Dark Souls: Board Game

DARK SOULS™: The Board Game – Working With the Community

Greetings, Chosen Undead, and welcome to the first of a series of articles discussing the new releases for DARK SOULS™: The Board Game. 

What do I speak of? Why, the new Tomb of Giants and Painted World of Ariamis core sets, of course.

But first, an introduction. My name is Sherwin Matthews, and I’m the Lead Designer for Steamforged Games. In the past I’ve been fortunate enough to work on bringing several triple-A video game titles to the tabletop, including Resident Evil, Horizon Zero Dawn™, Gears of War™, and Monster Hunter: World, and now I’m delighted to return to the very first video game adaptation I worked on—DARK SOULS™: The Board Game.

Core Sets—What’s In A Name?

The Tomb of Giants and Painted World of Ariamis core sets represent a fresh start for the DARK SOULS™  Board Game. 

If you’re new to the world of tabletop DARK SOULS™, they’re the perfect starting place. Both releases present a new standalone experience, including characters, enemies, dice, tiles, a campaign dashboard, and plenty more. 

And if you’re an existing player? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, too. The new core sets have been designed to be completely backwards compatible. None of your purchases will be invalidated, and you can easily add models from your collections into the new campaign system. 

Wait, new campaign system? Yes, you heard me right.

Core sets present a lot more than the expansions we’ve seen before—they’re an entirely new way to play the game, featuring brand new rules, a massive change to how encounters are played, a new campaign system, a new events system, and, of course, new enemies and new bosses.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dropping by to discuss these exciting new releases in design diaries, diving into the concepts we wanted to bring to the table, revisions to the existing ruleset, the new elements you can expect to see, and how we developed the new sets around these ideas.

For now though, I want to talk about something which is particularly important to our team —our awesome gaming communities. 

Working with the DARK SOULS™ Community

Several of our games are blessed with the most dedicated audiences we could possibly ask for, and DARK SOULS™: The Board Game is no different. For years now, you’ve supported the game with your enthusiasm, sharing stories from your adventures, images of your painted models, and the homebrew rules you’ve created.

And it’s the latter I wanted to discuss today.

The passion I see in our community for the DARK SOULS™ world is truly humbling. In every interaction, I see a relentless drive to recreate your favourite moments from the series on the tabletop, and so many raw ideas for how to do so.

With this in mind, for this new edition of the rules, we wanted to work with the community to discuss their personal rules and concepts, and get a deeper understanding and sense of the ideas they had about how to make the board game feel more authentic to their favourite game.

From discussions regarding the number of sparks you begin with, to doubling the number of souls, and with a healthy dose of block versus dodge, we spent weeks assembling a list of the most popular changes, and then just as long discussing their potential implementation.

Obviously, we couldn’t include everything—but we certainly addressed a lot, either in direct revisions, such as combining the aforementioned block and dodge values into a single compound roll, or making treasure card draws a row of cards to choose from.

We also found new ways to address your concerns, if you didn’t have immediate answers, but felt strongly enough to raise potential issues. 

Several of you were concerned that two-handed weapons weren’t competing well with single-handed weapons, which required us to test several different solutions. Eventually, we revised the amount of stamina that characters regenerated at the start of their turn.

Speaking of character turns, we also heard players felt they had too much downtime—in response we introduced additional movement during other players’ turns, not only providing extra decision points but allowing a greater capacity for teamwork too.

In other places, we introduced our own ideas, such as streamlining the rules for terrain elements, and making it more intuitive to see which nodes were adjacent to each other. All of these revisions were run by our friends in the community, to see how they responded. Some didn’t get any further than that, and ended up on the cutting room floor. But others found more fertile soil, and grew into solid changes that improve the experience.

Oh, and while we’re here, I also went through the rulebook to tidy up some of the language and make it tighter—as well as moving the section about pushes to a more logical place.

I could honestly go on and on, but I won’t, because I don’t want to spoil what’s coming over the next few weeks, or the excitement you’ll feel when opening the rulebook for the first time. But I can say without any fear of overstatement that the result of this collaboration is a game which feels more intimately DARK SOULS™ than ever before.

So, time to rise to your feet, shake off the ashes from the dying firelight, and…