Bardsung

Echoes & Creaks: Wandering Monsters in Bardsung | Board Game Design

Published on 02 November 2020

Shhh. Did you hear that?

I’m sure it was nothing. Definitely just the wind.

Probably. 

But just in case, we should probably ask Sherwin for some info on those wandering monsters he’s been hinting at…

(Our Kickstarter adventure begins November 10, heroes. Click to be notified!) 

Wandering Monsters in Bardsung

By Sherwin Matthews

Halloween may be over, but we’re not done with the creepy stuff yet.

In the last article, we covered Bardsung’s marching order—the system that determines the order in which turns are resolved for both heroes and enemies. I also hinted at some of the ways you can manipulate it to your advantage!

At the end of that article, I mentioned a staple of dungeon crawlers: wandering monsters. These creatures are prone to appearing unannounced, so let’s wander straight in...

Creating Bardsung’s Wandering Monsters

As we just established, wandering monsters are a staple of dungeon crawlers. And the best representations present these beasts as whole other level of threat.

They aren’t your run-of-the-mill, everyday foes. No, the best wandering monsters are far more formidable. 

Wherever you encountered your first—an RPG setting, board game, or even a choose your own adventure book—I bet it wasn’t a fun experience for your poor character!

In this respect, Bardsung isn’t any different. 

In our team’s earliest discussions, we established that all wandering monsters needed to achieve one simple thing: to strike fear into the hearts of brave heroes!

Be it because of their terrifying appearance—just look at the Kryx...

Bardsung-Wandering-Monster-Kryx-Artwork

...or the Ferrous Maw.

Bardsung-Ferrous-Maw-Artwork

It could be their sheer size (why, hello Mr Ettin! Soon to be revealed). Or, their rabid ferocity.

Bardsung-Enemy-Rat-Artistic

(Trust me, you’ll definitely be scared of rats after one game with these beasts)!

However, beyond that, we wanted to make Bardsung’s wandering monsters feel unique. 

So, we started thinking about how we could deploy these dungeon staples into our game. 

Increase the Tension

As some of you might know, I’ve had the privilege of designing and developing our tabletop Resident Evil™ titles, alongside Mat Hart and, more recently, Fraser McFetridge.

One of the most exciting mechanics in those games is the tension deck: a deck of cards that each player draws from at the end of their turn. 

Mechanically, these cards are used for several things: to add flavour and suspense in keeping with the theme of the game; as an unexpected way of changing the game state and difficulty; and as time pressure for the players as they play through each scenario.

Although we wanted everything above, it’s the latter that we were most concerned with in our early Bardsung builds. 

In any board game or RPG, if players have an unlimited time to explore, then they can really break the system and sap all of the fun out. 

Imagine, for example, exploring a dungeon, where after each fight the heroes can stop and rest to replenish any health they’ve lost; or where they can quickly work out an optimum way to open each door they go through, with the tankiest hero first, and then the others hiding safely from harm.

Formulaic approaches like this get old really fast. 

What we wanted, then, was something like the tension deck. An element that introduced threat and suspense to keep you on your toes, changed around the playing area, and forced your decisions on a clock.

Which is when we asked ourselves: 

“What if the tension deck came to life and came looking for you?”

How Monsters Wander In...

Bardsung-Wandering-Monster-1

At the end of each round, after shuffling the marching order, you’ll roll a six-sided dice. 

Roll a 3 or above? Then all you’ll be able to hear is eerie wind, and the crackle of torches. But if you roll a 1 or a 2, then there will be a strange sound at the edge of your heroes’ hearing... 

Perhaps a faint scratching of claws over stone, or an unnatural groan or hiss. Things that could be easily dismissed as your imagination playing tricks.

That’s when echo tokens come into play. 

When echo tokens are first placed on the playing area, they arrive at the entrance tile. At this stage, they might be nothing, and the heroes have no idea they’re even there. 

But roll another 1 or 2 at the end of the round, and they’ll soon start moving towards you, only stopping when they reach a closed door.

(Here’s a hint: closing doors is extremely important in Bardsung!)

Bardsung-Wandering-Monster-2

Now the echoes are getting louder. And closer. And areas you thought were safe, and cleared of enemies? 

Think again.

Now, you might think you can just keep running, and never get caught. And sometimes, this is true. But more often than not, you’ll need to stop, to fight off enemies. And the echoes won’t cease their relentless advance just because you’re fighting for your life. 

And even if you can dispatch your enemies in good order, other times, you’ll hit a dead-end, forcing you to return the way you came. 

And in these moments, when you least expect it, the echo token is discarded, the top card of the wandering monster deck is drawn, and the creature that’s been hunting you will make its identity known.

If you’re lucky, it will be the least threatening of the bunch… but I’ll let you in on a secret. There are no weak wandering monsters in Bardsung. And certain enemies, after you defeat them, will be added to the deck, allowing them to hunt you down for revenge!

Hopefully I’ve painted a dark and foreboding enough picture here but, just in case, let’s compare the size of the Kryx to one of our heroes...

Bardsung-Wandering-Monster-3

Wandering monsters are no slouches in combat, and are all extremely dangerous.

Moreover, defeating them won’t net you any treasure at all, making them a foe that you definitely won’t want to see. 

And that’s before you consider their nasty habit of turning up when you’re already embroiled in combat...

Game Over, Man!

That’s probably enough for now, without deep-diving into their combat mechanics and cards, which we’ll share soon!

For now, let us know: 

Which is your favourite wandering monster so far? 

(And yes, there are more to come!)