Magewinds Free Rules for Magical Duels

Dev Diary: The Warlock and the Minion, Part 1

I am hoping that writing development blogs will help me keep up momentum on making changes and additions to Magewinds (like a kind of accountability thing) – so here is one, hopefully the first of many.

I’m currently focusing my very limited efforts on adding two new fighter types to the Tempest Crusaders fighter pack. The first of these, the Minion, is intended to be the worst, but most spam-able, fighter in the game. The second new fighter type, the Warlock, is all about making Minions better – and summoning new ones to join the fray.

I find that game design/development1 is more like sculpting than architecture. You start with a block of rock and chip away to reveal the statue within. You may begin with a vision, but you find the real shape of the thing as you go.

This is how development of Magewinds has always gone. I start with an idea and iterate on it, playtesting as I go. Things always come up which I never thought of, and I must adjust the design to compensate for them.

I’ve had the idea for Warlocks and Minions kicking around in my head for years at this point2 and it’s always had the same core conceits:

  1. Minions are rubbish fighters, easy to kill and not much of threat.
  2. Minions’ strength lies in that you can have a lot of them on the battlefield.
  3. The Warlock buffs Minions, making them into an actual threat.
  4. The Warlock summons new Minions to replace dead ones or further swell the ranks.
  5. Despite these synergies, there should be reasons to take each fighter type on its own.

So, the playstyle they enable is about chaffing up the board and overwhelming the enemy with weight of numbers. Thematically, they’re a necromancer and his skeletal soldiers, or a demon-master and her impish summons.

Today I’ll talk about conceit number 1, which sounds simple but isn’t.

It’s easy to make Minions weak, but I must avoid making them too weak. If they’re too weak, the only impact they’ll have on the game is being in the way.

I started by having them be unable to perform an action if they have a single action counter. This was in part to avoid one player having far more activations than their opponent, but also made them unable to move as far, do as much damage or avoid as much damage as other fighters. Unfortunately, this made them weak in a way that was kind of un-fun, to me: Minions just didn’t get to impact the game very much. I tried mitigating this by giving the Warlock a spell to recover actions on Minions, but then they were merely ‘okay’ rather than an ‘actual threat’. I tried letting them make two actions, and I think it’s the way to go for now3.

Next, I think I’ll try making them a bit stronger and tougher, but to do this I need to make everyone else slightly better. In the game almost all fighter types have Evasion 0. This makes the Evasion attribute seem pointless, but it was an adjustment made to avoid having to always be doing a Precision – Evasion calculation when trying to hit an enemy. i.e. it was a choice made to speed the game up.

However, I want Minions to have Evasion 0, and for that to be a special thing. So, everyone else’s Evasion must go up by 1… and then probably the Precision of all their attacks must go up by 1, too…

I’ll report back on how it goes in the next development diary. Wish me luck!

As ever, if you are interested in getting involved in playtesting (whether on Tabletop Simulator or in meatspace) please get in touch :heart:

  1. These two words don’t quite mean the same thing, but I’ll use them interchangeably here. 

  2. Gosh, the amount of time I spent working on this game really fell off a cliff! 

  3. I’m worried about players with multiple Minions having too much of an activation advantage, but until it comes up in playtesting I won’t act on it. 

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