Every new game I've developed has informed and influenced every subsequent game. Zero Dark took the dice mechanics in Horizon Wars and pushed them to their limit. Infinite Dark took the solo play system of Zero Dark and applied it to an entirely new setting and scale. And now, full circle, Midnight Dark is taking the concept of heroes as it was developed for Infinite Dark and applying it to the original 6mm battle game.
Heroes let you make your favourite mech minis that little bit more special!
But nothing springs from nowhere. The idea of heroes actually has its roots in a little regarded supplement I wrote for Horizon Wars called Battle Royale, which reduced the game to one mech per player in an all-against-all combat sports arena setting. And one important feature of this was the ability of mech pilots to leave their mech and run around independently to do stuff that was important to winning the game.
Heroes in Midnight Dark are a form of upgrade for an element which is, it is important to note, entirely separate from the command upgrade I talked about in an earlier blog. Whilst I might have been an Army officer in a previous life, I am under no illusions that heroism and authority are not equivalent and a hero isn't necessarily the person in charge of their element.
Heroes have two main, basic functions. The first is that they apply extra modifiers to their element's stats that can be positive or negative, much like heroes in Infinite Dark. The second is that they can perform an "heroic sacrifice". Now, I need to emphasize that this doesn't necessarily mean that they out-and-out die, although it might. It refers to any situation in which the hero steps up and inspires their comrades to go above and beyond, but in a way that fundamentally alters the hero's relationship with those around them. As a consequence, you can only use an heroic sacrifice once per hero per battle. An heroic sacrifice can provide one of a number of instant benefits, such as saving the element from being destroyed, removing a debilitating state or dramatically reducing the amount of fatigue from which the element is suffering.
Any of these options can have a significant impact if done at the right moment. But, it should also be said, if done at the wrong moment, the impact may be negligible. The idea behind the mechanic of heroes was to capture the idea that remarkable individuals can have a major influence on how a battle turns but, on the other hand, they often don't!
But although any element can be given a hero, there are two kinds of element where the hero is a bit different: aircraft pilots and mech pilots.
In both cases they have exactly the same traits as all other heroes - with the same ability to make an heroic sacrifice (which is why it doesn't necessarily mean dying, because aircraft and mechs generally only have one pilot). But aircraft pilot heroes have the ability to bail out if their aircraft is destroyed and, once they've landed on the tabletop, to fight on. Those who playing Horizon Wars may remember that this was a feature of aircraft in that game, but was only really relevant to specific missions and objectives. Whereas now it can apply in any mission.
Meanwhile, mech heroes are a step above all other heroes.
This was a decision I took in response to the very reasonable feedback that, in Horizon Wars, mechs weren't, actually, all that special and most of the reasons to field them were aesthetic rather than tactical. I've wrestled a lot with the practical value of mechs on a future battlefield and, although I'm 99% certain they will never be a combat asset in any effective future armed force, I decided to embrace their cinematicity in a sci-fi combat wargame.
So, in Midnight Dark, mechs whose pilots are upgraded to be heroes not only get access to the usual abilities of an hero, but also to a selection of exclusive upgrades that will, among other things, allow some pilots to operate independently of their own mech or even to force their way into an enemy mech and take control of it!
Heroes are a bolt-on feature for Horizon Wars: Midnight Dark. This means that you can elect to play the game without them entirely, if you want a less cinematic tabletop experience. But I find them a lot of fun and think players who found Horizon Wars to be a good game, but lacking a little colour at times will be pleased with what heroes add to their experience.
As a final note, in Infinite Dark, a key feature of heroes was their ability to grow and adapt to events in a campaign setting. It should be said that this isn't a feature that is inherent to Midnight Dark, which isn't being released with an organic campaign. But I am very aware of its potential for a future campaign system, so watch this space!