Yet another digital card game? Not a chance! Donald Whiteford, the Managing Director of Nomad Games, joins us for a Smash Up interview, explaining what makes the CCG unique and exciting, and what to expect from a game that allows you to mix Pirates, Zombies, Dinosaurs and all sorts of crazy factions.
Hello, and thank you for your time in answering our questions! Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: Can you give us a brief rundown of what Smash Up is?
Smash Up, designed by Paul Peterson, is a Shufflebuilding game from Alderac Entertainment Group. It’s a pretty unique style of card game as we understand it. In Smash Up players take two factions, such as pirates, ninja, robots, zombies, and more, and combine their decks into a battle deck! Each faction also has it’s own base, which is what you fight over and these too impact the game play. Sometimes, being in second place actually scores more, so it gets very tactical on that level too. Each faction has its own traits and abilities and these influence the way you play the game.
Can you give us a little more detail on the types of cards that are in play?
There are ‘Minions’, which are the characters that belong to a faction; there are ‘Actions’ that allow modification of a situation, and there are ‘Special Cards’ that may be played out of turn and add an element of real surprise to the game. The bases themselves, which determine the points available, have their own rules.
What can you tell us about the eight factions in the base game? What sorts of strategies do they all bring?
The Smash Up core game features 8 distinct factions that you can mix and match to defeat your opponents. Pirates move cards around the table keeping your opponents unbalanced; Ninjas strike from the shadows and steal victories from under enemies noses; Zombies act like the undead and refuse to stay in the discard pile, continually scraping back to the fight; Robots churn themselves off the factory line and try to take over; Dinosaurs armed with lasers bring heavy power to the fight, dwarfing their opposition; Wizards use their magic to get whatever cards you may need at the time; Tricksters use their mischievous nature to make life extremely difficult for opponents; Aliens change the very nature of the battle, moving enemies about by abduction and other means, and manipulating the Base cards that you are fighting over.
Can you give us a brief idea of how pass-to-play will work?
It will work rather like Talisman. You end your turn and pass to the next player. We are still resolving how ‘Special Cards’ will be played in this scenario, however.
How many game modes will be available at launch?
There will be single player versus AI and multiplayer. Both will allow competition with up to four players in total. AI will be adjustable to give a learning curve. Voice chat will be possible in online play.
How fast do matches typically resolve? Do you see this game as being a quick-hit fun title, a long-form strategy game or somewhere in the middle?
It’s versatile: you can do quick ‘bite sized’ games in just fifteen minutes, or longer sessions depending on how many players you involve and the number of selected game rounds.
Have you watched a lot of matches play out? Do you see a typical combination hitting the field or a meta building around the game and if you do, what sorts of ways do you try to encourage people to combine different factions?
Right now we have just a few factions working but you can see the strengths and weaknesses of different combinations, just as you will with the physical game. Obviously we want to encourage people to try different combos. When playing online, you will be able to see opponents using factions that you may not own already, so there is an incentive to try different combinations yourself. We’ll also look at ways of rewarding players that collect all the factions.
You have a lot of CCG experience with Talisman. How much will that experience inform your release of Smash Up? Were there any lessons you learned with Talisman that will help get Smash Up out to players?
Owners of card and board games definitely have preferred places to gather and discuss their hobby, both in the physical and digital world. We are connected to both, but we are always discovering new places. With Talisman, working with the brand owner, Games Workshop, has led to significant coverage. We will do the same with AEG and cross-promote the different versions.
What made you consider bringing Smash Up to digital release? Was there a demand from players or did the team think “Know what, this would be fun online”?
Talisman is a popular, long-established game with a dedicated fan base. In comparison, Smash-Up is a popular and very young game and we wanted to broaden the demographic that we appeal to. Our plan is to bring a wide range of excellent board and card games to the digital space and Smash Up definitely appealed to us. It’s colorful, crazy and gets people’s competitive dander up..
The digital card game market seems to be slowly building up, though most only are familiar with Hearthstone. What do you think will make Smash Up stand apart and stand out?
Hearthstone’s entry point was the World of Warcraft fan base. Magic is also in the digital domain of course and that is based on a physical property. The key is to start out by serving an existing community, surprising them and then growing the fan base. We have around a half million players engaged with Talisman across all platforms, so we are addressing our own existing customers plus those who have already bought into Smash Up. We will stand out in those circles and some Talisman customers may also want to try it out. We know that Smash Up fans are interested in a digital version. Two things will make us stand apart: a good game execution and enthusiastic players.
You’re releasing on iOS and Android. Do you think this game will be portable enough for mobile phones, or do you feel that tablets are the best experience for Smash Up?
Talisman works on phones, which is really pushing the boundaries of content and size. Smash Up is, relatively speaking, more compact and will work fine on everything from phones upwards.
What ways do you see this game expanding? What new factions or new cards will be the first to come as DLC?
Extra factions and bases of course. We will also consider other game modes. We’re holding off on announcing the extra factions to see what the players think.
What will be your business model? What DLC do you plan on having at launch, if any?
Similar to Talisman, which we are creating expansions for all the time. We look at Smash Up in its entirety with the many extra factions. DLC will come after launch and we start to understand how folk are enjoying the game.
What do you anticipate for this game’s reception? Are you planning on keeping this a casual, fun-for-all game, do you want to court a competitive fan base or do you think Smash Up can attract both?
Smash Up is a game that is easy to learn, but can get very deep once you start to understand how the cards interact. It can indeed be played on all levels, although a dedicated community can really drive development of the game. It would be great if we can encourage tournament play for example and that’s something we’ll keep an eye on.
Final words: What do you say to someone who has never played a digital card game before? What will make that person want to give Smash Up a try?
Digital versions are a great way to try out a board or card game. They are less expensive and they introduce you to the rules in an easy way. Often, a player who likes the digital game will buy the physical version, which they then play with friends. A digital version of a game takes care of several things: it explains and sticks to the rules; it takes care of all the housekeeping; it lets you play on your own or online in situations where you can’t get folk around to play the tabletop version; it gives you a practise space to get really good at a game.
Thank you very much for your time, and best of luck with the game’s release!
Many thanks from Nomad Games!Related: Alderac Entertainment Group, Card Game, CCG, Interview, Nomad Games, Smash Up