lunedì 31 dicembre 2012

The Shape of Things to Come, Part I

Well, here we are, on the brink of 2012, a busy year, an exciting year, a frightening year. Truly a year of crises! Among the many things to be worried about, luckily a few good things happened - especially as far as my game design activity is concerned.

For example, 2012 saw the return of our beloved War of the Ring strategy game, now published by Ares Games in its second edition, and the basic game was soon reinforced by its first expansion, Lords of Middle-earth, a neat box I particulary like, as I even got to design some of the plastic miniatures it contains. Then, the publishing line for The One Ring rpg saw the release of Tales of Wilderland and the Lake-town sourcebook and Loremaster's Screen, two fundamental supplements that have firmly established the foundations of the game.

But most of the things that I worked on in 2012 are going to appear in 2013 (barring delays), so let's have a look at what the future holds (at least at what I can write about!) - and let's do it using an optimistical lens!

The One Ring in 2013 will first see the release of the books I have been wanting to see since the release of the game: The Heart of the Wild and The Darkening of Mirkwood sourcebooks. Both penned by Gareth Hanrahan (with a little help from yours truly), the two titles show how the game can be used to create a saga set in Wilderland that is really worthy of the appendixes to The Lord of the Rings. The first is basically a geographical guide to Wilderland, filled with information about the places and inhabitants of the region, while the second is a historical sourcebook, detailing events great and small that will affect the same area for a span of thirty years (!).

But the beauty of the two books for me does not come from their density or completeness, but from their main writer's ingenuity: Gareth has really charmed me with his capability to weave original material with the writings of Tolkien, and he has given birth to a colourful vista of a land that may seem sparsely inhabited at first glance, but that is shaken by ancient conflicts and animated by interesting personalities - bottom line: Wilderland is not just filled with Goblins, Wargs and Spiders! :)

Back to the new War of the Ring line of games, here comes The Battle of Five Armies. Recently announced by Ares Games, this self-contained strategy game is based upon our Battles of the Third Age rules, previously released by Nexus as an expansion to WotR, but the rules have been changed and streamlined to make the game faster and to portray faithfully the epic conclusion to The Hobbit - where our Rohan and Gondor games simulated larger conflicts, The Battle of Five Armies is just that - a big battle, where individual characters and their  deeds can do much to affect the course of the game.

We had a lot of fun designing the new rules, as the characters of Bolg, Beorn, Bilbo, Bard (The Battle of Four Bs?), Gandalf, Thranduil and Dain all offered many suggestions about how to model their capabilities. Bilbo can use the Ring! Gandalf throws bolts of magic! Bolg's bodyguard is nasty! And don't forget the Eagles and giant Bats...

Last but not least, we arrive to the project me and Marco Maggi have been busy with for most of the year - a brand new strategy game that we designed from top to bottom, and that we shaped also graphically handling its art direction: Venetia! But it will be 2013 in a few hours, and I must leave the details on that for Part II.

Happy New Year to everyone!