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XCOM-like Miasma Chronicles learned simplicity from board games

We spoke to Miasma Chronicles developer, The Bearded Ladies, about the importance of simplicity in both board games and video games.

Miasma Chronicles screenshot of a red market scene.

Released late in May, 2023, Miasma Chronicles is the new XCOM-like title from The Bearded Ladies, devs of Mutant Year Zero. We talked to lead producer Mark Parker, and game director Lee Varley about developing their turn-based game, and how the simplicity of the best board games informed decision-making. As Varley explains, the team wanted to boil their game “down to the purest version of itself, the essence”.

Parker tells Wargamer: “One of the things we can learn from board games is the simplification of things – not that board games are simple; there’s generally quite a limited means to convey the experience – there’s a cost element as well.”

Varley says video games should aim to trim the fat just like board games have to. On the Miasma Chronicles design team a mantra was to “keep removing things until it stops working. Cut away everything that’s not really necessary to boil it down to the core experience.”

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That’s one of the reasons your squad is limited to three characters. According to Parker, “We did talk about having more than three characters”. But the result was fights became overly long and complex – “In some of the battles it got a bit ridiculous,” he adds. “There were too many pawns in the game”.

Varley explains that when gaming, he prefers “to have just two or three nerve wracking decisions than 20 things that are meaningless to me.”

“I’d rather find a weapon attachment in a game that doubles the amount of bullets my gun can hold – that’s a big impact – rather than an upgrade that does an extra 1% damage – that’s meaningless”.

As a result, Miasma Chronicles aims to be a strategy game with just a small number of very crucial choices to make. “There’s less decision making, but it’s way more impactful.” Varley explains what they dubbed the ‘golf bag approach’. Each weapon plays very differently to the last, so when playing Miasma Chronicles, you have to pick which club is right for the hole you’re looking at.

If you’re interested to find out more about Miasma Chronicles, we’ve also spoken to The Bearded Ladies about a special setting it’s added, which lets you turn down RNG in the game.

And if you’re interested in playing more games like XCOM we have a list for you right here. Plus, we’ve even got a Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters review you might enjoy.