Designing Hero Academy 2 - The Council
Blog // 2018-02-28
From Bruce Shelley, Chief Designer at BonusXP
The Council House is the key faction in the original Hero Academy (HA) that we wanted to carry forward recognizably into Hero Academy 2 (HA2) while at the same time making them bigger and bolder. As we were designing the Council, we thought of them as a baseline House — useful and dangerous, but quick and easy to understand. They are recognizably human, medieval in their appearance and gear, and fight fair; in your face.
The Council stayed relatively unchanged throughout the development of HA2 because we thought their available heroes and spells should be the easiest to use and most new-player-friendly. At the same time, we kept in mind how the Council played in HA and wanted to stay true to that. With a Council deck you can recreate a typical role-playing game party that many players have experience with: melee fighters up front, weaker ranged attackers and healers to the rear. Keeping the Council medieval and as the classic fantasy “good guys” gave us room to create more distinct houses later in development.
We started with the iconic Council hero in HA, the Knight, who we have named Sir Baldric in HA2. He was our first test case and we spent months making him look and play just right. Because we wanted Sir Baldric to be a special legendary hero, we created the Footman as a basic sword hero. The same was true for the Bow Maiden, which we wanted as a basic archer, so we created the legendary Council archer, the Cobalt Queen. Since we had based many of the Council’s house powers around their heroes’ weapon types we rounded out this ensemble of legendary cards with Magister Alberic, a legendary staff unit inspired by the wizard from HA as well as the Hammer Lord spell, which summons a random hammer hero and gives it a nice buff.
Designing some of the Council powers to increase attack power of certain weapon-wielding heroes was a good start. A lowly Footman may seem weak when first summoned, but after a turn or two it can become a true powerhouse on board thanks to these buffs. We also created Auras for some of our legendary heroes that increase attack power to all surrounding ally units. We carried this same theme into some of the Council spells, like Embolden and Courage Potion.
To balance the Council’s potentially huge attack power and low mana costs, we decided to keep their heroes’ health points relatively low. This created a fair balance between risk and reward and also added an additional layer of strategy and specialization without making the Council overly complicated, thus staying in line with our original vision. At the same time we felt that there should be more to the Council than just attack power buffs.
During the course of our early stage play tests, we determined that the ability to heal some damage would be a nice addition to the Council that could round out their arsenal in a healthy, balanced way.
Design Director Dave Pottinger and Hero Academy 2 Designer Jacob Naasz play the paper prototype, August 25, 2015.
It made their core units such as Cobalt Queen or Sir Baldric more durable and defendable - if their player so desired and was willing to invest the necessary cards and mana - without making them immortal. It also helped players to keep already buffed units in play.
One example of this aspect of the Council house that we came up with is the Medic power, that allows a player to recover 1 health point of a damaged hero and also removes poison, which makes the feature particularly useful against the Dark Elves. Additionally, the Council have the Cleric of the Spire - a staff unit inspired by the Cleric from HA that can heal allied units. All-in-all, no other house can heal as easily or cheaply as the Council.
Last, but not least, we gave the Council spells such as Smelling Salts that allow the player to revive one of their KO’d heroes in addition to retaining any and all buffs applied before the hero was KO’d. By bringing back a core unit, players could potentially strike a decisive blow against their opponent. This offers yet another layer of strategy and is something else players should watch out for when facing off against the Council.
In conclusion, the Council maintains our intended straightforward and easy to grasp gameplay style while still offering a fair amount of ways to customize strategies. Many of the Council’s heroes are weak in health but also low in mana cost. This means they can be put in play quickly, but they might not survive long enough for the Council's weapon or aura buffs to really shine.
What is your favourite aspect about the Council?
How do you think they compare to our other houses?
Share your insights and join the discussion!