Last weekend myself and Dave went to Sarge’s comics (www.sargescomics.com) of New London CT for an upcoming spot in a future issue. It’s true that many of us at Senpai enjoy comics as well as anime/manga, and going to a place like Sarge’s is a real treat. Granted, it was mostly for business this time, but that still didn’t stop me from leaving with a arm-load of new and old graphic novels. Indeed, we highly recommend Sarge’s for their kind and knowledgeable staff, and enjoy seeing them at local conventions.
While we were at the store and taking pictures, we had the pleasure of speaking with Eriberto Rodriguez, an independent game designer and founder of Nightstalker Games. (www.nightstalkergames.com)
Mr. Rodgriquez was kind enough to answer all of our questions as we looked at some of his games. Having a fondness for nature/animals, my attention was immediately drawn towards “Wild Pursuit.”
As stated on the site, “Wild Pursuit is a race around the world to capture some of the wildest animals on the planet. Players compete to capture and tag different kinds of animals so that scientists can track their movements and protect their natural habitats. But it won’t be easy. You must have the right tools to capture them as well as the right gear to navigate the treacherous terrain. But be careful — these animals are wild and may fight back! As you play you’ll learn interesting facts about the animals and tools used to safely capture them. It’s a fun and sometimes dangerous strategy game for the whole family!”
As Mr. Rodriguez was explaining this game to me I began to wonder how he was able streamline such a complicated premise into a simple yet involved game. Indeed, after a few sessions playing with D&D, Munchkin, and MTG I’ve often daydreamed about making my own game, but I always get hung up on how to simplify my idea into a static set of easy-to-learn rules. Even those at the top of the gaming-pyramid struggle with this from time to time, just look at the amount of errata involved in playing older Magic the Gathering cards. My mind spun with possible game-ruining scenarios as I wondered how one could easily incorporate unpredictable animal behavior, gear selection, terrain movement, etc into a simple pick-up-and-play formula.
I expressed my concerns to him, and he explained that he too struggles with “simplifying” his ideas into an easy-to-learn format. He described how often he would begin with a very broad idea, and go with it. After play-testing over and over again, and being receptive to feedback, he would edit his idea until it started to become pure fun for those playing it. As he explained it, his method of game-creation sounded simple but, by the depth of his games, it was more than apparent that a great deal of time, energy, dedication, and patience went into each and every single one of them.
I then quickly glanced at the rule packet for “Wild Pursuit” and was surprised how brief and clear the instructions were; all of my fears about the complexity of the game quickly faded. However the premise was entirely unique and the game itself is not linear and is structured to allow a variety of different strategies and outcomes. To take a such a seemingly complicated premise, and explain it in such a clear manner and end up with a deep and enjoyable product, is definitely the work of a very talented individual.
And did I mention this was his FIRST game? Not bad at all for a first product!
Mr. Rodriguez also had three other games on display: Monster Kids, Dragon Blast, and Auction Junktion.
Mr. Rodriguez explained that the idea behind Monster Kids is simple: super-powered kids fighting monsters. However it allows for Player vs Player and Cooperative play against a powered up monster. It is a favorite for kids as the pace of the game is quick and filled with action. I also liked how the game implicitly teaches the value of teamwork. It does not force players to team-up, as it can be played as “every kid for himself!” However when a super-powered monster appears, the game allows players to rely on each-other for survival.
Next to Monster Kids was Auction Junktion which, like Monster Kids, is primarily played with cards.
However the similarities between the two games ends there. Instead of fighting, players use bluffing, bargaining, and underhanded dealing to end up with the most treasure/least junk. This would often entail lying to other players about the value of a face-down card, or perhaps bluffing them by simply telling them the face value. What’s so special about this game is that every time players sit down to play it, it is a different experience due to the amount of choices it allows the players. It is a game of cunning, deceit, greed and pure fun.
Lastly there was Dragon Blast – “a super-powered Martial Arts card game AND board game.”
This hybrid game actually has a bit of flavor behind it, as Mr. Rodriguez has created a story around each of its characters. You can read the basic flavor texts and get a sense for this unique game here. The emphasis here is high-powered strategic Martial Arts combat. As with Monster Kids, the game is open to free-for-all and cooperative play. Also, Mr. Rodriguez has been and continues to create supplemental material for this game to, not only keep the experience fresh, but to also expand on the story behind it.
Again, check out the official site for more info on these games. There’s plenty of other material on the site including videos, reviews, and fiction. Indeed, Nightstalker Games is a genuine hotbed of creativity and highly recommended for those wanting something a little different to play with friends on game-night. Also feel free to follow them on Facebook!