Well, my demo copy arrived early. Art called me to let me know he saw my copy of the game arrived while I was teaching a game design and esports workshop for high schoolers. He stayed on the phone with me as I excitedly opened the box and got to hold the game in my hands for the first time! I know, I know—this isn't the final version. But man, it feels so real!
I was a bit too eager to tear into my box to think about doing an unboxing video, but thankfully Art had the presence of mind to do.
So you may be wondering about the title—"Gah!" That's because when I saw all of this, when I held the box, saw it's size and felt the weight, I temporarily lost my faculty to speak. I was trying to articulate to Art what I was feeling, how excited I was and how much I wanted to dive into the box, how I loved the feeling of a big present with many small presents inside (because each player and boss deck comes individually wrapped), how I couldn't wait to tear into each of the decks, and I wanted to do all of that while distracted by unwrapping and pulling out each component. Apparently, that was a bit too much for my brain (which already has difficulty with multitasking), and the best I could do was make some sort of weird sound. I'd like to think it was as articulate as "Gah!" but I'm pretty sure it wasn't. Art very kindly didn't comment on it, but we both knew what happened.
Now that I've had a few moments, let me do a better job. First, look at these components!
Yeah, I've got to admit that we've done a great job here! But not quite perfect. There's a saying across all creators—you're your own worst critic. But in this case, that's something that works to our advantage. I need to make sure every single piece is perfect, which means even as I was marveling at each component as I pulled it out, I was considering it from multiple angles. "Will someone like how this looks?" "Does it feel right?" "Is the text right?" And this last one is really important. As we've gone along, I've done a lot of work on all the writing. Sometimes, the text was written in Microsoft Word and then transferred into Adobe InDesign. Other times, I've edited right in InDesign. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes to insert themselves into the text. Even after I've proofread multiple times, even after I've sent everything to my mom for proofreading (Thank you, Mom! You rock!), I still would make edits.
I bring this up because my joy with everything was spoiled just a bit on seeing the first page of the rulebook. I made two typos on there! For someone who prides himself on helping his students learn grammar, on making writing a priority, finding two mistakes right from the start was like adding drops of florescent green to a Bob Ross painting. In the "A Single Strike" section, you'll see two words that I somehow messed up along the way. "Souvenir" and "aggressive"—or should I say "souveneir" and "agressive." Gah! But this is why we do the demo copy, so we can make sure that these errors don't make it into the final version.
To be clear, given the thousands upon thousands of words, there will likely be at least one word that slips through, one comma not in the right place. But my goal is to strive for perfection. So I'm going to be spending the next week working on that extra proofreading pass. Going through each card, making sure that everything looks spot on. That includes making sure details like the size of the font makes sense, that the opacity of any boxes looks goods and provides sufficient contrast, and more. In fact, looking at some of the boss decks, I've seen a few cards where the fonts for the titles are a touch too big. They fit fine on the cards, but they are just slightly to close to the edges, so they feel like they are "too big."
Holding everything, we also realized one small change we might want to make for tracking the monsters' health. While there are plenty of boss tokens to do so (and that was our original idea), we realized that it's just a bit unwieldy to do so. Having a stack of tokens that you must eliminate still feels good (really good!), but setting up the tokens might not be everyone's speed. So we were thinking about including three 10-sided dice. Or maybe a tracking sheet? We're going to think on that a bit more. Any suggestions you guys have are welcome!
And we have one other really important piece to work on—the box insert. We love the layout, but we've discovered that the design makes the plastic a bit thin in areas. The factory said they needed to reinforce the copies we received with aluminum because of this, and that's a bit problematic. First, it increases the weight of an already hefty box. Second, those areas not reinforced with the metal can become really thin and are in danger of tearing, and that's not good. So we're working with the factory and our awesome insert designer Matt Healey to redesign the insert to make the insert last as long as your love of Catharsis (which will be a really, really long time)!
I want to be clear, these are all minor problems, the final polishing needed to make the game as awesome as possible. The core of the game is absolutely beautiful! The gameplay is hitting that sweet spot of fun and challenging. (Because even now, we're doing more playtesting. We're nothing if not thorough!) And who could ignore all that beautiful artwork?
But wait, there's more!
Remember those duo powers? You may have noticed that they aren't in the base box. That's because we've had our artist working on finishing the playmat artwork before the art for the duo powers. (Yes, all new artwork! Those of you getting the playmats and artbook will definitely be getting your money's worth...) So I'm waiting on the background for the duo powers so I can transfer all the text over. And man, there's a lot! When Art had the idea for duo powers, we had only 8 characters. That meant 28 duo powers. But now we have 12 characters, and that's 66 cards total. Just four more characters, and it's a ton more cards. And for each card, it needs:
2. Cost for one character's power
4. Flavor text
5. Joint power when both other powers are activated
6. Flavor text
7. Cost for other character's power
9. Flavor text
That's a lot of writing! This is made even more challenging because we want each card to feel unique but thematically connected to the two characters. The temptation is to make every card with, say, Séalaithe do something with Rage counters, but that doesn't feel good. It would make it feel, well, "lazy." So I stretched my brain (with help from Art!) and created a bajillion abilities. There are definite themes that run through all the effects related to each character, but many of them then play off the theme of their partner.
That leads to the joint powers, which needs to be really connected to both of the characters and build on the two individual powers. Each card needs to stand on its own. And that means the joint powers need to be more than just a lot of damage. Art convinced me that every joint power needs to require the sacrifice of the power, and that meant that we can go big—really big—with the effects. Since they can only happen once per game, we wanted to make them memorable. And that's where I had a lot of fun. How can you make something A) so cool that people want to use them, but B) not so powerful that they make a fight against a monster or boss (and let's be honest—99% of the time, they will be used in the boss fights) trivial, and yet C) justify the added challenge of having to share the power with your partner, which D) makes the game a bit more difficult? Balancing those four competing tensions isn't easy to do!
Happily enough, I think we've created some great duo power abilities. (And some equally great flavor text for each one, too!) But that doesn't mean the process is done. We're going to playtest them some more, tweaking them as needed, making sure the abilities are as clear and cool as we thought they were when we first created them. Just a reminder, the duo powers will be sent separately from the game. Although the rules for them are included in the rulebook and there's a spot for them in the insert, they are an add-on, so they'll be outside the box.
A Quick Note about Shipping
One last thing, and then I promise to wrap up this small novel of an update. Shipping the game will take about 2-3 months. The state of getting things from China is still backed up; unfortunately, that hasn't changed much. Add in things like the global increase in fuel costs and more, and it doesn't look like things will get better in the near future. So, pretty much status quo from our previous updates. However, we're going to have an option for you guys to have the game shipped directly from the factory. It's going to cost a bit more, and we're going to pass on a bit of the cost, but you'll get the game several months before others. It will be optional, but you'll have your game early, so that's pretty awesome! We'll have more information on that soon—once the game is in final production, we'll be able to provide the exact cost and timeline.
Seriously guys, thank you so much for helping Catharsis get this far. Each time it gets a bit closer to the final version (or a heck of a lot closer in this case!) makes me super excited! That you saw what we were shooting for and supported us makes me eternally grateful.
Until next time, may your tokens always punch out cleanly!