Even though the 93 Made Games team has been exhibiting at gaming conventions and expos for over 6 years, nothing quite prepared us for the 14-hour days on our booth at PAX Aus 2015. Coupled with only 4 hours sleep each night, the weekend was close to taking a casualty. When posed with the question, “Would you do it again?” Our resounding response was, “Hell yeah! And these are the reasons why…”
REASON 1 - MATES HELPING MATES
PAX Aus is the biggest event of the year for independent Australian tabletop game designers and publishers. Two years ago at the first PAX Aus, I met people like Alex Dijk from Blue Room Games and Wez Lamont from RAEZ. These two fellows would go on to launch Tabletop Game Designers Australia (TGDA) – a Facebook group for Australian designers/publishers to share knowledge and experiences and to help each other succeed in creating and marketing great games.
Last year, TGDA had its first pre-PAX meeting where we discussed how the group could help grow and legitimise the Australian tabletop game design industry. We only had about 10 people at this meeting. However, this year, the meeting boasted over 40 representatives from a range a different design firms, publishers, distributors and retailers, who all shared their wisdom and helped set the future focus for TGDA and its 550 plus members.
These are the raw details that demonstrate the growing significance of the Australian tabletop game design and publishing scene and how the TGDA group is a major part of it. However, the thing that really highlights how much mateship there is amongst Australian game designers is when, after not seeing Alex for a year, he comes up to me at the pre-PAX meeting and gives me one of the warmest embraces I’ve had outside of my family. He wasn’t alone as there was a lot of platonic man-love that went on over the PAX Aus weekend.
REASON 2 - ONE BIG, PROFESSIONAL TEAM
The tabletop games industry is dwarfed by its bigger brother, the electronic games industry, in Australia. However, this doesn’t mean that its members are any less committed or less professional. We were fortunate enough to share booth space with Al Caynes and his crew from Senyac Games over the weekend and we could not have asked for better neighbours. Al ran his booth like a well-oiled wrestler (check out his Mexican wrestling game El Luchador Fantastico Grande) and it was evident that he’d recruited a great support team.
The 93 Made Games team also had a great PAX Aus supporting cast, including David Harding who demonstrated his Grail Games (which practically sold out over the weekend), The Master Cogineer Wez Lamont who challenged people to best each other in COGZ and Alex Dijk who helped Ninjanimals escape from the zoo. The 14-hour days were made much more bearable as each designer shared a significant workload by promoting their games on our shared stand.
I’d like to give a personal thanks to my team and the Senyac Games team who covered for me on day two when, after 2 straight hours of standing up whilst demoing games, I was on the verge of collapsing. I think if I’d been targeted by one more copy of Blind Freddie, I would have been out for the count. Luckily the guys gave me the time to recover in the finely catered PAX Exhibitors’ Lounge.
REASON 3 - PEOPLE PLAY FOR FUN
I know it seems obvious that people play games for fun but sometimes exhibitors (not specifically exhibitors at game conventions – I also have experience on booths in other industries) focus too much on sales and getting their “numbers”. You know what we did all weekend? We asked people to play games. It didn’t matter if they had already bought our games or weren’t even looking to buy. We were just happy that they wanted to play games. Playing games all weekend energised everyone in our booth and filled us with glee as we saw people enjoying so many wonderful Australian designed and published creations.
REASON 4 - THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Seven years ago, when 93 Made Games was created, the game design industry was fairly small with only a handful of semi-professional designers self-publishing micro games or licensing their designs to well-established foreign publishers. The primary barrier to self-publishing larger, more complex games was cost since, even though manufacturing in and importing from China is relatively cheap, it is not without expense. This meant that the pool of active designers was extremely small. And then, 2 years ago (in Australia at least), Kickstarter happened!
Kickstarter effectively kickstarted a new era of game design around the world but more significantly in Australia since the tyranny of distance limits our access to the biggest global game markets in Europe and the United States. Australian designers and publishers are now able to bankroll substantial projects through crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter. This means that more projects are coming to fruition and more designers are putting their hands up to share their games with the world.
This was very evident with the number of first-time designers who were demonstrating their games to publishers at PAX Aus. We were visited by the likes of Dale Maccanti who showed off Beware the Trap Door and Harold Kho who demonstrated his monster bashing game. Both designers received feedback from publishers earlier on in the weekend and returned with revised copies for further evaluation. This shows great dedication to their craft and Dale and Harold are just a small example of who will be the future of the Australian game design industry.
REASON 5 - WE'RE ON THE RIGHT PATH
A week has passed and I’ve been able to reflect on PAX Aus, why we chose to exhibit and whether or not we’re taking the right steps as a member of the Australian game design/publishing industry. I can say, unequivocally, that we are doing the right thing in designing, publishing and distributing independent Australian-made tabletop games.
There’s no reason why independent Australian games should not be put on a pedestal with top-ranking games from other countries. Australian designers are receiving the accolades they deserve – Rise to Power by Rule & Make was awarded the Best Non-Digital award at the 2015 Freeplay Awards as well as being a finalist in the Boardgames Australia 2015 Australian Game of the Year Awards. Elevenses and Pack of Heroes were also finalists for the latter award. Australian designers make great games and the evidence is no longer anecdotal. We’re proud to be able to promote and distribute these games throughout game stores in Australia and beyond.
IT'S A WRAP!
Only 5 reasons, you say. Well, yes, but the list could go on and on and on. I’m going to leave the rest to all of the wonderfully professional media who visited our booth and other’s over the PAX Aus weekend and link below to their articles and podcasts as they are published. Thanks for reading and keep your eye on the prize!
Aaron Lim from Victory Points Podcast
Jair McBain from Another Dungeon
Matthew Lee from The Campaigner Magazine
Ray Morgan and crew from Zed Games
Stephen Heller from Whiskey Board Games
Sneak Peek at Monster Town
After successfully reaching our funding goal, we are now able to give gamers a sneak peek at the production samples of Monster Town. Due to feedback received during the Kickstarter campaign, the game was changed from being split across four deck boxes (one for each gang) to one box containing the full game. A lot of the artwork has also been redone and looks wonderful when compared with the washed out images of the prototypes. Production will be completed by 5 June and the game will be in select stores and in the possession of our Kickstarter backers by mid-July.
As well as receiving copies of the game, certain Monster Town backers will receive limited edition merchandise, such as Monster Town playmats, the Art of Monster Town book, artprints and so on. All backers have been listed in the credits in the Monster Town Comprehensive Rules but we'd like to give special mention to the following backers and supporters of Monster Town:
Monster Town - Bite off more than you can chew. Ever dreamt that you were fighting monsters in a B-grade horror film? Maybe you had just encountered Monster Town.
Your Ticket to Monster Town
Monster Town is around the corner… literally. After 5 long years of development, 93 Made Games are only a couple of days away from launching the Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund the full production and distribution of the Monster Town card game. The team has organised in-store and in-club events around Australia and have plenty of rewards on offer for those brave enough to take a journey to Monster Town.
Monster Town is an expandable card game set in a fictional city whose denizens include all manner of supernatural beings, such as Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies. Players command their gang and wage brutal combat against each other as they journey through Monster Town.
The backstory of Monster Town is told in reverse narrative, where the first game is actually the last chapter in an intriguing chronicle. Each expansion adds to the story and unravels the mystery behind the appearance of the Dark Spire - an ethereal power source that has warped the citizens of Monster Town.
We have carefully chosen Kickstarter rewards that will appeal to gamers, game designers and those who appreciate of original pieces of art. Backers of the Monster Town Kickstarter campaign can pledge for lots of exciting loot, including copies of the four gang decks and the Kickstarter-exclusive Reinforcement Packs (additional cards with which to expand your gang deck), limited edition artwork and autographed prints, and even a reward where you and your friends can create your own gang… and we’ll produce it for you!
Seeking crowd-funding for Monster Town via Kickstarter has allowed us to offer an immersive experience for all types of gamers, from dedicated gamers to casual gamers, and even non-gamers. Whilst playing Monster Town is the main game, we are encouraging anyone who is interested in the supernatural, horror or fantasy to get into the spirit of Monster Town by dressing up as their favourite supernatural being and attending one of the Monster Town tour events. Heck, even if you just want to hold your own Monster Town party without us (we may shed a tear), send in your photos and we’ll post them on our website. The best-dressed at each of the tour events will get a booby prize.
The Monster Town tour will kick off with LIVE LAUNCH PARTY at Mega Games in Penrith. Be there for your first look at Monster Town in all of its frightening glory. Be sure to stay tuned to the Kickstarter page (when it goes live) for a list of official Monster Town tour events. Anyone who attends an official tour event, and pledges for a reward containing Reinforcement Packs, will receive an extra Reinforcement Pack for each and every one of these events they attend. Just be sure to let us know who you are at the event so we can be sure to get you your extra packs once the campaign is over.
There is so much more to tell you about but, for now, check out our Monster Town Kickstarter Theatrical Promo and then pledge until your heart is content once the Monster Town Kickstarter page goes live (from 8 p.m. on Friday, 11 April 2014 (AEST)).
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Since Kickstarter's launch on April 28, 2009, over $1 billion has been pledged by more than 5 million people, funding more than 50,000 creative projects.
The Making of Monster Town
93 Made Games opens their master design file and looks back over the last five years of the development of Monster Town. There are many differences to the original concept; however, a few key themes and gameplay elements have survived half a decade of play-testing.
Just three months shy of 93 Made Games' first birthday, Monster Town Lead Designer Anthony Condos, conceptualised an adventure card game where players would reveal locations (to be captured) and encounters (to be dealt with) from a central deck. Whilst this doesn't sound too different from the final game, it was the players rather than their gang members who were directly affected by the locations and encounters. Also, because there were no gangs, there was also no combat.
Thus, the first change was to add gangs and combat cards through which gang members could 'attack' each other, suffer wounds and be killed off or turned. This also introduced the idea of different races - Humans, Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies. Combat was further expanded to include combat abilities on the gang members and a mechanism to limit the exploitation of powerful abilities through the consumption of 'power'. So this is the origin of the blue Power Dice.
Through further play-testing, the design team found that the basic win condition of, what was then, capturing a set number of locations would not always be achieved prior to the location/encounter deck running out of cards. This lead to the creation of the 'end game' phase where a free-for-all final combat would ensue, with the winner being the player who had the last gang standing. The victory conditions were further tweaked over the five-year development and included timed games, combat-only games and varying the number of locations required to win. Eventually, the design team settled on a 'conquest points' system where players needed to reach 10 conquest points to win with locations being worth 1 each and gang members being worth varying amounts but only if killed during the end game.
At around the same time the end game phase was devised, Anthony started work on the artwork. Preliminary designs were rudimentary in order to get across the basic themes but were soon improved by using models for each of the gang members and non-playing characters used in the game. You may notice that all of the gang leaders look an awful lot like someone who is very closely involved with the creation of the game.
Whilst Anthony was compiling the artwork, he also added special items (weapons, armour and augmentations (which were at the time simply known as special abilities)) as a card type. Originally, each gang deck was going to include 10 special items; however, this number had to be reduced so that all of the flavourful combat cards could be retained. Fortunately, many of these special items will be included in the Reinforcement Packs that will be available to Kickstarter backers.
With the addition of special items and the artwork coming along nicely, the design team's next big job was to streamline the game by removing superfluous cards and rules. The first to go were the double-sided follower/attacker cards. Whilst having an image of a follower on one side and an image of an attacker on the other was visual appealing, it took away from the suspense and surprise of revealing cards from the location/encounter deck. Therefore, only one image was used and both effects were moved to the same side of the card.
Another significant change was the introduction of uncapturable locations, which played similarly to encounters but kept the theme of travelling through Monster Town. The game was eventually trimmed down from 200+ different cards to a much more manageable number across four gangs.
Even though the flavour of the game had been built up from an early stage, the specific themes and history of Monster Town and each gang was thin on content. This is where Design Manager Sean Carroll came up with the idea of 'power' representing the emanations from 'The Dark Spire', a mysterious monolith that has corrupted the denizens of Monster Town. The backstories of the gangs were fleshed out from this basis and thus Humans became the Renegade Militia, Vampires would be known as the Brotherhood of the Fang, Werewolves would don the name Wölfenpack and Zombies were all too obviously titled The Living Undead.
The last few months of design and development included some radical but necessary changes, such as the adjustment to scouting where players originally were able to reveal all of the scouting cards at once instead of one card at a time. This further increased the suspense and the “edge-of-your-seat” action that the game provides.
After five hectic years of development, Monster Town is now ready to claim. Successful beta play-testing has been conducted with no holes found whatsoever. We used some of our most cunning play-testers, who have repeatedly broken our alpha prototypes, to ensure the fidelity of the game. And also to make sure Monster Town is still as enthralling to play as ever. We will be launching the Monster Town Kickstarter campaign in the very near future so stay tuned to 93 Made Games for comprehensive details on all of the amazing rewards that are on offer.
Monster Town is an expandable card game set in a fictional city whose denizens include all manner of supernatural beings, such as Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies. Players command their gang and wage brutal combat against each other as they journey through Monster Town. The backstory of Monster Town is told in reverse narrative, where the first game is actually the last chapter in an intriguing chronicle. Each expansion adds to the story and unravels the mystery behind the appearance of the Dark Spire - an ethereal power source that has warped the citizens of Monster Town.
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Indie Games United is a distributor and advocate of independently designed and published tabletop games. We collaborate with designers and publishers to provide game stores with unique compilations of high quality and novel games.