Hi guys, let’s start by introducing yourself, who are the Ether Wars development team?
We are two people, and we do everything, from the game design to the graphic design, promotion, community management, coordinating logistics and production with our partners… all.
We are friends from long ago, but we have very different backgrounds;
I’m a videogame geek since a childhood both on PC and consoles since the times of Doom, Wolfenstein or Witchaven till now (Last game played… Grey Goo). I’m also a Psychology Graduate, Human Resources Master and Gamification expert. My first steps in board games were when I was a child with games like Stratego, Risk, Monopoly, Warhammer, Total War, Magic and other classics but when I started studying at the University I stopped playing board games.
One year ago I rediscovered board games thanks to games like Stone Age and Catan, and since then I’ve played lots of other games like Game of Thrones, Descent, Andor, Chaos in the Old World and Android Netrunner.
One of my deepest thoughts is that "life is a game" and games should be fun, so let’s have fun living! I studied Business Administration and I love to create original things. My initiation with games was made by one of my cousins, with Jurassic Park the board game. I also played some RPGs, like Vampiro and the original Hero Quest.
PC games caught my attention since the first time I saw one, from Commandos to Diablo and StarCraft, but the board was always there. I have been a lover for a long time of Magic and Warhammer, I´ve played almost everything that fell in front of me.
I really discover board games in High school when something started growing in my head, make a game that you will really want to play, and here we are, trying this tough but beautiful road.
The truth is that when we started the Ether Wars development we weren’t experts on board games, and we think this is one of the strengths of the game; to be something different.
So what is Ether Wars?
Ether Wars is not something that is easy to describe. It’s a new concept of board game that mixes things rarely or never mixed before; such as abstract strategy with a deep Sci-Fi and fantasy space theme, a new dice troop system that mixes abstract strategy with probability, and inspiration not only from board games but from videogames.
The result of the mix, and lots of testing and modifications, is a game of strategy in which the players represent a unique species and fight each other using a wide range of possibilities to acquire the power of the Ether. To win you have to anticipate the other players’ intentions, surprise them and court the favour of the gods.
You've been advertising the concept as a real time strategy (RTS) with dice, where did this idea come from?
It’s a bit of a strange story how we re-started with board games. In childhood we use to play Risk, Hero Quest, Space Crusade...But during adolescence we played more videogames, we rediscovered this world after coming back to our city and started to understand better the magic of playing face to face and the players being the ones that interiorize the rules and not a machine.
Because of this we wanted to translate our videogame experiences to such media, creating something different and fresh, and disrupting the board games’ development. One of the game genres that we used to play more than any other where RTS games like StarCraft, Command and Conquer and Warcraft and MOBAS like League of Legends. Because that was the objective we still maintain that it’s the principal point of our creation.
We must say that Ether Wars is not a videogame, and therefore not a RTS or a MOBA in a strict way. We take a lot of our inspiration from them, and tried to create a similar experience on the board, merging those ideas with the board game mechanics we enjoy from other games. Those mechanics will surely be more easily recognizable for the board game community, but Ether Wars isn’t represented by any of them separately.
Are there any aspects of video games that you tried to work into a board game and it just couldn't be made to work?
Yes, for sure. There are lots of differences from a virtual environment to the real environment where the board game takes place. We tried to create a rhythm on the game that makes the player feel like a RTS because of the constant decision making and interaction, but we couldn’t rid the game of some mechanics such as turns or phases to structure the game because there isn’t an AI working for the players to maintain actions on time and things like that.
We also tried to create a more profound character development system that offers the players the possibility to customize their species during the game. It’s something very common in RTS and MOBAS, but we decided to get rid of it. It’s a board game and lots of the developing actions make the game complexity increase too much for new players.
Also this kind of mechanics tend to create a process in which players develop first and fight later, increasing the game duration and reducing the combat and tactic interaction. Can you imagine Chess with development?
We haven’t completely discarded this idea for a future game or expansion, developing a nice growth system, but we finally decided to put our effort into creating a deep tactical environment instead, which offers an experience more intense and equally replayable because of the constant changes that the game puts the players through.
Conversely which video game aspect or mechanic moved smoothly into Ether Wars?
The asymmetrical game style is one of them. Not exclusive to videogames but much more common. Developing such mechanics requires lots of testing and after the required testing we think that we have developed truly temperamental species.
Another important aspect is a resource economy in which the resources don’t give points (as in lots of board games) but they offer more than one utility (and no one of these utilities is for developing). It’s a very important element in RTS. You have to extract but not to stock the resources or your enemy’s will rush your base, a constant wise use of the resources is a must. We think we translated this experience really well to the table top.
Other things we merged well were the Hero and minions concept of MOBAs. Your Hero is much more powerful than the minions, but can only be placed in one zone. Leading your wisely minions will be crucial to get the win.
There are lots of other things but we think you must play it, feel it and then tell us what you think we really achieved to capture :)
I notice you're based in Spain and you're producing a sci-fi game, have you had any involvement with the FAITH RPG team over at Burning Games? The two games have similar themes and could have made an interesting cross over?
Sure! They are good friends of ours! We have both played each other’s game, and we love the results in both cases. They are very different from a point of playability but they share a world of Sci Fi. In our case because it’s a strategy and abstract game and it’s a bit stranger to have such a background compared to a roleplaying game.
They have helped us a lot, and still do! They are a qualified group of people that work a lot, and also they made a great game. I can say nothing but good things about them. I can’t wait to see Faith at home!
There is nothing on a cross over now, but if all goes well in the future it could be possible! A new fight between different universes or a common enemy in a side story could be a nice start for a game, book or…
Have you come across any unique opportunities or issues from running a board game Kickstarter from Spain?
It’s much harder for many reasons. The support in Spain for crowdfunding platforms is much lower because people generally don’t know even they exist, yeah, even young board game players.
We also have some very bad legislation and comprehension of these channels, and also a high tax system on this kind of projects compared to other countries like USA, UK, Holland, etc. The producers here in Spain are far away from the quality, price and specialization available from others in Europe, USA, China, etc.
It’s a lot more a problem than an advantage being in Spain to do this, truly. The only positive aspect is that you look like a very innovative entrepreneur, but of course this is worthless… haha
Have you managed to get Ether Wars manufactured in your home country or are you manufacturing in China?
We have contacted at least 6 manufacturers. Because of the game’s component characteristics, and mainly the 51 custom dice, some manufacturers have offered a large price. Not many games require such a large quantity of dice and not many game manufacturers have specialized in this.
A custom dice is no cheaper to manufacture than a normal miniature and that is something that many Kickstarter backers do not know. Here in Spain there is only one manufacturer that can offer us a full manufacturing service and it’s is the most expensive of them.
Producing in China is the best option for us, but there is also interesting options in other parts of Europe or USA. Depending on the funds we get in the campaign we will make the final decision trying to ensure the best quality of the product but maintaining a reasonable price.
Javier: That is a truly hard decision… I personally fell in love with each of them at some time during the design process. It’s the only way to create a well-balanced game. Each one represents a way of confronting the life and we use them all in our life to continue fighting :)
Álvaro: Favourite? Hard question.. For me, it depends on my mood today. Depends how I’m feeling I prefer one or other, all of them have their good points, and all of them can be a really kick in the enemy’s ass!
A would like to give a big thank you to Álvaro and Javier for taking the time to answer my questions.
If a RTS inspired dice based board game sounds like you kind of game then check out Ether Wars in Kickstarter.