Recently I have been thinking a bit about my projects in the past few years.
One thing that always kinda bothered or puzzled me was about the success of the “Encyclopedia of Austrian Folk Tale Characters”, which I wrote and illustrated back in autumn of 2012, compared to that the failure of the game which I released along with the book.
While I sold a couple of hundreds of copies of the book, the game which I designed to go along with the book, an Austrian-themed Elemental Clash Set going by the (English) name of “Elemental Clash – Austrian Tales”, flopped. I sold maybe 3 or 4 copies of that over here in Austria and the people who bought it still don’t know how to play it as far as I know.
So this really left me puzzled. I couldn’t believe that Austrian people interested in the book are simply all “anti-gamers” so to say and so I actually sat down and did the mental exercise of doing a proper problem-analysis which produced tangible results and a plan how to make the “Austrian Elemental Clash” a success in a second attempt, which I have been starting to do initial preparations for the last week or so.
In the following I want to present to you to the findings of my problem analysis, the consequences I drew from this process and the solutions I have come up with to make the second attempt of bringing the world of Austrain folk tales to the gaming table here in my homecountry, Austria.
Identifying the Problems:
Over the course of my extenisve pondering and hard thinking I have identified several issues which in my opinion are to blame for the lack of interest from Austrians who bought the Folk Tale Book but passed on the game of the same theme.
The Format – Overwhelmed by Cards:
While the original EC: Austrian Tales might be a feast for any Trading / Customizable Card Game veterans, coming with about 100 different cards to customize and build a huge variety of decks with until kingdom come, the sheer number of different cards and the endless possibilities were just overwhelming and confusing to the average guy who bought the book. CCG veterans are a rare commodity over here an my potential customers or target audience for the game where people generally interested in Austrian folk tales. Now this general group consists more or les out of non-gamers. Not even just casual gamers let alone CCG-savvy people. So in hindsight, offering the game as a fully-customizable beast of a game of 100 different cards with partly complicated ruling and text (more on that soon) was probably the biggest (marketing) mistake and most certainly THE main reason why most of those hundreds who purchased the Folk Tale book shyed away from the card game.
The Mechanics – Overwhelmed by Rules:
What I learnt from the feedback of the 3 or 4 people who actually bought the game was that they simply couldnt make any sense of all the stuff it said in the rulebook and what was written on the actual cards. While I can explain and teach the basic rules of the Elemental Clash card game to a non-gamer in about 10 minutes from my personal experience, without that kind of personal introduction and guidance by the designer, people where just plain frightened and thus confused by the 20 A5 pages rules booklet. Compared to my third major issue, this was probably less problematic. What MAY have confused people the most was probably…
The Wording – Overwhelmed by Gamer Lingo:
After some self-reflection excercises and trying to empathize with a casual gamer or a non-gamer or just someone without any prior experience with Trading or Customizable Card Games, I discovered that I actually have been and still am using what I’d like to call “gamer lingo” or even “CCG lingo” in all my Elemental Clash sets and variants, including the first release of “Austrian Clash”, unknowingly, without realizing it, because to me as someone who has been into various CCGs since over 15 years, everything is just obvious and self explanatory. To someone without prior knowledge and experience with CCGs in particular and card and board games in general, the wording of the actual rules text on the cards must have been a major reason for confusion, I concluded.
The Consequences I drew – The Solutions I found
A New Format / Sales Model:
As I explained above my average customer was intimidated, frightened and overwhelmed by the sheer number of different cards and the huge customizability the original game offered was a factor that spoke against the game as a matter of fact. So what I will do in my planned second release of “Austrian EC” is come up with four very unique, well-balanced theme decks. These will be pre-built /preconstructed and enable people to play the game right out of the box so to say, without having to earn an university degree in “Clash Sciences” first, without the need to familiarize with like 100 different cards and all their effects and possible interactions prior to actually playing the game. This should be appealing to a wider, general audience.
A Simplified Rules Set:
The second thing I will do to tackle the “overcomplicated rules” issue the original release seemed to be having is simplifying (one could say “dumbing-down even) the rules of the game just as far as to not compromise or damage the gameplay value a Clash Game has to offer. To achieve this I left the key mechanics that makes a Clash Game a Clash Game intact while cutting some of the less central elements in a clever manner, to create a version of Elemental Clash which is still enjoyable, strategic and challenging, while making the game much more understandable and accessible, maybe for a younger audience as well. So what I left untouched were the three central, defining mechanics in any Clash Game, namely the “damage causes you to discard from deck” mechanic, the division of the playing field into 3 zones and the resource stacking mechanic, while cutting out things like “instant-speed” effects and cards (which spares the average person learning and understanding how “stack rules” work) and replacing the ATK – DEF duality of values with one basic “POWER”-value which counts for both attacking and defending.
A Simplified “In-Game” Language:
This I think was a key-factor for the meager success or downright failure of the first Austrian EC release. I had to go out of my way to put me in the shoes of your average Joe with zero CCG-experience or even zero tabletop gaming experience to come up with proper, new wording which would be much easier to understand for said average Joe. So I tried to scrap all the TCG-Lingo anyone who has played for instance Magic: the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! before understands perfectly and instantly and replace it with neutral wording, which turned out substantially longer than the CCG-Expert wording but should, in theory, be unerstandable for pretty much everyone. The new, “beginner friendly” wording may seem a bit stupid and redundant to CCG-veterans but again, those were not my target group back then when I did the first release of the book in conjunction with the game.
An example for “Gamer Lingo”-free wording would be this:
Instead of a card saying “When this comes into play, draw 2 cards.” the new wording could be like this: “When this card is put from your card hand onto the playing field, you have to pick up the top 2 cards from your deck and add them to your hand.”
Yeah, thrice as long, stupid and redundant sounding – at least to me and you, fellow games enthusiast.
Of course the wording in the rulebook would have to be fixed accordingly, removing all the gamer talk with beginner friendly explanations which should be clear, or at least clearER to pretty much anyone.
“Sagenwelten” and EC Lite:
I will be dedicating one or more full articles to a proper introduction to my new project “Sagenwelten” (“World of Folk Tales”), which will consist of an Austrian-Folk-Tale-themed card game utilizing the EC Lite system I discussed above and a companion bookle with additional background information about the Folk Tale Characters appearing in the game. The product should be appealing to old and young, should be not only enjoyable but also educational and serve “higher” purposes such as futhering and upholding what is among other things our most valuable cultural heritage here in Austria, and passing on and raising interest in said heritage to a younger generation.
Lastly, before I end this article, some illustrations that give you an idea what “Austrian EC LITE” would look like:
Here you can see the differences in card layout between “regular” EC and EC LITE:
Besides the fact that all impotant values are aligned to the left-hand side of the card you will not that there is only one “Power” value instead of the regular ATK – DEF duality and furthermore, the game relevant rules text (black on light background) on the EC Lite cards is set apart visually from the non-game-relevant flavor text (white on dark background) of the card.
Here you can see what a difference a tiny change in card layout – here the repositioning of the card level (cost) – can have for the ease of gameplay. With costs aligned to the left just a quick glance at your card hand tells you what options you have when it comes to cards and the costs of playing them:
On a closing note, I would like to thank my friend and fellow artist Dennis Saputra from Indonesia
for providing such great, high-quality card artwork for my Austrian Elemental Clash at such affordable rates!
An Austrian Artist couldn’t have done a better Pilwiz! 😀
So thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings on how to make Elemental Clash accessible to a wider audience here in Austria. Wish me luck with the imminent crowdfunding campaign and with finding government and other sponsorship.
Kind regards and KEEP CLASHING!
P.S.: If any of you speak German, here the link to the “Sagenwelten” project platform: http://www.sagenwelten.org