Part 1 of ?

Hello and welcome back. I’ve been meaning to get into to some of the nitty gritty on the game mechanics in Helionox: Chronicles for quite some time now so let’s dive right in. I’ve added a bunch of the different mechanics to the Chronicles BoardGameGeek page. You can see the listing here: Helionox: Chronicles on BoardGameGeek. I’ve linked the mechanics descriptions from BGG below and will attempt to briefly describe how they play a role in the newest Helionox board game.

Solo / Solitaire Game – One of the key differences between Chronicles and the older Helionox games is that it was built from the ground up with solo players in mind. This was a completely new direction for me. When I released The Last Sunset back in 2015, I had only been tinkering with solo games for a year or less. A few friends at the game store I worked at and even more friends on BGG suggested that a solo mode for the Last Sunset would be a good idea. It turned out to be a great idea! The solo community embraced it wholeheartedly and over the next two years would help develop what became the definitive solo version for the Deluxe Edition.

For Chronicles, I decided to use this as a starting point. Like its predecessors, Chronicles uses Events that generally make life difficult and, if they are not dealt with, they are scored by the Shadow Syndicate – (theme moment incoming!) a clandestine organization of wealthy ruthless political, religious, and corporate entities that will stop at nothing to gain influence over the solar system in hopes of creating a new aristocracy in the wake of the Helionox. That said, events are a completely new system in Chronicles. Each has a top line effect and a bottom line effect as shown in the early prototype mockup below. These are going to have names and flavor and different art so don’t pay attention to any of that for now. What we will examine briefly, is this:

Prototype Event Card draft image

The top line effect will trigger at specific times during a round. At the beginning of a round players will play all of the Neutral cards in their hands. Neutral are mostly just what you might think of as “starting cards” or “basic cards” and these are clearly marked. After that you will have a number of other cards left in your hand that are not Neutral. In fact, they will be Faction cards. When you play these cards you will roll the PLANET DIE. Yep, you heard it hear first, there will be a dice in Helionox: Chronicles. Now, don’t worry, the dice will not be used to determine values on Events or anything like that. They are simply a randomizer that will show a Location symbol. When you play Faction cards, you will roll the die and trigger the top line of any Events at the Location that comes up. The idea here is that it will build tension throughout the round because any player who plays cards might trigger some events. Some events can do things like add Devastation to a Location, rendering it difficult to do anything there…

The bottom line effect of an Event will trigger at the end of the round automatically if the event has not been dealt with. This is called Overcoming an Event in the world of Helionox. These events are quite nuanced and have a lot of design flexibility because of the different ways the events will trigger. Some of them will create pressure to deal with them immediately while others may not do much until other things fall into place, making them much worse than they might have been otherwise. Events form the backbone of scoring for players and for the Shadow Syndicate and make it possible for the game to play as a Solo / Solitaire Game for those of you who like to play games alone.

Cooperative – As a solo focused game, it seemed clear that multiplayer modes needed to be Cooperative. Though I’ll likely have an expansion at some point that offers a competitive mode, with this choice I was able to balance the cards effectively and all game mechanics could work similarly between players counts. I love the idea of a game that plays against the players. As the designer of solo / co-op game, it’s almost like I get to play against you – the player who is literally going up against the systems and puzzles that I designed for you to “interact” with {rubs hands together cackles maniacally}.

GameDeck, Bag, and Pool Building – Like its predecessors, Chronicles is a deck building game. I’m not sure I can say absolutely that deck builders are my favorite types of games but deck building scratches so many of my game play itches that it is, without a doubt, one of my favorite mechanics – especially when paired up with other interesting mechanics. In Chronicles cards purchased from the Market go on top of your deck which means you will draw it on your next turn or even this turn if you have some draw mechanics available. I’ve won (and lost) plenty of games where I’ve added 10+ cards to my starting deck but I’ve also won (and lost) games where I’ve added 3 or less. In other words, there are lots of other options open to you besides deck building. You will undoubtedly add some cards to your deck but there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer as to how many you will add. Flexibility and options are one of the things that will make this game feel fresh each time you play it.

Scenario / Mission / Campaign Game – This is one area where Chronicles really differentiates itself. I’ve been world building the Helionox System for over 6 years now and I’ve had tons of help from writers, artists, designers, and other creative people along the way. It’s quite possible that some of you reading this may have helped build this world even more than you know! As a result I wanted to build Chronicles around a solid narrative with thematic gameplay to help support that narrative. Lot’s of work to do in this area but there is so much World Building going on in this universe right now (from quite a few people!) that I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working on this part of the game.

Ok – that’s a good start. There are a lot of other mechanics that I’ll make another post about in the near future but hopefully this is enough to wet your whistle and keep you looking for more information on the upcoming Helionox: Chronicles. Here are a few of the other mechanics I’ll be discussing in the future:

Resource to Move, Pick-up and Deliver, Variable Player Powers, Variable Set-up

What are some of your favorite game mechanics? I’m going to be building more games in the Helionox universe (and other universes). What types of mechanics should I really be considering for the future?!

4 Thoughts to “Design Diary 003 – Game Mechanics in Helionox”

  1. Brooke

    Thanks for the update! I’m excited for Helionox Chronicles!!I really love worker placement and gathering and delegating resources! As a mom, it’s one of the best skills I’ve honed and I understand it;)

  2. Phil Mah

    From production perspective, could you add 2 dummy cards just to be bumper(back-forth) to prevent card packs crashed together and cause an annoying dinged/dented damage to our valued cards? It’s like you invested in card stock quality and then throw it away with damaged card once customer unboxed it.

    1. taran kratz

      That makes sense. I hadn’t seen many problems with the cards as they were wrapped in plastic but perhaps some “bumpers” would help even more!

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