Time flies and in less than a week I will be launching the Kickstarter campaign for Rogue Angels - if you have not already signed up to be alerted, please do so here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/suntzugames/rogue-angels
The many preparations that I have been going through for this new campaign had me thinking about all the wonderful people who have helped me, and who will hopefully also be around to support the Kickstarter once it goes live.
However, I am also very aware that life can make it difficult for us to spend money and time on our hobby, and I therefore wanted to make a list of ideas for how you can help indie creators, even when you cannot financially support them.
Hopefully this post can inspire both super-backers and those who follow from the sideline :)
$1 trumps $0
I know it sounds REALLY simple, but you will NOT be judged for a $1 pledge. If you cannot afford any other pledge level, $1 is still a great help. It increases the number of total backers the project has which is great for the algorithms, and any potential backer following you may be shown the project afterwards, increasing the chance of getting more people on board.
Should you find yourself in a group of friends already backing the game, a $1 pledge is still helping the creator immensely, while also allowing you to show support and follow the project :)
Write a review
Writing reviews is not just for professionals. If you have had an experience with the game or product that the indie publisher is offering, you can try to describe your experience to other people. Offering your opinion and what you particularly enjoyed about the encounter will give other people a chance to identify whether or not they may like it too. The more context you bring, the better.
An example could be this BGG user review here, but it could also be a rating or comment on the game itself like here.
Personally, I believe you should only write what you truly mean and have experienced. If the indie designer makes you passionate about the game and it sparks joy, you can easily say as much. Not only does it help other people judge if it is something for them, but it also inspires the creator to keep going - trust me, it works ;)
In practice I have taken many screenshots of people's kind words or copied them to my review site. On a rainy day they can easily make a big difference :)
Refer friends and family
Who do you trust the most in your life? Most likely a family member or friend. So, the strongest endorsement a creator can get, is when you recommend the game or product to the people near you. Word of mouth certainly also works outside of the digital world, and nothing can beat a recommendation from a person you trust.
Sharing your passion is what grows a game into something larger than life, this is how Catan, Battlefield, Minecraft, Gloomhaven and everything else got so big in the first place. The tiny rings in the water that turned into a tsunami.
You can always start by forwarding an email, or throw a private message, not everyone likes to be tagged in public forums ;)
Subscribe And Follow their activities
I can testify, that indies always look at the numbers, almost like their lives depended on it :D A new follower is a new follower and therefore a win for the creator.
Whenever you start following an indie creator you increase the chances of the person being found by more people, but it also legitimizes the creator's existence. If nobody is following them, are they creating anything of value? Perhaps, but that value is not being enjoyed or utilized as it otherwise could. This legitimization works on both the creator's sense of self-worth and on potential new supporters boosting everyone's confidence in the project as a whole.
Share and Engage with their content
Following a creator is certainly first step. However, the most important aspect of digital presence for a creator, is the engagement this person can get. The engagement is what triggers the algorithms to pick up this creator's content and show it to more people, creating a loop.
Furthermore, creators usually love to engage and talk design processes and design choices. They love talking about their baby, so asking genuine questions will always get them fired up... I know ;)
If you see social media content from your favorite creator, ask them:
And remember to be kind! :)
Give them a shoutout - Cheer Them On
I have had many colleagues through both my military and civilian careers, and every now and then I would meet a person, who was of the mind that, "If I am not saying anything bad, then things are actually quite good." Now, I understand that some people want to appear tough and hard to impress, but making praise equal to the absence of critic is really bad in the long run. Without praise you will slowly but certainly grind your people's motivation down.
In practice - when you see something you think is good, step up and cheer the creator on. This is "life fuel" for every indie out there. It can really make their day, and creating big passion projects is all about getting to the next day :)
Thanks again for following my project and rambles - I hope it inspired you to give a shoutout :)
Now I would like to know how you usually engage creators you follow? And what platforms do you enjoy using for such?
- If you have not already, you are always welcome to hang out and chat with me (see links below). And I hope to see you for the Rogue Angels Kickstarter launch on Monday the 4th of September :)
Thank you for the support.
Best regards Emil
Some time ago I was asked a very interesting and complex design question by a Rogue Angels fan. The person asked: "What methods are you using to track difficulty progression in your campaign?
In today's post I want to dive deeper into this question and try to answer it to the best of my ability.
I hope you will find the information useful and perhaps inspiring, if you are creating your own design :)
Where to find difficulty?
Difficulty can come in many shapes and forms, all depending on the type of game, player composition, and of course rules. Rogue Angels is a cooperative sci-fi adventure legacy crawler, which already gives an indication of how to implement objectives and opposition.
With the big factors of our objectives and oppositions listed, we now have a framework in where to find our range of objectives and oppositions.
Mechanical difficulty and Currency
With the elements mentioned above, we are ready to weave objectives and adversaries into our narrative. However, before we can take the next step, we also need to understand the mechanical side of the game's difficulty and what type of currency the players have at their disposal.
In Rogue Angels players have 2 actions per turn, so this is the most fundamental and common currency, and the most valuable denominator against which everything else is measured.
For perspective, here are the 3 types of actions a player can perform on their turn:
With these actions in mind, we can list the other built-in currencies:
What can players buy for these currencies?
Some of the currencies above can be exchanged. Like 1 action = 2 focus, 1 personality token may be worth 1 shield for you and 1 for an ally etc. But we also need to look at what players may be offered on action cards.
In practice each character is given several actions cards. I therefore use an average to try and determine what 1 action could provide a player (e.g., 1 action = move 3 squares, or deal 3 damage, or draw 2 interact tokens). The basic action cards (basic move and basic interact) were created to be a bit below the power curve. But since they could always be played (because they are zero), it provides a good base line.
Granted, you are not really going step by step to begin with, as you are developing many things all at once. But once you start the more structured breakdown of your quests and missions, it is time to digest these elements.
Once you have a grip on your action currency, you can present players with objectives on which the players must spend their currency to achieve success. Followed by adversaries, whose main goal it is to reduce the available currency.
These are the steps I take when constructing missions and difficulty:
In practice each character in Rogue Angels has their own strength and weaknesses, so you will never get the exact difficulty for each mission. On some missions, specific characters will shine, and on others they will be dragging the team down. But this is exactly as it should be, as the average calculation usually lands very close to the desired result in experience, and because it enforces team play and table talk.
It almost goes without saying that I am going through point 1-6 several times while play testing, trying to adjust factors and elements to provide the optimal experience. This is to be expected with such complex games.
However, it is also worth noting that I sometimes design missions with some forced behavior (e.g., when context provides fear of certain outcomes). Which means adjusting enemies, objects, turn limit etc. based on my interest in players burning more quickly or slowly through their currencies like focus, tokens and personality tokens.
Individual difficulty level
This post is not about the damage card mechanic, which I have talked about in another post. This setting is aimed at providing the right amount of difficulty for individuals, where campaign difficulty is aimed at the team effort.
A common challenge for designers of campaign games is stat creep. When you keep giving players more and more stuff, cooler abilities, and heavier weapons, they tend to get overpowered. Not to mention the complexity increases as more options are introduced.
A few ways I try to combat this:
In practice I only have to consider slight upgrades to all characters over the course of the missions (which I track in my spreadsheet). With that in mind and a good understanding of the currencies I can usually adjust any of the six potential oppositions accordingly throughout missions.
- My approach will hopefully provide a thrilling campaign with a sense of accomplishment for the players, lots of agency and choices, and plenty of "get to the choppa"-moments ;)
Thank you for yet again for staying with me - I hope this gave both inspiration and insights into Rogue Angels :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about campaign difficulty? Which games do this right? What have you experienced?
- You can of course check out the difficulty yourself by trying Rogue Angels on Tabletop Simulator.
May you have a wonderful day :)
Best regards Emil
It has been a while since my last journal, as I have spent my time producing, printing, cutting, sorting, assembling, counting, and shipping 50 Rogue Angels prototypes. Most of them are now in the hands of reviewers - meaning that we will soon start to see content pop up, with the majority landing on the Kickstarter launch date (4th September).
Today's post will be a closer look at another mechanic in Rogue Angels, the hacking. I will dive deeper into how the mechanic came to be and share my thoughts on what it brings to the table. I hope you will enjoy the read :)
Like other advanced dungeon crawlers, I wanted there to be more than just baddies to fight. With a sci-fi universe to tap into, it was a given that there had to be some consoles and doors to hack, some electronics to fry and explosives to detonate. For this purpose, I created the "activate action", which allowed the players to interact in a non-violent way.
As you can see on the middle card above, it was a simple activation value given to a non-combat card, allowing players to open doors, crates, or consoles. Objects had a certain value, which could be reached by activating it over one or more actions.
Below you can see a shot of an early prototype where both enemies and objects have hitpoints.
This worked for a long time, even the first couple of months into 2021 when I was slowly moving onto the Tabletop Simulator version. Then one day, I played with a fellow hobby designer friend, who had a lot of praises for the game, except the doors.
"It feels like yet another door. Just a different type of enemy where you have to reduce its value to zero. I am not sure how you should change it, but I feel it should be something different, maybe its own mini-game?"
This statement left me thinking and grumbling...
A Thematic take
Finally, three months later, in May, I had a solution. The interaction bag. It seems obvious now, but it was a really tough nut to crack, as this mini-game or interaction mechanic had to fulfill a few requirements.
Hacking in Rogue Angels
In short, players can interact with objects by playing certain interaction cards. The value these interaction cards provide (including bonusses and/or dice rolls) allow players to draw that number of tokens from the interaction bag.
The goal of a successful interaction/hack is to collect 3 tokens of the same color from the interaction bag. The bag contains 8 red, 8 blue, 8 purple tokens, and 4 white ones acting as jokers.
You draw random tokens 1 at a time and may stop at any point. Once you stop you must pick a color to keep for the interaction. If you have less than 3 of a color, you leave the chosen color at the object, allowing you or other players to continue the interaction on subsequent actions.
If you want a more thorough explanation and examples, you can dig into the rulebook here.
Now, the above is not a complete explanation, as I also want to talk about a couple of thematic explanations here.
The reason you must draw 1 token at a time, is that you are only allowed to draw 1 white token per action. Should you ever draw 2 or more white tokens, the entire interaction with the object is reset and the action cancelled.
In practice - this means that you may have to push your luck, if you are performing a high value hack but draws an early white token.
In universe - this means that the enemy's security system has discovered your hack and is shutting it down.
Another thing to add to the explanation is that once you have successfully hacked a door or console, you leave the tokens used for the interaction out of the bag for the rest of the mission.
In practice - this means that players slowly gain insights into the probabilities of drawing certain colors, based on the colors already taken out of the bag.
In universe - this means that the more hacking the characters perform, the better they know the enemy's system.
What does the mechanic bring to the table?
The mechanic has since the introduction received a lot of praises for its thematic implementation. It also creates a cool sense of tension, as it provides some output randomness mixed into otherwise planned actions. Players can mitigate the randomness through proper utilization of characters' hacking abilities, color choices, and planning.
On top of that, the interaction bag/concept has also opened up a lot of design space:
And this is just to name a few. I am certain that this will expand further as the story and project unfold :)
Thanks again for staying with me and reading my thoughts on another mechanic in Rogue Angels :)
Now it is time for you to share your thoughts on it. Do you like its implementation? Have you tried anything like it in other games? Can you see any other way these components can be utilized?
If you want to check it out in play - head over to the Tabletop Simulator mod here.
May you have a great week and thank you :)
Best regards Emil
It seems that the last couple of weeks have prompted another specific blog post. This time I want to talk a bit about reviewers, how to approach the process, and how reviews for Rogue Angels have come in place.
I will not be talking about the current debacle that has led to several YouTube videos and BGG posts but focus on my own experience and perspective. Hopefully this can inspire other indies and keep the process transparent for potential backers of my Rogue Angels project.
Let us dive in and talk board game reviews :)
Where Have I Found Reviewers?
There are many types of content creators out there, and people have tons of different approaches on how to present content for their board gaming audience. So, for the sake of this blog, I will group everyone together as reviewers, as the purpose of them all is in some fashion to spread the message of your board game's existence. Especially around an indie Kickstarter.
There are many ways to find reviewers in the board gaming industry, and many newcomers appear every year on a variety of platforms. While some of these reviewers cease their activities after a while (consistency is key for content creators), my experience is that there is still a slight incline in the number of reviewers.
In practice I find new reviewers by:
For those who want to save hours of headache trying to locate all the board game reviewers out there, I got you covered with a fairly big list here. My Kickstarter Kit has roughly 500 listed in a handy Excel spreadsheet.
Who Have I chosen For Rogue Angels?
Just like last year, when I planned to have Rogue Angels previewed, I went through my entire list of content creators and checked out their existing reviews. Had their content changed? Were they still active? Were they still talking about dungeon crawlers or adventure games?
Once I have my initial list, I usually prioritize them in regard to previous experiences, quality in video work, or something that stands out to me. This could be the positive attitude of Marcel from Herr Der Spiele, the audience friendly Raymond from Board Game Heaven, or the engaging mindset of Bairnt from Meet Me At The Table... just to mention a tiny fraction of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with.
For those I have not yet worked with, I looked for these elements when considering Rogue Angels:
This time, the process left me with a little under 90 potential reviewers that I could then reach out to. You have to expect some will never read your mail, some will never answer, some will not have time, and so on.
For now, I have booked 33 reviews, which I feel is pretty good. Among those are King of Average, Dice Tower, Tabletop Sauce, Legendary Tactics, Canje Studios, and Sir Thecos.
Here are a few examples of previous Rogue Angels content:
The timing of reviews is pretty tricky. Because, while you do want a big splash when you hit go on your Kickstarter, you also want some content to have been leaked early, generating hype, just like you want some new stuff during your campaign, to continue a kind of presence while the Kickstarter is running.
I am currently working with a launch date of 4th September 2023 for Rogue Angels. So, I started reaching out to the first reviewers 1-2 months ago. My prototypes will be done and shipped in less than a month, meaning these reviewers will have 2 months for their content. Hopefully some may even be able to ship it further, allowing some content to be released during the Kickstarter.
The challenge about timing is that once all is said and done, you still send your precious dream project off to someone else's priority list. I have chosen 4th of September because I felt it were far enough in the future to allow me time for preparations, but not so long that it would fade out of people's memory/priority list.
How Expensive Is A Review?
So, how much have I paid for my reviews? There are several numbers to consider here, so let me try to break it down for you. This may also reveal just how much money has to be put into an indie project in today's board game market.
In practice, the cost for a single prototype copy of Rogue Angels making it to a review:
For this review and marketing strategy alone I have produced 50 prototypes of Rogue Angels, resulting in an expense of $6,000 excluding review costs.
For my last attempt at Kickstarting Rogue Angels, I only went with reviewers not charging for their reviews. This was primarily a money issue, as I could not sink this type of money into my project. Back then, I only got 20 smaller and cheaper copies made. However, the "no paid review"-approach also has to do with the integrity I want to display. I want the most unbiased reviews (cannot be completely unbiased of course).
Here you can find all the current reviews of Rogue Angels. Despite most of the reviewers only experiencing the first two missions, the game still convinced all the reviewers to speak very kindly of the game - something that still to this day humbles me :)
With my next prototype, reviewers can experience up to 40 different missions.
For this Kickstarter attempt, I will be buying a couple of reviews, most noticeably a Dice Tower Kickstarter preview, to make sure I get out to a broader audience and hopefully make a bigger splash in a very "red ocean" of content creator competition within the board gaming market.
HOW MUCH IS A REVIEW WORTH?
Probably the most natural follow-up question must be - is a review worth the price?
As I just stated above, even free reviews are not completely free. So, if you want to gather an audience, you must in some shape or form pay for it. People's time is money.
Unfortunately, this is where the water gets very murky.
No matter how disciplined you are about links, pixels, and other tracking. You will never be able to lay out a proper ROI (return on investment) on reviews. The data does not currently go deeper than a single action.
Example could be if a viewer of Tabletop Tolson sees her mentioning my game (Attention), and then goes about their business, nothing happens. But perhaps they stumble upon my blog because they now recognize the Rogue Angels name and want to know more (Interest), and after watching my trailer video (Desire), they now go and back it (Action).
Now this is just an example, and you would be right to ask other questions like:
Ultimately, I think it is about applying both a pragmatic and holistic view, as an indie your funds and resources are limited. Find the reviewers that most precisely match the audience you want to attract, those who can understand your vision, those who amplify your communication in a skillful way, and those who's opinion you trust :)
Thank you for making it to the end of yet another one of my posts :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about Kickstarter (p)reviews. Who do you follow? What type of preview are you most into (overview, play-through, other)? Would you recommend a reviewer to me?
Here is a comprehensive list of all the times Rogue Angels has been featured in media and reviews.
I wish you a great weekend and thanks again for supporting me :)
Best regards Emil
In the light of several recent events in the board gaming industry, I thought it only appropriate to try and dive into a few of my thoughts on Kickstarter, and how I will be approaching it as an indie developer. So, today's post will be all about trying to lay out both challenges and advantages to indie Kickstarters, and describe what I do with Rogue Angels.
Hopefully this will give you confidence in my ability to deliver, and some insight into my thought process.
Enjoy the read - and do not forget to be notified when I launch :)
Everything I say in regard to Kickstarter comes from a point of survivorship bias. I have tried it several times, failed, succeeded, and something in-between. You can see my Kickstarter profile here.
Besides that I have been heavily involved in other Kickstarter creators' projects. Backed a lot of projects. Written, blogged about it, held presentations, and in general tried to share my experiences on the subject matter as much as possible.
I have also created a Kickstarter Kit with a set of Excel spreadsheets to help other indies facilitate Kickstarter economy/projection estimation. Including calculations on production, outreach, and conversion.
The first thing to talk about is the project scope of Rogue Angels. Since my Burning Suns experience where the scope went completely off the rails, and the manufacturer apparently followed same pattern, I have learned the hard way, just how much scope determines the success/failure of a project. Regardless of what the Kickstarter funding might say.
I have become somewhat obsessed with streamlining (KISS). This goes into most of the things I create, and this is clearly reflected in Rogue Angels as well. Things must be simple and functional while still providing great value to the play experience.
In practice this means:
I am not in this to create a box that rivals the size of Frosthaven, Skyrim, or Isofarian... but I am 100% here to rival the experience! :)
This could be a half year course on the university in and of itself. So, in short, economy is always a hot topic when it comes to Kickstarter projects, as the nature of the beast dictates that creators play on the phycological aspect of not being transparent. It is not good business to show true funding goals or disclose all calculations.
This puts indie creators like me in a bit of a pickle - as I want to be transparent due to my personal values and what business ideal I practice, but I also cannot afford it, as this turns off a lot of potential backers.
The data is longwinded on this topic, but the statistics say you need roughly 40% of your "real" funding goal within the first 48 hours of your campaign. But for the campaign to take off, you must reach beyond 100% of your Kickstarter funding goal by the 2-days mark. I talk a lot more about this in a live-stream I did earlier, where I introduced some of the math behind it.
- In practice this means that I will be aiming at a Kickstarter funding goal that I think is doable within 48 hours, and that makes up roughly 40% of my real funding goal.
This is how those ends will have to meet. However, this also means that the stretch goals will have to be somewhat "hollow/superficial", as they cannot represent huge increases in costs, which would again demand more funding, manipulated by more stretch goals and so on... a bad cycle, leading to company death.
While we are at "company death", I think it is important to touch upon one aspect, where I believe you, as an indie, can have an edge compared to established companies.
As an indie you often start out working on your projects while still having a day job, which means you usually do not have to drain the project of money to pay yourself. Your running costs are in other words very low compared to companies who have employees.
Here are a few ways scale works for me:
Rogue Angels is definitely an indie project, a passion project with a business potential. At no point does it need to turn into a business for the game to become a reality.
An undertaking like this has undoubtedly a lot of different risks. Anything from war, storms, and tipped containers to shipping crisis, illness, and manufacturing strikes. Some of this could be mitigated by having a large company, but in the end, it will all have to be mitigated by me.
I cannot control the world or higher powers, but I can control my own effort and focus. In the end, YOU have to put YOUR faith in a former soldier, who enjoys creating gaming experiences, who lead by example, and who has an uncompromised approach to transparency, communication, and discipline.
In practice - I have seen and experienced worse than what I believe this project can ever throw at me. There is nothing you cannot work your way through, as long as you stay disciplined and focused. I have proven I can get to the end of the projects I launch :)
I am a firm believer of most success and failure come down to your communication or lack thereof. You can build a lot of goodwill, trust, and understanding from being honest and proactive about challenges and project progression.
Part of that built-up I am trying to do through my blog posts here, my lessons learned shared in forums and Facebook groups, livestreams, and in general my continued interaction with previous backers, testers, fans, and everyone else interested in seeing Rogue Angels becoming a reality :)
Thank you for making it this far :)
Now I would like to know what your thoughts are? Is there anything you would like me to comment on? What risks do you see with Rogue Angels, what can I do to help others feel better about backing my project?
Do not forget to sign up for the launch, this is really important.
I hope you will have a great weekend, and thanks again for all the encouragement :)
Best regards Emil
A point of praise that often comes up when testers and previewers talk to me about Rogue Angels, is how diverse and interesting the cast of the game is. People enjoy the different species, their playstyles, and how they are portrayed. It feels like aliens actually have a large role to play and humans are just part of the culture.
Today I therefore want to return to a character reveal, and showcase another unique species of the playable roster you can choose from when diving into my sci-fi adventure crawler. A Champion named Tarira Selesius.
Illustrators: Original concept by Angelita Ramos. Character by Linggar Bramanty. Action cards by Gunship Revolution.
Please enjoy and do not worry, I promise that it is spoiler-free :)
The Champions was a later entry in the Burning Suns lore, as they were developed as a sort of mirror race to the Neomorphs, that came before them. The Champions' story is short, as they were basically bred like lab experiments to provide the Neomorphs with a strong warrior caste, which could be used against their enemies.
This backdrop provided a lot of good content for Tarira's story, and an interesting interpersonal perspective to explore. What would this character feel and do when facing the realities of just being a tool produced to solve a problem?
Tarira was the first Rogue Angels character to be equipped solely for combat. Her character traits became somewhat one-dimensional, but it provided an interesting canvas for exploration, as players must adapt and overcome their character's weaknesses for them to be successful in the long run.
Tarira was also the first character to be given an "once per mission"-ability, which I found very intriguing, as I have a thing for placing dilemmas between players and their goal ;)
Details & Origin
Full name: Tarira Celesius
Species: Champion (Neomorph) (learn more about the species on wiki)
Date of birth: 957 ATA (see timeline on wiki)
Place of birth: Neomorph fleet (see navy details on wiki)
Former work: Captain in Shock Forces
Due to Tarira's accelerated growth and genetic manipulation she was basically hatched into enlistment. Tarira advanced quickly through the ranks and was selected as unit commander in the highly regarded Shock Forces after an unprecedented eight years of intense combat training. First in, first kill, and first demolition was her mantra in the champions’ specialized army.
Tarira had 27 confirmed kills when her last deployment came about, a prelude to the Mendillo Conflict, where she managed to sabotage and destroy a Leviathan cruiser. As the sole survivor of the unit, she deployed with, she was honored with the title of Champion's 2nd Aide. However, the event made her leave her civilization behind and seek solitude in Vexation.
As with all champions, Tarira is bred for warfare. Her body is a weapon, created to safeguard the future of the Neomorph species. She is capable of sustaining heavy damage while also dealing out crippling blows to her enemies. A combination that makes her lethal in most situations.
Tarira has very little tolerance for races of weaker physique like humans and changelings, which she regards with a certain disdain.
Tarira Celesius is a former shock trooper, also known as a disciple of vengeance. With her genetically engineered physique she is capable of a lot of destruction while also withstanding a lot of damage. Tarira scares even the most disciplined soldiers, making her an ideal choice when you are attacking the enemy head-on.
Tarira Celesius is a dangerous and strong warrior equipped with nothing but offensive weapons and skills.
Tarira is an individualist and has no support equipment, but she makes up for that with her abilities to deal out damage. Tarira should join teams with low damage output.
With Tarira's arsenal you will quickly start to think of all problems as something that can be blown away. With this type of character you must seek out battles whenever possible.
When playing as Tarira, you must be mindful of your positioning. With shields as a resource you want to avoid taking too much damage as that reduces your potential. Likewise you must avoid staying too close to your allies as you dish out damage, as this might trigger your engineered bloodlust.
Your allies should not be counting on your support when it comes to hacking, healing, or small-talk. It should therefore be your priority to pick up equipment of this sort, whenever the chance arrives. Your intimidating battlecry can however still provide potential boost for your weaker actions.
And remember to spend your extra action wisely, as this can easily be the difference between success and failure.
Thank you for staying around and checking out my game :)
Now it would be cool to hear your take on Tarira? Do you like her design, abilities, or species? Are you contemplating on playing as her once you have a chance? What other characters are you rooting for in Rogue Angels?
Should you be up for it - go and check out the other characters through the Tabletop Simulator mod.
Have a wonderful day, and thank you for the support :)
Best regards Emil
In this weekly blog post I want to showcase some of the locations you and your team will be visiting in Rogue Angels. I will share my thought process, my level design approach, and final decisions that made it into the game, while of course keeping it spoiler-free :)
Illustrators: Original planet designs by Gabriel Barbabianca and Matthew Attard. Maps by Przemek Kozłowski.
Let us together take a peek behind the scenes of the Rogue Angels maps :)
As you may already know, the Rogue Angels' adventure takes place in the Burning Suns universe, in which a lot of worlds have already been established through lore, novels, and the original 4X game of the same name. This means that I had to balance visiting both new and old, and make sure the representation of the worlds fit with the original ideas and concepts.
Now, a lot of this is mostly based on my own thoughts on consistency and world-building, like what I described in one of my previous posts, but I believe it is important to stick to one vision, even if players will rarely get to see this depth.
Story > Goal > LOCATION > Mission Design
When I am building on or adding to the Rogue Angels' narrative, it is important for me that I always follow this design process:
During the mission design I often go back and revisit some of the level design choices, to adjust walls, room sizes, or entry points.
While the process above ensures that I prioritize according to the story and not let it suffer from me having "cool or interesting" ideas of level designs. It does not mean that I do not go on wild map design sprees :D
These are great for emptying your mind and a fun exercise in how to keep things interesting. Like I have mentioned in previous posts, it is very important that Rogue Angels continues to feel fresh, also after 30 plays.
With that said, there are loads of maps you will not get to see, as they cannot serve the primary purpose of driving the story and the characters forward.
Level Design VS Mission Design
As mentioned earlier I place level design above my mission design. This might seem counterintuitive, as you can imagine designing the level around your specific mission needs might seem more logical. The reason I do level design first, is that I want to place restrictions on my mission structure, and make sure events, enemies, situations unfold within a framework, instead of just adjusting my framework for my ideas.
This is not foolproof, and I sometimes have to go back and adjust the level accordingly. But what it does provide, is a more focused approach to how things evolve and how I work the limitations into interesting dilemmas. How can the mission structure be placed within this environment?
In practice - This means that mission structures often end up being very diverse, so players will not know if a mission will last 2, 3, 4, or 5 segments. The level design does not give away a clear structure, and the mission structure does not dictate that you will necessarily visit every spot on a map.
Design space vs rules
Another point worth noting is that maps follow the simple universal rules of the Rogue Angels combat system, allowing aesthetics and artistic freedom to roam underneath a highlighted user interface.
In short: Character may enter/leave squares with visible center dots on. Line of sight and movement can be achieved from dot to dot and is only blocked by red lines.
On top of that players may encounter 1-3 deviations/additions to these rules, which are explained on the accompanying and would be only visible page of the campaign book.
In other words I want thematic and cool looking maps for players to explore, while not being bogged down in rules and special edge cases.
The maps in Rogue Angels will all be part of an A3-sized map book, which will make it a breeze to set up and take down during play. Like every other design decision made for Rogue Angels, I try to work with as simple an approach as possible, to allow more time for enjoyment instead of administration.
The downside to a map book like this is the static nature of each map. However, this can be altered a bit by providing some map-changing tiles like crumbling walls, blocked entrances, and movable objects. Combining this with different setups and goals from various mission layouts and updates, and you still have lots of options to play around with.
Thanks a lot for reading - I hope you got some inspiration out of it too :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about the maps, worlds, and what you perhaps would like to see more of? Any places I should remember to visit in the Rogue Angels stories?
In case you want to check out 400 more pieces of artwork from this universe - Check out the Burning Suns Artbook here.
Thank you for the encouragement and support :)
Best regards Emil
In today's designer journal I want to talk about my thoughts on board game organizers, and how I have tried to work around the need for such things in Rogue Angels, despite the game being an epic campaign crawler type of experience.
This is not going to be a rant against organizers or those who fancy them. When I pushed Rogue Angels further into development, it became clear for me that I wanted to create a game that could be easily handled without the support of third-party applications. This goal inspired several design choices, which I will try to unwrap here.
I hope you will enjoy the read :)
Pros And Cons
Like so many others, I have some mild OCD, meaning I like to break things down to the lowest denominator, I like to create lines in my layout, avoid pixel mistakes, use even numbers, walk among lines etc. so I feel prone to organizing in general. Organizers can undoubtedly improve a game experience and there are many reasons for that.
I cannot deny the satisfaction of using organizers, but I will try to address the rest of the pros via my design choices.
A Simple Flow
There are many more reasons for wanting a simple flow in your game. The simpler your game is to operate, the more time and mental energy gamers have in surplus to enjoy your game with.
For Rogue Angels I decided to let the game space, components, and rules revolve around the cooldown mechanic (which I dive into in detail here). With your character sheet in front of you, you are all set as the layout tells you were to put the elements.
While you do get more cards (like weapons/equipment) during the campaign, you are only allowed to bring a limited number of cards to each mission, avoiding a large play/storage area.
Another point worth noting, is that the game play is not interrupted by having to look through a lot of categorized cards, other booklets, or tile sets. The flow of the game is solely between the campaign book and the manifestation on the maps (see my previous post about game overview here).
As a gamer and designer, I understand the urge to put more stuff in your campaign game. However, there is certainly also something to be said about simplicity in large game experiences. Just because a game is epic or long, does not mean it should be littered with pieces. For Rogue Angels I try to keep component count and utility consistent.
- In practice this means that whenever you are looting a crate, you get access to 4 cards. You might not be allowed to take them all, but they come in packs of 4. The enemies come in packs of 4, tiles in packs of 4 etc.
I also try to reuse all components in different settings, to reduce the overall number of components needed. By mixing behaviors and context, enemies can be utilized several times and still feel different/new. The hacking system of Rogue Angels also works for other RPG and play elements like searching, communication, and gambling.
By providing cleaner rules on different effects, like when you get damaged, and simpler ways of tracking enemy health, players avoid having to put "effect tokens" or "markers" everywhere.
I am in general not a fan of long upkeep phases in games. I therefore designed Rogue Angels to have no upkeep between missions, making it much easier to put down between plays, and completely negate the need for an organizer to keep anything in place while taking a break from the adventures.
- In practice the only "permanence" to carry over between missions are stickers placed on action cards, and whiteboard marks put on personalities, relationships, and legacy dots (all resettable from the get-go). All of these components are placed in the character's own envelope.
Even a table bump during play is most likely not going to cause a headache.
Setup and Takedown
The last thing I want to touch upon in this post is the setup and takedown of Rogue Angels. Having a wife, two kids, plenty of career dreams, family, and friends to share my time with, I, like many board gamers, have little spare time for actually playing games.
I always writhe a bit in discomfort when it is stated that a game "only takes 45 minutes to set up the first time, after that it can be done in 20." I mean, really? 20 minutes, only if you have practiced? Or if a game "only shines if you can leave it for a few days on the table". If my enjoyment of a game is significantly higher after spending $50 on organizers to lower the administration of it, I personally feel the game is somewhat lacking.
With that and other parents in mind, I wanted to provide a quick save and load solution for Rogue Angels. Something that would in general make it easier to bring the game to the table.
- In practice this means that I have created a ship box within the game box for easy storage of the players' individual and shared components. This allows everything to be stored and retrieved quickly in between plays. And with nothing to worry about in terms of upkeep.
I have nothing against organizers, but if you feel inclined to buy one after having played Rogue Angels, I have failed ;)
A big thank you for reading my thoughts :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about my approach to organizers and/or game upkeep. What have other games done in this regard? What do you think works and why?
If you want to try Rogue Angels - check out the TTS here.
Thank you for your continued interest :)
Best regards Emil
Today I want to reveal another player favorite from Rogue Angels, and just like the other reveals I will go through my own thoughts and the lore behind the character.
Today's character is Vera N'Kalou, the first human portrayed in Rogue Angels, who continues to prove her worth in the hands of many different play-testers.
Illustrators: Original concept by Angelita Ramos. Character by Dinulescu Alexandru. Action cards by Gunship Revolution
I hope you will enjoy this behind-the-character post :)
Humans/mankind (called Terrans and/or Marauders in the Burning Suns lore) is a widespread species in this galaxy, albeit not the dominant one like you will see in Star Wars. Humans have managed to get a seat at The Assembly table, and while they do have influence, they are still looked down upon by a number of other species. For Rogue Angels this creates an interesting dynamic and world-building, where I can have players explore many different perspectives, by providing both alien and humans in the mix.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to have some capable ex-soldiers in the game, the classic origin of a mercenary, jaded by the consequences of war. Vera became my first take on this trope, albeit I have shied away from creating an undefeatable John Wick kind of character, as that would defeat the purpose of a game :D
Vera was developed to be a super fast multitool character. During early development I knew I wanted to present players with a character so all-rounded that it almost felt like a safe bet. We all approach character selection differently and we all have our own play-styles. Vera is the middle-ground in most aspects, except for her insane speed. However, this type of flexibility only left room for a single weapon in her arsenal.
Together with Memnon, she has become a household name among many play-testers :)
Details & Origin
Full name: Vera N'Kalou
Species: Terran/Human (learn more about the species on wiki)
Date of birth: 971 ATA (see timeline on wiki)
Place of birth: Chios (find system on wiki)
Affiliation: Marauders (learn more about the faction on wiki)
Former work: Army platoon leader
Vera N'Kalou was born in one of the most remote corners of Marauder space, a small mining colony, where she quickly learned her way around equipment, big machinery, and cargo vessels. When Vera turned 23, she joined the Marauder Army's 4th Division where she worked her way up to platoon leader.
Vera left the Marauder Army after losing two of her best friends during a three-month pirate hunt along the borders of Ercinean space. Army life never became the same again and she decided that if she was to do some good in the galaxy, she might as well try to eliminate the galaxy of a few pirates along the way. Vera is now making a living as a versatile mercenary with a strong moral code.
As most humans traversing the galaxy, Vera has learned to be flexible and resourceful in the face of danger. Vera has a strong resolve when odds are stacked against her, and she is not the one to give up on a team member or a mission.
Vera is in general very accommodating and easy going. However, she does hold a grudge against all types of pirates.
Vera N'Kalou is an inspiring soldier who can work in teams as well as alone. Her well rounded stats makes her suitable for unknown situations where a quick escape might be needed. Vera is only equipped with one weapon, but what Vera does not have in firepower she makes up for in agility, customization, and adaptability.
Vera carries a lot of equipment like a jetpack and a medic kit making her capable of taking on a wide variety of missions.
Vera is capable of treating wounds and hack security systems. Vera can join most teams where they need a flexible and headstrong individual.
With Vera's agility you will never feel left out of the action. With her jetpack you can always catch up to anyone and anything, and this makes Vera an ideal character for those players who enjoy shifting their focus during missions.
Vera is by far the most agile character in Rogue Angels, and can handle anything from chases to combat and wounds to hacking. She even thrives on being separated from others, as that is when she gains her unique ability. Playing as Vera means that you should always seek optimal positioning and the most distant objectives.
Vera's weakness is her lack of weapons, and the only one available to her is a 3-slot pistol with a fairly short range. You might be able to finish off an enemy every now and then, but as Vera you should try to avoid being involved in too much combat, at least until you have gained some more firearms, preferably long range.
Thanks again for joining me for another reveal, I hope you enjoyed the read :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about Vera and her abilities/gear? Will you be choosing her, does she match your play-style? What else about Rogue Angels would you like to know?
In case you do not want to wait - you can test Vera and the 15 other characters here.
May you have a great day and thanks again for following me :)
Best regards Emil
Whether you are new to my designer journals or a returning reader, I am happy to know that you have stopped by to learn a bit more about Rogue Angels, a new sci-fi adventure crawler coming to Kickstarter later this year :)
I was initially going to talk some more in-depth about the moving parts of my game, until a friend of mine stopped me and asked: "What about doing a general overview, where you connect all the dots for potential players out there?"
So today I will present Rogue Angels more as a whole and provide you with both thoughts and overview :)
Rogue Angels can be summarized in many ways, and it depends a lot on the emphasis you put on each of its qualities and how much space you have available. Like I have mentioned in a previous post, this could be as short as "imagine Mass Effect as a board game" ;)
For this post I will be dissecting the phrase I used on my Kickstarter "notify me on launch"-page:
"A cooperative (1-4) sci-fi adventure crawler with multiple paths, player-driven solutions, evolving characters and intertwined stories."
Rogue Angels is a true/full cooperative experience where players try to achieve the game's objectives and fight AI-driven adversaries. Player characters have their own origins and reasons for joining the team, but they ultimately all work together for greater goals than themselves. The characters are so diverse, that if you want to play solo, you must play two-handed to successfully complete the missions.
You will find co-ops where it is possible for players to wander off and groom their own agendas/goals. This is not possible for Rogue Angels as I have created most missions with some sort of narrative-driven time pressure. More enemies are coming, facilities go on lockdown, fire spreads, or your cover is blown.
- In practice this means that mission success hangs in the balance of proper cooperation, table-talk, and utilization of each character's strengths within a plan of execution.
Rogue Angels takes part in a fleshed out universe/future where humans and aliens have colonized large parts of the galaxy. A lot of history already exists and both new and old struggles are portrayed through various story beats.
- In practice this means that the sci-fi world-building is a big part of the game's experience.
The sci-fi setting has affected how I decided to tell the story, its atmosphere, and how it is woven into the design of both game play and story mechanics through technology, struggles, reasoning, and stakes (previous post on world-building).
Rogue Angels manifests its experience in two arenas - The campaign book (the adventure part) and The map book (the crawler part). When fused together it creates a blend of both, where the game never goes full RPG/story or full hack'n'slash/crawler.
- In practice this means that neither the story nor the action takes over in such a way that you forget about the other.
What happens in the campaign will be represented on the maps, and what happens on the maps will be honored through consequences in the campaign (the dance of the three design pillars).
To provide a smooth experience all maps are presented in a book to ease the setup. To avoid longwinded breaks in gameplay, you are ever only presented with one page at a time in the campaign book. Players only have to focus on what is in front of them, at any given time (1 campaign page & 1 map), and never go back and forth between pages, temporary rule changes, or setup.
When it comes to the "crawler" aspect of Rogue Angels, it has several similarities with games like Gloomhaven, Imperial Assault, Stars of Akarios, Descent, Shadows of Brimstone etc.
- In practice this means that characters are represented on the map with different combat, move, and interaction abilities that allow players to fight enemies, solve puzzles, and complete other objectives.
You control your character by playing action cards into a cooldown track below the character sheet. This action management mechanic has been merged with a damage system that enrichens the decision space for each player while also providing a deep layer of satisfying planning and execution.
Like other co-ops, the enemies are controlled by the game's AI, providing different types of enemies and behaviors. Where Rogue Angels differ a bit is in how it utilizes a more nuanced context-driven AI, to give players more thematic and realistic adversaries.
To best facilitate cooperative table-talk with balanced player actions and inputs, a mission unfolding, and an interfering enemy force, the play sequence of Rogue Angels is a continued three-step cycle, where things can potentially evolve after each player turn.
I have designed Rogue Angels to tell an epic tale of bravery, adventure, and intergalactic struggles. Just like the Mass Effect games, Rogue Angels presents players with influence, and gives them agency to choose where and how they want to approach this tale.
- In practice this means players have a say in many aspects of how to approach the plot.
Rogue Angels is not a sandbox and the plot is the focus point of the whole experience, but it is still open enough to provide incentives to explore elements and choices aligned with the players' agency and performance.
For scale I have placed a flowchart of the campaign's first two chapters below (no spoilers).
While the goal of Rogue Angels is straight forward: "Complete the story with your characters.", the game still presents several layers of player agency. As previously mentioned, you will find lots of choices on the campaign book level: "Where should we go?", "Who do we save?", but the choices extend all the way down to the mission and map level.
- In practice this means many of the missions can be solved in more than one way, and most missions have moveable parts or several ways to approach the same challenges.
I have incorporated mission-based rule changes, NPCs, companions, and environment that may present clever ways to defeat or trick enemies, rewarding player ingenuity, and encourage repeated play-throughs.
As the game works with a fail forward system, there are no do-overs beyond the first segment of each mission, meaning you will have to live with all your choices, big and small. Your story is forged and sealed with each step forward.
Rogue Angels is a legacy game at heart, where the choices and consequences of your actions stay with you. Both your choices and performance will determine which missions are available, who you might encounter, how the plot moves forward, and ultimately who your character will shape up to be.
- In practice the legacy elements are split into both adventure and crawler parts of the game.
Some elements mostly refer to events and choices made through the campaign like "legacy dots", while others define the relationships you create with NPCs and factions through choices. Scars are mostly a representation of your performance, while card upgrades are largely direct player inputs.
To synthesize the consequences of choices and performance, the campaign does not adhere to a strict approach. This is to try to avoid players "gaming the system" or min-maxing their character in a specific way.
- In practice this means that I try to keep things unknown, that missions do not follow an exact pattern, and that some NPC encounters and events happen randomly within the plot.
Just like the blend between adventure/story and crawler/combat, I try to strike a balance between direct and indirect consequences in Rogue Angels. Sometimes you are given more explicit information, other times I spread hints within the dialogue.
- In practice the game provides more gray areas. Allowing the players to explore their own thoughts, instead of the plot telling them what to think. Players can stay true to their mission, character, and/or morality.
All of the components can be reset, if you would like to replay an old character in a new campaign.
Each character in the game comes with its own baggage, and the legacy folder was created to guide players through their character's personal struggle and story.
- In practice this means that the legacy folder will slowly unwrap a unique story for the player's character.
This will open up a few upgrades and personality traits. A personal mission will also be available, which will require the player to bring the rest of the team with them on a tailormade sidequest.
Some companions and NPCs also have personal quests that may be unlocked through the campaign, depending on the players' allegiance and choices. Once you have completed Rogue Angels, your mosaic of stories and achievements will be unique to your play-through and be an experience worth talking about :)
Angels can both rise and fall...
To summarize Rogue Angels
Thanks again for taking part in my journey :)
Now I hope you will share your thoughts on how I described Rogue Angels. What do you think is the most appealing aspect of the game? and what do you expect to experience once it is available?
You can also read what other reviewers and play testers think here.
Thank you for your support :)
Best regards Emil