Design Diary: A Sense Of Closure
Hello, Needy Cat followers and Hellboy fans alike!
As you might have gathered from the complete silence on the Needy Cat Blog (no posts in nearly three months… oops!) we’ve been a teensy bit busy. Can’t possibly think why…
It’s safe to say that Hellboy took a bit longer than expected, once you factor in all the bells and whistles that got added in during the campaign! And our schedule wasn’t exactly sparse to begin with, so Sophie and I have basically transformed into stunted work-goblins over the past few months, only leaving our dank cave to eat food, go to meetings and gather raw materials to feed the ever-hungry prototyping table.
Okay, maybe there’s a little bit of exaggeration there, but not a lot - it’s been utterly mad, with late nights and weekends aplenty. Thankfully, there’s some good news: the first wave of Hellboy has been handed over, and we’re really happy with how it’s turned out!
So although we’re still snowed under with all the other work that’s been squeezed aside, I thought it would be great to give a rundown of exactly what’s in Wave 1 (of the Kickstarter) and how it looks. Maybe even give you a couple of sneak peeks. Excited? Let’s get to it!
Hellboy: The Board Game
The core boxed game went through a heck of a lot of testing, and it feels really good. We’ve had some great feedback - playtesters have been consistently positive about the way players are always engaged, how the game moves quickly and is streamlined while still offering legitimate tough decisions, and the different feel of the various characters.
The board game contains six sealed Case Files which are full of surprises - I won’t spoil anything here, but we witnesses several “wait, what??” moments during playtesting.
The Conqueror Worm
This is the first expansion, and introduces a slew of new stuff. First up you’ve got two new Agents - Lobster Johnson and Roger. Lobster is capable of laying down a crazy hail of lead with his twin pistols, and can mark enemies for death, making them easier to take down. He’s also not one for staying down, even when he gets Knocked Out! Roger, on the other hand, is a veritable tank. The first character with a red Defend skill, he outclasses even Hellboy when it comes to taking a licking and carrying on ticking. He also has some handy utility skills (he’s great at stunning enemies), but is limited by his Vital Charge - as it winds down his Fight skill drops.
The expansion also includes a heap of new Minions, the Nazi Troopers. These guys are pretty weak compared to the Frog Monsters in the core game, and if you get in amongst them you won’t have a hard time keeping them down. However, they tend to travel in large numbers, and their guns aren’t messing around!
You’ll also find two more sealed Case Files, loosely based around the events of the Conqueror Worm comic… and both featuring possibly the scariest Boss yet, the Conqueror Worm! This colossal space-maggot is utterly terrifying, and has a reputation amongst the playtesters as being something you don’t want to get within several areas of. Enough said!
The set also contains a bunch of new room tiles, Deck of Doom cards, Encounter Cards, Requisition cards and Boss Behaviour cards. With all the expansions, the aim is to include cards and components that can be used elsewhere, not just in games that use that specific expansion’s Case Files. For example, there are a couple of Deck of Doom cards that will only be used in Case Files that feature the Conqueror Worm, but most of them can be shuffled into your main deck, meaning you can play through the core game Case Files again and face a bunch of new challenges!
Finally, the set contains some cards that allow its components to be used in the BPRD Archives expansion… which I should probably explain now.
Unlike the other Expansions we’ve currently got planned (Conqueror Worm, Darkness Calls and Hellboy in Mexico, the latter two of which will be shipped as part of Wave 2), this one’s a bit of an oddball. Instead of being thematically linked to a specific story arc, it gives players everything they need to generate random Case Files using everything in their collection. If the Case Files included in other expansions are “story mode”, this is “arcade mode” - an endlessly replayable shuffle setting where you can switch up the settings to suit your group and face off against a new combination of challenges each time you play.
The “Case File Constructor” is the heart of the expansion - a Case File uber-deck split into seven Elements. When you sit down to play, instead of choosing a Case File deck as normal, you construct one at random, each Element providing one part of the deck. For example, you’ll draw a card from the Environment Element to determine how the map is laid out, and how the Deck of Doom is constructed, and you’ll draw a number of cards from the Twist Element to introduce unexpected plot twists during the game. Putting a deck together takes less than five minutes and has minimal decision-making (you choose a rough duration and challenge rating, but everything else is random) so you can get on with playing the game with minimal fuss. If you like, you can even construct a deck ahead of time - if you’ve got some friends coming over for a game, you don’t need to bore them with the details and can just get things set up and ready to go.
Each other expansion - including Conqueror Worm - will include additional cards for the Constructor deck, meaning it expands with your collection and brings in even more variety.
Although the Case File Constructor is the main focus of the BPRD Archives expansion, it’s far from the only bit. There’s also a host of new enemies (werewolves, witches, harpies and more), two Bosses (Baba Yaga and Hecate), and a heap of new Deck of Doom, Encounter and Boss Behaviour cards. The Deck of Doom actually gets an interesting upgrade, in the form of Unexpected Threat cards - these can be used to introduce a serious level of threat to any Case, bringing powerful enemies (and even Bosses!) into play ahead of the Confrontation.
Oh, one last thing - the expansion includes another hero, and this one’s a bit unusual!
If you thought that was all… well, you’re just wrong!
People who backed the Kickstarter at a sufficient level are going to get their hands on a serious friggin’ boatload of extra stuff. I’ve got no idea what the long-term plans are for this stuff - I’m sure a lot of it will eventually end up getting packaged up for retail - but for now, it’s just a shiny pile of awesome things for Kickstarter backers.
When we started working on this, the first job was to nail down exactly what needed writing. In the frantic excitement of the Kickstarter campaign, especially towards the end when things got a bit mad, some terminology got thrown around that didn’t quite line up with our plans for the game. One particular example was “Scenario” and “Confrontation”. These terms were used fairly interchangeably, without it ever really being clear what they meant!
Well, we did a lot of head-scratching and re-evaluated everything from the ground up. Our guiding principle was this: if a Boss was included as a stretch goal, it needed to be possible to use that Boss in the Confrontation at the end of a Case File. That was a hard, immutable fact! Also, there were several characters who didn’t feel epic enough to carry a Confrontation on their own, but who still deserved a chance of turning up - Unmensch, for example, or Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (or, indeed, the monkey with a gun). We devised a new category of enemy - an “uber-Minion”, if you like, called a Fiend.
So we decided to do two things. Each Boss would get a Confrontation card, which would tie into the BPRD Archives Case Constructor deck. The final Element of that deck is Confrontation, so we’ve created a whole slew of Confrontation cards for that Element, each of which is specific to one of the extra Bosses included in the Kickstarter. There’s already a Confrontation Element card that lets you use a random Boss from your collection, but these new ones are themed to their specific Boss. You might find yourself facing off against Ualac, dealing with his increasing rage if you start to beat him, or you might be trying to stop Ragna Rok Rasputin as he attempts to summon one of the Ogdru Hem - better stop him in time, or things are gonna get pretty tough!
For Fiends - and for a couple of Bosses - we also included Unexpected Threat cards, like the ones in the BPRD Archives set. This means these bad guys might show up during any Case File - you might be chasing down Frog Monsters as suddenly come across Kroenen’s secret lair, or have a run-in with an Evil Turkey…
Overall, we’re thrilled with how we’ve worked all these extra characters into the game. My original vision of a modular system, where you can easily swap elements in or out to keep it fresh and replayable, seems to have worked out. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!
Oh, and I’ve only just started talking about what’s included, haven’t I?
One of the really popular things during the campaign was the idea of fully playable backup agents, and this is what we’ve done! We’re calling them Center-Stage Backup Agents, and they’re deliberately less powerful than regular Agents. This is great if you’ve got an experienced player introducing the game to a new group - that person can play a Center-Stage Backup Agent while letting the others control regular Agents, so they still feel challenged. If you’re feeling particularly brave you can even take a full B-Team - what would happen if Agents Corrigan, Waller, Clark and Leach took on Rasputin and the Tentacles of Sadu-hem? One way to find out…
Oh, and as well as the backup Agents in the core box, there are two new characters who get both Backup Agent and Center-Stage Backup Agent cards: Trevor Bruttenholm and “Pancakes” Hellboy…
As well as new enemies and Agents, the Kickstarter Extras include a load of new Deck of Doom, Requisition and Boss Behaviour cards. The Deck of Doom cards include the much-requested Rookie Mode and Hardcore Mode cards - these can be used with any Case File, switching out a whole chunk of the Deck of Doom with cards that are either more laid back (for those who prefer to take their time and enjoy the story) or more insane (for those who really, really want a challenge).
Phew - I think that’s everything! Wave 2 is still in progress, so more on that later, but I think you’ll agree there’s a hell of a lot to sink your teeth into there. As I said, I’m really proud of how modular and adaptable the system is - even just the core box itself has a lot of replayability, but there are loads of extra bits and pieces that can be combined in enough ways that I’m sure people will be able to play this game for years to come without getting bored.
So there you have it! What are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below…