Welcome to Looting the Trove, a look at the behind-the-scenes development of games in the CTG library. This month, with the second printing of Cloudspire and the new Ankar’s Plunder content now available on the Chip Theory webstore, we’re taking a look at the development of Cloudspire’s co-op scenarios and the brand new Cloudspire skirmish mode. Our previous entry in this series, which covers the design of the solo scenarios, is available here.
Though Cloudspire development was a team effort among the designers, Adam Carlson took the lead on co-op and skirmish design. Where the solo scenarios generally developed alongside the story, the development of the co-ops and skirmishes was a little more segmented, with Adam starting work on them after receiving a general briefing of the overarching plot. As the plot and gameplay developed, details about one or the other would change so that the entire product could tell a cohesive story. Part of the malleability was intentional to the feel of the co-ops, which Adam said significantly differ from the feel of the solos.
“Unlike the amazing solo scenarios, co-op play feels a bit closer to playing a multiplayer PVP. This was intentional, as we found that while adding more factions, we had to turn down the customization to keep the gameplay in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ in terms of complication,” Adam said, referring to the balancing act to get the difficulty curve “just right.” “Having so many factions in play makes for a challenge enough as it is, especially when the two factions must cooperate in order to have a chance at success.”
For the new Ankar’s Plunder co-ops, Adam cranked up his design ambition, leading to some of the craziest board layouts in the entire game. He was inspired by some of the more outlandish design concepts of the new factions, as well as the increased creative freedom allowed to designers in the bonus scenarios, which could include any Cloudspire expansion content in their creation. The result was a wide array of game concepts across the six new scenarios, which Adam recommends to any Cloudspire aficionado, whether they’re a dedicated co-op player, a regular PvP player, or a solo player who tackles the co-ops two-handed.
“My favorite of the co-ops is probably The Black Ball Line [Horizon’s Wrath 1],” he said. “This was the first co-op of the new set that I made and actually didn’t evolve that much from the original concept. I love featuring the Horizon’s Wrath cannonballs as well as having Dywen play ‘keep away’ to stay alive!”
Though the feel of the co-ops is a little different than the solos, Adam said the razor-thin margin between defeat and victory is still an important component.
“The timing to get the Heirs Intelligence objective is critical in this one!” he said of The Black Ball Line. “This one will potentially leave you on the edge of your seat if you are looking to complete all of the objectives!”
Skirmishes are a new mode that was introduced in the Ankar’s Plunder bonus scenarios, which are available in the hardcover lore and art book or in a smaller, scenario-only softcover. Skirmishes transport the feel of the objective-based solo and co-op scenarios to a two-player PvP setting, with each player trying to accomplish their own win condition. Skirmishes have a recommended faction set-up, but players are welcome to modify their game by switching in other factions.
“The concept of Skirmishes really was a reaction to our audience after the original game was rolled out,” Adam said, adding that while the two-player PvP was praised, many fans wanted alternate ways to play that brought new mechanics to the forefront. “Thus, the idea for some wildly different win conditions was born!”
From a variety standpoint, Adam considers the skirmishes an unqualified success.
“The scenarios provide a fun, new twist to your game, [with themes like] area control, tower defense, and even a race to send your units safely through a portal,” he explained. “You’ll each usually have different objectives/conditions to win, and this allows the players to flex their knowledge on perhaps the more uncommon advancements and units than what you would normally rely on!”
Adam’s personal favorite skirmish is probably Final Front, with its diverging minion routes and back-and-forth spire control tactics. However, there’s one skirmish he thinks every Cloudspire player should try: Reignition, the skirmish tribute to Cloudspire’s well-loved and well-feared opening solo scenario.
“Reignition is a must play for a simpler, quicker PVP game to break the ice,” he said. “Definitely do this either right away or after going through the playthroughs if both players are new!”