We Interview Nigel Pyne--Designer of oddball Aeronauts

oddballlogoToday we’re with Nigel Pyne, co-founder of Maverick Muse, the company behind the current Kickstarter game oddball Aeronauts. Thanks for joining us Nigel. First, will you tell us a little about yourself?

You’re welcome. Sure: I have a beard. There you go, will that do? Okay, wow, a little bit about myself. I guess this little intro says a bit about me on its own doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’m a game designer by night and as my alter ego I design, build and maintain computer networks. I love games, books, movies and comics in that order. I live with my wife, Debs, and two dogs--Mr Jones the Schnauzer and Lt. Ripley the Welsh Terrier. If I could survive off protein alone, I would, but I also love crumble puddings. Oh and coffee. I could go on?

You have a terrific little game on Kickstarter. Tell us about oddball Aeronauts.

Thanks guys! oddball Aeronauts is a light strategy, two-player card game that you can play without a surface and as such is incredibly portable. For anyone 9 years and older, the players go head-to-head in a dirigible duel in the skies of an oddball fantasy, steampunk-esque world. All I would add to that is don’t be fooled into thinking it has no depth of play.

Everything you need to play the game. No...everything.

Where did the in-the-hand idea come from?

I grew up playing Top Trumps but it really is just for young kids. A few years ago I thought it would be great if there was a game with more...game, that had the same features--no surface, play in the hand--that kids could get into once Top Trumps no longer did it for them and so started to design one.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve played a game of oddball Aeronauts?

Up a tree. Obviously a shameless stunt for promotional purposes, but still pretty strange.

So...I make my living as an editor, and I just have to know: Why don’t you capitalize “oddball”?!

Because it’s then just like the word itself - oddball.

The artist, Lloyd Ash Pyne, has a remarkably similar last name to you. Is he your brother?

That’s funny because you would think that was the case, wouldn’t you? And, in fact you’d be absolutely right. He’s one of my three brothers and we both got into D&D at the same time and have been playing games and designing worlds together every since.

D&DcoverWas there a watershed moment that drew you both into the gaming world?

Yeah, it was when my teacher at school introduced me to D&D. I had grown up playing games but D&D just kick-started my imagination and I’ve never looked back.

The artwork is striking and evocative. That’s not really a question; I just wanted to say that…

Thanks--Ash is a talented guy and has done a great job with the artwork and Debs’ design work and eye for detail complements it fantastically.

These characters seem to scream for a back-story, and then a quick look around your Web site makes me think that might, indeed, be the case. Is there already a world at work in the background? Or is that something you have planned?

Yes, there is. The world came first--the oddball Realms--and the story in that world influences the game and the game has influenced the world. This definitely comes from our role-playing days. Quite quickly after starting to play D&D, Ash and I started creating our own worlds and that’s a major part of what we do as a design studio. It’s surprising how much a game design can influence the world--for example, I work out a cool game effect and then we look at the world and realize nothing exists to match that effect so we go ahead and create something that does. The end result--we hope--is a world that blends with the game and a game that integrates with the world.

Are there any plans for expansions?

Absolutely, yes. We have 6 new factions being developed and have other ideas for expanding the game as well. Here’s an exclusive for you. In the full version of the game available this August, you’ll get Princess cards--and in the oddball Realms, Princesses have magic. Magic is a Trick that you can use even if the Princess card is your 2nd or 3rd card--but as you can only use 1 Trick a round you couldn’t then use the Trick on your Top Card. But, a third of each player’s faction cards will have a ‘magic’ symbol on them down in the bottom left hand corner. If you decide to use your Princess Trick and your opponent’s Top Card has the ‘magic’ symbol on, then the Trick fails and you don’t get to do any Trick that round--your Princess fails to control that extra surge of magic energy.

Magic is just one idea we’ve had for expanding gameplay. We’re not saving that for an expansion, but others we are.

We know you’re neck-deep in your campaign, but are there any on-the-horizon projects you can tell us about?

There’s the oddball Adventure game. Up to 6 players split into two teams and race in their dirigibles from air island to air island following a trail to fortune and glory. Then they sit down and play the board game :)

Here’s the rapid-fire section. We ask the questions, and you answer them with one word (or short phrase). GO!

No, I’m not ready. Ahhhhh.

Too bad! Favorite faction in oddball Aeronauts?

Um, er, um--The Pendragon Pirates--Pirates that have defected to the Pendragon or Pendragon who have turned Pirate?

Mortal_enginesFavorite steampunk novel?

Oh, I know this one! I actually haven’t read a lot of Steampunk but out of what I have read, it would have to be ‘Mortal Engines’ by Philip Reeve

Favorite Blood Bowl team?


Game you seem to like more than anyone else?

Ahhhh, now you’re asking. I don’t know. I don’t know. Just give me a minute. Stop pressuring me. Oh, I know...no, not that. Oh, why can’t you think of anything when you’re put on the spot? I actually don’t think this applies to me if I’m honest - sorry.

Favorite Pixar character?

Pixar? What’s Pixar? Just kidding - it would have to be that big blue, horned dude from Monsters Inc. What’s his name? Sulley, I think. Is that right?

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Nigel! Check out the Kickstarter campaign right here! And here’s our review of this fun game.

We Review Plato 3000

By Firestone I like being surprised by a game—well...pleasantly surprised, anyway. I opened up my recently arrived, Kickstarted copy of Glory To Rome and found a small card game that I’d completely forgotten was a stretch goal. It’s called Plato 3000, and it’s basically rummy with special powers.

The game comes with a 54-card deck of illustrated cards. The artwork is pretty cool; it’s kind of an apocalyptic steampunky series of machines in different kinds and colors. There’s also a rules reminder card—it would have been nice if there’d been more than one, though.

You shuffle the cards, deal 10 to each player, and then place the remaining cards on a Draw deck. There are two discards on either side of the Draw pile—a Scrap discard and a Research discard. A turn consists of drawing a card—either blindly off the top of the Draw deck, or off the top of either discard pile. If you draw off the Draw pile, you draw two and keep one—discarding the other to the top of the Research discard. Then you can play one Theory card (which all have special things they let you do), lay down one meld of three or more Job cards, and/or lay off on melds your opponent has down. Then you discard a card to the Scrap pile.

The various colors have special powers once they’re down in front of you as a meld. The Priest lets you lay down a meld when you have only two of a color. The Farmer lets you keep both cards when you draw off the top at the beginning of the turn. And the Soldier lets you attack your opponent’s melds and remove cards from them.

Just as in Rummy, once someone discards his or her last card, the hand is over. Cards in front are positive points, and cards in your hand are negative points. There are a few other scoring cases, but that’s basically it: rummy with special powers. You continue playing until someone reaches 100 points, which seems to be four or five hands. There are rules for team play, but I haven't tried that yet.

It’s a fun little game! Easy to teach, portable, based on a well-known game, and nongamer-friendly.

I guess the best endorsement I can give is this: I got my copy for free, but even if I hadn’t, I would still buy a copy.

Check back soon for our review of Glory To Rome, and thanks for reading!