Update #57 :
" Overview | Huge Machines Series: Update 1
Steamforged Games LtdCreator
April 17, 2020
Welcome to the Huge Machine Series, Seekers!
We’ve already taken on Watchers, Striders, Sawtooths, and Bandits.
Now, it’s time for something a little…bigger.
In this series of updates, lead designer, Sherwin Matthews, will be shining a light on how we made the truly HUGE machines work on the tabletop.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Huge Machine Overview for Horizon Zero Dawn™: The Board Game
By Sherwin Matthews
There are plenty of reasons to love the world of Horizon Zero Dawn™, but huge machines are an iconic part of the videogame.
If you asked most Horizon Zero Dawn™ fans what first drew them in, I’m pretty sure one of the first things they’d mention would be massive machines like the Rockbreaker and Stormbird. Steve Margetson talked about his experience with the Rockbreaker in the first Enemy Series update. Speaking from my own experience, I know the first image that caught my eye was the mighty Thunderjaw, stomping around in search of Aloy during an early gameplay video. Straight away I knew this game would be something very special, even before I began to grasp its immense scale.
In truth, the idea of bringing these towering adversaries to the tabletop introduced some concerns. Encountering a huge machine in the videogame is a rite of passage for players. Whether your favourite memory is the first time you tracked down a Thunderjaw in the desert, or standing triumphant after a showdown with a Stormbird, it was doubtless a defining and cinematic moment in your playthrough…if not a (virtually) life-threatening one!
As you can imagine, then, it was tremendously exciting to recreate these incredible foes, but everyone knew we had quite the task on our hands. We wanted the huge machines to be the biggest and most imposing miniatures players might encounter—not only during Horizon Zero Dawn™: The Board Game, but on the tabletop in general!
So, how did we go about achieving that?
Huge machines present severe challenges to players of Horizon Zero Dawn™: The Board Game, difficult enough to be deadly for even the most experienced hunters. To make hunting them as accessible as possible, we’ve made it so they can be experienced in one of two ways.
Either way, the players shouldn’t take the decision to hunt a huge machine lightly—the Lodge doesn’t look kindly on failure!
The first way players can test themselves against a huge machine is by playing the dedicated tracking deck included in their expansion, which sets the machine as the hunting party’s quarry and culminates in a confrontation with this mighty foe.
Alternatively, the players can add a huge machine as an additional encounter after they’ve brought down their quarry from one of the other tracking decks. This would represent the hunters completing their quest but seeking to earn extra favour with the Hunters’ Lodge.
This system allows players the maximum amount of flexibility during games. They can encounter huge machine expansions alongside any other expansions, exploring different regions and testing any of the available hunters against them. Logically, they could even fight two huge machines back to back… but I wouldn’t recommend it!
But how about their rules?
When designing encounters for these massive adversaries, it quickly became apparent that our team needed to take an entirely different approach than we did for their less sizable brethren.
For starters, these are some seriously BIG models. Some of the largest we’ve ever made, in fact. To give you an idea, the base for the Thunderjaw spans four standard 80mm x 80mm squares on a game tile, and the head and tail extend even beyond that! Understandably, this sheer size has necessitated each machine coming with their own dedicated game board. This allows us to not only ensure our players experience an immersive battle in set surroundings, but also that these enemies can have unique patrol routes and plenty of space.
Next up, we needed to look at the structure of the actual encounters.
Encountering Huge Machines
Most encounters in Horizon Zero Dawn™: The Board Game feature multiple machines for players to stalk, and allow plenty of different options to earn glory on the hunt. During these scenarios, hunters can break different components or bring down machines to further their claim as the best hunter of the group, and we’ve made sure there are more than enough machines around to keep this competition healthy.
That said, I really didn’t want it to feel as though the huge machines were competing with other foes. These towering creatures are rightly the centrepiece of any encounter and, thematically, they had to be the centre of the action. They also needed to feel significantly tougher than anything else the players would encounter, keeping them in line with the source material.
The immediate answer was to increase the health for each huge machine, although doing so wasn’t without its problems.
In our initial designs we kept the mechanics the same as other machines; therefore, once all of a machine’s components were broken, the only way to gain glory points would be to deal the final blow. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been an issue, because there would be plenty of other enemies on the board for players to gain glory from. However, playtesting for huge machines taught us that when players faced a single enemy with a lot of health, they played extremely conservatively, inflicting small amounts of damage until they felt like the kill was within their grasp.
This reserved playstyle really went against the experience we were trying to create—these encounters needed to be exciting and frantic, with hunters trying to deal as much damage as possible, and as quickly as possible. In some groups, given the immense damage one of these adversaries can inflict, the build even created a strange standoff amongst players, where each fled to the corners of the board, daring each other to make the first move.
After much discussion, many different approaches, and a lot of testing, our team arrived at a solution: structure thresholds.
Structure thresholds are static levels in a huge machine’s health track. Whenever an attack inflicts enough damage to force a huge machine below one of these levels, the attacker gains a glory point, simulating them breaking off a chunk of the machine’s armour. If a hunter manages a particularly devastating attack, they can earn multiple glory points, incentivising them to hit the enemy as hard as possible.
Overall, structure thresholds encourage the players to keep attacking and going all out, whilst also keeping significantly more hull points for each machine. Between structure thresholds, multiple components, and the additional glory for dealing the killing blow, these encounters became nail-bitingly exciting, and definitely worthy of the magnificent machine battles they’re based on!
Another big advantage of the huge machines is that they gave us the freedom to explore more involved behaviours and concepts—the kind that would be too complex for regular encounters with multiple enemies. This exploration manifested in the form of additional special rules, increased components, unique behaviour decks with new actions, and even multiple behaviour decks to simulate the different states of enemies.
Rockbreaker, I’m looking at you!
I’ve kept you long enough already, and will end this update here, but don’t worry. The nice folks in our marketing team will let me back soon, so I can dive into some of the above ideas in more detail—such as the specifics for each huge machine, and what makes them feel different to the other enemies players will encounter.
Where to start…well, everyone loves the Thunderjaw, right?
What Do You Think, Seekers?
Shall we invite Sherwin back for another update?
Just kidding—he’ll be joining us for the next awesome installment in the Huge Machine Series, and in the comments as usual.
In the meantime, we want to know:
What went down the first time you faced the Thunderjaw?
Let us know in the comments."