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Chronicles of Frost Designer Diaries: The Myth

B. G. Kubacki
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Last time I told you about Chronicles of Frost, I mentioned two important features of a hero: the heroic skill we look up to, and the determination we relate to. There is however one more important element without which a mythical hero would simply not be: the myth itself.

Great games are rarely invented overnight. Chronicles of Frost came to life in a matter of hours, but it would only be its earliest life. The next few weeks from December 2016 to late January 2017 were a time of making and remaking prototypes, playing different versions and thinking if the game will end up actually presented to somebody, or in the bin.
Okay, the last part was never true. I knew from the moment I heard Chronicles’ heartbeat that it was something worth working on until it was ready to be published. And it would be ready.

When the concept of Chronicles of Frost materialized in my mind, it came with some more or less basic ideas: cards you’d build your deck with would mostly be discarded after use, apart from a few rarer ones that would linger in your player area. The board would be built as you play, the players pushed to expand it by the quests each hero starts the game with (you’ll get to know more about this later). There was still one thing missing from the deck-building aspect.

Third or fourth prototype of the game was already working really fine, when suddenly I got hit by the idea that would make it all complete: the junkyard where removed cards, completed quests and destroyed enemies would end up in. The junkyard which would not be a junkyard at all, but an integral element to the game mechanisms – and to its theme as well.

And so the Chronicle was born – inspired by both the pursuit to create a more complete gaming experience, and by the title of the game itself. Believe it or not, that is the order those elements materialized in the design process: first there was a title, then there was the mechanism that would become a part of the game itself.

Part of what the Chronicle is in fact a formality: finished quests and felled foes would work equally well without a named area to keep them in. Part would be something more, as removed cards which usually go to a bland afterlife of “removed from the game”, “returned to the box”, or simply “trashed”, would now become a source of points – and an account of the journey itself.

So, what is the Chronicle? It’s a pile of cards and tokens, with some of the cards (the ones you start the game with, and the ones you acquire as you play) becoming worth more victory points as they are purged from the deck.

I know full well that this is not a never-before-seen mechanism. It appeared in other deckbuilding games, and it makes its appearance in Chronicles of Frost, creating a layer of extra gains from simply removing cards from one’s deck – and a small thematic push, as players get to build not only their game, but also its later accounts.

With the Chronicle, the true basis was there, and the game revealed itself to me in its fullness, making me – the designer – finally find out what it was about in its purest essence. And that is what I will discuss the next time, together with one more thing: how Chronicles of Frost compare to Shadowscape – especially for those of you who love (or hate!) my previous venture into Aestemyr – the world of Mistfall.
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