Edmund McMillen Details New Board Game Tapeworm, Now Live on Kickstarter - ArticleEvan Norris , posted on 28 April 2020 / 2,510 Views
For a long time, video games and board games have had a fruitful, symbiotic relationship. The tabletop Warhammer became a long-running video game series, while electronic titles like Bloodborne and The Binding of Isaac have transformed into board games. Edmund McMillen, the man behind The Binding of Isaac and its multiplayer card game equivalent Four Souls, has now skipped over the video game component altogether and gone straight for the board game with Tapeworm, a spatial 2-4+ card game that debuted on Kickstarter today.
Ahead of launch, Mr. McMillen was kind enough to share his thoughts on the game's art style and mechanics, and his experience with crowdfunding.
Q: Not a lot of people can make tapeworms cute. Talk a little about your signature style—equal parts adorable and abominable—and how it brings this new card game to life?
Edmund McMillen (EM): Cute-Gross is my forte, I grew up with Garbage Pail Kids covering my dresser at home and those themes made a giant impression on me. Over the years I learned you can get away with some heinous themes if you just make the characters involved round with giant eyes. Early in dev studio71 was showing the game to a few people to get some feedback and the first thing said was, "the name tapeworm is so gross maybe change it to something else?" For me hearing that only made me want to push those themes more. I mean yes, tapeworms are horrible ugly parasites, but in my game they are also quite cuddly and have a lot of personality and personality goes along way.
Q: You mention that you designed this game to be approachable for younger players and deep enough to keep more advanced players engaged. How did you balance those two audiences during development?
EM: This was a hard nut to crack, the game started as more of an uber simple game like Uno that was spatial, I was kind of designing it to be played by my nieces and nephews who were 6-7 those days so I kept things very bare bone and it was more of a color matching game where placement mattered. Over the years though I was determined to add depths so adults could enjoy it more. I wanted to walk the line of a traditional card game and a more advanced one like Magic the Gathering, so I started putting in very basic mechanics that allowed you to modify your hand, something as simple as that forces players to set value to each card in their hand and discard ones they find may be less useful. After that I added mechanics that allow you to edit the deck slightly changing what the player next to you would draw and finally added ways to gain intel by looking at other players' hands and messing up their strategy.
Beyond the card mechanics, I also added some "advanced" spatial strategy I called "Ring Worm", where if a player connects 2 ends of the worm together to connect a full circle that player can instantly discard 2 cards, and possibly win if they played their cards right.
Q: What lessons learned from The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls Kickstarter textured this new campaign?
EM: That improvisation is best when doing campaigns like these. I try my best to stay open ended when developing stuff and the Kickstarter is no different. I went into Four Souls extremely fast with not much time to think or plan, so it kept us on our toes and even though it added a bit of stress it also felt more alive and fun. 75% of what was done during the Four Souls campaign was improvised. So with this campaign I'm going to stay open, open to feedback, fan interaction, fun tiers etc. and just make stuff up as we go. I know the biz side may hate it but it works for me :)
Q: Speaking of Four Souls, it sounds like some reward tiers for Tapeworm might include Four Souls bonus cards. What other special rewards can we look forward to?
EM: If we get enough funding I have quite a few fun Four Souls card designs that I'd like to unlock and add to the premium box. Currently I have a tapeworm themed player card + starting item, monster card and treasure card... but we could def make more, but these unlocks will be tied to the financial aspect of the Kickstarter. The cool thing about these cards is they all revolve around an "infested" mechanic where you lay egg counters on players and monsters and when they die stuff happens, so the tapeworm character card really plays out this very political mechanic where you can lock people out of added rewards or make killing them very rewarding.
Q: Why is a grassroots platform like Kickstarter helpful for a project like this?
EM: Because the last one was so fun... I mean I'm being super honest when I say I'm doing this because I really like the game's design and I enjoyed the previous campaign. Physical games don't make bank even if they blow kickstarters out of the water financially. I've had people tell me why waste the time on physical when digital pays out so much better... because it's fun, it's different and exciting. The fan interaction, the exchange of ideas and feedback and the printing and physicality of a card game just feels really neat to me, and Kickstarter is the best way to make sure we can fund the project as well as get the word out to people who may care.
Q: Finally, might these new wormy characters find their way into a future video game? Red worm, pink worm, white worm, and black worm would make for a great co-op quartet—just sayin'.
EM: One of them has already been in quite a few... the white worm has been in the Legend of Bumbo as well as a bunch of old comics of mine and the red worm is loosely based off of War from The Binding of Isaac. But yeah, you never know what will happen :)
I'd like to thank Edmund McMillen for his answers and Motiv PR for arranging the interview. You can view the Tapeworm Kickstarter via Tapewormgame.com for more information.
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