The Aspects of Spirits
Before we dive into the update, I just wanted to take a second to answer one of the questions that keeps popping up in the comments, namely:
- Can I pledge $1 now, then increase my pledge after the campaign end through the pledge manager?
The answer is:
- Yes. Yes you can.
We are also updating the number of tokens in the premium wooden token pack to reflect the number of additional tokens in Jagged Earth, so that you have enough of all of them for new scenarios, events, adversaries, and the spirits that heavily use those tokens in up to 6 player games.
Specifically, we've added: 1 badlands, 2 beasts, 6 disease, and removed 2 Wilds and Strife tokens, bringing the count from 213 to 218 tokens total.
Below is a picture of our first token samples from the factory. We have some work to do with colors, but we think they're looking awesome!
Now, on to the update!
What are Aspects?
As we head into the weekend, it’s time to talk about Aspects.
The main Kickstarter page gives the best quick overview of Aspects I could write, so I’ll quote it here before diving into more detail:
Aspects are new ways to play the existing four low-complexity Spirits. They swap in a new Special Rule or Innate Power, replacing one of the standard Special Rules or Innate Powers for that Spirit. You’re still playing the same Spirit - you use its Spirit Panel and Unique Power Cards - but you’re exploring a different aspect of its nature, which changes up its dynamics… sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Some Aspects are direct replacements (e.g., swap one Innate Power for another), while others replace a Special Rule with an Innate Power or vice versa.
Actually, I lied a little there in the name of brevity: a few of the Aspects don’t replace a Special Rule or Innate Power at all. However, they all have feature some change to the Spirit to keep them balanced. Aspects aren’t generally meant to change the power-level of a Spirit… though Shadows Flicker Like Flame gets some leeway, as it ended up a touch on the less-strong side of the pack.
Let’s take a look at one now!
This is a modest change to River Surges in Sunlight: you no longer get free Sacred Sites in Wetlands, but you can Push Explorers/Dahan during Growth by placing Presence. Both halves of this change how you spread: you no longer care about getting into Wetlands, you need to occasionally make Sacred Sites in order to use your innate power, and you may want to spread from/to certain lands for short-term tactical effect rather than basing it off of the best site from which to originate Powers.
Can you combine multiple Aspects on one Spirit at once?
If you’re looking for a balanced play experience, no. They’re not designed with combination in mind, so you might get weird interactions, or things that make a Spirit overpowered or underpowered - e.g., there’s an Aspect for Shadows Flicker Like Flame which (at the moment - usual caveats about playtesting) has as one of its thresholds “You may use your Shadows of the Dahan special rule on this Power for free”. That stops being useful if Shadows of the Dahan is swapped out for something else. That being said, there’s totally a place for “less balanced but still fun” - that’s what the thematic maps are, after all - and it’s your game! Should you find the variety from combining Aspects is a positive outweighing the occasional weird interaction and variance in difficulty level (or, perhaps, are experienced enough to look at a pair of Aspects and suss out whether they’re likely to synergize or anti-synergize), then sure, go for it! Adversaries weren’t originally designed to be combined either, but combining them has worked out startlingly well in most cases.
Why are Aspects only for the Low-complexity Spirits?
There are a few reasons for this.
- They want the love more. In some playgroups, Low-complexity Spirits get played a lot during the learning period, and are then left to languish a bit. Other playgroups perceive them as somehow lesser and gravitate to higher-complexity Spirits. And, well, the low-complexity Spirits are simpler: they may have oddball lines of play or interesting nuances concealed within (I’m still learning things about Lightning’s Swift Strike, which I’ve played I don’t know how many times), but so can the more complex Spirits, so if one has a favorite Low-complexity Spirit, one might welcome options that offer new exploration of an old favorite.
- It’s easier to make Aspects for them. Moderate and (especially) High-complexity Spirits tend to have more intertwining between their Special Rules, Innate Powers, and Unique Power Cards (and sometimes even Growth) - changing out just one of those things can be trickier. If Ocean can’t place its Presence in the Ocean, how does its Growth work? If it can’t Drown, what do its two Powers which Drown things do? And because Low-complexity Spirits on average have more of both “feel” and “power budget” concentrated in any one innate/rule (because they have fewer of them), the impact of swapping out a single thing tends to be larger. (There are exceptions, of course.)
- Jagged Earth doesn’t have any Low-complexity Spirits, either in the box or among the promo Spirits. Given that, I wanted to include something that would provide new variety for players who prefer Low-complexity Spirits.
Wait, why doesn’t Jagged Earth have any Low-complexity Spirits?
Here’s the story: I originally assumed the Spirits in Jagged Earth should lean towards more complexity than the existing 12 (which are split evenly: 4 Low, 4 Moderate, 4 High), but that at least 2 of them should be Low complexity. Now, making good Low-complexity Spirits is much harder than High-complexity, perhaps in the same way it’s harder to create a good sketch with just four brush-strokes than if you’re permitted a couple dozen. Still, I designed a few… but one never worked quite right; one wanted to be in a future expansion more than the current one; one really wanted to be Moderate complexity (this is a ubiquitous problem); and a fourth ended up not working right AND relying on a token-type that didn’t pan out AND wanting to be in a future expansion. This left just one. But… around the same time I was realizing this, Greater Than Games told me that they’d like me to lean even harder away from Low-complexity Spirits and towards more advanced ones; both their experience and distributors’ data indicated that’s what the vast majority of people buying an expansion tended to want. They said it was OK if I had no Low-complexity Spirits at all. This was something of a relief, both because I didn’t want to come up with another one at that time, and because it meant the remaining Low-complexity Spirit could get a little more complex - and it really wanted to, as there was a thematic part of its nature that could be nicely represented with a great mechanic that was totally inappropriate for a Low-complexity Spirit (I’ll talk more about that when I preview Shifting Memory of Ages).
Do Aspects change the complexity of playing the Spirit?
Sometimes they make it more complex, though they don’t generally bump a Spirit all the way up to Moderate. They’re not something to include on a player’s first play of the game, for instance, and it’s probably best to play the base version of a Spirit before throwing in Aspects. But let’s look at an example:
This replaces the Innate Power of Lightning’s Swift Strike. It’s more complex in that it uses Strife, a token introduced in Branch & Claw; simply including those tokens makes the game more complex, so this isn’t an Aspect I’d recommend in a game with a new player. And it’s more complex in that it doesn’t blow up Towns/Cities - instead, you’re terrifying and distracting the Invaders, which is a less obvious/simple path to victory than “Kaboom!” (You still have Shatter Homesteads, though, so you’re still blowing up Towns. Just not as many Towns.)
Pandemonium changes up Lightning a bit more than Torrent changes up River: it makes Harbingers of the Lightning much more useful, since you can set up Dahan counterattacks with the Strife from it. It also incentivizes big burst turns even more than base lightning; it can sometimes be hard to find target lands within range that fully use the highest levels of Thundering Destruction, but 11 Fear is always fantastic, and even if there’s only a single City in a land you can always pile 4 Strife onto it. Hitting those higher levels requires heading towards Moon, which is not normally in Lightning’s bailiwick, and that changes what Power draws are best - Steam Vents drops a bit, Land of Haunts and Embers or Lure of the Unknown rise a bit. (It also makes Elemental Boon in a game with Shadows Flicker Like Flame awesome.)
We’ve made a short video that goes into more detail, (with some previews of other Aspects in testing for all of those enterprising people who are enthusiastically making proxies)!
That’s it for aspects for now! Have a great weekend, everyone, and we’ll be back on Monday to talk more about about the new promo spirit, Finder of Paths Unseen!