Don’t Let The Spirits Free!

An overview of a boardgame with developer #Q&A

“Hautausmaan Henget” (eng. Spirits of the Graveyard) is a board game in development, and currently it is designed for 3 to 4 players. For now all the game text is in Finnish, but as the development process nears its end there are plans to translate the game to English as well.

The game revolves around the idea that animal spirits are starting to escape their graves, and it’s the players’ job to capture the ones who are free before they overwhelm everyone and the game ends. Players start each in their own corner, and depending on the number of players either one or two spirits are set on the board by throwing a blue and a red eight-sided dice and placing the spirits to their correct coordinates following the blue and red numbering on the side of the board. Then each player starts hunting down the spirits the best they can by throwing a six-sided dice to move around.

Everyone is dealt 8 attack cards at the beginning of the game, as well as 3 assist cards. The winning condition is for a player to gather six animal spirit cards first, and before there are seven spirits on the board. Each time a player catches a spirit, no additional spirits are placed on the board. But each time a player fails their attack – or is unable to reach a spirit on their turn – a new spirit is placed. This also happens when two players decide to battle each other in the hopes of stealing one animal spirit card from the other player. Each animal spirit card has an ability that affects the game in some way – some have an effect during battle, some give a boost to movement, and some can be used to counter other animal spirit cards. Most of them have a cooldown of 1-3 turns.

During combat with a spirit a player chooses an attack card (the higher the value the better) and places it upside down on the table. Then a random card is drawn from the deck for the spirit, and they are revealed at the same time. After this all players that are not a part of the fight can place assist cards on either the attacker or the defender upside down. Then the player who is attacking chooses another attack card and a new card is drawn from the deck for the spirit. Both cards are revealed at the same time after which the assist cards are turned and revealed. The side with the highest total wins the encounter. If the player won against a spirit, they can draw a new animal spirit card from the spirit deck, and all assisting players who were on the winning side get two rewards, which can be either attack or assist cards, a health point, or a power mark (5 power marks can be exchanged for an animal spirit card). If a player loses they lose a health point, and if they have no more health points they die

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The original game mode includes a scenario where the first player to die turns into a spirit player and plays for the spirits. There has since been another game mode implemented, where once a player acquires five animal spirit cards a mighty demon with three health points appears in the middle of the board and requires cooperation to defeat. The demon wins after two full rounds if it has health left.

Developer Q&A with Antti Hursti

Question (Q): Do you have previous experience with designing a game?

Answer (A): Up to this point I think I have developed about five different games to the point where they are playable, but not published or anything. I have had many ideas, and usually when I get a new idea I write it down on my phone for future reference.

(Q): How did this particular game come about?

(A): The idea developed by playing other games, and also because I like to listen to fantasy audio books a lot. That’s where the fantasy element came from.

(Q): What was the very first stage when you started developing this game, and was it a solo project or was there cooperation from the beginning?

(A): After coming up with the basic idea, the very first step was to figure out the rules so that all major problems can be avoided. This had to be done pretty well before I could start building the first demo for playtesting. Me and a childhood friend of mine have been throwing ideas back and forth since last spring to get everything working.

(Q): Do you remember the very first playtesting? How did the game function then, and has there been many iterations after that?

(A): Yeah, the first version didn’t have any cooldowns on the animal spirit cards, there were no chaos cards, and I have since added more attack cards and animal spirits into the mix. There was no demon game mode, and some game modes – such as the one where someone was secretly playing for the spirits the whole time – have been scrapped.

(Q): Can you tell me at what point is the development right now, is there a lot missing?

(A): Right now the game works really well, so the next step is to have someone design the graphics, I will build the game pawns myself with a 3D printer, and the rulebook needs to be shorter. The main goal is to publish the game at some point.