Today’s look at the indie world of board gaming comes in the form of Scottish based Bad Cat Games who have been kind enough to answer a few questions for us here at Gaming Respawn. Here is what was said:
GR – Justin, it’s great to finally speak with you, can you tell us how Bad Cat Games came to fruition, and what was your drive to want to start your own gaming company?
BC – Likewise, and thanks again for approaching BadCatGames. Ah well, I’m a serial game tweaker and often get distracted when it’s not my turn wondering how the game could be altered to do this or that – how it could be further enhanced. I’d been writing RPG scenarios and then world building (as a hobby, not as a massive installation for some tiny pan-dimensional beings reminiscent of mice) since I was 12 – being a GM of Call of Cthulhu, Middle Earth RP and then Warhammer Fantasy RP for most of that time. However I found I was gravitating more towards designing tabletop board and card games – I’ve had a euro style merchant game set in Arabia planned for years. The advent and rapid rise of Kickstarter as a viable opportunity to make game ideas a reality is a godsend to many designers, and thus BadCatGames was born with some like-minded friends to follow in the footsteps of some amazing new game companies that have walked the yellow brick road before us (and conveniently left signposts).
GR – Has gaming always been a passion of yours? If so, what games have you grown up playing, and are there any newer releases that you enjoy?
BC – Absolutely. The BadCat team are very much old school gamers – We still have original versions of the earliest 80s Games Workshop board games like Fury of Dracula, Blood Bowl, Hero Quest – even Judge Dredd, and I have a cherished (but somewhat musty) old Avalon Hill game of Waterloo from 1962! (Bit of a family heirloom, that one). We played a huge number of early 90s games while at university, including a marathon Space Hulk with 6 players and 3 copies of the game which covered most of our flat, took 3 days to complete and was liberally toasted with beer, broken weapons and crisps. More recent games that stand out as perfect examples of modern game design (for me) include Memoir ‘44, Pandemic, Arkham Horror, Eclipse, Dominion and Patchwork by my favourite designer Uwe Rosenberg; and, of course, Agricola – all for different reasons but all are exemplary games in our opinion.
GR – Even as we speak, I have with me a preview copy of your latest game, ElemenZ. Tell us a bit about the game, what players can expect and why you wanted to create this particular type of game.
BC – ElemenZ is our first foray, and we wanted it to be accessible to the widest audience. The kids of today will be the gamers of tomorrow, so we wanted very much to pitch it as a nice quick and visually attractive game for entry level gamers and those more experienced gamers who love dice games – it takes 10 seconds to set up and 20 odd minutes to play. A lot of our playtesters were school kids and ‘fringe’ gamers on purpose, but it also appeals to experienced gamers looking for a light filler – we’ve had hugely positive responses at public shows. Although ElemenZ follows the ‘symbol matching’ style of many dice games, it’s more of an energy management game than a roll-and-repeat dice game since the dice represent a player’s finite resource of energy, and each dice becomes critical for survival as well as for triggering ‘take that’ effects on other players. Each player’s alien Shaman has a Totem, and the effective management of this dwindling energy source is the key and route to holding out and winning the game.
GR – When playing ElemenZ, players take on the role of a Master Shaman set in your very own fantasy world. Fantasy is by far and away my favourite gaming theme. Where does the inspiration behind this world come from, and can you see Bad Cat Games building upon this?
BC – I think Fantasy and Science Fiction strongly overlap nowadays, and ElemenZ is possibly a worthy example of this. Many human cultures have esoteric concepts of fundamental elemental forces of Nature, so why not alien races also? Also, they tend to be more than just the basic four, so we wanted to explore this but from the point of view of alien cultures devoted specifically to one of these forces – hence having them as Shamans rather than Magicians – for them a sort of natural science. Of course, we are restricted by how many elements we can get on a D6! But having the Wild or ‘Zee’ energy (a sort of unformed cosmic energy) as a joker effect on one side opens up lots of tactical choices and risk-taking in game. We wanted the aliens to look very different from typical fantasy elemental tropes and from each other, and we have big plans for using them again in future more complex games – the first of which is not so much a 4x game as a 2xv game (Explore, Exploit, Discover and Survive) where we will explore the interaction of the alien cultures more but from a human-centric angle. It’s got hexagons in it, so it’s all good!
GR – ElemenZ isn’t your only game in production at the minute either, is it? What else is in the pipeline?
BC – Very true. It’s getting silly the number of game ideas we have in the pot at present, and all are very different in theme and scope. The closest, however, to production is Gladiatores – a combat card game which is detailed on our website already and aimed to go on Kickstarter hopefully in Q2. It aims to emulate the in-your-face style of gladiator combat you see in films – with flurrys of chained blows and counter blows as players seek to out-manoeuvre and score the winning cut on their opponents. It’s not just combat focused though as each Player actually plays the owner/trainer of the gladiator school who must strategically plan which Gladiator (of 5) to use for which upcoming event while busily making secret plans and bets on the potential outcomes – all to gain enough Glory in the arenas to impress Caesar and win the game. Beyond that we are planning miniatures games set in alien skies, the world’s most famous digital sport of 2089, a famous moment in European history, an RPG set in an alternate Earth and a tile game about buzzing insects; to name just a few.
GR – What difficulties have you had creating either of your games or just in game designing in general?
BC – For me as a designer, theme has to come first. After that the mechanics generally present themselves, but it’s not always easy to find a way to emulate the concept you want to get across with a strict set of rules that must be balanced and fair for those playing. There is also a moment when you just have to stop tweaking a game before it morphs into something freakishly different from the original! The wealth and variety of excellent games produced every year is a mine of great ideas for budding designers as it opens up new possibilities of how games can be done. The production side of game publishing is a huge learning curve, of course, for new companies, but the awesome internet community and especially the wealth of advice and knowledge offered freely by the likes of James Mathe and Jamey Stegmaier is incredibly useful, as is the support and advice offered by the manufacturers. We still have a lot to learn – it’s like the Ouroboros, an iterative process of chasing your own tail but learning a lot as you go.
GR – With the recent boom in tabletop gaming and crowdfunding sites, how do you think an independent developer can be successful?
BC – Hmm, toughy that since we are still developing, but it doesn’t look as if this tabletop gaming bubble is going to burst anytime soon; and judging by the awesome games appearing every year, there is still a huge amount of creative material waiting to be made and an expanding group of richly talented designers willing to try. Crossovers between tabletop and other geek cultures should keep the industry going for decades, we reckon. Recent figures from Kickstarter indicate 55% of tabletop games are now getting crowdfunded (as of 2016) which is a huge incentive to make the attempt. Ask us again in 5 years time.
GR – Where do you see Bad Cat Games heading in the future? Is there a particular genre that you want to concentrate on?
BC – We will do our thing and hopefully get to produce some fun games that gamers all over the world will enjoy. We would also like to focus on some digital crossovers of our games – Elemenz, for example, we have been told would make a fine App game. We will also be approaching some other fine companies to co-publish some games that have strong tie-ins to well known IPs (we have a few ideas already…). Currently, our planned games are highly varied in theme, so no particular genre jumps out as a must do – a Cthulhu game? No, our tattered sanity couldn’t take it! But games like Arkham Horror or recent Legacy games that generate narrative (however bonkers that might be) with every play are definitely on the err… cards. For BadCatGames I think it is more about what audiences we wish to target with a game – family friendly games, miniature enthusiasts, scenario gamers, casual gamers, rpg grognards? For the last -we know where you are coming from – we were there too, filing down the sharp corners off D20s in the playground so they would roll better than a 5.