While the wheels turn on the Gloomhaven reprint, it is comforting to know that there are many people still curious about Founders of Gloomhaven and when it will be up on Kickstarter. As you may know, I was planning on throwing it into the Gloomhaven reprint Kickstarter (or rather, throwing the Gloomhaven reprint into the Founders Kickstarter), but I didn’t feel like it was ready, and the last thing I wanted to do is rush another Kickstarter project (the first Gloomhaven Kickstarter felt a little rushed to me). So I decided to separate the two and move ahead with just the reprint Kickstarter. That ended up doing ridiculously well, but it left open the question of, with the great success of Gloomhaven, when would the next game be seeing the light of day?
Obviously, I have about 40,000 people waiting for their copy of Gloomhaven, and I have no intention of making them wait any longer than they have to – that will always be my first priority until the game is actually in everyone’s hands. But now that the Kickstarter is over, and the proofing process is finishing up, it is basically just a lot of waiting. Waiting for the printers to do their thing, and then waiting for the freight ships to do their thing.
So I finally got a chance to start working on Founders of Gloomhaven again last week, which was a nice change for me. It’s been a while since I spent some time working on game mechanics, and I had a lot of pent up creativity in that area, and I sort of went to town and made some big changes.
I am very happy with the overall way the game works – the way players spread out on a map, buy into each others’ resources and race to combine them and deliver them to prestige buildings whose type and placement are determined by a vote. It feels very fresh and solid to me, but the actual mechanics of how players take actions to perform the core mechanisms of the game has never quite sat well with me.
Initially, the mechanic was a simple worker placement idea. There was a board with actions, people had workers and they took turns placing them on the board to take the corresponding actions. Very simple, and, if I’m being honest, boring. It just felt a little lazy and unexciting. The game surrounding the worker placement was interesting, but in the context of that game, the blocking out of actions by other players just felt too punitive. It wasn’t like Agricola, where someone blocking an action at most just cost you a couple points. It was more like, someone blocking an action tanked the rest of your round, and there were only, like, six rounds in the game.
I wanted the number of actions to be less restricted, but I also wanted there to be interesting choices, so I came up with a deck of adviser cards that acted as a bonus to acting first, rather than a negative for acting last. Basically, a number of random adviser cards were dealt out every round that gave different bonuses for different actions. Actions were not limited, but the advisers were. If you were going to perform an action that the adviser gave a bonus for, you could take the adviser and get the bonus in addition to your action. This felt better. Less punitive and more interesting, but also a little random and just not quite right. This was the version I was preparing to go to Kickstarter with before I went crazy and scrapped all the action mechanics last week.
What happened was, I decided to run further with the advisers idea and just make the whole action selection business card-based. There is no action board to place workers on or set rounds to play out. Instead players just take turns playing cards until the game ends. Everyone starts with four cards representing the four basic action types. On their turn, a player will play the card of the action they want to take, and then all other players will follow them, taking a lesser action of the same type or a more basic action. There are also ways to buy new cards and get your played cards back into your hand. It’s kind of like a mix between Puerto Rico and Concordia. Except what is going on on the board is nothing like Puerto Rico or Concordia.
For the first time, I am feeling legitimately good about the action mechanics… almost. It was a very recent change, and the system is still very raw. There are lots of special powers to tweak and balancing at different player counts to do, but I feel like progress in that regard shouldn’t be that difficult. I actually had a great play test session today that helped tremendously, and I feel like the game is well on its way to being something I can be incredibly proud of.
So where do we go from here? Well, I’m headed off to Geekway to the West on Thursday with a freshly printed prototype under my arm. I’m hope that goes well and I can use the demo experiences there to craft a legitimate review copy by the end of next week. That seems kind of fast, but I think it’s possible. The game is still a little loose. It could use some tightening around the belt, but I think that is something I can do fairly quickly if I put my mind to it.
The art and graphic design are coming along, as well. These were the main reasons I didn’t want to put it up on Kickstarter last month. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but enough of the work is done at this point that I feel a reasonable-looking review copy can get made and a nice Kickstarter page can be created, given another month or so of progress.
So, yeah, the current plan is to launch a Kickstarter campaign some time around the end of June, after Origins. It very much depends on how quickly I can tighten up the latest iteration and whether I will be happy with it at the end of the process, but if all goes well, that will be the time table.
I just hope people realize, when it does go up on Kickstarter, that this is not Gloomhaven. This is a fairly heavy Euro that will not necessarily appeal to the same crowd. There will be some interesting lore elements to the game, and Alexandr’s artwork will give the game the same feel, but at the same time, it is aimed at a much more niche market. I feel like my job during the Kickstarter might end up being convincing people not to buy the game. It should be interesting.