Monsterpocalypse Designer Reveals “I Chomp NY” Secrets

January 22nd, 2009 by Ed Grabianowski
Go ahead, bite the Big Apple...

Go ahead, bite the Big Apple...

What does it take to create a monster? Or destroy a city? Erik Yaple knows, and he was kind enough to share the diabolical answers with Robot Viking. No, he isn’t a mad scientist or a super-villain. He’s one of the designers of Monsterpocalypse. Actually, that doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t also a mad scientist/super-villain. Hm.

I Chomp NY comes out in just about two months, and Monsterpocalypse fans are already, er…chomping at the bit for any information on the new monsters. We’ve already previewed new Martian Menace Tharsis-5, and today game designer Erik Yaple offers up a few more tidbits about the various catastrophes that are about the befall the City That Never Sleeps.

Robot Viking: Will the booster packs for I Chomp NY be packaged the same as those for the first set, Rise?

Erik Yaple: We still have monster and unit boosters, but we made some small changes to them to make things a little easier for the collectors. Monster boosters will pretty much be the same, except that there are 15 variants of the monster boosters instead of 12. Those three extra variants have the monuments in them (one monument and one Insurance Building HQ each). We moved the monuments to the monster booster because you can play with only one of each monument. If we had left them in the unit booster, you would be overrun with additional monuments that you couldn’t play with, and that would have been a bummer. So we paired each of the monuments up with an Insurance building, because you can play with multiples of the Insurance building, and mixed them in with the monsters. Since we removed the building from the unit booster, we added in another unit and dropped the price to $9.99.

There are only six rare units in the new set, which should make collecting play sets (five of a unit) more obtainable. I think people are really going to like the Unit boosters. Thus if you bought a case of Monster boosters and a case of Unit Boosters you would end up with one of each monster and each monument, three insurance buildings, two of each rare unit, almost five of each uncommon unit and six of each common unit. That makes for some pretty easy collecting.

RV: Will we be seeing new maps that replicate certain areas of NYC?

EY: There are not really any maps in the I Chomp NY set. There will be a double-sided play mat with two maps in the strategy guide, but for that we concentrated on some map layouts that affect the gameplay more—and we did introduce a new objective: the speed zone! Which your units do not have to count when moving over.

One side of that play mat contains the most chaotic map we have produced to date. The map Killer Canals features a whole slew of small little islands that are each connected with a teleporter. Playing on that map can be a real experience and like I mentioned before, a bit chaotic—so in that regard I guess it is a little like New York.

RV: How do the new I Chomp NY monsters and units fit into the existing factions? Do they tend to complement each faction’s existing strengths, or balance out some weaknesses?

EY: To be honest, we just tried to make some cool stuff. We got very Zen on this: if we thought a faction needed something, we added it; if we thought a faction should not do something, we didn’t add it. There are certain things that figures from a given faction should do and certain things that are not suited to that faction. So we tried to push the envelope as far as we can and give players as many in-game options as possible without losing any factional identity.

With this set there were a couple of things I wanted to do, like give some more red abilities to units that monsters can benefit from, like Radar, Munch, or Feeding Frenzy. I also wanted to play around with the concept of granted actions. For instance, Nova ESR grants all her figures Sprint, which allows a figure to move 3 spaces as an action. While only one unit can use this action per unit activation, moving a G-Tank 3 extra spaces can make the difference between holding an objective and spending the turn treading water and getting nowhere.

There are few more surprises in this set, but I will let them be just that and keep my trap shut.

RV: I’ve read that after a certain number of sets, each faction will be considered “complete,” and you’ll make new factions that fit into the existing agendas. How has the finite nature of the factions affected unit and monster design?

EY: I put my best foot forward each time and strive to balance all the elements against one another, within their own faction. I do, however, leave plenty of room for myself to go back and add something to the faction should we need to do that later.  So, while every third set will introduce new factions, there’s nothing saying we won’t ever go back and revisit previous favorites.

RV: What is the monster design process like? Do you start with concept art or a sculpture, or do the stats come first?

EY: Matt (Wilson, Privateer Press’ creative director) and I have a meeting about the monsters and the units and talk over what kind of concepts we would like to work with. After a brief exchange of ideas we come up with a rough idea that can be turned into concept art. Sometimes I design the stats first and then Chris Walton or Matt does the concept piece, and sometimes it works in the other direction. It’s a very organic process that can’t really be summed up in just a few words, if at all. Of course, during playtesting the monster’s stats are constantly refined until we end up with a stat card we are happy with—and to be honest, I have always thought of game design as 25% concept work and 75% refinement or quality assurance. I have been known to scrap an idea mid-process and rebuild it from the ground up to work in a better idea.

RV: I thought the Monsterpocalypse comic books were excellent, and I’d love to see the game world fleshed out even more with additional sets. Any plans for that to happen? Will new sets reflect any changes in the game world?

EY: Well of course we are introducing new units, monsters, and buildings every set. Currently, we’re working with the creative team that produced the Monsterpocalypse comic to continue the series into the future. Beyond the comic, if you read through the strategy guides you can find little nuggets of world information that broaden your understanding of the game world. But if you are hungry for more beyond that, stay tuned: you may find Monsterpocalypse appearing in a variety of other media in the near future!

And of course series 4, 5, and 6 will introduce new factions that the people of earth have to contend with. The world of Monsterpocalypse is a constantly expanding place for players to explore.

RV: Has the title of third set been decided yet?

EY: The third set is off to the printers/manufacturers, so yes. We’re waiting just a little longer to announce the title, but you’re going to love it! We are currently working on series 4, 5, and 6 all at the same time. With a CMG, the lead times are pretty long, so you really have to be “on your game.” It takes a long time to have the figures made. They have to be sculpted, molded, painted, and assembled—and that all adds up to Erik having to be done with his portion of the work months before the finish product is released. CMGs have the most intense deadlines of games that don’t use electricity.

RV: Now that everyone has had a chance to play a lot of games with the Rise monsters, do you have a favorite monster?

EY: Out of the debut set, I still really like Gorghadra and Ultra Gorghadra. He’s like a Monsterpocalypse-sized bully that can push other monsters around to get what he wants, and I have to respect that, because . . . well . . . I am afraid of Gorghadra. He lives downstairs and takes my lunch money every day when I show up to work. Help me!

Thanks to Erik for a great interview. You can get a great peak “behind the curtain” of game design at his blog, Monster Insider.

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4 Responses to “Monsterpocalypse Designer Reveals “I Chomp NY” Secrets”

  1. Comment by chrisbaer

    Loving the sneak peeks at Monsterpocalypse, which is quickly becoming the game of choice for my gaming group.

    I’m a little confused, though, as Erik Yaple suggests buying a case of Series 2 monster boosters will result in one of each monster/ultra plus one of each monument. Currently, cases of unit and monster boosters are random, from my experience.

    Has Privateer removed the random element and decided to standardize what comes out of each case of monster and unit boosters?

  2. Comment by capnfrank

    If you bought a case of Monsters from the Rise set you got all 12 and a case of Units got all 9 buildings with 3 duplicates, plus 1 of each rare, 1-2 uncommon and 1-3 commons – on average.
    It sounds like they have become more standardizied on the units, kind of like WOTC did with the D&D minis after their 2nd or 3rd release.

  3. Comment by chrisbaer

    Ah, ok. Thanks for the clarification, capnfrank.

    Perhaps we got a re-sealed case of the Monster boosters, then. I do note that we got at least one of each of the buildings in our Unit booster case. Good to know that a case of Rise Monster boosters is supposed to have one of each monster/ultra.

  4. Comment by ggodo

    I would love to get into this game, but I’m a cheap ass, and so are my friends. there’s no way that we’d spend enough to even make a game like this appear balanced. Which makes me sad. but we’re doing fine with the non collectable nerd games, so I guess I’ll just take what I can get.