About this project
Machine of Death is a party game about problem solving.
In the world of our game, there exists a machine (the titular Machine of Death) that can issue people little cards: death predictions. Nobody knows just how it works, but it’s always, always right. (You may recognize this concept from our #1 bestselling short story collection, which is also titled, COINCIDENTALLY, Machine of Death.)
The book was about exploring the existential ramifications of the existence of the machine in worlds otherwise much like our own. It’s a thoughtful, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, meditation on fate.
The GAME is about flinging SHARKS from CATAPULTS in order to kill imaginary people. It’s basically a game of Mousetrap or a Road Runner cartoon, except that it’s TOTALLY WITHIN THE RULES to create a QUICKSAND GENERATOR in a TREEHOUSE in order to DROWN A CHILD. (That was a real game we played.)
So if you can know, cryptically but with 100% accuracy, how a given person will one day die...
And you’re an assassin, and you want to make that day today...
Then you have a puzzle to solve. Given a person who is slated to die by BANANA PEEL, but is currently in (let's say) a space station...how do you make it happen?
Oh, and I forgot: all you have at your disposal is a tool, a liquid, and a piece of furniture. GO!
Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination. It's all about the execution.
stay on top of the latest:
→ Our answer to “How do you play the game?”
→ Gameplay Video 1: Co-op, Lone Kill:
→ Gameplay Video 2: Head-to-Head:
We're fully funded! HOORAY!! This is the best, you guys. Thank you so much! Let's talk about how this game can get EVEN BETTER.
WEBCOMICS PALS BONUS CARDS: These extra game cards, unlocked one artist at a time, will go to every backer for free. If you pledge at a digital-only tier, you'll get them as PDF. If you pledge at GOT PLAYED or above, you'll get physical cards & PDFs both.
These bonus cards will be available for purchase after the Kickstarter, but pledging here is the only way to get them included at no extra cost!
- $23,000 = YES! The game's gonna happen!!
- $30,000 = YES! We release the first story from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE for you to read for free!
- $35,000 = YES! We commission a set of exclusive bonus game cards – that everybody gets for free – from KC Green!
- $40,000 = YES! The game box and rulebook are both upgraded to full color, rather than b&w interior (for the book) and b&w back (the box)!
- $45,000 = YES! The game comes with a custom skull die, like the one in the video!
- $50,000 = YES! We commission bonus game cards – that everybody gets for free – from Jeph Jacques!
- $55,000 = YES! We release a second story from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $60,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Jess Fink!
- $65,000 = YES! We print the game box with stamped silver foil so it looks SUPER SNAZZY!!
- $70,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Anthony Clark!
- $75,000 = YES! Ryan, Kris and I create a MEGASET of Wondermark, Dinosaur Comics, and Broodhollow exclusive game bonus cards! Everyone gets them for free too!
- $80,000 = YES! We release a third story from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $85,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from R. Stevens!
- $90,000 = YES! We add a set of 20 blank game cards to the base game so you can customize your own version!
- $100,000 = YES! We design a second, matching game box to hold all the expansion cards!
- $120,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Aaron Diaz!
- $135,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Justin Pierce!
- $150,000 = YES! We release a fourth free preview story from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $165,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Christopher Hastings!
- $175,000 = YES! We add a new deck of 100 cards: Intel Cards, which will help you assign details to your targets. These will be given as PDF to all backers, added physically to the Sidecar Box and the Deluxe Box, and made available as an à la carte Add-On for anyone else who'd like it.
- $185,000 = ACHIEVED! We release preview story number five from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $192,837 = YES! FATE BLITZ Video #1
- $200,000 = YES! We create a MACHINE OF DEATH ARTBOOK featuring all the art from both volumes of the book series, including statements from any of the artists and story authors who want to participate. This book is made available via PDF to everybody, and a physical copy is sent free to every backer pledging above $35.
- $214,365 = YES! FATE BLITZ Video #2!
- $220,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Meredith Gran!
- $222,222 = YES! GUEST ARTIST MEGATIER: We commission MORE bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Phil McAndrew, Jeffrey Rowland, and Dylan Meconis!
- $225,000 = YES! Preview story number six from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $234,567 = YES! FATE BLITZ Video #3!
- $250,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Phil Foglio!
- $265,000 = YES! Ryan North's Hamlet gets bonus game cards added to the set that everyone gets for free!
- $280,000 = YES! We create an album of 90-sec Timer Music from great musicians, as an alternate to the hourglass!
- $300,000 = YES! Bonus game cards (that everyone gets for free) from Andrew Hussie!
- $325,000 = YES! Preview story number seven from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $333,333 = YES! FINAL WEBCOMICS MEGATIER featuring cards by R K Milholland, Dave Kellett, Joey Comeau & Emily Horne, and Zach Weinersmith!!
- $350,000 = YES! We'll create a mobile & web app to randomize the details of your games and automate any functions that you like (timekeeping, die rolls, etc.)!
- $365,000 = YES! Preview story number eight from THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!
- $382,600 = YES! MYSTERY GOAL TO BE REVEALED ONLY AFTER THE CAMPAIGN IS OVER
- $400,000 = YES! All backers get a MEGA-CRAZY FUN-TIME KIT that includes Wondermark ebooks, the MOD v.1 ebook, free music from our favorite pals, addt'l bonus ebooks, and physical backers get a Kickstarter-exclusive embroidered merit badge & the Friends of MOD gold pin!
- $444,444 = YES! I'll write and perform a song that explains the rules of the game in musical form!
- $450,000 = YES! PROJECT CANCELLED
- $450,100 = YES! Project's back on
- $460,000 = YES! I'll have all of the Webcomics Pals each create a unique mission for you to play! This will be a PDF.
- $500,000 = YES! The game is released under Creative Commons for you to adapt, translate, modify and remix!
- $501,000 = YES! We'll shoot more gameplay videos starring Kris, myself, and featuring hilarious guest stars!
- $525,000 = YES! We do NOT ship all games with a curse upon them!
- $535,000 = YES! We commission an original MOD-themed rap from MC Frontalot that everybody gets as an MP3!
...That's it, folks. We beat the game. Additional success will continue to improve the 382,600 mystery goal. Thanks so much!!!
We also have BACKER COUNT GOALS:
- 2500 = YES! I'll videotape a kitten romping in a pile of death cards!
- 3000 = YES! We'll create a German version of the game in PDF format!
- 3500 = YES! We'll commission an audiobook(?) version of the game! If that's even the right term. All the cards being read one after the other!
- 5000 = YES! We'll commission Matt Bixler to create an animation based on one of our playtest videos!
- 7500 = YES! We'll commission Matt Bixler to animate a second playtest video!
- 8260 = YES! MYSTERY GOAL TO BE REVEALED ONLY AFTER THE CAMPAIGN IS OVER
- 10,000 = YES! The Germans get a physical printed edition (upon request – we'll email you to ask before shipping), and we also print a run of blank decks that folks interested in customizing can buy later! (Post-Kickstarter)
UPDATE 1: Funding goal reached! I'm kinda slap-happy!!
UPDATE 2: Kris + David video + book preview story #1!
UPDATE 3: Book preview story #2!
UPDATE 4: Explanation video about the expansion cards!
UPDATE 5: Book preview story #3 + Co-op mode playtest video!
UPDATE 6: More detailed explanation of how to play!
UPDATE 7: SIDECAR BOX: a way to get all expansion cards at once!
UPDATE 8: SUPER STRETCH GOAL UPDATE
UPDATE 9: Handcrafted Deluxe Box video + preview story #4!
UPDATE 11: Intel Cards, Kris & David FATE BLITZ video 1, preview story #5, + Head-to-Head playtest video!
UPDATE 12: BACKER-ONLY UPDATE about the Intel Cards!
UPDATE 13: FATE BLITZ 2 + Dresden Codak rivalry!
UPDATE 14: FATE BLITZ 3, appearances, + Dresden Codak stretch goal brainstorm!
UPDATE 15: Deluxe Box prototype + more stretch goals!
- 300 full-color cards to help you figure out how to kill your target
- ESSENTIAL GAME ACCESSORIES such as a skull-faced die, an hourglass, and a custom-printed notepad
- A rulebook with lots of drawings by Kris and plenty of jokes
- A BOX to keep it all in
- VERVE AND VIGOR – this is the part that you supply!
In addition there are now these EXTRA GAME CARDS:
- Webcomics Pals – these are artist-specific cards that we’re commissioning with stretch goals! They will go free (digitally or physically) to every backer. They will not become part of the permanent game; they'll become a separate expansion pack, but if you pledge during the Kickstarter, you'll get that pack tossed in your shipment for free. They will be of various different card types.
- Blank game cards – these were unlocked by the 90K goal and are now part of the permanent game! These allow you to customize your own copy of the game, if you like. Each base game will come with 20 blank cards of various types, and you can buy extra packs later on too.
- Expansion cards – these are six sets of 50 additional death cards that can add variety to your game, and 100 Intel cards featuring target details. You can get them à la carte on our Add-On page, or get the SIDECAR tier, which gives you a second game box containing all the expansion cards that this campaign creates. (The Deluxe Box gets you all these cards as well.)
- Backer-created cards – these are cards created by backers to the INFAMY, TYCOON, and FROM ABOVE tiers. They're permanently added to the game as well!
All told, right this moment there are over 900 total cards available!! Here's a more detailed description and breakdown:
Feel free to take advantage of our Add-On page! This is in case you want some stuff à la carte, things we haven’t included in the rewards – different T-shirts, multiple copies of the game, etc. If you want to Add On something to your pledge, here’s how:
- First, start with a pledge tier that has some of the stuff you want. For example, if you want the game plus a different T-shirt, you’ll want “GOT PLAYED”, which is just the game itself. This is your “base tier”.
- Go to our Add-On page and select the other stuff you want. (In this example, you’d select the different T-shirt.) The Add-On page will then show you the amount you need to ADD ON to your pledge to get the T-shirt.
- Come back here and make or increase your pledge. Select your base tier – in the example, “GOT PLAYED” – and then manually add the additional amount from the Add-On page. This way your single pledge can cover both the base tier and your add-on stuff. (International buyers do have to pay both shipping charges, sorry!) Go on to confirm your pledge.
- Back on the Add-On page, submit the form there so we get your Add-On information! This is transmitted to us separately, but we need both that form and your Kickstarter pledge, otherwise we can't match things up and matters get all sideways.
You can also use the Add-On page to calculate how to make a pledge to the campaign via PayPal, if you can’t (or would rather not) use Kickstarter. But those pledges won’t appear on our Kickstarter page, so we’d prefer that method to be a second choice, and used only if necessary.
Hooray for TECHNOLOGY!
I’m David Malki ! – I’m the creator of the comic strip Wondermark, as well as one of the editors of the original Machine of Death book and its upcoming sequel, This is How You Die (coming out in July). Ever since I first designed and printed a series of death prediction cards as a promotion for the book, I knew it felt like there was a game in this concept eager to come out. Over the last year and a half, I’ve been writing, play-testing, tweaking, play-testing again, conferring with friends and experts, tweaking further...and now, I have something I’m really, really proud to share with you.
My friend Kris Straub, the creator of Chainsawsuit and Broodhollow and one of the talents behind Penny Arcade’s Blamimations, helped me refine the rules, and did a ton of original art for the game. All the characters and logos on the cards are his. Kris and I have had a lot of fun playing this game – it can get really wacky really quickly.
We’ve also enlisted our friends to write jokes and help playtest: Ryan North, Zachary Sigelko, Matthew Bennardo, James Sutter, and many others. So tucked into one tidy package is the combined creative efforts of many fine individuals!
Machine of Death, the book, was a 2010 story collection, based on a Dinosaur Comic by Ryan North. It contained 34 short stories by writers from all over the world, and the day it was released, it shot to #1 on Amazon – the first independent anthology ever to do so. It was later named one of Amazon’s Top 10 Customer Favorites for sci-fi & fantasy in 2010.
Since then, the book’s gone through seven printings and been translated into eight languages! We’ve gone on to stage fun events all over the US and Canada, and at one of them in 2011, we opened submissions for a second volume.
So the game’s an adaptation of the books?
Yes and no. Every story in the books is independent of the others – each individual world explores the idea of the death-predicting machine, but doesn’t otherwise share continuity with any of the others. Machine of Death stories have been set in the past, present, or future; have featured machines large, small, or in-between; have told stories of the machine’s invention, or postulated a world in which the machine is old and forgotten.
The game is the same way. It doesn’t reference any existing story in particular. If you can picture a machine that can predict how you’ll die, that's all you need! You’re now 100% caught up and can dive right into the game. (Of course, if you’d like to read our book anyway, it’s available as a free PDF and audiobook podcast on our site.)
Obviously you can get the game itself! We also have a digital-only version in case you want to print it yourself. Above that, you can get copies of our book; a Kickstarter-exclusive T-shirt & poster; and even a fancy Deluxe Edition game box.
In the game, you get “Black Market Gift Cards” to obtain various types of items to use in your assassination plans. For example, you can buy animals using a gift card to the smelly beastporium known as Zoo-in-a-Can! (Just off I-210 at Haven.) While allegations of health code violations at Zoo-in-a-Can have yet to be proven, our Zoo-in-a-Can T-shirt may have started its life as white.
Our custom-made wooden Deluxe Edition game boxes feature individual laser-etched numbering and come with, in addition to the base game and any stretch goal cards, all expansion cards available separately (in other words, every single card, no matter what). It also comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by me & Kris, and a blank Assassination Mission Log for you to record the best details of all of your games – fitted into a hand-crafted box that holds everything perfectly!
We've also added the Sidecar Box – a second game box containing all the expansion cards. The base game comes with ~300 cards, and now thanks to stretch goals, every backer will be getting Webcomics Pals cards too. The Sidecar Box gives you a place to put the Webcomics Pals cards, and also included will be every expansion card available – no matter how many are added – for a flat price. Currently this is 300 additional death cards + 100 Intel Cards.
So either the Deluxe Box, or the base game + Sidecar Box, will get you every game card we offer in this Kickstarter!
There are also ways that you can INSERT YOURSELF into the game, by contributing new death cards that'll become part of the game itself, or getting a likeness of yourself (drawn by Kris) in the manual as a victim! And perhaps MOST EXCITINGLY, we’ve gotten approval from Grand Central to offer a small handful of ADVANCE COPIES of This is How You Die. :O
First off, we’ll be really, really thrilled! Creating the game has been such a fun process and I'm so excited to share it with you in this way. But we’re hoping this game can become EVEN MORE great, through stretch goals. We’re hoping to improve the packaging with a cooler box; add cards to the game; get comics artists to contribute special cards; and be able to print & give away additional stuff to all backers (including previews of the upcoming book This is How You Die).
But one thing at a time. We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it! If it does happen, THIS IS THE POINT ON THE PAGE WHERE WE’LL DISCUSS IT.
UPDATE: IT HAPPENED – and we moved the stretch goals up near the top of the page!
Over the nearly a decade that I’ve been doing webcomics, I’ve designed and shepherded to production dozens of books and different types of products – mostly my own, but I also work for TopatoCo heading up their book production department. I’ve had a hand in designing and printing books for Questionable Content, AmazingSuperPowers, Dinosaur Comics, Nedroid, Gunshow, This Modern World, Homestuck, and, most elaborately, the recent Sweet Bro & Hella Jeff super-weird limited hardcover. So I’ll be using that experience and vendor contacts to make this game something really nice that you’ll be proud to own.
I’ll also be working with TopatoCo’s new subsidiary, Make That Thing, a dedicated fulfillment agency specifically for campaigns like this. TopatoCo has a warehouse full of people who do nothing but receive pallets and ship packages all day long for over fifty of the internet’s top artists (including me, Kris, and Ryan). So they and I will be working together to ensure that all the products and rewards from this campaign will be produced and shipped to you as quickly and efficiently as possible.
That’s cool, I totally understand! I’m the same way. Here’s the deal – I wanted to make a game that lets me do the things I like to do anyway: tell crazy stories with my friends, make up ridiculous and absurd scenarios for us to laugh about, and generally GET CLOSER AND BOND with OTHER HUMAN BEINGS through the HEALING POWER OF LAUGHTER.
It may be shocking to assert that a card game that is essentially about MURDER can accomplish that. NONETHELESS, I HAVE ASSERTED IT. I’m the sort of guy who can’t let an idea go – when it occurs to me, I have to chase it, I have to wrestle it into submission, I have to make it real. And I’m a perfectionist. So it is SO gratifying to start with a vague idea, spend a lot of time and effort carefully crafting it into something that I think is really fun and special, and then see it come to fruition.
Through this campaign, I’ll get to see if people agree with me that this sounds like a pretty fun thing! I’m nervous but EXCITED because I know this game is great. I really hope you think so too!
Risks and challenges
I’ve got a lot of experience working with complicated designs and printing companies, so I’m confident that I can shepherd this from prototype to actual finished product. However, one of the doors we’re leaving open is the option of adding extra content to the game (depending on how the campaign does), which means it might take some extra time getting all that created & collected. In the last couple of years, I’ve put together two anthologies with over 60 contributors each, so I understand the coordination this sort of thing requires, and I'll be doing my best to stay on top of it.
In addition, because we’ll be printing overseas, it’s possible there will be shipping delays, due to customs or other elements out of our control. To try and mitigate that risk, we’ve built in some buffer time to our expected delivery dates, and so if all goes well, we’re in a good position to beat those estimates. In addition, we’re working with a manufacturer who does this sort of thing all the time, so hopefully there shouldn’t be many surprises.
If this campaign does extraordinarily well, we’re ready for it -- the warehousing and fulfillment staff at TopatoCo/Make That Thing has been shipping hundreds of packages a day since 2003.
If a meteor falls on my house the day the Kickstarter ends, I don’t know that I have a plan in place to surmount that particular challenge – but I will certainly have a long list of people (all of you) who should definitely NOT IN ANY WAY be considered suspects. Besides...THAT'S NOT EVEN HOW I DIE YOU GUYSLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
No, this is something all-new! When we first offered death card sets, we invented some simple games you could play with them -- MOD-specific adaptations of games like Apples to Apples and Pictionary. (And in fact, those games’ rules are included in our manual as BONUS GAMES you can play with the same cards!)
But this game is more elaborate, and has a lot of new cards and game mechanics. Those might be considered “some Machine of Death games.” This is The Official Machine of Death Game.
Good news! They’re compatible with this game. In fact you’ve unknowingly acquired expansion packs to this game BEFORE THE GAME EVEN EXISTED. Nice move, you!! The cards are a slightly different size, but you can totally use them with this game. We give some tips for best results in the game manual.
We've now also made the older sets available as Add-On expansion packs – we'll be reprinting them to match the size of the new game cards! You can specify whether you want the old ones (in the tins) or new ones (slightly bigger cards that match the game, but no tins, because they won't fit).
Yes! It’ll be available for sale in our TopatoCo store, and at any conventions we attend. But if you can, pledging to the Kickstarter is the better deal – you’ll save money on shipping, you’ll get it sooner, and you’ll automatically qualify for any bonus extras that we offer. But if you miss it, no sweat! Once it's manufactured and all the backers get their copies, we’ll make the game available for regular sale.
If you just want to get the base game now to see if you like it, and hold off on the expansion packs, that's fine! The expansion packs will likely be available for retail sale later. But they'll probably be more expensive than they are here, and the Webcomics Pals in particular will certainly not come free like they do with Kickstarter orders. You'd have to buy them separately. So the quick answer is yes, you'll be able to get them, but getting them now through the Kickstarter is a better deal.
It's designed for 2-6 players! You can go up to 8, but it gets a tiny bit unwieldy.
Go ahead and pledge now, and we’ll send you a questionnaire later on, once the games are ready to ship! This ensures that we’ll get the most current address for you – so if you’re going to move soon or be at a different address, no sweat, we’ll be sure to get the most recent info before shipping.
Yup! I just phrased it that way in case some people don't necessarily want absolutely everything (for whatever reason!).
If I choose INFAMY or TYCOON, will you give me a list of the existing deaths so I can choose a new one?
Everyone pledging at a digital tier (JUST THE TIP; ELECTROCUTED; VOLTAGE) will get print-n-play PDF versions of the Webcomics Pals stretch goal cards. Everyone pledging at a physical tier (GOT PLAYED and up) will get the printed stretch goal cards added to their shipment.
The base game comes with 100 death cards, 70+ Black Market Gift Cards, 36 Specialist cards, and we've now added 20 blank cards (of all types). Plus, backers will be adding another 100 or so. So, about 300 cards in the base game.
On top of that, pledgers to INFAMY, TYCOON, and FROM ABOVE will be creating at least 75 more cards that'll be added to the base game – they'll be in there forever and ever.
On top of THAT, the Webcomics Pals stretch goal cards will go to Kickstarter pledgers – not as part of the base game, but as a separate deck included in your shipment. These will NOT be added to the base game, so if you want them after the Kickstarter, you'll have to buy them separately. These will end up being about 4-10 cards per artist.
On top of THAT, there are additional death cards available via our Add-On page or through the SIDECAR tier: 6 sets of 50 cards each, for 300 more total.
On top of THAT???...WE'LL JUST HAVE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS
Lots of friends!
It was shot and edited by Michael Mohan http://michaelmohan.com
Music is by Hrishikesh Hirway http://theoneamradio.com
Opening narration is by Brett Donnelly http://www.brettstuff.com
Opening animation is by Grant Aldritch http://vimeo.com/grantaldrich
Special thanks to Sean Casey at M.i.'s Westside Comedy Theater http://westsidecomedy.com
And featuring the faces & voices of Ryan North, Jordan Morris, & Nika Harper
Box design courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service
Aw, I’m just a reg'lar guy trying my best.
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