With all the disruption that the COVID-19 virus is causing for families, retailers, and the board game industry, there is a lot of uncertainty about the near future. Because of that, we’ve decided to delay our upcoming releases. First, we’ll be holding off on shipping our party game Stringamajig. Because of all the stay-at-home orders issued by states, counties, and cities, it would be very hard to ensure the game is widely available. We don’t want to frustrate customers or retailers, so we’ll be holding that game back until we know more. The good news is that the game is on its way to our warehouse now, so we can start shipping it out as soon as it makes sense. We’ll be reaching out to retailers and distributors for guidance on the best time to release Stringamajig.
Additionally, we’re postponing the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Castle Panic Deluxe. The original plan was to launch on March 31st, but that game is at a high price point. We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to have to make difficult financial choices when it comes to entertainment in this environment, so we’ll hold off for now. We’ll announce a new launch date once we see things turning around. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on spreading the word about how exciting this game will be once it goes live!
If you want to stay up to date, make sure to follow us on social media (Facebook,Twitter, Instagram) so we can give you the latest news.
Stay safe everybody! We’ll get through this and play some great games together soon!
Trouble putting your thoughts into words? Try putting them into string!
Announcing Stringamajig, the new party game from Fireside Games that mixes the creative challenge of a drawing game with the hilarious antics of charades—with a string. The game hits stores this April, and we couldn’t be more excited!
Here’s how it works
Each player is given 60 seconds to draw a shape with a loop of string, move it around, and interact with it, trying to help other players guess that word and as many other words in the time allotted.
Choose your word by drawing the top card from the deck, which lists 4 numbered words. The word you can choose is indicated by the numbers that are on the back of the card that is now on top of the deck.
Draw your word by using the loop of string to make a shape and then interacting with it while the other players make guesses. Strum that guitar, move the tentacles on your octopus, or spin the rotors on your helicopter! The game really shines with the creative drawings and funny interactions with the string.
Score 1 point for every word that was guessed correctly, and each player scores 1 point for every correct guess they made.
Challenge words score 2 points, but are harder to draw:
2-Player: Make your drawing in the air with another player.
Don’t Look: Draw with your eyes closed.
Forbidden Word: Guessing a certain word costs you a card.
After everyone has had 2 turns as the drawer (or 1 turn in a 7+ player game), the game is over and the player with the most points wins.
Stringamajig is laugh-out-loud fun for 4-10 players, ages 13 and up, plays in 20 minutes, and retails for $19.95. Get this game on your table and see which of your friends is a Stringamagenius.
Ten years ago, we launched Fireside Games with the release of Castle Panic. Back then cooperative games were still a new category, and we weren’t sure how well our tower defense game was going to be received. It didn’t take long to realize Castle Panic had a lot of fans, and they wanted more!
Over the years, we’ve created 3 expansions to keep players on their toes, and one of the questions we get asked most often is “Can I buy all of them at once?” Now, as we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Castle Panic, we are super excited to announce the Castle Panic Big Box coming in July!
For the first time ever, we’re offering Castle Panic, The Wizard’s Tower, The Dark Titan, and Engines of War all in one awesome box. This limited-edition collection includes full versions of all the games as well as 12 promo items. We’re including all the promo cards we’ve created for all the Panic games, as well as all the promo towers originally created as part of International TableTop Day. We’ve even turned a few non-card promos into playable cards. The promo cards include Any Color Hero, Feather, Crossbow, Fickle Fortune, All for One, Agranok Level 6, and Jury Rig. The promo towers included are from 2015 all the way up to the brand-new 2019 tower, each with their own rule.
In addition to the promo items, we’ve revised the rules so now all the games are included in a single, comprehensive rulebook. The new rulebook includes setup guides that make it easy to play with any combination of expansions.
The game box features a plastic insert tray with storage for every piece from every expansion, making it easy to setup the game and get started. Plus, the bottom of the box lid has a handy image showing where every component is stored in the tray to help with putting the game away.
It’s been an amazing 10 years and we hope players are as excited for this great collection as we are. The Castle Panic Big Box makes a great way to complete a game collection or start a new one.
Fireside Games is excited to announce My First Castle Panic, a new preschool version of Castle Panic, the classic tower defense board game. Like its predecessor, My First Castle Panic is a cooperative game in which players work together to defend their castle. However, the game play has been simplified in the preschool version to allow children ages 4 and up to play independently. While Castle Panic has won many awards and is a great family game, younger players can have difficulty participating because of the reading required. My First Castle Panic removes the reading requirement and fosters the development of educational skills, such as identifying colors and shapes, problem solving, and turn taking.
The edge-of-your-seat excitement has been maintained even with the preschool-friendly rules. Monsters follow a single path toward a single, large, eye-catching castle, protected by one wall. Each step toward the castle is identified by a color and a shape. Players hold cards in their hands with cute defenders who also have a color and shape. When a card is played that matches the location of the monster, that monster is captured and thrown in the dungeon. Tension builds as more monsters are placed and move along the path toward the castle. If the castle is destroyed, the players lose. But if it stands when all the monsters are in the dungeon, the players win.
My First Castle Panic features gorgeous art by Cam Kendell and is a great way to introduce children to the fun and challenge of board games. Look for it in stores worldwide March 6, 2019.
We’ve been excitedly anticipating the release of Remnants and happily sharing what we’ve received from the printer. Sadly, we now have to share a disappointing bit of news from the printer. There has been an unforseen shipping delay getting Remnants on the boat, which has caused a ripple effect and pushed the street date to July 25. We’ll have demos and pre-orders available at Origins Game Fair, and we’ll get those copies shipped out as soon as they hit the warehouse. We’ll continue to share bits about Remnants on social media and post the how-to-play video soon, so stay tuned!
Don’t forget, if you buy from us or from retailers with Launch Kits, you’ll get the Giant Scorpion promo card.
Here some early reviews of Remnants to give you a hint of all of the post-apocalyptic fun you’re in for.
We’re also pushing back the street date for Grackles, which will now hit stores September 5, to allow for more time to manufacture the cool bird tokens. We’ll have demos and pre-orders at Origins and Gen Con and will ship those out as soon as possible as well.
The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design has just announced the nominees for the 2018 Origins Awards and we are incredibly excited to say that Hotshots has been nominated in the Family Games category!
It’s an honor to have our game recognized and we couldn’t be more proud of those brave, little, cardboard, firefighting heroes! They’re in some good company too. It turns out several of our games have also been nominated for the Origins Award including: Castle Panic, Bears!, The Wizard’s Tower, and The Dark Titan (which won the fan favorite award in 2016!)
We’ll see how it all works out at the Origins Game Fair coming up in June, and don’t forget, attendees to the show can vote for their Fan Favorite in each category!
Congratulations to all the nominees! You can see all of them in every category here.
Wow, it feels like we were just at Origins, and it’s time for Gen Con! Our plans are coming together smoothly, and we can’t wait to see you all there.
Drop by and hang out with us in booth 1349. We’ll have fun showing you our new games, giving out promos for those games, and offering you some special convention deals. We’ll even have limited quantities of both Hotshots and Kaiju Crush available for sale.
Demos: If you are looking to try out our new games, Hotshots and Kaiju Crush, we can set you up. We’ll also have demos of Here, Kitty, Kitty! and Dastardly Dirigibles, quick games that will keep you going.
Promos: With a demo or purchase of our new games, you can pick up the special River Tile promo for Hotshots and the Oblique-Checkerboard promo card for Kaiju Crush.
Deals: In addition to all of the games in our catalog, we will have bundles, jewelry for Here, Kitty, Kitty!, a special discount bin, and promo specials.
Panic expansion bundle: $45 (includes The Wizard’s Tower, The Dark Titan, and Engines of War)
Small box bundle: $50 (Here, Kitty, Kitty!, Dastardly Dirigibles, and Bears!)
Here, Kitty, Kitty!
Earrings and Necklaces
1 for $15
2 for $25
3 for $30
1 for $15
2+ for $10 each
1 for $5
2+ for $3 each
Events: And if that’s not enough, we’ll have ticketed events with all of the following games in Hall D through Double Exposure. (Thank you, guys!) Players will be given a coupon worth $5 on a purchase of $25 or more.
Hotshots, our cooperative, press-your-luck, firefighting game is back on track! We took some time to revise some components, making them even better, and now we are super excited to announce that Hotshots will be available September 20!
The flame minis came out great, and they really need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Here’s a photo to tide you over for now.
We’ll be running demos at Origins this year, so come check us out at booth #106 to try the game for yourself. In addition we’ll be posting a video close-up, and How-to-Play video soon.
We are so excited to announce that Kaiju Crush is coming to a store near you this November! Tim Armstrong came to us last summer with an intriguing limited grid movement system with public objectives, and our own Justin De Witt thought it would be a blast to see giant monsters using those movements to stomp around a city. And of course, if you have giant monsters stomping around a city, you’ve got to have them fighting. After months of playtesting and iterative design work, we are proud and relieved that the files are off to the printer!
The premise of Kaiju Crush is that giant monsters have descended on the same city to fight for supremacy. On your turn, you’ll choose to use either your own Movement Card or a Shared Movement Card that’s accessible to everyone. Those are the only movement choices you’ll have on your turn. However, the Shared Movement Card will be changing throughout the game. When a player uses their own Movement Card, they swap their card with the shared one.
Using a Movement Card will land your Monster on a new City Tile (crushing it). You’ll pick up that City Tile and put one of your Territory Markers in its place. Both the City Tile and the Territory Marker help you gain points based on the Objective Cards. Some objectives give you points for the number of Territory Markers connected or unconnected, some give points based on how many or few City Tile Groups you claim, some give points for shapes you create on the city grid, and still others give in-game bonuses for the leader in City Tile Groups. So, although your movement is limited, your options are guided by the objectives you’re focusing on.
Then, there’s the fighting. I know, I made you wait 3 paragraphs before talking about the fighting! There are 2 ways to fight: 1) when you crush a building adjacent to another Monster and 2) when you land on a Territory Marker with another Monster. To fight, you’ll draw 5 Territory Markers and look at the underside. There, you will find 5 symbols that represent the way that you are fighting: firebreath, claw, tail, kick, and spikes. These symbols are part of an intransitive combat system, like so.
Each Monster has their own unique combat ability (as well as Special Abilities that change each game). The winner of the best of 5 rounds gets to choose a Combat Victory Token at random, whose value ranges from 1 to 3. If the challenger who landed on a Territory Marker with a Monster wins the battle, that challenger gets to replace the loser’s Territory Marker with their own. Very useful for meeting those objectives and/or preventing an opponent from meeting theirs!
When no Monster can move, the game is over, and the Monster with the most victory points is supreme! We’ve had a blast playtesting this game, and we can’t wait to be able to get out there and play it with you. In the meantime, we’ll be getting up our webpage for the game, posting rules, showing a how-to-play video, and all that good stuff!
Engines of War, the 3rd expansion to Castle Panic, hits stores in just a few weeks! Here’s your chance to check out the rules and prepare yourself for the next siege of your Castle. Learn how to build and fire Catapults, Ballistas, and deploy Spring Traps. You’ll want to learn about your enemy as well so you can better face the Breathtaker and Shaman. Don’t forget to ready your defenses against the Battering Ram, Siege Tower and War Wagon.
It’s all here, so download a copy now and prepare for battle!
Have you wanted to learn how to play our crazy cat collecting game, but only had 3 minutes and 47 seconds to spare? Well you’re in luck! We’ve just posted the official How to Play Here, Kitty, Kitty! video so now you can learn everything you need to know about stealing, er . . . collecting all the cats in the neighborhood in just a few minutes!
022First, the Monsters came crashing out of the Forest hurling Giant Boulders at anything in their path, visiting Plagues on Archers, Knights, and Swordsmen, and banging up against Fortifications and Walls as they rushed to tear down the Castle Panic Towers.
Then, The Wizard’s Tower brought magic, fire, and flying Monsters to mix, and The Dark Titan brought . . . well, the Dark Titan! And his conniving comrades, the Dark Sorceress, the Boom Troll, and Elite Monsters.
Now, Engines of War builds the panic with Monsters rolling back into battle with a Siege Tower, War Wagon, and a Battering Ram. This time, they’re bringing a Shaman, Breathtaker, and Goblin Saboteurs, too. Good thing the Castle defenders have an Engineer on their side to build Catapults, Ballistas, Barricades, Spring Traps, Pits, and Walls.
You’ll have a blast working together to build weapons with Resource Cards that add a new, light economic mechanic to the game. Engines of War can be played with Castle Panic alone or with The Wizard’s Tower and/or The Dark Titan. It plays in an hour, accommodates 1–6 players ages 12 and up, and has an MSRP of $17.95. Look for it in stores this November, and read more about the game here.
The splendiferous day has arrived! Dastardly Dirigibles, our steampunk airship building card game, is now available everywhere!
Professor Phineas Edmund Hornswoggle, famed airship builder, is retiring and you are an engineer competing to inherit the Hornswoggle factory!
Each airship is made of seven cards, each representing a different part of the airship, such as the nose cone or lift engine.
Whenever a player adds a part to their airship, ALL players MUST add the SAME part, even if it means replacing an existing part. The first player to play all seven parts and complete their airship ends the round, but there’s a catch. Players only score the suit they used the most in building their airship!
Normally when a new ship is launched it’s tradition to break a bottle of champagne over the bow of the vessel. As much as we’d love to celebrate in that way, nobody likes a wet, sticky card game. Instead we encourage you to visit your local game store or head over to our shop and pick up a copy. And right now, if you get your game from our online shop, or a participating retail store, you’ll get the exclusive Smoke Bomb promo card free with your purchase!
So strap on your goggles and start twirling your moustache, it’s time to become the master of those Dastardly Dirigibles!
Origins Game Fair was last week and it was a blast! We had a booth in the Main Exhibit Hall and ran demos of Here, Kitty, Kitty!, Dastardly Dirigibles (releasing July 6), and Star TrekTMPanic® (available now!). Our booth was so busy and we got to see so many familiar faces and make some new friends.
We had the designer of Here, Kitty, Kitty! in the booth playing with attendees and the artist, Tony Steele, was back in the art area drawing cats on boxes for anyone who picked up a copy and asked nicely.
Star TrekTMPanic® received lots of attention and we had demo after demo of excited gamers devouring the latest variation in the Panic Line.
Saturday of the show happened to coincide with International Panic Day and it was fun to see Social Media explode with posts from Friendly Local Game Stores around the country hosting events in-store to celebrate the day, while we played the latest variation with attendees at the show.
The biggest thrill of the show was at the Origins Awards ceremony Saturday night when it was revealed The Dark Titan, the second expansion to Castle Panic®, was the winner of the Fan Favorite award for the Gaming Accessory category! Thanks fans!
Anne-Marie De Witt, our CEO, accepted the award on behalf of Fireside Games because Justin De Witt, the designer and Chief Creative Officer for the company, was back at home in Texas working on the THIRD expansion. You can expect more news on that game to be coming VERY SOON!
Castle Panic and the first expansion, The Wizard’s Tower, were both Origins Awards Nominees in their respective release years, so you know the whole line is good. Fans really love the toughness of Agranok in The Dark Titan and we appreciate all the support and dedication to this line you, the fans, bring every time you see us at a show or a local game store.
Thanks to all of you for making Origins Game Fair 2016 such a success and so much fun. We’ll see you there next year. And remember… Just PANIC and Play Games!
Have you been considering picking up the Panic Line? Want to try all the different variations for the unique experiences they provide, but don’t know which one to start with? Well, we’ve got you covered with the special Panic Line bundle coming June 18!
The Panic Line Bundle will include one copy of each of the Panic Line variations currently available from Fireside Games: Castle Panic®, Dead Panic®, and Munchkin®Panic®.* Each of these variations offers a different set of objectives and gameplay twists for a variety of game play experiences each time you sit down at the game table.
As a special bonus to this bundle (which is already being offered at a great value of $99.95 MSRP for all three games), each game comes with an EXCLUSIVE promo piece only available in this bundle!
You can get the “Laser Sight” for Dead Panic®, the “Potion of Mwahahahaha” for Munchkin®Panic®, and the special “Promo Tower” for Castle Panic® that was only available in 2015 as part of TableTop Day!
These bundles will be available starting on June 18 to help celebrate International Panic Day and will only be available through brick and mortar retail game stores. Let your Friendly Local Game Store know you want one so they can put in their orders today!
A little Panic can be a good thing, and A LOT of Panic can be a GREAT thing… when it comes to games, that is!
50 years ago, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise took us on voyages to strange new worlds. This summer the latest variation in the Panic line, Star Trek Panic, will beam down to your game table to continue the adventure. Read the entire behind-the-scenes story of how the game was created, straight from the designer, Justin De Witt.
Growing up, I was a huge Star Trek fan. I had a model of the original Enterprise and the Galileo shuttle hanging from the ceiling in my room. As a kid, I remember dragging the big chair to the middle of the living room, right in front of the TV, so I could watch the original series (in syndication by then) from my own “Captain’s chair.” I have an (almost) complete set of Micro Machine spaceships from every series, and a well-worn Technical Manual from The Next Generation. I was a Trekkie before they were called “Trekkers,” so it’s both amazing and a little surreal that I’ve been given this chance to work on a piece of Star Trek history.
The project has its roots at GenCon 2014 when Anne-Marie met with Maggie Matthews, the Vice President of Licensing at USAopoly. In addition to their original games like Telestrations, USAopoly is famous for creating licensed versions of everything from Monopoly and Risk to Yahtzee. The year before, USAopoly had licensed Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games and combined it with the Adventure Time license from Cartoon Network. Maggie and Anne-Marie talked about what it was like working with Steve Jackson Games (great!) and compared stories about the process of licensing the games. Munchkin Adventure Time had been a great success. They were looking to combine even more hobby games with some of the licenses they had, and we agreed it might be interesting to work together in the future.
Later that year at BGGCon, Anne-Marie and I were being interviewed about Munchkin Panic in a quiet room away from the crowds. It was a common space set aside just for exhibitors, and at that time there were just a few other publishers in there. After we wrapped things up, we struck up a conversation with Andrew Wolf, the Project Manager for New Business at USAopoly, who had overheard the interview. As we talked with Andrew over dinner, he asked if we would be open to a similar arrangement for Castle Panic with one of their licenses. We agreed we might be, but whatever the license was, it would have to make sense for the game. While I knew we could be flexible with a lot of the mechanics, the Panic line’s core gameplay is about surviving a siege and fighting off attackers. I would want to make sure that whatever we paired it with was a good fit for both the gameplay and whatever theme the license brought. Andrew agreed, and we decided that he would take this info back to their office and see what they could work out.
Not too long after GenCon, we heard from Maggie that their team was excited to work on a Castle Panic variation, and they already had some ideas of licenses that would make good pairings. One of the first questions we were asked was if we would be okay using photos instead of illustrations in the new game? We were, but that really sent our minds buzzing. What could it be? What license would only use photos? We had a lot of fun playing the “what if?” game in our office, and it went to some crazy places. A few weeks later, Anne-Marie met with Maggie and Luke Byers, head of Creative Development for USAopoly, at New York Toy Fair, and they asked, “How does Star Trek Panic sound to you?” It sounded unbelievable, but somehow Anne-Marie was able to contain any squeeing and assured them we were interested. What really sealed the deal was when we learned that because 2016 was going to be the 50th anniversary of the original series, CBS wanted this game to be set in that timeline. That meant we were going to get the chance to retell the stories of Kirk, Spock, and the whole crew in a new medium.
One key detail was that even though USAopoly would manufacture and publish the game, we weren’t going to be content to have this be just a reskin of Castle Panic. To that end, it was determined that I would do the initial concept and design, pushing the envelope of what we’ve done with Panic games in the past while playing on the strengths of what we could do with this license. Andrew and I would take that initial design and refine it before he finalized the design work to create the finished game. It couldn’t have been a better arrangement.
Star Trek Panic—Where No Panic Has Gone Before
As Anne-Marie started negotiating the details of the contract, I started brainstorming ideas for what the game could be. The first step? Get reacquainted with an old friend. Part of my job for the next few weeks was to watch every episode of the original series. (I know. It’s a hard life.) I camped out on the couch taking copious notes as I binged on the entire series start to finish and running with every wild idea they inspired. It was a hoot to go back and see all the classic adventures again. I have to say that overall, it’s still an amazing achievement. The good episodes are really good, and the themes and messages of that 50-year-old show are still very relevant today.
As I made my notes, I had lots of inspiration on how I would convert the Panic mechanics to fit the world of Star Trek. I really wanted to capture as much of the Star Trek feel as I could, so I thought about different core game ideas. Maybe the center of the board would be a planet the players were protecting and the Enterprise could be a token that was moved around the board, similar to the Cavalier in The Dark Titan? Maybe there could be a space station in the center that warded off attacks, like Deep Space Nine? Cool, but that’s the wrong version of Star Trek . . . No, it really made sense to make the center the one thing Kirk and the crew always wanted to protect the most, their home, the Enterprise.
Converting walls to shields made sense, and treating hull sections of the Enterprise as towers followed naturally, but I wasn’t sure how we would show damage to the ship. We couldn’t just take chunks off without it being weird. What would happen if the only piece left was an engine pylon? That just wouldn’t make sense. I liked the idea of possibly showing a damaged ship underneath and covering it up with shiny, new ship pieces. That way when you removed a ship section, you would leave the banged up, burned out section in its place. I wasn’t sure if that would be done with just artwork on the board, but it would be really cool if we could make some kind of 3D model of the Enterprise! The downside was that it might make it a little difficult to handle having to load up the model with “good” pieces as part of setup. As part of my playtesting, I ended up building a prototype that showed a complete Enterprise and creating tokens that were placed on top of the sections, covering them up to indicate when a section was destroyed.
When it came to damage, I also wanted to expand the Brick and Mortar idea from Castle Panic and turn it into a system that would actually let players repair the Enterprise. This was kind of a big deal since that’s essentially the same thing as letting players rebuild towers in Castle Panic. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work and I knew it was going to need balancing, but considering how many times Scotty saved the day at the last minute with a quick bit of repair work, I knew it needed to be in the game.
I was starting to create a pretty big list of ideas I could put into this game, and I knew that not everything was going to make the final cut. However, there were some concepts that I felt were pretty much a sure thing. The enemies would be Klingon, Romulan, and Tholian spaceships. These enemies wouldn’t just approach the Enterprise harmlessly like they do in Castle Panic, I wanted them to shoot, doing damage as they got closer. After all, what’s space combat without some pew-pew? I wanted some ships to be able to cloak, making them temporarily invisible. I wanted to include the idea of boarding parties. (There were always troublemakers getting on board the ship!) I knew I wanted to have the crew be actual characters in the game. Players would get to pick who they wanted to be, and each character would bring their own skills to the game that related to their area of expertise on the show. That’s an idea I’ve been waiting to introduce to Castle Panic for a while now, and I knew it would work great here.
One of the biggest additions I knew had to be in the game was events that were based on episodes of the show. I wanted the players to be terrorized by NOMAD, face off against the Doomsday Machine, and deal with everything from transporter accidents to rapid aging diseases. The original idea for implementing this was split between Mission cards that would be the victory conditions for the game, and Event cards that players would draw at different times and would present challenges that the players would have to overcome together. (These eventually were combined into the Mission cards that you see in the final game.) These events would have to be dealt with in addition to surviving the waves of enemies that the game would throw at the players, so while they needed to be somewhat challenging, they would have to be balanced out so the game didn’t feel overwhelming. A lot of the episodes dealt with the crew having some kind of countdown they were working against, and I wanted to reflect that with a timer that provided a time crunch to some of the missions.
Experimenting with missions led to another new mechanic I wanted to introduce called “Command Points.” Some of the most powerful cards in the game would feature the same Division icons the characters wore on their shirts. Cards with these Command Points would act as a currency the players would need to pay in order to complete some of the missions. The cost would be higher than any 1 player could pay on their own, so the team would really have to work together toward the common goal. The catch was that a player could either use the card for its powerful ability or spend it toward completing the mission, but not both!
As I spent a few months turning rough ideas into playable concepts, there were a few ideas that ended up being dropped from the game. I had really wanted to include planets and away teams, where players would beam down for a separate mini-game that would have generated resources. Scotty always seemed to be dealing with equipment that broke down right when the crew needed it, and I had created a system that would gum up players’ hands with Malfunction cards that had to be repaired to simulate that engineering challenge. I’d even experimented with the idea of the characters being injured and losing abilities until they could be healed in the Sick Bay. As fun as these ideas were, the added complexity didn’t fit with the simpler goal for this game so they had to be cut. We’ve talked about including them as expansions so who knows, they may return!
Ahead Warp Factor One
Before long we arranged to fly out to California and meet with USAopoly for our kickoff meeting. I spent the days before the meeting turning my pages of notes into a readable design document before we packed up and headed out. Meeting the crew from USAopoly was great. They even had a fantastic Star Trek Panic welcome banner on display right when we walked in the door! We met with Maggie, Andrew, Luke, and the rest of the staff, got a tour of their very cool office, and then got down to some very intense days of work. The first day we covered everything from contracts and production schedules to going over all the various Panic games with a fine-tooth comb. We dove into my design document which, while it was stuffed with a ton of ideas, was still very much a work in progress.
Andrew and I broke out into our own design meeting along with Rick Hutchinson, the Senior Creative Designer at USAopoly, and we started really tearing into the game. Ideas flew fast and furious as concepts were refined, edited, and refined again. It was an amazing day and a half, and some of the most fun I’ve had while still getting paid.
One of the coolest things we figured out was how to make the transition away from the castle and walls setup to a 3-dimensional Enterprise model! Inspired by an idea from another game USAopoly was working on, it involved die cut chipboard pieces that are put together via tabs and slots to build the classic hull, saucer section, and nacelles of the famous ship. This would allow damage tokens to hang off of the ship the way the fire tokens work in The Wizard’s Tower. Now instead of just being a static pile of towers and walls in the middle of the board, the Enterprise would be built on a base that the shields were attached to and the whole thing could now be rotated as one piece to its facing.
Having the model of the Enterprise on its own movable base let us run wild with the idea of maneuvering the ship. We modified the ring and arc arrangement to be more like Dead Panic, using 3 rings instead of 4 (removing what would have been the Forest ring). The next big change was that we removed the use of colors. The Enterprise is aligned on the board so that its front faces 2 arcs, each side aligns with 1 arc, and its rear faces 2 arcs. We changed the Archer, Knight, and Swordsman cards to Phasers of Long, Medium, and Short range, limited each one to 1 particular facing of Front, Side, or Rear. Now, instead of playing cards to hit enemies anywhere you wanted to, the hit cards became directional, based on the facing of the Enterprise. The Phaser cards are not color-specific as Hit cards are in Castle Panic, and only let you hit a target that matches both the range and facing. Finally, we gave the players the ability to rotate the Enterprise one arc clockwise or counter-clockwise during their turn, while they were playing cards. This meant the players might be able to attack a target they would otherwise be unable to hit after they rotated the ship to change its facing. We were actually restricting the use of the cards, but giving the players even more tactical flexibility by maneuvering the ship.
We applied this idea of maneuvering to tokens outside the ship for the concept of moving “forward.” Obviously, the Enterprise couldn’t actually move on the board, so instead when players maneuver forward it brings all tokens in the 2 front arcs one ring closer to the ship. Tokens to the side and rear were unaffected. While it may not have been completely accurate from a physics point of view, it worked really well and allowed us to include maneuvering as a fun requirement for some of the missions.
When the dust settled we had a pretty good idea of what the game would be and how it might play. We said our goodbyes, and I took this new version of the game home to make some adjustments and start playtesting to see what worked and what didn’t. Within a few days, Rick had created a mockup of the 3D Enterprise that was nothing short of amazing, and they shipped me a version of it to include in my playtesting. I can’t say I didn’t run around the house with it making spaceship noises, but you try not playing with this thing!
The mission cards now became the focus of the game and how players would win or lose. I knew we weren’t going to keep the same end game condition as Castle Panic, where finishing off the last enemy ends the game. Instead it was going to focus on the famous “5-year mission” of the original show. I had played with idea of having the game last for 5 “years” with each year being a certain amount of turns, but that didn’t feel right. I experimented with a point tracker and even making the missions worth different amount of points. In the end though, simpler was better and we decided to have the goal be to complete 5 missions before the Enterprise was destroyed. At first, mission cards were drawn when certain tokens were encountered, but because of how unpredictable the token draw can be, it was cleaner to have mission cards drawn as part of a turn, so that players were always facing a mission and never waiting for one.
As I continued testing and having phone meetings with Andrew, the core ideas became more refined. Enemy ships fire after moving, damaging the Enterprise from a distance, adding damage tokens to shields and hull pieces before eventually destroying them. The ability to repair the ship evolved into a 3-way system involving Tritanium and Dilithium cards. Playing a Tritanium card on its own removed a damage token from the hull, where as playing a lone Dilithium card would remove a damage token from a shield. Play them both together however, and a player could rebuild a shield or hull section that had been destroyed. While this was a powerful (and incredibly satisfying) ability for the players, they would need it as the Enterprise is constantly taking damage from alien attackers.
Enemy ships that reached the Enterprise would become Boarders and cause the players to eject cards from the game permanently. The Security Teams found their use in fighting off these intruders. When an enemy ship becomes a Boarder, any player can play Security Team cards from their hand to reduce the amount of cards lost to Boarders. These Security Team cards are discarded in an homage to the famous red-shirted crewmen from the original show. It’s a fun way to work together, but it involves balancing the cards in your hand with the immediate and long-term threats on the board.
The Final Frontier
Within a few months I had a version of the game that was playable and felt very thematic. There were still a lot of details that needed to be worked on and a great deal of balancing, but at this point, I was ready to hand the game off to USAopoly. As progress continued, Andrew and I had multiple meetings where we would compare notes, discuss trouble spots, and work on solutions. The biggest challenges were in balancing the missions so that they were tough, but not too tough, and then refining the various methods used to complete these missions. We ended up including a timed element with every mission and even removing a few missions entirely from the game when they were too complex or unclear.
The Command Point mechanic was renamed Division Credits and we adjusted the distribution of these credits throughout the deck to better fit the desired tension. Character abilities went through several evolutions as we fine-tuned their effects on gameplay and ensured they reflect the character they belong to. Sulu, for example, can maneuver the Enterprise twice on his turn, whereas the other characters may only make one maneuver.
The cloaking ability of enemy ships took a lot of tweaking as well. It went through many incarnations, eventually settling on a system by which cloaked ship tokens will alternate their movement phases between cloaking (flipping over to be upside down, revealing just a starfield) and attacking. Players can’t attack a ship when it’s cloaked, but they can see where it is. The catch is that when a ship uncloaks, it’s movement is determined by a die roll and it immediately attacks. This means the players will only have a general idea of where a cloaked ship will appear and attack them from. It adds a great sense of tension and uncertainty, just like in the famous “Balance of Terror” episode.
Andrew and the USAopoly team continued to playtest and refine the game. We had many fun phone conversations about tension and theme, modifying smaller and smaller elements as the game settled into its final incarnation. After a few months, I had switched from design work to reviewing artwork and components. Using stills from the show wherever they could, USAopoly crafted a really great-looking game that is drenched in the look and feel of the original Star Trek.
In the end, I’m incredibly happy with the game we’ve created. As a fan of Star Trek, it’s important to me that this game stand on its own and remain true to what made the show such a classic. I think we created something enjoyable by fans of both licenses. If you’re a fan of Castle Panic, you’ll find an entirely new way to challenge yourself that will still have familiar elements. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ll reconnect with the original crew in an exciting, engaging way that you’ve never done before. Good luck to you all as you explore the Final Frontier. Live long and prosper!
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