We started our Video to Tabletop series last year, looking at how some franchises transition from video games to the tabletop. In this article, we’re going to look at Wolfenstein the Board Game by Archon studio, which is based on the Wolfenstein video game franchise. We’ll look at what the product is and also talk to Michal Hartlinski the Projet Manager at Archon Studio about how they handled bringing the FPS feel to the tabletop.
In our Video to Tabletop articles, we look into the development process of making a video game into a tabletop game. We’ll talk about why more and more IPs are moving into the tabletop genre. We’ll look at video game IP tabletop games and talk to development teams about the difficulties of bringing a video game to life on the tabletop.
You can buy all the Board Game Products from our Tabletop Sponsor, Firestorm Games.
Wolfenstein the Board Game
Wolfenstein the Board Game is a scenario-driven miniatures game. Players take control of their chosen heroes and make their way through maps laid out by the Mission Book. The enemy forces are controlled by a series of AI conditions, which gives them a target priority order. They'll move towards the closest hero they can see until they're in range of their weapons when they'll engage. If they can't see a hero, they'll move towards the noise to investigate.
Noise is an important part of Wolfenstein the Board Game, and once the shooting starts, enemies will start to respond. Noise is generated after an attack, in the map tile the attack comes from, and if the target is in a different map tile, there too. Noise is also generated in any map tiles with a hero and any other miniature. Heroes can use equipment and abilities to avoid enemy attacks, like the German Soldier's Uniform.
There is also a hazard tracker, that increases as the result of event cards, or when enemies are killed, when the hazard level reaches a number indicated by the scenario, more enemies start to spawn. Using melee weapons and silenced ranged weapons doesn't increase the hazard level, so choosing attacks and targets is important.
In the core game, players can select from 6 famous heroes to use 4 of each mission. The heroes are B.J. Blazkowicz, Max Hass, Set Roth, Klaus Kreutz, Bombate, and Anya Oliwa. The successful Kickstarter unlocked a load of other heroes in expansion packs from a range of Wolfenstein video games like The Old Blood and Youngblood.
Wolfenstein the Board Games comes with 55 miniatures, including the 6 heroes, and a whole range of enemies including Soldats, Space Marines, Drones, Officers, Supersoldats, Ubersoldats, Rocket Troopers, Fire Troopers, Panzerhunds, and 4 bosses like Von Grim and Mecha-Hitler.
The rules mechanics are straight-forward, using custom dice with 4 different results. Blanks do nothing, the reload symbol requires you to spend action points to continue using the weapon after the shot, an Armor Hit reduces the target's armor, or health if they have no armor and a HP hit goes straight through armor. Each unit gets a number of action points detailed on their character card which can be used to move, open doors, and attack. Moving and opening doors uses 1 AP, and attacks carry depending on the weapon being used.
There are some great nods to the video games, Bleeding Out and Shared Life for example and the miniatures sculpts and artwork throughout is extremely in-keeping with the theme.
The copy we got to playtest was a prototype copy, so it may not be reflective of the final retail version when it hits stores. We did get sets of both pre-made miniatures, and hard-plastic on sprues that require putting together. There is a clear sharpness of detail with the hard-plastic miniatures over the pre-made, but your choice will depend on how fast you want to get it to the table. The pre-made miniatures still look great and if your focus is just getting the game to the tabletop, they do the perfect job.
Wolfenstein the Board Game Developer Interview
We spoke to Michal Hartlinski the Project Manager of Wolfenstein the Board Game about the development process and difficulties in bringing a video game to the tabletop.
TechRaptor: Talk us through the design process for Wolfenstein the Board Game. Where did the idea come from? Was it a Wolfenstein IP first, with scope for different tabletop products, or was it always a board game?
Michał Hartliński: We wanted to create a board game from day 1. The idea came from our childhoods with Wolfenstein3d and then both Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory were released. All of those titles were very popular in Poland, I guess it’s because it's our history as well.
TR: In the design brief, what were the most important elements to get across?
MH: Write a story that will fit perfectly in a recent storyline. We went with side missions during a New Order events.
TR: What were some of the must-haves for mechanics?
MH: Guns. Lots of guns and ways to use them. Another one was the Action Points-based mechanic. And armor system straight from Wolfesntein3D.
TR: Were there many changes from brief to production in terms of game mechanics?
MH: Tons. We started with one single map before we decided to go with tiles. We had a system of 2 actions (movement and attack/special) before we turned it into action points. We had an event in every tile triggered upon entering rooms, instead of Extra Mission Tokens.
TR: What was the biggest change during development?
MH: Actions turned into Action Points.
TR: Were there any difficulties during development and production?
MH: Not really. We had plenty of time to write rules, test them, and adjust. We had all the time in the world to rapid prototype all the miniatures as well.
TR: How was the Kickstarter process for you?
MH: It was tricky at a few points. Mostly due to the nature of Wolfenstein itself, it’s Nazism in general. This means you need to be very careful in for example Facebook advertising. Or in any PR activities. Another issue was the inability to deliver products to Germany and Austria as it’s illegal there to sell toys (board games are classified as toys there) with Nazi references. The German community was very unhappy because of that.
TR: How difficult was it to capture the feel of Wolfenstein on the tabletop? Movement in a tiled board game isn’t unlike the original Wolfenstein, but how did you want to capture the feel of the recent games?
MH: One of the strongest points of the new Wolfenstein video games is the weapon system. You can customize them in many ways. We have decided to build-in all of those upgrades at the start, but force players to collect tokens in order to activate them. Also, we have implemented an alarm system and a special unit type, the officer. As well we have put additional effort into providing stealth style gameplay.
TR: You've got a mixed audience with tabletop fans and Wolfenstein fans. Was there difficulty in balancing it for both audiences?
MH: Yes, a lot. We did include plenty of nods to classic Wolfenstein, starting from Hitler as the main enemy, through all kinds of little easter eggs in the event and items, and finally, adding a few classic Wolfenstein3D bosses. Who were just a bunch of pixels, until now.
TR: How was it working with Bethesda for this project? How much involvement did they have in terms of development?
MH: Bethesda is pure gold. Everything went smoothly, if something needed to be adjusted, we have received detailed and quick responses.
TR: Tabletop games are a hugely growing and developing industry. What does Wolfenstein the Board Game bring to the genre?
MH: We are bringing hard plastic miniatures and plastic terrain (Wolfenstein 3D Terrain Kit).
TR: What’s the future for Wolfenstein the Board Game beyond the Kickstarter
MH: Total invasion of Western Civilization’s retail market!
TR: Which is your favorite Wolfenstein the Board Game hero and enemy?
MH: Anya Oliwa, she is the only 100% Polish character. As for enemies, the Super Soldat. I’m in love with them since Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
TR: Had you played Wolfenstein before development and did you play a lot during development? Which is your favorite Wolfenstein game?
MH: I have played it a lot, we do that in the office quite often. As for my favorite game, most definitely New Order.
TR: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.
The copy of Wolfenstein the Board Game used for this article was provided by Archon Studio.