The Journey from There to the Edge of Darkness

I don’t know if we have ever had a development and production challenge quite like the one we conquered with Edge of Darkness.  Maybe the first time we published Legend of the Five Rings with all the sheets and packaging, but that was because it was new. Edge was different.  We knew better and yet we still decided to tackle this monumental challenge.  

NOTE:  There are a lot of John’s in this story, try to keep up. 

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning, four years ago.  Right after BoardGameGeekCon in October of 2014, John Goodenough (Goody), who is a hard man to impress, saw a game at a publisher speed dating event hosted by the late James Mathe (You are missed James) and told me that I needed to look at this game from a Los Angeles designer. So I, John Zinser (Z), followed up and set a meeting with John Clair (JohnC).  

JohnC showed me the game and I instantly knew it was something special.  JohnC had sent it to two other publishers and gave them until January 1, 2016 to make a decision.  Lucky for us neither of those companies played the game before the deadline and JohnC accepted our offer.

5 years ago John Clair, Mark Wootton, John Goodenough, Nicolas Bongiu and John Z behind the camera

The first thing I did once we locked up the game was to grab a copy and play. One of the great things about JohnC’s prototypes is that they are so very well made. The starting point for the game came with everything you needed to play and it felt like you were playing a complete game even with the prototype components.  

Original Prototype

Prototyping a card crafting game is not easy.  Especially before we had Mystic Vale cards. JohnC would build a cardboard tower and tray, then to make the cards he would first create them from plastic film and then sticker both sides with the advancements.  I spent a day making cards with him at my house and aligning the stickers straight was hard enough. I also made lots of mistakes on which slots to place them and what cards to back with each other. We ended up with an assembly line, but prototypes took a day to make at best.  

Sheets of stickers are applied front and back on cards for play test. Every time a card changes new stickers.

After we knew that we were doing Edge, JohnC showed us Mystic Vale and it was obvious for multiple reasons that Mystic Vale should come first.  It allowed us to figure out how to print plastic cards (which we had to do all over again anyway) and it introduced card crafting as the base mechanic which makes Edge easier to teach and play.  

Early Prototype for Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale went from prototype to press-ready product in record time.  It definitely fell into place and as expected was our big hit release in 2016.  The ad for Edge made the Mystic Vale rulebook and players were asking about it from day one.  

We knew that Edge had to be a Kickstarter game due to components and scope alone.  We did not feel comfortable making it our first Kickstarter so we decided to do Thunderstone Quest first because it would be “smaller” and “easier”… umm right.  At least we got some good lessons on the process but TSQ was no cakewalk either.  

At Gencon 2017 we set up multiple tables and had a bunch of hand-built cube towers from our friend Frank so we called them the Frankentowers and the full play demos were a hit at the show.  We still had a lot of art to finish and details to complete but the game was starting to look like the product we had envisioned.  

Gen Con 2017

We really wanted to get this game widely exposed to potential players. That proved extremely hard to do because of the challenge of making prototypes by hand. In mid-2017 we were able to start receiving pre-production samples of cards which eased that burden, and about 10 people were issued copies of Edge we were comfortable showing in public. Demos were done at conventions all across the country and in many game stores but we know that we could have had more exposure if we’d had a better plan. This is one aspect of this project we would love to be able to do over again.

We dove into the production plans.  It took forever to figure out how to make the tower work. We had 4 to 6 versions.  We always knew we wanted a nice 3D tower and we wanted the cards to be facing the players, not flat on the table.   I spent a week in China with the final tower design making sure it sounded right and worked correctly. The tower is awesome but it came in over budget.

Other towers along the way
The Frankentower

We assumed incorrectly that it would be a simple jump from printing single sided plastic cards to printing double sided cards.  Our Mystic Vale printer could not print the card without risk of damage to the printing. That is why the protective film is on the Mystic Vale cards. So we had to start from scratch and find a printer who could do it.  We ended up in Taiwan with a playing card printer that does plastic cards but it was expensive and it was time-consuming. Those cards are the most expensive component in the box. Also way over budget – see a pattern?

The final components are some of the best we have ever done. This was a complex job.  The development took a long time because we commissioned one of the greatest landscape artists in our industry to build a look for the game.  Alayna Danner did an amazing job. The production process took us using 4 different printers – in two different regions – and pulling it all together.

5 years, hundreds of play tests, 6 trips to China, 5,284 backers, one very big box, and the highest production cost for any single game we have ever produced, and we can finally present the results of that very hard work.

Edge of Darkness is the second game set in the universe introduced in Mystic Vale but it is actually the first game designed using John D Clair’s unique card crafting mechanic.  

Edge at 2019 Gencon. Thursday Only
Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness is a game where you are one of four Guildmasters in the city of Aegis trying to grow your guild and reputation by making contacts and also protecting the city from the blight. It is a worker-placement game driven by a shared resource card crafting engine, that uses a specially designed cube tower to randomize which Guildmasters the monsters attack.  Each game uses 10 Locations and their associated card advancements from a pool of over 35 options. It is the most unique and deep game AEG has ever made and one we are very proud to have completed and delivered.  

The first games are being delivered to Kickstarter Backers as you read this.  AEG will also have a few limited copies for sale at our Gen Con booth and a few select retailers who have supported AEG during this process will also have a few copies for sale.  Look for more info about the future of Edge of Darkness soon.

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