War of the Nine Realms is a tactical skirmish style board game, set in the rich setting of norse mythology, but it did not start out that way…
At the end summer 2014, I was enjoying a fine Kentish ale in a beer garden when the phone rings.
I answer to find Graeme (a man that churns out great game ideas like a popcorn machine) excitingly saying “I’ve got an idea for a game!” and the rest is… well, I’ll get to that.
There was a rumbling:
A few days before the above phone call, we had been discussing the price of games. Whilst most board games are well deserving of their price tags, miniatures games, due to their nature were very unlikely to make it into our *ever growing* game collections. This was highlighted when we played a starter box for a new miniatures game, it had just enough in it to get going and we had a loads of fun playing it! The rules allowed you to create a true city turf tussle amazingly well, but it soon became apparent, like with most *all?* miniature games, that we’d need to invest quite a bit more cash be able to build up the “armies” that would allow us to really get into what the game could offer.
A simple idea:
The phone call I mentioned previously went along the lines of..
“How about we make a miniatures game based on chess pieces? That way people can use any miniatures they like as long as it’s obvious which one is the King, Rook etc…”
The conversation was inspiring, it’s all I could think about! Rooks would be the tanks, Bishops would be healers, Knights would be the muscle, Queens would be sorceress’s, Kings would be badass (but also the crux) and Pawns would be the fodder. Give each army different abilities and you had a game that was easy to get into without the big miniatures expense!
It turned out creating mechanics that allow for a varied yet balanced combat system is not as straight forward as first imagined o.O For every ability we came up with for a unit, we had to ensure that it wasn’t under / over powered, whilst making sure that each army had a unique style and was ultimately, fun to play.
The beginning – V1.0 – V1.6
Our first idea was very much a miniatures game. Rulers for movement and a to and fro dice combat system. The armies were fairly classic – Humans, Orcs, Dwarves, Undead etc and with help from the wonderful wordsmith Dominic McCarthy we fashioned a land for them to occupy with a rich history to tap into. We felt fairly good about what we had achieved, and being the visual thinker that I am, I took great lengths to make the prototype look interesting.
Originally each unit had it’s own card that identified to a chess piece, it displayed you all you needed to know about that character – movement, attacks, abilities, defence, health etc. We were playing a lot of Call of Cthulhu at the time, so cards were a natural choice. It wasn’t long before we got a group of friends together for some play testing. Boy what a learning curve! Overall the feedback was positive, but the gameplay was sluggish, somewhat overly complicated and very unbalanced.
As the saying goes; One step forwards, two steps back. Needless to say, we didn’t give up. I felt we could make it work despite it’s (now) obvious short comings, so we knuckled down to address the issues, rework the abilities, created an alternative unit system and ultimately, listened to what our play testers were saying. With each update the game became a little better, we felt the end was close, which it was in a way. We reached a point where we realised the game needed to change in order to get better.
And so finally, after some drastic overhauling, V2.0 appeared… (to be continued)