Horizon Forbidden West

Machine Combat in Horizon Forbidden West: Seeds of Rebellion

Welcome back, Marshals!

Horizon Forbidden West: Seeds of Rebellion is hitting Kickstarter on November 21, 2023. You can follow the Kickstarter here to get notified on launch. In the meantime, we’re sharing sneak peeks into the making of the board game through this designer diary series.


To do my best YouTuber impression, I’m your host, Fraser McFetridge, Lead Designer for Seeds of Rebellion. If you missed the first diary introducing the brand new, canonical storyline we’ll be exploring in the game, you can find it here.

Now everyone’s up to speed, let’s talk about how machines are different in Seeds of Rebellion compared to Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game. Hint: Did someone say ‘Apex Machines’?

Fully Cooperative Gameplay

Once we’d established Seeds of Rebellion would be a story-driven game told through interactive scenes, explorable settlements, and player-led investigations, we had to figure out how combat would not only fit around that but also be improved by it.

After looking at various options, we decided the best plan would be to make combat — and the entire game, for that matter — fully cooperative. 

This is an evolution of the popular semi-co-op gameplay of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game, where players work together to take down machines but ultimately compete to earn glory within the Hunters Lodge. 

This means that, although Seeds of Rebellion is built on the Zero Dawn board game engine, there are some key changes when it comes to fighting machines. 

Ever Deadlier Machines

As you might expect, once we removed the semi-competitive element that comes with players having their own, glory-driven agenda, the new opportunities for gameplay became very interesting. 

Rather than furthering their own reputation, players will now be working together to bring down machines and coordinating to evade their attacks. 

Which, in turn, meant the machines needed a little recalibration to even the odds. 

This was a LOT of fun for us during the design phase. There are many, many ways we could make machines more dangerous, and we had a great time testing them out. 

For example, we’ve introduced new behaviour effects, like the Clawstrider’s ‘link’ ability:

Clawstrider & its Cloud Burst Card

With ‘link’, the Clawstrider will link its behaviours to immediately take another turn — without giving the Marshals a chance to act — which can get really messy, really fast!

But don’t reach for the panic button just yet. There are always ways to stop things getting out of hand…

Destroying Machine Components

When you fight a machine in the Horizon Forbidden West video game, they don’t go down in one shot. Or in one piece, for that matter. Part of the fun and skill of the game comes from discovering weak spots, crafting the right arrows, and using them to destroy the machine’s important components. 

We explored this to an extent in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game but are taking it further in Seeds of Rebellion. We’ve not only increased the number of components on the larger machines, but we’ve also made them more integral to their turn-to-turn behaviour. 

Clawstrider & its Acid Bomb LauncherFor instance, destroying Armoured Plating A not only reduces the Clawstrider’s protection, but exposes its Acid Bomb Launcher. This gives players the opportunity to do some serious damage and significantly weaken one or more of its behaviours.

This new, card-based component system brings a ton of new gameplay options to the table. 

With it, you can discover a machine’s weak point—or points—before taking it on. You can expose new components that alter a machine’s behaviour mid-fight. You can even overload an elemental component, turning the machine’s own weapons against them!

As you can see, this updated feature opens up a world of potential for unique and dynamic combat encounters and machine design. Imagine, for example, that you’d be given the objective of detaching a key component from a particular huge machine, long before you’d levelled up enough to take it on in a fight to the death... 

Machine Evolution: Enter the Apex

Last but not least, because Seeds of Rebellion will have a narrative campaign, this gave us the opportunity to introduce an aspect of the video game that we’re incredibly excited about: Apex Machines. 

In Horizon Forbidden West, when Aloy brings down enough machines of a certain type, she’ll start to encounter more dangerous Apex versions of that machine. And you’d better believe we’re bringing that into the board game.

Using component and behaviour systems, and our brand-new Machine Databank (more on this later!), each machine in Seeds of Rebellion—from the Tremortusk to the Burrower—will adapt and evolve throughout the campaign.

It’s not just bringing down machines, but HOW you bring them down, that will impact how they adapt, and how dangerous they will be when you next come face-to-face. Hunt wisely!


What’s Next?

We’ll be back with the next designer diary on characters next week, and we’ll be rolling out gameplay videos in the run-up to the Kickstarter.