If you’ve been in the board/card game sphere in the last few years, you’ve likely heard the name Boss Monster. The retro-styled dungeon-building game garnered a lot of attention for its engaging mechanics and 8-bit inspired character designs. The game was brought to life by the O’Neal Brothers: Chris and Johnny, and now they’ve got an even more ambitious project on their hands.
Call to Adventure is a card game that leads you on an epic journey to craft your own hero’s journey and adventure. You can learn more about the project on Kickstarter here, but we were more interested in chatting with Brotherwise Games about this new venture. They were gracious enough to answer some questions from us on the project:
Where did the idea for “Call to Adventure” come from?
In all honesty, Call to Adventure emerged out of a discussion between us about how we might “gamify” Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, and similar, character-driven fantasy books. We adore those books, but there was no game out there that captured the character development that they feature. Games tend to focus on action and big decisions, and Name of the Wind is more about the small things that make up a hero’s life, and how those can have big ramifications. It took a long time, but we finally hit on a game mechanic that felt right — essentially, engine-building in the vein of more abstract games like Splendor. We loved this idea of watching your character grow over time via the experiences they faced. Engine-building was perfect for that.
After the success of Boss Monster, what were some key learns you brought into the design and execution of Call to Adventure?
The main thing we learned was to trust our design instincts. Our games are not for everyone, but they are beloved by the players that play them. We’ve learned to think about our audience and what they want, not what the broader community of gamers wants. The community is too big, too diverse. You’er not going to please everyone. If you liked Boss Monster and Unearth, you’re going to love Call to Adventure.
The art in the game is striking – what can you tell us about the artist and your approach to designing the various cards?
Early on we knew we wanted to use “concept-style art” in the game. Concept art is used to inspire film makers, toy makers, and comic book writers as they create their products. It’s meant to inspire and guide, not to late down a definitive look for something. We wanted art that would let characters lay their own stories on top of it. So we reached out to the best concept artists we could find. We’ve used multiple artists on this game. All of them have film, TV, and toy industry credits. All of them got what we were trying to do and rolled with it. I’m super excited that our art conveys so much with so little.
There’s a lot going on in Call to Adventure – storylines, subplots, romance, revenge. How did you approach building in these mechanics in a way that doesn’t make it feel too “busy”?
Honestly, we looked to the classic tropes of heroic fiction. The lost love. The old mentor. The reluctant hero. While there’s a lot of variety in the cards, most of them have some connection to Joseph Campbell’s ideas of western heroic fiction. We also knew we had to keep the base game flexible and plastic, able to accept multiple expansions and still feel right. We culled a LOT of stuff throughout development, often because it made things too complicated.
The Kickstarter already has an expansion on the works called “The Name of the Wind” – drawing inspiration from Patrick Rothfuss’ notable fantasy series. How did you and Mr. Rothfuss begin this partnership?
Pat is an amazing guy. Not only is he one of the best wordsmiths in the business, and a hell of story teller, he’s also a genuinely great human being. For years we’ve been lucky enough to get to support Worldbuilders, the charity he created that supports Heifer International. We’ve never worked with him directly, but it’s been great to have our stuff featured in the Worldbuilders auctions and web store. When we did finally have a game that we thought could do justice to his world, he was incredibly supportive about it. He took time out of his schedule to (gently) critique early drafts of the game and make them better. It helps that he’s a big gamer as well. He walks the walk in the gaming world. I think it also helps that he knows how big of fans we are, and how focused we are on doing right by his property.
Are there other fantasy authors or properties you’d like to incorporate with Call to Adventure?
So many!! We love our fantasy fiction and we’re reading all the time. We’ve got some other partners in mind, and without giving too much away, we’re actively pursuing those now. One of our goals for the game is to create a space where fantasy fans and gaming fans can intersect at the same table. And we’re not just limited to fantasy. If the game does well, future versions could be set in science fiction settings, or horror. It’s limitless.
The campaign is running for a couple more weeks – after that, what’s your approximate release date?
We hope to have the game in backers’ hands early in November, and the game in stores soon after that. It’s a quick turn around, but we’re moving fast.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Only that we feel particularly blessed to have the community of support we do. We got our start on Kickstarter, and while we’ve tried not to go back to that well too many times, we’re always so impressed at the willingness of gamers to help make a game happen. It’s really quite cool.
Many thanks to Brotherwise Games/the O’Neal brothers for taking time to answer our questions! Look forward to our review of the game once it arrives later this year! You can click the image below to check out the Kickstarter project!