A new card game called Battle for the Universe is releasing on Kickstarter, January 10th. The game is designed by comic book artist Jonny Hinkle and Billy Miller. I've been playtesting the game over the last few weeks, so expect a preview from PopWrapped soon. In the meantime, I had a brief chat with Jonny Hinkle to introduce you to the game.
PopWrapped: Tell us about yourself and your background with comics and card games.
Jonny Hinkle: Well, I graduated with a degree in Sequential Art (Comics) from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I then developed various networking acquaintances in the comic industry, as well as attempted to self-publish.
I submitted written work to the TopCow 2013 Talent Hunt and was selected as a Runner Up. TopCow published a short comic I wrote for Artifacts: Lost Tales.
I have also played many competitive games, including Magic the Gathering, Legend of the Five Rings, Heroclix, Doomtown, and more.
Eventually, I found a creative partner to work on digital paintings and began doing illustration work for various games, including Doomtown Reloaded, Epic, Universal Fighting System, and others.
I figure, hey, I can do artwork for games. I enjoy games. So why can't I make a game? So my co-creator Billy Miller and I combined our resources -- and vast comic characters from all of the different stories we had planned to create as comics -- and developed those into a card game.
PW: Did working on games like Doomtown for AEG teach you anything about designing a card game?
JH: Not particularly. I already had experiencing playing card games for quite some time. Legend of the Five Rings actually inspired me to want to create a story-driven card game that was impacted by the players, and that is where the concept of story prizes ultimately came from -- [it] was my love for that game!
PW: Can you give us a quick overview of what Battle for the Universe is about?
JH: Battle for the Universe is a competitive, two-player card game, where players construct decks to prove they lead the ultimate super-powered team in Slab City! The players choose Heroes, Villains, or anything in between, along with locations where they can square off to display their prowess or save the day.
Slab City Beatdown is the core set for Battle for the Universe, introducing players to the world in which the characters interact. In the game, players will create a unit of 54 cards. They will choose a Base, which will detail the team the player has chosen. They will choose an Objective, which tells them if they are heroic or villainous. It also determines the goal which they need to accomplish to win the game. They will create a 40-card play deck, with characters, objects, and one-shot single use action cards. Lastly, they will choose a 12-card Location deck to represent where the epic battles in Slab City will take place.
Battle for the Universe has multiple paths to victory, and not all involve killing your opponent. Some players may opt to rescue civilians. Others may try to amass wealth or simply beat and bring opposing characters to justice. All of these goals are possible, and more!
Battle For The Universe: Slab City Beatdown currently has four Pre-Constructed decks, and there are extra cards so that you can make your most interesting teams. (Including the stretch goals and promo cards, this will be 300+ total cards!)
PW: So BftU can be played with suggested pre-constructed decks, but gets more advanced once a player learns the ropes. Can you explain the customization elements of the game and how the extra cards are obtained?
JH: For Kickstarter, BftU is releasing in an expandable card game format, meaning, rather than having to buy multiple packs to obtain the "good" cards, the players who back us on Kickstarter will be given the opportunity to buy a complete core set, with all of the cards available to them.
That way, they can have the creativity to actually create any theme or deck they wish. The game focuses heavily on player creativity, in that YOU construct your decks, YOU choose how you play the game. We provide the pre-constructed decks to give you an easy way to start out! After that it is up to you on how you play. Do you farm resources? Do you maximize your battle capability? Do you rush the enemy base? All of that is up to how you make your deck!
Obviously, the Starter decks will showcase the "basic" elements to each team, but the whole idea here is to allow players to be creative and competitive, and, when they buy the core set, they can play with whatever deck ideas they want.
PW: How long has BftU been in development?
JH: The world, the universe, and the characters have been in development for 10 years or more. Due to the characters being comic creations of my creative partner and me. The game itself has been in hard development for about two years.
PW: What inspired you to make a card game that takes place inside a comic?
JH: I am a comic artist and writer, and an avid tabletop game player ... mixing the two was the next logical step.
PW: As the designer, you've played Battle for the Universe more than anyone. What is your favorite aspect or mechanism in the game?
JH: The most unique element in our game is the Location aspect to the game, which randomizes the city blocks in which the characters actually interact. Each game is different, and Slab City is always changing.
Though, personally, I also thoroughly enjoy the fact that I can play as the characters I have been developing for so long and see insane circumstances that transform the story with each game.
PW: It must be fun coming up with all the different characters and abilities for the game, but designing a game isn't all fun and games. For other game designers out there, what challenges did you face in the process of creating BftU?
JH: Money ... money is the biggest issue with creating a game. Without money, I haven't been able to complete the art, and publishing companies want to see finished games before publishing a game.
That is why we are initially self-publishing on Kickstarter, so that we can get the game art paid for and into the hands of players all over the world.
PW: Going into your Kickstarter campaign on January 10th, what still needs to be done? Have you selected manufacturers? Is the game in its final revision, or will there be more playtesting?
JH: The manufacturer and fulfillment companies have been considered, though obviously that could change if we are offered better deals and better quality. But, the companies we have chosen to work with so far have been great.
There is always more playtesting, but, for the most part, the game is completely done, save for testing the most insane rulings, text, and combos.
Huge thanks to Jonny for his time and getting PopWrapped a copy of Battle for the Universe. Keep an eye out for our preview and for BftU's launch on Kickstarter January 10th! For more BftU content and updates, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and BoardGameGeek.
Update as of July 4th, 2017: Battle for the Universe has had further development and is launching on Kickstarter on July 11th. Since my initial preview, they have addressed the card clutter issue and completely revamped how battles work. Check out the new how to play graphics on their campaign page.