Vel Winter is Coming
Ironmark Games is proud to announce our next planned board game release: Vel Winter!
(Also I promise that pun in the article title will be the first and last time you see it.)
What’s a “Vel” and more importantly what has it to do with winter? Glad you asked, because that’s what I’m about to tell you.
This game is set in a distant galaxy that’s left largely abandoned by a human exodus once its four suns died out. If this sounds familiar to you then welcome back! You’ve clearly played our megagame Contact Light, or at the very least heard of it. That or maybe you’ve read a few things by Asimov. Either way, no suns means a period of never-ending winter, so there’s half the name.
The other half refers to the Vel, which is an enigmatic alien race. They’re not very friendly, having waged war against humanity in the past. Where did they come from and what is their goal? I called them “enigmatic” for a reason, and that’s how it’ll remain (at least until we explore the mystery in future lore articles). The bottom line is that they were defeated, but not destroyed, and now rise again.
This is what a Vel looks like, at least one of the more humanoid variations.
However, we as players aren’t fighting the Vel, we ARE the Vel. Starting from the former human homeworld of Genesis we spread out across the almost-abandoned galaxy, conquering worlds as we go along predetermined invasion routes.
The worlds are tiles on a game board, and these start face down (we don’t know the details of a given world until we’re getting ready to invade it). Some worlds are face-up, which means they’re next on the menu. Once a world is conquered (that’s the main thing each player will be doing on his or her turn) that tile is REMOVED from the board and some face-down tiles are revealed, specifically ones connected by paths to the just-conquered world.
An excerpt from the much larger Galaxy Map. Note the face-up and face-down worlds, and the connections between them.
So in essence between player turns the layout of the board changes slightly. The significance of this will be obvious shortly.
Each tile is worth victory points (VP). Each tile also grants one of four actions that can be taken on a player’s personal player board (each board being similar at its core but quite different in details). Each action can also be upgraded via various game mechanics to be more lucrative each time it’s taken.
One of the six player boards. Here you can see many of the various components that you’ll be placing, removing, and moving around.
So basically Vel Winter is a tile-drafting engine-building game.
But Wait, There’s More
World tiles are not all equal (even among those granting the same ability). Some are harder to conquer, requiring more Power or perhaps a Shield to get past installed orbital defenses. Those worlds grant more VP, so you really want to grab them when you can. Problem is, conquering them is not trivial. Furthermore they might not be the type of world you need – if you need Eitrium and this high-point world grants Power, suddenly you have a bit of a dilemma. Even if the choice is easy there’s no guarantee that you have the stuff needed to conquer it, say a Shield token. That’s because you had no idea that such an awesome world was coming, and hence didn’t prepare. But the next player did, and they grin smugly at your lack of foresight and lob a witty taunt.
And that right there is the major theme of the game: Opportunity. You really never know what you’ll find around the corner, both in terms of things that are required and things that you can gain. Maybe Eitrium will be rare and hard to get, so you should look into upgrading your capability to do so. Maybe you’ll need a bunch of Shields instead. The point is that players who are the best at being ready to take advantage of a given situation will benefit the most (that is be able to pick up a few extra points, or maybe more efficiently sequence their actions).
Let’s add some more to this. There are 6 player boards, and they’re all unique. The main resource-granting actions are quite similar, but each board comes with 2 special abilities – one available at the start of the game, one unlocked later via upgrades.
These abilities form the core of your “engine” and are designed to interact with each other and the board’s strategy as a whole. One board is all about shields. Another is all about drawing more (and playing extra) Raid Cards, which give you bonus stuff and offer a lot of flexibility (read: better ability to take advantage of opportunities) if enough of them are acquired. There’s even a player board that lets you build artificial moons to use as staging points for the invasion of worlds, which not only sounds extremely cool but also gives you a hefty resource bonus.
Here’s an example of the two abilities on a player board: The first grants a really simple way to get extra Raid Cards, and the second allows you to actually use them.
Oh and did I mention Blitz tiles, which allow you to essentially take another consecutive turn and conquer worlds back-to-back? Being an astute reader you were no doubt already wondering (just work with me here) “wait what happens when I reveal a really sweet world and then have to pass the turn?” Well, now your mind can be at ease.
Achievements and Bastions
First we have Achievements (working name, I’m sure a better word will be invented for this) which are 3 cards drawn from a random pool at the start of the game. Each of these has a special condition, like say conquering 3 worlds that require a Shield, or 4 worlds of a given type, or deploying the impressive Hydra Vel which takes some work to do. Whoever meets the condition FIRST gets the Achievement card. The card is worth points. Points win games. Points that are acquired while simultaneously being denied to someone else are the best kind of points.
The second thing and probably most intense aspect of the game are the Bastions. Back when the 5 great human houses (and their kinda-strange friends the Malakhim) ran things around here each of them had an awesome homeworld that was their seat of power. Well now they ran off to make new homeworlds, presumably ones with sunlight, and their old strongholds (which still boast impressive fortifications) are called Bastions. They left a lot of good stuff laying around there, and we decided that we must have it.
Vormansk, former homeworld of the Vostok Protectorate, now about to be thoroughly looted once those last 3 worlds are conquered.
Bastions are large tiles on the map, and throughout the course of play we clear a path to them. Once we’ve conquered all the worlds directly leading to a Bastion we take a quick break and muster our armies on those worlds, then swoop down, together, to conquer it.
“So you’re saying we work together? Seems bad man, I read an article online about how in developing Lords of Waterdeep this kind of thing didn’t work at all.”
Don’t worry, we’re working together only symbolically. Mechanically each of us is pooling all the resources we can spare, and then we compare what each of us pooled – the winner, that is the highest contributor to the assault, gets a good chunk of VP and some really sweet treasure. Everyone else gets some kinda-sweet stuff and kinda-chunky VP.
And if you didn’t win? Don’t worry, there’s more than one Bastion, three per game in fact, so you’ll have another chance. Unless of course that was the last Bastion, in which case let’s hope that you were making good use of your resources in other VP-granting endeavors.
That’s all for now, but fear not – there are a lot more articles coming about this game. The lore is deep, the mechanics have many nuances and interactions, and there’s a LOT I’d like to share about the process of design and prototype creation, which hopefully will be useful to the other game designers reading this.
In the meantime, feel free to head to the comments and ask any questions you have, or, you know, comment.
Also please note: all of the photos of the game itself in this article (and likely all others in the near future) are prototypes with placeholder art and design. The final version will look MUCH better, I promise.
Until next time!
- Sergey Kudria
- June 5, 2016
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