I know a lot of interesting people. Some I’ve worked with, some I’ve met while traveling the world, some just owe me money. My name may be on the website, but it seems kind of boring if I’m the only person whose voice is heard here. So I’m bringing some of my friends to the site, as time permits. I’m not a podcasty kind of guy, so I’m keeping things simple: one guest, six questions.
I met CHRISTOPHER BADELL on a secret island in the Caribbean (well, OK, not so secret), but I’d encountered his brainchild Sentinels of the Multiverse well before that. Sentinels is a cooperative card game in which players take on the role of a superhero team working together to bring down a nefarious master villain. One of the things I really enjoy about the game is its attention to continuity. The flavor text of the cards is made up of quotes from the various comics featuring these heroes… except, of course, that none of these comics actually exist (yet). With just these quotes, Sentinels manages to suggest a rich backstory for the characters and world, which makes it far more interesting to play the characters; as a comic nerd, I also appreciate the many homages found throughout this universe. But here’s Christopher…
What’s your secret origin?
Three decades ago, on a dark stormy night in Maracaibo, Venezuela, a dark-eyed child was born. It’s pretty much all been downhill since then. I got taller and beadier and fought crime!
Really, the interesting origin story is that of Greater Than Games, which is what happens when three friends, each of whom excels in their particular field, get together and make a thing happen. I’ve always told stories and made up games for my friends to play, Adam is a fantastic artist who has been growing in his drawing as long as I’ve known him (which is a LONG time), and Paul is a clever businessman who loves games and gaming and works damn hard to make our dreams become realities. The lines that crossed to bring this company about are pretty crazy, and without the coincidences that brought us together, none of this would have ever happened.
But I’ve said too much already. I don’t want to make it too easy on our greatest nemeses!
Tell me about Sentinels of the Multiverse. What inspired you, both in tone and design? What do you consider the greatest strengths of the design? What would you change if you were starting over from scratch?
As I’d hinted in our origin story, Sentinels of the Multiverse is only possible because of the cooperative synergies between Adam, Paul, and I. Which is appropriate for what came out of that, really. Adam and I have been friends for almost 20 years, and we’ve always been into comic books and games – especially cooperative games! So, a few years ago, we were hanging out and bemoaning the fact that we had never played a good superhero tabletop game. We wanted something that made you really feel like you were playing as a hero of epic proportions! And then we wrote one. It was pretty quick from initial concept to execution. Shortly after making the game on index cards, just for us to play with friends, I played the game with my friend Paul, and the rest is history.
As to the inspiration, it really came down to loving the stories told in our favorite comic books and wanting to recreate that feeling in a game form. Stories of group of heroes working together against a terrible foe in a bizarre environment, like we would read in stories of the X-Men or the Avengers. The best part of those teams is the ensemble cast and how they interact with each other, which is what I love about Sentinels. I am proud of how much we captured the feeling of the team being more than just the sum of its parts. The synergies and the unfolding stories at the table as well as the gameplay that really puts you in the place of a super-powered hero are what I was shooting for – and I feel like we hit it square on the head.
If I were starting over from scratch…? I’d make the Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse the first time. The Sentinels of the Multiverse community is super awesome and let us rebuild the game only a year after it came out, which was good and necessary, but that rebuild definitely did all the things I wanted to do in the first place. We learned a LOT in that first year and a half, and I think the products we make now really reflect that quick learning curve.
You’re sentenced to be trapped in the Phantom Zone for eternity. What three graphic novels do you take with you?
Oof. Yikes. Hmmm, let’s say the Dark Phoenix Saga, Batman: The Killing Joke, and House of M. But then, I’d also sneak a pile of notebooks and pens with me. Really, as long as I could write infinitely, I’d have plenty of stories to keep me company.
You’ve just launched a Kickstarter for an entirely new game, Galactic Strike Force. Tell me about it.
It’s SUPER EXCITING! With Sentinels of the Multiverse, the players all take the roles of heroes facing a powerful villain in a crazy environment. Galactic Strike Force is a group of scoundrels, such as smugglers, bounty hunters, and space pirates, all joining forces against an overwhelming opposition force in a science-fantasy setting. This poor rag-tag team is the last ditch effort to save the galaxy – you have very few resources and fewer friends, and if you’re going to save the galaxy, you’ve gotta work together! The story that makes it go is a blast, and the characters and ships we’ve put together are a ton of fun.
The gameplay is card based, but it feels like the unholy child of a deck building game and a tactical wargame, as you’re upgrading your ship and learning new tricks, but then taking that ship and those tricks into battle against opposition ships. It’s really a ton of fun, especially with more players! One thing that I was very interested in was making the gameplay equally enjoyable for any number of players. With just two, you get the feeling of a couple of wingmates taking down an opposing fleet through hit and run maneuvers. However, if you have a table of six, you can really go head to head, and different people can take different roles, like scouting, tanking, etc. That said, the Opposition forces scale well, and they’re MEAN.
We’ve got lots of updates going on over on the Kickstarter, so definitely go check it out!
You’re a scarred veteran of many Kickstarter campaigns. What lessons have you learned? Any advice for people planning to launch a campaign of their own?
Find your audience before launching your campaign. Be open with your information – make sure people know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Build a community.
Have a plan for how you will run your campaign. Make use of the entire time. Don’t blow it all on the main page on day 1. You have thirty days (don’t run a campaign for longer than thirty days without a damn good reason) and you should use all of those days. Update often, and make your updates beefy.
Make what you love because you love to make it, not because you want to monetize it. Be passionate about it, and share that passion with anyone and everyone.
What’s next after Galactic Strike Force?
Well, immediately after Galactic Strike Force, we go full-bore into production of Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance, which we teased a good deal with our Shattered Timelines Kickstarter. It’s not just another expansion to Sentinels of the Multiverse – it’s a standalone game that can be played with the existing SotM stuff, but also adds a lot of new things. New heroes, villains, and environments in fancy box that will supplement the Enhanced Edition box nicely, and it gives you a whole new way to play Sentinels of the Multiverse!
Also, we’re going to Australia this summer for PAX AUS, and Germany again this fall for Essen! Not to mention Origins and Gen Con and PAX Prime… whew! Convention season is nearly upon us!
Oh, and on top of all that, we’ve got a few other Secret Projects that we’ll be talking about later this year. And even more plans for next year!