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The Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era Developer Interview

The wait for the next Elder Scrolls experience isn’t as far away as fans might think. In fact, it’s launching soon on GameFound, and board game and non-board game enthusiasts alike can take a deep dive into the world of the Elder Scrolls. I had the chance to interview Josh Wielgus, Director of Marketing / Designer / Developer for the game. Here is what he had to say about Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era.


1. The Elder Scrolls is a massive IP – what was the process like obtaining the rights?

The process of acquiring the license itself wasn’t too difficult, surprisingly, but that was due in large part to bringing Andrew Navaro (former head of studio at Fantasy Flight) on board. Andrew had a working relationship with Bethesda from his days at FFG and working on a Fallout game. As he exited FFG, he sort of pitched to us this idea of working with Bethesda on a game with The Elder Scrolls license using a lot of the same dice/skill line mechanisms we used with Too Many Bones. So we put together a modest pitch on what we thought things could look like, and they loved what we were doing on both a mechanical and componentry level. They were excited to see the prospect of a sort of “premium” tabletop experience set in Tamriel.

2. Many video games companies are very protective of their intellectual property. How close is Chip Theory Games working with the Zenimax and Betheada teams on this project?

Generally speaking, very closely. They obviously are looking closely at every piece (literally and figuratively) of the game. That said, they haven’t spoken much into the mechanical side of the game’s design. The structure of how the game plays was very much something we came up with. Obviously it’s important that what we have come up with “feels” like The Elder Scrolls. Thus far that’s actually been the easiest part of the equation. Given that we’re coming up with almost entirely new illustrated art for the game and that we’re trying to tell a brand new story set in their world, we’ve worked meticulously with them through the entirety of the art, graphic design, and story writing part of development to make sure that this is a product that genuinely adds something new and exciting to The Elder Scrolls universe rather than simply attempting to replicate an existing video game in a new medium.

3. What’s your go-to race in any Elder Scrolls game?

My personal preference is to always do the opposite of min maxing and force builds that shouldn’t work (and often don’t work) onto my character. I also generally try to make my character’s look as silly and “uncool” as possible, so this is probably a terrible question to ask me. But is there any race in The Elder Scrolls as iconic as the Khajiit? I think not. So give me a Khajiit, but then let’s see if we can force them into two-handed combat tank status. The cool part about Betrayal of the Second Era is that you can go for that build if you’d like, even if it’s a bad idea.

4. Was this always built as a cooperative game? Is there a campaign planned or will each game be a unique adventure?

Yes, this has always been a cooperative game. All of us grew up playing The Elder Scrolls single player games, so we designed this from the get-go to be a player vs. the game, cooperative experience. It was also important to us both for our fanbase/reputation and to be true to The Elder Scrolls Online experience that this be playable fully solo *or* in a group. This is probably also a good place to mention that a lot of these concepts were already in the works for a potential Too Many Bones sequel. We would have made this game one way or the other, even if we hadn’t landed The Elder Scrolls license. That’s how much we believe in the system we’ve built here.

5. There is a huge emphasis (or so it sounds) on character upgrades via experience, and carrying your character forward for three sessions. Will the game box include dedicated storage containers to bring your character from one session to the next?

Yes, definitely. We’re still experimenting with exactly how to do this, but there will be save state storage included in every game to make saving your progress between sessions a breeze.

6. For those just hearing about this now, what’s the elevator pitch to get them excited?

From a board game perspective: It’s the best parts of Too Many Bones with streamlined rules, world exploration, massively expanded character customization, procedurally generated dungeon delving, and a significantly more fleshed out narrative.

From a video game perspective: This is everything you want from The Elder Scrolls on your tabletop. Huge character customization. Epic quests. Dungeon delving and exploration. The constant endorphin rush of leveling up. It’s all of that, but distilled down to its absolute best parts in ways that make sense on your table. Not only that, but it’s digestible. You don’t need to play this game with the same people for 200 sessions. Each campaign is a very doable three session experience with the same character. Don’t like what you’ve built? Want to try something new and different? You can do so with ease, and experience brand news quests with an entirely different guild in an entirely different region.

Explore the world of Tamriel and uncover a plot to strip the land of all its magic via a massive pile of available quests. Build the character of your dreams over three gameplay sessions that build toward an epic finale. Lean into any combination of races, classes, and skills you can imagine. Now add in the know-how and production values of a board game company known for making some of the most gorgeous and over the top table top experiences in existence. Build all of it on top of an improved version of one of the best and most beloved board game dice combat systems ever (Too Many Bones). Now consider we’re doing 100% new fully illustrated art and telling a brand new story in one of the most beloved video game universes in existence.

That’s Betrayal of the Second Era in a nutshell. That’s sort of three different elevator pitches but…this is a big game to explain!

7. Knowing who creates board games is one of my favourite things to research. Who are some of the key folks working on this, and what other board game projects have they worked on?

Oh man, I’ll get in trouble if I leave anyone off this list, there’s so many. One of the things we’ve shifted to in the last two years is actually leaving names of designers off of new releases and simply putting the Chip Theory logo on them instead. The reason for that is that *so* many people have a hand in bits and pieces of the creation of our titles now, and we genuinely view “development” as something that’s just as important/noteworthy as “design.” The line between those two things gets blurred all the time anyway. That said, Josh Carlson has serves as lead designer on this project, alongside several others. Josh has worked heavily on Hoplomachus, Cloudspire, and obviously Too Many Bones. We’ve had an outside contractor, Michael Gernes helping us move the ruleset along for the game and assisting with design as well. He’s done some work for FFG on Star Wars: Armada and Runewars. Ryan Howard, Logan Giannini and Salem Scott are three internal developers that have both done work on previous CTG titles and are heavily involved in things like quest and item development. Ryan has also overseen pretty much all of the lore development for the game.  And there’s more folks here who have impacted the game in various ways as well – even our graphics team has helped shape the way the game plays simply by helping us adjust the UX design. Personally, I was involved in the early stages of helping work out how the character development and mat would look and how skill lines would integrate, developing the fatigue track idea and so on. The point is, lots and lots of folks. This is the type of project you want to throw the kitchen sink at and then see which ideas work the best.

8. I know you are getting this project off the ground, but it sounds like this game to lend itself to expansions. Is anything planned?

Yes! Absolutely. Assuming it’s a hit, we want to continue to explore as much of Tamriel as we can. We’d love to continue to add regional expansions to the game for years to come. We’d also like to flesh out a crafting system at some point in the near future. We have some other ideas as well, but ultimately all of that will depend on how well this campaign does and what kind of legs the game has.


9. Can you tease any planned stretch goals?

There’s one particular component upgrade stretch goal that I’ll be very upset if we miss. It involves magnet spinners (it’s not BrassMags). On the topic of Stretch Goals though, I’ll just say we have *a lot* of them. Like, a lot a lot. We’re not a company that holds back on that or simply pulls content from the game to offer as a stretch goal. There’s a lot we’d love to stuff into this box if the funding allows it to happen. We’re confident we’ll manage to get them unlocked!

10. What should our readers know about your game and campaign? Where can they find you on social media?

I feel like this game is sort of our senior capstone project. And to a point, even the acquisition of the license with a history of being a more niche and oddball company was our way of announcing that we had fully grown up and “arrived” as a company and influencer in the board game industry.

Betrayal of the Second Era is so many of the best parts of what we’ve done over the years. At the same time, Chip Theory titles have a reputation for being rules dense and impenetrable beasts that are hard to get to the table. We’ve really worked hard to make this one as accessible and easy to learn as possible, knowing that there may be a lot of folks new to modern board games checking it out because they love the video games first and foremost. We’ve built it on a recognizable foundation, but it benefits so much from all the strides (and great hires) we’ve made over the years in a variety of ways – from the writing, to the UX, to the rules, it’s sort of the culmination of what Chip Theory has grown up to be in the last five years. We can’t wait for you to see it!

We’ll be posting plenty more about the game in the coming weeks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course the Gamefound page itself. Just look up Chip Theory Games on any of those platforms and see what we have to share!


Article By

blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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