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)

Hector131
Published: 12/11/2009 10:42:46 AM
#2

It is looking good. I can't wait till I get this one on the table!

Winter324
Published: 12/11/2009 10:18:54 AM
#1

Great article.  Thank you.  And a thank you for the upcoming video as well!

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