, I was scolding myself that it could have been a potential fan, that I was doing something wrong, that I had built a terrible game. That was completely not the case. For every person I turned away, with the truth (mind you), I was not only respecting that player’s time, but also preventing a potential bad experience, and therefore a potential bad review of my game! Imagine a player who abhors negotiation getting hoodwinked into playing a 90 minute negotiation game. They would be furious, probably have a bad experience, and would have nothing nice to say about your game.

Of that initial 352, I narrowed my selection down to a good, solid, 50 people. And those 50 people had the time of their lives! Cutthroat Kingdoms was exactly what they were looking for all these years.

I told a passerby exactly how the game would play, what to expect, what not to expect, and how long it would take (really). The ones who stayed quickly became my major advocates, the ones who later paved the way and evangelized the game to other gamers that were very much looking for this type of game. It was absolute magic to watch it happen.

The major lesson here is that you shouldn’t have 352 people playing your game, you should have a quarter of that, and they should be exactly the type of people who would love the type of game you made. Even if they don’t love it, they will thank you that you respected their preferences, and most importantly, their time.

– Bryan Merlonghi, Designer of Cutthroat Kingdoms

Categories: Company News

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: And You Thought Figuring Out The Dungeon Was A Puzzle?

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 17:12

A couple of work-in-progress updates for you.

Firstly a quick pic from China, where our production manager is working with our production partners to figure out the best way to put together the Champion reward level box. Coming up with something that will store nearly 2,000 sleeved cards and all of the other components in a way that is easy to use, is a challenging puzzle to solve! As you can see from the picture this box is a monster. At the moment this is just a white sample, and not all of the pieces are there (missing various trays etc.). You can also see the smaller box for the Adventurer level pledge.


You will also recall that we sent out the awesome graphic for the board a couple of weeks ago. We are still working on the final board layout, but we thought we would give a sneak peek of the work in progress. Those of you who watched John and Mark play through the print and play set might recall that we said some of the abilities available to the players would be on the board, and this would be a little more expansive than what we were showing you in the learn to play and print and play that we sent out.

As you can see, there are four locations that you can visit in the village. You generally have three actions available to you – buy a card (either a hero or marketplace card), heal a wound, and level up a hero. But the four locations add (or subtract) from those basic options. In the Guilds’ Quarter you can level up an additional hero. If you place your Champion (your miniature) in the Bazaar you can buy one of the three Gear tokens available in addition to a card. The Temple is very similar to the old Prepare action in Thunderstone Advance, in that you can use it to set yourself up for future turns, but in this case you can also heal and additional wound – it comes with a cost though, you lose the ability to level a hero and cannot use card effects that might also let you go to the Dungeon. Finally there is the Shop of Arcane Wonders, where you can buy Treasure cards (at a price of course).

As you see the Village Board is labeled where all the different card types will be placed. We recognize though that some players prefer a more free-form game. Thus, the back of the Village Board will have these labels removed. Players may use either side as they choose.

Thanks for continuing to support Thunderstone Quest!

— Mark Wootton, Project Lead

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Categories: Company News

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: Pledge Manager Information

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 16:52

Attention Backers!

We are almost ready to begin using the Pledge Manager for Thunderstone Quest!

We have selected BackerKit as our platform provider for Pledge Management. BackerKit has powered thousands of successful campaigns and they have by far the best suite of tools that we reviewed while selecting a platform.

You will be able to add additional Champion Rewards to your order, add and manage Add-Ons, and we’ve made our best-selling Card Crafting Game Mystic Vale available as an Add-On as well (we’re testing the ability to offer other games in our catalog to Kickstarter backers)!

Late Pledges

We have received enormous interest in backing the campaign since it ended and we have decided to enable people to join the fun! Anyone who wants to make a late pledge will be able to do so through the BackerKit system, at this URL:

https://thunderstone-quest.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

Late pledges will receive the same Rewards as those who backed during the campaign.

Shipping

We have also been working to select a fulfillment system and we have been able to use the shipping rates and information we’ve been provided to calculate shipping costs for the Rewards and Add-Ons. As we noted in the campaign we are going to be charging as close to actual shipping costs as we can for each order. AEG is not making any profit on shipping & handling.

The Champion Reward is enormous.

These are images of production samples for the components. (They are obviously not the actual components, tokens & dice are just placeholders, etc.) Premium Box not shown.

We are estimating the weight of the Champion reward at 15lbs.

We significantly overshot our original weight estimates because of the addition of the Grand Finale Quest so we’re going to be at the high end of our estimated shipping costs (and over those estimates for some backers).

Backers in China (including Hong Kong), Australia, Canada, the UK, and the European Union (plus Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) plus the United States will have their rewards delivered from a depot in those regions. We will handle the customs and taxes to ship from our factory into those depots. Most backers in those regions will receive their shipments without additional taxes or fees as a result. If for some reason there is some assessment made at the point of delivery it will be beyond our control and you will be responsible for payment.  Shipping costs for the Champion Reward for these depots will be:

  • US: $18
  • Canada: $25
  • Germany: $17
  • EU+: $27
  • UK: $28
  • Australia: $24
  • China: $22
  • Rest of world: ~$53-63

Backers outside the regions directly served by a depot will be shipped from the closest available depot. Most shipments in Asia will originate in China. New Zealand will be shipped from Australia. Shipments in Central and South America will originate either from the US or from Germany depending on the best available rates. Shipments to the rest of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East will be shipped from Germany. Backers outside the regions directly serviced by the depots may incur taxes and customs fees on receipt and you’ll be responsible for payment.

Shipping will be charged directly in the Pledge Manager.

Refund Policy

As noted in the campaign we offer a refund at any time for any reason. We will refund 92% of your pledge (the full amount less the Kickstarter fee and payment platform fee).

8 Week Time Window for Using the Pledge Manager

Once you receive your invitation to use the Pledge Manager you will have 8 weeks to log in, confirm your pledge, manage Add-ons, and pay for shipping.

After 8 weeks we may not be able to accommodate requests to make changes to your pledge and we will work with you as necessary to resolve any issues outstanding.

At the end of the 8 week window we will be finalizing our orders with our production facilities and we will not be able to make major changes to the number of units being produced without additional costs and delays. So please please please access the Pledge Manager within the next 8 weeks to ensure your order is updated and finalized!

Some backers will receive an invitation to the Pledge Manager in the next 48 hours. We’re going to issue invitations to about 10% of the backers and allow them time to use the platform to detect any problems or issues that we need to correct before we invite the rest of the backers to the platform. Everyone should have a Pledge Manager invitation by the end of the weekend.

If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] for fastest response! Messages left as comments on Kickstarter may not receive a response in a timely manner.

— The AEG Thunderstone Team

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Categories: Company News

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