As part of our February Spotlight on Fallen, we strive to inform the readers of little extra tidbits surrounding the game. Games are made by people, and one of those tidbits we enjoy is learning a little bit more about the people behind them. Some designers shy away from the public stage, while others enjoy being front and center. In the case of Watchtower Games founder Tom Green, he is about as reclusive as that hermit who lives down by the creek.
What hermit you ask?
Do you go left or right in the forest path? Face the minotaur or run away? Those are the sort of question you will face in the Choose Your Own Adventure style game, Fallen! This story-driven dice game for two players has one player sit in as the evil Dungeon Lord while the other acts as the determined Hero. As the Hero, you are routinely faced with decisions that determine which dice challenges you will face towards the final confrontation with the big baddie of the dungeon. The more successful the Hero is, the more skills and higher level Equipment they can find. Meanwhile, the Dungeon Lord, who also grows in power, is doing everything they can do stop them. Choose Your Fate, but Choose Wisely, for there is no page saving here…
To avoid a perilously nasty fate, we thought we’d bring in an expert on human-dungeon relations. Designer Tom Green, once located, was more than willing to try to help out an adventurer or two increase their odds slightly with some insight on the land of Fallen. Hopefully you find his information useful as you embark on what will [likely] be your final journey into the depths below. Enjoy!
Round One Questions
CR: What was your Gateway Game?
Many years back I picked up Descent (the original version) at my local game store. While I always had board games and war games at the house, Descent opened my eyes to the new era of board games that were out there. It had solid production values and fun gameplay, all wrapped up into a great theme. Until then, I hadn’t known board games had come this far. We had several friends and couples join us for weekly games of Descent at the house and had a blast. From there the collection grew, filling shelves with plenty of gaming goodness.
CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Fallen)?
The most recent game that I’ve enjoyed is Roll for the Galaxy with their take on rolling dice for resources.
The game I’ve played the most during the last year would be the Star Wars LCG. Aside from the fantastic art, there are just so many options on how to build and win with different decks.
And the most surprisingly fun game for me during the last year is Thunder Alley. This game really captures the essence of racing and keeps you constantly engaged in what’s going on. A great find.
CR: How big is your game collection?
There are around 30 games at the office and twice that many at the house…a.k.a. “too many”.
CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?
I enjoy games with plenty of options in how to play, games that keep you engaged, and games that have lots of replayability. I love opening up a game box at the gaming table, knowing there is a wealth of fun in store. Arkham Horror, Chaos in the Old World, and Sheriff of Nottingham really fit these traits for me.
CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?
I avoid Monopoly whenever I can. There are other games that hit the same notes as Monopoly but do a much better job. Monopoly is such a part of the mainstream view of board games. It can be a challenge to get new people into gaming when Monopoly is all they know about board games.
CR: Fallen has a distinct decision-based approach you don’t see in many other games. What prompted you to design the game the way you did?
One of the big design goals during Fallen was to keep giving the players choices. Which path in the story do you want to take? Which skills do you want to learn? Which challenges do you want to go all-out for? Is now the time to use my Ultimate ability or save it for later?
I knew Fallen would be based around dungeon exploration, but the question became “How do we show the dungeon?” Without a game board or miniatures to give the players a context for the dungeon, it can be very challenging to make the setting relevant. You can make your dungeon game abstract, such as Dungeon Pets or even Magic the Gathering, but then it’s just a fantasy setting at that point and not a dungeon adventure. Then you have a game like Thunderstone that is themed around the dungeon exploration. While it’s a very fun game, it never really made me feel like I was exploring a dungeon.
So we continued to look at lots of different ways to make the players feel like they were in a dungeon but without a board. Being an avid pen-and-paper roleplayer, I wondered if I could bring some of the storytelling aspects from RPGs into a card and dice game. After lots of experimentation, the Story card was born. It created plenty of choices for the player and had game mechanics built into the choices that made the player’s decision meaningful. Most importantly, the Story card made the players feel like they were inside the dungeon through their imagination.
Their main advantage was that we were not relegated to a tactical miniatures battle such as in Descent or the Wrath of Ashardalon type games. We could have the hero hanging from a suspension bridge, resisting the magic of a evil Lich to control his mind, or running down an ancient stairwell with spirits in chase. Once we involved the players’ imagination, the adventures really opened up.
A lot of work went into the design of the Story cards such as how do the choices create paths within the story, how to balance them mechanically for different hero types, what is the style of writing we want for the adventures, how much text is too much or too little so that players are not overwhelmed, how to visually connect the different choices together so players can see the flow, how to make the cards replayable every time you use them, etc, etc.
In the end the Story cards turned out great and accomplished just what we wanted from the very beginning: how to adventure in a dungeon without a board.
CR: Fallen also crafts a light narrative aspect to it, giving it that semi tabletop RPG vibe. So that was deliberate?
Yes indeed. The idea is to give a light RPG story in small bites that keeps the pace going and the players making decisions on how the story unfolds.
CR: Fallen certainly has a very CYOA premise to it. Were you a fan of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure Stories?
Choose your own adventure books were a blast back in the day. I was more into the Twist-a-Plot books as a kid. I like to think of the Story cards more like a classic Dungeon & Dragons module where you read a block of text to set the scene and go from there.
CR: Do you have a particularly memorable death? Because, really, those stories almost always ended poorly…
My wife recently bought the choose your own adventure book where you are racing across Africa in a rally car. She’ll harass me in the middle of the night by reading the book to me where we last left off and seeing if I can get to the end of the race. The other night I took a wrong turn and slammed into a rebel checkpoint blocked by men armed with heavy machine guns. That brought my race to a quick end.
Also, how the heck are armed rebels shooting my car in a kids book!
CR: Fallen is a robust dice game for two players. Why did you decide to do a dungeon-diving game for two, instead of a one with more players?
One of the common tropes of dungeon games is that they tend to be 4 players working cooperatively (Fight, Wizard, Thief, Cleric) or 1 versus 4 (an evil bad guy versus the four heroes). When I designed Fallen, I didn’t just want to make a good game, I also wanted to make something unique. Something that people hadn’t seen before. I wanted each player’s decisions to have a huge impact on the game and feel vested in the action in the story. So I did not want to jeopardize all of that by trying to shoehorn 4 or 5 players into the game.
With that said, now that Fallen has been fully designed and released, multiplayer Fallen is being worked on. We are excited about this coming out down the road and being able to adventure in the world of Fallen alongside other foolhardy adventurers.
CR: Speaking of which, do you prefer to play as the hero or the villain? Both operate very differently but compliment each other well.
Both are great, but I personally like reading the Story cards as the Dungeon Lord, hamming up the story with cheesy voices, and slamming the hero with nasty Omen cards when he least expects it.
CR: Fallen had a fair amount of Kickstarter exclusive material, and it really seems like the type of game that can easily expand with more content. Are there currently any plans to do that?
Yes indeed. We have an expansion we’ll be announcing very shortly to get even more Fallen adventure into everyone’s hands.
CR: Lastly, how would you proceed?
“You walk down a dimly-lit corridor until you reach a junction. There is a door to your left labeled ‘Control Room’, likely your destination containing the device you need, but you also hear voices on the other side. To your right, the hallway continues into the darkness, possibly with an alternate means of getting into the room.”
I’d go the sneaky route to the right and hope your dark corridor doesn’t lead me into a nasty trap filled with trip wires, glue, feathers, and poisoned-tip arrows fired from all directions.
(Editor’s Note: As a matter of sheer astronomical coincidence, the hallway he chosen did contain trip wires, glue, feathers, and poison-tipped arrows. Also, an angry bear. Poor Tom never made it out alive.)
Navigating the dungeons of Fallen require a certain degree of luck, and a whole lot of patience. We’re just saying that you might not make it out alive every time. You’ll probably want to practice before heading into the dungeon for real. Luckily, we happen to be giving a copy of this game away so that you can practice and get killed many times over in the comfort of your own home! All you have to do is take a little literary adventure: