News for April 2013
Enemies on All Sides
Lead Developer Lukas Litzsinger on the Multiplayer Battles of Cataclysm
Warhammer: Invasion The Card Game | Published 09 April 2013

“The long struggle for dominion stretches over millennia, the scars of its passage covering the lands from end to end. The world is littered with the detritus of a hundred thousand battles. The bones of the dead lie scattered in shallow graves.”
    –Warhammer, “The Years of Conflict”


Soon, the long struggle for dominion of the Old World will resume in full fury!

In February,
we announced the upcoming release of Cataclysm, a new deluxe expansion for Warhammer: Invasion The Card Game that, for the first time, permits players to participate in bloody multiplayer battles for dominion of the Old World.

In the rules for its multiplayer format,
Cataclysm changes the basic conditions for victory. While you’ll recognize the game’s basic mechanics and its fast-paced, battle-oriented gameplay, you no longer eliminate your opponent by burning his zones or discarding his draw deck. Instead, in Cataclysm, you and your opponents vie for dominance.

The expansion’s focus on dominance resulted in the development of both a new type of token and a new type of card. Dominance tokens track your total dominance and represent the success of your efforts to subdue your foes and establish your rule. Meanwhile, you gain dominance by attacking and controlling the expansion’s new fulcrum cards, each of which represents one of six sites of power, where the winds of magic gather and can be harnessed and unleashed against your foes.

While it preserves the aggressive back-and-forth of the core, two-player Warhammer: Invasion experience, Cataclysm and its focus on dominance do more than simply add more players to a game; Cataclysm offers an all-new play experience.

Today, lead developer Lukas Litzsinger offers insight into the development of this new multiplayer format.


Lukas Litzsinger on the Origins of Cataclysm

Offering an official multiplayer variant for Warhammer: Invasion was a challenge that went well beyond taking the base ruleset and adding a couple more players. We wanted to make sure that our multiplayer variant retained the game’s core identity and also offered a satisfying experience for each player. To do this, I had to address the challenges of player elimination, potential downtime, and the ability for players to gang up and smash down the match’s weakest player – or its strongest.

Player elimination had to go and was the first thing cut from Cataclysm. You can’t offer a satisfying experience to all players if one of them quickly gets bumped out of the game. Of course, this meant that I needed another victory condition. After all, the players had to be fighting for something.

At first, I started with the idea of burning zones. This seemed like a natural choice, and I went through many variations in which players were awarded points for dealing damage or burning zones. However, these variations just didn’t work. If you were rewarded for dealing damage, then you would attack the weakest player. If you were rewarded for burning zones, then everyone would sit back and wait for the opportunity to burn one; no one wanted to make the first attack. Also, it was very easy for certain players to be mathematically eliminated before the game was over. It was clear the multiplayer game needed its own system, something new, but for a while I was stumped.

I also wanted to speed up the feel of the game and prevent multiple players from ganging up to pound on a player before he could respond. As such, I quickly went to a “threaded” round system, in which players play through each phase in turns rather than playing whole turns all at once. This system works great for multiplayer to keep the downtime low and the turns exciting. Players gain the same opportunities to draw and develop their zones before attacking and defending, and the first player advantage is eliminated. It worked really well; playtest games played quickly, and every player remained engaged. One challenge solved!

Even with the threaded round system, I wanted to take extra care to limit the amount of “ganging up.” It should be impossible or poor play for everyone to jump on any one player (even the leader) in a four-player game. In a three-player game, it is much more likely for a single player to be able to stand up to the other two. In a four-player game, it is nigh impossible to stand up against three players at once. It needed some limiting factor.

I decided to flip the old “attack the player to your left” solution on its head. Instead of only being able to attack one player, players in a four-player game would each have one player they could not attack. Being unable to attack the player across from you in a four-player game seemed to reduce the problem of ganging up because everyone was basically involved in a three-player game. It played much better than a complete free-for-all, but was still not completely satisfying. This was the beginning of the solution, but it needed refinement. At this stage, it felt a little bit like the player across from you was in a different game. Ultimately, the solution was to let players attack the battlefield of the player across from them, but not their quest or kingdom zones. This felt very thematic (battlefields are meant for battles, after all), it limited the damage from ganging up, and it gives the game a cool “geographic” feel, like the player across from you is from a distant kingdom!

Several of my design challenges had been met, and the game was taking shape. Still, the most important challenge, the new victory condition, eluded me. It wasn’t until I was skimming through Storm of Magic that things really started to come together. I was tossing around an idea about “battleground” cards, something that you would play into the center of the table and attack, but then I thought, “What if these things weren’t battlegrounds, but fulcrums?” What if you could attack them and take control of them to use their magical powers? It was thematic and gave the players a proactive reason to fight. Dominance went hand-in-hand with these fulcrums, and the rest was a matter of tweaking things so they all felt right together.

The first fulcrum cards were too complicated. They had more stats and situational game text. However, they still went to a player’s battlefield after being attacked successfully, as they do now. Over time, their complexity got scaled back, and a channeling phase was added to simplify the timing interactions. Controlling fulcrums for dominance, or essentially victory points, really clicked. But there was still a problem. Everyone was fighting over the fulcrums; no one was attacking the other zones. The solution, I discovered, was to allow each player a second attack each turn, one that players could only use to attack a fulcrum. This did not use up your regular battlefield attack and increased the overall amount of damage dealt each turn, since you could always try and smash a zone. This system encourages battles from beginning to end, and players are encouraged both to grab dominance and strip it from their foes.

I hope that you enjoy the multiplayer battles of Cataclysm. Multiplayer games are a completely different experience than head-to-head Warhammer: Invasion, but they hold true to the game’s basic principles and expand them. You can smash your opponents on the field of battle, taking no prisoners. You can try to beg, cajole, and sneak your way to victory. There are even ways for players to make epic comebacks; even after that eighth dominance is claimed, the game may not yet be won!

Thanks, Lukas!

Cataclysm is coming, and the Old World will be changed forever! Don’t miss out on your chance to fight your battles on multiple borders at once; head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy of Cataclysm today.

Warhammer: Invasion The Card Game is a card game by Eric M. Lang in which 2 players develop their kingdoms and lay waste to their foes. Each side is comprised of either the forces of Order or the forces of Destruction as they seek to extend their empire to include the entire Old World. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Battle Pack expansions to the core game.

    
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