Kickstarter Roundup: Darkling Plain


by Kevin Rigdon

It takes courage and vision to pioneer new types of gaming, especially if you’re attempting to merge two different types of gaming into a new and unique experience. Nocturnal Media is hoping to do this with Darkling Plain, which combines a traditional tabletop miniatures board game with 3D animation through the use of augmented reality.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that seeks to augment the physical, real world around us with computer generated graphics or sounds. When the real world setting is viewed through a device like a smartphone or tablet, the AR software can augment the world by adding video, sound, 3D graphics, and so on.

The team at Nocturnal Media is taking this technology and applying it to a tabletop board game. When viewed through your device (smartphone or tablet), the full color game board is transformed into 3-dimensional landscapes and battlefields with terrain and environmental features that will affect your units. Speaking of units, there don’t seem to be the hundreds of game pieces usually associated with a board game like this. Instead, your characters and armies are on specially designed cards. When these cards are viewed through the smart device, they come “alive,” and a fully rendered 3D model appears either on the game board, or even in the palm of your hand. These cards take the place of miniatures, so there are far fewer pieces to keep up with. You’ll also be able to customize your characters and armies with different color schemes and the like.

This AR component of the game isn’t simply a gimmick. Nocturnal states on their Kickstarter page: We are treating augmented reality as an important tool in the play of the game. It communicates vital visual clues to players, such as a unit’s readiness. It also allows features like truly invisible movement, real-time play, and airborne forces that are actually above the playing surface.

But many of you may have the same question I did. Do I need to duct tape my iPhone to my head? In other words, do you need to hold up your device the entire time the game is going on? The Nocturnal Media team responded to that very question, again, on their Kickstarter page: It’s a fair question, and the answer is “no!”. You will use your device to view game elements in augmented reality, but don’t worry, the game design overall is more elegant and interesting than one that requires you to constantly hold up your device. The game involves examining the battlefield with your device, and you’ll look for visual clues that hint at your opponent’s plan, but plenty of game play does not require you to hold up your device. But when you do…! We promise you’ll be awed by the animations and stunning particle effects!

The technology in this game is only one facet, albeit a large one. You can be assured that there will be some seriously deep and interesting backstory and setting. Stewart Wieck is a hell of a game designer. He cofounded White Wolf Publishing back in the eighties, co-created the World of Darkness and is the author of one of the best gaming books ever printed, Mage: the Ascension, 1st Edition. The mechanics of the World of Darkness, and Mage: the Ascension in particular, revolutionized the tabletop roleplaying experience. We should expect nothing less here.

With Wieck involved you can bet that this game will be ambitious with elegant mechanics, rich environments, interesting characters, and fully developed backstory. If you’re looking for a new gaming experience, head over to the Kickstarter page, watch the video, and see what this is all about.

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