Let us fill out another page in our chronicle…
Each of the 113 updates for Trudvang Legends have started similarly. But what is the story behind Trudvang Legends? With most legends, the truth is buried in the shadows of the past and behind doors closed to un-credentialed reviewers. And like most of our modern Legends, it begins on a webpage…
The cries from the comment section rang out with “We Are Trudvang!” and “WAT!” as the fans frothed about the latest CMON Kickstarter by Eric Lang and as he said, “the largest design team we’ve ever had.” Questions about the depth of the game or balance were quickly shouted down as the Trudvang cult formed and cemented their belief in bag-building adventures in the world of Trudvang, a roleplaying game by Riotmind.
In the summer of 2019, while anticipating the arrival of Cthulhu Death May Die, another CMON game from Eric Lang, Trudvang Legends launched. I had heard about it and watched a few videos and knew it had bag building and drawing mechanics and abstracted combat. The game looked focused on the narrative with choices changing the world with fantastic art by Paul Bonner.
The campaign launched and followed the normal trend of a huge first day, largely due to a $10 early bird discount, with a small drop off over the next few days, and then something unusual happened, especially for a CMON campaign, it started to lose backers and funding. The funding goal for Vortech and Nifelfang kept bouncing above and below their values, if I recall correctly, having backers joked that they could keep the undead down. In the updates, the funding goals for Vortech and Nifelfang were $1,110K and $1,160K, respectively, but on the final campaign page they’re not listed and Agnarbork is listed at $1,110K.
While trying to avoid spoilers to the game’s story there were no gameplay videos available initially despite pleas from backers. A week into the campaign Eric Lang and Michael Shinall made a semi-awkward video playing through part of a prequel scenario that was being demoed at Gen Con.
Around this time, despite dropping multiple add-ons CMON saw things going the wrong way and started doing daily unlocks and essentially giving the backers an expansion in the Wildlands in addition to the Lost Stories built out of the stretch goals.
Batch Boling, one of the people leading demos at GenCon, made a live stream that was later uploaded as a video that probably did more to reassure people that the game was fun and people enjoyed playing it than CMON’s own gameplay video.
Throughout the campaign, and ending well after it, a 10-update adventure called A Fortuitous Adventure by Eric Kelley was given to backers breathing life into the world of Trudvang. The finale is linked here as it contains links to the other nine episodes. This felt like an extraordinary step to pay an author to write a novella that serves no purpose other than providing extra fluff. And personally, I really liked it and it did exactly what it was supposed to do and got me excited to play Trudvang.
The campaign ended on August 14th, 2019 and things went on, much like you’d expect from a Kickstarter, with sporadic updates. The comment section was still filled with screams into the void of “We are Trudvang” and the like as the game maintained a passionate, bordering on zealous, community. I’m going to stop short of calling it good as it felt almost cult-like.
Most Kickstarters, especially complex and miniature heavy games, are late to deliver and most experienced backers will tell you to add three plus months to the delivery date (at minimum) and not worry about it too much. September 23rd, 2020 a few months before the game was to be delivered, update 92 dropped announcing a delay of possibly a year due to the game basically… not working. This news came roughly three weeks after Eric Lang stepped down from his role as Director of Game Design (which already had fans spinning faster than a pinwheel in a tornado, especially after CMON was temporarily delisted due to audit findings).
A quick side quest about the delisting—there was an excellent thread on BGG that had several users discussing the impact and meaning of the “Going Concern” the auditors noted. Auditors, as noted in the thread, are hired by the company so have some incentive to not find accounting discrepancies. What concerned those most familiar with accounting on BGG was CMON’s stance of “there’s nothing to see here.” As of the writing of this post, CMON is back on the Hong Kong exchange.
Now despite apparent financial issues and to CMON’s credit, they could’ve just shrugged and released a meh game and moved on but they saw potential and wanted to deliver a great product. They brought in new people and started revamping the entire thing. This wasn’t “spit and polish” type fine tuning as with most crowdfunded games; they essentially gutted the game and its narrative and rebuilt it from its foundation. There will be fewer chapters but each one will be longer. The developers found that the shorter chapters didn’t advance the story enough and lacked both focus and the epicness they wanted.
The gameplay was revamped, allowing players five bad draws before failing instead of the initial three but runes are drawn three at a time during combat. If they have three or fewer runes assigned in the miss track the player gains the positive statuses on the miss track. A fourth failure means they lose the extra benefits but can still activate their attacks. A fifth failure stops the player’s attack and the negative statuses on the player board are activated. Skill checks will have players drawing seven runes to be drawn with a target number of a specific rune type required to succeed. Negative status tokens are selected by the player when they fail.
Each character starts with four class feat cards and four unique feat cards and a starting item. Characters would draw four feat cards at the start of combat making each battle a little different as you had to work with what you drew instead of having a static setup. Level 1 cards can be exchanged for Level 2 cards for 3 XP. Character’s Feat decks improve in quality, not in size.
Enemies went from being static to more dynamic with a 12 card enemy deck, reminiscent of Gloomhaven’s enemy activation deck, that modifies their attacks and activates special abilities.
Besides starting items, items found by the group are a communal resource and with cards being activated with Chronicle points. The deck is set by the players at the start of the adventure and cards are put to the bottom as they’re used. Events cards replaced Travel cards and take place during the engage phase when there’s no enemies around. They remind me of the Event cards in Folklore the Affliction where something random happens to you.
Additionally, the management of status tokens looks to play an important part in planning as it can set you up for success with successful draws. Being able to stack some +1 damage statuses or gaining some health could be the difference between surviving a tough battle and starting that story over again.
On August 28th, 2021 CMON released the rulebook and promptly had to update it as one or more backers complained about some nudity on an image. And so the cycle continues between frothing from fans and the pitchfork-carrying mob screaming for their refunds.
Personally, I’m in the middle. I’m excited and anxious and researching this article has me more excited than before I started. I don’t like the way items are being handled (as a group pile that you have to use the top item to get to another item) but maybe that’s not a big deal. Tony Mastrangeli has commented on the BGQ Discord “I’m glad I got a refund” to bookend the staff’s perspective on this game.
This could be an excellent game that gets another Kickstarter once it’s out in the wild or it could be a one and done average to below-average game. It’s a crowded market these days so standing out is harder than it was a few years ago.
So as we wind down our twisting tale of highs, lows, goblins, trolls, redesigns, and bag building—Trudvang is on its way to being manufactured and eventually delivered with CMON recently offering up free split shipping to deliver the core box to backers around February 2022. Will it deliver the epic experience hinted at before the campaign began, will it be just another choose your own adventure story with some game mechanics sprinkled in for flavor, or will it be an overly-fiddly mess?
The Legends go on…