The Story of Epic PvP, Part I

The Story of Epic PvP, Part I

Read Part II of this series here! Read more about Epic PVP here!

by Luke Peterschmidt,

Early last year, I met Ryan Miller in Baltimore for a day of gaming and a night out to see my nephew DJ SYLO spin at a local club (SYLO was just voted Philly’s best new DJ!). As Ryan is quite the DJ too, it seemed like an excellent excuse to get together.

As always, Ryan had several game designs to show me and I had a one or two to show him as well. Ryan and I have always worked well together and are happy to chip in with some seasoned feedback whenever we can.

One of the games Ryan brought was the game that ended up becoming Epic PvP. What we played that day looked very little like what the final game became. It was a game where both players used the same deck, there were no words on the cards (not even names), and all each card had just a single number on them.

playing-cards
But there was something awesome in this game that struck me right away. It had this elegant new twist on some classic card game mechanics. In particular PvP tweaked with card draw. Card draw is usually a fixed thing in a game – “draw a card at the start of your turn” etc… In Epic PvP, how many cards you draw is your choice, but you draw them from your “aggression pile” which is kind of like your “mana.” So the more cards you draw into your hand, the less power you have to play them. It sounds like a small thing, but it really sang the way Ryan implemented it. It’s elegant, very easy to understand, and still allowed for meaningful choices. I don’t see ideas that good come along very often.

I couldn’t get the game out of my head. So while we were there we tested out a few tweaks, busting out the sharpies and going to town. And it just kept getting better. When the core of a game is that solid, it provides a lot of freedom for expansion and development. I was hooked and I knew I wanted Fun to 11 to publish it, and as a designer, I really wanted to explore what could be done with the core system – but there were some real big challenges.

human#1With just the little bit of development we did that day, I felt like it had to be a game with a variety of characters to play. It was similar in that way to another game Ryan designed – UFS for Sabertooth games. My first thought was to do a South Park school yard brawl game, and then add other properties that could play in the same ruleset, but Fun to 11 really doesn’t have the money to license big properties. So then we thought of the “free licenses” – things that bring value without needing to pay a license fee – things like: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Shakespeare, etc…

Fantasy felt right thematically, and that’s when the idea of mixing the Race and Class decks came up. At first it was honestly kind of a hack. By mixing Class and Race decks, Fun to 11 would only have to make 8 half-decks to allow the players to have 16 different characters to experience! We both have seen how well that can work with Paul Peterson’s excellent Smash Up as well, which added a lot to our confidence that customers would accept the idea as well – even if some of the Race/Class combos were odd, like the Goblin Paladin. As big CCG guys who don’t have much time to make decks, this idea of customization without a lot preparation really appealed to us as well.

After we sort of had this rough direction it was on to developing and playtesting and bringing the game to gatherings of other designers and players for feedback. It was real well received by designers and players alike, which gave us a lot of confidence. But what I’m most happy about is that even after a year of development and lots and lots of card designs, the game still retains the key fun points of that very first game we played in a bar in Baltimore.

Next, I’ll look at some specific design decisions made along the way.