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©2019 by To the Death! Games & Pastimes. 

  • Dakota Winslow

A History of Mort-A-Mania

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

I can't believe it.

After six months of preparation, we are only five days from our open beta test.

Although we are still a long way off from a complete and finished game, and even further from selling and shipping a completed product, this is still a huge milestone for us. We have put a lot of effort into Mort-A-Mania, and we all cannot wait to share it with the world.

That said, I feel like we haven't yet really shared what Mort-A-Mania is, or how it came to be that way, so this post, I am going to walk you through the interesting timeline of our first game. I hope it displays the somewhat chaotic nature of creative development, and inspires you to do the same!

It all started on a quiet afternoon in April, 2018. Mike and I had been bouncing around ideas for new board and card games for weeks now, none of those ideas took hold. When he called me up with an idea for a dungeon crawler game with randomly generated monsters, I was definitely interested. Over the course of the call, we spitballed dozens of ideas, eventually landing on a game where every monster defeated adds its abilities and parts into a megaboss at the end of the game.

Leaving this idea to stew over the next week resulted in a total rework; we loved the idea of monsters made of random parts, but decided to move away from the dungeon crawl theme. Instead, we merged the budding game idea with another idea from Mike’s book: an arena combat game where players buy their equipment at auction. Together, they became FrankenFight – Necromancers build undead creations out of grave-robbed body parts of fallen ancient heroes, bought at action at the beginning of each round at the cost of the player’s own life total.

At this point, Tommy began to get involved, helping to form out the structure and play of the game, as well as pitching ideas for card names and effects. At first, we wanted to have factions, where body parts dug up from different geopolitical zones would follow certain themes – for instance, parts from heroes of Greco-Roman legend would have swarm synergy, while those from druidic burial mounds would focus on battlefield control, and Viking limbs would offer unparalleled power. These themed forces helped form the structure of many cards that still exist nearly unchanged from those early days (like Druid’s Eye), but we eventually found the faction system to be too constrictive.

It was also at this point during development that we felt the need for a new name. After much deliberation, we settled on the name as it is today: Mort-A-Mania. (Though, it was briefly Mortemania.) Further iterative changes included the addition of spells and tonics to round out fighter’s abilities, the addition and subsequent removal of various tokens and other clutter, the naming of the Necromaster and Necrosurgeons, and the physical mechanic of dry-erasable cards for record keeping of limited-use abilities and life tracking.

One of the last things to fall in place was the actual theme of the game. We considered quite a few different locations and times, from ancient gladiatorial arenas to underground fight clubs. The setting that really hit home for us, however, was the mid-depression boxing circuit. Thousands of cheering fans, waiting to watch two farmer’s sons duke it out in a grand art-deco palace, all to the tune of a blow-by-blow color commentator team – it captured our imagination in a way nothing else could. Mixed with a hilariously grotesque depiction of the limbs themselves and all under the control of the newly minted, hyper-capitalistic, endlessly charismatic R.C. Merriweather, our particular style was and is the last major piece of the Mort-A-Mania puzzle.

That is not to say the game is finished – far from it. With the open beta we are releasing this Saturday, we hope to get your feedback on the game so far. We have played it so much that we are no longer able to be impartial; so, we turn it over to you, whom this is really all for anyway. For the next three months, we will be posting the latest, most bleeding-edge version of the game as a free print and play to test and critique. In return, we only ask your most honest and brutal opinions of the game. With your help, we want to take Mort-A-Mania from a cool project to a world-class card gaming experience. I know we can make this happen together.

The Mort-A-Mania Free Open Beta Print-N-Play will be available to download at 12:00 AM, September 1st, 2018.

-Dakota Winslow