The State of the Gloomhaven Address

June 01, 2015

Human Sawbone Well, it has been about 3 months since I announced Gloomhaven, and I'm still hoping to get a Kickstarter for it launched in another 3 months, so as we approach the half-way point of this pre-Kickstarter era, I thought I'd just take some time to reflect on the various aspects of the project and how they're coming along. At the time, I didn't think I could create a project more massive than Forge War, with 8 punch-boards of bits and a box weighing 6 pounds. Somehow it has happened, though. Gloomhaven is a monster and wrestling its various tendrils has become rather perilous. But let's talk about the good stuff first.

Art and Design

Whereas with Forge War, art and design are mainly what held up the project (due to starting most of it very late in the process), the art and graphic design of Gloomhaven is actually where I am most confident. This time around, I've hired a very capable artist (Alexandr Elichev) and a very capable graphic designer (Josh McDowell) very early in the process and they've been producing quality work at a steady rate. The main art for the game will be for the box cover, which was the first thing completed 3 months ago, the hero classes, which Alexandr finished up a few weeks ago, the various enemies in the game, which he is working on now, and the item cards. I'd like to get art on every card in the game, but when you're dealing with hundreds and hundreds of cards, that becomes a little problematic. Overall, I think there will be less unique art pieces than in Forge War, but the art will be much better, so I think it will work out well. Night Demon (sketch) I'm not sure when Alexandr will get everything finished, honestly, since he sort of works on a piece-by-piece basis, but at the rate he's working, I don't have any concerns. Josh is also doing a valiant job designing the many different card types in the game. We've got: hero mats, hero ability cards, attack modifier cards, item cards, battle goal cards, career goal cards, monster stat cards, monster ability cards, player note pads and party note pads, plus a map board and various dungeon tiles to design. Not to mention the rule book, scenario book and probably lots of other stuff I'm forgetting. To think at some point in my past I didn't even think I needed a graphic designer, now I'm not sure I could live without one. And the real mountain isn't just the number of different types of cards, but the vast number of different cards of any given type. For instance, with 12 different character classes, and each class having about 10 starting ability cards and gaining 2 more every time they level up (a total of 8 times), we're looking at over 300 hero ability cards that need to be individually designed. Josh is working on the card templates, and I'm teaching myself InDesign so that I can work on laying out all the individual cards from the templates in my spare time. Like I said, Josh is also working on a map board and about 30 individual modular dungeon tiles. I'm looking forward to seeing how all those turn out as well. And, with the help of play testers, I've already made a lot more progress on the rule book than I had on the Forge War rules before launching that Kickstarter.

Mechanics and Content

Normally when you create a board game, you develop a system of mechanics, perfect them and then you're pretty much good. Any game has content as well, but it's not a huge deal. For instance, Forge War needed individual quests and unique weapons - stuff that required specific creative decisions beyond the base mechanics. But all that stuff in Forge War was more-or-less created in a day. I had to tweak things occasionally as the mechanics were tweaked, but the creative decisions didn't change much, just various numerical values. On the other hand, with Gloomhaven I'm very happy with the state of the mechanics. I think very little tweaking is required at this point for that, but the content. Oh lord, the content. Where Forge War was 90% mechanics and 10% content, Gloomhaven is 10% mechanics and 90% content. Hero abilities, monster abilities, career goals, quests, scenario setups and the story text that goes along with everything. Writing the story will just take time, and I can create new hero ability cards all day long, but the greatest challenge is making sure everything is balanced. I can come up with scenario after scenario, but until multiple groups play through the scenario and decide that it's challenging and interesting, I don't have much right to sell it to thousands of people. This is of course where play testing comes in, but concerns have cropped up there, mostly just with the fact that it has been progressing much more slowly than I anticipated. 3 months ago, when it was new and exciting, there was a lot of interest in play testing in Gloomhaven, and that was great, but I quickly realized that the play testing I had been hoping would be used to run through the various scenarios to make sure they were challenging and interesting instead had to be used more to polish the mechanics that were not as polished as I thought they were. In addition, with Forge War being released for retail, I ended up with less time than I anticipated to keep up with those play testers who were more enthusiastic about running through scenarios. My days were filled with fielding Forge War stuff and working on the latest draft of the Gloomhaven rules. 3 months later, the mechanics are polished, but I think I frustrated a lot of play testing groups with the constant rule changes and the prospect of testing the game is now less exciting. Now I'm months behind schedule and the play testing enthusiasm has greatly subsided. These obstacles are not insurmountable, but there is still a lot of work ahead and I don't know how long it's going to take. 012

Miniatures

We will be doing miniatures for the hero characters in the game, so that is another huge undertaking. A lot of the time, the miniatures are what ends up slowing down a Kickstarter project. Like all things I have no experience with, I'm optimistic. I'm going with a physical sculptor instead of a digital sculptor, which could take longer, both in the creation and molding process, but all the sculpts should be done in 3 months, so it doesn't look like it will slow us down. Of course, if we end up making additional sculpts because of stretch goals, those may create small delays.

Launching

Ultimately, I hoping to launch the Kickstarter at the beginning of September, between GenCon and Essen. The second half of the year is always tricky for Kickstarter with convention season leading into the holidays. There's a small chance I may just end up pushing the launch all the way back to the beginning of 2016, but I'd really like to see this take flight a lot earlier than that. If I launched in 2016, everything would need to be 100% done in order to get it published by next year's convention season. But I'd really like to run a Kickstarter that is more malleable than that to allow backers to add more input to the game. My favorite part about running the Forge War campaign was interacting with the community and incorporating their ideas into the game, and I'd like to see the same thing happen with Gloomhaven. So I guess I'll see you in September!


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