A week ago we told you about Alderac's plans for the next Smash Up! Expansion! Well, they've released the first round of finalists and it's up to you to vote on who makes it through to the next round!Read More
In every field of interest there are those who stand as giants among men, Peyton Manning, Lebron James, Steve Jobs. And even in the gaming world there are luminaries, such as Richard Garfield, Paul Peterson, Mike Elliott, and Eric Lang just to name a few…
Well one man has dared to harness the power of these titans into one giant campaign to end all campaigns: The Titan Series. That man is Ray Wehrs, and lucky for us he’s joining us today!Read More
One can only imagine the number of emails, tweets, threatening letters, and carrier-pigeon messages that Alderac has received suggesting new factions for the next Smash Up! expansion. We even joined in when we interview designer Paul Peterson (RIGHT HERE!) and suggested a blogger faction... Well, after years of this unsolicited bombardment of intellectual property, AEG is openly asking for your ideas, and giving you a neat easy way to share them!Read More
Jeremiah was able to catch up with game designer Paul Peterson at Origins, where he introduced us to a new version of Unexploded Cow, talked about Smash Up (including the Cthulhu expansion), and much more!
And don't forget to read our recently released interview with Paul, and Todd Rowland from AEG.
Game designer extraordinaire Paul Peterson is at it again with yet another expansion for the smash title Smash Up! Paul, being the friend of the blog he is, agreed to once again have a cyber chat with us about Smash Up, and he brought along Todd Rowland, Director of Marketing and Senior Brand Manager for Alderac Entertainment Group.
Paul, thanks again for visiting us here at TOG, we’re glad to bring you back for another chat!
And Todd, welcome to the party! Glad you could make it!
So it got leaked a little earlier than AEG had planned. But the cat has escaped the confines of the bag, and word on the street has it that the next Smash Up! expansion will be a Cthulhu theme.
When the this was revealed, some folks were a little critical of the idea that the expansion is so singular in its focus—that is, that it all revolves around the Cthulhu Mythos. What is the thought process behind that decision, and what would you say to the nay sayers?
Todd: Well, one thing we know that we want to do over time with Smash Up is include the occasional themed-release mixed in among “normal” mixed up releases. Smash Up relies on tropes (even our own twist on them) and Cthulhu is probably the biggest trope in hobby gaming. So we took on the mythos and put our own spin on it, cracked a few jokes, and weaved it into the Smash Up universe.
Paul: It’s also a mythos that has a lot of room to explore. It’s not all Cthulhu, there’s other elder gods, the ancient races, and the human factions with different goals.
You’re also adding a new card type to the game; what can you tell us about that?
Paul: Anyone who’s ever read Lovecraft or played a Cthulhu game knows how deeply the theme of madness runs, so I wanted to try to capture that, and a themed expansion seemed like a good place to explore some new mechanics for the game. So we added a new card type; Madness cards. No one starts with Madness cards in their deck, they only get added by other cards.
Madness cards are bad for the player. At the end of the game a player gets one less Victory Point for every two Madness cards in their deck, so some factions try to put them into other player’s decks as an attack. However, this isn’t always a bad thing. Madness cards can be played as an action to draw 2 cards, so you could end up helping the player if they embrace the cards. Also, as an action a player can get rid of the card altogether, so some factions will just do that to negate the penalty.
Just making them attacks in all four of these factions would have been a little boring, so I made several of the factions actually want them. Cthulhu has cards that are more powerful, but they have to take a Madness as a penalty, and Miskatonic takes them and then burns them to power their cards.
Todd: Our intention at the moment is to have two expansions per year. We aren’t married to that and it may change, but that’s the working plan right now. Usually around early spring and September.
What are your favorite factions in Awesome Level 9000? (My [Firestone] 8-year-old’s favorite is definitely the Bears...)
Todd: I like Dinosaur-anything. Though Dinosaur-Elder Things is a massive power surge.
Paul: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but at the moment I think I’m having the most fun with Steampunk.
Paul, last time we checked in with you, you had a few things in the works—something that involved rolling dice... Any news on that front?
Paul: I have a bunch of projects going on right now, and the stack just keeps getting bigger. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game that I helped develop should be out soon. I’m still working on the dice game you mentioned, but I keep making massive changes to it, so who knows what will happen with it. And of course, there’s more Smash Up on the way!
Todd, we chatted with Jason Tagmire about the upcoming release of Maximum Throwdown. We’re super excited about that. Is there anything else exciting coming down the line from Alderac that you can share with us?
Todd: Well we have Maximum Throwdown which is a blast. We also have Agent Hunter from Mike Elliot which is a fun, fast deduction game for two players. We have our Big In Japan line which includes Trains, Love Letter, and many more coming soon such as Cheaty Mages, Sail to India, Mai Star, and... yep Lost Legacy. People were expecting that I think. We also have some new games we’re discussing with other designers from Japan. And finally we have our own AEG stuff we’re working on for 2014 but it’s way too soon to spill on those yet.
Todd, you recently announced the Eastern Skies expansion for Nightfall. Can you tell us what that one brings to the table?
Todd: Eastern Skies is very cool! It introduces some new starting minions, but the main new effect is known as “Link”. Cards with Link have an effect the moment the are placed in the chain, rather than when it is resolving. There is also a new wound effect.
5-Questions 5-words to answer them -
Captain America or Thor?
Todd: Captain America all the way.
Autobots or Dinobots?
Todd: Dinobots are a smash up.
Paul: Me, Grimlock, likes Dinobots!
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
Todd: Cesar Romero was best Joker.
Paul: Only the blood moon.
Classic Star Trek, The New Generation or J. J. Abrams?
Todd: I really prefer Star Wars.
Paul: I like them all.
Favorite bacon-based meal?
Todd: Mushroom Chicken wrapped in bacon.
Paul: Bacon wrapped prawns.
Gentlemen, thanks so much for talking with us. We’re excited to see what you have in store for us in the future!
Thanks for joining us for this special interview here on TOG, we had a chance to catch up with Paul during the Origins Game Fair, and we'll be posting that video soon as well!
Well, AEG was hoping to keep the secret until June 1, but you know ancient evil: It just won't stay hidden! The Obligatory Cthulhu Set is the third expansion for the popular Smash Up game. According to AEG "this set features crazy Cthulhu cultists, fishy Innsmouth locals, horrifying Elder Things, and good old Miskatonic University members (the Fightin’ Cephalopods). To be certain we got it right, this set also includes a new card type fittingly known as “Madness”, that each of these groups use to various effects. But remember that Madness brings you power but at a price." Since this was outed earlier than they'd wanted, AEG doesn't have a page up or previews yet, but they promise more next week.
You can read our interview with designer Paul Peterson right here.
There are already some complaints in the Twitterverse that people aren't really excited about an expansion that's all under the same broad theme. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
The Nominees for the 39th Annual Origins awards have been announced via the GAMA Web site. Making a HUGE showing in the list of nominees is Wizkids Games, with 5 titles up for an award! Not bad for a company who just several years ago had shut down operations. Wizards of the Coast, also with 5 nominations, continues to make an impact on the gaming industry. While Catan moguls Mayfair Games make a showing with Catan Junior and Clash of Wills. And we can't forget AEG bringing 3 nominees to the table this year including Love Letter and the much beloved Smash Up!
Here are some quick highlights of the games nominated:
Best Board Game -
The nominees for Best Traditional Card Game are -
Doctor Who the Card Game – Cubicle 7 Entertainment/Treefrog Games Legendary – Upper Deck Locke & Key – Cryptozoic Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’lyeh – Cryptozoic Smash Up – AEG (Read our review)
Catan Junior – Mayfair Games (Read our Review) Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Queen Games Love Letter – AEG Once Upon A Time 3rd Edition – Atlas Games Quarriors! Dice Building Game – WizKids Games (Read our review)
For the complete list of categories and nominees you can visit the GAMA website by clicking right here.
Just minutes ago Alderac Entertainment Group posted this picture of Paul Peterson's new Awesome Level 9ooo expansion for Smash Up. It's an ACTUAL box that is making its way to store for International TableTop day later this month! Follow all the linky text above to find our complete coverage! And enjoy oooing, and aaahing over the photo!
We here at TOG have certainly been anticipating the first expansion of Smash Up! (one of our top 10 games of 2012). And to say we’re more than a little excited about today’s interview would be completely accurate. Today we’re chatting with Paul Peterson, designer of Smash Up! and its first expansion Awesome Level 9000—and much, much more. Paul, we’re so glad you’ve given us some time in your busy schedule. Thanks for chatting with us today!
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been a professional game designer for almost 20 years (and an amateur before that.) I started out at Wizards of the Coast working on Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, and pretty much every other CCG the company put out while I was there.
Since then I’ve worked on a truly staggering variety of game types from MMOs to games for girls to games for mobile devices to social games.
No matter what area I’m working in, though, my heart always goes back to board games. I couldn’t be happier about the success that Smash Up is having.
Let’s go back to last year and the release of Smash Up. How did Smash Up come to be? And how did you land on the shuffle-building concept?
One of my favorite things about CCGs is building your deck from all of the cards available, but that can be a daunting task. So I started thinking about ways to capture that same feeling of customizing your deck without getting overwhelmed. Shuffle-building was what I came up with. The theme of different factions working together was a natural fit, although the game itself was much different when I initially started designing it.
It was originally much closer to my CCG roots in games like Magic: the Gathering, and players putting minions in front of them and attacking each other. The hook was that you could play one of your minions on top of another one to make a combo minion that was both a Ninja and a Robot, for example. But it really wasn’t coming together very well so I kept changing it.
The game went through a couple of other incarnations, but it wasn’t until I decided to make the game revolve around fighting for control of bases that things really fell into place, and Smash Up as it is today took shape.
Can you tell us the story of getting the game to market and your experience working with AEG?
Once I had the basic game done, I polished and playtested it a lot. I eventually had a version that I thought really showed the potential of the game, I decided to take it to the GAMA Trade Show and show it around to the all the game manufacturers. The show takes place around March and that is when they are usually starting to think about what games they want to make in the next year, so there are a lot of meetings between the companies and designers with games to show.
I met with several companies there and showed them Smash Up (although at the time it was named “Pirate, Ninja, Zombie, Robot.”) Everyone liked the idea of building decks by shuffling them together, but my meeting with AEG was different. John Zinser instantly liked the game. It seemed to strike a chord with him. After the demo he wanted to play again immediately, and after that game he got very excited and started talking about all the things we could do with the game. He started contacting his staff and setting up meetings with me to show them the game as well. It was very gratifying to see . I knew instantly that this was the company that I wanted to make this game and luckily it all came together.
AEG has been amazing to work with through the entire process. They have a tremendous amount of respect for the designers they work with, and want us as involved as we’re willing to be. I’ve had a lot of control over the vision of the game and input into areas that I might not have gotten with other companies. So, as the release of Awesome Level 9000 (which is probably my favorite expansion name ever) draws near, we’ve seen LOTS of search terms in our metrics regarding “When is the Smash Up expansion release date?” So can you tell us and the world: What is the Smash Up expansion release date?
It is printed and on its way. You should see it on store shelves at the end of March or early April at the latest. I can't wait! We know the expansion will feature 4 new factions and some new bases; does it add any other rules, or changes to the game itself?
Each of the four new factions adds new mechanics and strategies to the game, but they all do so within the same rule set as the base game. We wanted to expand the universe a bit before we started changing all of the rules on the players. The second expansion, though...
What is your favorite faction in the Smash Up world?
That’s a tough one. I am very partial to the Plants in the expansion, but overall I think the Zombies are my favorite. They have so many interesting cards like Tenacious Z and Mall Crawl. Here’s a suggestion for a future faction: Bloggers!—the pen is mightier than the sword! (That’s a freebie...) Anyway...your design credits include games such as Guillotine, The Harry Potter CCG, and others; are there any games you’ve designed in the past that you would love to reboot or do a new edition of?
That is a great question because James Ernest and I just did exactly that for Unexploded Cow. We originally designed the game in 2001 for his company, Cheapass Games. When he decided to relaunch Cheapass Games this year he choose Unexploded Cow to be the flagship game for the company, so we pulled the game out and took a hard look at it. We’ve both gained a lot of experience in the last 12 years and we found some areas of the game that we thought could use a little “sprucing up.” So we tweaked a bunch of the cards and changed the way the city deck worked and I think the game plays much better now, even though I loved the way it played back in 2001.
As for my other games, there is one small change I’d LOVE to make to Guillotine. There is a card in the game called Callous Guards. Currently it lasts until the person who played it wants it to end. This was a huge mistake. If I could go back, I’d make it last one turn. I urge everyone to take my advice and play it as such. Looking at the inside tray of the core set of Smash Up, it’s apparent that the game was designed to be expanded. How soon can players expect yet another expansion?
Well, we aren't ready to announce a title or anything, but I can say that we are planning on having another expansion out for Gen Con this year. We are just wrapping up the play testing on it and players are in for a few surprises. What are you top 5 games, and what do you love about those games?
At the moment my favorite games are:
Lords of Waterdeep - I’ve been a big fan of worker placement games since the first time I played Agricola, and I think that this is the best of them. It plays fast, but the mechanics are elegant and all work very well together.
Magic: the Gathering - I don’t really have the time to keep up with the current deck technology in the ever changing world of professional play (which was a big inspiration for making Smash Up,) but I’m always willing to break out some preconstructed decks or do a draft or even a league.
Dominon - There have been many deckbuilding games that have added to the genre since Dominion came out, but this is still the best overall. Some of the expansions are hit or miss, but overall the game still shines and continues to innovate.
Robo-Rally - Brain bending, robot destroying, factory racing fun. Plus people do little dances in their seats to try to figure out what the program they are making will do.
Cosmic Encounter - I am talking here about the original version of the game. The last several editions are just fine, but it’s the original version of the game that really taught me about how crazy a game can be and still be fun.
Are there any other non-Smash Up games on the horizon you can tell us about?
Well, a lot of my design efforts have been spent on Smash Up and Awesome Level 9000. I have managed to squeeze in a few other projects:
As mentioned above, James Ernest and I reworked Unexploded Cow which should be available right about the time that your readers see this.
My friend Mike Selinker designed the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game for Paizo, and asked me to come do some design and development on it. It is a huge project and we just finished the playtesting for that. It should be out later this year.
I do have a couple of games in the works at a few companies, but they are all in early stages and won’t be announced or on shelves any time soon.
And, of course, I’ll be at the GAMA Trade Show this year with a couple of new board game designs that I’m pretty excited about. I hope you like rolling dice... Now it’s time for our 1-Word Answers section! (Short phrases are also allowed.)
Favorite burger topping?
Favorite Hitchcock movie?
Favorite board game designer who’s not you...?
A tie between James Ernest and Richard Garfield.
Favorite ship in the Star Wars universe?
Favorite Doctor? (And I don’t mean your urologist...)
Thanks so much for taking some time to chat with us! We are looking forward to Awesome Level 9000 and more!
You can follow Paul on Twitter right here! And you can follow us on Twitter right here! And like us on FaceBook over here! And you can find out more about Awesome Level 9000 on the AEG website right here!
As always thanks for reading!