Arcs, the newest board game from the creative team behind Root and Oath, launched its crowdfunding campaign today and successfully funded within minutes. Anyone familiar with the tabletop output of the company helmed by Patrick Leder - with Cole Wehrle as creative director - won’t be surprised by that outcome, as Leder Games has become something of a slightly-bigger-than-indie darling among US studios in the past half decade.
The dystopian, science fiction-themed Arcs was set to continue the trend of sweeping stories, cleverly interwoven mechanics and the now-trademark illustrations of Kyle Ferrin, but the crowdfunding campaign is selling a slightly different version that fans might have seen in most of the development diaries leading up to launch. Leder Games has decided to separate Arcs’ campaign mode from a replayable base game, selling the former as an expansion to the former.
Wehrle outlined the rationale behind the decision in a May 17th post to the company’s website as part of a now traditional series of public musings on his own process. According to him, the original vision of Arcs as a big-box experience did not survive the present tabletop industry reality full intact, and Leder Games decided to pivot.
“Often I tell people that we aren’t interested in making games for everyone. Rather, we try to make games that might be someone’s favorite game,” Wehrle wrote. “That means we tend to be more interested in our own sensibilities and those of our existing fans. But, this ethos exists in balance with a desire to be welcoming to new players and to try to design games that can survive and thrive in the broader tabletop marketplace.”
Wehrle continues by saying he and the team faced the temptation to structure Leder Games’ - and likely his own Wehrlegig Games, makers of Pax Pamir and John Company - around the direct sales model of Kickstarter, Gamefound and Indiegogo campaigns. The audience that regularly crowdfunds board games differs from the broader tabletop playerbase, and their particular tastes can apparently “warp your design sensibilities” when filtered through that online model.
Like most of Leder Game’s creations, Arcs initially aimed for a very particular experience. Three to four players play cards from their hand much as one would in a trick-taking game - the results decide who goes first and how they get to respond but also who will take the lead in the next round. Answering that question of “how do I want to do this” was central to the team’s vision of Arcs interstellar battles, which can see ships engage in long range bombardments, frontal assaults or sneaking raids. The dice-roll mechanics were meant to keep the game easy on an individual mental load, but playtesting revealed a different reality.
“Even with abridged campaigns, players still found the game overwhelming,” Wehrle wrote. “Though the rules were much easier to internalize than Oath, the strategic considerations tended to boggle new players. In order to combat this, I decided add a new mode to the game [sic], basically a kind of “arcade mode” where players could explore the game in a low-stakes environment and get their bearings before exploring the broader campaigns.”
Over time and iteration, that arcade mode became the new base game for Arcs, which included all of the mechanical meat of the initial design but was extracted from the pressure and stress of a campaign board game. It also allows Leder Games to market that repeatable experience to a section of the market for whom the ever-increasing cost of boxes may leave them feeling forgotten in the rush of what Wehrle called deluxification (“$100 is the new $60,” he wrote.) The second box, dubbed the Blighted Reach Campaign Expansion, brings that US$60 to US$100 - not counting before shipping - and delivers Arcs as it was originally envisioned via a larger board, more wooden meeples and cards, and a box designed to comfortably fit everything inside.
The crowdfunding campaign for Arcs runs through June 14th and estimates shipping to backers will begin in December 2023. The standard version, sans campaign mode, is available for $60 (£47.80), while both boxes will run $100 (£79.67). Both of these prices will reportedly increase at MSRP in retail.