An MFGCast Interview with the BadCat Games crew about ElemenZ, now on Kickstarter!

We got to talk to the crazy cats for BadCat Games about their “Out of This World” game, ElemenZ! Check it out:

So…what’s with the name ElemenZ? Are you guys rap artists in your spare time?

Ha! That would be a fine thing indeed. Truth is we struggle to put more than a few… what are they called?… words together coherently most times (influence of Scotch Whisky see?)

No but joking aside, ElemenZ the name makes an important distinction between our dice game and the traditional fantasy tropes of Sorcerers and Elementalists wielding the typical 4 elements through magic spells. In ElemenZ – it is all about four Shamans controlling the ‘wild’ or Zee energy – through the energy dice, bending it to their will, shaping it to their goals while taking the risk of losing control and becoming vulnerable to retaliation from other players.

Every one of the twenty-eight energy dice in the game has a single side with the ‘Z’ symbol – so we wanted to make it very clearly different (and accessible for all players) from the other icons used in the game.

We’d like to say we saw the symbol glowing in the depths of BadCat’s feline countenance… but we’d be uh, lying.

Who’s the crazy person who came up with this fantastical world and how is ElemenZ played?

That would be Jason the lead designer. It all spewed forth in a torrent of science-fantasy while on holiday apparently. The Alien races too of course had to be visually appealing and instantly recognizable as belonging very strongly to their element – the Water creatures (Ikzravek) are clearly deep ocean crustacean types with a deep seated Cthulhu-inspired heritage (or is that just our own deep seated fears that old H.P. Lovecraft just new the truth of it!?) The Xyryx (Earth creatures) are probably our most striking race in the game – large hive-minded insectoids that chew through the rock of their world, spinning thick crystal webs. Jason basically had strong impressions of how the four races would look and stand out from each other but it was our artist Ascary who did a fantastic job of making them iconic and as unique as they are – we didn’t want any humanoids and obvious fantasy elemental types. We want the player to ask questions about these creatures – be intrigued by their biology, ecology etc.

ElemenZ is a rapid push-your-luck and risk-taking game for 2-4 players that takes between 15 – 30mins to play. Each alien race character has unique abilities that strongly affect game play. In the 3-4 player game each player has seven energy dice that they can roll three times in their turn, trying to complete special effect combos using the symbols on them (similar to other yahtzee style games) that ultimately aim to drain dice away from the other players until only 1 Shaman is left. It’s a more interactive game than other dice-based battle games out there as players also get to trigger combos in other player’s turns. The 2 player game works differently as it is a tug-of-war over the energy dice in a common pool to be the first to energise the monolith. Same dice concepts – different application.

 

What is Planet Zee? is it full of nasty aliens that are gonna suck my brains out of my ear or burst out of my chest?

Funny you hint at that – its been mentioned that any game with a misspelled Z should be a zombie game. Maybe we should do a zombie re-theme of the game in the future…

But anyway, no. We wanted to steer clear of the nasty aliens vibe and try to instill the feeling that these are fascinating sentient races with their own ancient cultures. It so happens that they meet on this rocky, windswept planet (Z) every seven years to pay homage to the enigmatic monolith and challenge each other to decide which culture gains the top spot; they are Ambassadors of their race, not Champions.

Having said all that, baby alien chestbursters are kinda cute though.

 

You say that the 2 player game and the 3-4 player game play completely different. we don’t believe it. What’s so different about the two?

Right, so with ElemenZ you get 2 completely different games in 1 box. The 3-4 player is a battle game where each Shaman player uses their energy dice (which is also effectively their life points) to trigger combo effects that remove dice from their opponents – a battle of energy attrition. Dice rolled must then be assigned to combos. The wild ‘Z’ side of the dice is a ‘joker’ effect that can match other dice, but rolling 3 of them at any time causes a ‘wild surge’ that blocks the player from doing anything that turn so its a risky tactic to push your luck too far.

The Kickstarter limited edition version also contains a mini expansion for free! In this expansion, each alien gets to summon their spirit energy totem (a side playboard) at the start of the game and these are energized with single-use power tokens that can buff a Shaman’s abilities. Tokens can be used at any time to support combos but each use drains the totem of it’s energy. Players can heal back dice, replace or even remove tokens from others, can force re-rolls of dice or can effect ‘Z’ symbols rolled with these tokens but they come from a common pool that dwindles as the game progresses. So as well as trying to maintain your pool of energy dice a good player must also be concerned with how their totem is holding on. If the totem’s buffing effects is lost, a player is at a clear disadvantage to survive and win the game. Hence why we call ElemenZ more of an Energy Management game rather than a Dice Battle game.

The 2 player game by contrast uses the same idea of combos but combines two similar elements (e.g. Air and Water) into a dual playboard with combos that focus on gaining or manipulating dice from the common pool or from the other player or in energizing each location on the monolith. It’s a tug-of-war with dice, since you must use your dice pool wisely to be the first to energize all spaces on the monolith which becomes increasingly hard and more costly in dice as you progress.

We for one love dice games but some people don’t really like them because of a “too much randomness” factor. Do you think the ones that don’t could still get enjoyment out of ElemenZ? What sets ElemenZ apart from other dice games?

Absolutely. The initial reaction when we mention ElemenZ is a dice game is sometimes “uh, don’t like dice games because I always roll terribly!” Well, I do too so you folks are not alone. But Elemenz was designed specifically to elliminate this randomness as much as possible. The wild ‘Z’ joker effect goes a long way to solving this because it opens up many more tactical options to mix-and-match dice within various combos. Of course you could still roll the 3 Z wild surge on your first roll, but again, statistically the player winning with the most dice has the greater chance of rolling 3 Zs than someone losing with less dice. We’ve seen it in countless playtests that a player currently winning gets a wild surge allowing other players to ‘heal’ back their few dice into a stronger position and fight back. It’s not a swingy game – the best tactical player will most likely win.

Using the totems and energy tokens also helps to alleviate random rolls by giving players more choice in which dice to keep and which to risk re-rolling.  It’s a deceptively simple seeming game that actually has much tactical depth as the wild ‘Z’ dice (if used well) can give excellent advantages. Players can use combos to mess with each other’s options and set each other up as softer targets for future rival’s attacks. With only 7 dice and a reducing pile of tokens, players must plan ahead as to how they will retain their energy, play offense or defense, burn through tokens fast to deny others or try to stock up the best ones to hold out in the late game. Lots of thinky thunky choices!

 

What are the “little secrets” about this Kickstarter that you’re not telling me about?

Ahah! That would indeed be uh… telling! Well all we can say for now is we have some plans for some new game components that continue with the Shaman theme, offering additional strategies within the 3-4 player game. The word for now is Avatars!

 

What’s next for you bad felines?

Well, we are going outside for a while only to come back in again as soon as you close the door on us and… oh yeah – so our next game is a rapid fire combat card game called Gladiatores (pl. of Gladiator) that combines the visceral cut and thrust of up close arena combat (FPS style) with secret roles, double dealing and backstabbing to gain enough glory to be welcomed at Caesar’s Colosseum. Although there are a fair few gladiator games available we feel strongly that only this one properly catches the deadly flurry of blow and counter blow of two gladiators fighting for their lives.

After that we have a family tile game about insects, a competitive trading game set in the historical orient and a 2 player war game set in middle-ages Europe – to name just a few.

Thanks to Justin, Grant, and Chris from BadCat Games for talking to us about ElemenZ! It looks great and like a lot of fun! Go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jdee/elemenz-the-dice-game-of-battling-alien-shamans/community to make this game a reality, or we’ll send 100 black cats to attack your face! Not really, but do the right thing! HELP FUND THIS GAME!

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