Cephalofair Games
5 months ago

Project Update: A deeper look at Buttons & Bugs

Good day! And welcome to all the new backers who joined the festival! It was great to see the huge surge of people coming in excited about Buttons & Bugs, pushing us past the $3 million mark! I am happy you all are here!

So yesterday we aired two gameplay videos for Buttons & Bugs. One with designer Nikki Valens that was very quick and efficient, and one with Watch It Played, where Matthew Jude did some serious derailing. So, yeah, take your pick on that.

Watch It Played link

Afterward, we all got together to discuss how Buttons & Bugs came to be and why we're excited about it. For those more interested in reading than watching videos, I'll try to cover a lot of what was said here in the deep dive below.

But first! We've got some streams going on today too, of course. First up, Watch It Played will be doing another live stream, this time of Gloomhaven: Second Edition with Drew and myself. That will start at 8:30am PST.

Then at 1pm PST, we have got an absolutely amazing play of the RPG from Good Time Society, featuring Alex Ward as the GM, along with Michelle Nguyen Bradey, Xander Jeanneret, Joe Johnson, and Laser Webber. They really went all out for the set on this, and I quite enjoyed watching them have fun with it!

And finally, as always, if you want to discuss the solution to yesterday's puzzle, you can do so here. Also I forgot to credit MadMullet in devising this brain-burner in the first place.


So let's talk a little more about Buttons & Bugs. Jaws of the Lion and its distilling of the Gloomhaven system down into a much smaller, more approachable box was a great success for us. So when Joe Klipfel came out with his design for Gloomholdin', showing that the game could be distilled even further - down to a mind-boggling 18 cards - we decided we could explore this small-box business further. And the community seemed to agree. There was huge support for Gloomholdin', and it even ended up winning the Golden Geek that year for best Print-and-Play game.

So was it as simple as licensing Gloomholdin' and releasing it as is? Well, not quite. We knew we wanted to tune up the graphic design, add some new art in there at least. Plus Gloomholdin' only had one (plus one more secret) character to play, and we knew we wanted to have at least all starting six characters available. Plus we wanted to vamp up the story a bit, not just have a re-tread of similar themes to Gloomhaven, but provide something original and fun.

Turns out there was a fair amount of work to do, so we reached out to Nikki Valens to see if they were interest in joining the team and developing this thing further. Luckily, they agreed, and the project took off after that. Eventually, however, we hit a bit of a crossroads. You see, Gloomholdin' values card count above all else. It was designed with an upper limit of 18 cards in mind, and a lot of really interesting innovations came out of that, like the way elements are handled or the sheer number of uses each card has. But it also made the rule set more complicated than it needed to be to fit all these restrictive design quirks.

The biggest issue was that monsters were stationary so that you didn't need anything to track them, but that introduced an entirely different set of rules not familiar to Gloomhaven players about how to engage with monsters and how to track distance between you and them when you did. So we ended up in a bit of a moment. And we asked ourselves, who is this game for? Is it just a novelty we want to make so we can say, "We made the smallest Gloomhaven possible"? Or did we want to take the opportunity to really set a new bar for accessability into this world. With a game that is easy to play and easy to understand, and so what if it takes a few more cards to do so?

Hint: it was the second one.

So now we've got a hundred cards, plus some dual-layered card trays, little cubes for tracking monsters and stats, and miniature miniatures for all the characters, because why not? It's fun.

The original goal was to keep it to something you could play in your hand without a table, which, sure, may have been useful to some people, but we decided we could serve more people better by streamlining the rules as much as possible. What we ended up with can't be played in your hand, but the table space is still fairly minimal. Think an airplane tray table.

What you can see here is a typical setup. Each of the dual-layered trays with cubes are standard 2.5"x3.5" card size, along with the scenario map and the player mat. Then all the other cards - the character ability cards and monster stat cards - are mini euro size.

Each scenario is a single room depicted on a single card, where you place your mercenary figure on the starting space and then all the monsters are represented by cubes that correspond to same-colored cubes on the monster trays. The monster trays are universal and track hit points and action sets, and then monster cards can get slotted in to depict stats and potential action sets. If you have more than one monster of a type, you can simply use multiple trays and group them together.

Each round, after you pick two cards for your mercenary as in normal Gloomhaven, you will roll a die to determine which action set a monster group will use. So instead of having a deck of 8 cards for a monster type, everything is contained on a single side of a card.

Then initiative order is acted out like normal, with both the character and monsters performing the abilities on their card by moving around the map attacking each other. One important thing to note is that this is just a single character, and there are no summons, so there doesn't have to be any in-depth focusing rules, because the monsters will only ever have one focus. They will always just move to get in range to attack you.

And if you can kill the monsters before you run out of cards, that's the scenario! Of course, running out of cards is a bit more tricky, because you only have four of them. The upside, though, is that they're double-sided. So when you use the A side, you flip it to the B side and return it to your hand. Only once you've used the B side is it discarded. This can lead to lots of interesting decisions because you don't actually have access to all your actions at the start of combat. You'll have to use one side before you can use the other. And it gets even more interesting with the element system, where if an element is showing on one of the cards in your hand, you have access to it and can use it through one of the cards you played for the round. But a needed element might only be on the B side of a card, so you'll want to flip it early to get the element and then not use the B side for a while to keep the element in your hand.

And we've also simplified loot and experience. In fact, it's all automatic. You will level up after completing a certain number of scenarios, which gives you access to one more level 2 card (swapping out a level 1) and upgrading your modifier card. Oh, did I not talk about those?

Instead of a deck of modifier cards, you instead have these trays - one for you and one for the monsters. Each time you attack, you roll a die that will show a symbol matching one of these columns, and then that intersects with the row where the tracker cube is to give you the resulting modifier. Then after that's resolved, the tracker cube moves down one. This is interesting because you can see when some of your big bonuses (or that dreaded X) are coming up and plan accordingly. Maybe you give yourself advantage when there's a big swing in outcomes, or you do a small attack when your X is coming up to hedge against it missing. And then, like I said, as you level up, this chart improves to give you better, more character-specific results.

And the loot! Each scenario card is also two different items you have access to, but you can only equip items from the scenarios you've already completed. So as you progress, you naturally get access to more and more cool stuff. There are 20 scenarios total, but six of them are character-specific, so an actual campaign is 15 scenarios. But through that, you will face a myriad of different enemies and some challenging and fun bosses.

Anyway, that's probably enough rambling about this exciting new game. I just really hope it resonates with people as an easy-to-play accessible version of the game we all know and love. That's it from me for the day, so I'll catch you next time!
user avatar image for Price Johnson




Copy Link

Comments 33