A while ago I discussed the inner workings of the mine and how it came to be incorporated into Forge War. I thought I’d take some time to discuss the other major element of the game: quest cards.
So let’s start by talking about Tzolk’in. In my opinion, Tzolk’in is one of the most innovative board games in a long, long time. It’s mechanic of time-resolved actions was not only ingenious and unique (and facilitated the most kick-ass board design ever), but it was also inspirational to me as a designer. They took a relatively simple worker placement game, but instead of giving the player an action when the worker was placed, the action was taken when the worker was removed, and, more importantly the action taken was determined by how many turns the worker had been sitting there. It facilitated planning and forward-thinking in a way that was almost brain-breaking.
In fact, if I have any complaint about Tzolk’in is that the complexity of the worker wheels set up a steep learning curve for those who pitted themselves against the game. There were too many variables to fully parse and not enough variability in the initial setup, such that those who played the game a lot and developed specific worker placement strategies (or looked up those strategies online) could completely dominate those new to the game.
Which isn’t a terrible thing. I don’t mind a game rewarding skilled players, but I think a player is better served when a game rewards intelligence and adaptability rather than a game-specific knowledge base.
But, anyway, this post isn’t a review of Tzolk’in. And even if it were, I would be remiss to get all negative. Tzolk’in is amazing and elevates the hobby. And the point is that Tzolk’in forced me with its awesomeness to incorporate time-resolved actions as a base mechanic in Forge War.
I knew right off the bat that, unlike something like Lords of Waterdeep, in which quests are a one-and-done business of paying resources for points, I wanted quests in Forge War to be alive, so that players undertake them and then go on a turn-by-turn journey with them as the quests evolve and get more difficult through the progression of the game. And so that when the quest is finally complete, it feels like a real accomplishment.
On the one hand, if you think of adventurers as “workers” (which, really, you probably shouldn’t), then quests bare some semblance to the action wheels of Tzolk’in. You pick the quest you want to take, put your adventurers down on it (with weapons, of course), and then wait to reap the rewards. Luckily, however, some of the AP-inducing complexity is taken out in that you don’t really need to make a choice as to when to remove the adventurers. There is a clear end that you want to get to in order to get the best rewards. The trick is just managing your quests properly to get there. There’s still a lot of weight to the decisions of what quests to take, when to add more adventurers and what weapons to give them, but the complexity feels less paralyzing in my opinion.
And so once that concept of time-resolved quests was conceived, the game really just took off from there. It was just a matter of developing the quests themselves, as well as the market card weapons and bonuses, and then just balancing everything to make the game run smoothly so that it is challenging but not crushingly difficult to succeed.
And the truly rewarding thing for me to see as a designer is that the mechanics do facilitate winners that are intelligent but not necessarily experienced with the game. I have played Forge War, well, a lot. I know the ins and out of every market card build (which would be the closest thing to a specific strategy). And on more than one occasion I have seen a particularly savvy new player either beat me directly or obliterate my personal best score.
I think the quest concepts are easy to pick up and tread that fine line between challenging a player and overwhelming them with too many complex choices. Obviously that line is in different places for different people, but I think a lot of people will find a lot of enjoyment in Forge War.