Cardboarding with Carla: Runes of Ragnarok

Carla chats with Christopher Davis about his Kickstarter campaign, Runes of Ragnarok.

Game Title: Runes of Ragnarok – A Game of Dice, Combat, and Strategy
Short Description: Ragnarok has arrived. Become a god and battle for Asgard in this Norse themed dice building game. 4 gods, 50 custom dice, & 24 minions.
Launch date: Nov 7th
End date: Dec 16th
Funded?: Not Yet
Cost for a copy of the game: $40|
Published by:  Windborn 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?

My name is Christopher Davis. I’m from sunny southern California, am married to my beautiful wife / business partner Beth, and have a charming baby girl with said wife / business partner. This game is my first attempt at breaking into board games professionally, but I’ve been designing them as a hobby for years.

When I’m not exhausting myself into an early grave, I’m a professional video game designer currently working on mobile games. I’ve been in the video game industry for about eight years now and have worked on everything from Dora the Explorer and Final Fantasy to Guitar Hero, Wildstar, and match-3 mobile games.

I’m a member of the SCA (the society for creative anachronism). I compete in archery and thrown weapons competitions, love to camp, hike, and travel in general.

I love macaroni and cheese. My eyes are hazel, but they change color depending on the weather.

Can you tell us more about Runes of Ragnarok?

Runes of Ragnarok is a player elimination combat game where you can play as one of four Norse gods, each with their own unique abilities. There are also 24 minions with different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, though each game only uses 5-6. It features four types of spells for manipulating the battlefield and five relics for augmenting your Hero’s abilities. Oh, and of course the rune dice.

Each game has a tableau of creatures to choose from, which is shared between all players. You’ll roll the rune dice. Afterwards you have a decision to make: Do you turn the runes into spells or focus? Focus will get you minions for your army or upgrade your hero, unlocking new abilities. Spells will manipulate the battlefield, either boosting your minions or harming your opponent’s.

Our combat is actually fairly straightforward and simple to understand. Pick the minions you want to attack with and total all of their stats. The defending player does the same. Compare values and that’s it. There’s no worrying about attacking or blocking specific creatures and order of operations. We wanted a game that could easily be picked up by folks without a huge background in these types of battling games.

Can you tell us a bit about designing a dice building game?

RoR was the first board game I designed years ago. It started as a simple dice game, more like yahtzee with monsters. I set it aside for several years as I focused on my career. When I came back to it last year I saw how the dice builder genre had grown and evolved and knew that my game had to as well.

I kept the same base mechanic in the game. You roll rune dice to get stuff, but it evolved so much. I saw how other games were using dice as actual creatures and ran with that as well. Balancing the creatures, their abilities, and stats has been one of the hardest parts of designing this game. Two people could pay the exact same amount of Focus (the game’s main currency) and buy the same dice, but roll different creatures. And yes, there is a noticeable difference between the two, ultimately the game balances out thanks to the law of averages.

The hardest thing to balance in RoR was actually the rune dice themselves. We went through several iterations, figuring out how people would gain spells and Focus. Eventually we found an elegant simple solution that worked well for the game.

Any advice you would like to give to other designers hoping to make a dice game that isn’t too luck based?

The most important thing I’ve realized in developing Runes of Ragnarok is that luck will always play a factor in the dice rolls, but you can mitigate it a bit. What was important to me for balancing RoR was dice manipulation. When you roll the rune dice, you get one re-roll. So right there you can pick and choose some of the dice to try for better results. When you summon a minion you roll its die, but that never gets rolled again. However, you can use spells to physically manipulate the die to another side.

What do you feel was the most important thing you learned during playtesting with Runes of Ragnarok?

That people will always find new ways to interpret your rules. Your game isn’t the first they’ve played, and it won’t be their last. People come to the table with many biases and things that they’re used to. If you plan well, you can mitigate problems by sticking with concepts that people are familiar with. If you put twists on common themes though, be sure to write your rules very well so that there’s no room for misinterpretation.

I’ve had people who were familiar with both Magic and Dice Masters play RoR. These folks always picked up the general concepts quickly, but could get tangled by the simplicity of my combat system before I learned how to explain it better to them.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about designing Runes of Ragnarok?

My earliest playtesters were my cousins who were around 6-10 years old when I started on this game over a decade ago. Now they’re both in college and I’m eager to get them to the table again so they can see how it’s evolved.

My mom wanted to learn how to play my game, but she doesn’t play any modern board games. So I gave her a watered down “light” version of Runes of Ragnarok that I thought she could understand. She beat me.

This is your first Kickstarter campaign, right? How did you decide you were ready for Kickstarter?

I think I actually broke one of the cardinal sins that everyone throws around within the Kickstarter groups. If you don’t feel ready, don’t do it, wait. However, I also know that I’m a perfectionist so I knew that if I didn’t set a hard deadline I was likely to put this off months, if not years. So, last November when we decided to bring RoR to the public we settled on Fall of 2017 for our Kickstarter as a general timeline. As the months passed, I ambiguously decided on November, and ultimately scheduled around the Thor Ragnarok release date.

I set a schedule and stuck to it as best I could. There were a few details that I hadn’t completely worked out at the time of the KS launch, but I set up my campaign so that I could work around them as things were finalized.

I don’t think I ever was ready for Kickstarter, but I knew I couldn’t rely on waiting for me to think I was ready either. I made sure I knew I had a good game that people liked, a manufacturer with a price point that was reasonable, and a plan for delivering the game to my backers. With that, I calculated in a safety bubble into my funding goal for any little details I’m sure I overlooked or forgot about in my planning and trying to get ready for my first campaign.

Are you doing anything different with the Runes of Ragnarok Kickstarter campaign that you haven’t seen on other campaigns?

For the most part I just stalked other people’s campaigns to figure out common layouts and asked people for input as much as possible to see what they liked. It was rough when you got feedback from different folks wanting the exact opposite.

One thing I think we did differently is our pre-funding milestone unlocks. I’ve seen some campaigns release new content on a time lock schedule, but ours is funding based. We have two new Heroes to reveal for the game. The first will be revealed once we reach 50% of our funding goal. The second will be determined by either how quickly the funding goes or how impatient we are with revealing him to the world.

I haven’t heard anyone doing that before! It sounds really unique. I’ll have to follow up to hear your thoughts on how well that went. 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!

Ross Thompson – He and I run in some of the same circles (beyond gaming I mean) and when I met him I had no idea about promoting my game. He told me about 10 different facebook groups to join and pointed me at several blogs, more than just the famous Stonemeier one. I’d probably not be doing as well as I am today without the little kickstart that guy gave me months ago.

Not exactly advice, but here are two cool dudes:

@CBStacker, aka Ferdinand – For introducing me to Michael Wright over at Unfiltered Gamer. I had a blast appearing on his show and playing RoR live for the internet there.

@UnfilteredRnG, aka Michael Wright – For telling me that Ferdinand (see above) was awesome at making videos and made mine for the campaign in such a short amount of time.

Oh and lastly, Carla Kopp 😉 She’s pretty cool and has given me a fair amount of advice for getting the word out on Runes of Ragnarok.

Aww, thank you! I hope all the advice has helped out. Thanks also for being on Cardboarding with Carla! Runes of Ragnarok will be on Kickstarter until December 16th, so make sure to check it out before then! 

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