Interviews

Crazy Eights: Kerberos Productions on Control!

Kerberos has been most well known for their Sword of the Stars series.  That series started in 2006 and spawned several expansions and a sequel.  However, the team has recently branched out to board games.  We covered The Pit previously, but now Kerberos has a card game on Kickstarter.  I asked the people at Kerberos eight questions and their team was gracious enough to answer my questions.

Your Kickstarter for The Pit: The Board Game ended on June 10th. Why is your team crowdfunding this card game in August?

Chris Stewart, Executive Producer: Martin came up with the idea for Control! during development of The Pit. It wasn’t planned, inspiration just struck one day. This game was very different from The Pit, much simpler to prototype and test, so it became this change-of-pace-game that we played when we needed to put The Pit aside for a minute.

In short order it became our favorite warm-up game and we started taking it out to conventions along with The Pit. We found it was just as popular with fans as it was at the office. So, once The Pit’s Kickstarter ended, we had this second game done and ready to go, basically. We took a couple of months to get it to more conventions and out to previewers, and from the feedback we were getting, we knew it was complete. There isn’t really much reason not to publish it—it’s a super fun, very solid game that is ready for the world.

All six of the Planet Cards in the game have a name and a suit of Army Cards associated with them. What’s the connection between planets and armies?

Arinn Dembo, Lead Writer: All six of the Planet cards in the game represent worlds that were settled and terraformed by a particular species. Once a planet has been terraformed to be suitable to one species, it’s much less friendly to others, and it becomes much harder for troops to operate in that climate or lay down their arms to become civilians.

Each suit of Army cards in the game represents the trained units of troops from a particular species that are available for you to deploy. The symbols represent the empires that they originally came from: Sol Force for humans, the Hiver Imperium, the Tarkasian Empire, The Liir Demesne, the Zuul Horde and the Morrigi Confederation.

You have six suits of Army Cards in the game and 30 SpecOps cards—if you reach your Stretch Goal you could add 15 more cards to the deck. Why limit the player’s hand to seven cards?

Designer Forrest Wieler: Control! is very much a game of ‘the best laid plans’, where anything you may be plotting has no guarantee of actually happening. The hand limit has a big part of that, By making sure that players can’t stockpile beyond a certain point, the game makes them more inclined to get as much benefit out of the cards that they have while they still have them. It also keeps players from being overwhelmed by choices.

What mechanics are in the game to keep the pace of gameplay fast?

Designer Forrest Wieler: There are two main mechanics that keep up the fast pace of the game. The first is the number of cards that each player draws at the start of their turn. This has the effect of making it more likely that a player will draw a card that is useful to them, which helps keep the flow of the game brisk, and guarantees almost constant action.

The second mechanic is the limit on how many planets can be invaded per turn. Keeping it down to a single planet means that when planning their turn, players aren’t spending time trying to formulate a multi-pronged strike against their opponents. Instead they’ll tend to focus more on ensuring the capture of that single planet, keeping the length of each turn short, while also encouraging players to set up plans in advance for the next turn.

The card distribution within Suits is unexpected. You have a single 2-card in each Suit, two 3-cards, etc.. What is the reasoning behind this distribution?

Designer Forrest Wieler: The idea is to keep the planets in motion. By keeping the weakest and strongest Army cards as outliers, and increasing the number of cards closer to the middle of the curve, the game gives its players a much better chance of obtaining a grouping of cards that will let them take a planet at some point during the game.

This is important to the flow of Control! because it means that Planets are far less likely to stagnate, and stay under the control of a single player for too long. It also reflects real-world battles where the bulk of the fighting is done by middle-strength fighting units, even while both elite and weak units can both exist and can play their part.

Does the whole game hinge on the SpecOps cards?

Designer Forrest Wieler: They are certainly a core aspect of the game, but they wouldn’t mean much if they weren’t complementary to the Army and Planet cards! No amount of SpecOps cards can save you from having the wrong Armies at the worst time.

With two board games under your belt, can we expect another one soon? Or will Kerberos move back to PC games?

Chris Stewart, Executive Producer: Yes. And yes! Game developers never really stop thinking about games, so there are a few other board games in the planning stages – ranging from playtesting, to early designs, to concept notes. We’ll roll them out eventually. Plus we have further plans for The Pit: The Board Game as well.

At the same time, we’re still a video game studio and we are working on a follow-up to Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC, not table top), called Pit of Doom, which takes our original Roguelike title and takes it to a new level. Lots more on this coming very soon. Right now, the work we’re doing in board games and video games are starting to overlap more and more, and it’s exciting to be in the middle of things.

Will we see future games set in the Sword of the Stars universe or will we see other themes explored?

CEO and Lead Designer Martin Cirulis: The answer is…BOTH! Our next 3 tabletop games in the pipeline are one SotSverse and two non-SotSverse titles. We definitely have a rich universe to explore but we also have lots of ideas that range far afield. Our upcoming games have many more themes, including Life After Death, producing a television show, and surviving the 1950’s!

You have less than a week to check out their Kickstarter campaign, but if you are interested in a fast, take that card game, then Control! is worth checking out.

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