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Heroes of Might and Magic III gets the board game treatment from Wolfenstein studio

Why do we keep letting Ubisoft on Kickstarter?

Classic strategy video game Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia will be adapted into an upcoming board game from Archon Studio. The Polish outfit announced the project on October 7th, saying it plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in November 2022 with Ubisoft acting as publisher.

Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Board Game will attempt to translate the fan favourite entry in the 21-year-old series into a competitive experience that Archon claims will capture both the overland exploration phase of the game along with its turn-based army combat. The studio, which previously worked on Wolfenstein: The Board Game and miniatures fighting game League of Ancient Defenders called it the “official” Heroes board game in a press release.

“In Poland, this game was one of the most iconic games we played. Basically, every kid in the late 90’s played the Heroes’ games, and we are crazy happy to turn our childhood love into a miniatures-based board game,” said Jarosław Ewertowski, Archon Studio’s CEO. “Working on this license is like being a teenager again, but this time, we are the authors, and tons of fans from all over the world are looking at us with great expectations regarding the quality,”

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Players will start the game with one large hex tile representing their starting town - the rest of the board will be hidden by the fog of war until their heroes set out to explore it, placing tiles as they go. Like in the video game series, the mythical creatures and medieval archetypes encountered along the way can be recruited into a player’s ranks. Dragons, minotaurs and medusa (what’s the plural for medusa?) all bring something distinct to the military menagerie and must be balanced against their weaknesses.

Players can also unearth artifacts and learn potent magic while traveling from town to town, but once two armies meet the game will shift away from exploration and towards bloody combat. Except, little of the material revealed so far indicates what that part of gameplay might look like. Archon describes it simply as a “chess-like battle system”, and ostensibly more details will come with the crowdfunding campaign’s launch, but that’s a lot of game design to leave obfuscated at the moment.

The board game will package 30 miniatures sculpted to represent the recruitable units on the board, which are a mighty step up from the aged and rudimentary 3D models in the video game. Illustrator Iana Vengerova has been tapped to bring those creatures to life on cards and other physical elements with new artwork. She has previously worked on books for Paizo’s Pathfinder fantasy RPG.

Image: Iana Vengerova / Archon Studio

The elephant in the room is Ubisoft, who has owned the rights to the Heroes series since purchasing it from The 3DO Company in 2003. The massive video game publisher has been leveraging several of its properties to studios for board game adaptations in recent years and using Kickstarter to fund the development. The Witcher: Old World raised over £1.5 million in a single day, Six: Siege broke $1.5 million by the end of its run and Far Cry Beyond has been teased as an upcoming board game adaptation of the long-running open world video game series.

This behavior has upset players and smaller designers for a few key reasons. Ubisoft, itself, has faced several allegations in recent years from employees over a toxic work culture, discrimination and harrassment at all levels. This year, reports showed the company made little effort to clean house or fix the issues that led to this environment, and workers signed an open letter in July comparing Ubisoft’s “empty promises” to related allegations rocking Activision Blizzard.

The community also questions why Ubisoft, one of the largest AAA video game developers in the world, would need to use Kickstarter as a way of funding their projects. Global shipping and material shortages are spiking the cost of creating and shipping board games, but many accuse the publisher of insulating themselves from failure by taking advantage of a platform designed for those without Ubisoft’s resources.

Archon Studio project manager Michal Hartlinski explained in the press release that “going the Kickstarter route is the best way to deliver exactly the game everybody wants with direct involvement from the community.”

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