GTM #192 - The Spoils in 2016
by Arcane Tinmen

How do you kick off a new year after the best in The Spoils history? Between winning the Origins Award for Fan-Favorite Collectible Card Game, selling out of several older products, releasing three new offerings and totally updating our online presence, 2015 will be a tough year to beat. But going into our Tenth Anniversary year, we think we know how to celebrate a decade of card play decadence. With a campaign of ungodly victory! And it all starts with you!

In 2016, The Spoils Card Game is poised to release more products than in our entire history with an eye towards updating our rules to focus on new players. First up is the exciting conclusion of the Unlikely Heroes Cycle, in which our main characters must destroy a living mass of tentacles with untold power traipsing about as a god before it can be harnessed to destroy the world. The set is aptly titled Ungodly Mess, and brings 150 brand-new cards to the table. Ungodly Mess introduces a new rarity – Uber Rares – extremely powerful cards that will add new strategies and even new win conditions to the mix.

In addition, our ultra rare “Epoch” edition chase set, included randomly in Ungodly Mess booster packs, gives veteran players a chance to recapture vintage favorites, and gives a hint of the beautiful new layouts to come in future Spoils offerings.

That’s not all we’ve got in store for Ungodly Mess, but we’re going to have to keep the rest a secret for now. Make sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and website for more details.

New products aren’t the only smorgasbord of awesome we’ve got cooking in 2016. We've traveled the world and spoken to card players everywhere and found that there's a hunger for fun, casual play that doesn't take itself too seriously. Enter Victors Organized Play.

We're selecting three-hundred stores in the US to become our first partners in spreading the spoils of Victors to the card players of America. Victors stores receive a package that comes with everything they need to succeed, including two posters, one-thousand stickers, a window decal, twenty playcards, and two-hundred exclusive promos. Here’s the best part – becoming a Victors store is totally free!

"I'm a player, not a store. What's this mean to me?"

A chance to play your most fun, highly casual, never-gonna-win a tournament deck for fun, and still earn yourself free exclusive promos. All you have to do is play, be it with a starter deck, a homebrew, a net deck, or what our R&D team affectionately calls a “sheer pile” of cards. No matter what level of player you are, we’ve thought of you. (Sweet of us, no?)

With our brand-new format, Spoiled Rotten, no deck idea goes unplayed and no fun is wasted. The idea is simple: stores host Spoiled Rotten once a week and play no matter how many show up to participate. Players are given a playcard and for every win or loss, they get a sticker. Five stickers nets you a slick promo, unavailable anywhere else.

Spoiled Rotten is the perfect venue to try out your craziest decks, sweetest strategies, and ultimate dueling desires. It's a fun, casual environment that lets new players join without worrying about getting beat up by the more experienced pros, and let's the veterans among us tutor new players for competitive play. Spoiled Rotten is all about recapturing that first sense of excitement when cracking packs, chasing rares, pulling out trade binders, and trying new strategies was the end all be all to the card gaming world. All of us here at The Spoils are rabid card players through and through – we miss that first jolt of discovery when playing a new game. We’ve designed Spoiled Rotten to turbocharge you week after week.

“Casual is okay I guess, but I’m a pro. Thanks anyway.”

Hold on there, sport! The Spoils was born and bred to be a competitive card game (don’t let the 1,337 speak, literal fat cat bankers, and Abominable Hamster-style cards fool you). That's where our brand-new player portal and tournament software comes in. It's easier than ever to sign up and get going. Simply create a profile, choose whether you're a player or a retailer, and start hosting tournaments. We’ve created a revolutionary Google Chrome Plug-In for tournament software that syncs seamlessly with the player portal to keep track of leaderboards, tournaments, player points, and a retailer's Tier. The more events hosted, the higher the Tier, which means different and unique prizes.

Player Points aren’t just for bragging rights (although we won’t be mad if you brag). They can be redeemed for byes and invitations to bigger events, including our Spoils Championship held at Gen Con 2016.

“Keep talking.”

Your friendly local game store, through their Retailer player portal profile, can purchase unique tournaments hosted by the iconic characters in our game world, like Rudo Mangod's Dragonweight Championship, to earn their players extra points, dice, playmats, and Micomajig tokens made from pewter. 350 points gets you free entry into the Spoils Championships, byes, and more.

We’re also proud to announce the newest addition to Victors Organized Play: the Victors Circuit, hosted in partnership with Alter Reality Games, coming to cities all over the country. For those seeking the thrill of competitive play, these regional style events are for you. Earn cash prizes, badges to Gen Con, invites to The Spoils Championship, and much more.

Don’t have The Spoils in your store? Not yet? Our newly rehashed Ambassador Program gives you the chance to host demos at your local store and earn unique Ambassador Rewards Points that are stored in the Player Portal and can be redeemed for unique promos, playmats, prizes, and product. Don’t have a store near you? Post a Spoils-related Youtube video. Record a podcast. Create a fan site. If you’re championing the cause of Victors Organized Play, we want you to reap the sweet, sweet Spoils of your Ambassadorial pursuits.

Sign up to become one of our three hundred Victors stores by visiting www.thespoilscardgame.com/victors and help bring The Spoils to your local game shop by becoming an Ambassador.

So, how do you kick off the Tenth Anniversary of one of the naughtiest, silliest, most strategic card games on the market? By making everyone a Victor, and leading the charge for unabashed fun!

GTM #191 - Munchkin: Guest Artist Editions
by Philip Reed

Fifteen years ago, I visited the Cartamundi factory in Tennessee to check the press sheets of a new card game. That game went on to be far more important to Steve Jackson Games than any of us could have imagined as those first cards were coming off the press. Munchkin celebrates its fifteenth birthday this year... and we’re celebrating with a series of games that shows our favorite Munchkin titles through new eyes.

~ Artistic License ~

Steve (Jackson) and John (Kovalic) have been responsible for thousands of groan-inducing jokes over the years. I’m talking about gags that make me weep and laugh at the exact same time. (This is intentional. Trust me on this. As I was working on this article, I received an email from Steve that included the line, “Copying to Phil so he can groan.” And I did. I swear the creative team behind Munchkin uses me as a test subject; the loader I groan, the happier they are.) Between them, Steve and John’s twisted and bizarre senses of humor have made Munchkin a punny feast for those who can never get enough laughs at the game table.

Back in January of 2015, as Steve and Andrew (Hackard, Munchkin Line Editor) were discussing ideas for Munchkin’s birthday, I tossed out the idea of inviting other artists to re-imagine existing Munchkin games. Classic jokes that Munchkin fans know well – from several different titles – all re-illustrated by a carefully selected group of artists we had already worked with before or we really wanted to work with.

We chose our first wave of artists that day, even if the artists did not yet know what we had in mind. Fortunately, Ian (McGinty), Len (Peralta), and Katie (Cook) were all jazzed by the concept and signed on instantly. Luckily, we were able to include John in the project; Munchkin Fu was originally illustrated by Greg Hyland, so this series gave John a chance to put his mark on another Munchkin title.

~ Artistic Process ~

On most Munchkin projects, Steve and John (or Andrew and John) (or Steve and Andrew and John, when I really need to suffer) work together so that the visual gags enhance the card title and/or mechanics. This often leads to brainstorming sessions – either through email or when we’re all together at a convention – where the ideas are flying and the jokes are forcing me under the table. How I became the Munchkin straight man I’ll never know, but I can report that it’s a lot of fun to watch the creative process in action.

With the Guest Artist series, though, we completely ignored our normal creative process. We weren’t looking to create thousands of new Munchkin cards – though a Munchkin summit with all of the game designers and artists sounds like a great party! – but we were asking the artists to break open card decks and provide their own spin on the cards.

Early on in the process, the art approvals were handed to me, which meant I had the thankless task of personally reviewing and approving thousands of illustrations. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is immensely fun, but finding the time for dozens to hundreds of illustration approvals each day has been challenging. Fortunately, our team has done an amazing job of collecting and filtering the illustrations and my comments, keeping the artists informed and kicking me when I fall behind.

I can already hear you asking: “How does this work?” Cut down to essentials, we assign an artist one of the games and then sit back and wait for the sketches to come in. The artist goes through an entire set, card by card, reviewing the text and artwork and then adding their own spin. (The Pit Bull and Singing and Dancing Sword cards, by Ian McGinty, are two great example of an artist studying the existing material and bringing us something new.)

One of our talented admins uploads card sketches into an online database, after which I look at each image, giggling, and then either mark the art as “approved” or make small suggestions in order to enhance the art. These suggestions usually fall along the lines of “make the grin wicked” or “draw the rest of the character,” and are intended to help the image better match the Munchkin tone while providing our production department with images that would better fit the layout of the card.

Once I approved the sketches, the artists inked the work and our staff ran the completed artwork through our online database for another round of checks. As I signed off on each completed illustration, the art went to our production staff for coloring and placement in the card design. Most of the card coloring was swift and painless, but even at that stage I would go through and suggest tweaks to colors to help the images pop a little more.

~ Artistic Nitpicking ~

Once all of the finished artwork was colored and the cards were completed, we printed full decks and I went through page by page, making marks and suggestions to adjust text placement and improve the overall card layout. This would sometimes require me to stand over someone’s computer like Dilbert’s boss saying “No, just a little more to the left,” but this was only so that the next stage in the artistic process would flow smoothly.

~ Artistic Approval ~

Once the layout of each game was complete – including the box, rules, and any marketing materials scheduled for inclusion in the finished game – our senior creative staff sat down with the game for a pre-mortem, one last check of the entire project before printing. Formal pre-mortems are a new stage in our game publishing process, but watching them in action on the Munchkin Guest Artist series tells me that we’ll start running through this procedure for almost every new game.

During the pre-mortem meetings for the various Guest Artist games, Steve took a close look at the artwork and final design of the games. All of those hours of reviewing and approving artwork, nitpicking coloring and card design, and generally annoying the staff were an effort to make this stage of the process as painless on Steve (and therefore everyone else) as possible. After over fifteen years of working with Steve, I believe I’ve managed to get a decent picture of his tastes, but watching these pre-mortem meetings gave me a new level of experience that will only improve our Munchkin games for years to come.

It was at this stage, also, where Steve’s final notes – sometimes near-invisible adjustments to cards I had thought were perfect – gave me even more appreciation for Steve’s decades of experience. I knew I had a lot more to learn, but I hadn’t quite grasped the depth of thought that went into making Munchkin cards both deeply amusing and entertaining... and a pretty darn good game.

~ Artistic Closure ~

When we first discussed the Munchkin Guest Artist series a year ago, I was enthusiastic. Now that I’ve seen thousands of completed cards, I’m excited not just for this series of games but for the overall future of Munchkin. We’ve demonstrated that our team can take Munchkin projects completely through the artistic process with a minimal impact on Steve – before this project he was personally sitting through every stage of the art procedures – which means that going forward we can free up Steve’s time to work on other things, bringing him in only at the last moment to add his final sprinkles of magic to the games.

Add to that our deepening well of experienced Munchkin illustrators and the increasing number of Munchkin releases that have come from Andrew, Devin (Lewis), and others, and things are about to get really interesting. How will we take advantage of this wider pool of veteran Munchkin artists and designers? That’s a surprise we’re not ready to reveal... yet.

GTM #190 - Through the Breach!
by Wyrd Miniatures

Through the Breach is a new tabletop roleplaying game based in the world of Malifaux. It is a steampunk setting where outlaws, mages, mad scientists, and unspeakable creatures thrive. Released at GenCon, Through the Breach is available in local game stores now. With the game recently launching, it seems only reasonable talk a little bit about character creation.

Player characters in the game are called Fated, individuals in the world of Malifaux that have a destiny to fulfill. Character creation is a simple process, the full details of which can be found in The Fated Almanac, but we’re going to go through the basic steps to hit the ground running (from the Neverborn) as soon as you get your books!

~ Forging Your Fate ~

Go ahead and grab a Fate Deck (or a standard deck of cards with the two jokers). If we want a Fated character, we’re going to have to start with the Fate deck. Everything in the game is resolved through card flips, and character creation is no different. You’ll end up flipping five cards off the top of the deck in what is called the Cross Roads Tarot.

The first card you flip goes in the center, and it is called your Station card. Your Station has more to do with your parents or family than you directly. It lets you know what your parents may have done for a living or what they might have been involved with. The Station card, therefore, also provides some insight into who you are and what you may have learned growing up. The apple doesn’t always fall far from the hanging tree.

I flipped a 10 of Rams (or Hearts), which means that my Station is Enforcer, essentially belonging to a family who was willing to break some legs to keep things in line. I think Abram, my new Fated, had parents who were strict and decisive.

The second card you flip goes to the left of your Station and is the western card. Your western card is used to determine your physical Aspects: Might, Grace, Speed, and Resilience. The flip will give you four values that you can assign to each of these Aspects. You can start thinking about what your Fated was like growing up. Some of these numbers may be negative, but don’t worry about that. Negative Aspects aren’t terribly detrimental, in fact, they may even provide you some unique opportunities!

The 6 of Crows (or Spades) tells me -2, 0, 0, and +2. Having tough parents can often make a tough kid. Abram didn’t grow up graceful, but he learned how to take a hit. I’ll put the -2 in Grace and the +2 in Resilience.  

The third card you flip goes above your Station and is the northern card. The northern card contains your root skills. It reflects many of the skills your character learned growing up, and in conjunction with the other two parts of your Tarot so far, should give you a fairly solid idea of your character’s background. You can assign these values to any skills you want.

A 13 of Rams gives me only three Skills, at 3, 3, and 2. Unlike many kids his age, Abram wasn’t out playing. There were things he had to learn, and he knew that mistakes were not an option. Abram has 3 points in Labor, meaning that he’s good at working tirelessly at manual tasks. He has 2 points in Centering because he learned to keep a cool head. Finally, he has 3 points in Pugilism, as his parents knew he might be fighting from a young age.

The fourth card is the eastern card and goes to the right of the Station. This card informs your mental Aspects: Intellect, Charm, Cunning, and Tenacity. This is also the point you should start considering your Fated as they get older. The four mental Aspects have a lot to do with learning and interacting with others, and where you assign the values will have a large impact on how your character views the world.

The 12 of Tomes (or Clubs) tells me my mental Aspects are -2, -1, 0, and +3. Abram is clearly growing up into a man of extremes. He focuses to the detriment of other things, and he dislikes making mistakes. He has a +3 in Tenacity because he’s willing to stick anything through to the end. He’s a -2 at Charm. He can’t exactly relate to others well. His fairly straightforward, bullheaded approach to issues leaves him with a -1 to Cunning.

The fifth and final card is the southern card, and it goes below the Station. This provides you with your endeavor skills. These reflect more of the skills you chose to learn as you got older, and often reflect how you currently spend your time. These skills cannot be added to the root skills, which means that you’ll often end up with a Fated with plenty of skills at their fingertips.

An ace of Tomes reveals that maybe his approach to life didn’t keep panning out, as he finally gains a smattering of Skills. He puts 3 points into Intimidate and 2 points into Toughness. He tried to get his way by force, but it didn’t pan out. Now he’s got 1 point in each of Athletics, Pistols, Track, and Wilderness. Looking at how that all turned out, I bet he’s going to Malifaux because he’s got no goodwill left back Earthside.

Once you’ve completed, you’ll end up with a Tarot that looks like the below, and helps tell the narrative about your character.