Interview with Cardboard Fortress duo, Anthony Amato and Nicole Kline, on their latest game Lazer Ryderz. Prepare yourself for a blast of 80s nostalgia!
Nicole and Anthony, it has been a while. In fact the last time we did an interview it was for the 80’s inspired RESISTOR_. Now you are back on Kickstarter with another 80’s inspired game, Lazer Ryderz – which seems like an extremely 80’s looking board game version of the old cell phone game, Snake. Could you tell us a little bit about the game?
Nicole: Absolutely! Lazer Ryderz is inspired by TRON Light Cycles, Battlefleet Gothic, X-Wing, and our love of the 80s, including Silverhawks, Transformers, and other 80s Saturday morning action cartoons and movies. In the game, you’re one of four ryderz who are fighting for control of Power Prizms on the board. Your gear speed determines which lazer pieces you can use. You maneuver around the board, trying to avoid crashing, while tagging the prizms to win the game.
Anthony: electric guitar noises
What is the story behind the game’s creation and was the game inspired by TRON Light Cycles at all?
Nicole: Anthony was inspired by TRON Light Cycles, board games like Formula D, and tabletop wargames like Battlefleet Gothic. That lead to the minimalist game pieces and the simple mechanics. He wanted something that would emulate those feelings while still being light and easy enough to play as a board game. He’s always trying to think outside the box when it comes to game design, which was where the idea of using the table as the board came in.
Anthony: Yeah, I really would like to see more people enjoy the unique aspects of tabletop wargaming, but without the complex and expensive barriers to the really cool parts. Lazer Ryderz is sort of an attempt to distill that planning ahead movement feeling from those games.
As anyone can see it is extremely 80’s inspired. How did you end up picking the character types for the game and what cartoons/TV/movies inspired each character?
Each character is based on different ideas from 80s cartoons as well as general attitudes and fashion from the late 80s/early 90s. The Galactic Waveryder is that smug surfer with his obnoxious shorts and colorful board referencing both cheesy beach movies and the art of Hajime Sorayama. The Lazer Shark and the Super Sheriff were strongly influenced by the musician Savant, whose album Protos (https://savantofficial.bandcamp.com/album/protos) was a great inspiration for the theme, but they’re also inspired by shows like Silverhawks, Saber Riders, Galaxy Rangers, and, of course, Street sharks. And the Phantom Cosmonaut is like an old Scooby-Doo or Johnny Quest villain, the Heavy Metal cartoon, 2001, or any number of 80s weird science tropes (but not the movie Weird Science).
Who is your go to character to play?
Nicole: Oh, for sure the Phantom Cosmonaut. My favorite color is purple, his design is gorgeous, and his power – the ability to ignore one crash per game – is the best for me, as I am terrible at spatial judgments!
Anthony: I’m partial to the Lazer Shark. I like the gamble of her aggressive charge forward, power plus I like the blood-red Lazer. Imagining her swimming though space is pretty rad.
The game itself – seems like it uses a lot of table space. Can people still enjoy the game if they have smaller tables – say like a standard square card table?
Nicole: Absolutely! The game will include rules for adjusting the gameplay for both smaller tables and very large. One trick is to simply take out the longest pieces in the game (the straight 5 lazer, the soft 4 turn, and the hard 3 turn). We’ve found that that’s the easiest and fastest way to still get the same experience on a smaller table. The way the game plays differently on not only different size tables but different shapes is one very cool aspect of the game.
Anthony: Now whenever we see strangely shaped tables we always wonder how the game will play out on them.
Let’s talk 80’s cartoons for a second. What is your all-time favorite 80’s cartoon?
Nicole: That’s a tough question. I loved so many of the typical ones – Flintstones, Jetsons, Tom and Jerry – but my all-time favorite cartoon from the 80s has got to be My Little Pony ‘n Friends. I was OBSESSED with My Little Pony as a kid. But there were tons of others I adored – I still have so many theme songs memorized, like The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Muppet Babies, Snorks, Gummi Bears, and DuckTales! It wasn’t until the 90s that cartoons would really blow my mind, though – X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series would open me up to a whole new kind of serious cartoon.
Anthony: All-time favorite? That’s such a hard call. Probably a tie between Johnny Quest and Transformers. But there are so many! M.A.S.K., Spiral Zone, G.I.Joe, Bravestarr, Thundercats, C.O.P.S, Bionic Six, Galtar and the Golden Lance, He-Man, Herculoids, Thundarr the Barbarian… I mean, I could go on for hours, and that’s before we even hit the 90s or talk about Anime.
Greater than Games is publishing the game, what has been your favorite part of working with them?
Nicole: There’s so much I could say here. Being with them at events has been awesome, because you get so many of their die-hard fans looking to play Sentinels stuff or their other games and they come upon us and they’re just like, “Whoa! What’s this?” But it’s also been amazing working on the game development and art with them. They’ve given us a lot of creative input, which is something we both really appreciate.
Anthony: It’s all pretty new as we have not done it before, but I think personally it’s been very interesting going back and forth about characters and art. I would say that GtG is very lore-focused, and I’m much more style-focused. Bridging that gap has been very illuminating.
When you were still prototyping Lazer Ryderz, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Anthony: I don’t remember if it was Kevin Kulp, Isaac Shelev, or both that told us that we should re-evaluate the whole game and our intents with the game after playing our first version. A racing game should feel fast, right? Basically, take all your absolutes and locked-in concepts of the game and throw them out. At the time, I was trying very hard to make each player a 52-card deck so I could sell it easily on The Game Crafter, and it just wasn’t working. Until they really said to burn it down, make it better, I was just frustrating myself.
What was the biggest change to the game from the early prototypes to what is currently being offered on Kickstarter?
Originally, as we mentioned above, Lazer Ryderz was on normal playing cards. The fronts had powers you could activate, while the backs had arrows on them. You could either use your cards as powers or as arrows, making your line reach across the table. It didn’t work well, and we shelved it for a year exactly – it was at UnPub 5 that we had that version, and UnPub 6 was where we brought the current one. You can still see some pictures of that version at UnPub 5 if you do an image search for Lazer Ryderz.
What was your favorite part of designing the Lazer Ryderz?
Nicole: Learning how to open my mind up to using the table as a board was both challenging and satisfying. We had a lot of fun working around those problems and adapting to them. Also, people’s reactions to the game are just amazing. I love seeing player’s faces light up when they see the game on the table, and how eager they are to play it.
Anthony: Trying to make the rules not only explain how to run the game but also have those rule get across the tone of the game. No game where you place a piece with your eyes closed or throw a piece onto the table should be taken so seriously that you argue about a piece getting bumped or some other minor thing.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Nicole: Coming up with balanced powers for each character was really difficult. In the beginning, they were wildly different, and some were just so obviously better than others. But we’ve struck a good balance here with them, and players really enjoy using them.
Anthony: Can I say cutting the pieces out?
What in your opinion was the most interesting design choice you had to make when you were designing Lazer Ryderz?
Nicole: Coming up with how to handle turns was interesting. We weren’t sure if we should make it more difficult to use a hard turn than it is to use a soft turn. In the end, it seemed like an unnecessary complication to make those dice rolls different, so they’re the same.
Anthony: Settling on not allowing people to pre-measure. I’ve always hated those types of rules in large crunchy tabletop wargames, so I was surprised when it not only didn’t frustrate me in Lazer Ryderz, but actually made it all work.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Lazer Ryderz?
Sometimes, when you really love a game idea, but it’s just not working, you should put it on the shelf for a little while. I never believed it when people said it, but it’s absolutely true. We let it sit for one year, and Anthony had the idea of how to change it stewing in his head, and he just decided to go for it right before we left for Unpub 6 – I think it was two days beforehand, and we were scrambling to get all those pieces cut. The change was incredible.
What is one thing we haven’t covered today that you think fans of Lazer Ryderz would find interesting?
Nicole: I came home from work one day to find Anthony searching for images of Trapper Keepers and Lisa Frank. I asked him what he was doing, and he said research for Lazer Ryderz.
Anthony: Or when I asked you to do research on sexy surfer dudes?
Nicole: Making games is amazing.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Lazer Ryderz?
Anthony: That we came up with those characters, and now I can see that amazing art and that people are digging it.
Nicole: Honestly, that we have fans who love the game enough to do amazing stuff like this:
If you had to describe Lazer Ryderz in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
Nicole: Radical! Gnarly! Tubular!
Anthony: Oh, I only need 2. Lazer Ryderz! It really says it all.
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Nicole: Thank you so much to all of our fans! We wouldn’t be where we are without you. We love demoing the game for you at events, and hearing your feedback and seeing your reactions. So: thank you!
Anthony: Yes! Also go listen to the Transformers the Movie soundtrack by Stan Bush to get hyped!
Thank you both for taking time out to do this interview.
If you are interested in checking out Lazer Ryderz while it is still on Kickstarter, you can do so by clicking on this link, but act fast there is less than two weeks left. ^