UPDATE: Due to some kind of feed error, this post is showing up for some people a week late. SPX was the weekend of Sept 10-11, and the game testing was Sept 13-14. We’ll do more gaming events soon! All the other info is correct.
This weekend Matt and I are at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, along with nearly a dozen of the Machine of Death artists! We’ll be signing books, administering free prediction tests, and offering — for the very first time — Official MOD Game Card Decks.
Recently we mentioned we were working on a Machine of Death card game. This is a bit of a simplification — it’s only true if you consider a deck of Hoyle cards to be a “card game.” What we have created, instead, is a series of card-based game kits.
When I first printed up the Machine of Death prediction cards, I only expected that an average person might encounter the cards singly — you might get one with an order from TopatoCo, or maybe you sent away for one by mail (offer still valid!), or perhaps you had a prediction test performed in person by us.
But when I picked up the order from the printer, and fanned out all the different cards to look them over…it felt an awful lot like I was holding a deck of playing cards.
Start with the cards, figure out the game
So our crack team started brainstorming. What kinds of games would be possible with a deck of death prediction cards? Guessing games were an easy first stop — we’ve now played Celebrity Cartoonist Draw & Guess many times, and it’s always a treat. (For example, in Toronto!)
But a deck of prediction cards isn’t a game in the way that Uno is a game, or Apples to Apples is a game, or Magic: The Gathering is a game. There are no inherent rules or logic to the cards; they’re just inert items, props waiting to be imbued with meaning. A stack of prediction cards is like a deck of regular playing cards, or a set of dice, or poker chips: tools.
This is incredibly exciting, because it suggests that there isn’t a “Machine of Death card game.” What there could be is an entire Machine of Death dimension of games. And we’re really, really excited to tap the collective gaming consciousness to see how many fun and amazing things sufficiently creative people (like us, and you, and everyone reading this) can do with a simple set of MOD prediction cards.
Here’s what we’ve done to get started
• We’ve designed and printed four decks of prediction cards. “Set A” and “Set B” are each collections of 50 cards each, with general predictions ranging from “OLD AGE” to “SAWBLADE” to “HUBRIS” to “SKIN FALLS OFF.” In addition, we have created four themed sets (“Pirate”, “Adventure”, “Space”, and “Noir”) of 25 cards each, and packaged them in pairs. So these are two more 50-card decks, each containing two sets of 25 themed cards. Each deck comes packaged in a sturdy tin for easy transport.
• Every death on every card has been given unique attributes: Drawability (a difficulty handicap for games like Draw & Guess), Likelihood, Painfulness, and Epicness. Since these attribute values vary from card to card, they may be used in gameplay.
• Every deck also comes with five blank cards (identical backs to the other cards, but unprinted fronts). These cards may be used as wild cards, or may be customized by the user into unique deaths, or even some entirely different type of card! Also available will be a complete set of 50 blank cards, to allow players to do more extensive customization.
• So far, we’ve devised a list of around 15 games that we’re currently play-testing. Some are simple adaptations of existing games (such as Draw & Guess). Other game types that the cards lend themselves to are memory games, storytelling games, debate games, and (using two identical decks) matching games. Not all the ideas are ready for prime time just yet; many will require further testing. But we’ve set up machineofdeath.net/games as a sort of Master Rulebook, to share the rules for the games we think are great so far — and we’ll be adding more new rulesets there as our testing continues.
Existing games + MOD cards = YES
• We also want to encourage you to play around with the MOD cards on their own. If you come up with a cool game mechanic, let us know! We now have an army of play-testers at our disposal, and we’d love nothing more than to create a huge repository of new, fun games crafted and refined by the MOD community — you are the most creative bunch of people around. (We know — we’re reading all your stories!)
• We also think there’s totally potential for MOD cards to be used in a role-playing context, or as part of a more elaborate combat-type game that might require the creation of more classes of cards or other additional material. These are advanced ideas that we’re hoping to workshop over time (and we’d love to hear your ideas too). We encourage you to add MOD cards to your existing gaming and see if they can add a new dimension anywhere. There is no game, from Solitaire to Settlers of Catan, that couldn’t be deliciously upgraded with the judicious addition of infallible death-predicting technology!
Hitman on a Budget
I want to make a special mention of a game that I created called “Hitman on a Budget.” It’s a dice-based role-playing game that I’ve tested a few times now, and it’s super fun with a group of about four to six people. One player gets to be a sort of game leader (the “Bureau Chief”) while the other players are hitmen competing to kill targets revealed by drawing random death cards. I’ve posted the full rules on the Rulebook — and the great thing is, you can play it right now! Because it’s a storytelling-based game, the cards are just there to add an element of randomness…but the Bureau Chief can just as easily choose deaths from her imagination, or use random dictionary words. All you need is a pair of dice (or a dice app!) and some friends, and you’re set. Let me know if you find it fun!
As I mentioned at the top, we’ll be selling card decks at the Small Press Expo this weekend, and we’re planning to put them up online later this month.
Game testers who have already applied through our form will be contacted by September 16 if we decide to use you for this testing round.
We’ll also be holding some local play-testing events in Los Angeles throughout the month of September (at the MOD West LA World Headquarters). The first two will be Tuesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 14 from 8:00 – 10:00 PM. If you’d like to come, please RSVP to either by leaving a comment on this post! We’ll email you with further details. Each event will be limited to 8 people. Feel free to RSVP to both if you know you can make it to both! But please only RSVP if you’re sure you can make it. We’ll have pizza and play some games!
It wouldn’t be Machine of Death if we didn’t leave you with a new challenge, right?
Of course you know that you can get individual, personal death prediction cards by mail, just by sending in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Robynne has been detailing many of the cool things you’ve sent in, and in fact there’s so much cool stuff here in the office now — much more than we could ever blog about — that she’s now working on creating a Flickr set to show it all off. More on that later on.
Like I said, I know you guys are creative. So here’s what I’d like you to do:
Create a custom death prediction card, and send it to us.
It should be the size of a standard US business card — 3.5 x 2″. It should be no heavier than thick cardstock. It can say whatever you like on it, and look however you choose, but somewhere on the card it must include the words:
WINNER! #___ machineofdeath.net/prize
And leave a blank for us to hand-write in a number.
Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll take photos of, and blog about, all the cool cards we receive. Then we will insert them randomly into MOD card decks for other people to find. If someone finds your card in their deck, we’ll give them a prize.
Send your finished death prediction card to:
Machine of Death Custom Card
2554 Lincoln Blvd #214
Venice CA 90291
If you include a SASE, we’ll send you back a li’l thank-you too. Start working right away, because we want to start shipping these decks this month! Leave a comment if you have any questions!
Now…go play “Hitman on a Budget”!