It is back to my favorite time of year – Preview Season! The next SolForge set is on the horizon, and as the lead designer, I have the honor of sharing with you the first previews for the set and talking about some of the exciting new features. First, lets start with the set name. Varna, the leader of the Nekrium faction, is one of the most important characters in SolForge lore, and throughout this set and in the campaign missions of the coming months, we will learn more about this powerful and mysterious character. Reign of Varna is going to be a smaller set than the last few, with only 48 cards in the initial release, but will have several mini-release follow-ups with new content that will be available in a variety of different ways. The first preview card was revealed during the final World Championship Qualifier this past weekend, and you can find it here: Smolderscale Dragon was originally designed for Imprisoned Heralds, but got pushed out in favor of the (possibly too) mighty Duskmaw Drake. Everybody at Stone Blade loves Dragons, but we try to release only one or two per set to reinforce that in the world of Solis, Dragons are rare and special. The art for Smolderscale dragon had a huge impact on the design and play pattern of the card. Based on the art, we knew we wanted the feeling of the “egg” to last two levels, but wanted a design that made that could still serve a purpose before the dragon fully “hatched.” This blazing baby lights your opponent’s whole board on fire!
Now You’re Playing with Power
Much like the story of Varna himself, the story behind one of the major mechanics in Reign of Varna goes back to the very beginning of SolForge. Fans since the Kickstarter days may remember the one card type that existed in our early demos that never made it into the final version of the game- Structures. Structures were cards that could be played in a lane in addition to a creature, but didn’t have any attack or health. Structures modified the rules of the game either for that lane or the game in general (e.g. creatures you play in this lane get +2 Attack / +2 Health, opposing creatures in this lane lose all abilities, etc.). Structures had the advantage of being more permanent than creatures, which tend to die within a few turns, allowing for a more textured game and varied board states. Structures had the downside of doubling the possible number of cards in play at any one time, greatly increasing complexity. They also presented a significant challenge to building a comprehensible user interface, which proved challenging enough that we pushed them out of the initial release. In the end, we decided to cut structures from the game because the complexity that added wasn’t worth the cost, but ever since then we have been trying to find ways to bring back the awesome parts of structures without the downsides. Our newest legendary spell cycle, accomplishes just that: For the first time, players can gain abilities that change the nature of the game of SolForge. These effects start off just lasting a few turns, but eventually they grow to permanently change the game state. The player ability mechanic was something we needed to develop to support our plans for campaign mode, so it was a natural place for us to add interesting designs into Reign of Varna. Even a very simple effect takes on new context with the potential that it can be permanent. Each faction has a spell like this that highlights a core part of what that faction does. If someone guesses correctly what the other ones do, I may even tell you if you are right
A major part of design is simplifying. I’ll go further and say that, at least for me, the most important part of design is simplifying. Adding complexity, nuances, and mechanics is easy, and the most common miskae I see from rookie designers is always trying to include too much in their first games I made the same mistake myself more times than I care to admit. Good designers come up with lots of cool and fun game ideas. Great designers find the core of what is most fun about a game, and clear out everything else to make room for that core bit of awesome to shine. In particular when it comes to designing a trading card game, starting as simple as possible is critical, as the game will inevitably become more and more complicated as years of new cards and mechanics get added in. In order to make SolForge a great mobile trading card game, we removed the ability to take actions during an opponent’s turn. This made it much easier to play on the go and greatly simplified a lot of otherwise complex interaction points that made the game much harder to learn and play. On the flipside, we sacrificed the excitement of not always knowing how things were going to play out on your turn because of something your opponent might be able to do. Being able to surprise an opponent with a key effect or response to their actions allows for a much more dynamic game and forces you to think about your turn differently. Enter Leyline Sentry. With Reign of Varna, you are no longer safe even on your turn! Leyline Sentry is one of a new cycle of creatures with the “Ambush” ability, which is an effect that is active while it is in your hand during your opponent’s turn. By placing Leyline Sentry into your deck, you can wreak havoc on player strategies that rely on “cheating” the SolForge resource system to get extra creatures into play – letting you make up for their advantage immediately! If deck with cards like Immortal Echoes are popular, Leyline Sentry gives you the perfect foil!
The Reign of Varna begins soon! Pre-orders are available here and every pre-order comes with a free Reign of Varna Legendary chest! Hype season is here, so stay tuned to this website and our social media to see all the previews and news about the upcoming release!