Interview With Márton Orbán and Zoltán Simon
Today we are talking with Márton Orbán and Zoltán Simon. Thank you both for taking the time to answer these questions. I know you guys are busy getting ready for your Kickstarter to go live.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
What is your background?
Márton Orbán: I’m from Budapest, Hungary. I’m studying history at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) while spending all my free time working on this project. I embarked on this Viking journey more than a year ago and been sailing ever since to reach the shores, but now finally we can see the rocks of the distant land of Kickstarter. This is the first true game I developed, apart those I’ve made during my childhood. It is and has been a truly motivating challenge.
Zoltán Simon: I’m from Budapest too. I work as a cook and I spend a lot of my time with my fresh marriage and my pregnant wife. Luckily she likes tabletop games too, so we spend a lot of time playing together. When I am not playing with her or with my friends, I am developing games. I’ve helped with a few published or soon-to-be-published games, but Runes of Mayhem is our first own project.
What got you into tabletop gaming?
S.: I’ve been playing since I was a kid, and I always loved those games where I can be with my friends. I just cannot imagine a day where I do not deal with some kind of game at some level – if not for playing than brainstorming or working on one of my projects. It is a way of relaxation for me while I am using different parts of my brain. I got into tabletop gaming by card games. I have been playing TCGs competitively form an early age, but I felt there is more to explore, so I turned to tabletop gaming and my life got much more entertaining as a result.
O.: I have always been a huge fan of gaming in general too. It really is more than just entertainment, playing is essential to the development of oneself. Both my grandfathers were enthusiastic and talented Chess players. No matter I kept losing I just wanted to play because I loved the connection it created. I became more of a PC gamer later, but tabletop gaming remained one of my favorite pastime activities, whether we entered a different world for some time with my friends to vie for control, or my family finally spent some time together playing.
Why did you go into designing tabletop games?
S.: The very first moment I felt that I will design games was not special at all: like a lot of other game developers, I felt I could do better. I only played TCGs back then, so I made one. It never was published, but we played it with a wide circle of people for years. During that time, I made and balanced hundreds of cards. It became clear to me that I want to design tabletop games.
O.: Most people I’ve heard answering this question said they wanted to make gaming better; they thought there was something missing. It is only true in my case partly, since reproducing something already in existence is pointless, but I am more for expanding the options for everybody. Showing more, giving more by contributing to the big picture. Whenever I truly get excited about something, I eventually end up trying to add my own ideas and my point of view to it, and by doing so, I aim to create something new.
What types of games do you like/play most often?
S.: Interestingly I am more and more drifting away from card games and only a few special ones can keep my interest. I like Euro-style games more, where my decisions matter a lot. Of course, some randomness is always interesting, but if I make a decision it should have a certain weight. Theme-wise I can take anything, as long as it fits the game mechanics.
O.: Anything with a great deal of strategy or tactics involved, but first and foremost historical games. I just love historical games. That being said I’ll play anything. For PC games I’d say RPG and strategy, both RTS and TBS.
What are a few of your favorite games?
S.: My favorite game is Through the Ages. I think it is just genial and impossible to get bored of. Of course, I could keep on listing Eurogames. In the family category Pandemic has earned a great deal of respect from us. As for the two player games, I’d say Seven Wonders Duel, it is such an amazing experience, especially for its playing time.
O.: I can’t really name an all-time favorite, especially that I got distant from tabletop gaming for many years and just recently got back into playing, but I was keeping an eye on the trends nevertheless. I have to agree on Seven Wonders Duel with Zoltán, playing that is an amazing experience.
Please tell us about your new game, Runes of Mayhem.
S.: It is a tactical, battle card game from two players with a historical theme set in the Viking age. It contains hand management, resource management, and dice rolling in roughly the same proportion. The central part of the game is to work on avoiding luck by outthinking your opponent.
Please tell us what is new or unique about Runes of Mayhem?
S.: Well, we did not reinvent the wheel, most of the game mechanism can be found here and there. The unique thing about Runes of Mayhem is the level of tactical depth that I think has never been in other card games. Runes of Mayhem is in between a card game and a wargame, but this novelty does not happen at the expense of enjoyable length or complexity, it retains a certain lightness to it.
What is the experience you want Players to have when they play Runes of Mayhem?
S.: I wish everybody who sits down and plays Runes of Mayhem to feel good, whatever he or she may like in gaming. Developing Runes of Mayhem gave me many memorable experiences, and if others can feel alike while playing I did not work in vain. To mention something more concrete, my favorite thing about the game is that you always have to plan two turns ahead. If you only pay attention to the current or next turn, you will lose. I think being a general must have felt something like this, and this is the feeling I wish for the players to experience.
O.: I would really love if the players could feel they are leading an army, trying to defend their homeland or leading a Viking raid.
Runes of Mayhem is set during the conflict between the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Why did you decide to set it during this time?
O.: I came up with the idea of the basic game mechanisms before the time period. At first I was thinking about setting the game during the Ancient times, but I felt this is not where Caesar is at. The battle was less refined and more brutal than what I would have wanted. Then one day my brother came to me and told me it should be about the Vikings. I instantly realized that was the road to take. The battle in Runes of Mayhem is brutal and visceral, but not without tactics. I felt depicting the Vikings more true to what they were was the approach to take. It is satisfying to have Vikings without horns, using tactics and cunning instead of always running around, putting everything on flames while wearing horned helmets. After that, I only had to come up with the enemy. I chose the Anglo-Saxons because they work fine as an adversary of the Vikings, at least in our own setting. Of course in Runes of Mayhem, it is a bit more black and white than what it really was, but we paid attention not to go overboard, we included many small details that blur the seemingly existing ‘two worlds collide’ theme for the initiated eye.
Is this a time period that you have a particular interest in?
O.: I wouldn’t say my main interest is the Viking period in history, but it is indeed among my many interests. The Vikings appear as the last true ancient, pagan moving force in Western-European history. Their raids were a prime motivation behind the development of many Kingdoms; they had to fend themselves somehow. The fact itself that they made it to America nearly 500 years before Columbus did is fascinating. The Vikings to me are remnants of the ancient Germanic peoples, but nevertheless very Medieval in their core.
What sort of research did you do while designing Runes of Mayhem?
O.: One of the first things they taught me at the university is that whenever you’ll research a topic, there won’t ever be sufficient source. You’ll always find either too much or too few. In this case, I had to limit my research mostly on their warfare in line with the game’s theme. I researched the topic both at libraries and online. Nevertheless, all other aspects are very interesting too, but I could not go too deep into that just yet.
Could you perhaps point readers who want to know more about the Vikings or Anglo-Saxons towards a few resources that might interest them?
O.: It is hard to name only a few, but if you are interested in this era, check out The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth, or read The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. I also recommend reading Beowulf in the brilliant translation by one of my favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien.
During the design process, what were some of the challenges that presented themselves?Were there any balancing issues?
O.: At first when I made what became Runes of Mayhem it was broken and unplayable. Massive balancing issues, but the core of the game was worth working on. Once I teamed up with Zoltán, with hard work and many playtest he balanced out the game.
S.: When Márton showed me his idea I saw a lot of potential in it despite the issues. After we joined our forces the development of the game was continuous and without any obstacles. We did not really run into any dead-ends. Of course, it took a lot of work to get Runes of Mayhem to what it is now. Luckily enough, Márton met me in connection with my ‘professional field’, the card games.
Did you have to take somethings out of the game due to design or time constraints? If so, could you tell us a few?
S.: Oh, we had a lot of ideas, but we had to draw a line and strictly enforce our own rules, removing unnecessary elements from here and there. When a designer gets motivated and starts to ‘feel’ a game than he can stretch it out infinitely. In case of a card game where I can just easily note my idea of a new card then throw it next to all the rest this problem is very prevalent. Maybe the hardest part of designing a game is to let go of your ideas and to know how much is enough. I’ve made and tested many new cards, new game elements and mechanisms evolved from these.
Would you be interested in exploring those things later? Perhaps in a different game or as an expansion?
S.: We would like to add some parts of these to the game in the future, possibly in an expansion. This all depends on the success of our campaign of course.
After playing the beta for Runes of Mayhem I could see the potential for further development in terms of expansions or add-ons. What are your plans for the future of Runes of Mayhem? Will we be seeing any expansions or added content later? New factions, units, or mechanics for example?
S.: Some of my new additions have been made into stretch-goals. In case a greater number of people will be interested in our Kickstarter campaign, then we will be able to give the players much more options than what the Beta included. The fixed decks will be customizable and everybody will be able to set their decks according to their own taste and tactics. We will add new game mechanisms that will differ for each faction, making the playing experience more unique for both sides. We won’t add new nations for now, even though we have good ideas already, we’ll save it for future expansions. However, we will add a ‘neutral’ faction, the mercenaries. They can join both sides aiding the players’ war effort. They aren’t added to your own deck as ‘colorless’ cards, but you have to hire them during the game, so you will compete with the other player in who gets the better warriors.
Your Kickstarter Campaign is scheduled to go live April 3rd, what is the goal you are aiming for?
O.: Our funding goal is $25K, and the campaign’s duration will be 30 days. Our Kickstarter page is here
What is the minimum pledge level to get a copy of Runes of Mayhem?
O.: $25 not included shipping. Our aim is to make the shipping as hassle-free as possible so we will use the common fulfillment method. We offer friendly shipping to the US, EU, Australia, Canada, and China. For example, with shipping, you can get one copy of Runes of Mayhem for $34 in the US and $37 in the EU.
If you don’t mind telling us, what are some of your stretch goals?
O.: Our stretch-goals will be public on our Kickstarter page. The stretch-goals will include 3 bigger expansion and new units. With the Mercenary Expansion, both sides will be able to hire mercenary units. These units will work just like the ones you own, but you have to sacrifice cards from your hand to hire them, and once their service is over, if you cannot pay them, then they will turn against you. With the Traps Expansion, Runes of Mayhem becomes much more merciless. The Vikings will be able to lay deadly traps for the Anglo-Saxons. Always mind your step, else you can easily end up dead by a lethal masterpiece of a Trapmaker. With the Towers Expansion, the Anglo-Saxons will be able to properly defend their Kingdom by building different types of towers that help to protect your unit or give them special abilities. Apart these, we will create new units such as the Warhounds or the Anglo-Saxon Fanatic Warrior to make the game even more diverse. These cards will usually have their own unique addition to the game, such as the Merchant, that will be able to instantly hire a mercenary and trade when you play it.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know about Runes of Mayhem or Marzo Projects?
O.: I’d like to just add that we recently established Marzo Projects in the US with the aim to further reduce costs for our backers. We aim to release at least one new game or a bigger standalone-expansion every year. We would like to keep our profile diverse, so we won’t always create historical games or just card games.
Finally, do you have any advice or suggestions for aspiring tabletop game designers? Any words of wisdom?
S.: I’ll leave talking about Kickstarter projects to Márton, I would like to give advice on designing games. Everybody who starts designing games must prepare to make tough decisions. If something is not working then you must let it go and come up with a new idea. If something is too much then do not be afraid to reduce it, and when the game is done do not develop it further. The most important question to ask whenever you make a change is: ‘Does this make the game better?’ If you can easily add or remove something without changing the game, that it is most likely not necessary to be in the game in the first place.
O.: This is our first Kickstarter campaign, so I won’t say I’m in possession of an unquestionable knowledge by far. Only thing I can say is that running a campaign is a very hard and very long process, in fact much harder and much longer than you would think at first. You are not only creating a game but a business. You need assets, you need plans, and you need associates. You will make mistakes, you will face delays, you will have to reconsider many things, but if you have persistence and motivation, it is more than worth it.
Once again, I want to thank you for your time and patience. You have crafted a very fun and well-done game and I can’t imagine your campaign being anything but a smashing success.
If you would like to read my review of Runes of Mayhem just follow this link.