Gen Con 2023 – Chip Theory Games

Chip Theory Games, who never go halfway in any of their games, has a somewhat surprising new line of dice games entitled 20 Strong, all of which use the same set of 20 dice which are included in the base game. Three of the titles in the line are releasing to backers soon, with more to come later. I was also able to take a peak at an early prototype of the upcoming adventure game based on the Elder Scrolls video game franchise. Planned for a September 2024 release, its full title is The Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era.

20 Strong Line of games

Each game in the 20 Strong line will use the same 20 dice. There are 17 attack dice of various colors. As in other Chip Theory Games each color has a different ratio of “hits” and “misses” on the die but every die has one “critical hit” face. The three other dice are for tracking statistics. Currently, the Solar Sentinels game uses the dice to track player health, strategy rolls, and a “dice return” which governs the rate at which used dice get returned to be used again.

As mentioned, there are currently three games in the series. Solar Sentinel is based off a new IP Chip Theory plans to expand. Too Many Bones is based off the popular dice-based adventure game of the same name. Victorum is broadly based around Chip Theory’s gladiator-battling game, Hoplomachus. Next summer there are plans for a series of 3 games based around the Tanglewood IP. (At least I believe there’s three of them, and one will have an option to come with the 20 Strong dice for those who didn’t get into the first wave of games.) All three games (presumably most of the following in the series) are based around a hero in combat with opponents.

20 Strong: Solar Sentinels

The base game of 20 Strong, the one that comes with dice, is Solar Sentinels. It is probably the easiest of the three to play, suitable for a gamer’s first experience with the 20 Strong dice system. There are six double-sided choices for the player’s hero who will take on one of four possible end-bossed which start face-down so the specific enemy will be unknown.

Players begin the game with the full complement of dice and then choose which ones they want to use to fight monsters. Used dice do not immediately come back but are slowly regained based on the character’s current refresh rate attribute.

At the start of the game, the minor enemies are shuffled and placed into three decks and the top cards are flipped over, giving a player 3 choices for combat. After picking the enemy, dice are rolled. If the monster is defeated, a reward is gained (either an immediate or ongoing benefit), if they are not defeated, the hero takes damage and the monsters are discarded. Of course, the enemy cards all have special effects and they may even affect each other, such as handicapping other combats or forcing one to fight a specific enemy. Once any of the three enemy decks is cleared, the player may advance to the final boss fight.

To increase the difficulty of the game, one can include mission cards. At the start of the game four mission cards are drawn and three are picked and placed in a row. These side-missions must be completed left to right. Unfulfilled missions will make the final boss fights more difficult.

The game should be coming to backers as early as September sometime, but if you want to try it “right now” Solar Sentinels is currently a free-to-play game at the online boardgame site.

20 Strong: Too Many Bones

The next 20 Strong game is Too Many Bones, based on Chip Theory’ dice-building RPG/adventure game where players have a Gearloc character they take on an adventure. Here, players choose a Tyrant to fight at the end of the game and a Gearloc to use as your character. The two combined determine how many “days” you have to complete the adventure to win the game. A deck of mini-boss monsters are shuffled into an encounter deck. They make everything harder in the boss fight if not defeated first.

Combat in the game is similar to Solar Sentinels but in this case monsters aren’t discarded if they aren’t defeated. Combat continues on until the monster or the player is defeated. In addition, players may use their health as any resource, such as discarding it to recover more dice. Defeating a monster grants +1 health or lets a player to scout the top of a deck.

A player’s Gearloc has a special ability as well as slots that can be filled to improve their capabilities. If all four slots are filled, the Gearloc flips sides and becomes more powerful, but loses all the slotted gear.

20 Stong: Victorum

Victorum uses the setting, characters, and monsters from Chip Theory’s gladiator style battle game, Hoplomachus. Players pick a hero to use during the game, but unused heroes are flipped over, showing a bad-guy back which is given over to the enemy side. Thus, you may pick your hero based on the opponent on the flip side that you’d rather not face.

Two features set Victorum apart from the other game. First, rather than starting with decks of face-down cards, Victorum begins by building a face-up pyramid of bad guys. Second, players do not begin the game will all 20 dice, only about half are given to the player. Rewards in the game grant the player additional dice, or upgrades to already owned dice.

Players will move around the pyramidal “camp” to defeat enemies, especially mini-bosses called primus. Once they are defeated it is possible to engage the scion, the final boss in the game.

The Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era

Still in development, all images in the photos are not final, TES:BotSE is already on Kickstarter but plans to release in September of 2024. It is a grand adventure game with players journeying around a large map broken into regions, as is found in the videogame The Elder Scrolls. Each region has its own gazetteer containing backstory, items that can be found in shops, questlines to pursue, etc.. The game also contains Guilds – an important feature in the videogame – and a player’s guild will affect many aspects of the game, particularly which questlines are available in any given area. At the start of the first game session, players pick a region to explore and join a guild. These two will determine how the session will play out. Thus games with different guilds will have a somewhat different feel to them.

Players start out by picking a race, class, and a legendary item. Each of the three bring a different ability to the table. Race will provide the basic setup stats and a special ability. However, the intent is not to lock things down into specific race/class pairs; the races, by design, are different but lean more towards generalists so they work fairly well with other choices. Players also start with one Skill which can be upgraded over time. Players can get more skills by finding trainers in their region.

Class abilities are actually powered by player misses. The more often they miss the more often they can use their abilities. If a player accomplishes a special class mission, they get to upgrade their class by flipping it to its other side.

Players are given a mat with empty slots except for a few starting attributes but the mat is then slowly filled up with upgrades as the game progresses. A typical game goes over the course of three play sessions (2-3 hours if its a faster game), at which time your mat is probably full. Interestingly, a mat can be filled from either side (right or left) so at the start there isn’t an issue but towards the end of the game players must decide just how much they want to emphasize each attribute.

Players ramble around the map, occasionally encountering battles. These range from open fights to more involved dungeon or cave delves. At the start of the encounter a hex grid play area is set up, possibly with chained rooms with doors to open. Players spawn on a set point and must accomplish the specific mission. This could be killing all the monsters but might also include finding particular treasure inside. If an encounter gets too hairy, players can bail if needed but will only keep a portion of the awards (experience, etc…) found inside. There are side quests. While the final boss is set, side quests are scaled to the party level to always provide a challenge.

One final note, lockpicking was rather infamous in the videogame. It is still present in the boardgame. Players roll 3 dice and attempt to match symbols on the top of a card, but players may spend fatigue (one of several reducible traits) to adjust the dice rolled.

If you are familiar with the Cloudspire line of games, TES:BotSE will clock in around the same size and heft.

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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1 Response to Gen Con 2023 – Chip Theory Games

  1. Geoff Cost says:

    Elder Scrolls is going be off the charts, combining bits of past CTGs classics.

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