When Wargamer attended the Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game preview, hosted by Steamforged Games, the monsters were the stars of the show. Steamforged showed off 3D-printed prototypes of the monster miniatures coming with the core game and its expansions, available on Kickstarter May 18.
The core box set for Monster Hunter World Iceborne will come with sabertooth drake-thing Barioth, electric baboon Rajang, ice-shark Beotodus, and wyvern-chicken Banbaro. The Absolute Power expansion, which will come bundled in the core Kickstarter pledge, adds water-guzzling wyvern Coral Pukei Pukei, hench cat-drake Nargacuda, the bat-pterodactyl hybrid Shrieking Legiana, and flying T-Rex Tigrex.
Many Kickstarter-funded boardgames include miniatures seemingly because its expected, not because it adds to the design, as Wargamer Mollie Russell found in her Skyrim the board game review; even the best board games price can be sent through the roof by too many minis, as I found when reviewing the otherwise excellent DnD Onslaught Starter Set, and is often a barrier to entry for dungeon crawler board games.
But lead designer Jamie Perkins argues that Monster Hunters’ great beasts demand suitably impressive models – they’re the stars of the show, after all. “The whole design of the game is supposed to make you feel like you’re fighting a monster. They determine the pace of combat, you find out the monster’s action first every turn and you just have to react to it.”
Perkins describes how the monsters “come in with these big tail sweeps and huge attacks, and your hunters are incredibly vulnerable, they’re physically tiny in comparison”. In the Iceborne board game preview that Wargamer played, the sight of a small band of hunters the size of regular DnD miniatures face down a behemoth the size of a school bus made the scale of the challenge facing the players challenge immediately obvious. Perkins gives his opinion: “I think these huge minis absolutely do contribute to the quality of the game”.
Despite being core to the experience he’s trying to design, most of Perkins’ time working on the game has been with “paper cutouts and Excel spreadsheets”. He only saw the prototype miniatures the week before the demo event: “It’s one of the highlights seeing the models, just a really rewarding part of the process”.
Lead sculptor Russ Charles highlights the prototype model for the Elder Dragon Velkhana, the first of the colossal boss monsters that Steamforged will reveal in the Kickstarter campaign. “It’s a single piece print from a resin 3D printer”, Charles says, adding “The final one will be about 20%, 30% bigger – we weren’t confident we could transport a full-size print to the demo without it breaking”.
The designs have to meet with Monster Hunter license-holder Capcom’s approval. Perkins says: “We’re blessed with very talented sculptors. Capcom’s feedback is often: This one scale is out of place, this fur should be different. They very rarely feedback on the pose, expression, emotion of a design”.
Apparently, Monster Hunter fans share Steamforged’s enthusiasm for big monster minis. Iceborne: The Board Game is the younger sibling of Monster Hunter World: The Board Game, which Steamforged is currently delivering to Kickstarter backers. Fans are already submitting photos of their painted models to the game’s social media channels.
Perkins says “we’re used to seeing photos of painted miniatures from games like Guildball” – Steamforged’s now out-of-print debut, a skirmish miniature wargame themed on mediaeval football – “and Godtear” – a head-to-head board wargame with a spot on our guide to the best couples board games – “but this is the first time we’ve had this reaction for a board game”.