Thursday, July 14, 2016

Reviewing Beasts of War Xilos Campaign Website

Beasts of War recently launched their Battle for Xilos site - an online campaign system that allows users and Warlord Games to shape the narrative going forward for Beyond the Gates of Antares. They had teased their campaign system a while back and it seems they have now rolled this out to two games - first Infinity and now Gates of Antares.

I've been using the site to record my games and communicate with others about their games, but I feel like this site is so innovative it needs to be shared beyond just the community playing Gates of Antares. I am not a website designer, so I'll just review it from a usability standpoint as opposed to design and code etc.

The news feed tells you all about the 'episodes' that are happening. I believe there will be six episodes total, and it seems like they're doing one a week. It is a bit fast for me as Gates is not the only game I play (and WMH Mk3 just launched) but I'm trying to make up some games. They're currently in Week Four and I'm playing a Week Three game this weekend. The weeks align to the different scenarios in the Xilos Campaign book.

The top of the screen has the navigation bar where you can choose the different things you want to do. It seems like everything is present - you can look at your own stuff, create a battle report ("mission"), look at all the battle reports so far, look at them by episode, and look at other people's profiles. The only thing missing, I think, is the ability to 'friend' other people. This would be really cool and make it easier to link your battles, as we'll see later.

The help page is pretty substantial and tells you all about the site.

I really like how they've integrated all these PDFs into the site. You can print it off and have it ready for when you're going to fight your battle. The briefings are not replacements for having the actual book; they're just a little bit of extra information.

Here you can see my live profile. I've fought three battles, one win, one loss, and one draw. The data is pretty basic but shows how many battles I've fought and when. You can hover over the graphs to see different data points.

Next I can take a look at the Algoryn forum, where I can talk to other Algoryn commanders. This is pretty neat and totally desperate from the Warlord Games forum. You can also see my battles I've reported and battles I'm currently editing. The 'EP1 Landing Zones' one above was an accident - I've not been able to figure out how to delete it. The ones under 'Your battle reports' are battle reports I've submitted. I can still edit them if I need to change something.

One of my favorite parts is the achievement area. I have loved achievements since they started way back on Xbox. Here we can be 'rewarded' with shiny images for doing various things like commenting, commending, receiving commendations, etc. There is nothing in the real world attached to it other than showing your friends how much you've been doing.

When I go to edit my own battle, the site actually tells me what I need to do to earn more experience. When I gain experience my title changes - currently I believe I'm a 'Captain'. By adding a video, or better comments, photos, army lists etc I can receive more experience. This is really easy to use and extremely streamlined.

When I copy in a YouTube link or photos they're actually embedded in the report, which is really cool. You don't have to go elsehwere to watch a video or look at images in a different site. There is a little bit of weirdness with spacing but its not bad.

At the bottom of the report it shows who won and the author's stats. You can rate the battle report, give 'commendations', look at lists, and comment. One of the most effective parts of the site is how it almost forces you to interact with other people. If it were just a campaign site with no social aspect it'd be cool but this takes it to the next level.

It is really easy to enter in a battle report. I input my opponent's details, assign the episode and mission and set the game size.

Then I input the narrative, or story for the battle. If you get over 150 words you get experience on the site. I would recommend not only doing a turn by turn breakdown, but also talk about what you learned from the game. BtGoA is a really new game, so there are a lot of layers we haven't explored yet.

Notice at the top that you can also 'link' to your opponent. Your opponent can send their code and you can send yours and then they're linked. You have to make sure all the details are the same - like factions, how many points killed and left, etc. That part can be frustrating but if you're communicating with your opponent while you write the reports it shouldn't be hard.

They made it really easy to embed photos and army lists in the site as well, by just uploading them. I use Army Builder or BattleScribe and output a PDF, then upload. 

Here you can see my embedded YouTube link as well as the 'link to' link on the top right. If I click that it goes to my opponent's version of the battle.

When we look at each episode we can see the data and how the battles have happened. You can see the number of battle reports, most successful faction, how many points each faction scored, and the number of battles per day. Concord and Ghar seem to have been the most popular, probably due to their plastic being included in the starter.

Here you can see what happens when I mouse over the graph. Algoryn had 19 points in this particular week. Boromites have been doing really well for being a more underrepresented faction, from what I've seen on Facebook and other sites.

When I go to the faction page for Algoryn, I can see even more data. It shows how many points we've scored per episode, per day, etc. It also has the Algoryn forum embedded into it.

I can see the top Algoryn commanders here (look who's number five!) amongst points, reports, comments, etc. I can also look at all the battle reports that include Algoryn. A welcome addition to this area of the site would be a 'painting gallery' that helps each faction's commanders get ideas for painting their own stuff.

There is a section where you can search for other commanders. I would love to see them flesh it out more with groups, finding players by regions, and friends. Perhaps clubs could set up their own pages as well.

I hope they can keep the site up even after the campaign has ended, so we can keep reporting battles. The outcome will definitely affect the story going forward for Antares, so maybe they can lock the 'outcome' of the campaign but keep the ability to report battles. I'd also love to see the ability to track characters and upgrades to them as presented in the Xilos supplement.

Overall, I'd say Beasts of War has done an amazing job bringing this tool to the wargaming community. They'll be able to create other campaigns for other games in it and I hope it is successful for them because they deserve it. Even if you're not playing Gates yet I encourage you to check it out.

Thanks for reading, and check out our first video battle report to go along with our Xilos report!

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