Steamcraft Kickstarter: Mike Gnade Interview
Posted By: Dillon
The Steamcraft Kickstarter was just recently fully funded with 22 days to go. Here is our look at the game and interview with the designer, Mike Gnade .
Steamcraft has been off to a great start, completing initial funding with plenty of time left in the campaign. It is a card-driven deckbuilder with a steampunk theme. The base game plays 2 players, with expansion options allowing 2-4 players. Check out the Kickstarter Campaign page here for a full description more information!
In the game, each player will be taking the role of a corporation that will then go on to hire employees, create buildings and machines, and try to dominate their opponent through wealth or influence to win the game.
We recently had the opportunity to get in touch with the game’s designer, Mike Gnade, and ask him a few questions about the project:
BGB: Steamcraft’s full 4-player version comes with 5 different starting corporate factions – could you tell us about each of those factions and a bit about what strength each one offers?
MG: I’m going to keep this brief, but I’m actually doing a series of in-depth posts on each faction as Kickstarter updates, so if anyone wants to delve deeper they can check that out.
Frontier Rail is the easiest faction to play and is all about going after victory points as quickly as possible. Most of their cards focus on acquiring these Brass points over increasing your buying power for more powerful cards so if you let the game go on too long without diversifying, you could be in trouble. Frontier Rail is a Wild West themed corporation that focuses on shipping and transportation with its steam engines.
Omni-Edo is artistically inspired by Asian cultures and is all about trimming your deck to be more efficient. Only Omni-Edo cards can dismiss/fire employees from your deck. Their cards are a little more focused on construction but are pretty balanced overall. They also have some very powerful Samurai and Ronin that can mine and sabotage other players.
MG: McGlynn Clockwerks is one of the more ‘traditionally’ steampunk looking factions but also one of the hardest to play effectively. Their faction focuses on drawing cards and cycling through your deck. Their cards offer a lot of flexibility, but their employees definitely focus on generating labor over construction and they have very few units so there’s a lot of risk/reward and luck involved with digging for bigger combos.
MG: Windcraft Enterprises is another more traditional looking steampunk faction but is all about flying contraptions. No faction can get units out faster than Windcraft so they can potentially control the board and get an early lead. Their cards tend to generate more construction than labor so they typically want to focus on converting that construction into victory points so that their early lead doesn’t evaporate.
Harlem Electric is the most aggressive faction. It is focused on keeping the your opponents down by sabotaging buildings, dealing damage and forcing players to discard. Harlem can be a bit tricky to play since they lack buying power but their cards are the most valuable. If Harlem can build up their resource generation early, they can easily win by controlling the board and keeping all the other players down for the rest of the game.
BGB: The Deckbuilding genre has been popular for a few years now, with some very well-made games already existing. To someone who already owns a few of those, what would you say are the qualities that make Steamcraft a game worth Kickstarting and adding to their library?
MG:I love Deckbuilders and have quite a few in my own library, but none of them have the battle mechanics, traps, and variety of strategies of Steamcraft. Star Realms does have some player interaction and damage dealing, but it’s not as deep. Steamcraft was designed to fill a void in all the deckbuilding games that I have played. It requires you to actually watch and react to other players purchases and you almost always have to adapt your strategy during the course of a game to win. There’s nothing worse than focusing on converting construction into victory points and having your Mining Platform destroyed by a Surging Kamikaze – now do you rebuild or spend that construction on a powerful building or a unit to defend it in the future?
BGB: Steamcraft seems to have been influenced by a great mix of games that have preceded it – what were some of those games that helped get you to this point, and why did you choose them?
MG: I really got into Ascension and deckbuilding games for awhile there. I have 3 or 4 expansions to that game and really loved the mechanics and strategies, but when I played a 5 player game of Ascension I realized it was just community solitaire and there was no real interaction between our decks. That’s where the original idea for Steamcraft came from – combining deckbuilding mechanics with deeper player interaction. As I’ve developed the game I’ve introduced more and more things that contribute to this player interaction.
The combat was definitely inspired by Magic/Hearthstone and while I’ve been tempted to let cards do more things a la Star Realms – I made sure to keep things focused and simple. So the biggest 2 influences are definitely Ascension and Hearthstone, but there’s also some elements of Netrunner in the game (placing buildings face down, playing as an evil corporation) and I’m sure many other games that I may not have even realized that I was influenced by.
Steamcraft was designed to fill a void in all the deckbuilding games that I have played. It requires you to actually watch and react to other players purchases and you almost always have to adapt your strategy during the course of a game to win.Mike Gnade
BGB: What is your current favorite strategy in a game of Steamcraft, and what type of plays would an opponent have to perform to counter it?
MG: First, I must admit that I have a tendency to just barely lose at Steamcraft by only a few points. My favorite play style and faction is McGlynn because I like playing a lot of cards and going for big combos. I tend to focus on the Labor Resource and Employees more than the buildings and units – mostly because very few cards can take these cards away and counter the strategy. Unfortunately, this strategy takes a lot of time to kick into gear and is based a bit on luck so I tend to be a little behind the unit and building threats of the other players.
My favorite strategy I have seen was at PAX when a player used McGlynn to cycle through their deck to get to Railcar Thieves to just steal points. The player had no buying power at all, but just kept stealing points so that he just edged the other player out. The counter to this strategy would be to prevent a player from buying all three thieves and to focus on units that could just stay out there and mine more and more points per turn.
BGB: There is a potential stretch goal coming up of solo play for Steamcraft – what will the AI opponent for players look like in terms of gameplay?
MG: The AI or Solo experience will be a lot less focused on battle and more on time. The AI opponent will always mine at least 1 point per turn and will start off by purchasing employee cards but then after a time switch to design department cards. Every design dept card will enter play on the AI’s side and mine for more points. AI units and buildings will be permanently destroyed but still count towards the opposing score. It should be quite challenging but I’m still working out the exact balance of AI behavior. It’s probably a little too hard right now.
BGB: For others trying to bring their own game design ideas to the world What would you say is the biggest hurdle to overcome in the process
of getting a Kickstarter project off the ground? Is there any part of the process that you would have done differently
MG: The biggest hurdle to running a Kickstarter is money and time. The investment to get a game to Kickstarter is a lot bigger than you think and designing a game takes a lot more time than you think. I’ve been working on Steamcraft for well over a year and have just gotten to Kickstarter. I still have months left of tweaking, production and fulfillment. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have the art done for GenCon this year (July) and missed out on that convention. If I were to do it again, I would have put an earlier deadline on the artist so I could’ve revealed the game there and playtested it there. Luckily, I got to go to PAX Prime but if I were to do it again – I would want to line up and demo at more conventions before my launch.
We want to thank Mike Gnade for stopping by to answer some of our questions about Steamcraft and the process of running a Kickstarter!
We’ve had our eyes on Steamcraft for the last two weeks and think it’s definitely worth checking out – even if you are a bit burned out on the deckbuilder genre! If you have any specific questions of your own, hit Mike up on the Kickstarter page for Steamcraft!