News for December 2009
The Evolution of Design 14
Corey Konieczka writes about the design process for Runewars
Runewars | Published 11 December 2009

This week, we present a “designer diary” from Runewars designer Corey Konieczka, who took time to share some of his insights into the design process, as well as his influences.

. . .

With the release of Runewars quickly approaching, I thought now would be a good time to share some insight into the design of Runewars, its evolution through playtesting, and similarities to Battlemist.

At the start of the project, we knew we wanted to reinvent our classic game Battlemist in the same way Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition re-envisioned the classic 2nd edition.

The first step was deciding which elements from Battlemist were worth keeping, and design everything else from scratch. The two main elements from Battlemist that inspired elements in Runewars were the heroes and the victory conditions.

Heroes
Perhaps the most innovative feature of Battlemist was the fact that in addition to controlling armies, each player had a number of heroes at his disposal. These heroes would go one quests and attempt to find powerful artifacts.

This concept really got me excited, but it was a long road to find a way to make heroes interesting and easy to understand. The quest and hero mechanics were designed from scratch to add more strategy and depth, and to reduce the randomness found in Battlemist.

Originally, Heroes in Runewars also could participate in battles with normal military units. As the game evolved, playtesters started complaining about the number of exceptions to the rules for Heroes as units. I had to agree with them when I started writing the rules and they became a mess of nonsense: “Heroes can do x, but not y, and are treated as units under condition z.”

I accepted the fact that most people do not have cybernetic brains and ultimately decided to completely divorce Hero figures them from their military counterparts. While this saddened me, it allowed me to make heroes more specialized in their four main functions:

  1. Questing: Heroes can complete quests to collect powerful artifacts and attain rune shards.
  2. Dueling: Heroes can attack opposing heroes to steal their equipment and rune shards.
  3. Scouting: Players may look at face down rune tokens in any area containing a friendly hero. This ties heroes into the military side of the game and makes them very important when planning a large scale invasion.
  4. Exploring: This optional rule provides more narrative to heroes’ exploration by placing random facedown tiles on each area at the start of the game. Heroes interact with these tokens to discover powerful locations and events that can have profound effects.

Three Exploration Tokens. Click them to see the Exploration Reference Sheet.

Victory
The second unique element that really stood out in Battlemist was that it was not a simple game of military conquest. In Battlemist, a player won by collecting a certain number of Stars of Timmoran, usually by conquering enemy territory or completing quests. This central idea led me to a system that spawned more distrust, secrecy, and excitement than a simple conquest game could not provide.

The first thing I did was change the Stars of Timmoran from cards into the Rune tokens found in Runewars. By making them tokens, Runes could be placed on areas of the game board and provide military hot spots. Since “Dragon Rune” and “False Rune” tokens share a common back, players never completely know how many Dragon Runes their opponents control and cannot simply gang up on the leader. This system has lead to some very tense games, with victory often coming from tactical military strikes.

The ways of attaining Dragon Runes also evolved greatly throughout the design process. I ultimately decided on three main paths to victory and created one special Title card for each path. These cards not only help players attain victory, but also serve as reminders of how a player can attain Dragon Runes.

The three Title Cards. Click to Enlarge.

Inspiration for Runewars come from many sources including Battlemist, Twilight Imperium, and even A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. Even with all this inspiration, the final product is a unique game that really stands on its own. It is my ultimate hope that the experience of playing Runewars earns it a place on your table and in your heart for many years to come.

. . .

One final note: At the end of the last Runewars preview, we promised a special surprise to come your way this week. That surprise was to be a video for Runewars, but we’re still putting the finishing touches on it, and it won’t be available as soon as we’d thought. Keep checking back, however, and we’re sure you’ll find it well worth the wait!

Runewars is an epic board game of conquest, adventure, and fantasy empires. Two to four players raise armies, gather resources, and race to collect the elusive and powerful dragon runes in the high-fantasy universe of Runebound.

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Comments (14)

Rakshasa
Published: 12/15/2009 8:17:47 AM
#14

Word up, Magic Pink. I can understand that people like the videos, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they're what I'd consider a "big surprise". In all honesty, I'd rather see the rulebook too, but it might be a while.

Pierre Charneux
Published: 12/14/2009 9:48:59 PM
#13

Waiting impatiently for the video.  AND THE RULEBOOK 

Pierre Charneux
Published: 12/14/2009 9:45:19 PM
#12

I'm kind of sad that the heroes won't take part in military combats.  Nevertheless this game still looks awesome.  And the fate deck is a great thing.

Magic Pink
Published: 12/14/2009 2:51:06 PM
#11

A VIDEO is the big surprise?? Are you kidding me?

 

Oh my god, who cares? Give us the rulebook already!

bsmith13
Published: 12/13/2009 10:25:46 PM
#10

Yep, this looks like one I'm gonna have to get.

Wallabee_Champ
Published: 12/13/2009 12:40:04 PM
#9

The more I read about this game, the more excited I'm getting! I'm *really* looking forward to this one!

ffgfan
Published: 12/13/2009 3:44:58 AM
#8

It one of the most wanted titles for me, with every preview it looks more promising.

David Spangler
Published: 12/12/2009 11:02:24 AM
#7

Corey, I'd appreciate it if you'd do a Designer Diary about combat and why you are using cards rather than dice, the advantages cards give you, and so on.  Dice are being used in such innovative ways in WFRP; I 'm wondering if they couldn't be used in equally innovative ways for combat in a game like this, or even better a dice/card combination with cards setting up the visual/tactical feel of the combat and dice resolving it but perhaps in a way similar to WFRP.

I have no doubt the card-based resolution will work well; while I found it a bit clunky and confusing in Starcraft, I found card-based combat worked very well in MEQ. So I can see the technique evolving.  But it would still be nice to get some of your design thinking here about this, if you have the time.

Steve-O
Published: 12/11/2009 2:21:32 PM
#6

Sounds exciting!  The exploration tokens sound a little like Distant Suns tokens in TI3.  Not at all a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

cadamec
Published: 12/11/2009 12:56:23 PM
#5

I can't wait for the video! You guys have been producing the slickest teaser/trailer videos I have ever seen for boardgames!

Unknown
Published: 12/11/2009 12:38:03 PM
#4

Looking good so far. I am still iffy with the combat. These are the type of articles besides strategy inspiring articles Fantasy Flight Games really need to make more of. The creator talking about WHY they changed this or that, and also talking more about play testing.

A common criticism towards FFG is tht they do not play test products long enough which requires errata. By constantly talking about what the play testers are finding and how you are adjusting to their thoughts you (FFG) can lay that criticism to rest.

Though this game has many awesome things about it, I am still worried about the combat and fate cards. You mention Game of Thrones, Twilight Imperium, and Battlemist as games you adopted from, but why leave out the obvious Warrior Knights mechanics that pretty much make up a 3rd of this game with the fate deck? Just curious is all.

Can't wait for the video. Those videos are very helpful for me to burn of youtube and then loop on a TV in my store for customers. I have sold many more FFG games since doing that.

CanadianPittbull
Published: 12/11/2009 11:09:30 AM
#3

I too cannot wait to get this game on the table! Nothing but win/win with all of these sneak peeks!

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