top of page

Dire Alliance: Horror Design Diary 1 - Introduction

In dire times, alliances are not forged from trust and loyalty, but rather desperation and mutual cause...

Greetings, all. David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin here, designers of Blacklist Games’ upcoming Dire Alliance: Horror, launching on Kickstarter October 27. This article is the first in a series that will delve into the gameplay, leaders, and factions in the game.

What is Dire Alliance?

Dire Alliance is a new game system that allows for quick-playing tactical combat across a wide range of themes and genres. Dire Alliance: Horror is the first game in the Dire Alliance series. It draws its theme and atmosphere primarily from the Gothic and Victorian horror genres.

There are two ways to play the game: Battle Mode (2 players, competitive) and Raid Mode (1-4 players, solo/cooperative). In both modes, players navigate the chosen battleground using a hand of cards to activate their fighters to move, battle, gain new cards, and perform special abilities.

We designed the Battle Mode, while the Raid Mode was inspired by the Battle Mode’s core gameplay and designed by Adam and Brady Sadler. This article will focus on the Battle Mode, while a future article explores the Raid Mode in greater depth.

Game Overview

In Dire Alliance: Horror’s Battle Mode, two players compete to accomplish scenario-specific goals. For example, in the Beaten Path scenario, players are competing to be the first to take control of their opponent’s objective markers. While combat is critical to success in the game, it’s typically not the goal of the scenarios.

The first major choice players have in Battle Mode is what faction they want to use, and which character they will choose to lead the faction. Each of the factions has a common gameplay trait and theme that ties them together and provides unique synergy, while the leaders are powerful individuals that can effectively team with any faction. In Dire Alliance: Horror the leaders are inspired by a wide range of characters from historical literature, albeit with our new take on those classics. The factions aren’t inspired by specific historical characters, but rather take on broader horror-themed concepts.

Ellis and The Countess, two of the leaders in Dire Alliance: Horror

Playing the Game

Dire Alliance is a card-driven, deck-building game, where each player manages their own deck to control their fighters and drive the action. Each fighter has five associated cards, and each player starts with two cards from each fighter in their deck. During a game round, players take turns playing cards from their hands and activating their fighters. When a fighter’s card is played, the fighter can move, attack, take special actions, control enemy objectives, and more.

Each player begins a round with four cards. In general, they play two cards at a time and then play passes to their opponent, but one of the most critical, tempo-controlling elements of the game is initiative.


During their turn, a player can play any one of their cards to claim initiative. When they do this, they immediately take another turn. Thus, by taking taking initiative, it allows a player to take three consecutive actions with their fighters. Comboing actions in this manner can be the critical difference in controlling an enemy objective, defeating a character, or protecting one of your own characters.

Playing Cards and Activating Fighters

When players play cards, they activate the fighters on the cards and can do one of the following:

• The fighter can move into an adjacent area, but you must be careful - if your fighter leaves an area that contains an enemy character, that enemy character gets a free opportunity attack.

• The fighter can make a melee attack against an enemy fighter in their area.

• If the fighter has the ability to shoot, they can shoot any enemy they can see. The game doesn’t limit the distance characters can attack, but line of sight plays a critical role in the game.

• The fighter can take control of an enemy’s objective in their area as long as their opponent doesn’t have an enemy in the area that can stop them.

• Fighters have special abilities, which are often actions unique to the fighter.

Managing your Fighters

The last core action that any fighter is focus. A fighter can choose themselves or an ally in their area to gain 2 cards or choose an ally they can see to gain 1 card. When a fighter gains cards, you add the cards from the supply to your deck’s discards. By focusing in this way, you strengthen the fighter on the board, making them more resilient and able to act more often.

During the course of the game, if your fighter is ever successfully attacked, they lose a card and are stunned. The lost card goes to the graveyard, and is permanently removed from the game, unless you have a fighter with the ability to heal. Healing is rare, so taking damage in the game is extremely impactful, directly affecting the fighter’s health and tempo. Stunned fighters can’t block their enemies from controlling objectives and they can’t make free opportunity attacks when their enemies leave the area they’ve in.

This interplay between the combat system semi-permanently removing cards from the game, coupled with focusing, allows you and your opponent to affect both decks. Deck management really is at the heart of the game. No matter what the current board state might look like, and no matter how powerful fighters might be, your ability to command your fighters with skilled deck management and card play will win — or lose — the battle.


Alright, that’s all for now! In the next article we’ll dive into how the leaders work.

Remember, Dire Alliance: Horror is launching on Kickstarter on October 27, along with Blacklist Miniatures' Horror Series 1 set, and Day 1 backers get the exclusive Count leader for FREE! Sign up for our newsletter below or follow us on social media to make sure you don't miss it!

2,214 views0 comments


bottom of page