Hello, trailblazers of the unknown!
In today’s update we talk about Heralds. Heralds are recognizable by the large mass of coralbone mass that shapes their shadow substance in unique forms. Some heralds have absorbed human qualities, others have merged with Earth machinery.
Unlike base shadows, Heralds are enemies who are not moved by pure instinct: they reason according to precise plans, obey orders, and are able to control base shadows.
During the creation of Heralds, we focused on creating monsters that were not just “random encounters”, but have characteristics in theme with the game world we wanted to create. Throughout the story, players will discover what Heralds really are, why they are made that way, and their genesis.
In the SHEOL core box there are 4 Heralds (plus those unlocked as stretch goals), each with unique characteristics represented on its specific board. The Hunter is fast and focuses on characters to kill them; the Awakener controls shadows and manipulates singularity points; the Whisperer is able to attract scouts out of the lightstream, while the Marauder can fly past characters to destroy the lightpaths near the Citadel.
Each Herald has different characteristics: life (that scales with characters’ number), movement, number of actions, shield and damage. In addition, each Herald has a different critical ability or has passive effects that can affect players and shadows. But, even more important, Heralds also have a unique AI, a brightness indicator, and a berserk phase. Let’s see how they work in more detail.
The unique AI of each Herald is detailed on its Herald card. The AI defines the Herald’s behavior: how it moves, which targets it attacks, and special actions it has available.
For example, the Hunter likes to pursue your characters: its AI says to target the character with more lux and attack him. If the scout loses lux, the Hunter’s favorite target changes. The Awakener, on the other hand, has a powerful influence on the other shadows. Its AI makes him advance toward the nearest spawn point, and once it is there, it will double the number of shadows generated by that point.
This movement towards a specific target or a specific goal, together with the gravitational mechanics of basic shadows, creates very different behavior patterns for enemies from a game to another, especially because the initial positions of the enemies are also randomly generated. The AI also changes during the berserk phase, as we will see shortly.
As we saw in the last update, basic shadows have two different statuses (called “brightness”): not revealed (when they show up as “blips”) and revealed (when they are shown for what they are). Heralds, on the other hand, enter the field directly with their own miniature or standee, and have 3 levels of brightness: not revealed, partially revealed, revealed. The lighting is managed by a special token which is placed on the Herald board.
These levels influence your attack die: if the Herald is not revealed, you get 2 out 6 successful results; 4 out of 6 if it is partially revealed; 6 out 6 if it is completely revealed. When a herald is illuminated, its brightness is maximum, but every time it is injured, the brightness drops one level, making it more difficult to hit it the next turn. Players will have to decide their strategy: will you focus on lighting or on pure damage?
Heralds have at their disposal a further phase (represented by a different artwork on the opposite side of their dashboard) which radically changes their characteristics: the berserk phase. The Herald enters the berserk phase when it suffers enough damage. In this condition, everything changes: its life total, its shield, its movement, its damage, but above all, its AI.
For example, the Hunter, when berserk, will no longer target the player with the most lux, but the one who sent it in the berserk status. The Awakener will cease its movement and the target of its influence will become the basic shadows, rather than spawn points. During the berserk phase, fighting a Herald becomes particularly challenging!
Combat in Sheol
NNow that have a better understanding of the behavior of basic shadows and heralds, it’s time to talk a little more in detail about SHEOL combat and how we designed and developed this important part of the game.
Combat is often one of the main game systems, in every game where players face an opposition, and they want that opposition gone for good! SHEOL doesn’t wander far from this category, as players need to defend the Citadel from endless hordes of shadows, trying to overcome the last stronghold of humanity. Since the early stage of design, one of our main questions was to find the right level of complexity for our combat system.
First, we tried a “heavy” combat system, with lot of modifiers, a “to hit” roll and a damage roll. We expected players to love fiddling with numbers and trying to min-max every attack… but it ended badly. Due to the sheer number of enemies on the board at a specific time, trying to overcome players’ defenses, every attack against them was too time-consuming and not efficient enough in the overall scope of the game; besides, sometimes the randomness of the dice yielded results too widely differentiated and hard to control: the results were too random for our taste. We soon discovered that this type of combat system works well with a lower number of enemies than we had, and the system was discarded.
We still wanted tactical decisions and min-maxing, because we, at the core, are players and we are extremely satisfied when our characters hit with a perfectly timed and placed combo! We wanted players to focus their choices on the “when” and “where”.
So, we decided to move most of the aspects of tactical placement and efficiency onto the cards.
Cards give the perfect balance between randomness and tactical decision: every turn you have your hand of cards, and a wide array of moves to choose from. Maybe you have a bombardment to wipe out enemies from a large area of the board, and in a particular difficult turn this can be a life saver; or maybe you need to wait for enemies to group up in order to maximize the effect of your weapon. Or you have modifiers for a single high-damage attack to bring down a dangerous Herald, but you need to expose yourself to other lesser but still dangerous enemies in order to land the attack.
The die is still here as a reminder that nothing is certain and the shadows are “sneaky”: without proper exposure, enemies are still prone to be missed, and sometimes you need to really choose between using an action to BE sure to hit at least a shadow, or going with the flow and hit more enemies, risking a miss.
With this system, we had found that sweet spot we were looking for: a combat system where players are in control of tactics, and it’s their decision what they want to risk with an attack and how much: they have all the information, and only when they roll the die, they seal the deal and the outcomes are out in the open.
Summarizing: in SHEOL, combat is based on tactical positioning according to the weapon and lantern patterns; on the evaluation of the revelation levels; and on the choice of the modifiers of the attack by lightshield cards (or accessories). The throw of the dice is only the last modifier to define the final outcome.
Let’s conclude with an example: the Breathless is near a Herald and want to attack it. She can:
- illuminate before the attack to increase her chances, or
- use some of her cards to maximize and change the damage, or
- move and get a better position according to the pattern of her weapons, that are long ranged, or
- use the ability of an accessory that could change the pattern / damage / dice of her weapon, or
- use an item of the shop to modify her attack, or
- use an ability of a district.
- The throw of the die is only the final step of your decision making process.
How do Shadows attack?
You now know how characters fight shadows. How do fight shadows against them? Shadows’ attacks are determined by simple patterns (adjacent boxes for basic shadows and heralds), or more complex ones in the case of the Outer Lords (more about them in the next update). Even for shadows we decided to design a fast attack system, based on a single die roll. Shadows normally hit 5 out of 6 times, but in this case it is the lanterns of the scouts can act as a shield and lower this probability to 4 or 3 out of 6. Clearly, however, these lanterns are less powerful from the point of view of the revelation of the shadows or the construction of the lightstream. Players have to decide whether to bet on defense, or on construction, or lighting.
Shadows also have specific critical hits that can inflict permanent damage to players. For example, the Moth adds a wound card into the player’s lightshield deck (when you draw this card you lose a lux point), which can only be removed during the development phase in the Citadel.
Fighting for a purpose
Fighting in SHEOL is never without purpose or reward. Destroying revealed basic shadows rewards with umbra, while destroying Heralds gives precious prosperity points to the Citadel. Players will have to decide whether to flee, or risk and gain additional prosperity points for the Citadel by killing an Heralds without forgetting to defend it from the hordes of basic shadows.
Whatever the strategy of the players, Heralds will prove to be a formidable enemy, and you must learn how to fight them, their strengths and weaknesses.
Contest winner: The Half-light
Yes, we have a winner and it’s the Half-light! It was a tough fight!
Half-light: Facebook votes 45, BGG votes 65. TOTAL: 110
Gemini: Facebook votes 50, BGG votes 35. TOTAL: 85
This character will be included in the core version of Sheol. In the future updatates we will show you the miniature sculpt!
Thanks to all of you who participated in the competition!
Daily goal unlocked:
Yesterday we saw the menace cards and how they work. Today we add 2 more cards to the menace deck!
We all know that you want the mindblower inside sheol. And now you have the possibility to unlock it. To do that this time you have to work togheter to share the related facebook post pinned on our page. Also, we have to reach 300 subscribers to our newsletter!
Thank you so much, explorers of the night! Stay with us for the next updates.
Preserve the light!