Horizon Forbidden West

Narrative in Horizon Forbidden West: Seeds of Rebellion

Welcome, Marshals, to the first designer diary for Horizon Forbidden West: Seeds of Rebellion!

Coming to Kickstarter on November 21 this year, Seeds of Rebellion is a fully cooperative board game for 1-4 players set in the mysterious Forbidden West. You and your fellow Marshals have been appointed by Hekarro to investigate disturbing reports of Tenakth-on-Tenakth violence. Little do you know that a rebellion is taking root in the dark corners of this frontier. While you investigate, you must contend with the colossal machines that roam this deadly territory, hoping to weed out this insurgent activity before more unnecessary Tenakth blood is shed.

My name is Fraser McFetridge, lead designer of the board game. In this diary series, I’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at how we’ve translated Horizon Forbidden West into a tabletop experience.

For those who enjoy spoilers, I’ve already listed the topics we’ll be covering here. Otherwise, let’s jump right into something we’re truly excited about…

Narrative in Seeds of Rebellion

As some of you might know, storytelling was something we wanted to include in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game but couldn’t due to the game’s setting. Based on feedback, we know the community shared the same desire.

In Seeds of Rebellion, we’ve not only introduced a storyline, but we’ve pulled out all the stops to do it. We’re working closely with Guerrilla’s Narrative Team to deliver not just a story for the board game but a peek into events you’ve never seen before. 

This official story, within Horizon’s canon, takes place before Aloy arrives in the Forbidden West. But how did we establish the storyline?

Establishing the Storyline

As soon as Horizon Forbidden West was released, we started looking at ways to translate it into a board game. It’s always the instinct of a game designer to… well, design. But, in this case, we knew from talking to players that people loved the engine we’d created for Zero Dawn

So, we had a solid foundation to work with to create this next installment in the tabletop Horizon universe. Still, that didn’t mean there wasn’t space for something new. But what could that be? 

Usually, this kind of question would require a lot of back and forth before we arrived at an answer. But this time, we knew instantly: Storytelling. 

The world of Horizon is so rich, vibrant, and characterful, that it already had a grip on the avid roleplay and board gamers here at Steamforged. The video game does such a great job of creating an immersive world that we couldn’t help but wonder about the stories happening just out of view. 

Fast-forward to our arrival in Amsterdam to meet with Guerrilla’s Narrative Team, eager to state our case for creating an original narrative for the board game.

What followed was an incredible discussion of the possibilities we could explore in this new, machine-infested frontier. How about the impact of the Red Blight? The arrival of the Quen? How the Forbidden West was affected by the Battle of Alight? 

But, ultimately, there was one topic we kept coming back to: The early days of Regalla’s rebellion. 

Not only is there a fantastic tale to be told — although, we are utterly sworn to secrecy on the details for the moment! — but, due to the rebellion’s timeline, it offers a never-before-seen perspective on one of Horizon Forbidden West’s most compelling storylines. Through compelling new characters, players will get an insight into those who chose to leave their tribes to don the green and red of Regalla’s rebellion.

How it Plays

So, what does that mean for the board game itself?

Well, we’ve designed new narrative sections of gameplay that occur between combat encounters (more on those soon!). 

Think of these narrative sections as non-combat sections of a video game. In these scenes, you’ll have to make several important choices that will impact not only the combat encounters to come but your entire campaign. Sometimes, that’s a conversation, like in an interactive cutscene, where your choices determine what you will learn. Other times, you may explore a settlement with limited time, unearthing clues or items that will earn you an advantage in your next encounter.

On this journey, you’ll meet new and familiar characters, explore the Forbidden West, look into curious machine attacks, investigate intrigue, and take on quests to help the West’s tribes and clans. 

As you fulfill Chief Hekarro’s mission, every decision you make has the potential to cause lasting effects. Machines will adapt, Regalla’s rebellion will get stronger, and the Red Blight will continue to spread.

Which Tenakth heroes will you befriend? Which will you make an enemy of? 

Are you ready to uproot the seeds of rebellion?

What’s Next?

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

To hang out with us and talk Seeds of Rebellion, join our Discord