DESIGNING BATTLE FOR SULARIA

Written by Jesse Bergman


A Strategy Game

At this point you’ve heard from John Kimmel, our Creative Director, on exactly what Battle for Sularia’s story is all about. The battle wages constantly on the planet Sularia and you, as a player, are right in the thick of it.

It’s an exciting time for us as we get to lift the veil off the project that is so near and dear to our hearts. Designing Battle for Sularia has been a labor of love for me. While lore and story get us all excited about what kind of world we are diving into, the mechanics of the game have to keep us coming back.

I’ve spent many years playing card games, therefore, many of the mechanics and design philosophies for me came from homage to these past games. However, I wanted to create a battle.

Strategic locations are so important in the outcomes of wars and battles.So I knew in the beginning that I needed to incorporate locations into the game. Locations, which we call sites, are not a new concept to card games in general. What is new is how sites that are established in our game are not safe. Throughout the course of the game sites are damaged, destroyed, and lost. This was the very first mechanical concept that I devised. One thing I wanted to ensure is that these sites would provide the player with a variety of abilities giving them teeth and meaning in the game. Gone are the passive locations that sit on the side of a table, or serve as a map for moving your merry band of travelers. These sites are hard-nosed, in-your-face issues that have to be dealt with, and they can be truly problematic for players.

After I established sites, I knew we were going to need combatants. These are the workhorses of our game. They do all the heavy lifting and provide many unique and exciting options for taking out opponents’ sites. In thinking about battles throughout time on historic sites, I reflected on how many different battles were won or lost due to alliances and joint operations. This led to the decision that multiple combatants should be able to join forces and take out a strategic site. This mechanic in Battle for Sularia is called a Joint Strike Force, and is the glue that holds the combat of our game together.

Once I had established basic combat and who would be targeted, it was time to figure out how to get all these objects in the play zone. For some this may seem like the easiest problem to solve; However, from a design perspective, this was the most difficult for me to balance.

I went through many iterations of the resource system in Battle for Sularia. At this point, it’s probably prudent to discuss that resource system. As John explained in his article, you play as a Battle Commander and as you make moves and progress through the game you build up Influence. Influence is used to establish your sites into the play zone. These sites produce the precious material Sularium, which is  necessary for both your defense and deployment of combatants.

So the greater question is why and how did I come up with the two resource system?

Originally Influence was called Supply Points, and could be used to establish sites or deploy combatants. It didn’t matter, if you had enough supply you could still play anything in your hand. Fundamentally when I went through the mathematics of resource generation with supply being universal, it essentially gave all factions an enormous ability to play combatants. A secondary effect was that it trivialized Sularium and its importance to victory in the battle. At that point I might as well have pulled the Sularium out of the game and just used supply and allow players to use it for both sites and combatants. This would put our game back in the realm of a single resource to manage, which was a fundamental that I just didn’t want to explore. So, I ultimately decided that influence could only be used to establish sites, which in turn provide the Sularium needed to deploy combatants.

The two resource system in Battle for Sularia is very unique and engaging. As a player, you simply don’t know what your Sularium may be for the next turn.  So while you sit at the table preparing for your friend to attack, you are trying to make your own plans for the next turn. Those plans can be turned on their head because the Sularium you just had is gone. Talk about excitement. Especially when you can turn around and fire right back and do the same to your buddy.

So as a recap to the resource system:

Battle for Sularia has evolved so much from the original concept.. If any of you actually saw the original design documents, and play Battle for Sularia, you won’t know it’s the same game. No I will not release those documents!

While we’ll dive into the mechanics more later on, it’s important to understand that the final product today came from countless hours of play testing and balancing. We had to have a solid mathematical understanding of the resources and how they can be produced, to understand how to establish costs for different objects in the game. Sometimes in development we got it correct  out of the gate, and others, we didn’t. However, the final product you’ll play at conventions and hobby store demos is 100% the result of those tireless, and unimaginable hours spent by both John and I, as well as a small band of rebels, err… I mean our play testers!

Until next time!