Has this happened to anyone else? You get a brand new game, you open the shrink wrap, pull up the box top… and you’re greeted with a 40 page rulebook and enough punchouts to make Mike Tyson jealous. I’m not knocking that (heh)! That can be one of the most exciting nights of the week. But when you’ve got a limited amount of time for game night, sometimes you’re looking for something with a little less… prep work.
When developing our goals for Kinfire Chronicles, we did a lot of research, asking casual gamers, hobby gamers, hardcore gamers, even video gamers, what they were missing in the board gaming world and what they wanted to see. The goal was to create a nice gateway into this amazing hobby that still stood on its own as a game that players of all skill levels could play, enjoy, and most importantly, play together. The more the merrier, and how could we help bring more people in?
In general, campaign games are expected to take a little more prep, and take a little longer to play per session. But in order to meet the need of a campaign game that could be set up quickly, easy to learn, and have each session be around 45-60 minutes in length, we had to get creative.
So what makes Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall unique as far as board games, and specifically campaign games, go? Here are our top 5 things.
Scaffolded difficulty, similar to a video game
One thing in particular we wanted to avoid with Kinfire Chronicles was the slog of reading a 40 page rulebook before you can jump into the fun stuff. The problem was, in order to prevent a game this long from getting monotonous, there were going to have to be a lot of moving parts and pieces. So how could we create an elaborate and compelling game without intimidating new players with a massive rulebook?
Designer Kevin Wilson was inspired by CEO Jane Hoffacker’s history in video games! When you’re playing a new video game, you don’t start at level 50, you start with a few abilities, one town to visit, and lower level enemies to encounter and obstacles to overcome. As you progress, challenges get harder and options become more plentiful. So we did the same here. When you open the welcome box, you’ll be presented with Rulebook 1, which details how to pick your character, and some important information about the world. Quest 1 teaches you about combat, and you’ll read a different rulebook for that when the time is right. Quest 2 introduces how to handle adventuring, and makes the combat a little more complex (for example, in Quest 1 you can hit the enemy with status effects, but in Quest 2 the enemies can hit you with status effects too, opening the backside of the status effect cards). The first town you go to has 7 locations to choose from, and is affectionately referred to as “Tutorial Town” by the Incredible Dream team. But by the time your Seekers make it to the thriving city of Din’Lux, you’ll have over 40 locations to visit, and it’s impossible to see them all in one playthrough.
For more examples of scaffolded gameplay, and to learn more about its design and development, you can check out Kevin Wilson’s Designer Discussion: Easing on In.
A Randomized Initiative System Keeps All Players Engaged
Rather than a traditional initiative system where you know ahead of time whose turn is when and you can plan your strategies accordingly, Kinfire Chronicles makes use of the Destiny bag when it comes to initiative. When it comes time for combat in a quest, you’ll ready your character deck, set up the battlemap and then pull a chit from the Destiny bag. If it’s a character’s face, it’s that character’s turn to go! If it’s a number, the enemy will do that corresponding action. Since you never know who’s going to go next, it helps prevent the downtime of, “I just had my turn and it’ll be a solid 5 minutes before I’m up again so let me just hop on TikTok real quick.” It also means that the possibility for the alpha gamer or “quarterback” to tell everyone how they’re going to run their turn is diminished since the successful strategy changes with each draw from the bag.
In the bag there are 12 character chits (divided evenly by number of players), 12 enemy number chits, 3 Heart chits (which means the players decide whose turn it is), and 2 Darkness chits (which is usually the enemies’ strongest attack). So while the odds are ever so slightly in your favor, anything can happen.
But Risa! you say. What if I pull all 12 enemy chits one after the other and get a total party kill? To which I reply: while it is a minute possibility, there are plenty of opportunities in the game to manipulate the Destiny bag. Various characters have action cards that let them add or remove chits from the bag, and there are boost cards that can be played to veto a chit and pull a different one. Of course, if the situation is looking particularly dire, you can always use a Fate token to pull 4 chits from the bag and choose the one you want to play. All I have to say is, if you pull all 12 enemy chits one after the other, you’re doing something wrong.
If you want to get more in depth on the design of the Destiny bag, you can check outKevin Wilson’s Designer Discussion: A Touch of Destiny dedicated to this unique game mechanic.
How Co-Op Works
Speaking of combat and keeping all players engaged at all times, the battle system has an additional mechanic for that in the form of Boost cards. While Action cards can only be played on your turn, Boost cards can only be played when it’s not your turn. So if a friend is getting pummeled by the Wyvern, you can reduce that damage with a boost card, but if you’re the one getting pummeled, you’ll have to get some help from your allies. Same goes for damage increase boosts; you can’t increase your own damage, but you can increase someone else’s. However, you can’t just start throwing Boost cards down until you’re out and then hop on your phone and wait for your character’s chit to come out of the Destiny bag. In order to play a Boost card, you’ll need to match the color of the action card being played. For example, if Khor plays a red/green action card, Naz will need to match one of those two colors to boost the damage.
If Khor plays Aftershock, Naz could boost it with Shattering Blow or Rush
The cooperative nature of the game is even evident in the characters’ special abilities, such as Valora’s ability to give armor to other players when moving, or Khor’s ability to redirect a point of damage from an ally to themself. Long story short, to be successful in Kinfire Chronicles, you’re going to need to work together. If you want to learn more about how Kevin Wilson incorporated cooperative elements into the game, you can read his Designer Discussion: With a Little Help From My Friends.
Smaller battle maps and optimized movement
When designing the combat for the game, Kevin Wilson knew he wanted to focus on tactics and movement, without making them the core mechanic. Feedback from gamers was that movement should be a feature, not a bug, and that it was disheartening in games to spend an entire turn just moving across a map. As a result, the battle maps in Kinfire Chronicles are pretty tight. Both players and enemies only get one space of movement per turn, so you’ll want to remain fairly close, but still able to dart out of range when you’ve taken enough damage. The good news is that the Seekers have several opportunities to adjust or increase their movement, from movement boosts, to action cards with additional movement parameters, to Naz’s passive ability, which allows her to move an ally on her turn instead of herself.
Some samples of action cards with movement incorporated
To go more in-depth on how you can optimize movement in the game, you can check out the Designer Discussion: Handcrafted Knife Fights in Phone Booths.
It’s Completely Replayable
The best thing about this 21 quest, 25+ hour game? You can play it again and again!
Similar to a video game, you’ll always start weak and get powerful, do some of the same quests, and fight the Big Bad. But how you do it, and who you play as, make for a completely different experience. Each Seeker has specific story moments that are only achievable if they’re in your party, and with 6 Seekers in a game that only plays up to 4 players, it’s literally impossible to unlock every dialogue option in one playthrough. Not to mention multiple story branches in each quest, including failing the combat portion (which doesn’t result in a game over, but could affect what happens down the road). Sidequests are only unlockable under certain conditions and can be completed in differing orders, so that’s another new experience you can have, and you might find completing the quests in a different order gives you chances to talk to different NPCs at more opportune times.
The first town you'll reach is Vinna
Long story short, we knew from the start that we wanted the game to be able to be played again and again, and so the designers took deliberate steps to make that both easy and worthwhile. Components that follow you through the game such as Memory cards are labeled by quest and have quest-specific card backs that make returning them to their home instinctual and easy to identify. There are more treasure packs and city locations than are discoverable in one playthrough. And of course the number of choices and directions the story can go will keep a completionist playing 6 or 7 times. (I’m not actually sure how many times you’d need to play to see everything. I suppose it’s dependent on player number and skill level in battles. I’ll get back to you on that)
And there you have it! 5 ways that Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall makes for a unique game night experience that you can have over and over again. Pre-Orders for the game are available until March 10 on BackerKit, where you'll save $30 off MSRP.