Designer Discussion 3: With a Little Help From Your Friends
Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall designer Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Descent) discusses the cooperative nature of the game, and how it is built into multiple aspects of gameplay.
One of the central themes of Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall is that of camaraderie. You’re on an adventure with trusted and true friends at your back, and many of the game mechanics are built to reflect and emphasize that.
Each of the Seekers has a unique ability that is useful in combat. However, unlike most games, in Kinfire Chronicles, these abilities are designed primarily to help the other players, not yourself.
Asha lets other Seekers deal extra damage when attacking into her space.
Feyn can have an extra ward in play, and his wards often give bonuses to the other Seekers.
Khor can absorb damage for others.
Naz can move other Seekers instead of herself.
Roland ignores card colors when assisting other Seekers with boost cards.
Valora gives armor to the other Seekers as she moves around.
By structuring their special abilities this way, it helps to get players into the proper frame of mind to help each other out, and to think of each other as a team.
In addition to the player abilities, half of the cards in your deck are boosts, and can’t be played to help yourself. Instead, you play them to assist the other players in their actions. Boost cards can add damage to another player’s attack or block incoming damage aimed at them, allow other players to draw or discard a card, move an extra space, heal damage, or even force the redraw of a destiny chit that you don’t like. This not only continues to reinforce the theme of teamwork, it also helps to ensure that players stay active even when it’s not their turn in combat.
One of the more subtle game elements that encourages teamwork are the heart chits in the destiny bag. When drawn, the players choose a Seeker, who then takes a turn. This always leads to a moment of discussion about what the players should do, and often develops into a short strategy session. Other times, players use it to give a turn to a player who hasn’t gone in awhile, or one who’s close to drawing a new hand of cards and charging their lantern. All in all, the heart chits are a powerful tool for teamwork if you use them wisely.
Defeats and Enemy Focus
During a battle, if even one Seeker drops to 0 Health, the Seekers lose the battle as a group. This really drives home the lesson that the players have to help each other out - their success depends on it. Of course, in many games, there’s only so much you can do to protect each other, but in Kinfire Chronicles there are a lot of tools to help you keep each other safe. The most powerful of these tools is drawing enemy focus away from an injured friend. Enemies won’t attack Seekers directly unless they’re focused on them, so if you can attract their focus either by attacking them with an aggravating attack or through a special game effect, then you can keep your friends safe - admittedly at your own expense. Just watch out for area of effect attacks which hit every Seeker in a space. It doesn’t do much good to draw attention away from another Seeker in your space if a dragon then breathes fire on both of you.
Outside of Combat
Even when you’re not battling enemies, the game mechanics attempt to promote teamwork in a number of small but significant ways. Decisions when adventuring or exploring a town must be made as a group, with the Seekers sharing a single pool of coin to spend on shiny new items. Conundrums will force the players to reach an agreement on a number of difficult decisions, rewarding some or all of them with kinfire tokens, and many skill checks will ask for the players to choose a single Seeker to step up and put themselves at risk for the group.
Overall, the goal has always been to tell an epic tale that you can share with friends and/or family. Your defeats, your triumphs, your moments of heroism and sacrifice are all made that much sweeter when you share them with some boon companions at the table. After all, where would Frodo be without Sam? It’s dangerous to go alone, so don’t.