This fast and furious co-op board game is like Gloomhaven played against the clock
With a campaign and world inspired by 'fantasy X-Men', Baldur’s Gate and Dark Souls.
A new co-op board game will combine the tactical dungeon-crawling battles of Gloomhaven with the against-the-clock energy of real-time games like Magic Maze, Captain Sonar and Space Alert, Dicebreaker can exclusively reveal.
The upcoming board game currently codenamed NG6 comes from Naylor Games, the publisher behind last year’s property-trading strategy game Magnate: The First City and next year’s algebra card game 21x.
Each player is equipped with a unique deck of cards built from basic cards and cards specific to two of five possible character classes: Guard, Hunter, Mystic, Alchemist and Adventurer. Each class has its own specialism, from the Alchemist’s buffs and the Hunter’s hard-hitting high damage-per-second to the Guard’s more tank-like resilience.
This deck is used to execute a variety of moves and attacks by moving your character’s miniature around a grid-board map and battling enemies, much like celebrated dungeon-crawler Gloomhaven. The boards themselves are the pages of a map book, similar to Gloomhaven spin-off Jaws of the Lion and its upcoming sequel Frosthaven.
“[Lead designer Jaya Baldwin and I] have tremendous respect for Gloomhaven,” co-designer James Naylor told Dicebreaker. “Both of us have had some great play experiences with it. But both of us have always wanted something higher energy and richer in the storytelling you can do afterwards while sacrificing the absolute minimum of long-term, replayable depth that the design will permit.”
New to NG6 is the fact that all of its scenarios play out against a five-minute timer - making the experience a fully real-time game. Players are able to plan before the five-minute timer begins; when their time runs out, the enemies act before everything repeats. Some enemies will also respond to specific attacks during the real-time phase, such as dealing counterattack damage to characters. In total, each session will last around 45 minutes.
“We were both fans of Escape, Captain Sonar and a couple of other real-time games with strong co-op elements,” said Naylor. “But we both shared a similar feeling: these games could be exciting, but they were also quite shallow. While they rewarded quick reflexes and teamwork, they didn’t reward rich tactical thinking that much or strategy over multiple game sessions. We both love games with lots of ‘crunch’ and we wanted an experience that could have the energy of great real-time games but the depth of expansive turn-based co-ops like Aeon’s End or Gloomhaven.”
Certain moves require players to charge their attack with a separate timer before performing it - for example, a grenade - with the added chaos that attacks trigger as soon as they’re ready, and friendly fire damage will be applied to other players’ characters. Other cards can be used to dash between hexes, or collected in sets in order to pay for more powerful moves later.
When a player’s deck runs out, they must take 60 seconds to reset, using the time to adapt - allowing them to add a new skill card to their deck - or solve one of a scenario’s puzzles by spending collected attribute tokens.
The game is designed around a campaign mode expected to last between 16 and 20 individual scenarios, which can be paused and resumed by storing each character’s deck in the box.
Not all of the scenarios will centre on defeating enemies - with alternative objectives such as interacting with specific objects on the board, defending non-player characters and surviving for a set amount of time. Some scenarios may introduce threat cards that add additional challenges - such as limiting talking between the players. During a demo of the game's prototype at this year’s Essen Spiel board game convention, Naylor told Dicebreaker that combat would be roughly 70% to 80% of the game.
“As much as possible players need to think really tactically and laterally about how to achieve their goals,” Naylor said. “The focus instead is on replayability of those core number of story-rich scenarios. While the game will recommend character builds on first playthrough, the design owes a huge debt to the Arkham Horror card game in its designed modularity: specifically the ability to build character decks from scratch.”
NG6 has been in development for around two years, with Baldwin drawing inspiration from action RPG video games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, as well as roguelike games.
NG6’s fantasy world - described as being a fantasy twist on comic book series X-Men - and storyline were influenced by the sprawling 1990s computer RPGs of studio Bioware, such as Planescape Torment and Baldur’s Gate.
Naylor Games hopes to launch a Kickstarter for NG6 next year, with its name and details about its world due to be revealed. The game will include a tutorial to teach new players its unique gameplay, with Naylor promising that the game’s box will not go “overboard” on size. Ahead of its launch, the game's prototype will be available for public playtesting at this weekend’s Dragonmeet convention.