Marry the Monster Design Corner

Marry the Monster Design Corner

Once upon a time a huge foot crushed my home. It was connected to a fachan – that mythological monster which has one of everything (one eye, one arm, etc.). I had been tinkering with a game design, but now that it was crushed, I decided to make a new one based on the Fachan.

I couldn’t really be upset at the fachan. After all, everything is one for him. That meant there can only be one fachan in the world. It makes sense, right? Furthering this line of thought, it’s long been my supposition that the fachan is very lonely, and wanders the world looking for another of his kind. Just like The Monster in Bride of Frankenstein, he recognizes that he is not like a human. He is different, singular and single, and completely alone in the wide world.

When I told all this to my brother Grant, he supposed that he’d probably go looking for one of his kind everywhere, including settled lands, which means he’d bother villagers all the time, inquiring, but also just being a monster – sometimes eating them or causing havoc generally. Something about this struck me as unique for a game.

Grant and I tinkered with some basic mechanics involving buildings that the fachan crushed, and the idea of a fake bride came swiftly, wherein each player uses this to destroy rivals. The game went through plenty of early stages – it was a grid of squares before moving to hexagons, for example. And there was an “anger” track that ramped up each time he found that a potential mate was fake. The purpose of this was to note how many buildings he could destroy (the angrier he was, the stronger, like Hulk, I guess). This mechanic didn’t make it in the final game for a variety of reasons, but I always thought it was neat.

Eventually, the game sat around, unfinished, as I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to design a game between all my actual duties at Petersen Games (design is not among them). At some point we were approached by Zoran Dobrijevic who showed us Potions & Profits, a fun little game that we decided to buy from him in order to publish. I showed him Marry the Monster, he liked it, and suggested some rules tweaks – and then more of them. He was hired to develop it further into the form you see now.

Although the theme is convoluted (you trick the fachan into thinking there’s a bride for him, but it’s false, and draw him towards you where he’ll trample your rivals’ buildings), it actually matches the gameplay precisely. That’s because I took to heart a mantra I’ve heard my father, Sandy Petersen, repeat about game design – that theme and gameplay must be married* tightly.

*That was shrodinger’s pun; both intended and not intended until you read it.

This game is weird. But it is also weirdly fun. I thoroughly enjoyed designing it, and I hope you enjoy playing it!

– Arthur

Designer Diary: Evacuate

Designer Diary: Evacuate

New Game by Jeff Petersen & Tony Mastrangeli Coming in February

Evacuate came about because I thought, “What game wants the player to be in the middle of a pack? Not the first, but not the last.”

In most games, you are racing to be the first, the one in the lead. So I had to think of a way to convince the player that they didn’t necessarily want to be in the lead.

What if there was danger all around and you didn’t know what was around the next corner? Would you want to lead the pack? And if the danger is all around then you don’t want to be at the back of the pack either. You want to be protected like the president with people all around you.

Designer Diary: Invasion of the Brood

Designer Diary: Invasion of the Brood

Designer Diary: Invasion of the Brood
(A game that will be released later this year)

by Sandy Petersen

When I was 13 years old, I invented an alien race to rule the star empire I pretended to control in my fun pretend games with my pals. All my friends invented alien nations too. Mine were the broodmasters  hideous black hulks without any sensory organs except telepathy. They spawn small arachnid-like broodlings from their bodies to act as workers, soldiers, and everything else.

While the broodmaster itself hid in an underground burrow or a fortress, the broodlings swarmed over the landscape building a civilization, all under direct control of their ruling broodmaster’s immense mind. Over the years I kept refining these aliens until I understood almost all the details of their grim society, rapacious personalities, and strange biology. Then I turned 16, found out about girls, and that was that for the broodmasters.

Designer Diary: Potions & Profits

Designer Diary: Potions & Profits

(Game to be released later this Winter)
by Zoran Dobrijevic

Potions and Profits came from the desire to build a game around imperfect information. There are many games about pushing your luck, value speculation, or just mitigating randomness but few built around giving players only general clues about the board state. A game with perfect information becomes one of low luck and high skill but this limits the enjoyment of many players.

The game chess already exists and not everyone desires to play that game at every opportunity. On the other end of the spectrum are games that are high luck and low skill as the amount of information hidden from the players or random number generation makes it impossible to optimize play. I find that Potions and Profits sits in an interesting design space where it has some hidden information but every move a player takes grants imperfect information to every player, making every move engaging for everyone else at the table.