GTM #192 - Fighting in the Ophidian Arenas
by Mim Paquin

It's a grim and gritty Ophidian universe filled with cyborgs, bio-engineered constructs, demonic beasts, mystic beings, humans, and mythical creations. The year is 2350, legendary gladiators from different worlds and dimensions gather to seek fame, fortune, and the adulation of the crowd by fighting in the Ophidian arenas.

~ A Unique Creation Story: Ophidian 2350 & Hack and Slash Games ~

Ophidian 2350 is a gladiator combat card game with a unique creation story.  Originally released in 2003 by Fleer, a company best known for its sports cards and bubble gum, Ophidian found itself treading water in a market flooded with new card games.  Since its release, Ophidian stood apart by offering players an unusually high number of strategic options during gameplay. Unfortunately, its publisher went out of business shortly after the game's release, and all of Fleer's assets were either sold off or destroyed.  Some even thought it was packed up in a wooden crate, and wheeled away into a warehouse stocked with an infinite number of other wooden crates filled with games that never got a fair chance in the marketplace, never to be seen again.  Most people assumed the game was finished, and with good reason — it no longer had a manufacturer, and by all accounts no longer existed in the physical realm.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013, when Robert Shofkom, a former game store owner and US Army veteran, noticed small lots of Ophidian inventory starting to appear online on various auction websites. Remembering the game being quite good, and intrigued about its reappearance, Robert tracked down the source of these sales, and purchased the 20,000 pounds of Ophidian stock in its entirety.  For the last decade, this sole remaining product had been shuffled and reshuffled from its original storage facility in New Jersey to various storage facilities – even making an appearance on Storage Wars as an unidentifiable “Fleer product.” Finally, through Robert's procurement, Ophidian found its way from a warehouse in the hope state of Rhode Island to his storage facility in the friendship state of Texas.

With a warehouse full of Ophidian 2350, Robert proceeded to draft a plan in order to sell the product by starting a brand-new game company.  After jumping though many logistical and legal hoops, Robert established Hack and Slash Games and began selling his newly acquired product with the official blessing of its original design team.

~ A Game of Gladiator Combat: Ophidian 2350 ~

Ophidian 2350 is a game of gladiator combat, where each player selects a team of Gladiators, along with a deck that they have constructed from scratch.  Gladiators begin the game at Level 1, and can level up throughout the course of combat.  Gladiators have Disciplines, which are areas of expertise and skill, dictating which cards can be played from a player's deck.  There are six different Disciplines,, ranging from War to Psi, from Bio-tek to Cybernetics, each with its own unique strategy and style of play.

The game does not use traditional turns, but instead uses a patented mechanic called “The Flow,” which is a momentum-based system.  While a player has The Flow they may perform actions.  Actions that are inherently aggressive, like attacking and moving towards one's opponent, are positive actions.  Actions which are inherently passive, like retreating, bringing in new Minions (creatures), and playing weapons or armor on Gladiators, are negative actions.  When a player has The Flow, they may perform positive actions and continue to execute them until they’re waylaid by a negative action, which passes The Flow to their opponent.

Ophidian is played over a series of four Waves (rounds of play), with additional tiebreaker Waves as needed.  Players continue to pass the The Flow back and forth until both players consecutively pass, ending the round. Players enter a rest period between Waves called “The Breather.”  During The Breather, everything resets, new cards are drawn, and players may promote one of their Gladiators, raising its level.

The primary victory condition is to score more Victory Points than one's opponent.  Victory Points are scored by defeating an opponent's Gladiators.  An alternative victory condition involves “Cheer,” which is generated when Gladiators attack.  If a player can generate enough Cheer, they incite a riot and win the game immediately. It's not as easy as it sounds, as opposing Gladiators can intercept attacks to steal Cheer: leaping in front of an attack at the last second excites the crowd and takes the Cheer! Accumulated Cheer may also be spent to change an opponent's positive action into a negative action, disrupting their momentum and stealing The Flow.

Ophidian 2350 is a combat-oriented game. The strategy in how attacks are made, whether or not a player wants to intercept attacks, protect against them, or let them through, are all decisions made during gameplay. These decisions can either bring a player victory or defeat.  A player's skill is a major influence in the game, more than in most games in the genre, because a player's chances to win Ophidian are less about their collection, and more about their in-game decisions.

~ Connecting to the Audience: Hack and Slash Games ~

Acquiring Ophidian 2350 did not automatically guarantee its “sell-ability”, so the first step was to determine the level of consumer demand and awareness of the game, and establish the best way of connecting the consumer to the product.  By starting out small, selling directly to consumers both online and at conventions, Robert soon discovered that his original impression of Ophidian was a shared one and that there is, indeed, an audience and an active player community.

The second step was for Hack and Slash Games to connect to that audience.  Robert decided to expand the Hack and Slash Games team, bringing on a partner, former game store employee and friend Chris Milling, whose enthusiasm for the game was just what the company needed to keep things moving. The company's mission never wavered, and the need quickly grew for additional talent. Game designer and marketing strategist (and member of the original Ophidian 2350 design team) Jason Robinette joined the company as Director of Marketing and Design. The momentum of Hack and Slash Games immediately accelerated as they began working with Alliance Game Distributors to bring Ophidian 2350 and other original games to the market.  In a matter of weeks, the company went from selling product directly to consumers, to establishing nationwide distribution to retailers.

As Hack and Slash Games approached distributors to get Ophidian 2350 back into the market, many remembered the game and the consensus was that Ophidian, along with games like Netrunner and Conan, never got the support needed during their initial release.  Games like these deserved a second chance, to be recovered from the mysterious warehouse of infinite crates and brought back into the players' hands.

~ Launching Into the Future ~

The first Ophidian expansion, Ophidian 2360: Survival of the Fittest, launches early in 2016. The new non-collectible expansion will feature an improved card layout and design that is 100% compatible with the existing cards.

This year Hack and Slash Games will be present at gaming conventions, including GenCon, where they will be showcasing Ophidian 2350 and 2360: Survival of the Fittest.

To learn more about Hack and Slash Games, its mission and its team, please visit www.hackandslashgames.com – It is also the official information hub for upcoming Ophidian expansions, as well as all-new Hack and Slash Games releases.

“Mim Paquin is a mom, wife, CEO, singer, actor, writer, songwriter/composer and screenwriter. The only thing she hasn’t done is tend bar at The Raven - she’ll sing you under the table any day!”