Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Troublemakers Card Game and Skirmish Supremacy Podcast

Troublemakers prototype.

It's been a busy summer and I've been jumping from project to project based on time, weather, and availability. I was working on a bunch of Broken Contract scenery projects and the custom boards for a few of the Kickstarter Backers but it just got too hot in the attic to work up there, so I moved on to the painted models for those same backers, and took up temporary painting residence in our living room.

We've also had a lot of visitors and a few short trips of our own to go on. My partner, Lisa, and I, went out to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit our friend Jami. Jami requested we bring Broken Contract and Troublemakers with us because she wanted to try both of them. Troublemakers was a project that had been sitting for a while untouched so it was a little thrilling to crack it out and play it with fresh eyes.

Our Harlow, illustrated by Blutt. 

The Genesis of Troublemakers

I lived in Chicago from 2006-2014. During my time there I would see stickers everywhere I went from a street artist who went by Blutt. When my band, Poison Planet, got stickers, it was common practice to sticker the poles outside the places we regularly visited. I picked up on the fact that almost everywhere we went, Blutt and Poison Planet stickers were side by side, so I became really curious who this mysterious street artist was. Lisa and I were both fans of his art and started following him on social media. Little did I know that 1) we had met and 2) he lived a few blocks away from us.

When I noticed that he was posting pics of commissioned art pieces I hit him up to do the above art of our dog, Harlow. His art features a lot of skateboarding, bad kid antics, and dogs, so I thought he'd be a great choice to capture Harlow for Lisa's birthday. Above is that very birthday present.

It was right after I gave Lisa that gift I thought to myself, "Blutt's art would look fantastic in a card game format." I promptly pulled out my notebook and started sketching out a card game featuring the subject matter of his cards. I remember pulling the notebook out on a summer day in the car and Lisa and I brainstorming card ideas back and forth as we drove on some now forgotten errand. Troublemakers was a game inspired by Blutt's art, not a card game that was cleverly structured in advance. In that way, Troublemakers is an homage to one of our favorite street artists.

An outline of a game and possible cards were detailed in my notebook and ready to be prototyped in some way. I was immerse in gearing up for the Broken Contract Faction Set Kickstarter, so those ideas sat in a spiral notebook for another year untouched. We moved to Milwaukee a few months before that Kickstarter and I hadn't fallen into a steady group of miniature gamers just yet. Instead, we did make a bunch of casual boardgaming friends, so once the KS was over my thoughts turned to Troublemakers as a project to explore further.

This is what my early prototypes look like.

The original prototype was 50-60 cards written out on black cardstock with a white fabric pencil. (Why? Because the black cardstock was what I had laying around in abundance, and the fabric pencil was more visible that the normal pencil I originally attempted.) It featured a list of words, symbols, and numbers, some representative of my experience as a young adult, and most of it based upon bits of Blutt's art. The cards were mostly items that had subcultural currency, like skateboards, rebel jackets, and fixed gear bikes. This incarnation was played quite a bit to kick off board game nights before we dove into something heavier, which was part of the design philosophy: Create a simple, fun, quick game that will bring some laughs through cool, clever art and sometime ridiculous circumstances, with Blutt's art being the driving force to facilitate it all.

During this stage we talked to Blutt and he was amped on the idea but gaming is a world he's never explored. The coolness and excitement was tempered by a lack of familiarity and confidence with the execution. You can tell someone, "just draw what you normally draw" but with a massive list of card names and icons staring you down, it can be overwhelming. With me now full-on immersed in working to deliver those Broken Contract Faction Sets to the backers, I just had to put Troublemakers aside. So it went back into the closet for another year.


After Jami encouraged us to bring Troublemakers to Cincinnati, we settled into a weekend of gaming and played a half dozen hands or so. We also showed Jami samples of Blutt's art. Through it all, we just got hyped talking about the ideas behind the game. When we got home I shot Blutt a message and he said he was still excited about the idea, but just felt stuck on the execution. This is when I took matters into my own hands. I wanted him to see that what he does every day is exactly what we wanted. I raided his published images and constructed cards based around them just to get a visual prototype he could use as a guide. The above cards are not final cards, but all of the art is his. Everything from photos of gallery pieces he's done to sketch book doodles were remixed to create a 72 card deck over the span of 3 days, drawing from 100's of images he's created over the last 2-3 years. A professional prototype was then made through TheGameCrafter so that I could send one for him to hold and use as a basic guide.

He has since received the cards and he's looking forward to exploring the game further in the autumn when his schedule frees up. I think this will be a really fun project. I know I had a great time putting together this prototype and I have even more ideas for the future.

Before parting I want to direct you all to an interview I got to do with Skirmish Supremacy Podcast. They took an evening out to talk to me about Broken Contract and gaming as a whole and I had a stellar time rambling on about a bunch of gaming related subjects. If you are into that sort of thing you should give it a listen. Thanks for reading!

-Nick

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