Chronicles of Frost came to be within weeks. It’s been almost half a year since – that’s six months used to polish the game, to show it to different groups, to send out rough prototypes for blind testing that is happening as I write these words. Yet, it all begun with one idea.
If you know my games, you probably know a bit of what to expect from my designs. “If it’s your game, it’s going to have combos” is something I’ve heard on more than one occasion, after I gave a new person an overview of what Chronicles of Frost features in terms of mechanisms and gameplay. Sure enough, my newest game does feature them. It also has deckbuilding, and movement on a map that is being crafted during the game by players.
Deckbuilding is the basis of the game. You play a hero with a custom deck of cards. You purchase new ones, you remove some of the ones you start the game with. You build a relatively thin deck, because you are racing against others to reach your goals. You solve the world puzzle, once again jumbled by the Mists, trying to make it adhere to your needs more than to the needs of others. And as with any “boardified” fantasy epic, you are questing and facing monsters.
You do all this, but most importantly, you bleed.
As I drew the first few iterations of a single Chronicles card, each of them had one thing in common: it was in fact divided into two cards. The initial idea was to make players choose just one of the two every time they play a card. Then, within a few hours, the idea evolved.
Stories of heroes share two things that seem the most fascinating: one of them is their incredible skills, the other is determination. When we read The Odyssey, we are fascinated by Ulysses’ ingenuity, but we are also gripped by his determination to come back to his wife and son. The skill is something we can look up to, but the determination in the face of trials is something we can relate to.
The card that didn’t end up crumpled in the bin was the one that came divided horizontally through the middle. The one that gave the hero two effects to resolve: the top one activated simply for playing the card, and the bottom one unlocked with a skill token (which are in an ever short supply) – or by one or more wounds.
Wounds placed voluntarily, just to achieve more, to fell a mighty foe, to go further into the unknown. Wounds spawned by heroic exertion and determination.
The moment I drew an ugly wound symbol (I could not draw my way out of a paper bag), right next to the even uglier skill symbol, I could feel the first, slow, deliberate thump somewhere in the back of my mind. And as I started pondering the decisions, the options, and – most importantly – the feel of Chronicles of Frost, I could feel my own excitement, at one incredible realization:
My game now had a beating heart.