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Designer Diary: The Tense Tug-of-War of Worldbreakers: Advent of the Khanate

by Elli Amir

After my gaming buddy Chris and I finished the first playtest of Worldbreakers: Advent of the Khanate, he started his feedback by stating that I had managed to “take the best part of every game”.

This keen observation captured my design philosophy for Worldbreakers. Over the course of thirty years of gaming, I had the opportunity to play many card games. Each served as an ingredient, which I diligently collected. Just like a skilled chef meticulously assembling their signature dish, I synthesized these elements into my ideal game, resulting in Worldbreakers.

The Action Economy

In Worldbreakers, you get four turns every round. During each turn you take a single action, such as gaining mythium (the game’s currency), playing a card, developing a location, or attacking.

In many games, you reach a point when you run out of resources and have to pass your turn without impacting the board in a substantial way. With Worldbreakers, however, the interchangeability of actions, mythium, and cards means that you always have something to do.

The core design decision in Worldbreakers is that players alternate taking turns, which is orchestrated via the turn tracker:

After each of your moves, your opponent gets an opportunity to make their own. This snakelike structure leads to a sequencing puzzle that requires you to predict what your opponent will do so that you can time your key decisions accordingly. Downtime is minimal, and with every action each player is sprinting just slightly ahead of the other.

Let’s say that your first action of the game is playing a follower card:

Your opponent is already facing a tough decision. If they advance their economy, you could attack and gain one power, the victory points of the game — but will you attack? Attacking costs a turn, and you might want to build up your position before going on the offensive. Your opponent might feel that they can bide their time and focus on infrastructure…or perhaps they should worry about an incoming Raid card, which could throw a monkey wrench into their plans.

After each player finishes their four turns, the turn tracker flips:

The first player is now second and vice versa. If you played last in the previous round, you will go first this round, effectively getting two turns in a row. One way to take advantage of this dynamic is to play a follower on your last turn. You can start the new round by attacking since your opponent did not get a chance to mount their defense.

Locations

Worldbreakers is a race: The first player to reach 10 power wins. Attacking with followers is one way to gain power. However, there is an alluring alternative: locations.

Locations are cards with multiple stages. You first spend an action to play the location to your board, at which point you load up each stage with a counter. Then, you can use consecutive actions to develop its stages, removing the counters and triggering the stage effect. Each develop triggers one stage and costs one action (which takes your turn). For example, to gain the full benefit of “The Indigo Grotto” above, you will need to spend a whole round’s worth of actions: one to play the Grotto, then three more for each of the stages.

Locations highlight two of my central aspects of Worldbreakers:

• Building up toward victory: Your goal is to reach 10 power, as opposed to beating down your opponent like in many other card games.

• Getting power is dangerous: If your opponent successfully attacks, then they can damage a location, removing a stage counter without providing you with the effect. Timing is crucial, and you want to make your move when your opponent is most invested in their own plan. On the other hand, they might risk more followers than they feel comfortable with just to knock the counter off an especially juicy stage.

Locations win you the games in more ways than gaining power. Many of them provide you with resources:

With “Covert Exchange”, you sacrifice tempo for a substantial payoff. While it does not provide power directly, you can develop it for mythium and cards, the fuel for your deck’s engine.

Worldbreakers

Last but not least, let’s talk about the Worldbreakers themselves. Every deck has a Worldbreaker, an individual who can harness the mysterious substance mythium to magnify their natural talents.

Your Worldbreaker card is always on the board, and their ability is available from the beginning of the game. Similarly to the action economy, the Worldbreaker keeps the game flowing by giving players unique play decisions. Furthermore, they provide you with direction on how to play the game. With Khutulun as your Worldbreaker, for example, you want to attack often in order to take advantage of her recurring +1 strength bonus.

The Worldbreaker’s impact does not end with their ability, though. Each Worldbreaker also has three unique signature cards that come in their deck and are available only to them.

The signature cards follow the same design practice of offering strong play options and guidance on how to play the game. Two of Khutulun’s signature cards are followers with powerful attack payoffs, and the third “breaks” the rules of the game by letting you play a follower and attack on the same turn, effectively netting two actions for one.

Worldbreakers revolves around balancing resources and risk. You want to establish a strong board position before starting to gain power. However, your opponent is on the other side of the table, advancing their own agenda. The game is a tug of war: pick your battles, know when to push for power and when to interfere with your opponent’s plan, and perhaps you too will forever reshape history!

Elli Amir

Editor’s note: Amir released the self-published Worldbreakers: Advent of the Khanate in March 2023 and is running a Kickstarter campaign through June 21, 2023 to support a reprint of the base game and the game’s first expansion: The Indigo Sisterhood.

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