Hellboy: Developing the Game (Part Two)

In yesterday’s blog we talked about the early stages of development for Hellboy: The Board Game. You can check it out here. For today’s entry we’re looking at how the game progressed once James M. Hewitt (founder of Needy Cat Games) became involved with the project.

James is a very lovely chap and he’s worked with us before on the awesome DreadBall and was our much-loved community manager for about a year. He was also a designer at Games Workshop and worked on big titles like Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower, Blood Bowl 2016 and Necromunda 2017, among others. He’s kind of a big deal (and he’ll let you know this within five seconds of meeting him… if he even lets you look him in the face). From Mantic’s point of view it was extremely exciting to have James on board and he once let us make eye contact in a meeting.

Immediately James began tinkering with the basic mechanics we’d established, i.e. a co-operative game for up to four players in which the BPRD explores a gothic location and hunts down a suitably terrifying beast! Yeah, so not a lot to work on…

However, something that James immediately realised from reading the comics is that there’s a huge amount of investigating involved in the original stories. Often Hellboy and the crew won’t know exactly what they’re facing. Instead they must hunt for clues at the scene and, invariably, fight some wicked minions along the way, before facing off against a towering monster (like Sadu-Hem below).

With this in mind, James began by splitting the gameplay into two key elements: investigating and, somewhat inevitably, combat. For the investigation element you’ll have to search your surroundings for clues about the threat you’re hunting down. If you fail to find a piece of the puzzle, then the final confrontation will be a whole lot tougher.

Combat is also a key part of the comics and James wanted to ensure this was as cinematic and fun as possible. As a result you’ve got Hellboy punching monsters around, Liz setting fire to things, Abe taking aim with his gun and Johann possessing his enemies. The combat (and investigating for that matter) both use a really simple but rewarding custom dice system that we’ll cover in a later blog.

With the two elements of gameplay defined, this led to the creation of the Impending Doom Track and the Information Gathered Track. The former tracks how much danger the agents are in and how close they are to the final fight. While the latter shows the amount of evidence they’ve gathered. This could be a piece of equipment or vital information that will expose an important weakness ahead of that end battle. A key part of the game is successfully balancing these two elements and there’s often a frantic race to grab that crucial info before the Impending Doom track reaches its dramatic conclusion. Stay tuned to a future blog for more details about these.

Work in progress. Artwork and final design subject to change/approval.

Another genius element introduced by James was the creation of the Case File deck. We always had the idea that it would be great if missions were contained in a top secret envelope so you never knew what was coming. However, James took that one step further with the Case Files. Before each mission you’ll need to crack open a small, top secret envelope to unveil a deck of cards.

These cards act as the scenario generator for the mission and explain things like how to set up the board and trigger special events. Thanks to the secretive nature of these cards, the first time you play a mission, you’ll have absolutely no idea what’s in store. Even the final boss might be a mystery. Even better, after you’ve played a mission, you can mix the Case Files up to create a bespoke experience! It also led to the creation of the thrilling BPRD Archives expansion, which is something we’ll be exploring in more depth soon.

Finally James’ other key idea was the exploration mechanic. The Case File reveals the initial set-up but after that you’re on your own. Each time you enter a new room you’ll flip over an Encounter Card. Each room is split into four areas and the Encounter Card tells you what’s inside, e.g. some monsters, a clue or a piece of furniture to search. A little like the Deck of Doom cards, these are placed randomly so each game has the potential to play differently, even if you’ve completed the mission before.

To surmise all the above, James has turned what we always thought would be a good game into an absolutely GREAT game. The playtesting we’ve been having here at HQ has been fantastic fun and you’ll soon be able to see the game in action with a full gameplay video.

Remember, Hellboy: The Board Game will be hitting Kickstarter on April 25th. We’ve got a very exciting opening pledge level planned, so make sure you don’t miss out. What’s more, next week will be Hellboy Week across the Mantic Blog and social media. Find out more about the game, see the miniatures and plenty more!


  1. Exciting news! It seems this can be a solo/co-op game?

    Also from what has been mentioned this seems to be a legacy game? What is the re-playability of it?

  2. Hey Andrew!

    Yeah, solo/co-op 🙂

    It’s not so much a Legacy game, as a game with an added surprise factor. The first time you play each Case File it’ll be a surprise – but there’s plenty of replayability in each one, so you’ll want to go back and revisit all of them multiple times, trust me! We’ve been playing through one particular case file quite a bit lately, and even now it’s still throwing up surprises and making for an interesting, different experience each time.

    That’s before you add in the BPRD Archives…

  3. Hi James

    Great to hear from you. That’s good to know about Solo/Co-op and also the replayability of it. I’ve read a few Hellboy stories and one thing I enjoy is the mystery and suspense it brings throughout the story, so hopefully the game will capture this. Some game have an app to interative with so maybe this can be an option for the game? Whatever the case, with you on this project it should be a good thing.

  4. No plans for an app, far as I’m aware, but suspense and mystery are absolutely a big part of it 🙂

  5. Any Plans to make rules for a full on Skirmish game?

    Also, would anyone bring more superhero games to the world…As far as I’m aware there’s only Knight Models DC Game and Pulp City…

    After Hellboy, maybe Mantic could do something with the Valiant Comics Universe? One can only dream…

  6. Christopher Gough April 13, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    So naturally 4 heroes tends to equate to 4 players. Is it designed to work with fewer players (or more) and, if so, does it mean each player will have to control multiple characters? I play lots of co-op boardgames with just two people and it’s always infuriating if you have to keep track of several characters. I would like to advocate a system that flexes the difficulty depending on the number of characters in play (ala Imperial Assault).

    • Hi Christopher – the game can be played with one agent or up to four agents. Depending upon the amount of agents you play, you’ll get different equipment to help you out if you’ve got less players.

  7. Really like where this is going. But Is this campaing going to be a 2km list of stuff and add-on you have to scroll for down like some previous games. It kind of puts me off..

  8. @Mark: wow, so sorry to hear that. I personally love the stretch goals, as long as there’s a fair balance between free backer rewards and paid add-ons.
    @Rob: it’s good to hear that you can basically play the game solo (one agent) – I find that with other exploration and combat games, single player turns can take up so much time that it discourages people from playing with more than 2 or 3 players… I hope player turns therefor are short

    Finally: any info on what time on the 25th the KS campaign goes live? I’d love to be one of the early backers of this fine, fine project. Thx!

    • @Marcel, love stretch goals too! If the extra money comes in the campaing and it goes to enlarging the quality and amount of extra stuff that comes in all pledges. But when you’ve got to put more money on +30 different add-on packs or understand what you are getting or not getting, it becoumes tedious.
      But this is hellboy so even though I will probably buy even the “little rocks pack” that is just completly meaningless.. 😛

  9. I was nervous as I love Hellboy and the whole BPRD universe. I’m super pumped to see some of the gods and folktale monsters and how this game works. You guys put some huge thought into this and it already shows. I know it’s premature but thank you for that. 2 questions: what size will he miniatures be? Like 28mm or something else like monoliths which I think is a bit smaller? I’m not a skirmish guys so I’m not so well versed on that. And 2nd: pleSe for everything that is good in this world have Roger as a playable character. Also, if you can: think about making his giant brother a monster to face off against. I love and miss Roger. Ok, who cares about my opinion but I’m super pumped. Back to salivating for any and all news coming up.

    • Monolith’s Miniatures are 32mm – I hope those miniatures will be the same size, as I do totally want to adapt them to a Conan-like BPRD-Scenario-Skirmish!

  10. I would prefer an well programmed app instead of a deck of cards. An app could create both storys and single adventures. It’s also easy to upgrade for the developers to include new features and maps.

    Good luck with your game btw!

  11. Please maintain this a board game and not a collection of fan’s miniatures whish list. I want cool minies but i dont want a box with plastic like batman. More mechanichs, text and experiences than minies.

    • @Fredrik
      agree 200% on that! This should not be a minis-centered game nor an App driven game.
      This shall be a very low-tech, analogue experience boardgame as much as possible. I think James already replied on BGG that combat will be just a small part of the whole experience and that story, theme and atmosphere will have a major role.

    • We have no plans for an app. The mechanics have always been front and centre of the whole process. As you’ll see over the next few days when we dive into the rules on the blog.

    • Oh great, I want it the other way round – that is, I exult in miniatures-heavy games. Of course I want this game to be as good as possible, but I also want as many characters included as can be!

  12. can we expect a french version during the Pledge or later by Mantic France?

  13. Alternatively, due to the rich characters and this being a miniatures game from the start, why not both?

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