Category: Board Games

The Chance of a Lifetime

Image result for might and magic duel of champions

The Chance of a Lifetime


I saw a video about the Rise and Fall of Prince of Persia on twitter the other day and it brought back a ton of memories of my early career as a Level Designer. Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands Wii was my first “real and big” project as a Level Designer. It will always have a special place in my heart and my memory.

But let’s not talk about Prince of Persia here.

Not a lot of people in the industry can say that they had the unique chance of creating their own game working at a AAA Studio.

I can.

Might and Magic Duel of Champion (RIP) is the game I was able to create, from scratch at Ubisoft and I want to talk about it. Because nostalgia.

How it happened?

The funny thing is, I’m not exactly sure I remember exactly. I was in some sort of limbo between Assassin’s Creed 3 and other things I think and we were looking to do other things at the studio. It was known by pretty much everyone that I was a lover of Might & Magic and there was some sort of opportunity with the franchise as I recall.

At that time, Black Hole Entertainment were working on Might & Magic Heroes 6. There was some sort of will to port the game on the WiiU but with a twist. At least, that’s what some people were asked for.

André, a producer came to me and a few others one day and ask if we were interested to work on this potential game. I was already sick to death about working on Assassin’s Creed and on top of that, as a Strategy Game lover I accepted in a blink of an eye.

We threw a bunch of ideas on how we could port the game with a twist but one thing we were always going back too is how we could use the RFID reader on the console. We wanted to have some sort of plastic card that you would scan and it would give you units in the game.

Then at some point we wanted to add a card game in Heroes 6.

At that moment, the studio Executive Producer came to me and another guy, a really senior programmer and asked us both if we wanted to ditch the port and just work on a card game. I was playing Magic the Gathering a TON back then and so was the other guy.

“Jeff, you have the chance to create a whole fucking card game from scratch”, I told myself that day.

How I’ve done it

So yeah, I had to create a card game in the world of Might & Magic.

I learned quickly that almost everything is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast in term of card game. That part was a real pain in the ass!

The goal was to make something unique.

I remember trying every single thing that existed in the franchise and one game stuck.

Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

Image result for might and magic clash of heroes

I really loved the unit placement mechanic in the game. This ended up the major thing in Duel of Champion card placement on the field. We first tried with 3-4-5 rows but ended with 4. Three was too small and five too big. For once in my life, 3 was not the magic number!

As a Heroes of Might & Magic 3 absolute fan, I also wanted to have that feeling in the game, somehow, we tried different things. There are a quite a bunch of different resources you can have in the game but that was way too much for a card game. Eventually the whole buying of card that we had at first got replace by some Leveling Up mechanic. In the ended we scrapped all I wanted to do with the buildings, it didn’t worked out. (Not until way later in the live service.)

We created event cards instead. Something each player would bring with their deck that would influence the game and create more variety. These cards would be buffs or debuffs for both players. It created a really interesting dynamic.

It was also important to have the Heroes feeling in the game. When creating the deck, the player had to select one Hero card. This was also selecting the faction (obviously).

I then added all kind of cards like creatures and spells.

Image result for might and magic duel of champions

The interesting thing here is that, we had no tech but, who needs tech for a card game?

I had all the cards in a big Excel file. All with placeholder image, names, stats, effects and so on.

I gave a “value” to everything. All stats, effects, type and so on had a certain value and then I wanted every rarity of cards to be at a certain value from Common to Legendary cards. With this I created a first draft of balancing. If I was creating a creature card with big number for attack, that card probably had almost no defense for example or the price of the card would be super high. The price of the card was a negative value I was subtracting from the total pool of power points related to a card. It was far from being perfectly balanced but that was a good start!

Physical Prototype

That was so fun.

All of the ~250 cards I created for the first pack of the game were printed on paper and then added in a sleeve along a Magic the Gathering card!

Then we played.

And played again.

Removed cards, replacing cards creating cards and so forth.

Then at some point. We had a conference call with Ubisoft World, Design Director. That thing was stressful. I had to show an ugly card game prototype to a guy in France via Skype!

It went so well. We went into production.

Straight from the start I asked my producer to bring QA people who had knowledge about card games as quick as possible. They played the game 8 hours a day with printed cards on paper.

Then we played again and again.

During that time, more people joined the team, mostly artists, FX artists and especially Concept Artists. They were so excited. Everyone of them at the studio wanted to work on the game. For once, their work would be seen and even used as gameplay!

Every Friday, nobody would work on the game. Everybody in the team were playing the game. Trying new strategy and new decks.

The dream I tell you!

Then I moved On

Yeah. You know. I’m a Level Designer after all.

Just before we went into close beta with the game, I left the project in the end of the team and continues my career as a Level Designer. The game mechanics were all set. The team just had to add more cards and more variety and tastes to each factions. Also add new factions!

It was kind of sad for me but I didn’t wanted to move my career as a Game Designer. It’s not interesting for me at all.

So I went back on Assassin’s Creed after a couple of months of literal pure awesomeness.


Even to this day, I have a hard time to believe that I had this chance. Knowing the right people and being known by many helped for sure. I would do that again in a heart beat for a small project like that without a doubt.

Even though the game died (thanks Heartstone!), I’m still really happy about the product that tiny team was able to ship to the world. It was a pretty hardcore card game but it was liked by many and, that was enough for me.

I have a life goal of releasing a board game or a card game. Funny thing, to some extent, I have already done it.


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– Premise –

PAX East 2016 was the first time I was able to go to a game convention as a exhibitor and that was also the first time I was going to a game convention at all.

I must say that this was some really awesome and exhausting experience. Probably the most exhausting weekend I had in my life by far. It took me a few days to get back from that (mostly because I got sick but still).

So, why not write a blog about the experience I got and, once again, the pleasure I had to interact with Larian community.

– I’ve Never Talked that Much –

Seriously, I think that my throat is still not back at its full potential. This is just crazy the amount of talking I’ve done in these three days, saying the same thing over and over again.

We were presenting the brand new combat system we’ve made for Divinity Original Sin 2 or, well, the improvement we’ve made from the 1st game. That was still a lot of stuff to explain to people. Half (random statement) of the people hadn’t played the 1st one yet.

People had 15 minutes to try the game. That was pretty short but we had SO MANY people at our booth all day that it was the maximum that we could give. So I had to explain the whole combat system and the improvements we’ve made in like, 3-4 minutes to make sure the people who waited for like, one hour, had still 10ish minutes to play and that they knew what to do.

My speech was so tweaked by the end of the 2nd day, it was crazy. My mouth just became a machine expulsing words in a perfect way to make everyone understand in the least amount of time. On the 3rd day though, I was starting every one of my speech apologizing to people that my voice was complete crap. People laughed every single time, at least. Talking during 8-9 hours every day, three days in a row, is something.

Game conventions like this are a serious throat killing experience.

I talk a lot in general. I’m like that. My friends know about this. But I seriously never talked that much in a short period of time. When I was not explaining the game to people I was still talking to fans about DoS2 in general or with my colleagues.

I came home on Monday and took off on Tuesday. I haven’t said a single word during that day. It felt really great.

Seriously. Even for me.

– The People –

Wow, SO, MANY, people. And I’ve heard that PAX East is “small” compared to PAX Prime. I’m having a hard time thinking about how crazy Prime is about. I mean, at Larian, we are obviously not Blizzard or Wargamming or whatever other companies who attracts thousands of people. But still, the booth was full ALL the time.

Gates were opening at 10:00am and 5 minutes after, the booth was full and the line was already starting to be filled with people.

Amazing people.

Every single person who came to our booth really wanted to play the game and were amazed by what they saw. Even if that was just a small PvP demo to showcase the combat system.

On the 2nd day, I started to recognize people. I had at least a dozen of them coming back a 2nd time end even a 3rd time to play the game! They liked it so much that they were happy to wait like another hour during their day to replay that small demo for 15 minutes. For me it was just amazing. Amazing to see the support we have from our fans.

Even if we had a few hiccups, like game crashing for example, people were still having a lot of fun and they were all really comprehensive.

We had some pretty well known people coming also, Brittney Bombacher, AngryJoe, Jesse Cox, Bikeman, Tom Marks (from PC Gamer) and so on. I’ve also heard (and I was really sad because I missed him) that Total Biscuit came to our booth. He was really undercover though. It was really cool to see all these awesome people stopping by to play the game with Swen (Larian CEO).

I also had the best bro hug from Bikeman.

And I got a lot of other bro hugs from fans.

Good times.

– Lady Killer –

Lady Killer is a small transmedia/marketing/management/production group of awesome and beautiful geek women. They were working with us at the booth, helping us doing a lot of stuff, managing the cosplayers and ensuring that everything was going smoothly for us.

They are seriously killing it.

I had SO MUCH fun working with them and hanging out after each night.

Super professional and on point on everything.

I seriously wish two things now:

That I’ll be able to go to another game convention and that I’ll be able to work with Lady Killer crew again.

Seriously, go follow them @LadyKillerRocks

– Ain’t Nobody Got Time for This –

Yeah, the sad note for me at PAX was that, well, I was not there “to have fun”. I was there to work. Which is an awesome thing (if you don’t think about that fact that I haven’t had any weekend!). On the other hand, I would have really liked to be able to try some of the games there.

There was this one big Monster Hunter booth that I was just going crazy about. Was not able to play.

There was also that HUGE part of the convention only dedicated to board games. I was like, OMGOMGOMGOMG. But yeah, was barely able to speak to a guy from Cool Mini or Not on Saturday morning and that was it.

You basically just don’t have time to go around. If you have time, I would say that you are not doing your job OR because you’re over staffed for the event.

Our goal was to meet with the fan and talk to them about the game. Since the booth was always full, well, I was always having something to do!

But still, wouldn’t have been sad to have time to get around stuff, hehe.

– Ending Notes –

All in all, like I said above, it was THE most exhausting week end of my life but I had a serious blast there. I thanked Swen a few times for allowing me to be there. I know that I’ve made a good job there at least.

I will never get enough of Larian fans telling us how much they love what we’re doing.

So, like I said, I really hope that I’ll be able to go to other game conventions like this. Even if I’m sure that I’ll die younger because of that! haha.

But yeah, the expectations are starting to get pretty big. We’ll need to ship that big of a game at some point right?

Board Games Review #1

– Jeff’s Board Games – Eclipse –

– Premise –

One of my friend gave me the idea to blog about board games after a discussion we had together. I don’t have any idea about the format I’ll use for that since all my blogs are wrote on the fly but I know one thing though. I’ll write about the board games I have in my small collection. I’ve around 55.

For my first blog I’ll will write about the best game I’ve ever played, Eclipse – New Dawn for The Galaxy.

The design of this game, the mechanics and how everything interact with everything else is so perfect that this game is easily on the top spot for me. I’m a hardcore player though. So it may not fit to everyone. If your kind of game is Blokus or Bang, it may not be for you though.

TL;DR at the end with PROs/CONs

Let’s do this.

– Game Details –

Designer: Touko Tahkokallio
Number of Players: 2-6
Playing Time: ~30 minutes/players
Age: 12+

Theme: Science fiction
Type: Strategy
Win Condition: Be the one with the most victory points
Board: Hexes
Difficulty: Medium/Hard

– The Basics –

After the initial setup, each player choose a color/race and everything related to it, ships, race board, tokens, etc.

Then, turn by turn, each players decide what to do with their own colony.

They can:

– Explore another spot in the galaxy;
– Influence a planet to “own” it;
– Research new technologies;
– Upgrade their ships;
– Build ships or structures;
– Move ships for hexes to hexes (this is also used to attack)

The more the player do actions, the more resources it will cost. Obviously, the more you do, the more the colony will need.

After the player thinks he has done enough on a turn, he then decides to pass and the next player starts his turn.

The game always end after 9 rounds. Which is great. No never ending games.

After the set of 9 rounds, the player who has the most victory points (VP) win the game.

– The Kick –

The basics sounds really like any other games right? Pretty much. But I’ll explain some mechanics in details here to give a bigger picture.

Let’s start with the bread of the game, the hexes.

They look like this:

– The Worm Holes –

On the outer part of each hexes, there are worm holes (the white half circles). When you explore and draw a hex, you need to place at least one worm hole connected to another worm hole of another hex on the table. This is needed for traveling. Placing how the hexes connect with each other is a great part of the strategy to decide who will be able to navigate where. You can close the access to your galaxy with another player or open it so you can access that player planets!

– Planets –

All planets give you resources if you populate them. Each planet has a resource color that matches the one on the race board (see below) for you to exploit.

Also, each hex gives a number of victory point if the player control that area at the end of the game. The more area you conquer and keep, the more VP you’ll have at the end of the game.

Hexes can also have enemy neutral ships that you need to defeat in order to get access to that area and secret tiles containing ancient technologies (pretty powerful) or even lots of resources. You can also decide to use these tiles as VP at the end of the game. Yay for other way of gaining VP than combats!

Now let’s go with the race board.

This is how it looks in game:

This looks intimidating at first but this is pretty straight forward in fact. There are just a lot of place to put stuff that you buy and build. Also, all your resources are placed there.

– The Fleet –
The top part is your fleet. You have 4 types of ships.

– Small interceptors;
– Cruiser;
– Mighty Dreadnoughts;
– Planetary Defences

They are fully customisable! You can choose to have super high hull defence ships to tank in battle, choose to have Dreadnoughts with mega cannons that destroys everything or even have suicidal interceptors with missile launchers that they can only use on turn one of combats.

You can also build orbital stations to help you gather more resources and Monoliths that gives lots of VP for a big amount of resources at the end of the game. But beware, if you build one on a planet and another player conquer that planet and own it at the end of the game, that player will gain the VP! This is an option to gain VP without fighting. High risk, high reward.

Full customisation is really awesome. Every game you can try different strategies.

– The Tech –
The center part is the technology section. This is where you put the technology you research. This can go from better guns to better resources gathering from your planets.

There is three different sort of technology

– Military;
– Grid;
– Nano

They are all focused on something like weaponry, ship upgrades, resource gathering and such.

The cool thing is that the more of the same technology you have, the more VP you get. This is another option to get VP without attacking other players.

– The Colony –

This part is where you manage the resources of your colony and your colony itself.

There is 3 resources in this game

– Orange is Money;
– Pink is Science;
– Brown is Materials

It costs money to be able to feed and use your colony. The more you use it, the more it cost money as said above.

You need to spend Science in order to research Technology.

You need to spend Materials in order to build.

As you can see the cubes (blue) in the image above, the more cubes you remove from the race board and put on the hexes, the more resources it generates each turn. Numbers are going up.

The other part is the action sections and the cylinders are there for that. As I said, the more you ask your colony each turn the more it costs. You can see the number going down from 0 to -30. This is what it’ll cost the player at the end of a turn. At least, you get them back from the action part every turn. But beware, the more planets you own, the more it also cost (obviously) since you need to put a cylinder on each hex you own. The bigger your colony, the bigger the cost!

– Resources Tracking and Combat VP –

All the way around from right  to bottom, there is a counter. This is where you put your resources counter so you can keep track of each of them.

After a combat, you get 1 or more VP token. On them there’s a number. You need to put that token on the left of the resources section face down so other players don’t see it. The more you destroy in a fight the more you will pick from the bag so the better your chance to have a big number on it. You can only take 1 per fight.

This is an Eclipse board after a few turns. Beautiful isn’t it?

–  SO? –

All in all, I like everything (almost) about this game.

It’s not that complicated to understand if you already have played real board games before. The setup time for that game is pretty short also, which is cool. Games pieces are great and easy to spot when you play.

But what I really like is all the resources spending in the game all linked to each other and the fact that there are a few different path you can take to acquire VP and win the game. Also, the ship customisation is really great. After a few games, you can also choose to play alien races instead of the humans to have another way of playing. All races have different starting tech and powers.

On a personal side, I hate luck. For me the best games are luckless, 100% strategy, where, if you win, it’s because you are better that the other, nothing else. This game though, as some part of luck. The combats are made with dices. The hexes you draw when you explore are random so are the VP tokens you get after combats. But, you can manipulate luck on some. The more you kill stuff in a fight, the more token you can draw so better chances to get a big number for example. You can also customize your fleet to hit more easily (lower dice number needed).

To any strategy board game fans, if you haven’t played this game, you need to.

Jeff’s rating of Eclipse, 9/10


– Great game mechanics
– Fleet customization
– Lots of way to win
– Cool theme
– Different races

– Lots of choices
– Pretty hardcore
– Takes a lot of place (need a big table)
– Games can be long even if it’s always 9 rounds