Ever since the first Europa Universalis game dropped in 2000, Paradox Interactive has slowly been cultivating one of the most devoted fanbases in gaming. While they were once a board game company, it’s been a while since they worked on the table. But this year they’re turning two of their hottest properties, Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis, into board games for the first time ever. To figure out why, I left the convention hall to visit the nearby Spoke & Steele restaurant, there to meet with Paradox’s Product Marketing Manager Luca Kling.
Dan: Before we get into the games themselves, can you give me a little background on Paradox?
Luca: Paradox was a board game company, and they started making computer games at some point. The owner of the company at that time decided that computer games had no future but apparently, he was wrong. The announcement of Paradox Interactive brought with it the video game department and with it the game we were developing: Europa Universalis. Which is actually based on a board game, though “board game” isn’t really quite accurate as it was more of a war game. So now, moving forward a few years, we are producing a board game that was a computer game that was based on a board game.
Paradox has two different parts to it. One part is where we produce all of our in-house games like Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, Stellaris, all the grand strategy games basically. Then there’s the publishing part which is releasing and owning IP’s like Cities: Skyline, Surviving Mars, and we release Battletech although we don’t own that. In 2015 and 2017, we took a survey [of] our players to see what their tastes and habits were. And we got feedback from so many of them saying that they love to play board games. Forty percent said that they regularly play board games, and 10-20% of them said they play board games at least once a week or more. So we decided to make board games that serve our customers as well because, in the end, they are amazing. And when you play the games, you can easily imagine that the mechanics of grand strategy translate onto the tabletop as well. So what we are going now is going out and looking at companies that want to license our games, that is license our IP and create games based on it. We currently have four IP’s licensed.
The first game is based on our Crusader Kings games, which is where you are basically playing a family from the Early Middle Ages to right about the 1400’s. You’re marrying, you can become an emperor. In one game, I became Holy Roman Emperor as the King of Ireland. I paid off all of their debt and then was immediately overthrown. It is the first game, and it is being developed by Free League. Free League has a lot of connections with Paradox, there are a lot of people working for Free League who have worked with us as well. They’ve done a lot of RPG’s in the past like Tales From The Loop and Coriolis. This is the first game you’ll see during the demo.
The second is EU. You start as a nation and basically expand and try to become as big as you can. You start as a small city-state and, at the end, you’re conquering China, if you want. This is probably the game with the most possibility right now but also the most complexity. Its developed by Aegir Games, who developed the Battle of Norway before, where you play the invasion of Norway by the Germans (I guess you can play both sides but I’ve never played the Germans myself yet).
The third is is Hearts of Iron, which is set during the Second World War. You select a nation and decide to be a democracy, communist, or fascist and basically fight to win the war.
The fourth is City: Skylines, which will differ from the others in that it is intended to be a family game, as the fanbase tends to lean a bit more casual than the grand strategy ones.
Dan: EU has a much broader scope than CK, at least in the video game. Is that reflected in the board game?
Luca: Let me put it this way. CK is to be played in roughly two hours, while EU will be played in like 5-8 hours. EU is really a 4X game. You can do everything you can in the video game: conquer, trade, explore, colonize, you name it.
Dan: Are there plans to expand this out to other games like Victoria?
Luca: Yes, there are. We’re looking for board game designers that want to take on these IP’s. We’re looking for pitches, we already have some pitches which we obviously can’t talk about. We have some, and we’re quite confident that we’ll be able to broaden the portfolio going forward. And the reason we are going for a licensing deal as opposed to developing in-house is that we’re a video game company, not a board game company. That’s not our expertise. We want them to be good, so we shouldn’t develop them ourselves.
Dan: I’m curious about Cities: Skylines. I know people who have put nearly 250 hours into the game and I completely forgot that it was published by Paradox. Will it play how the game plays, or will it be a little different?
Luca: It will be a little different because there’s all of the upkeep in the background. We’re trying to be on-brand with the game, so we actually had to do a complete rework of the last version we did for the simple reason that it wasn’t Cities: Skylines enough. So what we’re trying to do is approaching it where you start small at first. You continue buying tiles until you expand and start implementing the other aspects of the game from there. The playtime will be around an hour, so you probably won’t spend hours and hours at the end of the game planning out where you want a roundabout to go to. We’re trying to capture the feeling of the game, same with EU.
Be sure to check in tomorrow for the second part of my meeting with Paradox, where I actually got my hands on the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis board games.
Image via Paradox Interactive
Bears! In! Space!: 10 of The Best New Additions In Starfinder’s Alien Archive 2
There is no more fertile ground for a creator than space. Not only is there so much possibility in what we KNOW is out there, there is still so much that we don’t. There’s no reason there can’t, for instance, be a race of cat people, or a giant snake made of glass, or cowthulu. With this in mind, Paizo has release Alien Archive 2, a second addition to the weird and wonderful stable of monsters and aliens already populating the Pact Worlds. With over 100 new life-forms in the book (and yes, that includes the three I mentioned), there’s a lot to cover. To help get a feel for it though, I’ve picked my ten favorite new creatures included in the pages of Alien Archive 2. Some are updates of Pathfinder stalwarts, some reference classic science-fiction, and some are just so damn weird I can’t HELP but love them.
One of the most interesting aspects of Starfinder has been their handling of the fey as they move from the woodlands and fields and into the great beyond. These powerful and capricious creatures are well represented in Alien Archive 2, with new additions like the glitch goblin taking full advantage of the setting. The most interesting addition, however, are the Ravai. Resembling what can best be described as a giant lightning bug, these creatures are caretakers of the stars. And I mean that literally; they are born from a star and live almost entirely for that star and, most importantly, its light. Morally inscrutable to most, Ravai see all life that depends on their star as under their protection. While not deities, their connections with stars give them a great deal of power and can either serve as a high level threat to crews that threaten those in their light or as allies for those who wish to aid their charges.
Time, as they say, is an illusion (lunchtime doubly so). No race embodies this more than the Dreamers, an offshoot of the jellyfish-like Barathus. Abandoned long ago within a a seemingly idyllic gas giant called Liavara, the Dreamers lost their sentience even as they gained new and vast psychic powers. Brought back into the fold after millennia, the Dreamers are fiercely protected by the Barathus , and are used by the Pact Worlds as seers (despite questions regarding the accuracy of their prophecies.) They’re also used on the black market to make a psychoactive inhalant called “dreamsnuff,” as well as a weapon mod that causes targets to lose control of their senses. Any sci-fi setting has to have a psychic jellyfish nowadays, and Starfinder’s are certainly a bit different from the norm.
If we can have raccoons, pigs, or Chris Pratt in space, why not bears? No longer the great lumbering beasts that threaten low level adventurers, in Starfinder bears have taken their rightful place among the sentient races of the universe. Thanks to advanced technology and genetic engineering, Uplifted Bears are as intelligent as any human. They serve all sorts of roles, but they’re naturally drawn to scientific pursuits. Oh, and they’re all telepathic. My favorite bit of flavor for the Uplifted Bears is their natural inclination for natural worlds, the arboreal and the green. It’s just a nice idea that even far into the future, wearing armor and holding laser rifles, a bear is bear is a bear. Especially since they now have playable stats, meaning you can make the space-faring Country Bear Jamboree of your dreams.
What is science fiction without some of those good good moist boys we call mollusks? Looking like four foot tall snails, the Quorlu are kind of like if Magcargo were a playable race; their brittle crystal shells hide an inside composed of hot plasma. What makes them stand out, however, is the fact that they are essentially space millennials. Unable to maintain a permanent home thanks to the volatile geology of their homeworld, they value community and experiences above material possessions. They prefer to be explorers or diplomats thanks to their abhorrence for war, but in pinch they can be tough fighters with a knack for explosives. They also love to sing. Like the Uplifted Bear, the Quorlu is a fully playable race in Alien Archive 2, but are better suited for more supportive roles on the ship’s crew.
Science-fiction settings have the unique ability to make things bigger and more epic than they are. But when you take Pathfinder, which already has such things as crystal dragons and living mountains, and move it to space…things get a little crazy. Like,say, a 30 foot tall radioactive smoke monster. The Living Apocalypse is the ultimate representation of sci-fi technology run amok. Born from a massive release of destructive energy i.e the use of a doomsday weapon or a planet’s energy grid exploding. Chaotic evil and driven only to destroy, it ravages its surroundings until all life is extinguished. They are usually avoided, but are known to produce crystals that can go for nearly a million credits on the galactic market. The creation of a Living Apocalypse frequently leads to a sort of “gold rush” scour its wake for their chance to strike it rich. Finally, when all of the life around it is extinguished, it goes dormant, waiting for some hapless space explorer or colonist to wake it back up. It’s basically a space age version of the Terrasque and it’s pretty damn cool.
While there is a great deal of destruction and evil among the stars, there is beauty also. The Calecor is in many ways the counterpart and opposite of the Living Apocalypse. They are a fey (that’s right, it’s another space fairy) born from planetary catastrophic, when the millions of souls silenced by war, climate change, or Peter Cushing, rend a hole in the material plane. Born from their anguish, the Calecor is both guardian and healer of the planet that birthed them. They have some neat abilities that reflect their connection with the planet, like a psychic attack that lets them project the planet’s torment into the mind of another. It’s hard to tell if a crew will want to meet a Calecor or not, but I suppose that depends more on the crew than the Calecor.
Colour Out Of Space
Along with the cruel and enigmatic Mi-Go, the Colour Out Of Space is one of the two homages to H. P. Lovecraft contained within this book coming from his 1927 story of the same name. Like in that tale, the Colour (and yes, you have to include the U or else Howard will manifest in your house physically and call you an old time-y slur) is just what it sounds like: a particularly intelligent and malevolent hue that appears to the naked eye as a constantly shifts through colors that don’t technically exist. It’s undetectable and unable to be communicated with as it travels through space, crash landing on planets to feed on the life that resides there. The things it doesn’t disintegrate are instead horrifically mutated by its very touch, and that includes your player characters. Any that become “colour-blighted” must fix themselves quick before they’re disintegrated by white ash and consumed by the voracious Colour. It’s not something that’s gonna show up in your box of Crayola’s anytime soon, is what I’m saying.
My heart soared when I realized there were not one, but TWO new playable mollusks in Alien Archive 2. Unlike the Quorlu, who only appear like giant snails, the Osharu literally are giant slugs, down to a need to remain hydrated and a weakness to salt. Thanks to their soft and and delicate slug bodies, Osharu are relatively timid. This timidity, as well as their view that science and religion are the same, essentially has turned the Osharu into a race of slightly damp college professors. They have devoted themselves so much to learning that their cities have essentially become big universities. These Space-Berkeley’s have entire districts devoted to one singular scientific field or academic pursuit. Their academic and sluggy nature is reflected in their racial traits, that allow them a vast array of knowledge as well as the ability to secrete slime onto nearby squares.
The undead, staples of any fantasy world, were not forgotten when Pathfinder went into the stars. Things like Skeletal Champions (now called Bone Troopers), Zombies (now called Corpsefolk) and Ghouls (which are…still just Ghouls) have moved from the musty tomb to the rusty space hulk, but their core identities remain intact. But, like with the fey, Paizo also added some new twists on the old formulas. Like the Emotivores, who are a race of emotion vampires that bear a strong resemblance to Count Orlok. Born when someone (or more usually, many someones) dies in the middle of intense feeling, Emotivores live only to feed on strong emotions. Not only can they inherently sense emotion, they have a vast array of shape-shifting and mind-altering spells and powers that allow them to manipulate their victims so they will be as delicious a meal as possible. A wily and intelligent foe, the Emotivore also exists as a template for DM’s wishing to create Emotivores that differ slightly from the norm.
The Tashtari are what happens when a dog gets wrapped in fiber optic cable. What you see in the picture to the left is not fur, but millions of tiny filaments that light up in different ways to help the nocturnal beasts communicate and hunt. How to they hunt, you may ask? Why, with lasers of course! Using the “photogenetic node” node in their throats, the Tashtari spend the day absorbing solar energy, and then at night they expel that energy from their mouth like they’re in viral video from a decade ago. While they serve as a minor threat on their own, “laser wolves” (as they’re called by anybody cool), are also prime hunting for their filaments and special node. If a player so chose, they too could fill their skin with fiber optic light and glow, or put the laser node in their hand to shoot solar beams at people like some sort of bio-tech Tony Stark.
What do you think of the new aliens? Are there any we missed? Anything from Pathfinder you’d like to see given a sci-fi spin? Sound off in the comments! And don’t forget to keep an eye out here for all the latest on Starfinder, Pathfinder, and Paizo!
Starfinder Alien Archive 2 is available now from Paizo.com as well as most game shops, where the hardcover copy retails for $39.99. A PDF copy of the book is also available on the Paizo shop for $9.99 or as part of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscription service.
Big thank you to Paizo for providing the material and images for this article. If you’d like to learn more about Starfinder, Gencon interview you can check out my with its lead designer Robert G McCreary.
Let’s Unpack This: Chickapig
Mutant pigs, cow poop, and Dave Matthews? I’m honestly as confused as you are.
The game, originating from Chickapig LLC, is currently available from online retailers, with the version in this video selling at a limited special holiday price of $22.00.
*Thanks to Chickapig LLC for the images and material for this review.
Image courtesy of Chickapig LLC
The Outer Worlds Announced as Obsidian’s Latest
Ever wanted a Borderlands/Fallout: New Vegas hybrid? Miss speech checks and genuine role-playing in your big-budget RPGs? Are you mad about the Fallout 76 debacle and looking for something to scratch the itch Bethesda has failed for years to get at? The Outer Worlds looks like the game for you. And for me. Oh hell yes is it for me.
It certainly helps that Obsidian is making it.
A new single-player sci-fi RPG (with a dash of Borderlands-style Western influence), The Outer Worlds sees the player lost in transit on a colonist ship heading for the edge of the galaxy. You wake up decades later on the planet Halcyon, which is in control of a corporation. From there, you will encounter various competing factions and chart the course of the story based on your actions.
I know that sounds like typical PR talk, but this is Obsidian. Fallout: New Vegas had the same setup, and based on your actions could lead to one of 4 major factions winning in the end, with the fate of numerous other minor factions at your control as well. If any company knows this style of game, Obsidian does. Really the only question left for me regards Obsidian’s spotty history of buggy games at launch. So long as The Outer Worlds isn’t completely broken, I think I’ll manage.
Add in the dash of Borderlands humor and aesthetic, and I am beyond hyped. The Outer Worlds will release on PC, the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4. It’s currently scheduled for release sometime next year.