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Our Unannounced Mars Attacks – The Dice Game Meets The World

Philip Reed
United States
Kyle
Texas
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You have to really love the cold to visit New York City in February. Either that, or the toy and game industry has to be such a vital part of your business that you're willing to risk the chance of freezing to death when you fall into the largest and deepest puddle known to man while walking to the Javits Center. Fortunately, I love NYC . . . yes, even in February.

On Saturday, during setup, Sam's gorgeous Mars Attacks: The Dice Game prototype got its first action as Ross, our Sales Director, learned the game and then took it away. "Hey," my brain screamed, "I need that!" But I didn’t really need it until later, so I let Ross take the game to show some of the distributors.

Hours passed. Several hours. Ross still had the game, and my protective nature kicked in. I needed the game back! Well, not really, but Ross sure had been gone a long time with MY prototype. (Yeah, the prototype game quickly became mine. Hey, I needed the game for meetings!)

Years later—well, maybe it just felt like years—Ross returned happy. "Ten thousand," Ross said before I could even ask for his thoughts on how many we should print. The distributors liked the game more than I had hoped.

That's fantastic news! Ten thousand may not seem like a lot of games if you've never been involved in game manufacturing and sales, but that's about twice as many copies as our very first Munchkin printing way back in 2001. 10,000 is a very respectable first printing.

The next day, the very first official day of NYTF, I introduced the game to buyers in closed meetings, to those who stopped at the booth, and to Eric Martin of BGG. Eric and I were scheduled to sit down late on the first day, and he was the first to share the game to the world in a BGG news post (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/27725/ny-toy-fair-2014...). I felt really good when I went to sleep that night. The game was real and the response was more favorable than I had hoped for.

The next morning, I started reading the online comments and saw that gamers wanted to know more about the game. Some were even ready to buy copies. There's nothing quite as exciting as someone wanting to buy before they even get to try the game.

Now all we had to do was transform our prototype into a finished game that was ready for print.
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Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:00 pm
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Forcing Mars Attacks – The Dice Game Through The New York Toy Fair Clock

Philip Reed
United States
Kyle
Texas
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Monday. Not even 24 hours had passed since we decided to create a dice game based on a strange blend of Zombie Dice and cards, with the entire mix then married to the Mars Attacks! brand. And I had roughly two weeks until I had to leave for New York Toy Fair, the place where I wanted to show off the game and judge buyer response to the idea.

Sam and I sat down at about nine that Monday morning so that I could elaborate a little on my email notes and transfer the real work of designing the game to his talented mind. One thing I've learned—and really love—is that Sam is great at taking my insane ideas and turning them into objects that occupy reality. We talked for maybe thirty minutes before I left him and got to my responsibilities managing the company.

Later that day, I peeked in to watch Sam run the very first Mars Attacks: The Dice Game playtest. I didn’t hang around to watch, though, because the best way for me to support any game project in the early stages is to not get involved. Sam had my ideas, and I trusted him to report back on the game.

Tuesday. Sam and I sat down again for a few moments and talked through the playtest of the previous day. Overall, things worked, but the balance needed tweaking. Anyone who has been involved in game testing knows how thankless and frustrating those sessions can be. I was secretly happy to avoid the early tests and left Sam to struggle with the game.

Wednesday. That afternoon, Sam reported that the game was ready for me to play. Randy joined us—he had already played a few times and had given Sam valuable feedback—and as a group we had a blast destroying cities. The game worked wonderfully! It was not perfect, but after a few tweaks, we were ready to play the game with Steve.

Thursday. I went on a trip to Dallas, so I was not there for Steve's first playtest of the game, but things went great. Steve weighed in with suggestions for more interactive card effects and ways to solve balance issues, but things went so well that the reports I received from Sam that evening led to me asking that a set be ready when I returned the next day.

Friday. I met Kali at the Waterloo Ice House in Austin, and my wife, Gina, joined us to chat and to try Mars Attacks: The Dice Game. We laughed. We devastated human cities. I smiled knowing that not only did things work but, more importantly, we had a fun game on our hands.

At that point, we had to push even harder to prepare the game to show the game buyers at the upcoming New York Toy Fair. I was a little stressed thinking about all that needed to happen to show the game, but I was ready to get out of Sam's way for the next week so that he could give us the best possible prototype.

I just hoped the buyers would see the same potential that I saw in the game.
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Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:30 pm
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There Was No Plan For A Mars Attacks Dice Game

Philip Reed
United States
Kyle
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I can almost remember the first time I encountered the classic Mars Attacks! trading cards. It had to have been 1983 or 1984, in that weird window of time when Star Wars was still vital to my survival and giant transforming robots hadn't yet conquered my imagination.

A friend of a friend found a few of the original trading cards at a garage sale on base—I was living on the Grand Forks Air Force Base at the time—and I was excited as soon as he showed them to me. These cards were disgusting! Violent. Beautiful. Everything about these cards made me love them and want them.

I did not get the cards.

***


Fast forward roughly a decade later to 1994. By this time I was significantly older—I'll pretend that I aged one decade in ten years, but anyone who has met me knows I actually age at a rate faster than normal humans—and I saw the Topps Mars Attacks! comic books. I had to have them. Those strange and violent Martians were finally mine.

I enjoyed the Topps comic books, but I didn’t get the original 1962 trading cards even when Topps reissued them. What was wrong with me? I've no idea. Clearly, I was broken in some way.

***


Jump almost two decades into 2012, and Mars Attacks! again entered my life. I met Adam Levine, Topps' mastermind behind bringing those crazy Martians to a larger audience, at a toy exhibition during the New York Toy Fair. Adam and I knew each other by reputation only, but we experienced a creative spark that couldn't be ignored while we chatted. We quickly made plans for an expansion to the Munchkin Apocalypse game, and Steve went to work designing cards.

***


Two more years passed. The Munchkin Apocalypse: Mars Attacks! expansion was just starting to ship to stores when my brain latched onto an idea. "How," my randomly organized brain asked, "can we reskin Zombie Dice to work as a Mars Attacks! dice game?"

I took the question with me on an early Sunday morning walk in January. Thought after thought bashed into my skull as I walked until, a good three or four miles later, I had an idea. Unfortunately, this was one of those rare walks without my phone, so I was forced to rush home so that I didn’t forget the game ideas.

As soon as I got home, I sent two emails.

Steve, Sam, and Ross all received an email in which I outlined the basic mechanics of the game. In that first email were the dice icons and mix, the card mechanism, and the concept of some cards having special effects. The details, as any creative knows, can be worked out later. Right now, I just had to share the rough idea and make sure the others agreed that it was a game we should pursue.

Adam received an email in which I ran through the game concept and asked permission to proceed. I was acting as if my mail to Steve, Sam, and Ross had already generated a favorable response.

Adam replied 15 minutes later (yes, many of us work every day) with a "Yes!" Before noon that Sunday, I had everything in place to begin working on Mars Attacks: The Dice Game.

Realistically, though, my work was done. It was time to hand off the project to others.
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Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:02 pm
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