A journey of discovery…

“Dawn” – Rise of the Occulites Board Tiles Preview

Welcome to the first game developer’s diary on “Dawn” – Rise of the Occulites.

Let me be honest and upfront with you all from the very start. I have primarily played miniatures games in the past. The openness of the board and freedom of movement was always a real plus to me. It meant that the board could look as nice as possible without detracting from the movement the figures would need to make.

However this inherent freedom has its drawbacks as well… Measurement. The use of a simple instrument such as a ruler can cause some very heated arguments. Especially when it comes to moving over things like difficult terrain or bodies of water – it can become quite tricky, discrepancies often arising. I believe with the right attitude and gaming group these problems are not going to raise their head much, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes measuring is fiddly. So as much as I wanted to write Dawn as a miniatures game (and did initially), I decided to go down the boardgame route, streamlining a lot of the fiddliness that had crept into the design.

Designing the boards for Dawn was going to be very heavily influenced by how movement would work in the game. The more traditional approaches to boardgame and wargame boards are squares or hexes. Both of these options seem to be the norm, with D&D stuff preferring squares and wargame stuff preferring hexes.

There are lots of positives to using this type of overlay for your movement across the board and lots of companies excel in doing this really well. But I didn’t think it was right for Dawn…

When using spaces for movement, I feel each space should be clearly defined as to what it is – so that you know what effect that type of terrain has on your figure. When it comes to square and hex overlays, you are at risk of getting one of two undesirable outcomes:

1) Having the terrain pieces conform to squares or hexes – this often makes the terrain look unnatural, blocky or ‘hexey’ (yes I just made that word up). What happens is that so the space is clearly defined as “Water” or “Swamp”, the whole space becomes that terrain. So it has very straight and unnatural edges.


2) Not being clear on what is the deal with each space – this happens when a great board is illustrated, regardless of spaces and then the square overlay or hex overlay is plonked on top. Its this situation that gives you spaces with some Water and some land, a space with different height levels in it. It then becomes necessary to outline the space with a colour that defines that terrain – which I think can detract from the game.

So, what I decided to do for “Dawn” is to not use any of those options. I decided instead, to make the spaces conform to the artwork. This would not only keep the aesthetic of the terrain boards, but would also make it easy to determine what the deal was with each space. Now I’m not saying that this was the best way to do it, or the other ways are wrong (because they aren’t – there’s some fantastic terrain boards that use both options 1 and 2 above) but it was something I wanted to try, and I’m glad I did as I’m really happy with the result.

The only thing that needed to be the same on each board was the edges of the spaces on each side so that the terrain could be easily modular. I achieved this by making sure there was a space separation at 4cm intervals around the board. Then the space overlay was transparently dropped in conforming to the terrain itself, thus creating the spaces in which the Occulites would move.

You can find a sample of one of the terrain tiles below:

An early sample “Swamp Tile from the game “Dawn” – Rise of the Occulites

I hope you have found this interesting and would love to hear any comments or questions you may have.


EDIT: A few people were interested to find out how Line of Sight and Ranged attacks would be influenced by the irregular spaces. A great question, so I have included some brief design notes/discussion below on these two concepts in Dawn.

I’ll give you the abridged version, but it should give you a pretty good idea of which way I’ve gone.

First of all, lets look at Line of Sight (LOS).
LOS is something that can also become quite contentious. I wanted to be able to streamline this to make it more tactical, whilst trying to keep some simplicity about it. I think I’ve achieved this with Dawn fairly well. YMMV of course. 🙂

“Dawn” is a skirmish game, where characters are constantly moving around the board, trying to complete objectives. We make the assumption that because they are moving all the time, they will be able to be spotted at some point during their movement. Therefore, LOS can be drawn to pretty much anywhere on the board. This is a concept that might feel odd at first, but makes sense after playing it. It also helps to stem ambiguous cover rules. I hear you asking me, “Why would you do that? That won’t work! Its too simple!” and if that was the only rule to go with LOS, I might tend to agree with you. For this to make sense, Occulites must be able to take cover… to hide.

The Art of Not Being Seen – You will notice that on the log in the above Swamp tile, there are some yellow mushrooms. Those yellow mushrooms tell us that the log as a whole can be used to conceal or hide a character. This could be via the use of adaptive camouflage, by simply crouching behind it or any other variety of ways. To allow your character to “Hide”, your character must be in a space adjacent to an object that has yellow mushrooms on it, but not adjacent to any enemy character. You may “Hide” by spending the last action of that character’s turn on doing nothing more than staying in that spot OR you may discard a card from your hand that has the Keyword “Hide” on it (this does not cost an action). Any character wishing to attack you in ranged combat, must take an awareness test to see if they can spot you before attacking. A character can, in most cases, move into an adjacent space to a hiding character and attack them without penalty (but there are exceptional characters that can gain high proficiency in “The art of not being seen” that can influence this). There are other methods of “Hiding” that allow you to hide within some objects, but I will not go into that here (basically will be a different mushroom colour to determine the method of hiding available)

Ranged Combat I will go into more detail on in a future developer diary on combat. But I will say that due to Dawn taking place at the start of the Occulite civilisation, there aren’t as many characters that can use ranged attacks. It is something the characters generally need to unlock or “learn” through a campaign. Although one off games allow you to choose characters that can perform eye beams, bow and arrow attacks etc… Using the irregular spaces is just as easy as normal spaces, you just count the shortest path in a straight line from one space to another.

I hope this brief extra look at LOS and Ranged combat has been interesting enough to warrant you coming back to check out the rest of the developer diaries as they are written.

Ben. 🙂


9 responses

  1. This really looks great!



    January 12, 2011 at 1:15 am

  2. Luka

    Ok, but how do the irregular spaces work with ranged attacks?

    January 12, 2011 at 4:32 am

  3. Michael Greenhill

    I like the idea. I’ve never played a game that really did it that way, and I think it will help cut down on arguments and questionable moves on opponents parts like you said. With spaces conformed to the terrain, you now have to think of your actions and movement in something other than inches. Then the looks of the board and what is on it takes on a whole new dimension.

    Good Job,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:54 am

  4. Cs

    One of the advantages ive seen with hexes or grid is the ease of calculating range and line of sight. How will those factor into the game?

    January 12, 2011 at 7:55 am

    • boromirandkermit

      Thanks for the positive comments guys! 🙂 Really appreciate it.

      Also, thanks for showing the interest to ask questions about the range and line of sight.
      I have added that section into the bottom of my post as an edit, as it may be of interest to a number of people.


      January 12, 2011 at 8:48 am

  5. This looks very interesting, I look forward to following your progress.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:24 am

  6. Luka

    That clears it (very nice idea – the mushrooms act as a symbol, but are perfectly incorporated into the board) and at the same time makes me want to learn more about the game. 🙂
    Can we expect any miniature previews in the near future?

    January 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

  7. boromirandkermit

    Cheers Luka 🙂
    I’m glad it has triggered your interest. I have lots of information to leak over time.
    Miniatures are on the cards for a future preview, but they will have to wait until I have them in my hands. Probably still a bit away. Stay tuned though! I’ll leak some more info on the game soon.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm

  8. Hi, interesting stuff!
    About line of sight over an irregular map you might look at some of the ideas here:
    The examples are all with hexes but the principles would apply for maps like yours too.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

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