At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the IDW Games panel gave comics fans and board game geeks alike a sneak peek at upcoming projects from IDW Publishing's newly launched board game division. In partnership with independent game publisher Pandasaurus, IDW Games is both importing foreign games and developing new ones based on domestic properties from IDW and other publishers. Development director Jerry Bennington, product manager Nate Murray and managing editor David Hedgecock were joined by "V Wars" creator Jonathan Maberry and "Chew" creators John Layman and Rob Guillory to talk about what goes on behind the scenes at IDW Games.
Bennington announced that IDW Games would have 8 or 9 games out before the end of the year, including a reprint of "Tammany Hall," IDW Games' first game "Yedo," and "Rattus Cardus," a card-based version of plague-themed board game "Rattus."
IDW Games is preparing to release its first game based on an IDW published series, "Kill Shakespeare," in August. The game was successfully funded through Kickstarter, raising $38.5k of a $25k goal. "We're going to end up delivering about three months late on this Kickstarter," said Murray, "which, in Kickstarter math, is eleven months early. Thank you for backing us; I think when you see the final product you'll be happy and it will be worth the wait." The game is based on the comic, created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, and takes place in the same world, a mash-up of Shakespeare characters. Bennington called it a "very involved world and a very complicated game." J.K. Woodward, artist on IDW series "Fallen Angel," has done art for the cards, and packaging art is by Eisner Award-winning artist Glenn Fabry. Series creators Del Col and McCreery contributed flavor text.
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Gameplay will be semi-cooperative, explained Murray. Players will work together to liberate territories from the control of King Richard III and Lady Macbeth. However, even though players are working towards the same goal, there is only one winner. "Each round, you'll be deciding whether to help the group or steal a few points for yourself," said Murray. Thomas Vande Ginste and Wolf Plancke, the same team behind IDW's worker-placement game "Yedo," designed the gameplay which is organized around thematic three-act quests.
The "X-Files" board game will be the first based on the property; IDW also publishes comics based on the series. Though the television show ended in 2002, "We were shocked at how overwhelmed we were from the fan base about this upcoming game," Bennington said. Kevin Wilson, designer of hit games including "A Game of Thrones" and "Arkham Horror," is designing gameplay while Menton3 provides art. With a board designed to look like a table littered with papers and files, the "X-Files" game is designed to make players feel like they are agents working to solve a case, with distractions from the Syndicate challenging you as you attempt to close cases. "We have built out the game so that you truly feel like you're part of the world of X-Files," said Bennington. "This game plays in the same amount of time it takes to watch an episode of 'The X-Files,' so that's what it feels like. It's got great thematic tones, and we really did put a lot of Easter eggs in there."
The game is based on seasons 1-3, with expansions planned to incorporate material from later seasons, notably Flukeman. Murray said IDW expects to have the first expansion out 5 months after the core board game debuts. The "X-Files" game will be playable by 2-5, with each player acting as a character from the show, including Scully, Mulder, Skinner and Krycek. A fifth playable character is The Smoking Man who will be able to play cards that are traps or bluffs for the players acting as agents.
Also coming soon is "Machi Koro," an import from Japan Pandasaurus acquired. The game was designed by Masao Suganuma with art by Noboru Hotta. Bennington described the card- and dice-based game as "'Settlers of Catan' meets 'Dominion'-lite," with simple rules that allow for complex strategy. "Everybody who plays this game finds it highly addicting, and they absolutely love it." John Layman added, "I'm not a game-playing person, but you laid it out and started showing it to me -- I got it just like that, and I wanted to play the whole game." The basic "Machi Koro" game will be released in August, with an expansion to follow towards the end of the year. A limited pre-release kit, featuring foil cards, arrives in late September and allows for 5-player games.
From the same design team behind "Machi Koro" comes "Diamonsters," which Murray called, "like 'Love Letter,' but better." A simple card game based on bidding and bluffing, Murray called the game, "a lot of fun."
Though comics creators Layman and Guillory each attempted to design a "Chew" game on their own, IDW tapped Kevin Wilson to design the card game. Published by Image Comics, "Chew" was an ideal property for IDW Games, said Murray, because "we really want these games to be thematic." Set in a world where avian flu has killed millions and poultry is illegal, "Chew" centers on psychic detective Tony Chu, who has the ability to see the history of anything he eats. Of course, this leads to him working for the FDA, investigating crimes by eating bits of the victims. In addition to the FDA's expansion of power granted by the poultry ban, other government agencies, including the USDA and NASA, have become more powerful in this world.
Guillory said that he had been playing with the idea of a game set in the "Chew" universe for a few years, based around the idea of players working for different government agencies. "You could kind of go between them, and get bad missions if your boss hates you. Or, you could sleep with your boss, and get good missions! And, you can use your special power, the food-psychic thing, to solve crimes." Layman said that the game he designed was based around collecting body parts, and nothing is nailed down in the final design. Murray said that Wilson will be incorporating the various food-based psychic powers from the world of "Chew" into the game. Layman said that his favorite power from the series is the vorespoh, who becomes smarter the more he eats. Guillory's favorite is cibolocution, the ability to communicate through food.
Bennington explained that, with the "Chew" property, he did not want to create a game with many expansions, but rather a collection of games in different formats, all based around the property: "a whole portfolio of 'Chew' games." Layman and Guillory were enthusiastic about participating in the creation of these games. Guillory plans to provide artwork for the interior and packing of the game and Layman will be writing flavor text. The card game will be priced in the $20-30 range. Though the design is not complete, Murray said that it would be easily adapted into a drinking game. Layman added that he hopes Poyo will make an appearance in the game.
Maberry introduced his series, "V Wars," the property behind a newly announced board game coming next year from IDW. In the world of "V Wars," melting polar ice caps have released a virus that can activate an existing vampiric gene in humans. Across the world, vampires manifest in a variety of ways, reflecting the diversity of vampiric myths from different cultures. Already a prose anthology and comic series, "V Wars" is also in development to become a TV show. The game will be designed by Rob Daviau, known for "Risk Legacy" and "Betrayal at the House on the Hill."
"Game theory is something that's new to me, and it's exciting because it takes ideas that I've already been playing with and spins them around to a different point of view," said Maberry. "In the story, anyone can manifest as a vampire at any time, so paranoia is a big element. During gameplay, you could pull a card, and suddenly you're a vampire. And that will change the whole dynamic of how you play the game."
Hedgecock said that he found comics and board games to be a natural pairing because of the quality of creators. "It's another instance where comic books get to show everybody how to do it right: fantastic art, interesting storylines, amazing gameplay. IDW Games is going to really quickly be an interesting player in this space because of the immense amount of talent that is inherent in comic books." Murray added that the ongoing monthly platform of comics were a great way to continue communication with players and fans, suggesting that new missions for the game or session reports could be published in the backs of issues.
Bennington said that IDW Games will have demo copies of "Kill Shakespeare," "Tammany Hall" and "Machi Koro" available to play at Gen Con, August 14-17 in Indiana, though no games will be for sale at that time.
Bennington and Murray said playtesters are an important part of the game creation process, encouraging anyone interested in playtesting IDW games to get in touch. Bennington said non-gamers in particular were important since "you forget that there are people that have never played these games, and they open up the rule book and go, 'What have I bought?'"
"We want to make games you like," Murray added, "so we want to hear from you."