As is so often the case in systemic turn-based tactics games, things started to go wrong in my preview session for The Lamplighters League when a nearby torch met a cunningly placed oil slick and erupted into flames. A load of enemies were instantly enveloped in its hot sea of death, as intended, but one of our heroes – the tank-like bruiser Fedir – also ended up getting burned by mistake. As an ex-mob enforcer, he’s certainly built to take a few punches, and his abilities are all focused on making him the centre of attention, his attacks growing more powerful as his rage levels continue to grow. “You want him to get attacked,” game director Chris Rogers tells me, calling on the phrase ‘you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry’ as the basis for Fedir’s ability set. But with that extra fire damage he receives, it’s just a little too much all at once. He gets knocked down, and the tide of battle quickly goes south.
In truth, I played no part in this downfall. Rogers was in the control cockpit for this one, showing me exactly how Harebrained Schemes’ latest game actually works. It’s quite a different proposition from their last game, Battletech, and in this quite literal trial by fire, studio head and co-founder Mitch Gitelman actually pulled a dollar out of his pocket at one point and put a bet on whether Rogers would make it out alive. He certainly had his work cut out for him. Rogers won that dollar, and here’s how the game’s emphasis on deep, customisable character builds set him up for success.