GTM #215 - Grimslingers: Northern Territory
by Greenbrier Games

Tell us who you are (short bio)?

Walter Barber is Greenbrier Games’ little brother - cute, but kind of a jerk. He’s been making games since he was old enough to play them, and has always had a passion for creative writing. He’s worked on universes such as Champions of Hara, Folklore: The Affliction, Zpocalypse, and Grimslingers. Disclaimer for the rest of this article - he’s also a huge Grimslingers fanboy, and would happily trade his current life to live in the Forgotten West.

What did you do for Grimslingers?

Grimslingers was my first major transition from designer to developer. I’ve been revising the rulebook through all four editions. I know, I know, but we’ve been getting closer each time and I feel like we’ve really got a tight manual this time. Rulebooks are a tricky art. Thank god for how-to-play videos. Additionally, I got to get my hands much dirtier with Northern Territory than I did with the core game, and had the chance to walk alongside Stephen Gibson to help develop a lot of the new character abilities, special resource mechanics, and a few fights in the story.

What contributions did you provide for the expansion specifically?

In this go of it, I was much closer to the project from the start, and did playtesting directly with Stephen throughout, which meant we did a lot of idea bouncing and co-developing, especially for the character abilities and resources. I’d say I’m most proud of Luella’s special resource: the push-and-pull of control with the Gaia Mind. Originally, her resource was going to be much more akin to Kipper’s durability, and it was great getting her to be more unique. I am beyond excited to see fan-made combos and strategies start popping up around her and the other characters, because there is a lot to work with.

How does this change the game from the original core version?

Man, Northern Territory adds so much! I feel like with numerous expansions you’re just getting more of the same. With Northern Territory, not only did we adjust some core rules to improve the basic functions of Grimslingers, but we added completely asymmetrical abilities and mechanics for all the characters, created a much more dynamic progression system, and added the choose-your-own adventure element to the story book. Players are now able to see more of the Forgotten West (five times more, to be exact) and get new customization options along the way. In my opinion, this is everything an expansion should be.

What was it like co designing with Stephen Gibson?

Stephen is a blast to work with! As someone who’s both a fan and a colleague, it was pretty rewarding to open up the hood and tinker around with him. There are definitely areas where Stephen prefers to take the reins in collaborating (the art direction, of course), and he’s pretty tight-lipped about the story and where things are going to go, but I was definitely surprised by the extent to which he was willing to take my feedback and let me push certain aspects of development. When a project is someone’s baby, it's an awesome feeling when they’re willing to open it up to you.

What was your favorite aspect about the creative process?

One of my favorite moments was working on one of the final boss fights at the end of one of the story paths. I don’t want to give anything away, but one of the core tenants of Grimslingers’ design is the incorporation of mini-games within the game; places in the story where you use the components in unexpected ways, or maybe see familiar elements of classic card games integrated in to keep things weird and fresh. In this case, we tried a few things, then Stephen handed the reins off entirely and just said, “Put a mini-game in here and make it awesome.” I’m paraphrasing, but when you get there I think you’ll dig it.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

I would love to keep pumping out more characters. There are six total, including the special ones from Kickstarter. I think that working on these really pushed my limits on just how asymmetrical characters could be in a game like this and still be balanced. I feel like I leveled up as a designer during this project, and a lot of these concepts became the foundation for where we finally settled on character mechanics for Champions of Hara.

Final take away — what do you hope the players will get out of this expansion?

My biggest hope is that players feel just how expansive the Forgotten West is. In the first game, you’re stuck in one zone - the Valley of Death. In Northern Territory, there are five new zones (not to mention a return to the Valley of Death), each of which are semi-randomly generated each time you play. Among them is a secret zone, which you have to really explore the world in order to find. When you get there, you’re rewarded with huge chunks of deep lore for the world that honestly create more questions than answers. It’s objectively brilliant, and I hope players really get a chance to feel the scope of that.