Interview Aug 26, 2013

I have a special interview for you today with Andreas Propst, designer of Elemental Clash – available for some time via the Game Crafter and now fully redone as the Master Set on Kickstarter, available to back for a few more days.

GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.

Andreas: Elemental Clash is a non-collectible, yet incredibly customizable fantasy card game for 2 or more players. Players take the roles of mighty Spellcasters who summon fantastic Creatures and cast magical Spells in order to defeat the opponent(s). This is done by means of deck depletion. For every damage dealt to a player by Creatures or Spells, they have to discard the topmost card of their Spellbook (deck) to their Archive (discard). When a player is unable to draw a card because their deck is depleted, they lose immediately. There is a great variety of cards from which a countless number of different decks can be built with countless strategies and ways to achieve victory. That is, in short, how Elemental Clash is played.

GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?

Andreas: Elemental Clash features an exciting combination of mechanics which make for an enjoyable gaming experience, employing the “Clash Game System” which I have been developing and refining for over 6 years now. Its three main characteristics are:

  1. deck depletion as the primary win condition
  2. an innovative and efficient resource system in which players are stacking different resource cards to cast Spells and summon Creatures with and
  3. a number of clearly defined zones in play that influence certain cards placed there in certain ways

The main thing that distinguishes Elemental Clash from other, similar products/games on the market is the “format” in which I have been offering the game in its various “incarnations” for years: All you need to play, the full “Elemental Clash experience”, is contained in one box. No need for add-ons or even randomized booster packs. In the case of Elemental Clash: The Master Set, which is currently funding on Kickstarter, you will get well over 80 different cards in playsets of 3, a total of over 300 cards in one box, which is more than sufficient to have competitive, balanced decks assembled for 4 players all at the same time. I abhor the concept of having to buy randomized booster packs to stay competitive and even FFG’s “Living Card Games” don’t provide you with enough cards (playsets) so it was always important for me pursue a different, much more player-friendly approach with Elemental Clash, always hoping people would recognize and appreciate this.

GDC: Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

Andreas: Well it was truly a spark of inspiration, one might call it an epiphany even, when I scribbled down the game concept and mechanics for Elemental Clash as well as the cards which would become the “Basic Set” one lush summer evening back in 2006. The rules and mechanics have changed very little from what I came up with back then and the first set of cards I came up with stayed largely intact as well. In fact many of these earliest cards are included in today’s Master Set, more or less as they were “born” over 6 years ago.

GDC: Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way.

Andreas: Before the spark of inspiration “lit the darkness” I had tried to come up with (fantasy) card games before, having been a huge fan of Magic: the Gathering and having always been a creative mind who wanted to try his own take on awesome things, but all these early attempts failed. After this primordial version of Elemental Clash came to me in a flash of inspiration so to say, Elemental Clash underwent mostly cosmetic changes, changes in outer appearance that is, and was released in various, ever-improving “incarnations”. The first version I offered as a free Print&Play download had layout amateurishly created in MS Word and simple, black and white illustrations which were awfully honestly. The next version I put on the “newly-born” The Game Crafter had improved card layout, this time created in Photoshop, and colored artwork for the first time – still created by my humble self. What followed can be safely called a disaster as every game designer’s dream turned a nightmare when TOG Entertainment picked up Elemental Clash. Working with them was one of the most unpleasant experiences in my game design “career”. I shall spare you the details. What matters is that I managed, with the invaluable help of many friends, to tear the game from TOG’s clutches. They waned and vanished soon after – Elemental Clash however thrived as I put it on TGC once again in the form of the “Master Editions” which featured greatly improved card layout done by a professional graphics designer. The latest and probably definite iteration is the Elemental Clash Master Set, which features state-of-the-art illustrations by talented artists from all over the globe. It is currently funding on Kickstarter. It has to be noted that, while the game did not really change at all mechanics-wise, the comments and reviews became increasingly more positive as the game graphics and artwork gradually improved, which is, in my opinion, a very telling fact about the gaming scene as a whole.

GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

"Jilocasin the Creator" illustrated by Enggar Adirasa.Andreas: By far the biggest challenge, the most persistent obstacle I was struggling to overcome all the way from the very beginning was the commonly held misconception that Elemental Clash is “just a magic clone”. I freely admit to the fact that the game was clearly inspired by the “godfather of CCGs” and upon cursory inspection, at first glance, the game may appear to be very similar to Magic. So far however, every single person whom I am aware of who gave the game a try discarded their prejudice and recognized the unique dynamics of the game and the enjoyable combination of mechanics it features. Well everyone but Tom Vasel. But that’s another story. The reviews I got for the game from persons who actually gave it a chance so far are testimony to the fact that it is not “just a Magic clone”. As I noted above, with improving graphics and artworks, the “magic clone comments” grew less numerous and, nowadays, I find myself rarely in the situation of having to convince people Elemental Clash is a proper game in its own right…

GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?

Andreas: Well as I said before I have always been a creative mind and always wanted to do my own take on things that I liked. In my early teens, when the urge to design (card) games began to grow I was fascinated by Magic: the Gathering and always yearned to do something like that, yet in my very own way. While I had been modifying the classic board games people usually limit themselves to over here ever since my early childhood, Elemental Clash was what burst open the door to the world of game design for me and, while my game designing efforts grew from hobby to passion to profession and I evolved farther and farther away from Magic: the Gathering, I am very pleased to see how people still take a liking to my first real creation in the field of game design after all those years.

GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Andreas: Honestly, whenever I get a kind word from a fellow gamer or game designer who wants to express his fondness for one (or more) of my creations. A friendly email from a person who is having a good time with Elemental Clash or something else I created just makes my day and keeps me going so to say. I am trying to be a humble person and making people happy is of great importance to me and in fact one of my main motivations in game design. As the American philosopher Robert Green Ingersoll put it: “Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy, is to make others so.” Yes I admit it, I am hopelessly idealistic but I found this maxima quite useful in my life, be it in game design or all other aspects.

GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?

Andreas: Well I am kinda like a lone wolf to be honest. No wife in sight so far. My creative work keeps me pretty much occupied and on top of that I have an array of rather strange hobbies. Besides being a game designer, I am also an artist mainly working in traditional media (you can check out some of my work on Facebook), and an author of books (an Elemental Clash novel is in the making!). I take great interest in natural sciences, history and philosophy and enjoy reading in these fields. Among the stranger ones of my hobbies is “treasure hunting” where I take to the fields with a shovel and metal detector in search of coins and other little metal artifacts.

Some of the fantastic Creatures you can summon.

The Creatures of Elemental Clash

GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?

Andreas: Probably my biggest problem as a game designer is to find people to actually play games with me. Only few of my friends are into or willing to play games and when we play, it is mostly one of my numerous prototypes. However I played Kingdom Builder recently and found it a bit basic but surely enjoyable. Furthermore, and you may find that quite amusing and/or crazy, I have taken an interest in the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, which I used to detest back in my days as avid fan of Magic: the Gathering, which I now enjoy playing as a filler in a casual setting with friends (and beer).

GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?

Andreas: My favorite game that I have not designed myself is probably Dominion. While the theme and card effects seem a bit unconnected and fitted together loosely (Why does a Smithy draw you 3 cards for example), this game single-handedly caused a paradigm shift in the world of board games and game design. A fact to which the many, many deckbuilding games that followed its footsteps stand witness. Donald X. Vaccarino discovered a truly unique concept there which has been emulated and built upon for a good reason. Why didn’t I think of that before, I keep asking myself.

GDC: One word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Andreas: Patience and commitment (darn that’s two words). I’d also like to add this if I may: Don’t do it for the money, do it for the fun you and others will have.

GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)

Andreas: I’d like to seize this opportunity to thank the countless people who have been contributing to and supporting the Elemental Clash project as a whole for over 6 years now. Reviewers, playtesters, friends. This one goes out to you! You know who you are!!

GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).

Andreas: While we don’t have any notable cons over here in rural Austria, I am very active on Boardgamegeek and social media like facebook. First of all I invite everyone to just shoot me an email if you happen to have any questions or inquiries. I will answer any requests personally and in a timely manner, whatever it is. You will find more info on Elemental Clash at www.elementalclash.com and can follow the news on the game by “liking” us on Facebook or following us on twitter @elementalclash1. I am “jilocasin” on Boardgamegeek in case you’d want to hook up on there! I am looking forward to hearing from you guys!
Many thanks to Roger for this great opportunity to share some thoughts on my games!

GDC: You’re welcome, and thank you for taking the time to share with us! Be sure to check out Elemental Clash on Kickstarter – there’s only a few days left! Pledging for a complete copy of the Elemental Clash Master Set will only cost you $38. Take a look at the Elemental Clash The Master Set Going USA Press Release for more information.

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