New Kickstarter Drawing Dead Hopes to Attract All Card Game Fans

Drawing Dead

A standard game of poker is getting a pretty drastic overhaul in a new Kickstarter game titled Drawing Dead. Players face off as various Wild West saloon patrons in the card game with the highest possible stakes, their souls. Half poker, half tabletop game, the gorgeous Day of the Dead inspired artwork and deck design certainly seems worth checking out for anyone who calls themselves a card game fan.

We had the opportunity to have a chat with John Fiorillo, the creator of Drawing Dead, who has helped design and develop games like Ascension, Solforge, VS System, World of Warcraft Miniatures, Bad Beets, You Gotta Be Kitten me and more. We asked him about his inspiration for the game, and what his plans are for his newly created game development studio Gold Baby Games.

Jesse Tannous: What can you tell me about how you and your team originally developed the idea for Drawing Dead

John Fiorillo: The idea for Drawing Dead was inspired by one of my favorite games, Citadels. I loved the simplicity of the role drafting mechanic and how fun it was to simultaneously take what's best for you and guess what other people would be taking to counter you, or advance their own agenda. It's a really fun game that in my honest opinion had some fundamental things that kept it from being accessible to a larger audience. Drawing Dead is my take on that mechanic and an attempt to make it easier to understand, faster paced, a little more dynamic and keep the fundamental fun elements intact.

In Citadels players take turns drawing cards off a deck, playing roles and building buildings with gold. Personally, I found that the characters, the art, and buildings in general to be a little bland. Also, the game was a little slow moving and, if a player got ahead, it was hard to catch up. The game is just great though, and for all those things that I didn't love, there was so much that I DID love that I've always wanted to make a game using that great core mechanic.

Drawing Dead attempts to change this by developing deeper characters, pairing them with killer art and using poker hands to mix things up and keep players guessing whether their hand will hold up against a barrage of attacks and cheating attempts from some pretty unsavory characters. It also simplifies the timing system of revealing roles by embracing the positioning of players mattering and allowing roles to act in different orders, which speeds things up, makes the game easier to understand and allows for much great customizability.

JT: How closely does Drawing Dead play to a standard game of Poker? 

JF: That's a good question. Different iterations of the engine over the course of its development have played more or less like a standard poker game. In the end, the one we landed on feels like a good balance of poker and tabletop game that will really allow non-gamers, poker players, and the hobby core audience to play and find something that they can enjoy about the game. Whether it's getting a read on your opponent or just building up a giant hand, it's got something for everyone.

The biggest differences between this and standard poker is that players aren't folding hands and waiting around for the next one and people can't bust. So that means they're always playing, engaged, and have a chance to win until the last card is dealt. It removes some of the more combative elements of poker and highlights what I think is fun: the feeling that anything can happen.

Drawing Dead Card

JT: What made you decide to choose this particular game as your breakout title for your new game design studio Gold Baby Games?

JF: There are a few reasons I chose this as my first title. 

I've been thinking about making this game for a long time, but had a breakthrough moment while working on another project and realized that I had solved a big problem that was blocking me for a while. That happened at the same time as I was choosing what to do next. I guess timing really is everything.

Coincidentally, around that same time people rallied around the project and the art/theme seemed to really resonate with everyone I showed it to early on. So, it just kind of picked up momentum. Really my plan was to work on something I call "Novatron" for a while, but this just kind of took on a life of its own, so I just went with it.

It was a small enough scope project that I felt I could deliver a high quality product. I was very conscious about not biting off more than I can chew because I wanted to make sure everyone that backed it or purchased the game felt like they were getting a great deal and were happy that they did. 

It's a card game. That's kind of my jam. I've worked almost exclusively on card games and it's what I'm most comfortable with/confident in.

JT: Do you consider yourself an independent developer now with the creation of Gold Baby Games? If so, why did you decide to make this move, and what are some of the major factors that have allowed you to try this route? 

JF: Yes, I'm about as independent as they come since the company was just me for quite a while. I do now have a few people helping out, but mostly just friends that feel bad for me, or I've managed to beg/guilt [them] into it! haha

I created Gold Baby Games, mostly because I felt like it was time for me to do something on my own. Maybe to some extent, I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Maybe I just wanted to have creative control over something. Probably both. I wanted to be able to say: Hey, I made this. You may not love it, but I hope you can respect it and see how much I poured into it. If something is wrong, it's my fault and nobody else's. But, I really hope you do like it and will help support me making more things like it. 

I think one of the hardest to do for creators, makers, artists, etc. is to just put everything you've got into something then hold your breath in fear of watching it get ripped apart by people, scrutinized, or criticized unfairly. And that's kind of the default in a lot of cases. If more people understood who was behind these things, what the process is like, how impactful this is to someone's life, and how utterly terrifying it is to do something like this, I think they'd be more forgiving. 

I've been fortunate to have an incredibly loving and supportive group of friends and family that have helped give me the chance to pursue this. I can't tell you how thankful I am for that. And it motivates me even more to do everything I can. I work hard literally every day and make sure I give it everything I've got so I don't disappoint them. 

Drawing Dead artwork

JT: Is the success of Gold Baby Games dependent on Drawing Dead being successfully Kickstarted? Or will you continue to develop new games under this label regardless? Will your company have a particular genre or game type that it is focused on?

JF: Wow, that's a great question. I guess I didn't feel like it could "fail" considering what the goals were. 

I'm focused on putting out a fresh style, incredible art, a gorgeous deck of playing cards, a really fun game that had mechanics designed by some of the most brilliant designers I've come across in the last 10 years or so that I could get to lend me some of their time. Throw in some poker chips. Squeeze it all inside a box and you have Drawing Dead.

I guess I would feel like it's a success if I'm able to put something out there that I'm proud of and people get to enjoy it. 

That being said, if I don't hit my crowd funding goal, it'd be pretty rough, but I'd figure out a way to get at least some units printed and just start peddling it the old fashioned way. The same way we did with Ascension a few years ago when we launched it and I'd never even heard of Kickstarter. Demos and conventions, word of mouth, etc. We worked really hard on making it awesome and then getting it into player's hands. 

If I don't hit my goal that would be my plan this time, too. Work on making the most awesome thing I can. Then let people play it and hope that they feel the same way and it picks up steam that way.

If anyone backs this game and isn't happy with what they got, I'd be happy to give them a refund. I want to stand by my products and make sure gamers are never afraid to take a chance on them because they know that I'm going to do everything I can to make it a top notch product.

So I guess my plan is to make it happen no matter what setbacks there are, so it can't really fail in the end. It just means I have to work harder.

(End of interview.)

Backers can currently secure a copy of the game for a $20 pledge with additional details, images, and information available on the official Drawing Dead Kickstarter page.