GTM #184 - Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron
by WizKids/NECA

Coming this June, Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron follows up on the successful releases of other titles in the Marvel Dice Masters line by bringing to the tabletop popular characters from the blockbuster film, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. For fans of previous Marvel Dice Masters games such as Avengers vs. X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, the Age of Ultron set will offer up a fresh new mix of characters and abilities to explore.

First, you’ll see a full compliment of new and returning Avengers into the fray. Debuting in the Age of Ultron set are popular characters Captain Marvel, Giant Man, Hyperion, Spider-Woman, and Thor. This Dice Masters release will also see the return of perennial favorites like Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Hulk, amongst others. This set has an impressive lineup of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and each brings something new and different to the game, with several making use of the Teamwatch ability, which allows for advantages to teams that share affiliations.

Joining The Avengers will be the Guardians of the Galaxy. The classic Guardian Starhawk joins Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Moondragon, and Gamora from the modern line-up of the team. One of the major advantages to playing the Guardians is that, frequently, the characters are all interdependent on each other, and affiliations play a major role in making characters that are already strong even stronger through their abilities. For example, the Uncommon Star-Lord from the set grants all attacking Guardians affiliated characters both +1A and +1D when he’s fielded.

Another team debuting in the set is the international peacekeeping force, S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury, Agent Phil Coulson, and others are part of this release.  In Age of Ultron, WizKids is adding a full fleet of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarriers as special “action” dice – all providing significant enhancements for teams – hero or villains - and all are truly powerful non-combat additions to your squad.

Villains appearing in the Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron set include Baron Zemo,  The Enchantress, Kang the Conquerer, and Thanos, and rounding out our villains is Ultron, himself! These villains, and plenty more, make a formidable force to be reckoned with for their heroic counterparts.

There are still plenty of surprises in store for you when the Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron set is released, so keep an eye out for more news as we approach the launch date.

GTM #183 - Designing Adventure Time Fluxx
by Andrew Looney

When Cartoon Network approached us about doing Fluxx variants based on some of their shows, I wasn’t very familiar with Adventure Time. I think I’d seen exactly one episode (It was "Wizard", as I recall.) So the first thing I had to do was to watch a bunch of cartoons! (I know, I have a tough job.)

Obviously, I enjoyed Adventure Time, but I found myself drawn even more to the show that came on right afterwards: Regular Show. And since the first project I was supposed to work on was a mashup of many Cartoon Network shows, I needed to bone up on everything from the PowerPuff Girls to Gumball, so it took me awhile to work my way through the densely-packed weirdness that is Adventure Time.

As soon as I’d delivered a working prototype of the mashup-themed Fluxx, I started working on a standalone Adventure Time-themed Fluxx, since it’s easily the most popular of the shows I’ve been working with. However, I soon put that prototype on the back-burner and began focusing on a Regular Show version instead. Why? Because there were so many other new Adventure Time products in the works, and comparatively few for Regular Show. It just made more sense to go after the underserved market at first. And on a personal level, I myself had really gotten into Regular Show and was just as happy to do that one first. And I’m really glad it worked out that way, because my Adventure Time Fluxx design benefitted greatly from the extra development time.

Like any vast world I’m seeking to distill down into a Fluxx game, Adventure Time is a complex show with way more material than I could ever hope to squeeze into a game with just 100 cards. And, of course, many of those cards are structural (all those standard New Rules and Actions) so actually I only have 20-25 cards to work with in choosing the main elements to feature as the Keepers (and Creepers) in any Fluxx adaptation. And with a world as complex and weird as Adventure Time, in which memorable new characters come and go with each episode, this was quite a challenge.

But as always there are those primary characters who stand out as being obvious choices, and the roster filled in quickly. And characters who don’t show up until later in the show sometimes barge their way to the head of the line. (I’m looking at you, Lemongrab!) I found ways to squeeze in a few extra characters with references on Action cards, such as Choose Goose (an action that gives you a choice of others) and James Baxter (who just shows up briefly to make everyone feel great, by giving each player a card and getting rid of all Creepers).

In my earliest designs, I was trying to include a few items, like Finn’s different swords, the Enchiridion, Ice King’s crown perhaps… but I had to drop all those because I needed to give as many actual characters as possible a chance to appear, but more importantly because I needed for all Keepers to be characters and thus eligible to enter… the "Arena"!

The Arena is a powerful new action that requires all other players to submit entrants to a single-combat contest. The other players get a chance to argue for who they think would win in a fight, but you then decide the victor. That player keeps said card while everyone else loses theirs!

For a while I was planning for the Creepers in Adventure Time Fluxx to work like those in Star Fluxx, that is, as cards that attach themselves to Keepers in a transformative way. My plan included three: Lumpiness, Zombified, and Possessed by the Lich. But I was never quite happy with how that played out, and eventually gave up on that angle, replacing those three with four more traditional Creepers: Candy Zombies, The Lich, Hunson Abadeer, and Magic Man. And, of course, this is better because the Creepers can then also enter the Arena!

Yet another thing I was trying for a while was a single card that invoked most of the Candy People (Assorted Candy People) and another for an assortment of Princesses. But I kept wanting to refer to specific members of each of those groups on Goals and ultimately gave up the Assorted concept, including instead five different Candy People (each marked with an icon) and five different Princesses (with their own icon), plus Princess Bubblegum (marked with both icons).

An episode near and dear to any gamer’s heart is "Card Wars", so, of course, I had to make some sort of "Floop the Pig" reference. At first that’s all I had — a goal of Finn with Mr. Pig called "Floop The Pig". But I decided I could do better, and came up with an action called "Floop a Keeper", which becomes rather devastating when the Keeper you choose to Floop is the Pig.

As for the gender-swapped characters (Fionna, Cake, Ice Queen, etc), they will just have to wait until an expansion or something.

Once we were ready to move into production, we got Ian McGinty to help us with the illustrations. Ian already has experience drawing the Adventure Time characters for the comic books, and he’s developing custom-drawn images for the cards in our game.

Adventure Time Fluxx will be hitting the stores this summer. It’ll be mathematical!

GTM #182 - Elysium: "Welcome to Olympus!"
by Brett Gilbert & Matt Dunstan

~ Welcome to Olympus! ~

In Elysium, you become an ambitious demigod, striving to win the favor of the Olympian gods and claim your own place amongst them. On your journey, you will discover powerful artifacts, enlist the aid of mythic heroes and beasts, undertake heroic quests - and perhaps even call upon the gods themselves!

Elysium is a game of combination and set collecting for 2–4 players, driven by simple actions but with constant dilemmas and complex strategies. The game is structured around eight decks of 21 cards, each representing the heroes, allies, artifacts and myths of an individual Olympian god. At the start of each game, you choose five families to shuffle together to form the game deck, and every combination creates a new game experience, giving players new opportunities to explore, and new challenges to overcome.

During the game you will discover powerful ways to combine the game’s many unique card powers, but in time you must help your allies reach Elysium - the final resting place of heroes. Here, their powers can no longer help you, but you will use them to forge you own legends by building valuable card sets, which are the only certain way to secure victory.

A distinctive feature of the game production is that each of the eight decks has been illustrated by a different artist. Every unique card has its own artwork: 104 illustrations in total! The decks capture the heroes, artifacts, beasts and myths that surround Apollo, Ares, Athena, Hades, Hermes, Hephaestus, Poseidon and Zeus, and each has a different functional flavor and so brings a unique set of connected powers to the game when that deck is in play.

Over the five Epochs of the game, you will draft cards from the Agora display in the middle of the play area, placing them first in your Domain where you may use their powers. At the end of the Epoch, you will have the chance to transfer cards to your Elysium and so build valuable collections called Legends that will be reckoned at the end of the game. If you are to win, you must carefully balance the choices of which cards to draft, when to use their powers, and how best to acquire the gold and transfers you need to build your Legends.

~ A Heroic Journey ~

Our journey to the summit of Mount Olympus began in early 2013, when we made the first prototype that would lead eventually to Elysium. That game was utterly different: a fantasy adventure game with characters, equipment and a large world full of enemies to explore, at the heart of which was a system of colored dice that represented the abilities of your character. We prepared the board and hundreds of cards needed for the first playtest - but very soon realized that it the game really didn’t work at all.

However, the one successful element were the dice, and in the following months we tried different styles of game that incorporated them. One of these was a Roman-themed game where you claimed and used the powers of various citizens. Every citizen had an acquisition cost, which you had to meet using the dice in your pool - either by matching the color of the dice or the symbols that you rolled. The game wasn’t particularly interesting or successful, but the idea of using resources to acquire cards with different costs survives within Elysium.

Our quest to find a home for our dice continued, but seemed doomed. After eight complete redesigns, and eight frustrating attempts to make the dice work, we were almost ready to give up! But as in all great legends, our persistence was eventually rewarded…

The ninth prototype was when we finally hit on the main concepts that would eventually be realized in Elysium. We revisited our previous Roman theme, and populated our game with cards representing merchants, craftsman, scholars, senators and soldiers. Each different card was given an ability - some of which remain unchanged in the final game! - and had an acquisition cost of colors and symbols, which had to be matched by your dice.

Importantly, we introduced what would turned out to be the magic ingredient: something we called ‘promoting’. The idea was that once you hired your recruits, and they had done their work for you, you would pay to give them a nice retirement. When you promoted cards into ‘houses’ you would lose their abilities, but you would score points for the sets of cards in your houses at the end of the game.

With these core concepts finally settled upon, the design and playtesting process picked up pace, and by the time of SPIEL 2013 we were ready to present our prototype - rechristened ‘Aurum et Gloriam’ (Gold and Glory) - to a number of publishers, including Space Cowboys. The game contained eight different Roman families of cards, and the very same dice that had survived completely intact from our original prototype!

After having a chance to play the game back at Space Cowboys HQ, they very quickly came back to tell us that they loved it and wanted to publish. They took incredible care of our game, but after much development work emailed us to break the bad news that the journey to Mount Olympus had claimed one last casualty: the dice. Even if we were a little sad to say goodbye to our oldest companions, it was the right decision for the game.

With that final change, and all of the exceptional work and passion that the Space Cowboys have poured into the game, Elysium was ready to be released to the world. And may the gods be ever in your favor!

Matt and Brett are both game designers living in Cambridge, UK. Matt is a materials scientist, who has recently completed his PhD at Cambridge University. Brett, himself a Cambridge University graduate, worked in publishing and online retail before realizing he should have been designing games instead.