The Many Modes Of Play

With the $300K stretch goal smashed on the Kickstarter, we’ve now added not one, but two AI decks to the game. Adding this to the already flexible design means that there are now more different ways of playing than I can count on both hands…

  1. Solo play as the Necromancer against the AI Heroes.
  2. Solo play as the Heroes against the AI Necromancer.
  3. 2-player head-to-head, Heroes vs Necromancer.
  4. 2 to 4 Hero players vs an AI Necromancer.
  5. 2 to 4 Hero players vs Necromancer player.

But that’s only 5, I hear you cry. Yes, and then you double it because each of those 5 can be played as either the Core game or the Advanced game, and they are quite different. But even that’s not all.

You can also choose to play pre-written campaign scenarios or have the Necromancer player (if there is one) devise a dungeon for you. Again, this changes the style of play as building a dungeon, laying the traps and ambushes yourself makes you play quite differently. It also means that the Heroes are in for a genuine surprise when they first try out the Necromancer’s new dungeon. They really have no idea what is lurking behind that door…

Anyway, I just thought I’d get this down in writing as it’s starting to get quite a long list. Replay value? Oh yes…  🙂

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35 Responses to The Many Modes Of Play

  1. heretic30k says:

    You forgot to also mention option 6) – the spectator sport of watching the AI play itself. I find this an amusing enough idea to test out at least once. Admittedly what you are watching then is essentially a computer screensaver in slow motion, but no less amusing for it.

  2. Kris says:

    Can you give us a glance what we could expect in advenced mode except AI.
    What is estimated replayability of DS? Will it be almost infinite like WH Quest? Multiple leveling heroes training skills buying stuff in towns etc?
    Can heroes be crippled i mean permanent wounds like loosing limb or eye etc.
    Can you tell us more about AI is it only stats for baddies/heroes or will it also tell how opponent is moving and generate random dungeon?
    In advanced rules can we expect something more happening in the dungeon like exploring, unexpected events and so on?
    Will the light source matters in DS? Cheers

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Advanced rules will include things like building your own dungeons, experience for Heroes, possibly designing your own heroes, downtime between adventures, more spells, items, skills, loot, types of doors and dungeon furniture…

      I think there is vast amounts of replayability. More than WHQ as that was actually quite limited and repetitive in the ways you could play it. If you think of the modes above, it had far less of them.

      Permanent injuries is always contentious and a tricky thing to get right in campaign settings. I’ve not decided yet.

      AI has to be a great deal more than just stats as you are using it to replace a real person playing one side of the game. Just stats wouldn’t work at all.

      I wasn’t going to bother with light sources. They’re generally a fiddle and occupy far more rules than they add fun. The way they are used in WHQ is a hugely gamey and artificial way of controlling the board layout, and whilst it works fine there is not necessary in DS.

      • souterrien says:

        More than WHQ… That is quite the challenge.
        As this stands out, though, we are speaking about a game (WHQ) that has a proven past versus a game that is being designed (DS) and has yet everything to prove
        WHQ, over more than 15 years, has proven its qualities. DS has given nothing of the sort. Caution should be advised.
        It starts out by dismissing the qualities of WHQ: quite limited and repetitive in the ways you could play it. But games are based on repeated patterns that players learn and then learn to master to get the most of them. Gaming is repeated patterns.

        Replayability by modes: players do not think that way. They see a game and buy it when they think they can play it. People are interested in an AI because they cant that easily find game partners or because they do not want or believe in the competitive dice based thing.
        A player who does not have the resources wont be given miraculously the resources to play the various modes.
        Most players wont experience the various modes. So replayability wont come from there.

        One great quality WHQ has is that fantastic tool box you get when you buy the rules.
        WHQ, contrary to DS, is not heavily scenarized, heroes have no background but are archetypes. Heroes do not join adventures the same way as they do in DS, they are questing (in the old meaning)
        In DS, scenarization is heavier and this works against replayability as the story of the adventure must be written.
        In WHQ, this flows naturally as everything comes blank. Creating new adventures is easy as snapping fingers.
        Peopling a dungeon, creating new monsters, new heroes, importing profiles is also very easy in WHQ because of the tool box dimension.
        Home rules are also very easy to insert, that the variants grow exponentially.

        So far, it is hard to see all of that in DS. DS design bends more toward competition, which always comes with the mandatory balance players expect from playing a competitive game.
        When creating a new adventure, safeguards must come with the rules to ensure that balance is provided. As it is very hard to form a group with equivalent knowledge of the rules as a competitive game requires.

        Another point I’ve no time right now to develop is that DS is basically a 1 vs 1 game that is being expanded into a 1 vs 4 game, taking advantage from the fact that one player controls 4 figures; which allows to artificially grow the number of players around the board.
        Yet a cooperative game is a game with a gameplay that drives players to cooperate, not a game that split the decisions supposed to be taken by one player over two, three or four players.
        I’ll try to come back on that later.

        Nevertheless, if this game manages to match only and match only the replayability that comes with WHQ, I’ll be the first to applaud. So far, nothing is done apart from dismissing WHQ qualities. One way to achieve it and a fake one.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Thanks for your comment souterrien. You seem to have taken my comment about WHQ rather negatively, and that’s not what I intended. You asked, on a post about game modes, how DS compared. As I said, in that light, WHQ is far more limited. Whilst you can do a wide variety of things when you use the expansion book, there are relatively few different ways to play. Personally I found it very repetitive because of this.

          I am, as you say, comparing something that is finished (and long OOP) to something that is not. I can’t see how I could be doing others. Again, you asked. Remember though that DS builds on DKH which has been out and played and reviewed and so on. That was popular enough to sell out several times and he followed by a second core set and an expansion. There is a track record here, both of the core mechanics and my ability to deliver interesting scenarios and game play.

          You are right that players don’t think in terms of game modes, but they do think in terms of getting bored because the games are repetitive. Replayability definitely does come from having more play options. I can’t see how you can possibly argue otherwise. The sameness of WHQ and the impenetrability of the advanced rules was why my group stopped playing it. The same was true for many other people I have asked. If there had been ten other ways to play then we might have got more value from it.

          WHQ’s only choice was to play the basic game or the massive sprawl of the RPG rules. Most people I know thought this was a great idea though they seldom if ever actually played it this way. A tiny number of devotees loved it to bits and played every waking hour.

          You imply that an attempt at game balance is somehow a bad thing. The reality of it is that if you do not produce reasonably balanced games then people complain bitterly. It doesn’t matter if it’s all the players against the AI or player vs player, it always happens. So I will do my best to make this as evenly balanced as possible.

          I disagree about your comments on co-op. You are right that the game can be played as a 1-1 game, and it is always a game with 2 sides. However, that does not mean that there is no in-built co-operation. At it’s crudest, the Dwarf cannot open magically locked doors and the wizard cannot survive against a horde long enough to dispel the wards on his own. The Heroes have different roles, and whilst a single player could use them all, when they are run by different players they absolutely need to co-operate in order to survive and complete their quest. Going it alone will see a lot of losses for the Heroes.

        • souterrien says:

          Pushing my reply here. A short one, I hope so.

          Thank you for the answer.

          I did not write the original comment about the replayability of WHQ. That game though is known for it. The comparison between a game with a proven record and a game that is not yet released dragged me in. Things might look good on the paper but may prove otherwise when pushed on the field.
          I deeply hope DS replayability matches WHQ’s. We are not at this point yet.

          The various modes are great because they diversify the offer and attract new customers.
          These customers might not have the (human) resources to play all the modes.
          Players interested in solo gaming are often players without a gaming group as they cant afford joining a gaming group because of life constraints.
          Competition is fine, but it is time consuming. It requires that players do their best to further their knowledge of the game. It requires players who do their homework. Not everyone can afford the luxury of dedicating time and thinking to a game (no matter how good it is) Many players jump in a game session unprepared.
          Competitive games that are played between players of different knowledge levels are unsatisfying: the most knowledgeable is frustated, wishes he could play his match, the others lose interest as they do not know the ins and outs and resent every new bit as a change in rules adverse to them and designed to get them to lose(when it is lack of knowledge of the subtleties)
          Sometimes, those games devolve in a kind of coop as the most knowledgeable feels obliged to guide the others in order to get a better game for himself.
          That is why players might prefer a cooperative game over a competitive game, because not all of them have the same amount of time to dedicate to mastering the game. This creates a discrepancy that spoils the competition spirit.
          I dont even talk about players who are going to play this game in family, with underaged players, kids etc who cant be required to understand the game as more aged players could be.
          Same goes for players who are going to play the game in a 1vs more configuration.

          Each type buys the game for one mode and one mode mostly.

          Human factors explain that players buy a game like this one for one mode mostly and wont be materially able to experience the others in proper conditions.
          Replayability does not come from the offer of various modes. It comes from the easiness to renew a known experience.
          WHQ is great for that as it is a fabulous tool box and renewal goes very smoothly.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          It’s the nature of Kickstarter that you are pledging (or not) based on something that is not yet complete, so naturally we are comparing this against something that already exists. People need extant reference points to get a handle on the general shape of the new offer.

          We shall have to agree to differ about replayability, though I think we differ in degree rather than absolutely. The number of modes people will play in is directly related to the number that they have on offer. If a game offers 2 or 3 then they will play in fewer than if a game offers 12.

          Looking at it from the other end, the fact that a game offers many, many options for play style means that the “human factors” are much more likely to allow the player to have a game in the first place. If the game restricts the ways you can play then the chances for the perfect conditions for play are smaller.

  3. Bookawar says:

    If using the book of depravity (or whatever they’re calling it now), would it be feasible for two necromancers to face off against each other (basically playing DKH)? Would the game’s mechanic support that?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I don’t see why it wouldn’t work mechanically. You would need a second set of the cards, counters and models for the Necro, but apart from that it should require very little tweaking.

  4. Dan says:

    Will the extra characters like keldan have data cards so we can substitute them for 1 of the starting four in the core story missions?

  5. Roleand says:

    Will there be a way to generate a dungeon randomly?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Probably. It partly depends on how many dungeons there are to play through already. There will definitely be ways for people to build their own dungeons though.

      • I think in advanced rules, random dungeon/adventure generator is a must, especially now, when you decided to give us AI and soon Orcs & Goblins. Again i hate comparing to other games but good example is WHQ. Why fix only on main plot when there are tools to do much more. Personally i think since majority of people involved in this kickstarter r interested mainly in advanced rules, and there is alot of confusion about them, could you maybe make up a list of contents for it?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’m working on an article about the advanced rules for a few day’s time. It’s a complex topic to discuss because even the parameters are undefined. We have 19 days left of the Kickstarter, and if I know Mantic they’ll be adding all sorts of goodies into the Advanced rules as wells extra models and expansions. It’s perhaps a bit early to be definitive.

          The Kickstart audience is always going to be more of a hardcore gamer audience than anything else. We discussed before the KS launched that most KS backers would play the Advanced game. However, the game should be planned for the long run, not just the duration of the KS. Keeping the Core game simple doesn’t diminish the Advanced game at all, and the more successful it can be in retail afterwards, the more likely we’ll be back looking to do more expansions later 🙂

    • Danny says:

      I’d also like to see a system to randomly generate a dungeon, one where areas appeared randomly before the players eyes as they progressed. It could be another game mode, one which would mostly suit both Solo play and what has been termed “Fully Co-Op” on the Kickstarter (a group of humans playing heroes against an AI dungeon). However, there is no reason why it could not also be played with both the human heroes and human Necromancer both being presented with a randomly generated dungeon. This would be quite the novelty for the Necromancer, I imagine 🙂

      I have to admit, I did enjoy this part of WHQ very much, exploring and drawing a card and laying down a board section, wondering where the dungeon would take you as you explored, very enjoyable. I think to do something similar these days though, it would pay to make the randomly drawn sections larger. So instead of a single corridor, intersection or room, it would be two or three of these pieces placed together. So the drawn card would have a picture of perhaps a corridor and joining room, or corridor, adjoining room and intersection on it…or something to that effect.

      More game modes!!! Unless Jake was born with a supernumery finger, he may well have to take his shoes off to continue counting 🙂

  6. Teskal says:

    Did you made also semi-coop rules?
    You had game theory articles about coop variants and I must say I liked the idea.

  7. Dan says:

    Cheers for the reply, would be awesome to do a play three of the core game with different chars. GW missed out when you left

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Swapping out the Heroes or the monsters gives you even more replay value. It’s not really a different mode of play, but that’s me being pedantic about terminology. In terms of getting value for your investment and having lots of exciting and different games, the number of options is enormous.

      • I am looking forward to the diversity of playable Heroes, Bosses, Feats and so on. Just had a go at Scenario 2 Kill Them All! from Dwarf King’s Hold: Dead Rising, using all the DKH rules and elements (with the simiplifed DS fighting mechanics, mind you) before trying it again after swapping out the Dwarfs with the four Heroes and doing it Dungeon Saga style.

        Naturally this went way over your 4 Skeleton Warriors-in-play-at-once rule you recently mentioned, but it was pretty good fun (for the Necromancer at least). I put the Barbarian up in the North-West room, and the Dwarf in the North-East one, the Elf and Wizard in the larger chamber together.

        Barbarian got crippled with only 7 skeletons and 3 bone piles left (some of the casualties were due to the magic attrition special rule for the scenario).

        He did manage to destroy a fair few before being surrounded and hacked to bits,

  8. Jeppe says:

    m curious as to which number players this game is going to be most fun with. 5 players with one dm and 4 heroes, 2 players with 1 dm and huy playing four heroes? Is the game going to be scalable to accomodate other number of heroes than 4?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think it will vary between player numbers and modes, so “most fun” will depend a lot on your group.

      The advanced rules may allow for different numbers of Heroes.

  9. Hey jake – I appreciate you may not know at this stage but is it intended the AI will be supported in the expansions as I note mantic have announced the first one already

    • Or other models from greenskins and undead range since there are rules in adventurer’s companion and two addons. At that point Jake, i think you could rename Necromancer AI for something like Villain AI

    • Quirkworthy says:

      @Stephen – yes, the AI should be supported.

      @Krzysztof – maybe. See the answer to your other question.

      • Hi 🙂
        Yeah i’ve seen it, and thanks for reply. I see your point but generic doesn’t always means plain in my book, and who else than YOU could change plain into awesome. So i keep my fingers crossed for ultimate AI/dungeon solution 😉 and expect to be bugged about that in future. In the meanwhile can you tell us more about advanced rules ? 🙂

      • Quirkworthy says:


        You’re right that generic doesn’t have to mean plain, though it all too often does. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the ultimate AI/dungeon solution too. It does make typing a bit tricky though 🙂

  10. nathanscott4 says:

    Honestly most of my interest in the game is in it having a co-op mode.

    I have a couple of questions about the AI cards as well. I am a huge fan of co-op games and find that a ton of co-op games don’t present a real challenge. The AI is either too straight forward and the game lacks strategic depth or is simply so easy that the game quickly loses it’s luster being a player own-fest.

    To me, Arkham Horror is actually a came with an absurdly easy AI. I have played 20 games with friends and have lost once because one guy said he was selling the shotgun (arguably best weapon in the game) “because his nun wouldn’t have one”. I don’t want this to be an argument about the challenge or lack thereof of AH, just want to point out the need for an AI that presents a real challenge to players. I want the ability to actually lose.

    Similarly, some co-op games have AI that is so absurdly luck based that you have no idea at all what’s coming, can’t plan strategy much, and the game also is frustrating because it’s not a strategy game anymore, it’s just a game of “did I get screwed?”
    To me, sentinels of the multiverse kind of falls in this category. The AI deck spits out stuff that you (usually) have no chance to react to before being smacked by it. There’s no skill or strategy in being punched by a card you didn’t know was coming and had no chance to react to. Sure it may be “hard”, but also not strategic. Again, this is not an attempt to get into an “OMG Marvels is my favorite game of all time!”

    I guess my questions are basically:
    1) Will the AI cards present a real challenge to players where there is a tangible threat of losing?
    2) Will there be strategic interaction by the players with the AI cards, or will AI cards basically be flip over an “I gotcha” card and work it out?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      My intention with the AI is to mirror the experience of playing against a real opponent as closely as possible. The only real change I am considering (that isn’t forced by the artificiality of the format) would be to amp up each faction’s character.

      So, if a real world opponent would be able to administer a gotcha! to you, then so should the AI. If not, then not 🙂

  11. Rob V says:

    Hey Jake! Looks like a great game you’re building. Earlier you said “@Stephen – yes, the AI [for expansions] should be supported.” Question is will AI for undead scenarios use the same AI decks as AI for greenskins or abyssals? When playing as the bad guy, will there be different AI cards depending on which heroes are in the quest? I’m trying to wrap my head around why there is so much confusion in the KS comments about how expansions will have AI because a lot of people seem to be concerned that this hasn’t been explicitly stated there. I was not able to find your reply to Kryzsztof’s other post, so maybe just a reference to that would be an answer.

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