Skyrim is being ported to a new format: board games. Modiphius Entertainment, maker of The Elder Scrolls miniatures game and Fallout tabletop games, will release The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim - The Adventure Game in 2022, and Polygon has an exclusive preview.
The game’s multiple narrative campaigns, its creators say, will offer new insights into Skyrim’s lore, including a prequel to the events of the video game. Skyrim - The Adventure Game will go up for pre-order Tuesday on the new Gamefound platform. The final product, which is also destined for a retail release, could arrive with backers as early as next spring.
Skyrim - The Adventure Game is a tabletop experience for 1-4 players, who work together cooperatively in sessions that last between 90 and 120 minutes each. Players take on the role of one of six characters, each one based on an iconic fantasy race from The Elder Scrolls series: Altmer, Dunmer, Imperial, Khajiit, Nord, and Orsimer. Each comes with its own unique set of powers and affinities, which in turn provide the game with its gameplay diversity.
“Imagine you’re climbing the face of a six-sided pyramid,” Modiphius founder Chris Birch said in an interview, “and we’re all climbing towards the top; one big finale. But on my pyramid, I can go up the right, I can go up the left, I can go up the center. So I’ve got multiple choices to get to the top of my side of the story with my play style. But there are six other sides.”
Skyrim - The Adventure Game can be played as a one-off experience, focusing on a selection of thematic scenarios, but the big draws are its two lengthy campaigns, each with three chapters. Powering the narrative is a deck of some 600 cards, which can grow to around 700 cards depending on the expansions that you add in. They include all of the game’s available quests and plot elements. The deck itself is semi-permanent, requiring that players add, remove, and reshuffle the cards in a consistent manner from game to game.
Ultimately, Birch said, the deck becomes a record of your personal history with the game. Decisions you make early on will have consequences for the length of the campaign. Kill the jarl of Whiterun, for instance, and he stays dead the next time you play. But Birch stressed that this isn’t a legacy-style game and does not require the destruction of any original components. The entire experience can easily be reset by adding cards that were removed back into the game.
Like many mechanics in board gaming, this isn’t a novel system. Fantasy Flight Games used the concept to great effect in Fallout, published in 2017. So too did The 7th Continent, Serious Poulp’s award-winning game of exploration and cosmic horror. But Modiphius says it will have multiple decks that operate on the same principle — including a stack of Blades agents. These powerful characters enter the world semi-randomly, and if players allow them to be killed, they’ll be gone until the box is reset.
The world of Tamriel, where all of The Elder Scrolls video games are set, has a rich history that extends for thousands of years. Skyrim - The Adventure Game similarly has its place in that timeline.
“The first campaign is 25 years before [the events of the video game],” game designer Juan Echenique said, “so you get to meet some of the [non-player characters] from Skyrim, but 25 years before when they were a young adventurer and then they take an arrow to the knee — and that happens! The second campaign starts before the arrival of the Dragonborn, and then ends after the arrival of the Dragonborn. So you get to see all the events that the Dragonborn causes. You’ll cross paths with the Dragonborn — they’re just a different character — and it’s really fun to watch that from afar.”
The base game will cost £82 ($112) on Gamefound, while Modiphius is targeting around £100 ($137) for the final retail version, Birch said. Fans with access to a gaming PC will be able to take Skyrim - The Adventure Game for a test drive thanks to a demo version coming soon to Tabletop Simulator.
Birch noted that Skyrim - The Adventure Game was originally expected to cost a lot less to produce, with an initial price of around £68 for the Gamefound edition. The ongoing global logistics crisis, however, which is creating hardships across the tabletop industry, has pushed the price up. Nevertheless, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of Skyrim, the first 2,011 backers will be able to get their copy for the originally hoped-for £68 price.
“Once they’re gone,” Birch said, “they’ve gone.”
Birch said there will also be a deluxe tier for £220 ($300), which includes all of the expansions as well as a full complement of plastic miniatures, a deluxe neoprene game mat, and a set of metal Septim coins to replace the cardboard counters that come in the standard edition.
Skyrim remains one of the most ported games of all time, with versions available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well as Nintendo Switch and virtual reality headsets. An anniversary edition is coming to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X on Nov. 11. We asked Birch if creator Bethesda Softworks — Todd Howard in particular — was excited about the franchise making the jump into board gaming.
“I know he loved our miniatures game because he wanted to find someone to paint it,” said Birch, referring to his company’s other Skyrim-themed tabletop game, The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. “So I think they seem pretty happy about it.”