Bonefields Development Blog 1: In At The Deep End
Today’s kind of a momentous occasion.
Sophie’s first game just went live on Kickstarter.
Okay, the Kickstarter’s really for the miniatures range by Macrocosm Miniatures, the game being a fairly late addition to the project, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening!
The early development of this game has been pretty intense. As it happens, Chris from Macrocosm was developing his own set of rules, but lost them in a tragic feat of technological calamity; we bumped into him at a local wargaming show just after this had happened, and his face said it all. It wasn’t enough that he was running his own business from home and was just about to launch into a large Kickstarter… now he had to somehow produce a set of rules from nowhere in less than two weeks.
“Don’t suppose you’re at a loose end, are you?” he asked, desperation ever-so-slightly audible under his trademark stoicism.
As it happened, I wasn’t. In case you hadn’t heard, I’ve been rather busy lately - Hellboy’s in full swing, there’s a Secret Side Project in development, another game’s currently with the playtesters, and I’ve got several other things queued up - I think my answer was “um, can you wait until September?”
Then Soph came up with an idea. Why couldn’t she write it?
She’d already joined Needy Cat as Chief Thing-Doer (leaving me as Head Stuff-Writer), but she’d been crying out for more jobs, and this seemed to fit the bill. She’d do the bulk of the work, but I’d keep a close eye on the project, we’d have daily meetings to review what she’s doing - I’d effectively give her on-the-job training, make suggestions and make sure the game is up to the exacting Needy Cat Standard, but let her do the heavy lifting.
We suggested this to Chris, and within 24 hours we’d made a deal that suited us both. It was happening!
Sophie’s first full-time week in the Needy Cat Office, then, ended up with her jumping in the deep end. She grabbed a stack of rulebooks from our bookshelves, called up friends to borrow more, and did a load of research online. Although she’s been tinkering with games for years, and she’s been a big part of any playtesting I’ve done, this was going to be her first stab at writing a system from scratch. Our original plan was to extend the R&D period on this project. It seemed only fair! Then we realised that the Kickstarter was launching very imminently, and we knew people would want to get a feel for what the rules were going to be like. Like a trooper, Sophie blitzed ahead and started writing rules.
Today, we put models on the table and played a game. And you know what? It’s already looking good!
Our plan is to get the game written during the Kickstarter, to the point where you’ll be able to download a beta set of rules, play them with stand-in minis and give us feedback. Then, following a testing period, we should be able to get it to the printers in time for it to be shipped along with the rest of the Kickstarter bits and pieces. It sounds like a bit of a challenge, but believe me, I’ve come up against much tighter deadlines. I’m already feeling confident that things are on-track!
So what’s the game going to be like? Honestly, we don’t know for certain. However, here are a few snapshots of what it’s like at the moment. Any of this is subject to change, of course! If anything sounds amazing or dreadful, let us know in the comments - this is your chance to guide the game’s development, so use it!
- The game is played between two warbands of undead warriors, each led by a spellcaster. There are different types of spellcasters, each with their own unique spells.
- Each round of play, you’ll generate a number of spell points (represented by putting tokens around your spellcaster to represent swirling magical energy). When your spellcaster takes damage you can discard spell points from around them to ignore it, representing the attacks being magically deflected. You can also spend spell points to power, well, spells.
- The most basic spells, available to anyone, interact with your warband. You can move spell tokens to other models, temporarily making them more powerful; you can also discard them to place summoning tokens on the battlefield (those lovely skull tokens that are available as part of the Kickstarter are ideal), which you can convert into new warriors on a later turn. You can also reanimate your own models that have been ‘killed’ - this is a cheaper alternative to raising new ones, but they have to come back where they were before they ‘died’ (we still need to work on the terminology, clearly).
- The system is built around dice pools, and is dead (ho ho) simple. When a warrior attacks, you roll a number of dice determined by their stats and equipment, and keep the highest result. This is compared to the target’s Defence - if it beats it, they suffer damage. For most basic warriors, just taking damage is enough to take them out of play, but spellcasters and big models will have multiple health points. Models that are taken out are laid down (or replaced with a token, if that’s your thing) ready to be reanimated later.
- Things get a bit clever with the “mob mechanic”; when multiple models attack at once, you pool together all of your dice, roll them, then keep one dice for every model that’s attacking. Due to MATHS, this means that two models fighting together are significantly better than two models fighting separately. There are loads of ways to play around with this system, so there’s going to be plenty of variety when it comes to equipment and abilities.
- There’s going to be a robust set of campaign rules for linking battles and advancing your warband. By default, we’re thinking this game will work best as an ongoing set of battles between two players (after all, there are two warbands available!), so we’re going to put lots of thought into making that just as interesting as playing against lots of different opponents. That means lots of varied scenarios and lots of different ways to play. We can’t wait to get onto that part!
- Although you can raise new models to fight for you in a battle, your core warband - the ones that you care about, give names to and paint extra nicely - will be able to level up between games as they’re suffused with more magic over time. Unlike a lot of skirmish games, you don’t need to worry about losing your favourite models - after all, what’s “death” when you’re a skeleton? Of course, certain powerful attacks (powerful magic blasts, huge monsters) might seriously damage your fighters and make them lose an upgrade they’ve previously earned.
So there you go. That’s a look at where the game is now, but it’s still early days. Please let us know what you think in the comments - all feedback will be taken on board. Once we’ve got a stable rule-set we’re keen to post a video of us playing a round so you can see it in action. Watch this space for more development blogs as the design process continues!
One last thing - if you'd like to support us in continuing to create original tabletop games, why not check out our Patreon? Or, if you'd like to just generally stay abreast of what's going on, you can subscribe to our newsletter. Thanks for reading!