pax 2014

Jordan Weisman Sees Harebrained Schemes' Golem Arcana As A Tabletop MMO

by Mike Futter on Sep 03, 2014 at 08:30 AM

On the surface, PAX might seem like a celebration of video games. In reality, it's a gathering that embraces multiple disciplines of game entertainment, including the diverse world of tabletop titles.

I had a chance to catch up with Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman, CEO of Harebrained Schemes, to talk about the recently released tabletop/digital hybrid, Golem Arcana. The title uses a bluetooth stylus to communicate miniature positions on the map, attacks, special powers, and more to a phone or tablet running the companion app.

All of the rules and stats are handled in the game, which makes it easy for Harebrained Schemes to balance the game. New updates can be pushed through that change the Action Point value of attacks and more.

The digital component also allows for random or planned encounters during a match. You might get side quests when arriving on a map location, which you can then choose to accept or ignore. The results of succeeding may be clear (healing, an in-game blessing, or some other benefit) or may be hidden from the player until the mission is complete.

All of the games played are uploaded to Harebrained Schemes' server, shaping the future of the game world. Weisman likens the interaction between collective player actions and the impact on the story to an MMO. With every game played, the scales begin to tip toward one of the possible futures, giving the community ownership over the narrative arc and a sense that their actions matter.

At GenCon in August, HBS ran organized events that take place at the very start of the story before factions go to war. There were sub-objectives that were tracked, and the aggregated results determined the set-up for the following day's colossal battle with huge armies.

Storyline organized play will begin in October, with monthly updates to the narrative based on the results of games and whether side quests were accepted and accomplished. Weisman isn't a stranger to using community input to shape the course of a story.

The process dates back to Battletech, when players mailed in their results to steer the future of the lore. The narrative was shared back with players in novel form that might take a year to produce. Now, the turnaround is just a couple of weeks.

Golem Arcana is a miniature game for people like me who don't have the time or interest in painting figures. I want to jump quickly into a game without having my nose in the rulebook or communicating fiddly details to new players. The deeply interactive nature of the fiction provides a connected community without sacrificing the personal touch of a board game.

Golem Arcana is available now in a base set with six miniatures. Additional packs of three miniatures each from the four different factions are also available. The companion app is free to download.