Where we started
We started working on Legends of the Arena with the goal of creating the team dueling board game we had always dreamed of as kids. The year was 2016 and we didn’t know anything about game design, but we knew the game needed to be fast, fun, and stand up to repeated play. The game system needed to be flexible enough to evoke the sort of awesome moves that characters in video games have - pull the opponents in with a giant hook, shoot a slow but terrifying death ray, or sneak up behind and escape quickly. We wanted characters to have fun, distinct playstyles, and we wanted those characters to maintain their playstyles when played competitively. Finally, we felt that players should be able to start incorporating counterplay (picking moves based on what they expect their opponent to do) with only a few games under their belt.
Where we are today
Although the blog has been quiet, we have been working to make a game that met all of our criteria. We’ve created no fewer than three complete games in pursuit of our goals, with dozens of lesser variations. With each major evolution the game has become easier to play - players spend less time computing possible outcomes and more time roleplaying their characters and thinking about what the opponents will do. Playtesting has been our ultimate benchmark. Are all players engaged at all times? Are players able to execute their strategies? When something unexpected happens is it fun?
Along the way we’ve learned so much about games - through other prototypes, games we had never heard of before, or even old favorites that we revisited with fresh eyes. We’ve developed some interesting methods to balance and analyze Legends of the Arena that other games could benefit from as well, and we will be sharing those here.
We’ve also met & played games with some fantastic people. We’ve greatly benefited from local designer meetups, where folks are always willing to give your game a shot no matter how rough it is. We’re grateful for our friends and family who have tested countless variations of Legends of the Arena over the years. And of course we could not have made it this far without the hundreds of people who have played Legends of the Arena in all of its variations across dozens of conventions and meetups. Without your feedback and honest opinions we would have a much less interesting game.
Legends of the Arena is an incredibly unique game that I never tire of playing. As a player you experience the rush of outplaying your opponent, the shock of being caught unaware, and the novelty of delightful interactions between different Legends and the board - all in a span of twenty minutes.
We are headed to Origins in a few weeks to pitch Legends of the Arena to publishers and generally have a good time. If you will be at the convention and want to catch up please drop us a line using the contact form. Until then we will be posting weekly to share musings, methods, and observations that we’ve accrued in our design journey. I hope some of these ideas help you see games in a different light or even assist you in your own designs.