We’re going to talk about two very important aspects of Steamwatchers: replayability and scenarios.
Replayability was thought out from the start as clans were already a bit asymmetrical. But that was not all! Marc’s original version came with scenario cards that were defining what happened every turn. Some turns were harsher, other were softer on the players. However this caused a side effect where you had to read all scenario cards before the game even began, and had a lot of rules to ingest. So we removed this part of the original game and re-integrated it as scenarios and as Archon cards. Scenarios are, of course, a big part of replayability. Archon cards, on the other hand, are power plays that you can take every now and then. Now, with one scenario, there are different ways to tackle it! Playing one clan or another is still a different experience as your special abilities change how you tackle the special rules and objectives. What’s more, where you deploy is also super important: the Southern deployment puts an emphasis on water, the eastern deployment is remote but also presents challenges because you cannot count on columns to keep appearing on your puny patch of land, the Northwest deployment is one of the most prone to combat, and the center one is smack into mountains, so, difficult to access, but also to maneuver around.
The combination of the clan you play, your chosen deployment and who your neighbors are makes each game of Steamwatchers unique. The game focuses on adaptability and nomadism, forcing players to imagine Europa as a land of fluctuating opportunity. You can’t have a bastion that serves as your base for the entire game. Well, you can, but you will miss out on some steam columns, and you need to seize victory at some point! You can never stay passive. Which title you choose changes the game as well: if you repeatedly choose Watcher, you have a lot of valuable information on the game state, but are not so wealthy in terms of resources. The Archon can make or break certain strategies, and the other titles ascertain your presence on the map and on the Conclave in their own way.
Game modes and expansions are all about adding replayability. Peace with Wolves aims to tailor the game for different player counts, increasing the power of diplomacy and encouraging table talk, while the Vassal clan mode allows you to control two clans at once, providing an opportunity for synergies.
The other two expansions, Fuel for War and Spark of Hope, are all about having even more synergies to find. In the dev team’s opinion, giving players the ability to choose things to add to their overall strategy was the best way of increasing replayability. The leader powers from Fuel For War enable powerful strategies or attacks, while the tech kits from Spark of Hope allow you to customize your caravan, and can make it either a tool for offense, defence, or economy. What’s more, those tech kits work with an economy of scarcity, you can’t catch them all!
To us, scenario design served three purposes: one, adding replay value so that the game feels different every time you play it, by introducing new mechanics, or new points of balance. Two, allowing different types of games, either shorter games in three rounds, or longer, or some where resources are scarcer, or where a lower player count would matter. Third, it allowed us to expand on the universe.
The teams at Mythic Games are really passionate about the game universes. We feel a good game world is adding value to any game by giving pleasant things to watch and feel. However, we knew what we didn’t want was a campaign mode: even if the scenarios follow a timeline and storyline, the game is played in individual bits, with no carry-over from game to game. The overall balance of the game was quite delicate to achieve and adding carry-over to an already asymmetrical game felt like kicking the hornet’s nest (and it would have prevented tackling the pillar of design we had with lower player counts/shorter games).
Finally, scenarios should add only a couple meaningful changes to the game: whether it is an alternate win condition, or another way of acquiring GEO, it had to make sense gameplay wise and story wise! It also had to be simple to understand; we don’t want you to feel you have to learn an entire new game every time!
We hope you liked this article about how every Steamwatchers game will be different!