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A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
10,666 backers pledged $556,596 to help bring this project to life.

How do you play Machine of Death?

We broke 100K!! This means that I'm going to design a SECOND BOX to hold all the expansion cards, which by default will not fit in the regular box. (The Deluxe Box can still hold everything, though.) I have to do some measurements and contact some vendors and maybe even MOCK SOMETHING UP with TAPE, and then I will have more details for you on this new box! What this means specifically is that we're going to add an "All Expansion Packs, With Second Box, Tier" – to save you having to go to the Add-On page. The price will be about the same, and international buyers will probably save some on shipping this way. More info to come on that as soon as we have more to say!   

The biggest question we're hearing is "How do you play the game?"

We've been working hard on the rulebook, just making sure that when it comes out, it's CLEAR and COMPREHENSIVE and friggin' AIRTIGHT. Because here's the thing: there are rule variants that allow you to scale the game depending on who you're playing it with, the type of game you prefer to play, and how much time you have.

For instance, there's a Head-to-Head Mode that's very similar to Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. There's a judge ("the Chief"), who decides whose assassination plan is the best, and gives them a chance to try it out. This is great for a group of 4 or more.

There's a Co-op Mode, where you play a team of assassins, and have to come up with a plan together to kill targets that the group comes up with. (A round of that version is what they're playing in the first playtest video we posted Monday).

Those are the two basic dynamics. But Co-op can be diced further: you can play individual rounds for Lone Kills (as seen in the video), or there's also Mission Mode, where targets are predetermined and have different levels of difficulty. There's also the more strategic Chief Mode, where there's no timer, but the Chief can rate your plan's likelihood of success and let you take risks on whether it'll work or not. 

And there's modes we're even still testing – Cutthroat Mode, for example, where players can actually assassinate each other (should you want a more competitive version), and The Day Off, which isn't about murder at all but rather draws upon your bevy of assassin skills to accomplish tasks like "opening a stuck jam jar" and "transplanting a tulip bulb".

In addition to this, there's other game rules that will come with the base set that just revolve around using the death cards – for example, the games found here. Most of these don't need dice or timers, but just present different ways to use the death cards in different types of party games.

So you can see why "how do you play the game?" is a tough question to answer simply. If we get into the details of all the different modes, we risk people glossing over this thinking "ah, it's too complicated!" But if we focus in on fun and wackiness, as we have been so far – because that's the appeal! That's why we made this game! – then people into more elaborate gaming might dismiss this as too light of a game for their taste.

One way to describe the MOD game is as a toolkit. 

This game has a kernel, a fundamental game mechanic that we think is really cool. And then, from there, it's customizable: depending on whether you like your games more frantic or more strategic; longer or shorter; whether you have someone willing to sit out and be the Chief (essentially, the DM) or not – you can choose the way you want to play. 

The fundamental mechanic works like this: 

  • A target is assigned, and given certain details (in Mission Mode, predetermined; or in the other modes, determined in the moment in various ways by the players). This target is given a randomly drawn death prediction.
  • Players – assassins – are given Black Market Gift Cards. This is their inventory, what they have to use in order to accomplish their goal: killing the target. (In Mission Mode, Specialists – unique characters with special skills – may also be deployed.)
  • Players use the Gift Cards to devise a plan. In Head-to-Head mode, this is done individually and secretly. In Co-op or Mission Mode, it's done by the group via discussion. If this game is a heist movie, this is the point where the entire team is in a warehouse, drawing on a chalkboard and putting tape lines on the floor.
  • The plan is greenlit. In Head-to-Head mode, the Chief chooses the best plan. In Co-op or Mission Mode, the team comes to a consensus. In Chief Mode, the Chief issues a "likelihood" score of the plan's success, based on logic and judgment. This likelihood affects the difficulty of the die roll that judges the plan's success.
  • The plan is put into action. This is the part of the heist movie where the team opens the van door and everyone walks into the casino while pretending not to know each other. In Head-to-Head mode, the player with the best plan has three attempts to roll a 5 or above. In Co-op or Mission Mode, each of three Gift Cards has to be rolled for individually, achieving a 4 or above. In Chief Mode, the roll depends on the likelihood assigned by the Chief – an especially unlikely plan may need to roll a 6, but only spends 1 Gift Card. A plan containing many moving parts may spend 5 Gift Cards, but only needs to roll a 2. It's up to the Chief to decide.
  • If necessary, the plan is revised. This is the part of the heist movie where the radio feed to the guy cracking the safe goes dead, and the guy in the tux has to stall the pit boss by spilling a martini on him. In Head-to-Head Mode, if the first player to roll was unsuccessful, the player with the second-best plan gets two rolls to try and pull it out; if she fails as well, the third-best gets one roll. In Co-op or Mission Mode, any Gift Card with a failed roll must be replaced with a new one – in Co-op, drawn from the deck; in Mission, pulled from a team's "budget" – and the plan amended on the fly. (Specialists may also swap in to replace Gift Cards at this point. This swap is seen in our first video.) In Chief Mode, any plan that fails its roll loses its Gift Cards, must be attempted again with new cards, and the Chief must be convinced of the viability of the new plan.
  • The target is either killed...which, in Head-to-Head Mode, awards the successful killer a point; in Co-op Mode, is cause for celebration and the decision to play another round; or in Mission Mode, moves you on to a frantic Aftermath in order to earn new cards, and thereupon to the next target in the scenario...
  • ...or escapes. In Co-op and Head-to-Head Mode, you've now lost the round. In Mission Mode and Chief Mode, you can try again against the same target, so long as you have cards – Gift Cards or Specialists – left in your budget.

The fun of this game is in the subjectivity.

Let's be clear. For the hardcore strategy fans out there – this isn't Twilight Imperium. This is a party game. It's a storytelling game. It's a filler. The strategy level goes from mild to very mild. If you're not into this kind of game, that's totally fine. If you've read this and thought "Eh, this isn't really my bag," cancel your pledge. We don't want you to buy a thing that you don't like. That is bad for business. We don't want people buying this game, not liking it, not playing it, and telling everyone they know that "Machine of Death sucks." Let me save you the hassle: DON'T BUY IT. Save your money, man!

(Or maybe just drop it down to the $10 level so you can at least get the PDF – if nothing else, the cards are super fun to read! Kris and I were trying to figure out the other day if there's more jokes per ounce of paper in this game than in any of our comic collections, and we think there probably are.)

(Or, do get the game cards, and just use them in concert with any other game you like that has a storytelling mechanic. It's a toolkit.)

But if you're a naturally creative person, this game – in the modes we've devised and tested, or in any new way that you invent – is definitely for you. 

So I hope this goes to show that when people ask "what are the rules," it's a bit of a can of worms, because for instance, the role the die plays in the game changes depending on the version of the game you play. In one mode, it's very cut and dry – same value for every plan, and you're trying to beat the timer. In others, the probability is changed depending on how well you've formulated a plan that the Chief believes could work.

Additionally, there's just this really interesting theme, and it goes hand in hand with the whole Machine of Death idea, and that is the relationship between limitations and creativity. In playtesting the game, we found that more challenges and obstacles we throw at the players, the more fun we all had in coming up with the assassination plans. So playing the game, in some ways, makes you think about the creative process as a whole. Pretty cool.

Hopefully this helps shed a little bit more light on it. Once we get a better sense of just how much we're able to raise (which is tied to quotes we're sourcing now on things like the 100K stretch goal box and possibly further upgraded dice and timers), we'll absolutely be posting more in-depth videos showing all this stuff in action. We just want to make sure that when we do that it's absolutely perfect, so that people ten years from now can reference it when they buy the game in the future from their holopods and brainscan machines.

Because the where you and I will spend the rest of our lives.

Thanks once more for all the support! Previously I said that if we hit 2500 backers, I would videotape a kitten romping in death cards. This week, I think it'll be time to find a kitten. 



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    1. Jackson Starky on

      Just catching up on some of the updates that happened before I pledged. Ahdok's Counterstrike proposal really should find its way into the finished product; it sounds great!

      I think I'm about to upgrade from "Booked" to "Spindled"... having read the "how to play" and watched a couple of the videos (and being a big fan of both Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity), I believe this game to be at least as much fun as both.

    2. David Malki ! 7-time creator on

      @Ahdok – You have proposed a game that is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to play with the toolkit that is this game! THAT'S THE SPIRIT

      @Jason – yes

    3. Jason Erbele on

      Ah, I was waiting for the Sidecar option. Excellent! I do have one very important question, though:

      When it comes time to film the kitten romping in death cards, will it be SUDDENLY STREAMERS?

    4. Ahdok on

      Hm. I propose "counterstrike" mode, where two teams work in opposition. One team is trying to kill the target (the assassins) and another team is trying to save them (the defense). In this mode, the chances of success are lowish on any dice roll. (Let's say 5/6)

      If/when you fail a roll, you turn the timer over, and the defense team have to use the same gift card rules to insert something into the story for why it fails. In your example round, when the Mic stand fails, it could be because another 8-letter item (the LANDLORD) notices it's faulty and replaces it. Or if the "disguise" fails, it might be because the defense team sent in a sacrificial decoy "Lisa" who you can't kill, because she's fated to die by PORPOISE. The defense reason doesn't have to be good, just plausible.

      Once the defense team's counterplan has been proposed, a new gift card replaces the faulty one, and the assassins now have to work it into their plan, considering also the new obstacle given to them by the defense team. The downside is their plan got more complicated, but the upside is they got some extra time to deal with it.


    5. David Malki ! 7-time creator on

      @Andy – Yup, if you add the expansion packs on via the Add-On page, you'll get them shipped in the second box by default.

      @Everyone else – it's up now, it's called SIDECAR!

    6. Matthew Sigal on

      I am also looking forward to changing to the new tier. Awesome!

    7. Matt Smallwood on

      I want that tier too!!

    8. Aneka K. Bean on

      Waiting for the price of the new tier. I'd love to upgrade, but I'm hoping not to blow up my wallet in the process. 8-3

    9. Missing avatar

      Nathan Mehlhorn on

      Thanks, that was helpful. I might just have to upgrade to that tier when you add it... :)

    10. Andy Simmons on

      So, if I pledged at "Infamy" level (which I did!), but I still want the expansion packs and the second box, Is there a way to accomplish that?

    11. David Malki ! 7-time creator on

      @Thomas, @Nathan – Right now you can Add On all six expansion packs a-la-carte if you choose. The new tier will be for essentially the same thing (all the expansions) at essentially the same price ($79 total), but it'll put them all in a box. This is because the Add-Ons are popular enough that it'll be easier for everyone if there's a way to get them as a regular tier. If you've already gotten the expansions as Add-Ons, you'll be able to just change your pledge to the new tier without any problems.

    12. Missing avatar

      Nathan Mehlhorn on

      When I first saw this (after having recently played Fiasco), I had thought this would pair well with Fiasco too. If anything it seems like the kind of game you can play with any game group. I have non-gamer friends who can get really into a good game of Fiasco, so I can see this game having the same versatility. Really looking foward to playing this game (and a few others I've backed with an identical release time). One question though, what do you mean by an "All Expansion Packs, With Second Box, Tier?" I'd just like to know where it fits into the rewards list price wise and what's all included in it exactly. It isn't abundently clear to me (sorry if it's an obvious answer).

    13. Steve Bornstein on

      I second what Christian said. This just screams to be paired up with Fiasco somehow.

    14. Jacqland on

      Between the expansion box and mission mode, that's two of my suggestions from the last update added (but they are good ideas and I'm sure were thought of beforehand). But still, GET OUT OF MY HEAD, DAVID

    15. Ahdok on

      Can't we have the kitten right meow?

    16. Dan Conley on

      That last pun makes me want to upgrade my pledge.

    17. Missing avatar

      Christian Burd on

      This clears up a whole lot about the game. Luckily, I'm even more excited. I'm thinking that the Machine of Death cards would pair up fantastically with a game of Fiasco and now desperately want to incorporate them.

    18. Thomas 'Chewie' Ladwig on

      So will the second box for all the expansions be an add-on we have to buy? Or will it be included if we purchase the all six expansions option?