Monday, July 10, 2017

Five or So Questions with Alex Hakobian on Broadsword

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Alex Hakobian on the new game Broadsword, which is currently on Kickstarter! It looks like a fun romp and I wanted to give you all the opportunity to check it out. See Alex's responses to my questions below!


Illustration by Gary Chalk (originally drawn for (IINM) Lone Wolf and licensed for reuse in Broadsword)

Tell me a little about Broadsword. What excites you about it?

Broadsword is a tactical adventure game in the format of a hybrid boardgame/RPG - a "roleplaying boardgame," if you will. It's about a group of valiant Heroes working together to defeat the evil forces of the Abyss.

What excites me about it most is the foundation on which it was conceived and built. Although Broadsword takes evident inspiration from many sources ranging different genre, its greatest asset is its direct bloodline to the classic 1989 Milton Bradley/Games Workshop boardgame HeroQuest.

Like many youngsters in those days, I have very fond memories of the game. It was, in fact, my personal gateway drug to D&D and similar roleplaying games later in life. It was only natural that some of that deeply engrained experience bleed though into Broadsword.

What are the aspects of HeroQuest you found valuable enough and important enough to bring forward into Broadsword?

In the most basic of terms, Broadsword is my love letter to HeroQuest. As such, it was important to me that the spirit of the game stayed intact. I wanted you to come away from a session feeling like, "Wow, that was just like the original. But better!" Thankfully, this was easily done in great part because my game originally started out as an expansion on the original, but quickly grew into its own entity.

Speaking specifically, I knew I had to keep some of the key boardgamey elements. Foremost among these were the custom pictographic dice, known as Combat Dice. I felt these were the backbone to the whole thing. Remove the dice and the entire thing falls apart, severing its legacy bloodline.

Going hand in hand with that was the tactical, grid-based combat. It simply wouldn't be itself if I were to, for example, have it use narrative, storygame or "theater of the mind" type rules.

There are a couple other, much smaller assets or concepts brought forward, but the two mentioned above are far and away the ones that carry the most weight.

Illustration by Gary Chalk (originally drawn for (IINM) Lone Wolf and licensed for reuse in Broadsword)

How are you venturing out into different genres and sources, both mechanically and flavor-wise?

I'm not sure I would qualify it as "venturing out" into different genres and sources so much as experiencing them, internalizing them, then funneling it through into the game. For example, if you hear "Fireball," "Lightning Bolt," or better yet, "Magic Missile," you are going to think "classic D&D Wizard spell." So I consider: What makes them so great? Once I believe I'm come up with the essence of the answer in mechanical terms, I can then move forward with including it in some form in the game in a way that makes sense for the system, mechanics, and flavor.

Let's take "Fireball" as an example. The Pyromancer class has a spell called "Explosion." The flavor text reads, "A massive fireball explodes, doing great damage." Mechanically, that translates to: "Any figure on one square you can see takes 2 Body Points of damage. All figures in the surrounding squares each take 1 Body Point of damage. Elite monsters defend the attack normally."

Now, when compared to other systems where PCs or monsters will have Hit Points typically reaching double digits or beyond, a paltry 2 points of damage seems like nothing. But for Broadsword, that's really quite tremendous. Even the beefiest classes in the game only top out around 8 Body Points. And that most monsters in the game generally only have half that. Seen in that light, "Explosion" can easily completely eliminate or severely damage a crowded room of monsters.

Getting back to the question at hand, however, I extend this same process to aspects of games from other genres and systems - video games, books, what have you.

Can you tell me a little about the classes in Broadsword and how they interact with the core mechanic and the game itself?

Sure. The game starts with a dozen different classes (with more being supplemented in the near future). In order to provide niche protection to keep the core theme of each class as unsullied as possible, I came up with a system of keywords that I applied to each piece of equipment. I then took each class and sussed out which keywords would make sense for that class to be restricted from using. This process quickly gave way to the need for categorization of the classes themselves, eventually ending with 3 categories of classes.

There are 5 Fighter classes (Berserker, Hunter, Paladin, Ranger, Warrior), who have the least keyword restrictions and can use the most types of gear. Each of the Fighter classes also have their own Class Ability, a talent unique to that class. 5 Caster classes (Aeromancer, Geomancer, Hydromancer, Necromancer, Pyromancer) have the highest restrictions on usable gear. (This is, of course, balanced by the fact that Casters have lots of spells.) And 2 Hybrid classes (Cleric, Druid), who dabble in both melee combat as well as a little magic usage, but they can't use the very best weapons and armor, nor can they cast as many spells as often as their Caster counterparts.

Your choice of class determines what gear you start with (and by extension, how many Combat Dice you can attack and defend with), what your spell list looks like, and what types of items you are restricted from using. It also provides the baseline for your Body and Mind Points - which may be modified slightly by your choice of race.

What are the experiences and discoveries you have enjoyed most about designing Broadsword?

I found that, despite there being a number of different systems interacting with each other at any one time, the game remains incredibly simple to pick up and learn. This is good, because while I did indeed want to add some granularity and "crunch" on the RPG side of things, I also wanted to keep it streamlined, with a low barrier to entry.

Running the playtests were also a lot of fun, and I don't believe the level and quality of fun I had ever really diminished through the process, even while testing some new mechanic I wasn't sure of. It certainly helped that my playtesters were HeroQuest junkies themselves! They quickly learned the ins and outs of the game nearly as well as I did, so it was painless to run a half-baked idea by them before putting anything down on paper and see if it was an idea worth pursuing.

Illustration by David Lewis Johnson

Thanks all for reading, and thanks to Alex for answering my questions! I hope you all will check out the Kickstarter for Broadsword and share this around in case anyone else might enjoy it!

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