Star Saga – Developing the Rules

Star Saga

Star Saga is almost upon us, and I’m sure a lot of you are keen to know how it plays. So, I’m here to run you through how it works, how it compares to Dungeon Saga, and where we’re going to take it in the future… See what I did there? 😉

The History

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Back in 2015, we launched Dungeon Saga, and it fast became our most successful game to date. It scratched that dungeon crawling itch while using a set of simple, accessible rules. Whether you’re a long-time veteran or a parent looking for your kids’ first foray into gaming, the Dungeon Saga core set is able to deliver.

Of course, there’s more to dungeon crawling than just one story, however exciting the characters and their exploits may be. These board games are an entry point to role-playing – a chance to tell your own stories through a structured set of rules. To take Dungeon Saga to the next level, we created the Adventurer’s Companion. This is a collection of all the things a player might want to do over and above the core game; a sandbox for gamers to create their own stories.

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In hindsight, we admit that the Adventurer’s Companion wasn’t quite the product we wanted it to be. The intentions were right, but the execution wasn’t up to standard. We were taken by surprise by the huge wish-list that came our way when Dungeon Saga went live on Kickstarter, and we ended up trying to please everyone with more than the game was ever intended to handle. Without having the full details of the rules at the time, we mistakenly left our loyal customers with an assumption that we failed to live up to.

This additional development was also done long after the core rules were set, and the new rules were not as integrated as they should have been. While the resulting product can be and has been used to great effect by many players out there, there are too many parts of it that go against the simplicity that we wanted from the range, or don’t go far enough for what the veteran gamers were looking for.

We’ve spent the past year reading all the feedback about Dungeon Saga and its supporting range, and in the meantime we’ve done some great work on the Walking Dead, taking a new approach to the ‘advanced’ rules which has really paid off. We are now armed with everything we need to properly take Dungeon Saga into space.

What is Star Saga?

So, the obvious question – Is it just Dungeon Saga iiiiiinnnnnn spaaaaaaaacccccceeeee?

In a word, no. Simply porting it across wouldn’t do justice to the futuristic Warpath universe we’ve created. Of course, we don’t want to fix what ain’t broken, so the key elements – the simple core mechanics, the character and story-driven missions and the highly tactical gameplay – they’re all staying.

So, looking at the core game, there are three simple but important changes.

  1. Combat Resolution. In Dungeon Saga, combat works well, but in the interests of making things slicker (it is the future after all) we’ve done away with the Armour value, and removed an entire step from the combat process. Models now have a Defence value – a number of dice to roll just like the other stats – and all combat is a simple opposed roll. In practice this is significantly quicker and more intuitive, with just as much freedom to play around with stats and vary the characters. Alongside this we have swapped the regular dice for custom attack and defence dice. The added visual aspect to this also speeds up the process – it’s quicker to spot at a glance that a big shield beats a little explosion than it is to see if a 4 beats a 3.
  2. Cover. It’s actually pretty hard to be in cover in Dungeon Saga – the line of sight rules are very forgiving. This is fine for a game with minimal shooting, but in the future, where guns are far more commonplace, this had to change. The line of sight rules have first of all been tidied up to satisfy everything from the FAQ, and secondly the cover rules have been turned on their head. Instead of having a clear view if you can see any of the base, now you only have a clear view if you can see all of the base, so it’s far easier to find a place to hide. In addition, we have added a rule for taking pot-shots by leaning around corners, to make everything a bit more dynamic.
  3. Overlord Cards. The Overlord (now called the Nexus player, as Overlord is a rather fantasy-sounding word) deck is now far more important to their gameplay – it determines everything they are able to do, such as the number of models that can activate in each turn, as well as special abilities they can use. The number of minions is no longer finite either – there are reinforcements! The deck is also no longer used as a timer. We don’t want the Mercenaries to have all the fun, so this card deck adds an extra tactical element to the Nexus player’s game. Certain events in the story are also governed by the card deck – alarms going off, doors opening, bosses turning up, and so on. Putting these on the cards rather than as special rules in the book reduces the time spent looking things up. Finally, having everything managed through the card deck means you can play without the Nexus player there at all… Yep, we’re integrating solo and co-op play into the core game from the start!

All of this is embedded into a series of missions where we have gone to great lengths to enhance the storytelling aspect of the game – each mission has evocative passages to read out at key points to set the scene and explain the next stage of the mission.

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Following that, the core game will include a simple but exciting experience system to allow the characters to level up as the story progresses. Instead of the pre-set Legendary versions of the characters that Dungeon Saga uses, in Star Saga the characters will earn skills and upgrades as they go. Not only does this properly but simply integrate yet another part of the ‘advanced’ rules into the core game, it also improves replayability, as you won’t always improve in the same way each time you play through.

On the subject of replayability, our Warpath universe is rich with characters already, and Star Saga is only going to enhance that aspect. So, the final main addition to the rules is the ability to play any mission with any characters, right from the start. In the Kickstarter we are hoping to give you plenty of Mercenaries, each with their own play style, and through a simple points system you can drop them straight into the missions. This also means you don’t need to have four Mercenaries – you can play with any number, simply adjusting the turn sequence to suit.

What’s Beyond the Core Game?

As you will see, we’re sowing the seeds for a lot of the advanced rules in the core game itself, and we are being careful to do this in a way that fits within the simple and accessible brief that we set ourselves. The game is not intended to be a full RPG that takes things down to the finest detail – it’s intended to provide a similar feeling game that can be played out of the box, making the best use of cards and integrated mechanics to reduce the learning curve while keeping the depth.

Therefore, Star Saga will not have an Adventurer’s Companion. We have refined the remaining content down into two smaller expansions:

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The Character Creator provides rules for building your own Mercenaries – listing all the available races and classes and their strengths and weaknesses. It will also build on the experience system in the core game with additional skills and abilities to learn. As our playtesters were excited to realise, this will allow you to take characters from your Deadzone Strike Team and drop them straight into Star Saga – how cool is that?

The Mission Creator does a similar job – it provides a framework for creating missions. This will be purposefully kept fairly loose so as not to restrict players’ creativity. The set will also add new cards to the Nexus deck, and new equipment to be found in your newly created levels.

Alongside the core game, these two cover pretty much all the bases, and provide something for everyone in what has become the true Mantic way – deceptively simple mechanics, lots of tactical decision making, and a good helping of madness!

What’s Next, and How You Can Help!

We are currently developing the core game and the first batch of missions, and we are working on all the advanced rules at the same time to ensure that they are fully integrated from start to finish. We are also developing the game in-house to allow us full control and far more time for testing – we’ve been playing every couple of days for the past two months – it’s been great fun!

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We have started running monthly public gaming days at Mantic HQ, and we’ll be playing as much Star Saga as we can. If you want to come and join in, the next one is on the 1st of October. Find out more here.

The focus of the Kickstarter will be to flesh out the core game and the expansions mentioned above, not with more rules, but by enhancing the game experience – we want to add more exciting characters, more miniatures, scenery, 3D objectives and other gaming aids to enrich the game. If we can get all this and more, we want to follow in the footsteps of the Warlord of Galahir and Tyrant of Halpi, and create new settings to fight through and foes to face. You can help us get there – look out for the Kickstarter, beginning next week, and sign up here to keep up to date.

We can’t cover everything in one blog, and I’m sure this post will spark many a question, so drop them into the comments below and we’ll be sure to address them all over the next few weeks.

50 Comments

  1. Is DS going to get a revised Adventurers Companion at some point, or will Tyrant of Halpi be the last release for the range?

    • I’ll second that, does release of Star Saga means you are going to stop releasing new stuff for Dungeon Saga?

    • They still have the Black Fortress mission pack due out and that has a matching tile set which means it could get bundled with some stuff into a real release.

    • Yes, please fix Dungeon Saga. I think it only fair to the folks invested in it.

    • I’d also like a revised AC.
      I have no interest in a SciFi-DungeonCrawler (although I can understand why others do). Now that I read that you have great plans for this I kinda feel like the Beta-Player who got screwed.
      Don’t abandon DS! Please fix it.
      Perhaps another Expansion(-box) that introduces a new campaignsystem implementing stuff from the AC and making it better.

    • Really, you think looking at pictures is easier to comprehend that a 4 beats a 3? No, sorry, it doesn’t. And will the figs be boardgame quality of wargame quality?

    • Look of course it’s obvious that a 4 will trump a 3 that was in fairness fairly stupid. The point with explosions verses shields and doing away with armour that has to be beaten is that there is a more controlled outcome. When I am orlaf and I roll 5 D6s against an armoured zombie I could roll 1(4) 2 (3) & 2 (2) out of the two dice the zombie rolls he only needs 1 (4) and my 5 attack has done nothing. Now if in SS I get to roll the same against a similar opponent I will roll 5 custom dice with an arrangement like 2 misses, 3 hits and a crit (double hit or roll an additional die) when the opponent rolls 3 defence dice with the same arrangement the odds are much clearer a distribution of numbers 1-6 for resolving anything is stupid. It is completely random there is as much chance of rolling a 1 as there is a 6. That goes for all dice from D6s to D20s It’s something I have had to endure as I like wargaming but games that us a reasoned distribution of symbols are more logical and fun and not wildly random. all games need a little random but too much random and each player might as well roll 20 dice each and whoever gets the most 6’s wins. I liked mantic’s addition and removal of dice and then compare successes it was certainly a set in the right direction but custom dice is the obvious choice winner of the bunch.

  2. So happy to see symbol based dice, welcome to the right way of board gaming mantic, D6s need not apply. all the stuff sounds great i will certainly be there day one. is the scenary going to use the deadzone hardplastic 3D scenary or just a few soft plastic doors, consoles and other objectivey stuff.
    are the minis going to be mono casts or hard plastic.

    • Mono-casts (we’ve nailed it with TWD) and the same material for accessories, although DZ stuff will look great in the same setting.

    • To balance this post I’d prefer good old d6’s. I hope that Mantic at least won’t follow the FFG’s trails – they notoriously force people to buy extra dice “extension” as they don’t put enough in the box…

    • Not to side with ffg or anything but they only really did that with one game. As far as I’m aware descent and IA have enough and armada has pretty much enough only x-wings 3 & 3 falls short. FS had plenty. It comes down to cumulative memory. Just remember what you rolled.

      Now the question is. Will number of dice to be rolled depend on character stat, weapon stat or start at 3 and +\- depending on range, cover etc

  3. Looking forward to this! I guess the first question on my mind is what is the box of the game going to look like? I mean, Dungeon Saga has sone excellent book-like boxes. I’d love to see some thing futuristic about the box for the game. That’d be awesome!

    • Please god no. Those book boxes were awful. They were flimsy, poorly constructed, and too small.

      Just give us a regular box, please.

    • @Allan: I dunno, I thought they were alright. That said, I dont think theres much point to them, especially in a scifi setting.

    • yeah books would be silly but an ammo case or power cell now that would be interesting

  4. a Sci-Fi game is cool,but why not a Dungeon Saga 2.0 instead?

    • whose to say the tyrant of halbi won’t retcon some of the FAQ’d or errata’d stuff aswell as some SS changes.

    • Well… all the DS-Backers already know what’s in tyrant of Halpi, because we already have it… and nothings revised in there.

    • OK so I think the key take away here is mantic need to thing about another pledge level. A conversion kit for DS. Otherwise they could find themselves with a comments section full of angry ppl. Because from some who has DS if does feel like the beta version of what SS is going to be.

  5. What are the symbol distributions on the attack and defense dice?
    I am not away of a FAQ that covers the LOS rules put out by Mantic, where is such a document?
    Removing the base activations and shifting that to cards seems like it might make the missions from the Nexus player side very random and hard for him to act tactically.

  6. Magnetic Ammo Crate Box as a strech goal?

  7. Sounds great. I like the changes but would the cover changes have the unintended effect that larger models (which typically come on larger bases) will actually find it easier to hide?

  8. looks good 🙂
    coloured dice with symbols?
    have plans for downloadable playtest?

  9. Most of this has left me disappointed DS came first. Sounds like you’ve learned a lot.

    Two concerns – If the Nexus player cards allow for the nexus player to be easily done away with, does the nexus player actually have interesting choices to make?

    The “loose” mission creator. The DS dungeon creator was basically “figure it out yourself”. That then makes it nearly impossible to have a balanced fight. Do remember it’s much easier for us to ignore restrictions we don’t like than for us to balance scenarios with basically no help.

    • Yeah I was wondering when theirs no nexus player. Is it a draw and resolve mechanic and when there’s a nexus player they play theit choice of nexus card from a hand of x.

    • Exactly what Daniel said – when there is a player they can choose from a hand of cards, which allows them to hold certain cards back for combos, and things like that. When there isn’t, you resolve whichever card comes up. An actual player will of course also have more choice in where to move their models – they’ll have the freedom to use models to block doors and things whereas the AI rules will usually make the models just attack.

    • The structure of the AI in DS was fine. It was the application of that structure from the book to the table top that was very weak. Hopefully they improved that.

  10. So excited for this…I just hope there are suitably interesting classes for character diversity….oh, and Sphyr, of course!

  11. “…it’s quicker to spot at a glance that a big shield beats a little explosion than it is to see if a 4 beats a 3”

    What?

  12. immensly looking forward to this! I’ll be there early doors. Everyone has raised some good points. I’m interested in what DZ miniatures will be useable. I’m also keen for a read of the play test rules 🙂

  13. mantic… please… boards with puzzle conection :3

    • Oh yes that is an absolute must. Those joining clips aren’t worth the raw plastic they are made of.
      Puzzle piece connections and no stupid small pieces.
      As a high SG you could have double sided layout printed grip mats.

    • You don’t need puzzle pieces. Just buy any gaming mat made from that mouse material. Flit it over on to the grippy side and use that as your play surface. The tiles will rarely move if ever.

    • I just got an X-wing mat and used the back side to hold Patrol Lost tiles together. Whole mat slides on the glass table top instead of one tile.

    • Yep i soon grabbed a deadzone mat and keep it in the deadzone box, perfect for keeping the tiles in place.

    • I play DS on a black cloth on the table. Works fine. I considered buying a felt mat. That shoil even be better.
      Just dont bother about that silly clips.

  14. So with armor value now gone, and an entire extra damage reducing step removed, how much damage can a merc take? How many HPs do you get, more then dungeon saga I hope. Can you take more then one damage a turn?

  15. In dungeon saga I played the wizard. I had tons of options and lots of cool class mechanics with spell recharging. The other classes had far less variety then I did. There classes had no built in variety. Will mercs be different? Will there be a push for action variety and more options/abilities for all “classes”.

  16. Is there any chance of a stretch goal giving us a book that will apply these rules to Dungeon Saga? Because what you’re describing sounds an awful lot like what I *thought* I was pledging for with DS, and I’m more interested in getting that squared away than getting a new game. (Though, if I *do* get that squared away, I’m all for the new game.)

  17. will there be any playtesting in the US? I already own DS and was very disappointed in the book box. I loved the concept, but it was too small to hold everything, and I ended up making a new box to hold everything.
    Would love to have a Pre-release demo to try out some of the new rules.

  18. Glad to see Mantic’s games getting some rules for creating characters. That’s an element of gaming I’ve always enjoyed. Wish ole Kings of War had it.

  19. What time GMT does the kickstarter actually start?

  20. Will Early Birds be a limited number or a limited time [first 24-48hrs]? Timed would be much better, fairer to those of us in earlier time zones. [I’m in the San Francisco CA bay area, PDT zone & your start times out here are hard!]

    Blaster was here…

  21. Great news, especially the mono-casts. I hope the miniatures will have the same chunkier aesthetic like in TWD, they were just too small and thin in Dungeon Saga!

  22. Please do a decent number of alien characters to play out of the box. Human characters are fairly yawn-worthy.

  23. Went all in with the DS campaign, and extremely disappointed, quality was poor, accuracy low, value for money questionable for those of us that went for the expansions, and add ons. Lesson learnt, only get stuff from lfgs retailer backing now.Still waiting on Black fortress and digital content.

  24. Hey Mantic, chiming in because I don’t want you to think everyone was disappointed with Dungeon Saga. I went into it with the expectation that it would be the modern successor to Hero Quest, an approachable fantasy themed game that wasn’t overly rules heavy that I could enjoy with my son (an advanced 11 year old). In that regard it was definitely successful. While I do hope for continued DS releases, I would rather see all the Star Saga Kickstart devoted to making SS the best it can be and not worrying about tying the campaign into DS.

    Best of luck. Keep up the good work.

  25. Overlord=Overmind (fixed it for you). Nexus is blah.

  26. I look forward to seeing the figures, as that is the only thing that will get me excited about the game.

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