An MFGCast interview with Brandon Rollins about the War Co. Expandable Card Game

We had the honor of talking to Brandon Rollins, the creator of the War Co. Expandable Card Game, about his current Kickstarter for the game:

What’s your game, War Co., about?

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/technologies/charitable-donation/

War Co. is a dystopian sci-fi game set in the year 2796. A terrible war, called the War of 2620, broke out between the two multinational governments of the world. After the prior three hundred years of peace, most weapon manufacturing corporations had been restructured or dissolved. Only one global weapon producer had survived the Era of Peace – the War Machines Company. They were the sole provider of weapons to the governments. The governments became dependent on the Company and the Company became dependent on the governments. The war went on for decades and never really ended. Historical records of what truly happened are nowhere to be found.

Several decades later, small and isolated groups of people must survive at any cost, using the remaining artifacts from the distant past to fight a war they didn’t start.

The way that translates into gameplay is that the game is all about scarcity and making hard choices. Every card has its ups and downs. You’re always going to be tight on some critical resource – energy, number of cards, raw strength, etc. You want to learn to play the field and figure out what resource you can afford to skimp on based on your opponent’s tactics.

 

Where did you get inspiration for it?

 

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The theme of this game is borne out of a mish-mash of sci-fi movies like Brazil (1985), novels like 1984, TV like Star Trek and Doctor Who, doomsday prepper sites, dry Wikipedia articles, and personal experiences in dull office jobs.

Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357102631/war-co-expandable-card-game-0/

The gameplay itself comes from a game I made when I was 11 years old. There were some kids in my neighborhood who weren’t allowed to play Yu-Gi-Oh! because of some silly moral panic. I made my own game based on the TV show and called it Dodgeball Cards, which was a natural title because the game had nothing to do with dodgeball. I’ve played around with the idea off and on as I grew up, then I spent the last 16 or 17 months making the best grown-up version of a very old game.

 

War Co. looks like it plays somewhat similar to Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon. Is this what you were going for?

When you consider that I got the idea from a TV show that was made in the TCG boom of the late 90s and early 00s, it makes complete sense. To some extent, that is what I was going for. War Co. will feel pretty familiar in a lot of ways to folks who are into Pokemon and Magic. I’d say an even better comparison is Netrunner.

One thing that makes it significantly different than Magic, other than just theme alone, is that cards aren’t sold in random packs. There’s 300 cards in the game split between 6 decks. Buy all 6 decks and you’ve got every card in the game. For this reason, I call it an expandable card game (XCG) and not a trading or collectible card game (TCG/CCG).

 

The art looks crisp, clean, and professional. Who did the art and why did you pick them?

All art is done by one guy: James Masino. I found him by sheer chance – friend of a friend. I played a lot of Minecraft when I was 19 and it was an underground college trend with a guy named Alex Nuttle. We kept in touch. Alex introduced me to James, an old friend from back when they were kids playing Club Penguin. I know a guy through Minecraft who knows a guy through Club Penguin.

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/streetsweeper/

James is a student at Savannah College of Art & Design and he’s just begun his freelance art career. War Co. was his first major project. He’s gained a ton of exposure through my Twitter and Instagram. Polyversal, a successful Kickstarter, picked him up to do some of the art for their game. I couldn’t recommend anyone better suited for the job if I tried.

 

You have six different decks to use to fight against one another. What’s the strengths and weaknesses of each?

The game consists of six starter decks: Bruiser, Conspirator, Guerilla, Militant, Trickster, and Wildcard. You can mix and match cards from the six decks to make your own personal deck. While there’s no overwhelmingly good cards, this may give you a strategic advantage because your cards have better chemistry.

That said, let’s assume you play War Co. right out of the box, like most people do. These are the strengths and weaknesses you would notice in each deck.

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/valhalla/

Bruiser: Just like the name suggests, it’s heavily geared toward attacking hard and fast. It’s got a lot of really powerful machines and it’s a fast-paced deck that wants to end the game quickly, preferably without anybody else getting a move. Yet it’s hard to play more than a few Bruiser cards at once. Not to mention, its strategy is almost painfully transparent. It’s very vulnerable to energy and elimination technologies.

 

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/pirate-vessel/

Conspirator: This deck is unpredictable and full of secrets and nuances that keep your opponents on their toes. It’s my personal favorite for that reason. But despite my favoritism toward it, I acknowledge its multiple weaknesses: its machines are not very strong, its cards are highly situational, and it’s hard to learn.

 

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/quick-strike-system/

Guerilla: Energy use is very rarely a problem with this deck, as it is for most other decks. It has lots of stackable machines and cards that let you draw from your scrapyard (discard pile). There’s lots of little traps to control your enemies, too. Yet it doesn’t have very many strong machines and there’s no cards that really stand out as being crucial.

 

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/flamingo/

Militant: This is the hardest deck to play and it’s so full of situational cards. If you master the art of managing your hand after a few games of War Co., you can create synergies with this deck that can break your opponents. It’s a wild horse to be tamed.

 

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/machines/river-runner/

Trickster: This deck has a lot of really good defensive cards and it’s catered toward playing a long, slow game. Some people think it has too many shields and a lot of people don’t like the slowness of its pace. When people dislike Trickster, it’s usually a matter of personal preference.

 

Link: http://warcothegame.com/data-bank/technologies/clean-slate/

Wildcard: It has so many powerful, bizarre cards that you can play as soon as you get them. It plays fast, it’s great to learn on, and it changes on a dime. However, it uses up tons of energy and there’s not much chemistry to the cards. There’s not much of a cohesive strategy behind Wildcard – it’s primarily tactical.

 

Why did you want to get this game published besides just having a game out there?

That’s was my primary motivation to start. I wanted to see a major project through to completion. There have been times when I’ve wondered, “does the world really need this? Do people want this? Should I express my creativity in a different way?”

There’s another element of my motivation these days: reviewers like the game [select links from my website], people I Twitch stream with really like it [link to https://www.twitch.tv/retsyreiver], too. Not only do I want it to be real, but a lot of others do as well.

 

What are the pledge levels and what will people get for those?

Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357102631/war-co-expandable-card-game-0

$1 – A special “thank you” on the War Co. website

$10 – I write your name into the War Co. website, plus the $1 reward

$25 – Two decks of cards, your choice of any two, plus the $1 and $10 rewards

$60 – All six decks of cards, plus the $1 and $10 rewards. Best choice for the value-minded backer!

$100 – We will draw your name as an Easter egg on a card, plus the $1, $10, and $60 rewards.

$250 – Exclusive signed art poster, you get to take over my 19,000+ follower Instagram for a day, plus the $1, $10, $60, and $100 rewards.

$500 – Exclusive, one-of-a-kind War Co. art for you. You decide how we give it to you. Plus the rewards for $1, $10, $60, $100, and $250.

Thanks to Brandon for talking to us about the War Co. Expandable Card Game! What a hauntingly beautiful war game with a fun mechanic! Go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357102631/war-co-expandable-card-game-0 and fund this great game now!

 

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An MFGCast interview with Tim Hutchings about his Kickstarter for “Dear Leader”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 14, 2014. Kim, shown using a cane for support, re-appeared in state media on Tuesday after a lengthy public absence that had fuelled speculation over his health and grip on power in the secretive, nuclear-capable country.  REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA - RTR4A38M

We got the unique chance to talk to Tim Hutchings, creator of the game “Dear Leader” on Kickstarter now. We asked him about the game, how it came to be, why the theme, and more:

What is “Dear Leader” about?

There’s a couple of answers to this, and the surface answer is that the game is about having fun being Kim Jong-un and his circle of advisors.  Each round a policy problem is read off Policy Card and the advisors each come up with a unique solution.  The early advisors take up all the easy answers, forcing the later players into increasingly difficult feats of creativity. After all the advisors have spoken their piece, Kim Jong-un roundly insults them gives a completely unique and absolutely correct answer.  Kim Jong-un is very much a ‘smartest guy in the room’ and everyone must celebrate his ridiculous, ludicrous answer by clapping.

After that, each advisor gets a chance to extrapolate or compliment the answer in a couple of sentences.  Kim Jong-un must personally insult the work of each advisor at this point.  Afterwards Kim Jong-un awards the Policy Card to whomever pleased him the most, for whatever reason.  That recipient becomes the new Kim Jong-un and a new round begins.

A round goes by pretty quickly.  Answers should be quick, though any particular group’s table habits are going to affect how that happens.  Some groups get pretty wordy and have been happy with that.  The timer for the other players is the current Kim Jong-un; that’s the person who can tell you to hurry up or slow down, he’s the guy you want to please.

I’m a fan of games that have an informal, peer based control mechanism like that.  The sand timer in Codenames is a good example — it doesn’t get flipped over until a player feels that it needs to be flipped over.

Another piece of feedback that the players get are demerits.  Kim Jong-un has total power in the game, he can interrupt or correct or even change the rules as he like.  But he also has demerits.  A demerit is a wooden token that Kim Jong-un can give to any player at any time for any reason.  If you are talking too long the leader can give you a demerit, if you say something he doesn’t like you get a demerit.  Advisors should endeavor to avoid demerits, but mechanically they don’t do anything but give Kim Jong-un a tool to signal his opinions.  The demerits are a fun, funny, ultimately meaningless part of the game.

Dear Leader plays fast and fun and I’m very proud of it.

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Why did you decide to base this game loosely around the bombastic Kim Jong-Un?

This is also what Dear Leader is about:  Horrific, dynastic dictatorial regimes.  There is absolutely nothing funny about what is happening in North Korea, about the human rights abuses and the suffering that happens under three generations of the Kim family.  For whatever reason, public opinion about the North Korea has gone from concern to amusement.  What ridiculous claim will they make this week?  Kim Jong-un has become the stuff of jokes and memes, and it’s a struggle to remember that millions suffer due to his decisions.

I don’t base this game loosely around Kim Jong-un, his name is in the fore.  And while there is definitely satire involved, much of what is described on the cards is based on real life.

Dear Leader acts as a parodic North Korea simulator, with the sorts of declarations we see from Pyongyang emerging organically from play.

The art is silly and fun. How did you decide on it?

I worked with an amazing artist named Michael Jaecks.  He had a great vision for the project, something that was overbearing but charming.  The guy is smart as heck, and studied North Korea propaganda posters to get ready for the project.  I’d originally wanted a sort of Soviet Bolshevik-revolution Lissitzky/Rodchenko poster feel, but Jaecks guided me back toward something that was a mix of all the best elements in play.

A good artist is an invaluable asset on a project like this.  I mean, I’m trained as an artist but I couldn’t’ve gotten anywhere near to where the art is now without Jaecks spurring me on with great questions and sketches.

TwoStackedCards

This game seems like it’s simple and easy to pick up. Is this what you wanted? 

I’m a fan of letting simple games do complex things.  Strip off all the chrome and gizmos and the car’ll go faster and look all Mad Max bad-ass.  Lots of rules can be needed in some situations, and I like a six hour war-game as much as the next guy, but they aren’t necessary to have a game be a game.

I didn’t set out to make a party game, but the party aspect emerged naturally.  Short rounds, simple rules, and no real scoring system make for something that fits a party space well.

I’ve long thought about party RPGs, it was something I’d talk about with OSR folks back in NYC.  How do we take this RPG and make it so that we can run it in a big, loud room full of drunken people who might want to sit down and play at any moment?  The Tower of Gygax and Jared Sorensen’s Parsley games do a good job of this, but in a way that’s totally unlike Dear Leader.

Not that Dear Leader is an RPG, but neither is it NOT an RPG.  It’s what I’ve been calling a “role taking game” in which you are speaking from the interests of a person, a Kim Jong-un or an advisor.  You represent their interests as your own and use them to power along your play, but you aren’t necessarily taking them through character development.

BoxMockup_1

How did you come up with the idea of the game, and were drinking/drugs involved?

I’m earnestly ashamed to say that I can’t exactly remember where I came up with Dear Leader.  It might have come out of a discussion at a Games to Gather design meet up.  Games to Gather is a positive action oriented organization that organizes play events and design meetings.  The Games to Gather group has a lean toward experimental and ‘freeform’ RPGs, and Dear Leader owes a lot to that sort of thinking.

I can’t even blame drink or drugs:  I’m a teetotaler nerd and always have been.

People Playing

What do you hope will happen when people get ahold of this psychotic game?

I studied art and critical theory in school, and a lot of that thinking is embodied in Dear Leader in a very sneaky way.  Working on Dear Leader I asked myself a lot of questions about the form of the game and how the form supports the theme, and how to take a stance that’s critical of North Korea and fold it into a fun game.  I ask what I want to have happen with the thing I’m making, and how I can make that happen in an interesting way.

And that’s step one:  Dear Leader is fun.  I want people to have fun.  Fun is great, who doesn’t like fun?  I’ve made games that aren’t fun and they are good too, but for Dear Leader fun is bait for my trap.

Games can be fruitful, enriching experiences, and I’m hoping that Dear Leader can penetrate the veil of fun with a little bit of introspection.  I hope players think about the feelings of power and helplessness they experience throughout the game, I hope they compare the declarations of their Kim Jong-un to those of the REAL Kim Jong-un.

And, just to drop a hammer on the seriousness of the topic of North Korea, I hope they follow the game rules to the letter and read the true factoids off the Policy Cards at the end of the game.  Millions of people have died from starvation there, children labor in political prisons, the Kim’s live in luxury and fly in American basketball stars while making declarations that unicorns were real and building nuclear weapons.

Dear Leader is on Kickstarter right now for only $30! It plays 5-9+ players with optional rules for 2-4 players. A quick and easy game to learn, play, and laugh with your friends!

Fund the Kickstarter here!:

Thanks to Tim Hutchings for interviewing with us and thank you for reading!

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A talk with Bujar Haskaj (Game Designer) about Roots of Mali, now on Kickstarter!

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We had the honor of interviewing Bujar Haskaj, one of the two designers of Roots of Mali, a short tactical abstract 2-player dueling game from Sun Core Games:
What is Roots of Mali about?
“Roots of Mali is a short tactical abstract 2-player dueling game. Players play with a lot of dice but there is no luck involved as you don’t roll them. On your turn you have a simple set of actions to choose from but a lots of possibilities how to use them effectively. 1 die, 6 creatures, 13 abilities, millions of game scenarios! That is Roots of Mali.”
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Why an abstract dice game?
“We didn’t focus on making an abstract game. What we wanted was to create a game with an new mechanism, with lots of unique creatures, and even more special abilities for these. Roots of Mali and Light of Dragons are the result of these wishes.”

What’s the story behind this series of games (Light of Dragons being the first in the series)?
“We like never ending stories, we love infinite opportunities, we need individualism. The core of this game is perfect for a series of tribes. Tribes that battle against each other in a never ending war. And each player should have the chance to choose on which side s/he wants to fight!”
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Why did you want them to be compatible?
“By that we can give players of the series more than just a game. We can build a whole world, where each player finds a place. In other words, we thought a variety of expansions is important to the value and replayability of a game. But we felt that it is easier to enter a new game universe if all editions are playable as standalone game.”

What challenges did you come across in the making of Roots of Mali?
“Balancing! We did test and calculate and test and calculate a lot of times over and over again. And when we were done we tested the game again, again and again until it finally was perfect.”
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The art is gorgeous. What was the inspiration for it?
“I think we are most inspired by our love for games like Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. And we really like how our artist Malte Zirbel, who is an amazingly creative person, brought out the details that we had in mind for the whole lore surrounding the game series.”

If this game funds, will you make more for the series?
“I can’t promise anything, but yes, it is our goal to do that. We have more awesome ideas for new and currently unseen tribes. Let us see what the future will bring.” 😉
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We’d like to thank Bujar and Sun Core Games for talking to us about Roots of Mali, a unique and wonderful looking game now on Kickstarter!
You can also try both Light of Dragons and Roots of Mali on Tabletopia via Steam!
Thanks for reading!
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An interview with Dave Killingsworth about the Kickstarter for The Lords Of Rock

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We talk to Dave Killingsworth from Solar Flare Games about the Kickstarter for The Lords of Rock. We talk to Dave about how the game came to be, as well as the strategy within and the gorgeous art done by two very wonderful artists! So listen to this wonderful interview and then go back The Lords of Rock Kickstarter here!: http://kck.st/2aHHjOY

      Dave Killingsworth Interview (Lords of Rock) - MFGCast
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Gaming With Kids with Matt Ballert

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This episode we talk to Matt Ballert about gaming with our kids! We talk about how to get our kids to play, what to play, how to keep them playing, and more! Plus, we review the tile laying game Lanterns: The Harvest Festival by Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios! Thanks to Matt for being a great guest and go follow Matt on Twitter (@NerdUnfiltered) and follow Matt on Twitter (@NerdUnfiltered) and follow Matt Ballert on Google Plus!

*Music for the Lanterns: The Harvest Festival Intro provided by Battlebards

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/gaming-kids-matt-ballert/id523045887?i=1000372045205&mt=2

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Pirates! Part Two!

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In the next and final installment of the Pirates RPG that Kurt runs for his 6 year old son Logan, Captain Hook (no relation) and his crew finds themselves on a strange ship with some interesting characters. Captain Hook also has to lead his “men” through some peril to get the treasure of Bear Bones! Thanks for listening!

      Logan Pirates RPG Part Two - MFGCast

Make sure to get in on the great Godsfall Worldbook on Kickstarter!

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Pirates! Part One

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Kurt gets to GM his first RPG with his 6 year old son Logan, and the theme is PIRATES! Logan did a great job playing his character, and Kurt had a great time GM’ing! In part one, Logan’s character Captain Hook (no relation) finds out that being a pirate is hard and fighting a Kracken is harder! Also, just staying for Logan trying to steer the whole roleplay is worth it! Thanks for listening!

      Logan Pirate RPG Part One - MFGCast
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RPG Setting

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In this episode, we chat with Red Shirt Shane, Megan and Aser from The Redacted Files podcast, and Jesse from the Dragonfisters podcast about RPG Setting! We ask the hard hitting questions: Does a great RPG setting make a great game? What components make up a great RPG setting? What’s your favorite kind of setting? And more! We’ve had fun chatting up about RPG setting, won’t you join us?

      RPG Setting - MFGCast
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Couples Gaming with Kim and Dan from the GNU Podcast

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In this episode, Kurt and his wife Traci talk to Dan and Kim from the GNU Podcast about games that the couples like to play together, what convention Dan and Kim got engaged, and what is our favorite reason to play with our significant other! We also review Above and Below by Red Raven Games, with music provided by Battlebards for the intro to the game review and example for the Encounter Book. So grab your loved one and listen to this fun episode!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/couples-gaming-kim-dan-from/id523045887?i=1000369632577&mt=2

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D&D Improv LIVE w/The MFGCast All Stars!

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On May 15, Kurt from the MFGCast along with Alex Jarzebinski from Battlebards, Taylor LaBresh from The Leviathan Files, Rohit Sodhia from Gamers Plane, and Quinn Wilson from the Swallows of the South performed a D&D Improv LIVE. The setting was about the last adventure involved stealing from the bandits and some of the items they’re carrying are embarrassingly incriminating. What ensued afterward involved multiple throwing up, multiple face punches, and multiple of one body part being cut off (but we won’t spoil which one!). So enjoy this great D&D improv!

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