CoolMiniOrNot along with game designer Eric Lang have announced Kaos Ball! So grab your helmet and shin pads. It’s time to get brutal.
The announcement (there’s a couple pages worth):
CoolMiniOrNot has burst onto the gaming scene with a string of successful Kickstarter projects, including Sedition Wars, Relic Knights, Rivet Wars and of course the two Zombicides (season 2 having gone over $1 million). Now they’re entering the sports game arena with Kaos Ball, created by game designer Eric Lang (who will be at the CoolMiniOrNot Expo, just to remind you all). Well, Eric’s revealed a bit of the details for Kaos Ball, which will be further officially announced at the GAMA Trade Show next week.
Over on Lang’s website, he’s been calling the project “Phoenix”, as “a game I’ve been wanting to do for years”, saying that it has “[t]ons of minis, lots of ‘factions’, crazy special abilities and bloody confrontational game play”. As for what was pushing Lang forward with the creation of the game, “For many years I’ve been wanting to design – or even just play – a fantasy sports game that focused on the flavor and essence of the sport rather than direct simulation and micromanagement,” he says. “There are plenty of games that simulate existing sports; I wanted to design a sport from scratch specifically to play well as a board game rather than an adaptation.”
Continuing, “I also wanted to make a sports game with a fair degree of luck and high variance, but rather than have the luck be purely external – state your action and roll dice to see whether you succeed – I wanted the action to be simple and card-driven, where you have opportunities to bluff and read your opponent. You know by looking at your hand how many strong plays you can make, and you choose when to make them. Using hand management, I believe, captures the feeling of coaches putting their playbooks to the test against one another.”
Eric is no stranger to game design, having had a hand in such projects as A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, World of Warcraft: The Boardgame, and most recently Star Wars: The Card Game. Lang leaves those behind as he heads out into his own waters, though “The IP (intellectual property) is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as well. Kaos Ball is fantasy, yes, but rather than Tolkien-esque high fantasy, it is based on the modern world, where I took a ton of different pop culture elements that we gamers love and made them into sports teams. For example, the Amazons have a roller girl feel, the Fangs have a goth clubber feel. I wanted to make a team for everyone who loves pop culture to be able to relate to, and have a play style that matches their expectations.”
Making the teams not just visually unique, but also in how they play was a major focus of the game design. Says Lang, “I wanted teams that play very differently from one another, and focused the abilities on the team itself rather than individual players. The Daemons, for example, set the field on fire around them, whereas the archangel Paragons use self-sacrifice to boost each other when needed. The amount of team customization is very high, but it’s more holistic; you draft and combo upgrades for your entire team (combined with your overall team ability) rather than micromanage individuals. In playtesting, I found that this left players free to focus on their power interactions, tactics on the field, and their opponents, which has a pretty unique feel. My goal was fast, smooth and visceral.”
But what brings people to the table first are the miniatures. Those were paramount in the concerns for who Lang was going to work on the project with. “The game has a crazy ambitious scope, and I was not interested in dialing it back,” says Lang. “I also had some pretty uncompromising goals, like having a single artist cover the entire IP, over sixty highly detailed miniatures, and I really wanted those magnetic player boards to make recordkeeping actually fun. After seeing how well Cool Mini or Not was handling high concept big box games, I thought they’d be a natural fit. And boy, did they deliver!”
Kaos Ball is a new kind of fantasy sports game, combining rugby-style passing finesse and first person shooter domination-style scoring. The result is a tense game of skill, bluffing, luck, and lethal brutality like you’ve never played before!
Kaos Ball uses exciting card-based play mechanisms to put players in the role of a coach, managing their unique, game-altering team from scrimmage to sudden death period to outscore their opponents. Players need to balance scoring and killing their opponents, using powerful cheating effects all the while – as long as you have the money to pay off the ref. No two matches will play the same!
Kaos Ball includes multiple modes of play: traditional head-to-head, partnerships-based alliances, and “Maximum Kaos” three- or four-player mode; 30-60 exhibition games complete with a pregame draft for ringers and team upgrades; and league play with up to eight players and upgrades that stay in place from game to game, creating a unique sense of progression.
Leagues will support up to 8 players at a time. But with only 4 teams in the box, obviously everyone will have to play the same team as someone else… or will they? Future team expansion possibilities abound!
As for league play itself, he says, “The league is 4-8 players and plays quite well with four. It’s a lot of what you’d expect, with some twists. You play each other team twice during the season, and the top seeded teams enter the playoffs for the Kaos Ball cup! I can’t talk too much about the twists yet, but I applied the same design philosophy to league play that I did to the game overall. It is less focused on micromanaging your team on the player level, but rather combining cool team upgrades from your pool (which players draft at the beginning of each game and keep for the entirety of the league). Tracking your team’s power level advancement during a league is quite deep and crunchy – just a bit different.”
A new innovation are the magnetic player record boards. Here, you can keep track of experience, achievements and upgrades without having to worry about a paper sheet getting all messed up as a league goes on.
Eric continues, “I also cut many traditional negative sports experiences from Kaos Ball. No permanent injuries, no permanent deaths, no running out of money, no negative feedback loop of doing badly in a game and having to carry that into the next. Instead, teams all just get progressively better and get more upgrades from game to game, so everyone gets stronger, and your focus is on competitively navigating through which types of awesome power you want to take.”
Lang gave a few details into actually how the game works. “Game play is simple. The Kaos Ball is in the middle of the field, and up to four teams fight to control it while standing on scoring spaces to earn points. Runners can score, while Bruisers tackle and attack their enemies to control the field. On your turn you either activate a figure – sprinting to run really fast, or making a tackle or attack attempt against an enemy – or play a tactics card which generally changes something about the field.”
“Turns are lightning quick as you do one thing, then your opponent does one thing, making for little downtime between turns,” says Lang. “In addition, each of your figures has a ‘killzone’, which threatens the four adjacent squares. If an opponent enters a runner’s killzone, the runner can attempt to steal the ball. Enter a bruiser’s killzone, and they can tackle or attack you out of turn!”
A balance must be struck, though, between just going out and bashing heads and scoring points. Neglect one or the other and it doesn’t matter how good you do, you still may end up the loser. “When you kill an opponent’s figure, you take it as a trophy and put it next to your team sheet,” says Lang. “At the end of the game, the team with the most kills scores mega points – and in a multiplayer game, there are fewer points for second and third. Generally, it’s hard to ignore scoring and killing (or defense against killing). You have to have a game plan for both aspects, and there is often a strategic point where you can shift. That’s up to the player’s judgement, though.”
Furthermore, “You always have seven cards in your hand, drawn from a common deck, which represent energy (bonuses to stealing, attacking, tackling or defending against an opponent talking those actions against you), tactics, and cheating cards (powerful effects that explicitly break the rules, but unless you bribe the ref using your in-game cash, you’ll take a foul – the team with the most fouls at the end of a period loses lots of points). Managing your hand from play to play, and period to period is key.”
“Once players have ‘burned’ a certain number of cards by playing them in contests or as a tactic/cheating that signals the end of the period,” says Lang. “At the end of a period, there is another scoring phase for each runner standing on a scoring mound. (There is a major scoring mound for each team, way across the field, that is worth lots of points if you can make there and survive.) The game is played over four periods (with halftime!), and the highest score at the end wins.”
More details to come as CoolMiniOrNot travels to the GAMA Trade Show (I wish I was going… *sadface*)!