You’ve conquered death. You’re the master of all nine dimensions of space time. Reality bends to your every whim and desire. You are the absolute best there ever has been…a Necromancer at the top of their game. The only downside is no one likes you—on account of creeping around with dead bodies and the lack of sunlight. But who needs friends, when you can make them? You just dig up skulls and use the dark arts to resurrect their animated corpses. Easy-peasy! Besides, these guys are way more fun than the living anyway.
Dead Man's Cabal is a new strategy game from Pandasaurus Games (Dinosaur Island, Machi Koro, The Mind) from designer Daniel Newman with game development from Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter, Dinosaur Island, Wasteland Express Delivery Service). Dead Man's is a mid-weight strategy game that plays in 60-90 minutes for 2-4 players. Already an elegant and smooth design, Jonathan has guided the game through 18 months of blind-playtests with hundreds of different game groups to make sure it was exquisitely streamlined and balanced. And now we need your help to make the game as good as it can be!
The way in which Dead Man's Cabal uses Variable Phase Order mechanisms reminded us of our favorite parts of Puerto Rico, Terra Mystica and Race for the Galaxy in a streamlined package designed to put the focus on player interaction. Combined with an amazingly fresh (and hilarious!) theme, fantastic character artwork (by Denis Medri) and an amazing Necromancer's lair board (by Henning Ludvigsen) Dead Man's Cabal makes for a fun fast-paced tense experience that is unlike anything else we've played.
For those unfamiliar with the mechanisms, Variable Phase Order simply means that the order that the different actions take place in will be determined by player choice. For Dead Man's Cabal the optimal scoring strategy is pretty simple. Get Ritual Cards, Get the Skulls needed to complete your ritual, get the matching Runes to score bonus points and complete your rituals!
Easy enough, right? Well, on each players' turn you will get one private action and one shared public action, so getting things in the right order is almost impossible, and making sure that you aren't setting your opponents up for better turns is easier said than done. So it's as much a game about making the most out of what's in front of you on each turn as it is trying to fit your long-term strategy into the available options.
Dead Man's Cabal is a game we have been in love with ever since we signed it. We had grand plans to really put some nice components into the game in order to make it stand out and present as best it could. Things like plastic skulls instead of cardboard, molded "bones" for currency to just really upgrade the entire look of the game into something special.
Then we got the quote for the custom molds to create these pieces. We've worked with plastic extensively before, and it started to become clear that we couldn't make the game the way we wanted and go directly to retail. We wanted Dead Man's Cabal to be an accessible price for a strategy game with a lot of depth Which is why we need all of y'all's help so we can bring our amazing vision for the game to life!
Our shipping timeline is aggressive, but that's because this game is 100% ready to print, the files have gone through the pre-press review process at our printer and are locked and loaded. We've done all the upfront work and now we just need to tell the printer how many to print and get going. We believe in speaking to our printer that this is a realistic timeline!
The "Undeadining Pack" is a special backer-only collection that will not be available in the retail box. It may be available directly from Pandasaurus at conventions, and we may make it available on our website down the road but it won't be available (outside of limited availability at conventions) for at least 6 months.
Infectious Play live stream
Video 1: How to Set Up Dead Man's Cabal
Video 2: How to Play Dead Man's Cabal (completing Rituals)
Video 3: How to Play Dead Man's Cabal (Walkthrough)
Video 4: How to Play Dead Man's Cabal (Walkthrough)
Video 5: How to Play Dead Man's Cabal (End-Game scoring, final thoughts)
Dead Man's Cabal is a simple to learn, hard to master strategy game.
The core of the game revolves around action-phase selection. The optimal path towards maximum scoring is simple. Gain Ritual Cards, collect the needed skulls to complete the rituals, get matching Rune tiles for end-game bonus scoring and head to the Sanctum to perform the ritual itself. Getting them in the optimal order (without setting other players up for even better turns) is where the heart of the game lies.
Players begin their turn by drawing a skull token from the bag and choosing a row in the Ossuary to place it in. They then "push" the skull token in that row over, gaining the skull that is pushed off into their personal supply. Players then choose any skull (including the one just gained) to spend from their personal supply and get to take a private action corresponding to the skull color spent.
After the private action is finished, all players may take a public group action in turn order. The public action is determined by the majority skull color represented in the central column of the Ossuary Board. In the case of a tie, the active player chooses which action will be taken with some additional rules (explained in the rulebook) that prevent the same group action from occurring multiple turns in a row.
This creates a real tense decision between maximizing your own turn and making sure that you aren't helping your opponents out more than yourself. For instance, if none of your opponents have ritual cards in-hand you probably would want to avoid letting everyone collect ritual cards as a public group action. Likewise, if you can't complete a ritual, going to the Sanctum to let other players complete ritual cards on your turn is something you would want to avoid.
A simple mechanism with so many strategic and tactical decisions!
The 4 main actions in the game each correspond to the 4 skull-token colors.
Athenaeum (Gold Skulls Action)
The gold skull action is pretty simple. This is where players go to collect new Ritual Cards. We'll talk more about Dead Man's Cabal's economy below, but this is also the best place to collect "bones" which allow players to take better versions of all of the possible actions.
Sepulchre (Red Skull Action)
Again, a pretty simple action where players can collect additional skulls to add to their supply. Having skull-tokens in your supply accomplishes two objectives. It allows you to gain the skulls needed to complete your rituals, but it also gives you access to the skull-tokens you need to select your private actions. The skull-tokens are dual-purpose as both the main path towards scoring points, but also the way players take actions. Another subtle but clever decision for players to make.
Scriptorium (White Skull Action)
The Scriptorium is where players go to collect Rune tokens to use for bonus scoring when completing Ritual Cards. This is also one of the most important areas for end-game scoring, but more about that on the Oracle board section.
Sanctum (Black Skull Action)
The Sanctum is where the main thrust of the gameplay lives. This is where you go to bring the dead back to life and score points.
To do so, players will need to create an unbroken line of skulls matching the colors indicated on the ritual cards. An unbroken line is any unobstructed line printed on the sanctum board connecting the required skulls (in any order) that does not have any empty spaces or mismatched skulls.
Players then remove one skull matching the color with the black arrow pointing at it, and will score points listed in the top right at the end of the game!
The Sanctum is one of the most important parts of the game, but it's also a really clever spatial puzzle. How do you create the combinations of skulls needed? Are there ways to set yourself up for future turns? Are you unwittingly helping your opponents create the patterns they need? Do you place a skull just to mess with your opponents?
Oracle (End Game Bonus)
When completing a Ritual Card, if the player has matching Rune's in their supply they may attach the runes to the newly completed ritual card and place one cube per matching Rune onto a space(s) on the Oracle board.
The player with the most and second most cubes on each of the spaces will be eligible for end-game bonus scoring that is discussed further in the rulebook. Generally, there are bonuses for: skull colors on completed ritual cards, skulls in your personal supply at the end of the game, a fun spatial-puzzle on the Scriptorium board for the most of your cubes in an orthogonally adjacent cluster. Check the rulebook (or the videos) for a more detailed explanation of the end-game bonus scoring.
The last part of the game that really makes it hum is the economy. Each action has multiple versions of the action you can choose to perform. The better the action, the higher the cost. So, for instance if you go to the Athenaeum you can choose to draw zero new ritual cards and gain 3 "bones", but drawing up to your hand limit of 5 costs 1 bone.
Each action board has this push-pull economy between taking worse versions of actions to gain currency or paying currency to perform better versions of actions. This plays in with the timing of the action-phase selection beautifully. Let's say you have zero "bones" in your personal supply, but you have the skulls necessary to complete two rituals in the sanctum.
If you set things up just right you can first take a private action (by discarding a gold skull) to head to the Athenaeum and choose to draw zero cards, but instead gaining 3 bones. If you planned your turn carefully and lined up a black skull action as the public group action you would then be able to use those newly acquired bones to pay the cost (2 bones) to complete two rituals in a single action. Lots of fun little moments all over the game that allows for these simple easy to remember actions to turn into tense strategic gameplay.
Pandasaurus Games is an independent family-owned board game publisher that's been producing high quality games since 2012. We are lucky to have been the publisher of three Spiel Des Jahres nominees, multiple Golden Geek nominees as well as Dice Tower Award nominees.
These include the break-out hit Dinosaur Island, the best-selling Machi Koro as well as The Mind, Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Tammany Hall and Nyctophyobia. We love games, and we're thrilled to be able to continue to bring smash hits like these and future stars like Dead Man's Cabal to gamers everywhere!
Pandasaurus Games will be working with partners to deliver the game worldwide. This project will be EU, Canada, China, US and Australia friendly! We will also be keeping an eye towards Brexit and what sort of impact that may have on tariffs and shipping.
After the campaign ends, we will be charging actual shipping costs to backers. We want to strike a fair balance of value for our backers while ensuring high quality fair shipping prices for each backer. By shipping within the EU, Australia, China, Canada and the United States we are hoping to get as favorable of shipping rates as possible.
Our goal is for the average shipping costs for backers in the EU, US, Canada, Australia and China to be around 15 USD with shipping for backers outside of these regions to come from the most cost-effective area for the lowest possible shipping price.
Backers in some regions, especially the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America may experience high shipping fees which reflect the actual cost of shipping to these areas in excess of 50 USD. Please be aware of this before backing the project.
Risks and challenges
Pandasaurus Games is a 7-year-old board game publisher who has delivered hundreds of thousands of board games worldwide. We are confident in our ability to deliver the rewards listed and on time.
The game is 100% art complete and ready to hit print as soon as the campaign ends. As soon as we unlock any of the stretch goals requiring the creation of 3d tooling, we will begin production of the tooling right away. We intend to enter mass production just as Chinese New Year ends and have products on boats by late April. Our intention is to sell limited copies of the game at Origins 2019, and we are very confident in our ability to deliver the game to backers at or around this time.
Short of a production issue with some of the bespoke components, delays in shipping or issues with proofing that require reworks, we intend to release the game on time.
There is the chance of delay in shipping or customs that is largely out of the control of our company, but we are experienced in moving products through customs. Of course, with multiple freight solutions going to various parts of the world it's possible some regions will get the game more quickly than others. Our goal is to ship the game as soon as it lands on any continent, so we'll have to ask for your patience if some regions get the game before others.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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