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This topic is intented to work as both an announcement and a design storyline for our first game - Ascended - which is going to make it's debut in the market in early November! It will initially only be physically distributed in stores located in our home country of Portugal, but nevertheless available worldwide for order via our webstore at:
BGG Link: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/203410/ascended
The idea and the risk
It seems an eternity ago... we started working on our own board game project, just for fun. We liked it so much and we were so into the idea of founding a company of our own after being academically and professionally exposed to so many entrepreneurs, that we decided to risk it, gather some of our savings, and go for the board game industry, becoming our secondary job actually. This is the emotional part of the decision.
Economically it makes some sense. It's an industry where you have low entry barriers, low need for technological expertise or specialization, relatively low production costs, average profit margins although very fierce competition. Coupled to the fact that boardgames are not too subject to perishability and obsoletion, the risk of investing in this market is not very high, if you're aiming at a "normal" product (without all the flashy resin miniatures, etc) and you have the expectation of achieving a good degree of differentiation, a valuable product feature. This is the rational part of our decision.
Trying to create something different: The story
We started by creating a story (we think it's where everything should actually start, although it's not always the case - you can read more about it on our website). The best stories are, we believe, the ones that start off in the unknown. You don't have a clear path to everything, and you have to search and crave for definition. It's a dangerous strategy, because today's society (and consumers in general) wants everything pre-arranged and pre-defined (preferably digital), but who doesn't also want a bit of the taste of analog danger in their lives?
In Ascended, you take on the role of a magically-sensitive creature that awakens alone in the middle of an icy landscape, oblivious to what or where you are, although you do feel you're in the right place at the right time, and everything is possible, including you becoming something else completely through mutations. It's dark, it's medieval, it's magical. That's it. The rest is up to you.
You don't even know if you're human to start with (but we, the designers, do...), but you'll slowly find out throughout the game. It's intended to be the first chapter of a longer story, that we don't actually know if we'll finish or not, so analog danger works for us too!
Trying to create something different: The rules
Rules design has four main pillars for us:
1) They have to work with the story;
2) They have to allow the player to influence outcomes;
2) They should allow for a good degree of replayability and innovation;
4) They should allow for customization and modular expansion.
First, making the game work with the story - you're lost, you're magical, you're on a mission.
We worked hard on linking the rules with the storyline. Things like emulating the feeling of that initial dizziness (your terrain is randomly determined), the fact that you're lost (you don't know your initial position relative to that of your opponents) and the hard choices you have to make when you're surviving (go for short-term gains - Search/Artifacts, invest on the long-term effects - Focus/Mutations, be able to move quicker and heal - Hunt/Energy) were a result of this. Maybe the funniest rule is Stealth, which is a mechanism to simulate local superstition and the fact that you are well...a stranger and a mutated creature (and may have dangerously low control of yourself when entering populated areas).
With this set of possible decisions, we also allow players to influence their outcomes (not absolutely determine them) while inevitably dealing with some randomness (terrain, stealth tests, combat). Each decision will take it's toll, especially at the beginning, since as soon as Darkness falls (end of round 10), all players are on the same map and move quicker, so combat usually plays a huge role in deciding the winner (see videos and rules for more on cycle changes).
Replayability is a strong element we wanted to stress: you have three different scenarios, you randomly generate terrain, so each individual and global map will always be different, and so will the person who gets to choose how it will merge at the end of round 10 (please see the videos for why this is important). For example, each time you start, you may explore a castle tile or both a castle and a village, or neither! And that influences your decision tree, and the way the game is ultimately played.
On innovation: don't get me wrong, you'll find some of the core rules of Ascended similar to those of other games of course, but we hope we've innovated in many ways, including making the game fairly (but in a healthy way) open in terms of the strategies you can choose to reach the same goal.
Combat is a good example. You may find each step in this process fairly common, such as generating combat dice or adding character cards (companions), but you'll also find that the map itself and the way you attacked (or the reason to do so) is important, as is the way your opponent chooses to defend (or counter-attack!), etc.
We wanted to change some things about how these types of games are played, and I think we took a good shot at it and produced a good (distant) alternative to big titles such as MageKnight. We also wanted to add some disruption to the view that every single step in the game has to be balanced in some way. No, our approach was to try to design the game so that the overall experience feels balanced. Kind of like the Central limit Theorem. Not easy though.
Finally, you'll see that the game is highly modular and susceptible to expansion. You can play with up to 8 players with two Ascended boxes easily. Just add everything together and play! You can also use your own miniatures for extra "bling". The tiles are designed so that most normal sized miniatures fit and look decent. And you can expect to have (if all goes well) future releases of new terrain tiles, new cards and new types of player dashboards, that allow you to go deep into what and who you are in the game (special profiles unlocked through gameplay). You'll also see free solitaire-play rules coming out on our website soon.
Note: We tested everything we could as much as we could, but no amount of testing will ensure absolute success (thank you to all our very patient geek friends, including my girlfriend), so please let us know if you come across something that doesn't seem right.
The boring stuff
Now for the economic and administrative part. Were to start? We needed to know production, shipping and design costs, funding, search for a manufacturer, open the company, finish playtesting, know about importing and selling rules, CE certifications, distributors, website-building softwares, board game materials, etc etc etc. For better or worse, we never looked at kickstarter as a platform for funding because a) it's not available in Portugal, which is a shame for such a growing country in terms of entrepreneurship and b) we managed to fund a limited production batch ourselves with reasonable effort, releasing us from the shackles of variable pre-ordering compromises and expectations. A conservative approach, in a world of pre-everything, right now.
We clearly defined our marketing strategy: although we want the game available in stores (to show we're not just some strange weird experiment), we will keep a constant and active online presence to support, enrich and also sell the game. It's analog gaming with a digital brain. (nice catch phrase!)
We chose WinGo as our partners for production and fortunately it has been a very positive quality-cost relationship. Very open and clear communication channels, very quick problem solving and an amazing patience for newbies such as us. The quality is good and the cost is good, especially for a company such as ours. The bulk of the production is to arrive a few days from now, but we have received some copies, and the game looks great. Customs procedures and the administrative burden of accountants is a pain in the behind, as is big distributor indifference, but nothing a determined and skilled team cannot overcome (that's us, thankfully).
After boldly speaking to several retailers, we are finally getting some successful hits. People who have seen the game like it, although it does sound better when we're talking with semi-experienced board gamers and not beginners.
I hope you like the game and help us become chosen!
Ascended is going to be in several stores across mainland Portugal starting early November 2016, and we'll keep a healthy presence online also, so feel free to order from there, we ship all over the world!
Ascended Website: www.playascended.com
BGG Link: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/203410/ascended
- Last edited Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:46 pm (Total Number of Edits: 7)
- Posted Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:37 am
The time has come to officially announce the release of our new board game! It's now available worldwide via our website: www.playascended.com!
In Ascended, players take on the role of a magic-sensitive creature that awakens alone in the middle of a medieval-like, dark and icy landscape, completely oblivious to where or what it is. Players will make their way through this wild and dangerous setting, fighting for self-awareness and searching for the ultimate reward - ascension.
Ascended is a game that combines elements of Strategy, Exploration, Fantasy and some RPG. It features several ingenious game mechanics ranging from changing game cycles (Daylight and Darkness) and terrain to unique map building, card drafting and combat systems, all framed within a dark and unexpected plot. Ascended is intended to be the first chapter of a larger story arc.
The path to ascension is filled with adventure. Players will start isolated, unaware of each other's locations. Based on a limited number of possible decisions, they will be able to explore random unknown territory, influence map building and positioning, raid ancient sites for precious artifacts, deal with local superstition, master god-like mutations, recruit brave companions and fight notorious Villains. Inevitably, they will also directly confront each other in epic Close Combat.
The game features three different base scenarios, each with its own winning conditions. The first player to achieve the chosen scenario's victory conditions or destroy all other players wins.
Order now at www.playascended.com. We ship all over the world!
We've just released our intro video!
You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANQqymDJwCo
We will be launching the Single Player rules on our website (www.playascended.com) very soon, so stay tuned!
The game is available now at: www.playascended.com/product-page
We ship all over the world!