The fourth and final season of War-Torn Alliances, Dark Secrets, is underway. To celebrate the launch of this new league, I want to give you a behind the scenes look at the development of this season’s rules, specifically the return of map effects.
When I began creating the map effects for Dark Secrets, I knew two things for certain: I wanted the effects to be static, and I wanted them to be game changing but not so much that players would feel burdened by the new rules.
The decision to have the effects remain static instead of dynamically changing each week was an easy one. Previous player feedback indicated that map effects were entertaining and desired, but keeping up with changing weather patterns or who was in control of which territory each week was a bit much. In the end, it detracted from the main purpose of the league— having fun.
Designing game-changing effects was an interesting task and one that I had a great deal of fun with. Let’s take Region 2: Field of Stalagmites, for example. This was actually the first map effect I wrote for Dark Secrets. The concept I had in mind was two armies battling in an enormous cavern covered in an endless sea of razor-sharp rocks.
For about ten seconds my original rules idea was, “When a model is knocked down in this region, it suffers one point of damage,” but that was a little too close to Cassius’ feat, and additionally, some warcasters, like High Exemplar Kreoss, can knock down enemy models very easily. Ten seconds later I toned that down to, “When a model is knocked down in this region, it suffers a POW 8 damage roll.” So it wasn’t quite an insta-kill for single wound models, but being thrown or slammed within the sea of spikes was still a nasty concept.
Why did this change? Play experience. During testing we found that the concept worked fine in most match-ups, but in situations where one army was basically immune to knockdown (e.g., a caster with solid ground) or an army had access to a massive amount of knockdown (e.g., High Exemplar Kreoss), the play experience could be incredibly one-sided. In other words, you either had a great time or an absolutely terrible time depending on which army you brought. That was not the intent.
So the rule had to change, but it had to keep with my original concept of fighting in an arena filled with deadly stalagmites. After many discussions with DC, the final version was created. It says, “Models in this region roll an additional die on collateral damage rolls.” It worked perfectly. I could envision soldiers navigating the treacherous terrain only to have a multi-ton warjack thrown on their heads. Even with enough time to dodge there was no good place to land.
Contrary to Region 2, there were several regions that never changed from their original rules. Obviously Regions 11 and 12, which have no rules, didn’t change. In case you were wondering why those exist, I wanted to provide players with the option to play the league without any region effects if they wanted a more traditional game.
Another good example of this would be Region 10: Forest Clearing, which states, “Games played in this region cannot use terrain or any scenario that requires terrain.” That’s about as simple as it can be. While it’s great to play games with tons of beautiful scenery and terrain, you have to imagine that every now and again the forces of western Immoren battle on a completely open field, and this region emulates that. It’s a strange and unique experience to play on a table without terrain, but it definitely changes your tactics in some interesting ways.
In the end, I hope you have as much fun playing in Dark Secrets as we had creating it. May the best alliance win!