Interview: Ether Wars Kickstarter

I recently had the opportunity to talk to the creators behind Ether Wars, a new Board Game on Kickstarter from Ether Dev.

  1. Tell us a bit about you! Why board games?

We are two guys from León, a small city in the North of Spain. León is an old city with a high unemployment rate and the youth ones are leaving constantly to live on the capitals or even further. Besides of this Leon is the capital of an old kingdom and cradle of the parliamentary governments in Europe, and also a very beautiful city.

After coming back from finishing our studies we decided to start building a dream, creating a small game studio. It’s a bit strange story how we re-started with board games. We played more videogames during years, but we rediscovered this world after coming back to our city and started to understand again the magic of playing face to face and being the players the ones that interiorize the rules, and not a machine.

Because of this, we want to translate our videogame experiences to such media, creating something different and fresh, and disrupting a bit in the board games development.

  1. Tell me about Ether Wars. What games is it similar to?

Ether Wars take a lot of inspiration of RTS videogames like StarCraft, Command and Conquer, etc. and also MOBAS like LoL. We are not saying is the same on a board, it isn’t. Ether Wars is a board game that take this as inspiration and mixes elements and mechanics from a lot of board games. To get a better idea mix elements from Euro Games of worker placement and resource management like Stone Age or Agricola, placement tactics form Risk or Chess, Card games like Magic the gathering or Poker, or even the asymmetric play stile of Chaos in the old World. Mixing what we wanted of them and creating a great game experience was a tough job but the result is something unique in the market, its Ether Wars.

  1. What was your inspiration?

As said before it’s a true mix of lots of games inspiration. But there is two other important pillars. First, the people that played during a year, probably more than 400 people of all ages, genres and game experiences. Second, psychology studies and techniques to have always in mind the fun and the engagement of the experience we are were creating. They give us a lot of inspiration to build Ether Wars.

  1. What sort of awards are you offering?

First important thing is that it’s our first Kickstarter. Because of that, we tried to have the less issues possible with the logistics and shipping aspects of the campaign, offering a similar pack to all our backers, the game, but with a very competitive price, and some exclusive digital content for those that want to help a bit more. The stretch goals also unlock everything to everyone. It’s an exclusive Kickstarter Version so it’s exclusive for everyone that support now and not in a shop. Here you have your exclusiveness 😉

  1. 51 custom dice!? I’m drooling. What do the different dice do? 

One of the main and differential elements of Ether Wars is that in the game the troops and characters are dice. Each different troop have a different dice representing his ability or power (and probability chances). You place dice on the board in a phase called “placement phase” or “tactical deployment phase”. After everyone has placed, the dice are rolled when resolving a zone during the “resolution phase”. So you lead your troops but your troops have also their own responsibility on what finally happens.

Between the dice, we can find basic troops, the Heroes and the mercenaries. Each of them with their custom type of dice and some of them with special abilities.

For those who are thinking “Oh shit! I have an awful luck with dice!” don’t worry, the cards mechanics had been developed to offer more control to the players even after the rolls, allowing sometimes to change their destiny. Cards in the game are called Ethereal Favors. We recommend to read a bit more of the story that surrounds the game in our web, but this comes to be a type of god’s favors.

  1. What stretch goals are looking to have available?

The first stretch is composed by 6 new cards according to the council Heroes or mercenaries dice. With their own exclusive design. After that we want to increase the fun adding well balanced different cards and increase the quality of dice, making them engraved instead of silkscreened and adding some components. We hope soon will reveal more 🙂

  1. Since you’re not Native English speakers what challenges has this offered? 

Sometimes is hard, we need more time to do mostly everything associated to communication, promotion, design, etc. but we have learned a lot and still doing it. Also our accent sometimes is hard to understand by native speakers, we have tried to make our best! And without a big budget to spend or even without a little budget we haven´t been able to hire some professional to make the videos, and we think that has been a little problem.

We decided to design the game to fit both languages for many reasons but one of them is the constant change of language we live in. Lots of people don’t like the idea but we think it’s also an innovation that allows players to play without even speak the same language. We have tried in a convention between Irish and Spanish people and it worked nice 🙂

  1. Why Kickstarter?

We thought is a nice way to get the game to a community that seeks innovation on the game world at the same time we connect with them and spread the word internationally. Also we thought that was the ideal platform for new independent projects that had a nice idea but not a big budget. We are not so sure right now.

  1. Anything else we should know?

We have lots of backers that left this days because of a new big publisher hit sequel on KS (yeah…). They told us that our game is awesome and hope to see it soon on their local store, but due to a limited fund capacity during the month they are leaving. And that surprise us. We are a very little studio, with more passion than money (lot more passion), and a real KS (If we understand it as a funding platform for innovative projects). The campaign for such Editorials is just a way of selling more because the game is going to be in stores for sure, it’s a hit, and they have the money, the partners and the distributors more than ready. We really need the money to do so because we don’t have it, and if we can’t reach our goal we will try to do something to get what we think is a great game to the market, but the possibilities of that happening decreases seriously.

Maybe we are being too much critical here, but we feel very disappointed with the actual conduct of many backers. They have to be conscious that this is something that not only affect us, but a lot of high quality and real innovative projects. Thinking that we are going to put the game anyway on the store, and moving like fanatics of a Logo, they are transforming KS in an online shop for big editorials that also sell in many others places…

We are not saying people mustn’t do that and obviously big publishers are going to try to get profits of any market they can, but we want people to be conscious of this hard reality as an indie developer and distinguish between projects.

  1. What are your favorite board games?

Many of the games we love are in the inspiration of ether wars, but to give two or three more examples we love to play with lots of friends to “Citadels” and have big adventures on “Andor” or long nights in dungeons with “Descent” 🙂 Of course we play Ether Wars too!

Make sure you check out their Kickstarter so you can get this game as soon as it’s released! The art and prototypes look amazing so you won’t want to miss out!

Game Review: Love Letter

If there is anything I admire most in game design, it is elegant simplicity. The exacting and realistic detail or infinite customizability possible in many games can prove extremely engaging and entertaining, but a game that manages to create a challenging and fun experience with a simple set of rules is truly noteworthy. Of course then, I was very interested in trying Love Letter from AEG, for what could be simpler than a card game for two to four players with only sixteen cards?

The aforementioned cards all represent members of a princess’s household. Each card has a point value and the quantity of that card in the deck printed above a description of its special ability. Each round represents a day in which the princess’s suitors attempt to smuggle a letter into her hands to win her favor. At the beginning of a round, each player is dealt a card. On his or her turn, a player draws a second card and decides which of the two in their hand to discard, which triggers its special ability. At the end of each round, the princess retires to her room to read the successful suitor’s letter and thus improving their chance at courtship, as represented by a small token. Players achieve this by either knocking out all competitors or holding the card with the highest point value when the supply of cards has been depleted. The game ends when a player collects enough tokens, otherwise known as winning the princess’s love and permission to court her.

Each card in the deck offers an interesting way to interact with other players, anything from letting you guess their card for a chance to knock them out, to making them show your their card or even trade cards sight unseen. Of course you could be holding the princess, a card you may only discard at the cost of losing the round but guarantees success if you can make it to the end of the  pile of available cards. Megan and I played the game twice with each other and once with my sister. Rounds are typically quite fast as the straightforward set of options presented by play make for a delightfully swift experience. Rounds typically take less than a minute and it is very conceivable to blow through many games in a short sitting. While certainly not brimming with tactical depth, Love Letter manages to stay fresh and exciting through multiple play-throughs, particularly with people you know (and like to screw over at the earliest opportunity.)

This game is highly recommended. It is quite inexpensive with many flavors to choose from, including the recently released Batman version. A blind accessibility kit for the original can be purchased from 64 Ounces Games.*

Available on Amazon

* The accessibility kit from 64 Ounces Games used in this review was won by Megan as a prize in a contest run by 64 Ounces Games paired with a copy of the game donated by AEG.

Making Games Accessible: Love Letter

Love Letter!

Recently I won a raffle and got a free copy of the game Love Letter from Alderac Entertainment Games and the accessibility kit made by 64 Oz Games. After learning about 64 Oz Games through Kickstarter, Aser and I have been excitedly following their work – we have Munchkin and Dominion assembled and ready to play and the two braille d20s Aser uses came from them as well. I wanted to show off my winnings, and when I go see Aser next week we’ll post a review for the game.

Accessibility Kit Contents
Accessibility Kit Contents

Each accessibility kit comes with written instructions and QR code to look up the instructions digitally, a set of Grade 2 Braille instructions and descriptions of the cards, plastic card sleeves, and Grade 2 Braille stickers. There’s some work involved to combine this all into an accessible game, but fortunately this game only has 16 cards, not over 500 like Dominion.

Cutting out the stickers
Cutting out the stickers

Once you have your cards and kit you cut out all of the stickers. I can read Grade 1 Braille visually, but I still ask Aser a lot of questions to make sure I’m sticking the right sticker on in the correct orientation. I made some mistakes when I tried to put together Dominion by myself and it was a pain to correct them.

Sticker and Sleeve
Sticker and Sleeve

Once you have your stickers cut out, you can stick them directly on the card or on a card sleeve holding the card. Aser and I decided to put everything on sleeves to protect the cards. The sleeves make the cards slippier, and the Braille causes them not to stack flatly, but that can be fixed by using card holders. The great thing is the stickers are see-through so sighted players can read the cards easily as well.

The Aftermath

Once all the cards are in their sleeves you’re ready to go! There isn’t much text on these cards so the Braille fits on them easily. For other games, like Munchkin, the Braille is a short descriptor of the card and we were given QR code stickers to put on the back that Aser can scan to get the full description.

We’re huge fans of 64 Oz Games and the work they do to make it so Aser and I can enjoy all the board games we want. You can find them on their website, or support them on Patreon. Thanks so much for the free kit! And a special thanks to Alderac Entertainment Group for the copy of the game. We can’t wait to play and we’ll let you know how it goes next week.