Nathan McClellan, a delightful fellow and long time fan of John's, is involved in a Kickstarter for a really cool card game called Hero's Journey. I showed the Kickstarter video to my youngest and he cried out in awe, "How can I get that!" So, I asked Nathan and his partner-in-crime, James Wright (no relation), if they would concent to be interviewed.
Can Odysseus survive the Flying Monkeys?
Willl the the starving Greeks be forced to eat Toto?
1) What led you to embark on the Hero's Journey, so to speak?
Well, there was an old game both of us loved to play a lot during our college years which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. Several other games from that period were starting to make a comeback so we asked ourselves, "Why not this one?"
Then we asked, "If we did bring it back, what would we want most?"
And almost simultaneously said, "More crossovers."
So we set about expanding the game's original engine to accommodate beyond its original, narrow focus.
2) Tell us about yourselves. Who are the folks who are making the Hero's Journey happen?
Just a couple of nerds that like games and books.
We had an older friend, Brad, who died in his thirties who also loved this game. We like to imagine he would have been on board for this and enjoyed it too so the whole thing is dedicated to him and giving his boys one more legacy to remember their dad by.
Who will kill you first, Paris or the Wicked Witch?
3) There are many types of games out there. We might play Life if we want an group game, or Uno if we want something fast and easy or Chinese Checkers, if we are looking for a bit of strategy. What kind of experience might a person be looking for that would prompt them to reach for Hero's Journey.
This is more for the harder gaming crowd as the game has at least 2 layers of strategy to it. First is the planning where you take the cards we've given you and build a deck with. Second is when you play that deck against an opponent who has constructed their own deck. But we've included at least 2 simple deck lists to help beginners get started and are planning to posts decklists as players invent them or if you want to do quick start plays or themed style evenings. We've tried to keep the game pretty flexible.
4) How did you come to pick Oz and the Iliad?
Since we're just getting started we decided the best bet was to start with public domain books. That way we could take a property and develop parts of the game to simulate moments and characters from that property without having to worry about licensing fees or having the game tied up in legal battles.
Then since the game naturally simulates trying to get from point A to B with constant challenges along the way, we thought "What's something in the public domain that everyone recognizes which has a hero & their companions get from a start to a finish?" Oz (get home) and the Iliad (get to Troy) seemed the most obvious choices.
5) The art looks really good. Who is/are the artist and how did you get them involved.
A mix of asking for artists on the web and asking people we know for recommendations. Since we're just getting started with the game (and know how frustrating it can be to look for that "big break") we especially looked for artists that are building their resumes. If this launch is successful, I hope to keep it going by always looking for new talent whenever we start a new set of cards relating to a book. As for who they are, we've done a week long focus on our artists along with examples here: https://epicusliterati.wordpress.com/category/artist-focus/
6) Is this a game about storytelling? Or is storytelling actually required to play the game?
No, it's a game first. Though we won't complain if players want to combine it with a trivia night (i.e. "Name the pair of animals that attacked Dorothy & co while crossing a log."). We also like to invent our own stories of how things might happen in a game (like the time Dorothy got to beat up on an old Trojan priest).
7) Do you have plans for additional expansions? Might there be other stories joining the Hero's Journey, should things go well? If so, do you have any in mind that you'd like to see?
Yes, we've got at least 2 more small sets rough-drafted and currently testing off and on. And definitely yes as to more books. If this game proves successful enough and we can move out of the public domain, we have a wishlist of stuff we'd love to license. (Though we've found more in the public domain than initially thought, we might do a whole series on "forgotten classics.") We also aim to allow the players to help us pick and choose which books are adapted next.
8) How does this game differ from something like Smash-Up?
Well, Smash-Up (a game I usually enjoy – if you ban spies & geeks) is a much faster, pick-up & play, while our game will require a bit of prep before anybody comes to the table. Smash-Up also has a very loose rules system to try and make it as flexible as possible, but that gets messy when players interact.
Our rules are a bit more complex and structured to allow things like ranged & melee combat as well as multiple players to gang up on one (as that's what's happening to you every turn). This also means that while Smash-Up isn't too bad for new players to grab & play, Heroes' Journey may take 1 play through before players really "get" it.
9) What age range to you foresee enjoying the Hero's Journey? Can ten year olds set out on this journey, as they might on a Pokemon journey, or does this require more
On average I'd say maybe 13 and up.
Some cards and their resulting decks are much simpler then others, so might be a better fit for some players. For example, "Wild Monkey Beatdown" (as we nickname it) is pretty easy and basic, while "Monkey Swarm" is much trickier to pull off.
Though if a person can play, we say: Let them play.