Battletech. Shadowrun. Mage Knight. These games have left their mark on the face of gaming, with imagery and concepts (like “big fighting robots”) that even my non-gaming friends have no trouble identifying. They also have a common name behind them: Jordan Weisman, and if he has his way with Golem Arcana, he’ll put a boot stamp into gaming’s face that will change miniatures play forever.
Golem Arcana will be the first miniatures game to truly enter the modern age. All the rules will be taken care of by your phone or tablet, you won’t have to read one word before sitting down and playing. There’s no measuring, as the game stylus tracks distances, line of sight, and movement. The battlefield and figures are marked with microdots to allow for random events and treasure to appear on the battlefield in unpredictable ways.
In short, Golem Arcana is a positively epic idea. Weisman can’t do it all alone, however. He needs a kickstarter for the money, and a company, Harebrained Schemes, filled with skilled and talented people to make the computer magic happen. I was lucky enough chat with Mitch Gitelman of Harebrained Schemes and hear what he has to say about the genre-breaking ideas behind Golem Arcana.
Gamertell: So, tell me a little about yourself and Harebrained Schemes.
Mitch Gitelman: I’ve been making games for 20 years, from Battletech to Crimson Skies. Most recently, we released Shadowrun Returns, the first million dollar Kickstarter to ship.
Gamertell: That’s a big deal, and quite an accomplishment. How did you arrive at ‘only’ $500,000 for the Golem Arcana kickstarter? Other miniatures Kickstarters ask far less.
Gitelman: We’re not just doing minis, there’s software development, and there’s also the stylus. The $500,000 gets us through the software development through the base game. We’re bringing a lot to miniatures games that’s never been done before, and our stretch goals will let us bring our vision to this genre. There’s also the stylus. The stylus is an artifact from the game world, uses LED technology, reads microdots, standard Bluetooth technology.
Gitelman: The figures and board has invisible microdots that help to keep track of all the stats in the game.
Gamertell: I see the obvious advantage of having the rule book on your phone. How else are you using technology here?
Gitelman: You can update the app in real time. There are no errata pages. You can have a tabletop minis game with AI, or play remotely with a friend somewhere else. We’re also going to have living world fiction; a short story in the app, and a scenario that goes with the story. We’ll tabulate how people play it, and the overall outcomes influence the world, leading to the next scenario.
Gamertell: Let’s talk about the game, then. What kind of scale are we using? How many miniatures could be in play at once?
Gitelman: The demo we’ve been using is for a 3 on 3 fight, and takes about an hour to play. Our Colossus is the size of a human head. The software can support up to 8 teams, with multiple players per team, so the game can go from epic to very small.
Gamertell: I see your $2000 level support pledges already sold out. Do you have any plans for more high end offers?”
Gitelman: Actually, we just put up $4000 level pledges; they sold out in less than a day. We added more $2000 level pledges. We’re constantly updating the site, adding more stretch goals and information about the game, as well as adding more offers for individual purchases.”
Gamertell: What’s your one goal for the game, the reason to play this over other miniatures games?
Gitelman: Ease of entry. You can walk up and play. It’s just as deep as any other game, but because it’s an enhanced digital miniatures game the mobile device is referee and rulebook. You never have to argue over the rules. The hobby would be a lot bigger if more people could play it.
Gamertell: Considering Weisman’s success with collectible miniatures games like Mage Knight, will there be a collectible component Golem Arcana? Those kinds of games, even when successful, tend to collapse under their own weight.
Gitelman: We’re not going with rare and unique and all that stuff, but we’ll have limited edition figures. We’re going for a ‘less is more’ sort of thing.
Gamertell: It seems like almost all the game is handled via the software. Why not just put the whole thing into a PC game?
Gitelman: That would make it a video game. We don’t make video games, that’s completely not what we’re going for. The point is to get people around a table and play games, laugh in person. This is for a different type of audience. I like people, I want to play with people, around the table top. I don’t want to make a game that people consume, passively.
One thing in talking to Mitch Gitelman is that he’s infectiously excited about Golem Arcana. I’ve played and burned out on my share of miniatures games, but I have to admit the promise of this game is pretty strong. Much like other Weisman games spawned dozens of imitators taking advantage of his innovations, I find myself drawn to the kickstarter page, with the only question being “How much should I pledge?” Getting in on the ground floor of what’s sure to be a fun ride is definitely tempting me to whip out the credit card.