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Designer Discussion 2: Easing On In

Updated: Jan 11

Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall designer Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Descent) elaborates on his inspiration for quest organization and amplification of quest difficulty

Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall isn’t exactly my first fantasy adventure game rodeo. Let’s just say I’ve done a few of this sort of game over the years. So, if I was gonna do another one, I wanted to bring some fresh concepts to the genre while still designing a game that could easily be someone’s introduction to fantasy boardgaming. For a while I struggled, trying to think of what I wanted to do, until Jane (our CEO) made a remark that set off a whole fireworks show in my brain. I was discussing how I wanted to somehow package each quest separately in the box and she said, “Oh, like an album sleeve or something?”

Immediately, I had this image of quest albums with cool cover art that you’d open up which would contain everything you’d need for the quest inside them - enemies, cards, tokens - the whole schmear. Rather than spending several hours punching out tokens in preparation for the first play, I could design it so that the things you need are drip-fed to you bit by bit. And that led me to the idea of opening the campaign up with a sort of tutorial to ease players into the game.

Prototype folios for the first few quests

I began to imagine what I could put into the box and how I could organize it in such a way that you’d get presented with each new concept in small bite-sized pieces. The box’s lid, I thought, would lift off and become the board. Directly below that would be a “welcome box”, containing the basic game components you needed to play as well as a “Getting Started” rulebook to explain a few basics before having the players pick a character, each of which would have their own “Seeker box” containing a unique deck of cards. Then, the players would be directed straight into the first quest with only a little bit of setup. With that basic idea, I started to rough out the early stages of the campaign (a few minor spoilers follow, but nothing too big)….

The story begins simply, like a small seed, with the players escorting a caravan to the town of Vinna (or as it was originally jokingly called, Tutorial Town). Quest 1 dumps you straight into combat, and includes a walkthrough for the first 2 turns of battle, as well as the Combat rulebook. I decided to keep the first battle nice and simple, while still showcasing the strengths of the combat system. Any other game elements would be minimized for now, to allow the players to just spend some time absorbing the combat rules and getting used to their characters’ cards.

Quest 1 you fight one enemy, Quest 2 you fight two. What happens in quest 3?

Quest 2 introduces the next part of the game - adventuring (and contains the rulebook explaining how it works). Here, the players read through story cards following an interactive narrative that uses their decks of cards in a non-combat way to resolve various challenges, and starts to allow them to make decisions that affect the flow of the story and how the battles play out. The battle in this quest is more complex, introducing some new wrinkles to gameplay, and ultimately the players reach Vinna at the end of it.

Upon arriving in Vinna, the final major gameplay element is introduced - town exploration. You’re dropped in the town of Vinna, given a map (and the rulebook for town exploration), and allowed to explore as you wish. You can visit shops and buy new cards for your decks, go to the tavern to listen for rumors, or whatever you desire, as long as it’s on the map. Vinna’s not very big, having only a few locations to explore, but it’s intended to let players get their feet wet without getting overwhelmed with choice.

Vinna, aka Tutorial Town

Past that point, the players start to really get into the thick of things. Perhaps they’ll find a side quest or two to go on, or maybe they’ll focus on the main storyline, where they’ll face increasingly-challenging enemies until they’re ready to return to the town of Din’Lux, the main setting of the campaign. And when that happens, I unleash a whole new set of surprises on the players….

I don’t want to spoil too much here, just to explain that the game is structured so as to ease you in slowly, while continually sprinkling new reveals and new experiences in your path throughout the campaign. I never wanted the mechanics to grow stale, so each battle is carefully designed to have its own unique feel, while adventuring keeps throwing you new curveballs, and new town locations keep opening up for you to explore. Right up until the very end of the campaign, I made sure that we kept the players guessing, “How on earth are they gonna top THAT?”

Just like a small seed grows into a mighty oak, the game starts out small, but eventually sprouts up into an epic storyline - one that I hope you’ll join us for.

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