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Customs Creation - April 2017

Posted April 23rd, 2017 at 04:05 PM by HS Codex
Updated May 11th, 2017 at 07:23 PM by Xotli

Faction Creation
by Scytale

Heroscape has always been a game where mixing and matching units from numerous different worlds, different times, and even different genres has been the norm. In fact, that's the core of the game's theme. But that doesn't mean every unit stands alone. One of the most beloved aspects of the game is the concept of factions: units that mesh together, in terms of theme and often also gameplay. Romans, marro, elves, samurai ... the list is long.

While it is, of course, fun to create custom units that fit within existing factions, whether official, C3V, C3G, HoSS, or anything else, it is also exciting to create entirely new factions. There are two ways to approach designing a faction. The first is the most obvious: simply design units that are thematically bound together. It is not even necessary to have them synergize with each otherónote, for example, how the Marro Warriors and Ne-Gok-Sa had no initial synergy. Synergy can be added with later units, like Su-Bak-Na did for the marro. There really isnít much to say about this method, as itís just a series of individual custom designs.

The more complicated method, the one Iíd like to discuss in more depth, is designing an entire faction as a functioning unit. While synergies are obviously an important part, this sort of design does not necessitate a tight-knit group. A faction of minor synergies can work together as a whole faction by having the units complement each other well. For example, a good melee blocker squad and a strong range squad loosely tied by a cheerleader hero make for a solid army. On the other hand, tight-knit factions need to be designed together. What good are elementals without Kurrok, and what could Kurrok do without elementals? Units like these needs to be designed and tested together. Either way, the functioning of the entire faction is the most important element, far more so than the individual units.

When designing a faction, before designing any units, decide what it is about the faction that makes it unique. If itís pretty much the same as the elf wizards, whatís the point? Itís the same as for creating individual units, except on a broader scale. I would argue much broader: even if your faction has a different theme and different units than the elf wizards, if it plays the same, you really didnít create anything new. As such, the best thing to work on to distinguish your faction is the core design. This is especially true for tight-knit factions. Decide on a core mechanic and build around it. The elf wizards are built around adjacency bonuses. The elementals are a pseudo-squad of varied units controlled by a single unit. To really make your faction pop, it should be as easily-describable as these.

Once you have a unique idea for a core mechanic, you can go about designing the individual units. This is not nearly as simple as it sounds, though. To make it work, you not only need to keep the core concept in mind, but how each part relates to each other part. To do this you absolutely need to understand the role each unit plays, as well as which roles are necessary for the faction to work. Does it need front-line defender units? Which units provide multiple attacks per order marker? Does the faction have a unit that can do large amounts of damage to a single target? If they have adjacency requirements, what units help them stay together? No faction should be able to do everything (having no weaknesses is a poor design), but you need to know which roles are necessary for your core mechanic. Design your units with the various roles in mind. Additionally, avoid having multiple figures occupy the same role without good reason. If your faction needs multiple range snipers, great, but if not, if you have multiple such units they all need to do something different, lest some be left on the shelf in favor of the superior ones.

Theme is very important for factions as well. After all, even if they play off each other, theyíll never feel like a true faction if they arenít thematically linked. Think about how parts such as unit names, power names, species, and the like can be used to subtly or overtly tie the units together. Something as simple as having all of the units have the same personality can go a long way.

As challenging as the design work is, though, refining is much more difficultóexponentially more so than for a single unit. Each tweak made to one piece can affect the whole in unexpected ways. Think carefully about any change you make, and do your best to approach each such change with fresh eyes. Itís very easy to get stuck in a rut, seeing some units only in certain ways, not realizing how changes to it or to other units can change the optimal way it can be used. Subtle shifts can alter unitsí roles, obsoleting some units and, worse, creating exploits. Point values are also very difficult to pin down. If theyíre testing too strong, which units get a price bump? Be cautious because adjustments to the price of common units has a much more drastic effect on army size scaling than adjusting the price of uniques, and, similarly, simply adjusting the price of the uniques may not fix scaling problems.

Itís certainly a challenge to create a whole faction, especially one that is designed to have its units play well together. But it is also deeply rewarding to field a faction of your own creation that has its own character and playstyle. Remember to keep in mind the roles of each individual unit, how they are expected to play together, and the factionís intended strengths and weaknesses. Above all else, playtest thoroughly with an open mind.
Total Comments 2


TheAverageFan's Avatar
Good read. Making a well-oiled faction is certainly more complicated than just a single squad with some Bonding heroes.

Really making a good faction isn't too different from making a good custom in general. Is it balanced? Thematic? Does it affect Official Units in a negative way? Is it a unique design? Too complex?

Posted April 23rd, 2017 at 08:11 PM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
IshMEL's Avatar
Great article, Scytale. I've tried my hand at faction-building and you point out a lot of the challenges. The "one-sentence" rule is a good one to help focus the core mechanic.

One additional thing to consider is army flexibility. Can your faction work at different point totals? My "Specialists" faction, for instance, totals 610 points, but there are units I can leave out and still have a workable army at 500 points. Designing a faction so it can be added to or subtracted from, without breaking the core mechanic, is another challenge.
Posted April 25th, 2017 at 04:05 PM by IshMEL IshMEL is offline
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