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How Eve Online: The Board Game navigates adapting a gigantic MMO to tabletop

Eve Online: The Board Game is a 4X strategy game that brings the massive world of Eve to tabletop

It has become fairly common practice over the last few years for big video game titles or franchises to branch out into the world of tabletop. There have been plenty of high-profile successes like Stardew Valley, This War of Mine, Sniper Elite, and Dark Souls all managing to reinvent their core mechanics and themes for an analog space.

Eve Online is next up to try it thanks to the team at Titan Forge, but CEO Roman Lakomiak tells me it took a bit of pestering to get CCP on board with the idea.

“We approached them a long, long time ago,” he says, “and they were not keen on doing a board game at the very beginning, but we bothered them enough for them to give us a chance to try.”

Titan Forge has already seen success with its original series of board games, Lobotomy – dungeon-crawling adventures set in an asylum – but the company wanted to work with an existing IP as its next project.

Eve Online the board game box and components

“We have three Eve online players in-house,” Lakomiak says. “They said we should approach CCP because there is a need for an Eve online board game. At the moment when we reached out to CCP, we didn't have a proper idea for the game, but when they replied, we came up with an idea, we presented it to them, and now we are here with the prototype.”

Translating a video game to tabletop is no easy feat, and for as many recent successes as there have been, there are just as many failures. The team at Titan Forge had to carefully consider their approach.

“The biggest difficulty for us was to translate the digital game into a good product,” Lakomiak explains. “We could try to translate certain mechanics and things from the digital game and then create a terrible tabletop game. Or then you could create a good tabletop game, and just [apply the Eve branding] even though it has nothing to do with it except for the visual side.

“I think that we managed to get to a really sweet spot in terms of translation as we have those players in the house, they were pushing in different directions, and then we have developers that do not play Eve Online and that allowed us to get to the really good product.”

Eve Online the board game laid out on table

With a game as complex as Eve Online, some simplification was always going to have to happen, and Titan Forge decided that combat should be the driving force of the board game.

“The combat system that we created is something that will be really good for Eve Online players,” Lakomiak says, “because we tried to translate the dynamics between different sizes of ships, targeting, damage, and so on.”

Based on my experience with the prototype, this is how combat works: Each ship has a size rating of small, medium, or large, which determines what attack dice they can use. The attacking ship rolls against the stats of the defending ship and needs to get enough target and damage icons on their dice to successfully do damage.

The system essentially works so that small ships are fragile but hard to hit, while large ships are very easy to hit but highly damage-resistant. On top of that, some ships have special abilities that will alter the flow of combat in unexpected ways – plus, as players build up giant fleets, battles get even more complex.

EVE Online Angel Titan.

“It's not an easy game,” Lakomiak says. “We wanted this product to be for everyone, but that's impossible. It's a complex strategy game that you need a certain level of board game experience to play and I think that’s needed because if we try to target it for newbie board game players we would have to kill the essence of the game.

“We put a lot of effort into the combat so everything else is a little bit streamlined, so the downtime is not that big. When you take basic actions – like a build action, moving, expanding something, close actions – things like this are simple.”

One thing that is currently missing from the game is the player-driven stories that Eve is so famous for, Lakomiak tells me this is because they have been “focused on getting the working prototype especially for [Eve Fanfest]”.

“That was one of the things that CCP required from us,” he says, “to have a working prototype for this event, so they could show it to people. We did everything we could to get the core rules and the basic prototype as good as possible as close to the final ones as possible. The core rules are final for the base game and we are happy with that.

A massive battle in space.

“But then people expect the game to have expansions, titans, pirates, wormholes, and so on and so on.”

While Lakomiak won’t give me any specifics, he assures me that there are still things in the works that they hope to have ready before the Kickstarter campaign launches later this year.

“So all those things are still in development,” he explains, “and we are still waiting to meet with lore masters from CCP to discuss potential options, and in two weeks there is Essen Spiel, the biggest board game convention in Europe. Our goal for this event is to gather as much feedback as we can from people [before the Kickstarter goes live].”

Even without these mysterious “in development” features, Eve Online: The Board Game is still a solid 4X tabletop experience that will easily appeal to anyone who likes the management number-driven side of Eve. It may not be a Twilight Imperium-level strategy game, but if the final product can give players a unique Eve feel, it could easily be up there with the best video game adaptations.

Eve Online: The Board Game’s Kickstarter is currently set to go live in Q4 2023.