How One Of Australia’s Best Indies Became A Board Game

Australia no longer has a foot in the AAA industry, so it’s natural that our video games wouldn’t take the sideways step into other mediums or properties.

But every now and again, you get a surprise. And one such surprise at PAX Australia came from Defiant Development and Rule & Make, who have joined forces to turn the charismatic indie into a board game.

Rule & Make has been making tabletop games for years now. Their most famous creations are probably Entropy, a competitive card game about rebuilding fragments of reality, and more recently Burger Up, a game about getting points for building burgers.

Their first game was called Rise to Power, a card strategy game about building cities. And the artist who worked on it was Nick Smith, who by chance happened to be the concept artist for Hand of Fate.

“When we got Nick to work on the art, the thing that sold us on it was that he used to work at [Creative Assembly in Brisbane],” Rule & Make co-founder Allen Chang told me. “So through that connection the game was made, went really well for us, the most funded game at the time for Australian board game projects at the time.”

Rise to Power helped put Rule & Make on the Australian tabletop map. But it also put them squarely on Defiant’s radar, so much so that they continued to back every project from the Queensland company to this day.

“They play all the games at the office; it was around that time they did the Hand of Fate campaign. They then saw how we ran our campaign, were really impressed having just run their own campaign. So Morgan became very impressed with our stuff,” Chang explained.

Very impressed probably doesn’t go far enough. Morgan Jaffit, the founder of Defiant, joined the interview and told me that he’d effectively been promoting Rule & Make’s approach to Kickstarter to anyone who asked. “Because we did a Kickstarter and people would ask for advice about Kickstarters and my advice was ‘go look at Rule & Make and they do it better than anyone in the industry’,” Jaffit said.

“I’ve backed a lot of stuff, I’ve looked at a lot of stuff, and their efficiency and communication and delivery should be the model you use … and at home, we play Rise to Power, we play Entropy, my son is super into Ninja Dojo Fight – it’s the first real game he ever played, which as a dad is this wonderful point where you start to graduate into games that aren’t shithouse Go Fish, they’re things you actually want to play – and it seemed like a natural [fit], from our perspective.”

When you look at Hand of Fate, the collaboration makes sense. The deckbuilding element is Rule & Make’s bread and butter, and many of the game’s other aspects are well suited for a board game conversion. The timing was perfect too. Morgan told me how Defiant was already considering other ways they could capitalise on the buzz that would be around the Hand of Fate 2 release next year, and that fans had asked the studio about some form of a physical release.

But it wasn’t just fortuitous for Defiant, but Rule & Make as well. Sustaining yourself full-time in the tabletop world, as it turns out, is just as difficult as it is in the Australian games industry. Alistair Kearney, the other co-founder of Rule & Make, and Allen were only able to leave their jobs as software and web developers to go full time in July. “The market is now ready for publishing in Australia, so we caught the wave and now we realise that we can take it,” Allen said.

The game wasn’t playable on the show floor. But Rule & Make explained that the board game would focus on strategy and timing in their adaption of Hand of Fate’s combat. Jaffit pitched it as “the card game the dealer [from Hand of Fate] plays to unwind after hours”.

Jaffit also noted that there have been more video games converted into board games – Dark Souls 3 and This War of Mine – and what happens with Hand of Fate could result in a lot more international attention. Armello is another obvious example, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility for games like FRAMED or Orwell to get adaptions of their own.

The Hand of Fate board game is due out around February or March, with “more details peppered throughout the year”. It’ll be shown off at the next GenCon, and Rule & Make suggested they may also show the game off at Cancon, an annual gaming convention run by the Canberra Games Society, in January.

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