[ "There is a dragon... and the dragon goes Rah!" ]
Once upon a game day recent…
This past weekend, we were enjoying the hospitality of friends (exploring the intriguing world of marshmallow smores – unrelated to the story, but delicious), when something extra cool happened. We scored ourselves an interview for Shelmertime.com.
Now, “game industry journalism” is by no means part of my regular schtick here at Shelmertime, and with good cause. You’re welcome. However, it’s no secret that I do love me some gaming goodness, the creating even more than the playing.
As such, when we found ourselves with the chance to catch up with Brisbane-based game designer Brendan Evans, we couldn’t resist interrogating him about his upcoming card game: Boss Fight. (Brendan was actually very obliging, making our bare room and spotlight approach feel slighty uneasy in retrospect).
Anna and I first encountered Boss Fight over a year ago. At the time, we were hosting weekly Magic (MTG) evenings in Paddington, attracting a respectable crowd of folks with an obvious interest in card games. On one such evening, a couple of our regulars brought along a friend – who happened to be dressed as a pirate – who happened to be a jolly nice fellow – who happened to be Mr Evans, and not a pirate at all by any legal definition. Before long we had been introduced to a collection of (lovingly) scrawled notes and hand-made game cards. Playtesting was underway.
Needless to say, we were delighted to cross paths with Brendan again and were very excited to see what progress had been made on Boss Fight. We certainly weren’t disappointed. The game has recently graduated to a fully arted-up (albeit testing) edition. We played it. We had a great time. We’re pretty sure the two facts were related!
… now let’s see what it’s creator has to say for himself.
Could you tell us a little about your background in game design? As a child, I devoured any game with a map editor and played a great deal of Magic: the Gathering. As an adult I drifted, and was becalmed in a world of rental agreements and retail employment. In 2007, my Nana told me she had heard from her wireless radio that ‘game design’ was an actual degree in an actual university in Brisbane. I packed my bags. In 2011, I completed my studies and my final year group project. This was “Awien Ambush”, which received an award from Halfbrick for ‘Most Commercially Viable Game’. [The folks behind Fruit Ninja and other fun]. For those interested, Awien Ambush is available for free download. Now, I make card games.
Which brings us to your current project, Boss Fight. Now we’ve just finished a game so I’m pretty up to date, but for the folks reading along, give us the elevator pitch.
Boss Fight is a one-versus-many card game. One player plays a dragon, with a fiery breath and huge teeth. The other players play heroic fantasy characters – a fighter, a thief, a wizard, a healer. They are less individually powerful, but they win through teamwork and co-ordination.
I think that really comes through in the gameplay too. Having played the dragon role, it’s a fun twist to watch the heroes juggle ‘protecting each other’ with ‘punching the bad guy on the jaw’. Do you recall the initial spark behind the game idea?
In 2010, I saw an ad for a Magic expansion called “Archenemy”. It was six months away, and I was super impatient to find out what it was about. I tried to brainstorm ways that it might work as a magic format. All of my rules were clunky, and eventually I had the bright idea to scrap the Magic cards part and try to do something that wasn’t essentially fanfic for a game.
And Boss Fight has been in steady development pretty much since then?
Since early 2010, yeah. So a little over two years now.
What influences has the game been subject to in that time?
It draws on my experiences playing: Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, World of Warcraft the TCG, D&D, World of Warcraft the MMO, and I’ve probably forgotten a few. In terms of people, I read a lot of writing by Mark Rosewater and I read some of David Sirlin.
Personally, I had nothing against the prototype cards,
but I’ll admit, the new ones are even prettier.
A lot of the creative types I know tend to have a mental rummage box of half-formed designs and toyed-with projects. I certainly know I do. Do you work on several game ideas at once?
I have at most two ideas at any one time, but so far they’ve tended to hit when I had huge assignments or I was very busy at work. The initial designs for most cards were done at 1am in the morning when I was continually alt+tabbing between a card file and my ‘Communication in 3D Modelling’ assignment.
…at which point you started to think of Boss Fight as something worth dedicating a lot of time and energy to?
I decided I really wanted to play the game, and prototyped it. I played it with some friends, they kept the Dragon stunned for 12 rounds and proved that every number on the dragon’s cards were wrong. I took it home, reworked the numbers, and tried it again. This time, someone offered to pay me real money in exchange for a copy of the play test cards. I thought he was crazy and I negotiated downwards. Since then, I’ve been meaning to make this a real game so I can give them a real copy in exchange for their belief in the game.
The newly minted box art. Shiny.
Have you worked any specific mechanic or system into Boss Fight, that you’re especially proud/fond of?
I’m proud of the game’s simplicity, and I love the feeling of co-ordination and camaraderie that conversations give you, and I love the feeling of the boss jealously eavesdropping to work out their plans.
In general, are there any specific principles of games design you always try to follow?
I believe that games need to be as simple as humanly possible, and that they should be open-ended and quick so that good-looking and clever people can play them more than once.
Would you go so far as to say playing games makes you better looking and cleverer?
Absolutely! At the very least, I don’t see how it could hurt.
That actually goes a fair way towards answering my next question: Who’ll like it?
Anyone with prior experience in fantasy, or competitive gaming, or people with friends, or people who secretly believe they’re better at card games than other people.
If you strenuously dislike people and you’re allergic to cardboard, I humbly suggest that Boss Fight might not be your favorite game in the world. But you could channel that misanthropy into playing as the boss, and you would do really well!
We’re loving the new look and feel of the game. What should we expect as a release date?
By the end of the year. I’m trying to work out the process of moving multiple copies from Wisconsin to Australia.
Sounds great. Keep us posted!
Want to Help? Want to Play?
As good as Boss Fight is, there’s still time for refinements before they hit it with the big rubber DONE stamp. In light of this, team Shelmertime have put up our hands to co-ordinate some blind playtesting sessions (non-digital beta events, so to speak). This was a spur o’ the moment offer on our part, so we don’t have any details confirmed yet. Hopefully (I daresay ‘probably’), we’ll be able to conduct some of these session via the League of Extraordinary Gamers. (Who we’re quite fond of mentioning, it seems).
If you’re interested in participating, or would like to offer up another suitable venue, drop me an email ( Ryan at shelmertime.com ) or contact Brendan Evans via the official Boss Fight blog.
Thanks for tuning in!