To those of us who love board games, Kickstarter has become the gaming Mecca. I find myself there quite regularly thumbing through the huge variety of games, both from gaming behemoths, like CMON, and from small first-time indie publishers like Infinity and More, and its lead (only) designer Jack Spoerner.
Back in March, Jack’s first game Dungeon of Infinity successfully funded with 106% of its target goal. For the most part, I missed this campaign, I had some awareness of it-I knew that it was a second attempt at funding and that was about it. I was not grabbed and never closely investigated it at the time. However, recently I stumbled upon the campaign again and was reading through the updates and I was intrigued.
What I saw was a creator who was, apparently listening closely to his backers. He was hearing their concerns and wants, he was deeply thanking the ones who really helped push the campaign to fund-even going so far as to altering the appearance of one of the characters to resemble the backer. I thought that was one of the coolest things I had seen lately in a campaign, particularly after a campaign had ended.
I then started looking at the game itself, how does it play?, what is different about it from other Dungeon Crawlers? (my favorite genre). The more I looked the more interested I became. Here is a crawler that is only $49. That is incredible. I fell in love with some of the character designs (looking at you Cat critter and woman with a huge bomb in her hand), and I was incredibly impressed with the gender parity of the characters as well as the racial diversity. In addition to that none of the female characters are oversexualized, as so often happens in fantasy games. Intrigued, I reached out to Jack and asked if he would consider allowing me to review the game, and if he would virtually sit down with me to talk to me about his experience with the game, and how he went from failing to fund the first time around to a successful campaign with some extremely passionate backers. Jack was amenable to both, and he very generously took the time to reply.
Can you share a little bit about your background as a gamer?
I was into war games as a teenager. I would set up SPI games downstairs in my basement and they would sit there for months as I’d play solo campaigns. Then the video game explosion happened, and I have been there for all of them. Kind of got away from board games. Then my son introduced me to Star Wars and D&D minis. From there I discovered Kickstarter and was like, wow. Mistfall was the first game I backed and I was hooked again.
To my knowledge, you are a first time designer; what was your inspiration or drive to set out to design a fairly complex game?
My inspiration was twofold. One I was unemployed and [two] I wanted to make the game that I always wanted to play.
Why a dungeon crawler, especially with a dearth of popular crawlers already on the market: Gloomhaven, Sword and Sorcery, Descent, Zombicide, and Massive Darkness to name just a few?
Because I love them. Plus the game I wanted to play did not exist. So I created it.
One of the things I almost immediately notice is that your game utilizes a d20. While this is a definite shout out to Tabletop RPG games, it does add a level of randomness that other crawlers do not have. This is different than most other dungeon crawlers. Why the d20?
Because life can be random, plus I love the tension of do I succeed or not. I’m not a big fan of dice-less games. I’m also not a big fan of dice determine the amount of damage you do. Also not a big fan of one roll kills. So my game has none of that. Combat takes time and strategy. The amount of damage an attack will inflict is a known before you even roll and there are very few 1 hit kills.
I also notice that you have gone with standees, rather than minis as the only option. Was that solely a cost move, or is there another reason?
I could not afford minis. They are just too expensive.
(Author’s personal note: I personally LOVE the having standees, as a gamer that is unable to paint minis)
Your first attempt at Kickstarting was not successful. Why do you think it failed? What lessons did you learn?
The page did a terrible job of conveying what the game was about. This is a huge game and we completely undersold it.
Did you consider giving up?
You made some changes before relaunching, most notably, dropping the price and the goal. What other changes did you make?
The biggest change was making the entrance of the Dungeon Lord a lot less random. You now have a Threat Meter that goes down as you do things in the Dungeon. Once it hits zero you can have the Dungeon Appearing any turn after. It was possible before this for the Dungeon Lord to appear on turn 1. Game over, no fun or not appear at all. I also cut the Bose Event deck from 70 cards to 30 and removed most of the do nothing cards.
I have the impression that you have really been listening to your backers; what they want, what they would like to see. What are the biggest changes that have come about due to backer input?
The layout of the 2nd Kickstarter page was very backer driven from first Kickstarter feedback. I listened to all the negative feedback and took it to heart and changed because of it. Plus Corry Damey, and myself had learned so much from the first KS. Corry is my graphic designer. We did what we could as there were financial considerations that came into play. We also had much more art for the 2nd Kickstarter.
Moving on to the game itself, what is unique about DoI? How is it different from the other crawlers on the market?
It has a combination of mechanics that do not exist in the gaming community. It has spatial combat that is completely unique. I consider it a Euro/Ameritrash mix. You can reuse your abilities, and gamers are thrilled with that aspect when they first play. While the game is random, it is all probability driven and if you die it is pretty much your own fault. I’m famous for playtesting losses. I’m so focused on playtesting…and well in my game if you make a poor decision you will probably lose.
When are you on set to deliver?
Right now we are looking at hitting next spring for delivery. But there is so much that can happen in that time frame. Most of the 482 cards are ready to go. But that is a very large job getting each one print ready. Then the big thing I need to finish writing the story campaign. I’m maybe 33% finished. Then there is the rule book.
I know that there is late pledges, will DoI be available commercially at all?
That is not in the plans for right now. I am going with the Chip Theory [Games] approach. It will be available on my website.
What does the future hold for DoI?
Dungeons of Infinity is a two-part game. When I was first designing it my son-in-law told me to drop the second part until later. That there was enough game in the first part only. He was correct. I want to get this finished so I can then look at what I had planned for the 2nd part of the game. It will be the same game with a completely different way to play. It will be a large expansion.
Are there any other games in the cooker?
Yes, I have lots of ideas. But I have been completely focused on Dungeons. I will either do what I mentioned above or go with my solo game idea that I have been batting around. But, with the success of DOI, I think I will finish what I started and the solo game will have to wait.
(Author’s Note: Sorry folks! I tried to get a little more info about the solo game, but Jack is keeping it close to the vest right now!)
If by now, someone is still on the fence after reading this interview, what is your “elevator pitch” to give them that last nudge to late pledge?
If you like a game where your decisions matter, you have a lot of choices, you like not knowing what lies around every turn, and you never want it to play the same way twice, then come on in the water is great!
(Author’s note: You can check out an early draft version of DoI on Tabletopia here)
Dungeon’s of Infinity is a dungeon crawl game, which features solo, co-op and competitive modes. It has an expansive story mode, as well as multiple shorter story arcs, and plenty of one shot scenario options. I, for one, am very excited about reviewing this game when it is completed, I think this is a game that deserves far more attention than it garnered during its campaign. You can late pledge for the incredibly low price of $49 now here