Dark Souls: Board Game

SFG Vault: Four Kings, Old Iron King, and Guardian Dragon | Designer Diary

Open but for a brief moment, the SFG Vault will resurrect three out-of-print, exclusive expansions for DARK SOULS™: The Board Game — the Four Kings Expansion, Guardian Dragon Expansion, and Old Iron King Expansion.

Available to pre-order until the Vault closes on April 28 at 23:59 BST, all three of these expansions add terrifying mega bosses to your game. 

Curious what’s in store? 

Product Owner, Alex Hall, is here to reveal more…

Back to the Bonfire

by Alex Hall, Product Owner

What feels like a lifetime ago at this point — or bordering on 7 years, if we’re looking to avoid hyperbole this early on — I took part in running the DARK SOULS™: The Board Game Kickstarter.

What. A. Whirlwind.

Then came the months of deep diving as we finalised development of the core game and all its expansions. 

Truth be told, it was a daunting task with many early starts and late nights, and not always plain sailing.

But one aspect that was always enjoyable? Creating bosses. And my absolute favourite part? Creating Mega Bosses.

Three of those Mega Bosses have been hard to get your hands on since Kickstarter fulfilment wrapped up… until now. The Four Kings, Guardian Dragon, and Old Iron King expansions are all included in the SFG Vault, so if you’ve been looking to add them to your collection, now is the time!

If you’d prefer to avoid spoilers, you can stop here and head directly to the Vault. 

It’s been a while, and some of the specifics are lost to the fog of time. But if you’re curious to learn a bit about the behind-the-scenes design process for these bosses, then do read on as I share a few memories.

The Four Kings

Developing DARK SOULS™: The Board Game felt like a never-ending list of content and, in all honesty, I can’t really remember where the Four Kings landed when it came to developing the initial concept — but I very much recall it being one we settled on extremely early on. 

From the outset, we knew it would be an escalating encounter with building pace as the fight went on. 

If memory serves, for a fair amount of the initial testing, it was the Heat Up point that governed when another King would join the battle; that worked well, but felt like it lost a lot of the memorisation that comes with the boss fights.

Then there was testing, and more testing. Finding that the behaviour deck wouldn’t always cycle all the way through before a new King was introduced; changing the contents of the behaviour deck, then feeling like players weren’t  getting the opportunity to learn enough as they played. Swinging at every opportunity to keep the number of Kings on the board as low as possible. Back to the drawing board to consider what other mechanics we had to trigger the arrival of a new King.

It turned out the answer was in the exact same place that had led to us questioning the Heat Up point being ‘the call’ in the first place: The behaviour deck. 

A new King entering the fight when the behaviour deck had completed a full cycle nailed everything we were hoping for. Sprinkle in a little variety with the removal of a card, and the addition of what would ultimately become two new cards, and we’d hit a great sweet spot. 

There was enough time for players to learn the behaviour cards; a switch up before they could get too comfortable; and a gradual slowing down of new Kings coming in to prevent it all becoming too much, too fast. 

That last point  may sound like it’s working counter to the ‘pace building’ design principle on paper, but certainly didn’t give that feeling while playing… and, in these instances, the ‘feel’ absolutely took priority over theory.

The Guardian Dragon

Next up, we have the Guardian Dragon. A simple concept for this one: a dragon in a bird cage. 

The main hurdle here was representing the attacks where the dragon latches on to the cage bars. Once we’d decided to introduce some nodes that were specific to these movements, it was just a case of syncing those up with the appropriate attacks, which came in the form of a separate behaviour deck.

As is tradition, when adding something that seems simple, this actually served up a whole host of rules queries  over how attacks work if the boss is still standing on a node which players can’t stand on. 

At first, we just had all the behaviours which involved the use of these nodes end in a movement that would take the boss off the node. 

But, as we continued testing, we experimented with the Dragon simply doing another behaviour instead — which worked great from the moment it was implemented, and left us with the Guardian Dragon as it is now; a formidable threat. 

The Old Iron King

Being one of the last bosses we worked on, by the time we reached the Old Iron King, we had a pretty good idea of what did and didn’t work well within the system. 

A few mechanics seen in the Guardian Dragon Expansion also show up here, but taken to the extreme in order to really make this fight feel claustrophobic.

For example, specific nodes for the boss movement return, but now it’s the only way the boss can move… which, of course, comes with an immediate list of questions as to how that works. But we were happy to ‘use up’ some complexity here, given it’s a big feature of the video game fight. 

The Old Iron King’s wide AOE fire attacks are also a big feature of the fight; it was back to the well with the second behaviour deck for these. Simply put, across the few variations we tried, this was just the best implementation of this type of attack.

The number of nodes on this board was also something we went back and forth on a few times, with the main difficulty being where to place the specific nodes the Old Iron King would move to. 

Early testing saw those nodes being right on the edge of the board, which ultimately led to a frustrating experience of spending all of your stamina chasing after the boss. 

Obviously, that was entirely counter to our intent to make the fight feel like it was taking place in a claustrophobic arena. And so, back to the drawing board we went, until we reached the Old Iron King as it is now… but I’ll let you experience that one for yourself..

Backwards Compatibility

As some of you may know, we’ve recently released two new DARK SOULS™ board game core boxes — Painted World of Ariamis and Tomb of Giants — that include an updated version of the core rules. 

So, how will these expansions work with the new campaign system?

Don’t worry — we’ve got you. Each of the DARK SOULS™ items in the Vault will include encounter cards allowing you to play with the new ruleset, as an additional encounter that occurs after you’ve beaten the campaign’s normal boss.

And, if you already own these expansions, don’t worry. We’re not looking to sell you the expansion a second time, just for the sake of owning the cards!

As part of our DARK SOULS™: The Board Game community initiative, we’re making those cards available as a free download later this year.

Whether you’re an older Unkindled, or newly chosen undead, we’ve got you covered.

And if you would like to add the Four Kings, Guardian Dragon, Old Iron King, or all three to your collection, you can do so before the Vault closes on April 28 at 23:59 BST, either as individual items or in discounted bundles.


Created for existing players who just want the exclusives, the DARK SOULS Vault bundle includes the Four Kings Expansion, Guardian Dragon Expansion, and the Old Iron King Expansion for just $199 (13% discount). Just add all three items to your cart and enter the code TVDS at checkout.

For those who also want the core games, the DARK SOULS ultimate bundle includes all three Vault exclusives — Four Kings, Guardian Dragon, and Old Iron King Expansions — and the two new Painted World of Ariamis and Tomb of Giants core sets for just $374.92 (a 16% discount). To apply the bundle discount, add all the items to your cart and enter the code TVDSUB at checkout.