Swordcrafters Designer Diary (Part 1 of 5) – Live on Kickstarter Now!
A game is a sword… a sword is a game. How can that be? In Swordcrafters, you split and choose groups of slotted sword tiles, and then assemble them into the 3D structure of a sword. This is a game that combines the play patterns of modern board games with the building play pattern found in toys such as KNEX or Legos.
Swordcrafters has a seriously cool hook. Swords are cool. Holding a sword is cooler. Holding a cardboard sword is both ironic and nostalgic, and feels unbelievably satisfying. People will ask you what you are doing or what you are playing, and eyes will be drawn to the table with 5 players holding swords. There will be many sword jokes told, although I will resist my temptation here.
Not only is this concept fresh and wonderfully playful, but Swordcrafters is also really simple and easy to pick up!
The mechanics are very simple and near to the “I split, You Choose” style of games. A grid of sword tiles is laid out each round. Each sword tile has a colored gem in it or is blank. The first player makes one completely vertical or completely horizontal separation, separating one group into two groups. Think about this loosely like a sword cut as it does not contain any right angles. A thematic mechanic… check. Now here is where there is newness. Each player makes one separation in the grid. When the turn comes back to the first player, you select one grouping of tiles available. Following turn order, each player selects one grouping of sword tiles. After selections are made, players “craft” the sword tiles into their sword lining up the slotted tiles.
The first player is significant here. That’s why we put a first player tile inside the grid of sword tiles every round. If you select the grouping with the first player tile, it lowers the value of the grouping this round but gives you a large benefit to turn order next round.
Now, why would you care about what sword tile grouping you get? That’s where the scoring and the goal of the game comes in. We’re building a sword as our goal. We’re comparing it to other players based on length, quality, and magic.
- The longest sword gets a bonus (10VP).
- Quality is determined by evaluating each of the four sides of your sword. The largest set of adjacent gems on one side of your sword dictates your quality score.
- Magic is determined by the Sword Magic cards that are in play at the start of the game. There are 3 of them. Each card looks for a combination of two gem types, and the total of this combination is the magic value of your sword. You evaluate sword magic scoring three total times, one for each card.
And that’s it. Rounds are played until you run out of sword tiles. For a 2-3 players game that works out to 8 rounds. For a 4-5 player game that works out to 6 rounds.
The Theme and Visuals:
The theme is sharply honed, but fantasy games is not something AAG has done in the past. For this reason, finding the graphical voice was a big challenge. Also… a sword is really cool, but how do you make a 3D interpretation of a sword come to life?
My guiding light for visual design became trying to create artwork that actually resembled a sword, but not like a real sword… like a cool fantasy sword. Using too much “metal” would surely fall flat. This is where the gems come in. Gems are not traditionally found in all swords, but the gaming industry has incorporated the gem/rune / “materia” into the sword becoming a fantasy trope. Let’s use this to our advantage and bring color into play.
My vision for the audience of this game is a wide appeal, so I went with a fantasy artwork style that has vibrant colors and wide appeal. When I was searching for an artist, I looked for talented artists that were making a splash in the Blizzard Fan Art scene since this art style is typically vibrant and fantastic.
What is next:
The vision is set, the mechanics are sound, the theme is edgy, and all that’s needed now is to obtain funding to bring this to life. Parts 2-5 will detail more stories about the blueprint and iterations, sharpening the design, getting it forge-ready, and preparing for the final quench needed for a successful KS.