Home Board Game Designer Diary: Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer | BoardGameGeek Information

Designer Diary: Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer | BoardGameGeek Information

Designer Diary: Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer | BoardGameGeek Information


Board Game: Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer

The week beginning July 31, 2022 marks the U.S. launch of my Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer sport at Walmart, with the primary 5 hundred copies debuting at Gen Con 2022.

I seen that CMON selected this previous week to announce Rob Daviau‘s upcoming Stranger Issues sport, which is a full yr away from launch. These are two totally different video games for 2 totally different audiences, and the world can deal with a number of Stranger Issues video games. I am truly flattered in the event that they have been involved my sport would take gross sales away from theirs.

This may not be a really technical designer diary, not as a result of social deduction video games do not deserve deep evaluation, however as a result of typically a rose is a rose. My video games do not have something to cover, and I usually keep away from video games with airs of sophistication or arbitrary mechanisms; the chaotic complexity of human psychology is mechanism sufficient.

I actually like Stranger Issues. I just like the writing and characters and friendships, and I like how hardly ever the present dips into the postmodern; the characters deal with the world they dwell in as their actual world; they do not see issues as merely a stereotype of their decade. These are characters who be taught and develop, and the present has worth and stands by itself (all of the Easter eggs and nostalgia shout-outs apart).

Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer started life as GROWL, which was a venture I funded on Kickstarter. There’s not an excessive amount of to say in regards to the design; there’s not a lot TO the design; it is a gentle little sport that, for probably the most half, is beloved by informal players and disliked by some pastime players. Sure, it has participant elimination, however it is rather uncommon to get eradicated till the sport is almost over (and it is a quick sport anyway). In the event you get killed early, you most likely ought to have handed away your wounds…

From gallery of cannibalkid

Tom Vasel hated the sport, however I agreed with just about every little thing he mentioned in his destructive overview. His largest criticism was that GROWL has the identical theme as Werewolf — however I selected that theme as a result of it helped my branding; it helped my gross sales to have the werewolf theme as a result of I might pitch the sport as “Werewolf, however as a fast card sport with no GM or app”. In different phrases, it is a sport designed for the mainstream gamer, not even one thing competing with Bézier Video gamesOne Night time sequence.

I by no means took GROWL very severely as a design; I did not fear about attempting to make it something different that what it’s. Playtesters preferred GROWL, so I revealed it. It obtained nice opinions within the informal marketplace for probably the most half, with one reviewer calling it “probably the most tense 10-15 minute sport I’ve ever performed in my life”. I believe that could be a bit hyperbolic, however belief me, I milked that quote like loopy throughout the Kickstarter:

Regardless of the werewolf theme, nonetheless, GROWL was not impressed by Mafia/Werewolf very a lot. It is truly the grandchild of parlor video games from the Nineteen Fifties the place you wink at somebody to homicide them or carry out a handshake with a finger-tickle. Informal players do not thoughts the “honor system” that drives pastime players (and reviewers) loopy. Most informal players additionally do not thoughts participant elimination so long as the sport is brief and you weren’t the goal of bullying that resulted within the elimination. The fundamental guidelines did not take me lengthy to idea, and I designed and revealed six expansions for GROWL fairly rapidly.

I did not fear about potential points, like the truth that it makes use of the dreaded “honor system” to vary right into a wolf, or the truth that a subset of gamers don’t love how simple it might be to cheat. My comeback can be “Why would you play with individuals who cheat, and why would the thought of dishonest come so simply to your thoughts?” I’ve had the identical expertise with all of my video games: most individuals like them and a small subset of individuals detest them. I am unable to complain about that; I’d fortunately play Eighties dice-chuckers over nearly any fashionable social sport or Euro-style sport, so it is regular for some players to be on a special wavelength.

I do not fear about individuals who don’t love my video games; my objective is to model them accurately in order that individuals who would like them can uncover them. This will get dangerous when working with IP as a result of there’s a variety of love for Stranger Issues, and it is not simple to fulfill everybody. My guess is the Walmart crowd will purchase the sport however not play it, and the pastime players will play it however not purchase it — aside from you pleasant folks (you understand who you’re) who will purchase each model of the sport. Salut!

Design Historical past

I started my journey by enjoying a bunch of different social deduction video games. I needed to ensure my thought was no less than semi-original. The objective was to not reinvent Werewolf (or One Night time Final Werewolf, which I knew can be a possible rival).

The preliminary thought most likely began in 2017 after I was enjoying a prototype for Little Purple Driving Hood: Full Moon Rising by one in every of my favourite designers, Ta-Te Wu. In that sport, you possibly can stroll within the woods (draw a card), however there is a single Massive Unhealthy Wolf card that may flip you right into a werewolf. (There is a related system with the publicity playing cards in Who Goes There?)

I advised that it ought to take three playing cards to show you right into a wolf as a result of it is a slower, much less radical function change. Ta-Te did not use the thought for that sport, however he was sort sufficient to let me discover that one mechanism. I imagined a sport through which you will get “bitten” however nonetheless have time to say “Guys, assist me out, I’ve two bites already and I am nearly a wolf” and a participant who’s secretly already a werewolf can say “Here is a allure to repair you”, however truly offers you a 3rd chunk — and you may’t now be mad and yell that she’s a wolf since you simply switched to her staff.

From gallery of cannibalkid

I knew I wanted an evening section a number of occasions throughout the sport so {that a} small quantity of recent data can get added and stop the dialogue from circling endlessly. I could have been impressed by Lifeboat by my buddy Jeff Siadek, a sport through which gamers have an end-of-round section after they should drink sufficient water to make up for his or her actions, or else they take wounds.

I designed GROWL on a weekend gaming retreat in Dallas, and I had the posh of different designers prepared to strive totally different formulations of the prototype over a number of days. The primary mechanism is easy:


Have a look at the highest card of the deck. Present it publicly, then give it to somebody apart from your self, then go the deck to the left. Your hand represents your function, so for those who get three bites you flip right into a werewolf, and for those who get three wounds, you die. A allure negates an lively chunk, and a salve negates an lively wound. If an evening card is revealed, gamers go a card to every of their two dwelling neighbors and shuffle the 2 playing cards they get in return earlier than them, so in the event that they obtained a chunk, they don’t seem to be positive which neighbor is the wolf. When the deck is empty, the wolves win if all gamers are lifeless or wolves, and people win if no less than one human remains to be alive.

From gallery of cannibalkid

I wanted a impartial card. Somebody advised that meals could possibly be impartial, and two meals might supplant a wound, however I believed it might get too difficult. I’m not positive why I ended up going with gold as a impartial card, however I believe it was the thought that you could acquire gold over a number of video games and thus acquire private “factors”. Some gamers like this, however in the end I believe this was a mistake. I now suppose I ought to have gone with the meals idea, particularly since every night time might require gamers to eat dinner (discard a meals), which might reveal data.

Maybe I leaned away from this idea as a result of the werewolf theme is already a bit fallacious — wolves should not killing people a lot as purposely turning them — so including an summary meals that people and wolves each need appears bizarre. I did not wish to decelerate the sport by having wolves be taught who the opposite wolves are (besides in high-player counts), but when they did know early on, they might facilitate different wolves getting the required meals. I explored the gold/meals idea a bit extra within the Spells enlargement and the Plagues enlargement, and I added some enjoyable issues in 7 Sins. (The greed sin card kills a participant in the event that they accrue an excessive amount of gold!)

From gallery of cannibalkid

First prototype; word the person participant powers and poison

I vaguely do not forget that Bang could have performed some small function as one of many inspirations for GROWL. I am not a fan of that sport (particularly the size), however I do not forget that some weapons can goal solely your neighbors, which doubtless obtained me desirous about adjacency. I keep in mind pondering I used to be very intelligent for realizing that wolves ought to have the power to chunk their neighbors solely at night time — then I obtained my copy of One Night time Final Alien and was embarrassed to be taught that each one my werewolves have the identical guidelines because the cow in that sport. Ob la di, ob la da. (By the best way, Ted Alspach from Bézier Video games has been very supportive and beneficiant to me through the years, regardless of my sport driving on a thread or two of his coattails. Thanks, Ted, and I get pleasure from your video games very a lot.)

One objective I had that by no means got here to go was to have a easy set-up; I needed so as to add extra night time playing cards to the deck relying on gamers, and shuffle the deck as soon as earlier than dealing. I believed it might be quicker to steadiness the variety of nights to the participant rely somewhat than including extra wounds and bites, however clearly that did not work, so now there are playing cards that say “6+” and “9+”.

From gallery of cannibalkid

In the end I used to be satisfied {that a} main flaw in lots of social video games is the shortage of a “dramatic reveal”. It is embarrassing to say “I am the wolf” if there is no large card to flip over, so I dedicated to the thought early on that there wanted to be a “growl” on the finish of the sport the place gamers vocalize and bodily mime if they’re a werewolf. This half by no means modified and has been a core a part of the unique conception of the sport and its branding.

Anyway, the sport was examined, folks preferred it for probably the most half, a number of folks hated it, however the suggestions from the latter was usually that there was merely “no sport right here” and that I shouldn’t make it. Numerous my mates advised me this, and I might need listened aside from one glimmer of hope: The individuals who weren’t followers of GROWL did not often recommend particular adjustments to enhance the sport system; they merely did not just like the system. So I made a decision that this sport wouldn’t be for everybody, and I moved into heavy playtesting. The most important downside in playtesting was that people would by chance go bites, or that wolves can be too timid and refuse to go bites. This led to varied issues that principally obtained ironed out within the balancing stage.

From gallery of cannibalkid

Previous-school GROWL from 2017, with selfmade field and fur bag

The Kickstarter did effectively regardless of my unfinished artwork and renderings. No matter the truth that I did the so-so graphic design myself, I kind of knew the general idea and branding was on-point. I prefer to fake I am Don Draper typically, although I often really feel like Harry Crane. (Sorry, Wealthy.)

From gallery of cannibalkid

I bought about 12,000 copies of the sport, and ultimately determined to ship a bunch of copies to larger publishers as I used to be nervous that I’d by no means get a distribution deal in any other case. I employed an exquisite Dutchman named Richard to demo the sport at SPIEL ’19, and he attracted the curiosity of Repos Manufacturing, which shortly afterward turned a subsidiary of Asmodee.

Asmodee picked up the license however had a special sport with a conflicting theme (Werewolves of Miller’s Hole), so that they requested me to think about re-themes:

• I advised CULTS! (Nope, they mentioned, not family-oriented.)
• I nearly advised POD PEOPLE, however then I remembered that I am engaged on a pod folks sport, and I did not wish to compete with myself.
• I advised VAMPIRES! (Perhaps, they mentioned, so I whipped collectively a model through which three stakes kill you.)
• They advised STRANGER THINGS! (Sure!)

I hadn’t gotten to season 3 but, however the Thoughts Flayer gave the impression to be an apparent match for the sport, so Repos paired with one other Asmodee subsidiary named Mixlore to make the licensing take care of Netflix, then a gifted developer at Repos named Pierre started percolating concepts.

Netflix did not give us any advance details about season 4 — keep in mind how mad the Duffer Brothers have been when Stranger Issues Monopoly spoiled minor plot factors? — so this sport is ready in season 3, which has plenty of enjoyable areas for conferences (nights).

From gallery of cannibalkid

In the end, only a few issues modified from GROWL, however I just like the adjustments:

1. Simplified occasion playing cards (conferences/nights), and the third one is not a particular, loopy “Last Night time”.

2. Numerous occasions have been canned, and there are a number of new occasions that I’d not have included as a result of fears of steadiness points — however it is a informal sport, and I think Pierre is aware of what he is doing!

3. The deck is now face-down somewhat than face-up, however the rule to indicate the cardboard earlier than giving it away remains to be the identical.

4. Thoughts Flayer gamers know who the opposite Thoughts Flayer gamers are at the start when you have no less than six gamers somewhat than the eight-player restrict in GROWL. My guess is that playtesting revealed the Thoughts Flayer gamers had hassle profitable in informal sport teams.

5. Gold cash are actually waffles. Eggo — I imply, ergo, we are able to mess around with waffles as a mechanism somewhat than simply as some extent system. We are able to have conferences (nights) through which gamers must reveal waffles, discard waffles, or have waffles serve secondary features if we do expansions. I really like the waffle playing cards. They make me so comfortable for some unusual motive.

From gallery of cannibalkid

• I used to be dissatisfied that the English version makes use of the phrase “possessed” somewhat than “flayed”. Admittedly, “flayed” is a fairly gory-sounding time period.

• I do not know why Repos removed “wound” and as a substitute used “arduous hit”. Think about a Belgian accent, and it makes extra sense for some motive. This was a co-production between Belgium/Canada/France, so there’s certain to be some minor variations in speech.

• You flip your “in play” facet to “knocked out” while you get three hits — however the sport field strongly means that the shadow variations of the characters symbolize the flayed/possessed variations of the characters, or no less than signifies a connection to the Upside Down. I assume exhibiting a bunch of mortally wounded 14-year-olds is just not actually “household pleasant” both, so I settle for this resolution. (In GROWL, there is a headstone on the again of your tile that claims “I died”.

From gallery of cannibalkid

From gallery of cannibalkid

Stranger Issues: Assault of the Thoughts Flayer will likely be at Gen Con 2022, and it ought to be popping up in your native Walmart shops over the subsequent few days. It is positively a mass-produced sport so far as the cardboard thickness goes, however I’m very happy with how I used to be capable of assist shepherd my sport with none actual compromise during the method. I want to thank Pierre B., Tanguy G., and everybody else at Repos Manufacturing for his or her arduous work.

I am hoping so as to add player-power expansions or make different video games inside the license. Enjoyable stuff could possibly be in retailer for the longer term if the sport sells. If it does not…then we nonetheless have Rob Daviau’s Stranger Issues sport to look ahead to in 2023.

Joey Vigour

P.S. I will be at Gen Con 2022: sales space 520 (Vigour Video games), and Stranger Issues will likely be at sales space 815 (Asmodee).

From gallery of cannibalkid



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