Designer Diary | WARLINE: Maneuver Strategy & Tactics

A look inside the making of WARLINE: Maneuver Strategy & Tactics
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Bringing to Life the World of WARLINE

Justin Leingang
United States
Austin
Texas
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Microbadge: Meet me on the battlefield!Microbadge: Wargamer of 5+ yearsMicrobadge: I love baseball!Microbadge: Belgian beer fanMicrobadge: Train Gamer
I'm presently in the process of fleshing out the lore and world for WARLINE: Tactical Fantasy Battles. More importantly, however, I'm working hard to have the fantasy world and lore fully integrated into the game play--which has been a fun and unique challenge, considering the nature of the game play (competitive abstract-combined-with-wargame).

With regards to fleshing out the world of WARLINE, my starting goal was to not only create a world rich with lore and detail, but also a world that players could directly interact within--a world ready for players to recreate and play within literally every square inch. Over the past couple of months I have been able to settle on what, I feel, is a solid design direction.

I needed to take a layered design approach, because there are three major world concepts that I needed to conceive: 1) Comprehensive geography, including both natural and man-made features, and also land marks and other lore-related features (e.g. rumored locations of powerful artifacts); 2) a defined lexicon for the written language of the land; and 3) how to translate all of the geography and landmarks into a format that players can use to easily and quickly recreate onto their tabletop any given "sector" of the world.

Accomplishing point #1 and #2 were a really fun tasks. It took a little bit of research into the general ideas behind the physical development of certain geological features, and also a little anthropological research into the formation of societies and development of language. The result of the R&D is a detailed map of one of the continents in the world of WARLINE (over time, following the launch of the game, I will flesh out additional continents across the world and offer them as expansions).

From gallery of ElJayPlay

The continent of Soroyland

Point #3 was a bit more challenging of a problem to solve, because of the physical construction of the game, and the way that the game plays. For point of reference, to follow is an photo of the current game prototype. You'll notice that the play surface is made up of a simple grid.

From gallery of ElJayPlay

WARLINE core game platform

So, how to turn a flat grid into a detailed representation of small sectors in a massive world? First off, I had already designed "terrain modifier" components and rules--so, I was already halfway done solving the problem. In a nutshell, the player is able to apply a single terrain modifier to any given cell on the game platform, thereby transforming that cell from "flatland" (i.e. unmodified) into anything from "mountain" to "hills" to "waterbody" to "chasm" to "populace" and more. Each different terrain modifier type pushes certain properties to battalions (the player's core game components) as they move between cells--so, it's harder or easier to move depending upon the terrain, and combat capabilities are increased or decreased depending upon the terrain.

The other half of the problem, translating a full-featured world into a simple grid of terrain types took some effort. First, I had to determine the relative scale of a single core battlefield (also note that multiple core battlefields can be combined into any size and form factor a player pleases). But, to do that I needed to decide upon the relative scale of a single cell on a battlefield. To spare you the long drawn out reasoning brought about by math and game session times and desire for length of playing out epic campaigns and perceived scope of the overall experience, I settled on: 1 core battlefield represents 1 mile, while 1 cell represents 1/8 mile (there are 8 cells on a core battlefield). The cool thing about figuring out this is I am able to understand the full size of the continent and oceansides--which comes out to be roughly 15,625 square miles! That's a lot of territory to battle on...

Once I settled on relative scales, I began painstakingly plotting every single cell of a battlefield onto the massive world map. I generated a simple color-coded map and legend that makes it quite simple to choose a spot in the world that you want to battle on, and then quickly build it out using terrain modifiers. The map I use to play is a 4-foot by 4-foot cloth beast (big as a small blanket!), but the version that will be included in the shipping game will necessarily be made of quality paper, and necessarily divided into either 8 or 16 separate pieces (depending upon manufacturing cost logistics). And, if you're asking, "Why can't the map be smaller?" Because there is so much land, and an individual battlefield cell needs to be easily measurable by the naked eye--and there are exactly 1000 cells worth of land either horizontally or vertically.

From gallery of ElJayPlay

Soroyland terrain grid map, or "The Blanket"

From gallery of ElJayPlay

One "dot" equals one battlefield cell--Eight "dots" equals one single core battlefield game platform

From gallery of ElJayPlay

Terrain grid legend

Sometimes I question whether or not all of this attention to detail and effort are overkill--will anyone even care? But, whenever I look back at one of my key design goals for WARLINE--the game is a platform for player creativity and involvement as a community--I'm immediately reminded that, no, all of this attention to detail and effort aren't overkill, and they are absolutely necessary to accomplish my goals. So, while it does push back my original target dates for launching the game (now aiming for the end of 2018), it will be well worth it in the end: Not only will players be able to deeply immerse themselves in the game and fiction, but also I can't wait to see all of the creative scenarios and events in the world of WARLINE that players conjure up and share with the community!

Thanks for hanging out and reading!
Justin D Leingang
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