The Hunters or the Innocents, you decide
Time spent on Project: One Month
First time designing a board game,
where to start?
I knew I wanted to go to college for game design, but in order to get accepted I needed to make a board game that followed a certain set of criteria. Yet, I had never really made a board game before. I had made a couple of small video games, but nothing as tangible. Thus where to start?
Well first off before I make a game whether it is a video game or a board game I always try to create a world or at least a narrative before diving into the design. I started making a world where there were two different factions, the Hunters and the Innocents fighting for dominance of the world. From there I started creating characters within each faction such as the Necromancer and the Deadeye for the Hunters or the Explorer and Rancher for the Innocents. Once I had a collection of characters I began writing small backstories that explain their allegiance as well as some of their unique abilities. With the baseline narrative and world out of the way I started deep diving into the design of each character.
Hunters vs the Innocent, but why?
As stated above I created two different factions within the world of The Hunted. There are the Hunters and the Innocents, the Hunters are brutal killers whereas the Innocents are just trying to fight back against the scourge of Hunters. Other than narrative reasons why did I make these two different factions? Well, one of the main reason is that it enabled the board game to be more dynamic is it was a team of players fighting against each other rather than the players all just fighting against each other. This team dynamic was vital for certain roles and the morphing mechanic that I implemented into the board game. Furthermore, it allowed me to test how a team of players would select and chose certain roles given what they were trying to accomplish. Thus it allowed me to practice designing team dynamic-based abilities such as healing and protecting.
The other main reason being is that I wanted to have different objectives for each time. For the Innocents it was to collect eight machine parts found in chests randomly placed around the map and to build a machine that enabled them to escape the Hunters or if they were feeling more combative they could also try to kill all the Hunters, although this was a rare occurrence. For the Hunters it was to kill all of the Innocents so that they couldn't escape or to destroy enough machine parts so that the Innocents could never build the escape machine. By having this objective based gameplay it made it less time consuming to having to do more overhead balancing for I could balance around the objectives each faction had in any game.
General Combat Design
Now that I had my world, my characters, and some basic design all in, how on earth where they all going to interact with each other and fight to the death? For the basic combat I wanted to make it simple as to not scare off any players or to over complicate things. Thus I decided to make the combat based off dice rolls, which sure isn't new, but no need to reinvent the wheel here. Although with that said it felt a little to unbalanced towards the player getting attacked. I design a mechanic that would give them a chance to either avoid or block the attack.
Therefore I created the defense system, what this system entailed is that both the attacker and the defender rolled dice. If the attacker rolled higher than the defender, than the defender lost health or died based on their remaining HP and what type of attack they were being hit with. If the defender rolled higher than the attacker than they blocked or dodged the attack and no damage was dealt to that player's character. Now the characters are able to attack, but what dictates when they can and when they cannot?
This is where the radius system comes into play. Each character depending on their weapons and what weapon they desire to attack with has a certain range value attached to it. Since that the board is made out of squares the range values assigned to attacks were based on these squares. For example, the Explorer, an Innocent allied character, is equipped with a machete. Given that the machete is a melee weapon and is not a longer reaching melee weapon like spear it has a range of one square radius. What this means is that the Explorer can attack any Hunter that is within one square of him. This can be behind him, to his side or in front of him. As long as the target hunter current square touches the Explorers current square then the Explorer can attack him.
Yet, what happens if a unit has a long reaching weapon like the Beast Master? Well, the Beast Master has the bladed staff weapon, since this weapon is a staff it falls under the longer reaching melee weapons and thus has a range of two square radius around the Beast Master. When it comes to more ranged play such as the Deadeye, a ranged-based, Hunter allied character, that is done in a slightly different manner.
In order to make melee characters viable I had to make sure that the ranged-based ones didn't overpower them. What this lead to is that ranged units attacks work slightly differently. Unlike the melee-based units that have the one to three square radius around them, ranged units can only fire vertically or horizontally. Thus if a melee-based character was located diagonally from a ranged-based character, that ranged character couldn't shoot them unless they positioned themselves to do so. This lead to ranged characters having to play more tactically for they knew they could let the melee-based characters out maneuver them too many times or it would be game over.
With the basic combat out of the way I started crafting the combat abilities of each of the characters and balancing them based off their roles within their respective factions. Other than just distinguishing the different roles within each faction I also wanted each faction to play more distinct and thus feel more unique. Since the Hunters were supposed to be the aggressor faction, I crafted abilities that matched this aggressive mindset.
What this means is that the Hunters abilities for the most part rewarded players for playing more aggressively instead of passively. Whereas, the Innocents abilities were more focused on helping each other and defending themselves with heals and other support abilities. This didn't mean there weren't any Innocents that didn't play more aggressively such as the Rancher who was more a combat class than support class, it simply was a more uncommon role.
Despite this, the Hunters commonly overpowered the Innocents and thus for a little more balance I made sure that the Innocents got to have a larger team size. The team ratio was for every one Hunter there was two Innocents. This proved to be a very good balance as for after this changes implementation Innocents starting winning more rather than almost never winning at all.
Yet I want to morph!
Morphing Design and Balancing
All of this is nice and all, yet one large factor remained, in order for any of this to be worth it, I needed to add morphing into the game in some manner or a change. Given that my game was so combat and interaction between characters heavy I wondered what would happen if I added a character morph mechanic.
Using this mechanic, players would be able to morph their characters into different forms for periods of time. During this time they could use the abilities that came with those different morphed abilities. Yet, the catch being is that once a player morphed their character they could no longer use their normal abilities. This was done to prevent the morphed forms just being overall upgrades over the normal forms and thus me attempting to prevent a gold path or min-maxing from occurring. Knowing that balancing all of these new abilities would be rather time consuming all characters except for one, The Beast Master, only had one morphed form. The Beast Master had more than one form because he was a character that was spawned out of the creation of this mechanic and wasn't original Hunter faction.
When it came to the actual balancing of the different morphed versions of characters it wasn't all that bad given I now had experience balancing such abilities. Due to this, I had enough time to add and test a couple of different morphed-based and unmorphed-based skills to and more dynamism to the game. Such as adding a stealth mechanic as well as deployable like the Engineer's mine. With all of this said, I was pleasantly surprised, by how well these morphs were received and many players said it made the game feel much more interesting to experience and play.
Let's sprinkle a tad more content!
The sidedeck Design
After designing the most of the content with the game such as combat, narrative, and general play I wanted to add a little more spice to the game. This is where the idea of a side deck came to mind. Inside of the side deck I added to different types of cards that a player could draw. There were the mech parts cards which were the keys required for the Innocents to build the machine that would help them escape the Hunters.
The other card type were the monster cards. These cards, when drawn by a player spawn the drawn monster card. There were a couple of different monster types each with their own unique set of abilities that the player who drew them had to deal with. These monsters would focus down the player who drew them until eventually slain. One of the main reason I added these monster cards was to add more depth to the game. Thus during the duration of a game, it would always just be the Hunters fighting the Innocents and vis versa, both sides would such as enemies that both teams would have to deal with and overcome. I hoped this would make the game more dynamic and would prevent stale gameplay for more experienced players and during the mid-late game points.
Overall many of the players I tested this game with rather enjoyed the monster cards for they felt it would change the overall dynamic of certain combat situations. After this feedback I wanted to add more cards to the side deck such as unique weapons and consumables, but sadly I couldn't due to the balancing scope of this additions and the time I had left at this point.
The Thrill of the Hunt!
Hunter Design and Balancing
After I had all of this content in such as basic combat, morphing, and the general goal of each team as well as some basic balancing, I wanted to truly spend a good portion of time going through each character and balancing them out some more. No faction was harder to balance than the Hunters and for one reason in particular, they were designed to be powerful. I won't dive to deep into all of the Hunters' balancing process, but two that I will are the Ninjito and the Beast Master for they took the longest period of time to full balance out and even to this day they still feel a little bit too powerful. The reason they were so difficult to balance was down to a couple of key factors.
For Ninjito it was mainly due to his new ability of using the stealth mechanic. A mechanic which only the Hunters had access to, and one that was, by design, hard for the Innocents to counter, but not impossible. The balancing process for Ninjito when it came to his stealth related skills was that of how long the ability lasted and how far he could move. You see Ninjito was designed to stealth around the map and sneak up on Innocent players and deal a large amount of damage to them. After this damage was dealt most of his danger was gone, but he was still a capable fighter. Thus Ninjito fell under the Assassin role.
Now the reason this was so difficult to balance was that his basic design was to almost one hit kill people, fight for a little bit, and then disappear to repeat the cycle. This of course was rather infuriating to deal with, especially when people were up against Ninjito mains. This wasn't helped by the fact that his morphed form or the Shade was did this assassin role better, but couldn't fight back after this deadly blow was dealt. Yet, despite not being able to attack after this blow, the Shade wasn't able to be attacked either. This of course lead to players just using the shade form and using run and gun tactics.
To fix this, instead of removing that the shade couldn't take damage, I added a longer wait time for the player to be able to morph back into the shade creature as well as making sure the shade form only lasted a couple of turns. Furthermore, I nerfed the damage of the shade's attack so that it didn't feel as painful to get hit by. Although it felt unfair to just nerf the Ninjito character so I buffed his normal backstab attack to deal more damage to the intended target. What all of these changes eventually did was create an equilibrium between Ninjito and his shade form, both had their advantages and disadvantages and thus neither was better or worse than the other.
While I was working out the kinks in Ninjito's balancing I was also trying to fix The Beast Master as well. Although both Ninjito and The Beast Master were painful to balance, unlike Ninjito, The Beast Master was his own challenge for a very different reason.
You see due to The Beast Master's main mechanic being able to morph into three different forms, the bear, lion, and panther form it came to my attention that he was the most dynamic and flexible character in the entire game. Now being dynamic is not a problem, the problem was that he was to flexible and had a tool or form to deal with almost every situation. If the Hunters needed a tank, he would morph into the bear, if the Hunters needed a more jack of all trades although slightly more damage dealing role, he would morph into lion. Lastly, if he was ever caught in a bad situation he could morph into the panther and become untouchable due to the stealth mechanic.
This lead to players fighting against The Beast Master feeling as if they were throwing rocks in the wind and never had a chance to really tame the master tamer. Thus how does one fix this? Well, I started out with a basic stat nerf for the different forms. For the bear I reduced the amount of HP and damage gain The Beast Master got from being in that form as well as reducing the range of the bear forms attacks. From there I nerfed the lions speed as well as damage and finally for the panther form reduced the amount of time The Beast Master could stay morphed as the panther as to him from escaping fully if he was originally cornered.
For the most part these changes worked out quite well, yet players still said that he felt to adaptable and thus unfun to fight against. Taking this into account I did one last nerf and that was to how long he could stay in the bear and lion forms as well as increasing the amount of time it took for those morphs to be ready again. Once this change was implemented testers stated that he finally felt as if there was a chance to catch or beat him.
Rather be good than bad!
Innocent Design and Balancing
It wasn't just the Hunters that needed balancing for the Innocents themselves had a few characters that took a long time to finally get right. Those two roles were the Explorer and the Engineer. Each one was difficult to balance for a exceedingly different reason. Whether it was object rushing with the Explorer or making the map a minefield filled with unkillable Innocents, both proved a challenge and a delightful design balancing problem to solve.
First off there is the Explorer a melee-based character who is all about discovering mech parts to assist in the escape machines construction. The main mechanic that makes the Explorer different from his fellow Innocents is that he has a passive modifier that enables him to open chests much easier. You see in order to open a chest a player has to roll a dice, if they roll four or above they open that chest and draw from the side deck. If they roll a three or below, the lock on the chest breaks and the chest is removed from play. Given that there were only a set amount of chests on the board that never replenished, the Explorer was vital to not only opening chests quickly, but to stop the Innocents from breaking to many of them, which could place them in a rather bad spot.
Furthermore, the original Explorers ability was twice as powerful instead of substracting one from the needed roll to open a chest his ability substracted two. This of course made the Explorer player only need to role a two to open the chest. On top of this, most players who played the Explorer overused his morphed form which enabled him to not only keep the passive due to it not being connected to the Explorer's base form, but enabled him to draw two cards from the side deck. Of course there weren't just mech parts in the side deck, but also monster cards.
Thus knowing this, the Innocent team would surround the Explorer to act as his shield against any summoned monsters. What this ended up creating a sort of Innocent death star meta where they just when in a massive group around the map in an attempt to rush the objective before the Hunters caught them. Seeing this unfair meta unfold, I had to nerf the Explorer in some manner to make him less viable, but still viable. The first change was to the passive, for it felt way to good only having to roll a two or above to open a chest.
Therefore, I changed it from two to three which still was rather good, but not a 83% chance to open a chest. From there I then changed his morphed ability cooldown and duration. I didn't want to change the ability of drawing to cards for it was what made the Explorer morphed form unique and played well with his passive ability. Although given that I had nerfed him so much, I wanted to do a little buff to the Explorer and thus I gave him another minus one to his chest open rolls while in the morphed form, but given that the morphed form now only lasted four turns, that at max would only enabled him to open one to three chests max. After implementing all of these changes, the death star explorer meta appeared to stop for the most part, but some players still tried to make it work, to varying results.
Although it wasn't just the Explorer that was an interesting design challenge to solve, for there was also the Engineer, and in all honesty, a much more difficult issue to fix. Now the reason for this lies at the core of the Engineer's design.
First off is the Engineer's passive, which enables him to build the machine with less stress than every other Innocent given that he only has to roll a three or above to build the machine. In contrast other Innocents need to roll a five or above to build the machine. Yet, it wasn't his passive that made him overpowered, it was two of his support abilities that did.
The first one was "mine layer" and essentially the Engineer could leave a trail of mines behind him. Originally what this would lead to is that an Engineer player would rush in front of his team and make a barricade of mines to cordon off different areas of the map. Although the mines did hit that hard themselves, the damage they did would add up over time and would make advancing almost impossible for the Hunters.
This of course wasn't fair in the slightness and so what could be a fix to this issue? Well, the first and most obvious fix was to limit the amount of mines the Engineer had on him. For at first he had an unlimited supply of mines, which of course doesn't really make that much sense. Yet, what is a balanced amount of mines?
To be honest, I didn't know at first for I had to take into account the size of the board and how many mines could be used to lock down certain areas. Given that the board was 14 x 12 it meant there was a possibility of 168 squares that the Engineer could mine. Furthermore, I had to take his speed into account as well. Since he moved at a normal pace or a standard d-6 die roll his farthest he could move in a turn is six spaces and thus he could lay five mines in one turn.
Thus in one turn he could mine 3% of the map, which doesn't sound like much, but it adds up quickly. Knowing all of this I gave the Engineer ten mines, the reasoning behind this is that I didn't want him to be able to mine more than 6% of the map, but still given him the ability to make sure defense or explosive obstacles the Hunters would have to avoid. Furthermore, by adding this limit to the amount of mines, it made Engineer players be more tactical as now hey had a resource to manage.
Yet, it wasn't just the mines that were the problem, it was his support ability that really made Hunters angry. This support ability known as "Armor Packs" enabled the Engineer to drop a limited amount of armor sets for other Innocents and himself to equip. The armor sets gave those who equipped them 200 armor. This armor acted as a damage sponge and thus would take any damage the a Hunter would normally have done to an Innocent player.
Thus these sets essentially gave all those who dawned the armor have an extra 200 HP, which created quite a large imbalance between the Innocents and Hunters. This imbalance was so great at times that Innocents could overpower a Hunter in one on one duels. This of course was never meant to happen as the Innocents were designed to be less combat focused.
Therefore, I had to nerf the Armor packs ability with the nerf hammer. First I halved the amount of armor the set gave to those who equipped from 200 to 100. From there I made sure that the Engineer had to wait longer periods of time to drop more armor packs. Changed it from three turns to five turns. Continuing on the nerf train I decreased the amount of armor packs he could drop, originally was three down to two. This was down to stop the whole Innocent team from getting armor to quickly and thus give the Hunters more time to close the gap. With all these changes implemented, I stopped seeing unkillable Innocents being protected by whole minefields and thus the game was at this point at least a little more balanced of a state than before.