When the original Chainsaw Warrior arrived back in October 2013 it was the embodiment of what makes Games Workshop titles so great. The timeless board game updated for PC and mobile play was equal parts nail-bitingly tense, resolutely old-school, and tremendously punishing.
Those seeking a challenge could do no wrong than stepping into the shoes of the titular Chainsaw Warrior, but now developer Auroch Digital is back for a second rev of the chainsaw. Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night promises to build on the success of the original, taking it in an all-new direction that's only possible in a digital format. We got a chance to have a chat with Auroch's Game Designer, Steve Martin to get the lowdown on what we can expect from the next blood-spattered romp.
GD - Hi Steve, congratulations on the success of Chainsaw Warrior. It launched on Steam more than a year ago now, how has the commercial reception been and and are you seeing continued sales even now?
The game easily met our expectations on release, and has continued to do so ever since: we’ve been adding new fans every day!
GD - What did the Games Workshop fans think of the digital reworking then?
Overall it was very positive, particularly from fans of the original. We got a lot of praise for how faithful we were to the classic board game, but we also got some folks who were put off by it - the original game is very luck based, more like a game of solitaire or a Choose Your Own Adventure book: sometimes you’re simply not going to win, through no fault of your own, and that doesn’t always sit well with modern video game audiences. I get that, and it’s something we’ve tried to downplay to an extent in the sequel. But love it or hate it, that’s Chainsaw Warrior, and the reaction we’ve had from people who loved it is more than enough reason to make another.
GD - What sort of effect have Steam sales had on Chainsaw Warrior’s sales figures, was it worth a price drop?
Any dev will tell you about the impact a Steam sale can have on their sales. The platform itself is an incredible boon for smaller studios like ours, and the sales can bring a lot of attention from people looking to try something new.
GD - Moving on to Lords of the Night then, and What was it about developing Chainsaw Warrior that made you want to make a sequel?
We had a heck of a lot of fun making Chainsaw Warrior, but all the way through we kept thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if…” and “ooh! what about…” There are a lot of things you can do in a digital board game that just wouldn’t be practical in a physical one, and there are some things which work really well physically that don’t translate so well to digital. Lords of the Night came about because we wanted to explore and expand the systems and the world of Chainsaw Warrior, and to make a game that could take full advantage of the digital format.
GD - Will Lords of the Night be an expansion pack or a standalone game?
It’s very much a standalone. We’ve rewritten the game from the ground up to give us more flexibility with the mechanics, and given it a massive graphical overhaul at the same time.
GD - Have you expanded the mechanics of the original for Lords of the Night, or are you just looking to take it to a new setting?
Oh very much so. While the new setting has given us a fun theme to play with the biggest changes we’ve made have been mechanical. There are powerful new abilities that Chainsaw Warrior can pick up throughout the game, and punishing optional mini-bosses that you can choose to fight in order to become even more powerful.
We’ve also taken steps to reduce the impact of the randomness while still sticking to the spirit of the original game: you’re still going to have to rely on lucky rolls from time to time (it really wouldn’t be Chainsaw Warrior without the dice), but we’ve tried to make skills and choice of equipment matter a whole lot more, so that the decisions the player makes are more significant.
GD - So would it be fair to say with Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night you're looking to move away from the board game and its original ruleset?
While we’ve made some changes the core mechanics are still very close to the original, Lords of the Night is still a Chainsaw Warrior game. You’re working through a deck of cards, with a randomly generated character, hunting down Darkness with your Laser Lance and Chainsaw. You’re still rolling dice to attack and defend and the Slime is still going to one-shot you if you don’t kill it first!
GD - Chainsaw Warrior 2: Death’s Head was a tabletop board game sequel from Games Workshop that unfortunately never saw the light of day, did you manage to dig any info out of the creator Stephen Hand as to how this sequel was going to pan out?
We did get to take a glimpse at some of the early design work for Death’s Head recently, and I think it’s safe to say there are some really cool ideas in there that I’d love to see brought to life one of these days.
GD - Has it influenced your own sequel in any way?
With Lords of the Night we’ve very much taken the game in a direction of our own, and most of the design work was done long before we got to peek at Death’s Head.
GD - Does the digital format allow you to add elements to the sequel that wouldn’t be possible as a tabletop game?
Absolutely! One of the most best parts of the digital format is the amount of control we have over elements of the game that would just be way too much hassle in physical form. For example, we can reshuffle a deck and still ensure that the boss for that deck stays in the last 10 cards. Little things like that give us a lot more control over the player’s experience, and mean we can balance things to make sure each game feels more exciting.
Because we’re not using real cards we can make and choose from as many as we want without printing dozens of surplus and expecting the player to sort through them all. We can also maintain an element of control when we roll the player’s stats so that there’s never a need to quit to the menu and reroll: If one of your stats sucks too hard you’ll probably be very strong elsewhere to make up for it, and you’ll never have a character who’s terrible at everything (unless you’re playing ‘Classic’ difficulty, in which case you brought it on yourself and I have no sympathy)
GD - So in terms of digital format benefits Will we be seeing any UI or interface changes to help the game flow or to add a greater sense of player time pressure, which of course the original board game was renowned for?
The UI overhaul is going to be the first thing players of the original are going to notice. On one hand we’ve put a lot of work into making it look all shiny and new, but it’s also important to make sure that it never gets in the way of what the player wants to do. Items and weapons are much more accessible, which means that combat happens far more smoothly, with fewer interruptions.
Time is most definitely still a big factor for the player, in fact we’ve tried to make it even more significant than it was in the original - games are a lot more likely to run close to the wire, and if you spend too much time on the early game you’re going to be in big trouble by the time you reach Darkness’ domain...
GD - Are there any plans to integrate multiplayer into the Chainsaw Warrior concept? Will we see some form of co-op play for example in Lords of the Night?
While I can certainly see a co-op Chainsaw Warrior title working at some point in the future, especially on the tabletop, it’s not something we’ve got any plans to integrate in Lords of the Night. Multiplayer is tricky to justify in small titles like this unless you’re going all out on it: the last thing I’d want to do is tack it on as an afterthought and disappoint people.
GD - What are you most excited about with Lords of the Night, where do you feel you are adding the most innovation?
I hope it doesn’t sound too cheesy if I say I’m most excited to see what the fans think of it! This game is for them, and if they’re happy we’re happy.
In game, though, I really like the optional mini-bosses. The rewards for getting past them are pretty substantial but you’re going to have to figure out if the pain they’re going to put on you is worth it...
GD - It's definitely an exciting time for Chainsaw Warrior fans and Games Workshop fans in general, that's for sure. In recent years we've seen a lot of indie-developed Games Workshop titles crop up, how do you intend to stand out from the crowd and attract new players, or are you aiming for gamers who are already fans of Chainsaw Warrior?
The fans of the original board game are some seriously dedicated people, there’s a thread on a forum somewhere by a chap who’s had the game for over 20 years without a win. 20 years! With such awesome fans out there they’re always going to be first in our mind, and it’s really important to us that we make something they’d consider a worthy follow-up.
Because we’re working with a lesser known license I don’t feel like we’re competing for the attention of people who want to get their Space Marine on. Chainsaw Warrior is, to my mind, aimed more at fans of digital board games and the history of GW than of the Warhammer Fantasy or 40K universes they’re best known for.
GD - Games Workshop's got a lot of properties with huge potential getting snapped up now, What do you think of its newfound relationship with indie developers and resurgence in gaming?
I’m probably a little biased, but I think it’s fantastic!
I’ve been a GW fan my whole life and because my pocket money was never quite enough to get a proper 40k army together I was always especially fond of the smaller, more self contained games like Blood Bowl, GorkaMorka (shut up, it was awesome) and Mordheim.
Their relationship with indie devs is a great opportunity for smaller studios to bring their own flavour to the incredible universes they’ve created and to carry on the spirit of these games and the all the others in new and exciting ways.
Basically, while I’m pretty psyched to see what Creative Assembly are going to do with the Warhammer license I’m even more excited about Rogue Factor’s Mordheim!
GD - Have you got any future plans for new Games Workshop IPs following on from the Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night release?
Nothing I’m allowed to talk about!
GD - When are we expecting to see Lords of the Night available for purchase, how much will it cost and where will people be able to get their hands on a copy?
We’re releasing on Steam first, at the end of January, with Android and iOS to follow soon after, and it’ll cost £4.99.
GD - Well thats all for now, thanks Steve and Auroch Digital for taking the time to speak with us! It's been great chatting and we wish you all the best for your Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night launch this week!