Cardboarding with Carla: Battle for Biternia

Today, Carla chats with Chris Faulkenberry and Jon Moffat of Stone Circle Games and discusses the current Battle for Biternia Kickstarter campaign.

Game Title: Battle for Biternia
Short Description: Retro-inspired Tabletop MOBA
Launch Date: Nov. 7, 2017
Funded?: Not Yet
Cost for a copy of the game: $49
Published by:  Stone Circle Games
Campaign Link:

Hello! Welcome to Cardboarding with Carla and thanks for being on this interview! Could we start off with you telling us a bit about yourself?

Chris: I’m Chris Faulkenberry, one of the game designers with Stone Circle Games.  I live in North Carolina, and Battle for Biternia will be my first commercially available game.  I couldn’t be more excited to get it into players’ hands.  My day job is designing tabletop games for businesses and nonprofits to use for learning and training purposes.  Making a game purely for entertainment is a whole different animal and has been a lot of fun.

Jon: I’m Jon Moffat, designer and COO for Stone Circle Games.  I live with my family in Virginia just outside Washington DC.  During the day I work for the federal government, mostly doing projections and filling in spreadsheets.  Battle for Biternia will be our second kickstarted game, and I’m excited to help bring this great game to people.

Can you tell us more about Battle for Biternia?

Chris: Biternia is inspired by popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video games like League of Legends, DotA, and Heroes of the Storm.  We felt the heart of all of those games was the diverse cast of characters, so our focus in Biternia has been on the interaction between Heroes.  During the game, you secretly assign cards to your team of Heroes – either Basic cards that anyone can use, or Power cards unique to that particular Hero.  To win, you’ll need to anticipate your opponent’s moves and plan yours accordingly.  Because of the 16 unique Heroes available currently, the game is never the same twice.

Can you tell us a bit about designing Battle for Biternia?

Chris: In about 2011, my friend Jack suggested that a League of Legends board game would be a lot of fun.  We had both been designing games as a hobby, so we tried to come up with one.  We could never get it to come together, though, and the project fell by the wayside.  A couple of years later, I picked the project up again.  I came up with a dice-based game with miniatures that was fun, but took entirely too long.  My friend and I playtested a slimmed-down version with two Heroes on each side, and we hadn’t finished after two hours.  I scrapped the whole thing and started on a card-based game that would be lighter and faster-paced.  After years of testing and refining, that grew into Battle for Biternia.

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Battle for Biternia: Preview
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What do you feel was the most important thing you learned during playtesting with Battle for Biternia?

Chris: I learned a ton about game design and the game industry throughout the process of creating Battle for Biternia.  One of the most important things was how to teach games.  Biternia is on the heavier end of medium-weight games, so teaching it succinctly is a challenge.  Through many, many times teaching the game, I learned a lot of techniques that will help me teach other games and get better results in early playtesting.  Since I’ve been working on the game for so long, I’ve learned so much over the course of the process.

Can you share a few of the techniques you learned on teaching heavier games effectively and to get good results in playtesting?
Jon: We’ve done enough demos that you sort of get it down to a script.  I like to make sure players are engaged with the components: touching, holding, moving things around while I teach.  For a game like Battle for Biternia, it’s more important to understand the general flow of things than to learn all the details.  When I’m at a CON, I’ll run players through a whole round so they can see and do everything, but I’ll skip over niche rules, rare keywords, stuff like that and loop back to explain them after the demo.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about designing Battle for Biternia?

Chris: There isn’t a particular story that comes to mind, probably since I’ve been working on the game for so long.  It was an amazing experience the first time we took Biternia to a convention – MAGfest – and saw how excited people were to play it.  It was humbling and exciting, especially the next year when people came back!

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from your previous Kickstarter campaigns?

Jon: When we did Horrible Hex back in 2015, we were learning everything: promotion, Kickstarter formatting, basic banking, manufacturing, how Amazon works for.vendors… it was a lot and I think it was a really good decision to make our first game something so simple: only 2 components, very little art, etc.

Probably the biggest lesson we learned is to plan ahead for every contingency: we ended up switching manufacturers at the last minute, running into problems with Amazon warehousing, losing our graphic artist… if mistakes are lessons in disguise, I think we got our fair share of free schooling. 

Your first campaign for Battle for Biternia failed; what do you think went wrong?

Chris: I’m sure there are a lot of things we could have done better, but two major things stood out.  We didn’t spread the word effectively enough; we got so many comments along the lines of, “This game is great!  Why haven’t I heard of it?”  While we put a great deal of time and effort into making the game play well, we didn’t focus as much on the aesthetic, figuring we would hire a graphic designer to fix it up after we funded.  Our game still looked like a prototype, which gave off the impression that it wasn’t finished, even though it is.  That was off-putting to people who stumble across the game – it didn’t give a great first impression.

Are you doing anything different with the Battle for Biternia Kickstarter campaign?

Chris: We have focused on spreading the word more effectively this time, but the biggest change is our look.  We hired a graphic designer to overhaul the layout of the cards and the general aesthetic of the game.  Not only will the components be more eye-catching, but this time backers will know exactly what they’re getting.

Jon: I think just being able to show what backers are actually going to get will make a huge difference.

Can you give some examples of what you have done or changed to be more effective in spreading the word about Battle for Biternia?
Jon: mostly it’s been about doing more.  More prototypes circulating around reviewers,  more updates on our progress via Facebook and Twitter, more interviews like this one.

Has the Battle for Biternia game changed between the original launch and the relaunch?

Chris: The actual game mechanics were one of our greatest strengths during the first campaign.  We’ve kept the gameplay the same.  We did get lots of people asking for more Heroes, so we added four more in the base game, plus four additional Heroes that may be unlocked as stretch goals.  We’re always paying attention for balance and ease of play, but the core game remains the same.
Jon: We’re also looking at ways to make the components more intuitive and take us less table space, integrating tower HP dials into the board, for example.

How did you know you were ready for the relaunch campaign?

Chris: We wanted to make sure we took our time and really incorporated all the feedback we had received, but we also wanted to relaunch quickly enough that the excitement from the first campaign hasn’t worn off.  After countless meetings with the team, and after seeing how good our new graphic design looks, I’m convinced we’re ready.

Jon: A lot of it is about momentum.  People can only stay interested for so long without a solid date and clear forward movement on development.  We could see an upswing in engagement and interest, and wanted to strike while the iron is hot.

Do you have anyone that you’d like to give a shoutout to that gave you some really good advice? Feel free to list more than one, if you’d like!

Chris: We’ve had some really great allies throughout the development of the game and our Kickstarter journey.  Brad Talton of Level 99 Games, a college buddy of mine, has been instrumental in learning the ropes of the gaming industry.  He’s given us some great feedback and advice to get us ready for our campaign, and for the upcoming relaunch.  

Jon: We gotten some really good feedback on the manufacturing side from Bryan of Nevermore games and some awesome insights on promotion from Leslie of Infinite Heart Games.   Both know quite a bit and have always been open to sharing.   Mostly though, I’ve been blown away by the support of people I’ve met on Twitter.  Designers, publishers, bloggers, reviewers: it’s such a great friendly community.  If nothing else, it’s made this journey much more fun.

Thanks again to Chris and Jon for being on Cardboarding with Carla! Battle for Biternia will be on Kickstarter until December, so make sure to check it out before then!

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