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Thornwatch is a graphic novel adventure created by Penny Arcade and Lone Shark Games. It is designed by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade and Mike Selinker, Chad Brown, and Rodney Thompson of Lone Shark Games. It bridges the gap between board games and RPGs, the first of three interlocking games in the Eyrewood Adventures line. Through the game’s unique modular storytelling structure, players get the experience of an RPG in a board game. Thornwatch can be pulled off the shelf for 60 minutes of fun, or provide 2+ hours of epic adventure. It is a visually arresting game, unlike anything we’ve ever made before. When you play Thornwatch, you are inside a comic book story of your own making.

Thornwatch bestows upon one player the role of the Judge, who enacts the will of the Judging Wood. Each other player plays a Thornwatch character: among them the Blade, Greenheart, Guard, Sage, and Warden. The game begins with the Judge selecting a storyboard in which the Thornwatch manifest before a tree adorned with a knot of thorny brambles, surrounded by conflict. If the players overcome this first challenge, the Judge offers choices that lead to new storyboards and further adventure.

Storyboard. Art by Mike K, images not final.
Storyboard. Art by Mike K, images not final.

The game takes place on one of many maps that display forests, swamps, and villages of the Eyrewood. The pawns lay flat, as if the heroes, enemies, and denizens of the forest are characters in a set of comic book panels.

Game in play. Pawns of the Swamp Choir, Gliders, Sage, Blade, and Warden on swamp and forest map tiles with dice and terrain cards.
Game in play. Pawns of the Swamp Choir, Gliders, Sage, Blade, and Warden on swamp and forest map tiles with dice and terrain cards.

The core engine is the momentum system. This system tracks turn order and monster health, encourages teamwork, and creates dynamic combat with priorities that change turn-by-turn and round-by-round.     

Momentum cards. Art by Mike K, images not final.
Momentum cards. Art by Mike K, images not final.

The Thornwatch players each have decks of cards which give them skills and actions, as well as playmats and trait cards to show their unique outlook on the world. They roll custom dice including hero dice gained by manifesting their traits. Each session Thornwatch players can gain knots, which grant their wearer a bonus if worn in real life, regardless of which Thornwatch they choose to manifest in a particular session.

Player and judge cards from the print-and-play. Across the top, a hand of cards for the Sage. On the bottom, the Sage's trait cards (one flipped to a hero die), an enemy rules card, and a terrain card.
Player and judge cards from the print-and-play. Across the top, a hand of cards for the Sage. On the bottom, the Sage's trait cards (one flipped to a hero die), an enemy rules card, and a terrain card.

 

Magic. And also game components.  

At the $77.95 Summon the Thornwatch level, you'll receive the Thornwatch base game. This currently contains:  

  • 24 double-sided chipboard map tiles 
  • 15 storyboards made of 400 GSM heavy cardstock
  • 5 Thornwatch decks of 30 cards each
  • 30 momentum cards
  • 50 wound cards 
  • 8 custom dice, including 2 hero dice 
  • 6 cardstock player mats 
  • dozens of chipboard hero, denizen, and enemy pawns
  • 24 trait cards 
  • 12 scar cards
  • 48 terrain cards 
  • 30 enemy and denizen cards 
  • 24 chipboard ebb tokens
  • 16 chipboard objective tokens
  • illustrated rulebook, survival guide, and comic book
You can also get the Dark of the Wood expansion before anyone else simply by adding $34.95 to your pledge. It contains:
  • 9 storyboards made of 400 GSM heavy cardstock
  • 5 Thornwatch decks of 30 cards each
  • 10 momentum cards
  • extra chipboard hero, denizen, and enemy pawns 
  • 10 enemy and denizen cards
  • 5 cardstock player mats 

This beautiful and ornate wooden box, made by Dapper Devil, was created just for the Thornwatch game. The box can be yours at either of the Walk in the Wood levels.

Wood box prototype by Dapper Devil.
Wood box prototype by Dapper Devil.

The Walk in the Woods level also comes with these beautiful, upgraded player pawns by Dapper Devil. The player pawns are made of 1/8" thick clear acrylic, and have a felt back to provide a smooth gliding feel when moved. You can also buy a set of 10 upgraded base set pawns by adding $30 to any pledge for a game, and 10 more "corrupted" character pawns for an additional $20.

 

Thornwatch is a collaboration between Lone Shark Games And Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade’s founders Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins have delivered mirth to the Internet three times a week for 18 years, and somehow found the time to start the Child's Play charity for kids and four PAX festivals for game players of all persuasions. In 2009 they created a single-page comic called “May We Die In The Forest,” introducing The Lookouts, a troop of boys, guided by a Lookout Master, in a dangerous and magical forest. Over the years the forest gained a name, The Eyrewood.  

The core of Thornwatch was developed by Krahulik as a way to fix the problems he saw in his home RPG campaign: folks not paying attention during other players’ turns, the fussiness of tracking individual hit points, lengthy prep time, and the difficulty of adjusting when a player can’t show up for a particular game. He tinkered with his solution, a card-based RPG called Card Warriorz (with a Z!), until it became something that actually was worth playing. Jerry had the idea to set the game in the world of one of Penny Arcade’s most popular side-stories, and Thornwatch was born.  

It soon became apparent that while they had the basis for a great game, Penny Arcade did not have the resources to bring it all together. That’s when Lone Shark Games moved into Penny Arcade’s office building. Its president, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Betrayal at House on the Hill developer Mike Selinker, asked—well, kinda demanded—to see the new game Krahulik and Holkins were constantly talking about. After Mike saw the game he immediately said, “We have to make this. Together.” He brought Pathfinder Adventure Card Game lead developer Chad Brown and D&D 5th Edition and Lords of Waterdeep co-designer Rodney Thompson onto the design team. And thus began a furious year of development.  

Together the quintet of designers powered through iteration after iteration after iteration of the game, assisted with development from Mike Fehlauer and Kiko Villasenor from Penny Arcade, and additional development from the rest of the Sharks (Aviva Schecterson, Elisa Teague, Gaby Weidling, Keith Richmond, Liz Spain, Paul Peterson, and Tanis O’Connor). The game grew from the integration of Penny Arcade’s understanding of comic art and story with Lone Shark’s grasp of game mechanics. For every question, someone used their unique skill set to create an answer no one had seen before.  

You’ll also see the fine work of our teammates Marie Poole, Shane Steed, Brian Sunter, and Tara Theoharis on this campaign, as well as the videographic wizardry of Van Alan, Dabe Alan, Mike Astle, Nacime Khemis, and Joshua Price. To make the best game for you, we brought an army.

If you'd like to see two of the Mikes play a game with Eric Martin of BoardGameGeek, that's right here.

 

 

The Eyrewood is about discovery, wonder, mystery, courage, and sacrifice. It is a conscious magical forest that covers (as best anyone can tell) the whole of the world. Its great canopy conceals countless wonders and dangers. It teems with life; fantastical beasts, ancient monsters and creatures beyond description. People also call the Eyrewood home and their villages dot the wood like islands in a great sea. The Eyrewood never quite stays where you leave it; that is, save the Birch tree, which is clever, and remembers. As a "place," this Judging Wood is a dangerous, constantly shifting realm which the word "wild" doesn't begin to describe. 

The forest is beset by a malevolent force called the ebb, which corrupts and transforms the creatures of the Eyrewood. There are three groups of protectors against this bane: the Lookouts, a cadre of young cadets that are trained as youth in the ways of monsters; the Daughters, proud druids who carve out enclaves of land that obey their very commands; and the Thornwatch, who … well, they bear a very special purpose indeed.

 

 

Keepers of an ancient pact, the Thornwatch are a cadre of willful ghosts, with peerless mystic and martial traditions. They are summoned by tying certain knots of thorny brambles around the trunk of a birch tree, bound by blood. 

Villagers are warned about calling the Thornwatch, even as the Eyrewood presents them with challenges beyond their ability. There are tales of malformed, violent, or dangerous Thornwatch, summoned perhaps by a bad knot, or to a sick tree; perhaps that is the source of the warnings. 

The villagers have heard the warnings since they were children: "tie ye no knots in the frost-haunted wood." But still, in a moment of fear or anger, they call them. The Thornwatch heed that call. 

When summoned, the Thornwatch incarnate in various forms; men and women are among their number, and others besides. They are the Blade, fast and true of aim; the Greenheart, master of the healing arts; the Guard, protector of all, the Sage, clever at forest magic; and the Warden, marshal of combat lore.

 

Thornwatch is expansive, and it has the potential to change how you play games—and even how you look when you play games.    

 A cornerstone of this principle is knots. When you are victorious in a Thornwatch adventure, you—not your character, you—gain a specific knot. The type of knot is important:

There are as many knots as there are threats, and there are more threats than the villages can handle. As you protect the forest, you will acquire these knots, and they will change your gameplay. You can see an example of that in the print-and-play, where gaining the Knot of Wings can allow you to start your next game with a hero die already active—if you have the knot tied on your person. You can tie on the drawstrings of your favorite hoodie, or to the straps of your backpack. Each knot will be different, many gained at special events such as the PAX conventions. When you come to play, come in the way of the woods. 

We encourage cosplay of our characters, creation of songs and poems, fan-drawn artwork, and all other creative efforts. All of this will be rewarded by our team when we see it.

Available Rewards:

$77.95USD + Shipping

Summon the Thornwatch

Unto you shall be delivered the Thornwatch game.

$379.95USD + Shipping

Walk in the Wood

The forest shall disgorge unto you a beautiful wood box made by Dapper Devil. This box, signed by all of the designers, contains the Thornwatch game, the Dark of the Wood expansion, and both sets of upgraded player pawns.

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