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There was some discussion here on the rules of the game and to give you a little bit of more perspective we would like to share an update that yesterday Michał Oracz have written himself - it is a bit of "Dev diary", that will add some insights into what The Edge will be. Hope you will enjoy!
We also welcome all the discussion on the ideas we want to put into life!
"The Edge: Dawnfall – collection of figures or a game?
You open campaign’s page and see miniatures. A lot of miniatures. You also see a lot of boxes – small, medium, big and all of them with it’s own art; and everywhere those incredible miniatures and even more miniatures.
There is hard to see beyond this visual madness. No mechanisms, tactics, game assets, flow, replayability mechanisms or deep, developed story. The game itself is not visible.
This time the promotion is entirely based on miniatures but, I have to give it away, that in my house, the house of a designer, there is not a single piece of it. I’m playing and designing The Edge, writing and testing it using simple, grey tokens, grotty, manually written cards, perpetually scribbled boards and raw printouts of the script book, scenarios and campaigns.
Why that way? The reason is simple – considering the process of designing, it is extremely important to remember that during the most of the time NOTHING should be more relevant than gameplay, mechanics, game flow, emotions and pleasure of playing. For me miniatures and pretty components are just supplements, eventual decorations for well-thought and developed, extensively tested and polished engine of the game.
I am cautiously optimistic that in the future we will be able to experience the modest version which would be based, for example, completely on tokens.
The Edge has been in development for the past few years. The first version was something between miniature wargaming and a crossover of both board and card game. In the Dawnfall version everything has been transferred into standard-sized board and models no longer require assembly; but those were only small, physical alterations.
CONVENIENCE, DYNAMICS, FLOW
Transferring a game with great deal of units into a big board, covered with almost half thousand of spaces, assuming moves and ranges reaching even half of the board, apparently lead to inevitable implementation of quite high numbers. A 34 space shoot, 22 space move…but who enjoys tedious counting in games?
We definitely didn’t want such a counting in The Edge.
Fortunately, from the very beginning the game develops only during tests. Finally, one of the tests reveals simple idea of linking small, hex spaces into bigger package and then simplification of all those bigger ranges into mentioned packages of spaces. In the beginning a package consisted of 3 hexes; later, in another tests they developed into 7-hex packages. Suddenly everything became easy and convenient, without a need to simplify the skills itself.
Considering the rule, that needs the action for more than 10 spaces, there are always big hexes swiftly scaling everything into 3 or 5 big spaces (for example). The simplicity and plainness of that specific rule has changed literally everything. We have really big board, a lot of units, huge polarity of ranges and at the same time we remove tedious counting from the game.
Dynamics is that part of The Edge, which we worked at especially hard and long. All the time the game seemed to be too slow for us, like a tactical roller. Big hexes have changed a lot, the game has lost nothing on its tactics and it became smoother – but that’s not all.
Another huge boost for the dynamics was created while we were differing bases for specific units on 1,2,3,7 space. Not only have we obtained new tactical space for the game related with facing (unit with longer base can for example reach an enemy from the one side, and be adjacent to Crystal Pool and collect mana; units with one-space bases are adjacent only to 6 spaces while units with seven-space bases are adjacent to 12 spaces) but also, while solving the problem concerning housing of several units with different shape of bases on a one big hex, we developed the rule of pushing out. The bigger units can always enter the spaces occupied by the smaller ones (own or enemy’s) and, therefore, force them out to any adjacent space.
Once again the dynamics and game flow changed completely. The pushing out rule is now one of the most basic tactical elements in the game and units continually move over the board in a much convenient way. Perpetual movement over the board was of a high importance for us when you consider the first version of the game. That was exactly the reason of depletable Crystal Pools, rule of fighting and moving to gather them, mechanics rewarding dynamic and spatial gaming or chess-like relations between units.
IN MEDIAS RES
This also applies to opening a game instantly in the middle of a battle, without units positioning on the two sides of a board in the positioning area, without slow approaching, without a stalemate in the middle of a space/board. When we start the game it is like we have just unpaused it in the middle of a fight. Machine is set in motion and instantly we find ourselves in the “middle of a game”.
Hound prepares to get on top of a snipers – they don’t stand a chance as Hound is the fastest unit in the game possessing a wide range of diabolic tricks. However, Holy Knight blocks the Hound, in case of danger Knight will take Hound’s attack as he is an armored tin – slower, but really hard to wound. Unless the Knight will be threatened by physically weak, but empowered by other abilities, Terror Cultists. Or maybe everything will start with a rain of bolts from boosted snipers?
Angel of Death arises in the background, crystals so close and easy to be picked, Pilgrims spread and ready for action, but the powerful Brute is just behind their back…that’s the situation, like a paused movie, awaits to be started. There is no time for giving slow impetus. We press “play” and everything instantly wakes into action
I don’t like small boosts – I prefer strong and chess-like, tactical ones. When I was working over Hex, Cry Havoc or Tezeusz – there were big, "colorful" skills. Unit becomes the fastest, or it never misses, or it’s 3x stronger than others, or its 10x more mobile, or it does something spectacular, movie-like – taints, paralyses, shoves, pulls, detonates half of a board.
Cinematic skills are the next level of what I enjoy. Not typically mechanical but movie-like, vivid, fiction. It is a different story – you get huge speed or teleport boost. Another example – you become completely untouchable for 1 round. Although a Hound is unable to attack anyone who didn’t move yet, it can grab a victim while running and drag it along the way, while Holy Knights can form into monolith, unbreakable wall and so on – that’s what I call “the next level” skills.
“Open & Play”
Once again “Open & Play” is here. The idea is to simply open the box, place the elements and start playing. No tedious rule-reading, analyzing, getting the homework done. Just unfold and play; the rules will come together with experiencing the game. We will get to know all the elements, tactical and strategic layers of The Edge while playing. The game itself is well-developed and Open & Play does not simplify the game – it just makes it smoother to entry. Everything inseparably connected with plot and story.
There are different gameplay situations: for example when we already mastered the game and a completely new player arrives – there is no way we will start a new campaign! That’s right, we won’t as we have prepared scenarios even for such moments. What we have to do is to implement him in some other way.
One conflict box is a full game, not 1/3 of it. It is really important to understand that. The Edge is a full game in any set of 2 factions. However in such circumstances it is a 2 player game (but I work on a variant where more than 2 players can play considering 1 Conflict Box or 2 Faction Boxes). It is a full game, it will serve for a very long time, it has huge campaign, story, replayability, there is an option to rebuild the factions and try completely different strategies and tactics – and there are a lot of them.
More than just a campaign
The campaign is something more than just a different setup and winning circumstances. It is a scripts book, true story, which I hope will surprise you repeatedly as we are trying to raise the bar and increase attractiveness comparing it to typical board games.
It means choices during the gameplay, it means achievements other than the way of winning, it means the influence of one scenario for another – as the game remembers them.
The system we created as we were working over This War Of Mine will hopefully become one of my basic tools of diversifying games and deepening their fiction structure.
What is equally essential, during the campaign a game evolves, changes. The board of campaign [we have couple of those in the set, therefore a 1 campaign = x games, x several campaigns – a load of campaign games.]
Campaign was created for a completely different reason. I dreamed about creating a board game that would be not comparable with others as every single The Edge game could have its own characteristics and features. That’s why we added campaign consisting of a great amount of scenarios connected with branches, appearing in various combinations and versions. If we want to play tournaments, we will arguably try deathmatch. However it is also possible to, like in fps, get used to struggling on specific boards. As we play for experiencing new emotions, new challenges etc. – we play every campaign like we would play a different game.
It is not about that a player A leads a faction X, player B faction Y and we play for months without changing the sides. We can adopt an attitude as we were playing with separate games; and every single one is unique because we are able to change sides, play with other players and the story runs simultaneously, giving us consistently new tools for experiencing emotions and providing new playing options.
We are making decisions during the fights, releasing tied character or killing them, we run from the battle field in order to save the units and burst into new chapter or linger and weaken as we desire some useful artifact, maybe additionally we will solve part of a mystery. We fix the equipment, which will become useful or we focus on wrecking havoc among enemy.
Achievements can often provide boosts for another scenarios, they become another adventures, story, mini parallel games. Frequently you don’t know what it will be unless you start; you never know what to expect in the adventure layer – hopefully we will surprise you many a time.
The world and story is living on, cities are falling, expanding, power is relocating, new inventions appear, we make our choices from the faction delivery trees, manage our resources, knowledge and power and everything automatically saves on the campaign map so we can pack the game and continue playing whenever we want.
Campaigns are not universal, not suitable to everything and nothing. Every single of 3 factions sets has completely separate, shared campaign. Besides there is also campaign of Darkness, various scenarios and so many things to experience, this guarantees you won’t be missing diversity and freshness for very long.
Unsymmetrical faction are the very essence of the game and one thing I like the most. Faction that is essentially a slow armored tanks? Great, faction that is very weak but incredibly dynamic and fast? Awesome. Faction that shoots everything on the map in many different ways? Sure. Faction that immobilize, takes control? Yes! Faction that units constantly change and evolve? Faction that has entirely different winning conditions? Faction that ignores entirely part of a game such as crystals and health points? Definitely! I love when new faction enters game mechanism entirely out of the box or is based on one mechanism strongly connected with story and everything still works in balance.
We can also talk here about what a player can change on his own. When you have for example 5 units and you have to deploy 5 units, game becomes less attractive, because you have to do what you are told, like in a program where decisions are made for you. I follow the rule that game means choices, in each element, on every level. You start from 6 characteristic squads but you pick only 5. (Choice=game) You have on map 5 squads but each turn you can activate only 3. (Choice=game) You have a deck of cards for each unit but for each turn you program your units with just a few. (Choice=game) Each time you pick your cards you choose form 3 units and invest in those(Choice=game) You can spend you crystals on using spells, abilities or even upgrading you units for a long term benefits. (Choice=game)
One of my favorite, little mechanisms are 2 modes of each squad. Not 2 sides of cards (the standard and advanced). I am talking about two modes, 2 different approaches, guy runs or stays, he lies on ground or flies above. Most often each has pros and cons, each is used for something else.
Very important for me is that every game was short, quick and intense and if player wants to play longer he can simply play more games. (more scenarios, campaigns or just a rematch) Essential here is a mechanism of bell, a certain quick end. I remember when in some older version of the Edge you played until killing all enemy units, something that I really hate. Chasing for last, delaying inevitable loss without any chance for victory. All of it was removed from The Edge. If in death match you gain such advantage that opponent has no chance, game mechanism just calls a game over and you win. Short advantage track brings that solution. Of course in scenarios it is also different, because we win by triggering your objectives, meeting conditions, it is very different than in skirmish but just as fast and vivid.
Important for me is as well that a player can see that he is only a step away from winning or losing. This emotions connected with balancing the Edge, with knowing that they only have to last a little longer, reach a bit further is priceless.
We still work very hard on that game. Whatever the amount of work required I always work on game until the end, no matter how much time is left to publishing, I keep on testing and refining. There is still a lot of work on skills, because after every bunch of tests I come back to notes and ideas to change, this is my norm.
Again I note that when playing X I really want to add to card this and that.
Only during testing you can feel into player, what he wants and therefore what kind of game should be made. There are still tons of work on dices because mechanism based on choices, that are much more complicated sets of outcomes than from custom dices, opens us incredible tactical options. Again player that gains more choices get much higher gaming possibilities.
Usually in game designing I try to remove randomness until I have to stop at one point, to not end up with Chess [Neuroshima Hex, Witchcraft, Cry Havoc]
We work at more convenient hand (cards) mechanism, we almost managed to remove necessity of turn based game, for more fluent and much more dynamic and continuous play. We fixed again mechanism of two unit modes, putting even more emphasis on equal importance of each sides giving player another hard choice, to use side A or shift to B.
Overall - I am certain that The Edge will be a game that will surprise you with its flow and complexity at the same time. It will be a full experience: Story, visuals and gameplay, that I will personally give my best to master!
I wish I could play more games.
Collecting games is not playing games.
Yup, that is a game I want to play. That right there. Wow, great read.
I was on the fence going back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to back the game. I loved the miniatures, but was unsure whether I wanted to spend this much money on what I'd be playing as essentially a skirmish game, which I have plenty of already. After reading this article I pulled the trigger. I'd say it was a good marketing move