Iconica Travels – The Hiveland Expedition

After three years of development, our first tabletop questing expansion for Iconica is here! Pack your bags. It's time to travel.

111 new reasons to play Iconica. :)

111 new reasons to play Iconica. :)

What is Iconica Travels?

Iconica Travels – The Hiveland Expedition is an adventure game contained in a deck of 111 cards. You’ll choose three of your favorite Iconica characters and embark on a journey filled with all kinds of encounters, items, and quests that are part of a bigger story.

Making Iconica Travels

Our first Iconica Travels deck took a little over three years to imagine, design, and create. Things took shape only by carrying my sketchbook everywhere and capturing any ideas that popped into my head. I brainstormed lots of ways of executing those ideas while also listening to great feedback from Iconica players about the kinds of adventure games they enjoy.

One of the sketchbooks I used for sketching characters and creatures for Iconica Travels.

One of the sketchbooks I used for sketching characters and creatures for Iconica Travels.

Lots and lots of flora, with some people icons for scale.

Lots and lots of flora, with some people icons for scale.

Bitless bridles. That's how they roll on Rynaga.

Bitless bridles. That's how they roll on Rynaga.

The photos here are a tiny portion of one of the sketchbooks I kept throughout the project. There’s no way to capture every part of this process, but it’s one of deep refinement, asking for input, and testing different approaches to gameplay. It can be hard to avoid choosing one solution early, which can lead to missing more elegant solutions.

How Iconica Travels Works

The Hiveland Expedition comes with a rule sheet and a deck of 117 cards. 111 of those cards are part of the playable deck. The other cards include two cover cards and four Party Initiative cards. The game can be played in a few different ways.

  1. One Player vs. One Player
  2. Two Players vs. Two Players – Teams
  3. Four Player “Clash” – Each player competes for him/herself
Game pieces are sold separately or with Iconica character sets.

Game pieces are sold separately or with Iconica character sets.

Select three of your favorite characters, paying attention to each character’s faction alignment, and set the game up like a normal Iconica match. Once play begins, players choose a card from the top of the Travels Deck during their turn and follow the instructions on each card.

Choose three of your favorite characters, just make sure they're of compatible alignments.

Choose three of your favorite characters, just make sure they're of compatible alignments.

Iconica Travels is easy to learn, but holds lots of potential for complex combinations and customizations of your characters. There are five main types of cards:

Supply – Gear, equipment, and provisions you’ll use during your travels.
Encounter – Creatures, characters, and places you’ll discover along the road.
Tactic – Methods you’ll use to survive in the wild.
Artifact – Powerful items you may acquire by chance.
Quest – Objectives you can complete to win the game.

Many Iconica Travels cards cost Initiative Points (IP) to play. In fact, IP is used in a variety of ways in the game. Think of it as a currency you'll spend during your turn to use cards and take actions. Each player starts their turn with 10 IP to use, which is tracked on a handy card with a meter. At the end of a player's turn, the meter is reset to 10.

The Party Initiative card tracks your Initiative Points (IP).

The Party Initiative card tracks your Initiative Points (IP).

Speaking of Winning

In Iconica Travels there are two ways to win: 1) Eliminate your opponent and 2) Complete quests. The basic story behind The Hiveland Expedition finds players hunting creatures called carapid for food and resources, but also to reduce their numbers. Carapid can be very dangerous as their swarms expand.

As the game progresses, the first player or team to acquire their bounty of carapid scales will win. If you prefer to play the game as a villain with no sense of sportsmanship or honor, you can do that too! You’ll just have to survive the different environments and beasts you’ll encounter while also striving to eliminate your opponents. No biggie right? Right.

Some cards are played when drawn, some are able to be equipped, others are held in your hand until you're ready to play them.

Some cards are played when drawn, some are able to be equipped, others are held in your hand until you're ready to play them.

Each card has a bit of lore about the world of Rynaga, a detail other card games often skip.

Each card has a bit of lore about the world of Rynaga, a detail other card games often skip.

Adventurers Wanted

If you’re like me, sometimes it's easy to look back at history with a sense of romantic longing for epic ocean voyages, warm forest campfires, and quests over rivers and mountains.

Well, those were exciting times for sure. But those times were also filled with things like the black plague, dysentery, and leprosy. No thank you! Instead of spending our days pining for those dark medieval days, let’s adventure from the comfort of our own modern day cottages! Minus the dysentery.

Maps add flavor, don't you think? Refer to this one for some key locales and hidden gems.

Maps add flavor, don't you think? Refer to this one for some key locales and hidden gems.

If you’re into adventure games involving lots of items, events, and story elements, I think you’ll love Iconica Travels. Don’t let your Iconica characters sit around being bored. Send them on a journey. They’ll thank you for it. Well, if they survive!

You can pick up Iconica Travels at our Etsy Shop. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Safe travels!

-E

Learnings from Phoenix Comicon 2015

While they're fresh in my mind, I thought I'd capture some random things I learned at this year's Phoenix Comicon. Every year I have a lessons learned day after the con and try to think about things we did well and areas to improve in.

Fist Bumps = +50 to Health?

It's kinda dumb, but I think fist bumping helped keep me (and others) more healthy at the con. I mean, if I don't shake hands with everyone I meet, I pass on less germs to others. This is the first year I didn't feel sick after the con. It's a theory, but the fist bump might have saved me. Hope I wasn't too impersonal by not shaking hands, but I'm glad I tried this experiment.

Evaluating Our Booth

Our booth is 10' x 10', yet it's minimal in its design and configuration. It sets up and packs up in 15 minutes. I've been tempted to increase the size, layout, banners, shelving space, etc., of our booth. Not gonna happen. We're on the right path.

Intrigue is what brings many newcomers to our booth. Discovering something different and new prompts folks to support us. The reality is that if we're adaptive and resourceful, we can do this at any size table or booth. I think we have the size booth we need to be engaging and personal with others for many years to come.

Transparency for Supporters

Exhibitors can be tight-lipped (at times with good reason) about sharing knowledge, experience, or techniques. But for us, once we have a patron we have a relationship to foster. We aim to strike a balance between being open and being careful. So we do our best to be transparent for supporters and offer useful information.

I offer tips and tricks others can learn from or behind the scenes information on how we do what we do. I share the lessons I've learned as a game designer, artist, and entrepreneur. The trick to our measure of success is hard work and it's the same for others. We can talk about ideas and experiences but at the end of the day it about doing things. Doing is hard and there are no shortcuts to doing things the right way.

For us, 2015 was our best con yet. We didn't experience some of the adverse affects other exhibitors did due to the con's reorganization of booths and event programming. I think the changes Phoenix Comicon made this year contributed to more room for cosplay, more comfort for browsing patrons, and more engagement for us.

-E

 

Iconica Travels – Color Design

We're getting closer each day to the release of our first Iconica Travels set! Travels will give players new ways to use their Iconica characters. Iconica Travels decks are packed with story, surprises, and new objectives for winning. Here's an update on the where we're at now.

Print Testing

Our first Iconica Travels deck is set within a region known as the Hivelands. This area is teeming with creatures called carapid, which resemble giant insects. These creatures build great nests and hives in this dense jungle environment. So, we wanted to create a color palette which would capture the essence of the flora and fauna that call this place home.

Part of getting the color palette finalized includes running color tests. The image below is a good representation of where we've landed on the overall color scheme of the cards. There will be differentiating color elements between cards, based on their use. This will appear in the artwork, with specific types of cards using specific color accents such as purple, coral, or yellow.

In the end, we want each deck to be it's own rich experience. While the structure and framework of each Iconica Travels card will remain the same across any decks we make, each release will have its own base colors and accent colors.

Some sample cards for the printer. If any color seems a bit off, we'll adjust it before the entire run is produced.

Some sample cards for the printer. If any color seems a bit off, we'll adjust it before the entire run is produced.

Immersion

In games, such as RPGs and other story-based experiences, immersion is a key objective. Iconica Travels is no different. When players feel a sense of place and of being transported to an environment, it's an amazing feeling. It takes us back to when we were kids and everything was larger than life and wondrous.

Color is just one ingredient in the immersion recipe. Many games use color strictly as a coding language, i.e. – red means attack, blue means heal, green means something else. This is a tried and true approach. However, color design can also be used to set a tone thematically for a series of ongoing releases. That's the approach we're taking with Iconica Travels.

The next update we'll share is the one I'm most excited about – artwork! 

–Eric

 

Iconica Travels - Development Update

Hello travelers of distant places and life-long gamers, here's an update about Iconica Travels. Travels is our first story-based add-on for Iconica! Players will take on quests, equip gear, encounter all sorts of adventures, and more. All of the events in Iconica Travels decks, are set within the World of Rynaga.

So, here's just a brief update on what's happening with this project.

Card Design

Like the Iconica characters you already know (and love :D), Iconica Travels cards are designed with the same clean lines and geometric art style. I'm currently in the illustration phase, but these photos give you a good idea of the direction we've chosen. Cards measure 3 x 5 and will be drawn from a deck that sits off to the side of your characters.

Three sample cards from our latest rounds of testing. Calibyr's an Artifact, a powerful object you can equip on a character.

Three sample cards from our latest rounds of testing. Calibyr's an Artifact, a powerful object you can equip on a character.

Card Types

There are five main card types – Supply, Encounter, Tactic, Artifact, and Quest. Each card falls into one of these categories and features a descriptor, such as Food (Supply). This allows for referencing between different "counter" cards that may negate or improve other cards. While it's tempting to be very granular, we've tried to keep things simple and easy to understand.

The details of each card at the top left describe "what" a card is. The ribbon spanning the center of each card will prompt players on "when" to play a card. The details below describe "how" the card is used.

The details of each card at the top left describe "what" a card is. The ribbon spanning the center of each card will prompt players on "when" to play a card. The details below describe "how" the card is used.

Party Initiative

Each card has an Initiative Point cost to play (IP). Some cards, such as random encounters and quests, do not have an IP cost. Below is an image of the Party Initiative card and some of its uses in the game. The verbiage is still subject to change, but it's pretty representative of the final card.

This is the Party Initiative card. During a player's turn, IP is spent in a variety of ways. The main uses are described here.

This is the Party Initiative card. During a player's turn, IP is spent in a variety of ways. The main uses are described here.

That's it for this update. A big Thanks! to all of our local Iconica friends who've helped us with testing and balancing and super cool suggestions for making Travels better. We can't wait to share more in the next couple of weeks!

–Eric

Specimen Design

Specimen-Scarab.png

I want to take a few minutes to share a bit about our company: Specimen. This is all in the spirit of transparency and letting you guys know a little more about who you're supporting with World of Rynaga creations!

Specimen Design (LLC) was founded in 2007 by my wife and I. The company was primarily formed so that I could work as a consultant designer and commissioned illustrator, either on my own or on the side while maintaining a day job. Roles are simple. I get the design/illustration stuff done. Larissa keeps me on task and focuses on the important business/logistic stuff.

We also formed Specimen so that we could publish written stories and game experiences. I'd been working since 2000 on lots of ideas I knew I wanted to see accomplished, it was only a question of when and in what capacity. Forming our company allowed me to function not only as a designer, but as a small press publisher.

A lot has changed in the past eight years. Specimen still consists of myself and Larissa, but now our son Gavin has expressed interest in playing a greater role in our little enterprise. At seventeen he's completed high school and currently wants to become a software designer/engineer. He's also passionate about learning hand crafts like screen printing, which he'll be learning while we decide what schooling he'll undertake next.

As an enterprise, our main values have never changed: stay small, do big things. As part of the creative community here in Phoenix, we're tiny. Micro really. But what makes us unique is our approach to taking on and completing big projects. World building, creating social experiences for the table top, expanding our world view of Earth and its cultures. All of these things contribute to the sense of exploration and layered story elements we infuse into everything we do.

In the end, we're in business to stay in business. That means being smart about spending, sustainability, and overhead. Our goals for 2015 include expanding the Iconica experience for World of Rynaga, launching a new project called Pictoboy, and adding new capabilities to our business.

We've got lots of fun work ahead of us.

-E