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Prototypes and Play Testing Underway for Martial Law Expansion

Development of the Martial Law expansion was on hiatus for about a year, but it’s back on track now. I just got my second prototype deck in the mail and will be running a bunch of play tests in the coming weeks. 

There will be new artwork too. That effort is now underway. More to come soon…

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CanGames 2015

Play testing the War Zone Hope Inhumanity expansion cards at CanGames 2015.
Play testing the War Zone Hope Inhumanity expansion cards at CanGames 2015.

Hope Inhumanity made a big splash at CanGames this year. CanGames is Ottawa’s longest running gaming convention, and unlike the most other conventions in this city, this one is all about gaming. People attend for one reason: to play games. So it was very easy to set up Hope Inhumanity at a table and within minutes have a post apocalyptic adventure in full swing.

I shared table space with other local game enthusiasts and designers under the Ottawa Story Games banner, where we sold games, played games and just hung around chatting games. And it was glorious. We had tables available for “open gaming” which is basically games on demand, where you approach the table, pick a game, and if enough people are up for it, someone will run it for you. Between these “open games” and two scheduled games, I ran Hope Inhumanity six times, and I believe some others ran it a couple times too. I even had a chance to run the upcoming War Zone expansion deck with some lucky attendees. Everyone loved the expansion, and I’m very happy with the progress on that so far.

So CanGames was a great success and I’m looking forward to more local promotion of the game in the near future.

Distribution Update

The rollout of the game has been slow, but I’m gradually getting Hope Inhumanity out there. Currently you can pick up the game online through:

drivethrucards.com – Best option for online purchase in the United States

indiepressrevolution.com – If you’re a retailer, this is the place to order the game through.

cardboardkingdom.ca – For Canadians (especially in Ottawa, this might be your best option)

Bricks and Mortar is a bit trickier. Right now Hope Inhumanity is being sold through Kobold’s Corner in Kanata (near Ottawa).

I also make appearances in Ottawa and elsewhere to promote and sell the game, so those are great ways to get your hands on it. Follow me at @dandy_barbarian on Twitter for the latest details.

Fleeing a war zone…

The upcoming expansion for Hope Inhumanity will put players in the shoes of people fleeing a war zone (in addition to the apocalyptic devastation of the core game), so there are some parallels to the plight of people in many countries today. I came across this BBC page recently focused on some of the decisions that a migrant fleeing from Syria’s war might face, based on interviews with real people, so I thought it would be interesting to post it here.

Syrian Journey: Choose your escape route

March Madness!

A lot has happened since Hope Inhumanity launched on March 4, and I haven’t had a chance to write an update on the game. The game launch went really well! It has been available initially through DriveThruCards for sale directly to consumers.

I had the opportunity to run the game for many people at PAX East in Boston, as well as at a local convention in my home town: the Ottawa Geek Market. The reaction from people playing the game has been overwhelmingly positive, which is a surprise to me because I always assumed that the dark tone and subject of the game would turn a lot of people off, but the game seems to handle these issues as tastefully as possible so it allows people to enjoy the tension of the game but stay at an arms length from the true horror of the situations.

I also had the pleasure of discussing the game with Matt Ballert of the Tabletop Torch podcast, and I’m looking forward to other podcasts coming soon.

My focus now is on improving the distribution channels for the game and getting out to events to promote it and expose people to it. I’m hoping to have Hope Inhumanity available through Indie Press Revolution soon, which will likely make it available at all the major gaming conventions in the United States. I’m also working on local distribution here in Ottawa, building relationships with local vendors (like Cardboard Kingdom) and participating in the many local geek and gaming events this city offers throughout the year.

Another focus is on building expansions for the game. The first expansion will put the characters in more of a civil war or invasion situation where they are effectively refugees trying to escape the violence. This will be playable in combination with the existing core deck. More details on that will be coming soon. I want to build a few expansion decks to give players more options and improve replayability of the game. Probably core deck expansions as well as other themed expansions, like Zombies!

The End of the World Is Nigh!

Web Game CoverExciting news! Hope Inhumanity will be released on March 4 for download exclusively through DriveThruCards.com, for only $20.

After months of play testing and tweaking rules, card text, layout and graphics, the game is finally ready to be unleashed on the unsuspecting public. I’m very excited to be finally publishing after nearly two years of work taking this from a concept – “how about a role playing game where you play characters from The Road?” – to a finished product that is obviously inspired by the original concept but took its own road along the way to become a completely unique gaming experience.

Hope Inhumanity has one foot in the indie RPG genre, where it inherited conflict resolution and other mechanics from, and the other foot in the board game genre with ready to play content and a limited scope for game duration and scale. Not many games take this approach, and the end result is something both RPG gamers and boardgamers can both enjoy and play in their own comfort zones.

The web site has been updated with the final rules PDF, and those rules have also been incorporated directly into the site pages as well to make it as easy as possible to get access to rules when you’re playing the game. When you order the game from DriveThru Cards, you’ll get a beautiful deck of 110 cards with all the content you need to play an exciting 2 hour game with up to 4 other people. What you will not get is the 30+ six sided dice (d6) you’ll also need to play. You can buy a bunch of these dice at your local game store, or have your friends bring their own.

More details and a link to the purchase page at DriveThru Cards will come once the game is released on March 4.

I will also be at PAX East March 5-8 this year running Hope Inhumanity at Games On Demand if you are around and want to play the game with the designer!

Hope Inhumanity, and the Stripping Away of “Character” in the Face of Scarcity.

starving 03In my recent play tests of Hope Inhumanity I’ve noticed something odd about the relationship of the players to their characters. And I’d like to suggest that what is being “simulated” is the falling away of superficial character elements to reveal the core survivor within us all.

This game is really “role playing light” to begin with, but there is a small nod towards character creation, and a cursory opportunity for hardcore role players to engage with the character elements they’ve randomly drawn.  In the sessions I’ve had recently, we’ve started the game by sketching basic character elements, and in early scenes, we’d have in-character discussions and debates about whether we should rob that poor family or raid the well-defended big box store for much needed food and medicine. And that lasted for a round or two before falling away to the sheer economics of survival against the odds.

My initial reaction is that this is a failure of the game to encourage players to engage with their characters. And there may be some truth to that. But there’s another perspective to this. As the situation of each character becomes more dire, and the prospect of failure stares everyone in the face, character elements starts to fall away. The discussions around the table shift away from role playing our sibling rivalries toward the dark details of who is most likely to survive and what we can all do to ensure that at least one of us gets out of this alive. In the final round, when death and deliverance are equally within reach, we have to make hard decisions. Do we commit that one selfish move that ensures our survival and everyone else’s doom, or do we sacrifice ourselves to give others with a better chance at survival a final push to freedom? Just how long will it take before I starve to death, and if I’m not going to make it anyway, should I just give my food to someone else?

In each of the sessions of Hope Inhumanity I’ve run, I have witnessed these scenes of survival economics playing out amongst the players. And that was a design goal for this game. I want the game to be a vehicle for exploring issues of humanity in the face of life or death situations. In fiction, you take regular people and put them in extreme situations. I want to take the same approach with my games, and Hope Inhumanity is my first foray into this “games as literature” exploration of human issues through gaming.

I’m not sure if Hope Inhumanity is truly a role playing game, story game, board game or some combination of all three. What I know is the game applies the economics of scarcity to investigate how people behave in an extreme situation. It happens to use a post-apocalyptic setting as the premise to engage the players’ imagination, but this is really just window dressing for the core concept. So if the game is successful and people enjoy it, I’m excited about the possibilities for expanding this core to explore other situations that most of us wouldn’t want to experience in real life, or may prefer to forget that we actually had to experience. Some ideas that have been tossed around range from escaping from a military occupation to the teenage journey through high school. I’m hoping we can eventually do both.

October Game Update

I’m excited to unveil the updated rules for Hope Inhumanity today. Head on over to https://hope-inhumanity.com/rules to download them now.

This is a major milestone in the development of the game, which started in mid-August with feedback from play testers at GenCon. A number of new rules and rule enhancements were made, and the rules document was completely redesigned and laid out using InDesign. The game cards were also completely overhauled and completely re-built using InDesign, and that will be the next major milestone. A first deck of proof cards is already being printed and I expect to receive them in the next few days. Following that, I will be sending out copies of this new deck to select play testers.

What’s New In the Rules?

  • Avoiding a scene, and Unavoidable scenes: The scene can be Avoided by the player who drew the card, thereby granting them 1 Humanity, but dooming everyone to suffer the Refuse penalty of that scene. However, some cards are marked as Unavoidable, forcing everyone to engage in the difficult choices thrust on them by the Scene card.
  • Last Hope Rule has been codified and clarified. Players without Humanity can use Hope dice to support others, but only if there are any left. And they get to access to Hope dice before the scene card holder.
  • Playing scenes without hardship ratings has been clarified. When there is a question, such as “Should we feed the orphan?” or “Do we kill the thief we caught?”, every player takes turns answering the question, with the card holder answering last. Rewards and penalties for choices are doled out after everyone has answered the question.
  • Grace of Innocence Rule – Mechanism to allow you to stay in the game if you die in the first 2 rounds. Because that just sucks.
  • Gift from the Grave Rule – When you die, give a new trait card to the player of your choice.

Other than these major changes, a lot of rules have been clarified, and the text itself has been trimmed significantly, removing repetitiveness and making for a quicker read. The example play text has been removed from the main rule text, but that will be replaced with web content in the near future.

These rules aren’t perfect yet, and may continue to evolve as I get more feedback in the coming months. The good news is that since they are not being printed, unlike the cards, it is easy to gradually improve them as the need arises.

Last but not least, the new rules feature the great art work of Carlos Cara Alvarez, who really captured the essence of what the game is about.

Next round – Kickstarter campaign coming…

Time for an update on Hope Inhumanity. I’m seriously planning to run a Kickstarter campaign to get this game out the door. I may have an artist lined up to do the artwork to replace my amateur cut-n-paste graphic design skills. There is another round of edits coming to both the rule book and the cards themselves. And then there’s the logistics of printing and distributing the cards in a way that is sustainable in the long term and won’t end up losing money on each game.

There are a lot of logistics to sort out, but I think it’s finally time to pull the trigger on this game and get it out the door. I’m excited to finish it, and then move on to possible expansions. There are so many directions this game can go!