Interview with Juraj Bilic creator of Machina Arcana

Machina Arcana caused quite a stir at Essen Spiel 2013 and it has been a game I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced. Well the Machina Arcana Kickstarter has just started and I got a chance to speak to the game’s creator about the game, Lovecraftian horror and exhibiting at Essen.

A tear in the space time continuum has started to form and a horrible indescribable beast has started to emerge to eat us (it’s our own fault for standing too close to a sharp corner), you’ve got just a few minutes to explain what Machina Arcana is, and why we should back it?

The monster began to slither towards us threateningly! There was no other way around and we were forced to run through a dank and obscure corridor, closing the sturdy door behind us - in the hopes that it would at least slow the hideous beast, if not stop it. As we entered a narrow hall, an unnatural fog crept up and enveloped us fully. We could see virtually nothing ahead of us, only that we stood on a rusty metal grid, positioned precariously over a vast emptiness. Panic kicked in and we frantically searched for help or a clue in our surroundings. At last we noticed sundry strange etchings on the wall which appeared very similar to the patterns we had encountered in the mysterious tomes of Professor Alden.

We clustered together on the only patch of solid ground we could find, and tinkered with the markings, all the while knowing that in moments the creature would be upon us, as we heard the faint echoes of the door crumbling to dust behind us. The foul wings of death were rushing at us when we finally managed to align the etchings and a sudden, strange hissing shrieked through the cracks in the walls. But was it too late? We could see the hideous limbs of the nightmare made flesh as it sped towards us. So we cowered together, knowing that our final moments were upon us, but lo! just as we stared into the eyes of doom, a multitude of sharp spikes sprang up from the metal grid and punctured our enemy.

It crumpled with an eerie howl, while its festering intestines oozed from the mangled corpse. We were still breathing, stunned with fear by the spectacle, but alive and relieved to be so. All the while unaware that during this commotion two shadowy figures had appeared in our vicinity, exuding a palpable sense of menace...

This recreation is actually very similar to the experience that players can get from playing Machina Arcana.
Machina Arcana kickstarter board

The Cthulhu Mythos is a very popular theme in board games, what makes Machina Arcana different?
We created a gaming experience where players really feel like they are inside those accursed corridors and halls. They can freely move around, interact with their environment and cooperatively plan their survival. Additionally, they progress through the horror story, with every chapter having its own illustration, narrative and dynamics. At the finale, if they survive, they will face a specific type of mini game.

Besides horror elements, steampunk is heavily used, not only through art and the feel of the game, but also with inventory mechanics that enable you to equip, upgrade and augment your gear. The idea is to have a system through which every session will be unique but also to make it streamlined and as tight as possible.
Machina Arcana kickstarter combat dice

You took Machina Arcana to Essen last month, what was the experience like and how was the game received.
Ah the great Essen Spiel - a fair of unbelievable quality, packed with great games, comics and trinkets. But most important are the people; gamers from the whole world eager to enjoy and bask themselves in a myriad of nerdy stuff - just the place for us!

There was only one drawback to our presentation experience in Essen: we were exhibitors, and as there were only two of us present, the massive interest in Machina Arcana meant we couldn’t move from our place at all and subsequently did not get the chance to probe the halls ourselves. :)

We played with more than a hundred different people, trying to convey the ideas and feel of the game. The reception and their feedback was so motivating for us. All the hard work that was put into this project was totally justified and our vision was only strengthened by the excitement and thrill that players showed during gaming sessions. I wish to thank them once again here, because there is a great fulfillment in knowing that you can give other people something they can relate to and enjoy.
Machina Arcana kickstarter characters

Am I correct in thinking that this is your first game? What have you done to ensure you can meet the demands of the Kickstarter campaign?
I’ve been programming since I was a little kid (Commodore 64 fans unite!) so I’ve been drilled in the aspects of designing mathematical systems. In my opinion, when you look at any board game from a logical viewpoint, you find yourself in an intricate world of computer code - something that relates to my normal way of thinking. When you add to that a team of professionals, armed with the knowledge and passion for making a beautiful and creative game  - something really magical happened.

Additionally, we stand proud with a game that is already finished and has been tested by the hundreds. Not with a promise, but with actual evidence of a quality game that has been played at many conventions.

There is already a concrete plan as to how to create and send everything that belongs to our dear backers, offers from the manufacturer and distributor are in place, and the support from our fans is here. The only thing still missing at this point is launching the Kickstarter campaign.

Machina Arcana kickstarter equipment

And last of all, what is your favourite Lovecraftian creature?
That would be a peculiar, apparently fragile being, still uncertain of its own origin. Capable of unprecedented feats of extreme destruction, but also adept at displaying the ability to create whole worlds with acts of compassion and ingenuity. I’m talking about the most dangerous of them all: man.
If you like the look of Machina Arcana, then check out the Machina Arcana Kickstarter project.

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