Today we’re pleased to offer a second designer diary by Corey Konieczka, who was willing to take the time to share his insights into the combat system for Runewars , the upcoming board game of combat, adventure, and fantasy empires!
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Last week I talked a little about the evolution of the Runewars game design and its inspirations. But even with the most interesting characters, setting, and victory conditions, a game of armies and empires would surely fall flat if it did not have exciting and engaging battles.
When I first set out to design the combat system, I thought about what I wanted it to accomplish. First, the system needed to be immersive and thematic: it had to make necromancers feel like necromancers (and I don’t mean cold and clammy). Second, it had to be quick, and never become cumbersome. With these goals in mind, I set off on my quest... but unlike many of the quests in Runewars , this one required neither strength nor agility.
I wanted a system that would make each unit unique. Many games use a simple “hit number” system. In this type of system, a die is rolled for each unit and if the roll is high enough it “hits” (deals a measly point of damage to its opponent). This is a great basis for a system, but simply did not provide enough options for to satisfy my vision for Runewars .
The freedom to do more than just succeed or fail was another design goal; Mennara, like our world, is not just black and white, but full of many shades of grey. In Runewars , units can deal degrees of damage, rout varying numbers of units, and have different chances of triggering their super special thematic abilities (and yes, the dragons in Runewars can breath fire).
It is for that reason that I decided that only cards could provide the flexibility and wide range of options that my vision required. Furthermore, by dividing each card into multiple areas, a single card type could replace the need for various types of dice. Lastly, and most importantly, cards went hand in hand with my aspiration to make combat quick while removing the need for any cumbersome reference tables.
When designing Runewars , one of my goals was to create an epic empire building game that did not grind to a halt when two players entered combat. No matter the system, players not involved in combat often find themselves sitting back and waiting. My plan, however, involved minimizing the twiddling of thumbs. This was done in a number of ways, and once implemented made the game play in less than half the time of similar games.
One way this was done was by avoiding forcing players to make constant use of references tables. By giving each unit type a different shaped base, we were able to remove the need for such tables and allow players to easily asses their opponent’s forces.
Two other things helped create a fast combat system. First off, by limiting each combat to five rounds, we prevent the never ending battle dilemma. Second, by making the most important decisions happen before combat (such as deciding which units to bring to the battle), we remove analysis paralysis.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, the final combat system for Runewars is similar to that of Twilight Imperium , but with more of an emphasis on variety in the outcome of the battles. Simply turn the dice into cards, add a cup of options, a bucket of thematic flavor and a pinch of Battlemist ’s initiative system and you’ve got the recipe for a fantastic strategy experience!
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Thanks Corey! Keep checking back in the coming weeks as we continue to explore the many facets of Runewars .
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.