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Posthuman SAGA: the board game


1. Overview

In Posthuman Saga you'll be venturing into a weird and wonderful world where unknown threats await at every turn of the road. You'll need to forage for food, ammo and weapons if you want to survive. You'll desperately fight off human and mutant enemies in brutal brawls in which your weapons break and your wounds can lead to mutation. You'll meet a cast of strange and memorable characters and find yourself in unexpected situations during story encounters, which force you to make choices that might have consequences down the line. But don't linger long - you need to complete your mission before others do! Your reputation is at stake!

Posthuman Saga is a competitive, tactical survival adventure set in the post-apocalyptic world of Posthuman for 1 to 4 players. It combines euro mechanics with finely crafted story to create an experience that will challenge your system-busting skills while immersing you in a rich post-apocalyptic world.

2. Design

Posthuman Saga is a tactical survival adventure set in the post-apocalyptic world of Posthuman infused with narrative. Let’s break that down some and substantiate those descriptors.

The “tactical” in “tactical survival” refers to the fact that while there is an element of randomness in the game, the emphasis is on player choices and their outcome. Thus, every sub-system of the game requires meaningful choices from the player and often has an opportunity cost. If I play my best Combat card in this encounter, I have a good chance of winning it, but that card is going to be exhausted until I take a Camp action, which stalls me from progressing in the game. When I do Camp I’ll have to spend a recovery point to gain the Combat card back, which comes at the cost of not gaining back a point of Health or Morale, or one of the crucial Stat Boosts that can determine the outcome of both narrative and combat encounters… This is, of course, a basic aspect of most games, particularly euro-games, but tends to be less present in more theme-heavy, adventure games (with various notable exceptions) which use randomness to generate excitement and emergent story (see below). In the first board game set in the Posthuman world, Posthuman certain choices were in the hands of the players (such as which action to play, how to organize tiles etc), but major sub-systems in the game were more random (such as combat). In Fallout the combat is fun and quick, but determined by a die-roll with little agency afforded to the player in that particular sub-system. The choices there are primarily in which actions to take, where to move to etc. We see similar sub-systems dominate adventure games such as Merchants and Marauders and Descent. One is not inherently better or worse than the other, of course. There are pros and cons to each and it all depends on the desired experience and, especially when it comes to thematic heavy adventure games, how that sub-system fits with the feel and story the game is aiming to create. I’ll be dedicating an entry to Posthuman Saga’s combat system, comparing it to the first Posthuman’s combat system

The “survival” part of “tactical survival” refers to the fact that the mechanics of the game are designed to convey the feel of the setting: scarcity, danger and attrition. Most elements of the game can be seen as an inverse resource management game: you have a set of resources when you start which deplete continuously as you progress in your path to victory. The more you push for that victory, the more resources you’ll most likely lose in the process and a big part of the game is managing that attrition, while simultaneously growing your character through development cards, weapons, equipment and even positive, stable mutations (but watch out there, mutation is not something you have a lot of control over and will quickly get out of hand and see you hobbling around a tree your newly boosted senses blown away by the sound of leaves floating towards the ground). I’m gonna be sassy and coin a term here: attrition management. Your health, morale, stat boosts and combat cards WILL deplete. You can recover them, but they will deplete. If you try to advance unblemished, you will most likely lose the game to the player who is teetering on the edge of exhaustion and depression but has just grabbed the story book and is reading off the final story of his mission objective… Fatigue, on the other hand, is not easily recovered. It’s a permanent hit you take when you go hungry, march on through the night or troop on through a nasty storm. But again, these will be your choices to make.

Ok, let’s talk story now. What do I mean by “infused with narrative?”. While narrative is not the primary focus of the game, it features heavily in it both in scripted and emergent ways. By scripted narrative I here mean sections of story, sometimes with variable outcomes, others times fixed, that we have written into the game. Emergent narrative is the story that is generated from the interaction of game-play elements and other players. While not everyone interprets mechanical events in a narrative manner, the way mechanics and rules are implemented creates more or less likelihood for them to generate mental images in the mind of the player and interpret such actions and events narratively. I will dedicate a separate entry or ten to game narrative and theme specifically as it’s both a complex subject and one which I am fascinated by and have researched in my academic life. [please link to research page]

The aim was thus to create a hybrid that combines euro-style mechanics with the imagination-stimulating qualities of thematic story games.

3. Reception

Posthuman Saga funded successfully on Kickstarter, raising $300,000 in its first run. It is being co-published in English by Asmodee in Europe and North America and CMON in Asia and Australasia.

Design articles:

The Making of Posthuman Saga Video Blog 1

The Making of Posthuman Saga Video Blog 2

The Making of Posthuman Saga Video Blog 3

Designer Diary 1

Designer Diary 2

Designer Diary 3

Inspiration and World Building