Tabletop Stuff: Armello Looks Spellbinding

It’s testament to Armello that as someone with very little experience of board games, upon seeing it running I was immediately entranced. The tabletop-inspired PC game is a vividly alive and remarkably gorgeous turn-based hexxy strategy, that would normally be the sort of thing I’d walk right past. But when it was on display in GDC’s indie quarters this year, I not only didn’t walk right past, but stopped and stared and chatted for ages. And that’s not least because the game will offer a single-player role-playing adventure for soloists like me, as well as cross-platform (PC and eventually tablet) multiplayer for more sociable types. You can see it running below. Oh, and there’s a Kickstarter.

I had a sneaky peak at League Of Geeks’ Kickstarter before it launched, and when I saw a target of $200,000 (albeit Australian ones) my heart sank a little. Surely a board game game with no prior IP can’t possibly generate enough interest? I’m Mr Wrongface. The morning after its launch, and it’s already almost a quarter of the way there. Here’s the pitch, which better explains the game than I will:

I seem to spend most posts for Kickstarters writing long explanations of what’s been gotten wrong. Not this time – they’ve nailed it. An incredibly professional video, that instantly shows and explains the game, and then goes on to portray their passion, and why they need the money. Spot on. Their target, it turns out, is sensible. And their opening tier price is $15AUD, which nets you a copy of the finished game. (And it’s not a limited tier either – this is textbook stuff.) Scroll down and you’ll see beautiful animated GIFs, lots of easy to parse information, and eventually a modest set of stretch goals that don’t (yet) reach higher than tacking on another $100k.

The creators are League Of Geeks – a collective of developers who all share an open office space in Melbourne, who have been working on Armello in their spare time. This team made up of souls who’ve worked on Warhammer, Dark Souls, BioShock and Puzzle Quest are now looking to go full time. Hence the fundraiser. The game, a combination of card play and dice rolling combat, sees woodland creatures battling to claim the throne. But it’s not just a race to the top of the mountain – each time you play the game there will be unique quests on the unique map to complete, giving a good dose of variety, alongside various ways to actually go about getting your bum on the king seat.

Combat looked especially interesting, mixing played cards from your ever-gathered hand, with bespoke dice battles. Like this:

As someone who honestly cares little about board games, and cares less for strategy games, I’m completely spellbound by what I’ve seen of Armello. That’s certainly in part thanks to just how beautiful it looks, but it’s somewhat deeper than that too – it just looks compelling. Very excited to see where this one goes. Oh, and take a look at this animation made for the game:


  1. Thurgret says:

    Gives off a strong sense of Redwall. That hare!

    • Philomelle says:

      It reminds me more strongly of Mice Templer, which is admittedly a grimdark Redwall with less anthropomorphism.

      That said, I love that it has lovely art, very sound mechanics and what seems to be dedication to a good story. I’m all Kickstarted out this month, but as it runs through April, I will most likely pledge during that month.

  2. secuda says:

    remember when we only had to worry about the port from consoles.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s on PC first. Tablets are a stretch goal.

      • Saul says:

        Actually I’m pretty sure iPad was the initial target platform (with other tablets being stretch goals, as you note).

        I wouldn’t worry, either way – these guys know what the hell they’re doing. The professionalism on display on the Kickstarter page runs through all of their work. I’ve met Trent several times and am constantly impressed by his friendliness, intelligence and work ethic. If only we could all be more like the League of Geeks, there would be a lot more amazing games in the world!

  3. Laurentius says:

    Strategy game for PC that will end up on tablets, oh that bound well for controls and UI. Looks sweet but I pass.

    PS. On PC, controls and Ui will suck on PC version, other way round it can work superb but i don’t care about that …

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    There really is no reason touch controls can’t be ported successfully. Not least because your finger won’t be in the way with a mouse pointer.

    • Caiman says:

      X-COM: Enemy Unknown was nearly identical between the tablet and the PC versions. Just because tablets are a cesspool of shallow, money-making scams (ie. freemium games) doesn’t mean you can’t do good games on there. Anyone who tries deserves some support.

    • Gap Gen says:

      There are some games I actually find easier with a finger than a mouse – Eufloria being a notable example, and perhaps the minigames in Star Command. I guess it can depend on the mouse sensitivity – your finger precision isn’t great, but it’s quite quick to come down on a given point, compared to a mouse which uses relative motion to find a location, so you need to bump up the sensitivity to compensate.

    • TimorousBeastie says:

      It’s not quite that simple. While it’s certainly possible to port, you do need to change control scheme significantly. A control scheme on the phone generally focuses on painting a path or tapping a general location rather than the detailed selection that a mouse can perform. On top of that you can’t ‘preview’ a click in the same way you can with hovering a mouse, so any pseudo-mouse controls generally require a confirmation stage to offset this.

      It’s definitely completely plausible to adjust a primarily tablet based game to PC (assuming the tablet based game uses mouse-like controls) without feeling like a port, but it’s something that has to be done with care.

    • Laurentius says:

      Well, it didn’t work for Double Fine with something as simple as point’n’click adventure Broken Age and it won’t work here. The best for succesful we can hope is workable but still subpar and that’s not good enough for me.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        “and it won’t work here”

        Remains to be seen. Don’t write off the future.

      • Volcanu says:

        Space Hulk

        3 examples of tablet games where there is little to no compromise in control schemes between the PC and tablet versions. It doesn’t always have to be a disaster just because it often is.

        • Laurentius says:

          I have no experience with Space Hulk whatsoever but these two ? Come one, FTL came in Autumn of 2012 and iPAD version is avaialble like just now, hardly game desigened with tablets in mind, so no compromises there.
          XCOM ? Now I have no idea about tablet version but this game have clunky and subpar m+k controls in comparison to PS3 version to begin with.

          Edit: I think I was being unclear I don’t worry about tablet version, in fact it can turn woundefully, I’m pretty sure though that PC controls and UI will be shitty and recive the bad end of compromising as 99,9 % PC ports get.

          • DrollRemark says:

            XCOM was made by a large studio who could almost certainly afford to hire people who knew how to write in Objective-C. I would imagine that the two guys that made FTL probably had to learn the language all by themselves. If you’ve ever looked at it, you’d know that it’s a language quite unlike most common ones.

      • The First Door says:

        Also, I thought it worked utterly fine for Broken Age too.

  5. manny says:

    Good starter game to make as well. Computer boardgame/cardgame. If it’s a success the story looks strong enough for fully fledged RPG.

  6. Haplo says:

    Oh yeah, I saw these guys at PAX Oz. Their little booth was super-COMPETENCY and they were great at showing off what they had. Also they gave me a little pin to put in my hat, where it sits, in all its bear-mage glory.

  7. Kohlrabi says:

    The first few seconds after reading “boardgame” and seeing the pictures I was thinking of Runewars. There should really be more ports of good boardgames for PC.

  8. manny says:

    One flaw is they failed to point out they are using the Unity engine, which bodes well for future different game genres in the same setting. Since I imagine alot are supporting this for the above AAA level character design.

  9. Frank says:

    “turn-based hexxy strategy, that would normally be the sort of thing I’d walk right past.”

    I guess no one at RPS is really into this sort of thing. For me, the only turn-offs are this card and dice stuff that shouts “hey, don’t forget I’m really an uber-geek’s board game! Oh, and get ready for some IAPs!” and this cutscene business, since it must be expensive.

    Everything else (the art direction, music, dynamic questlines and hex-based exploration in a procedurally-generated world) makes me interested. Also, wow — Lisa Gerrard has never worked on music for a game before; this should be good.

    • tyren says:

      I was curious about how they could afford the cutscene animation too. The FAQ says:

      “The trailers look pretty expensive, couldn’t you have finished the game with that money?

      No, unfortunately. We were lucky enough to get some government funding from Film Victoria and Screen Australia (thanks guys!) but that money was allocated to us for marketing and transmedia purposes, not for game development.”

      Another question asks about whether similar animation will be featured in-game, and the response makes it sound like there won’t be very much unless they meet a stretch goal.

  10. bill says:

    Looks nice, but I could have done without downloading 8Mb of gifs just to see 2 seconds of annoying movement.

  11. Screen Blind says:

    The Kickstarter Video looks great. Certainly worth a longer look and investigation into the games’ mechanics. i hope they get to make it – anything that takes the fun you can have with tabletop gaming and makes it digital is worthy of respect. League Of Geeks dammit! League. Of. Geeks.

  12. FabriciusRex says:

    give me shares in the company and maybe I’ll throw some money your way.

  13. McGuit says:

    Great pitch!
    Well, here I go again.
    Kickstart money to you.
    Throws at the screen and the project.
    Very excited to see what you might be able to do with the game.
    Can’t wait for 2015….

  14. Trent Kusters says:

    Hey all, Trent from League of Geeks here!

    Thanks for all your kind words! And to those of you who backed us, big hugs! To those of you who haven’t yet… come onnnnn! ;)

    Anyway, thought I’d address the concerns regarding the PC/Mac/Linux version of Armello, I can guarantee you we are completely committed to creating a PC experience that the platform deserves. Yes, we were on tablets first, but we are making a PC game as well now – NOT a PC port. As I was quoted on Polygon…

    “[We’re] increasing visual fidelity, overhauling the way the player interfaces with the game and more. We will do whatever needs doing to make sure that the experience is as good as it can be on PC.”

    We’ve all been burnt before, but there are still developers out there that do care about the experiences they offer. I hope all our work to date gives you confidence that we are one of those developers.

    Oh, and btw, we already have full support running for touch screen PCs if that’s anyone’s jam. ;)

    I’m about to hop on a 30 hour flight from Melbourne to Boston for PAX, but if anyone has any more questions, please don’t hesitate to post them here and I’ll answer them as soon as I can. If you want a speedier response. You can try posting questions to the Kickstarter page. The other guys will be responding to comments there in my absence.

    I’ll be walking around PAX East in an Armello tee, so if you’re there and spot me come up and say hi!

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      Do you have any thoughts or plans to support games of more than 4 players? And if not initially then perhaps at least in a later expansion or DLC?

      • Trent Kusters says:

        Not at this current stage. We have spoken internally about 8 player matches with teams of two heroes per clan, but that’s something we’ll have to investigate post launch.

        • Philotic Symmetrist says:

          Post-launch investigations sounds promising enough for me at this stage :)

    • melnificent says:

      Touch screen PC support :)
      Can you play the game from startup to end with just touchscreen (No keyboard input at all)? As this is the sort of thing I’d love to play on my surface pro.