Monster Hunter: World is being turned into a board game by the experienced team at Steamforged Games. The cooperative multiplayer title will feature enormous new plastic models and will be priced in the $100 range. Fans should expect a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for Monster Hunter: World — The Board Game to launch some time in 2021.
Steamforged Games, a British tabletop developer and publisher, has made a name for itself with a string of board games based on high-profile video game franchises. Steamforged burst onto the scene in 2016, raising more than $5.4 million for Dark Souls: The Board Game. Then it followed that up with Resident Evil 2: The Board Game, Horizon: Zero Dawn — The Board Game and, most recently, Devil May Cry: The Bloody Palace.
Most importantly, none of those games aims to be a straight-up port of the original property that they’re based on. While they evoke the same emotions in players, they do so while using different systems and techniques that are more appropriate to a tabletop setting. Co-founder Mat Hart, who has a background in video game development, told Polygon in a recent interview that’s a very intentional choice.
But the latest video game iteration of Monster Hunter isn’t a linear adventure with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s more like a cross between an MMO and a looter-shooter, with players constantly exploring the world in search of new resources to build new gear. That created some conceptual challenges for the team at Steamforged, which is used to working with more finite experiences.
Image: Steamforged Games/Capcom
“Monster Hunter is very open-ended,” Hart said. “You can play it for forever and a day. And and we know that in a board game, that’s not going to work. There’s no sense of peril, there’s no sense of threat, You need a timer or you need a threat to kind of give a sense of value to the actions that you’re doing. Otherwise it becomes a bit of a grind.”
That timer, Hart explained, comes in the form of in-game expeditions. Players will agree to a multi-session expedition that lasts a certain amount of in-game time, and they’ll have to spend that time wisely in order to reach their goals.
“You have a fixed number of campaign days,” Hart explained. “If you want to do an exploration mission to gain more information about the next creature, that’ll cost you a day. If you want to do some crafting, that’ll cost you a day. If you want to go on a hunt, depending on the complexity of the hunt, it might cost you two days or four days or five days. You’re kind of managing the time that you have available to you.”
At the end of that campaign, Hart said, players are free to start over with fresh characters. Or they can begin again, taking their hard-earned gear with them into more challenging encounters.
Lead designer Sherwin Matthews said lots of effort is going into making the game interesting to play across multiple sessions and even multiple campaigns. The secret, he said, is using some of the same gameplay hooks that make the Monster Hunter games so sticky with devoted fans.
“You [start] from this sense of wonderment [at the in-game environments] of I’m just trying to survive,” Matthews told Polygon. “Then you find yourself going back and trying to meta the game. Your sense of exploration, your sense of discovery about what you’re fighting kind of changes. And now the focus is more about, ‘How can I be more efficient killing this thing? How can I craft for the various different parts that I need to go get armor to go make this stuff so I can start to build armor sets or upgrade my weapons or whatever else?’ And then of course, that all completely resets when you then step up to the next beastie.”
Image: Steamforged Games/Capcom
Each expedition will be divided into multiple gameplay sessions, and each gameplay session will have multiple phases — including preparation, the hunt, and the battle itself. The hunt phase, Matthews said, will be very streamlined. But the real meat of the game happens in the tactical battles themselves.
Players will work from a sideboard to track their stats, including health and stamina, and use a deck of cards for their moves. Combat is a combo-based system, which allows players to string together different attacks at the cost of stamina. Players will need to carefully watch their stamina to properly balance their offensive and defensive moves, else they could get caught out and smashed with a powerful enemy attack.
In Monster Hunter, weapons are effectively classes. The same holds true for Steamforged’s board game. Each weapon has its own deck of cards, and upgrades to that weapon will increase the potential pool of cards available for players to build their decks.
“There’s a degree of card-counting in all of this,” Hart said, as players will need to “sharpen” their weapons — taking a turn to shuffle back in the more powerful cards that they’ve used during a fight. Just as in the video game, that leaves them open to attack. “There’s an action economy. There’s a consequence associated with it, so there’s another axis of decision-making that a player needs to make. And it’s in conjunction with how they’ve chosen to upgrade their dude.”
“You can tell which one of us plays poker,” Matthew quipped.
Damage is location-based, of course. Players will be able to break off resources by targeting different areas of the creature and wearing it down over time. A major mechanic will be managing “aggro,” that is juggling who among the players at the table is drawing the enemy’s attention.
“[Aggro] is the key to this,” Hart said. “There’s no one fixed way of [drawing aggro]. When we made Dark Souls, the aggro was very clearly delineated as to how that was managed. And that became an aspect of actually playing that game together. With Monster Hunter, we’ve gone to the next level with this. It can change for numerous different reasons. So, as I said, you really do need to be alive to what’s going on.”
A key feature for any modern tabletop game on Kickstarter is the miniatures, and Monster Hunter: World — The Board Game will be no exception.
“The hunters are ever so slightly bigger compared to a core scale, and the monsters are ever slightly smaller against the same scale,” Hart said. “But what it does, when you put them side by side, is it creates that feeling of a massive Jagras against a relatively small Hunter. I think the crucial point is it gives you that sort of heroic sense.”
The particulars of how the game will be sold are still being sorted out, Steamforged said. But the goal is to get the basic game well within the $100 range. Right now the plan is to include four monster types and a single biome with the base game, plus a comparable amount of weapons and equipment for players to acquire. Expect to need additional sets to play in different biomes and at high levels.
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