A few people have been asking a little bit about the history of Epic Death! and how the game came to be, so we asked Sam and Beth at Waits In Graves to tell us the tale of its creation. Prepare yourself for a saga unlike anything you have witnessed before!
Beginning the Quest
What started as a small idea for a card game scribbled on a scrap of paper well over a year ago has completely taken over our lives on our quest to make a fun, simple and most of all epic card game. When I was working in my previous job, we would often chuck around cool ideas for card, computer, miniature and board games, but something about this one just stuck.
The core idea was to tool up a bunch of adventurers who would complete quests and hack down monsters before finally meeting a sticky end against the strongest monster possible. This would somehow earn you more points while also basically ending up as a saga, telling the whole story of a group of under-dressed, muscle-bound, archetypal role-play adventurers.
These grand tales are told through the medium of cards, just like every good tale should be. We have Adventurer cards that show the characters you’ll be steering through the saga. Fate cards represent the influence of the various Gods as well as items that help them or screw them over along the way. The Quests themselves range from rescuing cats from trees to slaying mighty Hydras, and lastly there’s the Loot, epic pieces of equipment you can adorn your adventurers with to increase your score. Every single card is rooted in something we love, be it a reference from a book or film, or playing on the clichés rife in fantasy and sci-fi.
Two of our great influences are the games of Gloom and Munchkin where the most important part of the game is found in screwing over your friends. We wanted to bring the fun, arguments and scheming that happens in those games to ours but also wanted to inject our own twist. What we really tried to do was design a game where the mechanics flip on their head part way through the game, where instead of focusing on your adventurers and helping them to succeed at the quests, there would be a point where you end up doing everything in your power to make them fail.
Helm of +2 Insanity
In the early stages of the game, the Fate deck didn't exist; instead the adventurers loot had bonuses on them. This meant you would screw your friends by replacing their awesome treasure with cursed items that would take away dice from future rolls, making them re-roll successes and the like. There were several problems with this version of the game, mainly that the bonuses proved too powerful to use every turn and it just became a headache managing it all.
We then came up with the concept of the Fate deck. This allowed us to put all the bonuses on one-shot cards which would allow you to just keep the loot as your score while still letting you screw over other players. The only other major mechanic that underwent a massive overhaul at this point was the numbers needed for Victories when rolling dice. Before we had a flexible system that changed almost every quest. So you would need four fours on one, and two sixes on another. This was insane and we shall never speak of it again.
During the concept phase the idea of a saga proved invaluable in deciding what rules came and went. We had some really cool ideas that just didn’t fit the theme and some of the best rules came around by just asking the same question over and over: “What is the core of the game?”.
We went through a bunch of prototypes early in this stage. The card mockup changed completely several times, new decks were being added, numbers were shifting and ideas were being refined or discarded. We eventually settled on the ‘final’ rules (roping many friends into play-testing) and were ready to get more prototypes together for more extensive testing.
Building the Adventure
The next step was coming up with ideas for the vast amount of quests, loot, characters and fate cards included in the game. We wanted to include as many references, in-jokes and memes as possible whilst inventing a few new creatures and items of our own.
This was a really organic process with the list coming together over a few days, and the photo below shows our attempt at organising a list of art to produce - after we had finished of course!. Divvying up the artwork between the two of us, we embarked on the most-est epic-est part of the production so far: creating nearly 160 unique pieces of art to fill up the cards, box and rulebook for the game.
Balancing art production, website management, real-life, freelance work and gaming proved to be tough, with much of the work getting done at all hours of the morning when inspiration took us. However, it was also hugely rewarding watching it come together, marking work off the schedule and dreaming of a time when people would actually be playing the game and having fun.
In amongst all of this, we were also trying to learn about how to get the thing printed. A massively daunting process initially, it became less so as we did more research (so many thanks to Chris Matthew at Panda GM for helping us). Although we worked a lot of this stuff out ourselves, we eventually decided going with a publisher was probably the best thing to do, especially with it being our first game. This is where Game Salute stepped in and we are now confident the game will be made to the highest quality possible.
With EPIC DEATH! we wanted to create an over the top, fun and clichéd fantasy world. It is all the books you have read and all the films you have seen, and while there are some obvious references in there, we’ve thrown in some obscure ones too. We want people to have fun figuring them out!
Above all, we tried to make a game that people could get just by looking at it. With oodles of unique pieces of art in the game, countless quotes and plenty of references, we forged an in-depth world and we think that comes across as you battle your way through it.
Hopefully, the love and hard work we have poured into this game over the last year will come across when you see it for the first time, and most of all, we hope you have fun!
Sam and Beth, Waits In Graves.