Hi Ivion players! Ivion has been central to my life for the last seven years. I'm working nearly every day to improve the game in some way. With the Kickstarter fast approaching, I felt it appropriate to write up the main points of my current thinking on Ivion.
I would like to begin a tradition by writing a 'State of Ivion' post before each Kickstarter we launch, or in the future, before each release, depending on how Ivion is delivered. These posts will be for communicating our stances, plans, and goals for the growing Ivion community.
I invite and encourage you to engage in the overall conversation discussing Ivion and what you'd like to see in the future on our Discord, where many Ivion players congregate. Aaron and I are also quite active there.
So in anticipation and celebration of Ivion, the people of its community, and the memories it makes for us, let's explore what Ivion has been, everything it is right now, and what it could be in the future.
Crowdfunding - Kickstarter, Gamefound, and Ivion's place in them
Game Design - The state of Ivion's card design, archetype fulfillment, and metagame
Art - How I commission illustrations and what I think about
Graphic Design - Our current status and my thoughts on the overhaul
Lore - Why we aren't making stories and what I'd like to see in the future
Customization - Complexity and design space in how Ivion decks are created
Manufacturing - Quality of our releases and what I'd like to improve
Products - What we offer and what I'd like to offer
Formats - How Ivion is played and how it could be played in the future
Organized Play - Musings on how we can create a thriving, consistent community
Tabletop Simulator & Tools - Ancillary elements that surround the game and Aldenwar's deckbuilder
Exclusives - To exclude or not to exclude and my philosophy
What's Next - What the future holds more specifically
I want to kick us off (no pun intended) by talking about Kickstarter and crowdfunding platforms. Kickstarter has been a godsend for the project; I can't imagine Ivion would exist right now without it. I am eternally grateful that crowdfunding has allowed projects such as Ivion to come to fruition.
Winter's Bite in all its glory.
The Winter's Bite Kickstarter is going live on August 16th, 2022!
Things change over time, however. Kickstarter remains the most powerful force in the industry, but a new platform competes with it. Gamefound is a crowdfunding platform that caters specifically to board games. If it continues to gain traction, Ivion may also make that transition.
In many ways, Kickstarter is perfect for small companies like Luminary Games, but it is not without its foibles. Kickstarter lacks a lot of features, which makes running a project more difficult for us. And while Kickstarter is slow to address these challenges, Gamefound is ready to offer solutions. Simply put, Gamefound is something we are actively keeping tabs on.
What do you think of Kickstarter? Have you tried Gamefound? What about Indiegogo?
It's also possible that Ivion will transition from crowdfunding to a more consistent, wholesale-oriented release cadence, such as working with Team Covenant or even straight to retail. There are clear benefits for this route, as it would allow Aaron and me to focus our energy entirely on making Ivion as awesome as possible, and less so on marketing and designing Kickstarter Campaigns. However, there is something wonderfully personal about the direct connection we have to you all as a crowdfunded game, and we would be remiss to abandon that entirely.
But we can cross that bridge when we get to it. For the foreseeable future, I'm very happy to work closely with supporters via crowdfunding platforms. It remains the best way for indie games to find exposure and catalyze their audience. We are a small operation and those of us who work on Ivion wear many hats to get the job done.
Your support is critical. Thank you!
Your support is critical. Thank you!
What do you think about crowdfunding and Ivion's place in it? Would you rather Ivion remain crowdfunded or become a retail product?
The core of Ivion is its gameplay. Raw, instant, gratifying, combat. From counterspell clashes to heroic haymakers; zoning threats to incisive control, the roads to victory will only grow in number.
An excerpt from one of our new Kickstarter graphics.
We are always working and thinking on ways to improve Ivion’s gameplay. This means creating a smooth experience for beginners just as much as it means adding to the elegant, violent, depths of advanced deckbuilding. Like any card game, there are unlimited ways to play and enjoy the game—our goal as designers, publishers, and players ourselves is to make the game its best for anyone and everyone who wants to jump into the action at any level!
One of the many amazing things that will continue to change as the community grows is that more eyes will scrutinize the game. More strategies will be discovered and more gameplay avenues will open. We'll all learn more about the game as more perspectives have more to teach us about it, which will enable us to hone it even further.
I'd like to talk about how I perceive the current state of the game in the context of our current community. What's working? What isn't? How did Season One go? What about our original box? What kind of changes might we see in the reprints of Winterstorm, and a lot more.
Some cards end up a lot more powerful than we'd like in ways we didn't anticipate.
Ultimately, I think Winterstorm did a phenomenal job of creating a tight and balanced gameplay environment, given the context of how the game was released. If Ivion drew crowds large enough for organized play, I’m sure that imbalances would reveal themselves. But it is more than suitable for an off-the-shelf experience.
There are two major design decisions I would reconsider if I could go back in time. First, whether a class like Druid can be range one, or if we should save fantasy archetypes for creating the classes that people expect from them. Second, I think I would have gotten started on defining a color pie from the get-go.
Calbria sought to undo the slower pace of our first set, transforming Ivion's metagame from a game of outlasting to a game of outpacing. Enchanted terrain replaces difficult terrain, enabling players to move across the board far more freely. Enchanted terrain also meant that Power became more readily available, completely redefining what it means to have a lot of power generation.
Calbria was also designed to be an introductory experience, a soft reboot of the game. We intentionally created each specialization to be fairly simple (I’m actively avoiding eye contact with Confuse). Relics, Chivalry, and Unleash were all created with simplicity in mind. Each one is a highly-immersive mechanic that takes advantage of 'piggy-backing'; 'piggy-backing' is the concept that game mechanics are easier to understand when they're linked to evocative themes. We were much more conservative with our card designs and made sure that most new cards were new player friendly.
Relics brought a satisfying randomness to Calbria.
Now we're returning to the Skels with Winter's Bite. No longer Winterstorm, it is new and shiny with our updated graphic design, fresh illustrations, card overhauls, and entirely new content, like the Trait Pack and Make-A-Trait cards from the community.
Winter’s bite is designed to be a facelift of Winterstorm, not a rework. There are two main goals behind Winter's Bite. The first is to bring older cards into the new format, and the second is to bring older designs into line with contemporary philosophies. Although each archetype’s game plan is unchanged, we want to ensure that every class and specialization brings something new to the table. To this end, we have tuned some numbers and replaced some cards across the set. Winter’s Bite is what we feel represents a fully-realized Ivion product.
There's a lot more to discover in Winter's Bite.
As we continue to release sets and refine our design and development process, there are a few things I'd like to see shift overall.
More instants. First, I think we cut back too much on instant-speed interaction in Calbria. Of course, Knight and its specializations were designed to forego that gameplay to stay honorable, which did work pretty well. Nevertheless, I do think it hurt one of the key components that make Ivion exciting and action-packed; the unpredictability of what your opponent could be hiding, and what they can do to disorient your sequencing.
Without instant interaction, Ivion becomes primarily about sequencing your effects. In what order do you play your cards to escape control, maneuver across the board, and deliver your game plan. This is a good thing, but it gains tremendous depth when you need to account for how your opponent can fuss with your turn. Decks must be resilient and capable of performing under pressure. Without it, it can feel a bit flat after many games. One of the most important things about Ivion is its replayability, which we work hard to create as much of as possible. The randomness of relics exemplifies that. Without as much instant interaction, games can, over time, skew too close to the norm.
More variance. Some may groan at the thought, but we want Ivion to be a fair bit more random. Right now, a highly-experienced Ivion veteran will rarely be defeated by a novice player. This may sound like a good thing, but it is deceptively dangerous for the better player to always win. Most people won't learn a game they cannot win. Although deck construction games are random by nature, we don't believe this is enough in Ivion. Experienced players still have a massive leg up on their opposition. To make the game more replayable, exciting, and fair to new players, we will strive to make more effects with random elements.
Randomness in card games is a good thing—it adds variance, and even something to blame when things go awry.
The color pie is the fundamental system of Magic: the gathering. In Magic, your cards can be one of 5 colors, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Due to Magic’s resource system, you can’t use all 5 colors in one deck. This means that all decks of a particular color share certain characteristics, mechanics, and most importantly, vulnerabilities! Magic’s color system is a big inspiration for Ivion, so we want to explore what Ivion’s color pie could look like.
The famous Magic "Color Pie" defines how all their cards are created.
The short answer is that we’re not quite sure yet, but we’ve started to define it. We can’t just divide all mechanical concepts among Ivion’s 6 colors, because the color pie is more than that; it also represents the feelings that each color evokes. We need to decide, for each color, what kind of heroes does this color represent? Once we land on these archetypes, we can start choosing what mechanical strengths and weaknesses each color should have.
There will be a lot of exploration necessary. We've begun narrowing down effects and mechanics we'd like to see more or less of in certain colors, only in certain colors or not at all. A good example of this is what colors have access to card destruction. Since the effect is so critical to the game, all colors will have access, but we'd like to take it as an opportunity to make some cards have more efficient destruction than others.
This isn’t a direction we are heading simply on a whim, we believe implementing a color pie is incredibly important for the future of this game. With a properly-supported color pie, over time players will learn to recognize, bond with, and appreciate certain color's capabilities, know what they can expect, and generally work towards their character's available colors. It will also help us create a more diverse metagame where not all characters necessarily have access to every tool they'd need at peak efficiency to handle situations. You'll have to emphasize your strengths and dampen your weaknesses as best as possible.
An example of something we are planning is in Gray. Moving forward we will be designing Gray to have the least efficient card destruction. The way we can do this while still giving them access overall is to limit gray specialization's access to card destruction, increase the costs of those cards while also improving their effects, or keep their costs low while making the way they destroy cards more narrow. Over time, gray-focused decks will have worse card destruction options than other colors, and the idea is that players would subtly recognize this and associate gray with poor card destruction—and another color, like red, with excellent card destruction!
Crush may be one of the worst destruction options in the game, but it still serves a purpose.
This gets further complicated when you consider Ivion's customization system. Classes and Specializations should have their own themes as well, refining the availability of options you have. To do this, we plan to focus on very specific themes of color or a color combination in the case of multi-colored specializations. We'll take that and carve out a unique identity for that class that fits within the overall color theory it represents. The color pie won't limit the kinds of specializations we can design, but will help inform us on what colors those specializations should be.
It'll take a lot of time to fully hone and represent the wide swathe of effects we can assign to each color, but I'm very much looking forward to it!
What do you think about the design of Ivion? How would you like to see the game change over time? As new players join us, do you think the way we perceive the game will change as new strategies become uncovered? As we work towards a clear color pie, what colors do you think to represent what mechanics to you?
The beautiful illustrations and artwork commissioned by our talented artists breathe life into Ivion. Without each of their unique touches, the game would just be complex ideas on otherwise blank pieces of paper. Art is an integral element of what makes Ivion what it is, arguably more important than the gameplay itself.
The Fox and the Forest by Septimius Ferdian
At any given time we're commissioning about three to five artists to create Ivion art. Some of the professionals we work with change over time, some stick around and clearly enjoy working on the project over the long haul. I love working with multiple artists because I feel it portrays the world of Ivion through multiple lenses, not just one. It's exciting to see a character be realized through different minds. I am also privileged to work with so many individuals from so many places in the world—artists from Brazil, India, Indonesia, France, Sweden, Poland, and many other countries have contributed to the project.
Working with many artists to create the same style of pieces risks a sense of dissonance; a world portrayed from so many perspectives that nothing fits together. However, I work diligently with our artists to ensure that those elements come together to create one holistic world. That doesn't always turn out amazingly perfect, but I prefer this way over a singular voice. Especially for a game that demands as much illustration work as Ivion does!
A sketch by Dharm Khalsa. He's following the feat format guidelines!
Ivion's original art style inspiration was Guild Wars 2 concept art. You can find that in a lot of Ivion pieces, such as Verdant Slash, Spitfire, or My Realm. A lot of our artists don't go exactly for that vibe, but that's OK. Folks prefer different styles anyways, so it works out. You can read more about the art direction I work on for Ivion in this post courtesy of Joseph Chen (creator of Fantastic Factories) from a while back.
As Ivion and Luminary Games grows, I'll eventually hand the reins of art director off to another, more talented individual than myself. They'll help bring the game into a new era and impart their own, unique vision of the world into the game's DNA. For now, however, it's good ol' me at the helm!
A character concept by Thomas Dumey
Now, there's an elephant in the room regarding our art style and something we addressed a while back: representation of minorities in Ivion. This is a very important topic to us, and we will continue to make strides as best we can towards an equal future where, no matter who you are, you can see yourself in our game and envision yourself as a hero.
It's not just about creating characters that anyone can relate to, either. All cultures are worthy of exploration, and many don't get the time in the spotlight they deserve. With our latest trait pack, we'll be exploring many places in the world of Ivion that foreshadow all the wondrous lands we would love to visit in the future. It's a very exciting time and there are still a lot of blanks to fill in, but we can't wait to visit new realms of fantasy that aren't traditionally explored. What if you could play as an Aztec Eagle Warrior? An African Medjay? A Navajo Shaman? A Japanese Samurai? All these concepts can be just as or more exciting and badass than an Arthurian Knight.
Nurture by Wasan Techawibulchai
What do you think of the art in Ivion? How has the representation, or lack thereof, of people of color in the game affected your enjoyment? What kind of art styles would you like to see more or less of?
Lucky for us, we still have the pleasure of working closely with Mike Hojgaard(Owner of neue.pink, graphic designer of Fog Love, and of course Ivion). His insight, expertise, and decades of experience in numerous fields have elevated our project to a level we didn't think possible. It's been an honor for Aaron and me to work with him, and we plan to continue working with him as Ivion continues to grow and change. He doesn't poke around often on Discord, but I suspect he'll be talking on our next Kickstarter!
The new storage solution coming with Winter's Bite.
We've talked about this before in the past, but it makes sense to reiterate it here. We chose to overhaul our graphic design because we had actually commissioned one of our illustrators to create our graphic design. Now, I believe that he did a phenomenal job for an individual that hadn't done much work on that side of the fence before, but he still had trouble appealing to a wider audience. It nailed the fantasy of Ivion but didn't ultimately invite folks in as much as we'd like it to. We wanted something that felt more modern and approachable.
I'm very happy with the holistic graphic themes of Ivion now. A lot more partners have been interested in the game and working with us since the change, so I'd consider it an overall success. We currently have no plans to change the theme and will continue to iterate and improve on the style as we expand the franchise.
What do you think of the new graphic design? Would you like to see changes with it or not?
I always wonder—what will this young explore find within? Why is such a magnificent tomb here?
What makes the world of Ivion tick? What secrets lie buried in ancient tombs? Who even is this silly Lady everyone keeps talking about? All these are questions that we must direct to the category of lore.
Lore in Ivion has waxed and waned. In the beginning, we focused a great deal on fleshing out the lore of the Skels with short stories. Back then, we were all starry-eyed college students dreaming of the next big thing. Now, a lot of us have moved on to new projects and more stable positions. We no longer have the folks on our team that worked hard (and had the capacity) to write fiction that brought the world of Ivion to life.
It's unfortunate, but Aaron and I can't consistently deliver exceptional fiction. We'll eventually want to hire someone who can become our 'loremaster' and write creatively for us. For now, we eke out what we can amongst all the other hats we wear. This is the section that writing about hurts my heart the most, as I love reading about the crazy worlds that fantasy games inhabit. I can't wait to reach a place where it's more feasible for us to include lore to a much greater degree than we currently do.
One win we had for Season One that I'm very happy about is three unique flavor text snips per card. Because Ivion is delivered in the expandable card game model, we can change each copy of each card we create. It was really fun to write up three unique lines per card that had space for flavor. It puts a smile on my face when someone tells me they noticed it for the first time!
Anyways, with all that in mind, I'd like to talk a bit about what our aim was for Calbrian lore. The idea was to keep it nice and light and open to expansion in the future. We set the stage for a lot of different threads. Who is the Lady? Why are the Invokers so angry about the Ley? What secrets do the Archmages guard? Where are the Illusionists from? Why is King Roderic Mayfel gone? Chances are, even if you're an avid player you probably don't know what I'm talking about with at least some of these. But that's okay! There will be a lot more to come next time Calbria comes around and we're more fit to capitalize on this foundation.
We wrote the vast majority of Skelic lore quite a while ago and we had a lot of time to do it while we were building the structure of the game. Each Class and Specialization has a very clear role and interacts with many other archetypes. They all have their own perspectives and grudges. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out, as I think it's a fairly unique take on a Viking-esque fantasy realm. We even wrote quite a bit of lore that hasn't seen the light of day. I hope we return to the Skels another time in the future so we can unleash some pretty spicy nonsense.
Huntsman and Watchers are locked in a morally-gray struggle.
In the future, I'd love to reach a state where we can write fiction more consistently and deliver it on our social media channels and website more efficiently. Cinematic trailers would be an amazing addition, but there are a lot of costs that go into those. For now, the lore will mostly be taking a backseat, though we'll continue to flesh out characters and realms as we release new sets to better prepare the world for grander stories in the future.
What did you think about the Calbrian lore compared to the Skelic lore? How would you like to see the lore change over time? Would you like more emphasis on the lore? In what other ways do you think it could be delivered?
While customization wasn't originally one of the primary pillars of the game, it quickly became so as we iterated on the project. Aaron and I can definitely say that Ivion’s Customization system is one of the greatest strengths.
Archetypes in Winter's Bite
Customization in Ivion is intended to primary create one unique element of the game and solve one problem.
Ivion’s customization system solves a systemic issue with Magic/Hearthstone/Yugioh style deck construction games—only the best cards are played in decks. Every new card printed has to compete with all previous cards ever created. Ivion’s archetype system fixes that.
With Classes and Specializations, we further refine what card decks are allowed to run. The ten best cards in Ivion are spread across ten different archetypes, and you can only pick three archetypes. Every card in Ivion is a viable choice because its competition is limited to the 49 other cards in your card pool.
In Magic and similar games, you can run all of the awesome cards at once. While this does make for some awesome decks, it doesn't leave a lot of room for the 99% of cards that don't quite pass muster. Not so in Ivion. We simultaneously double-down on the character-construction fantasy of a roleplaying game, roll it up into a hybrid card/fighting game package and deliver it to your door. Nifty, right?
Well, yes and no. Ivion’s deck construction rules are also more complex than a game like Magic, which makes it harder for folks to dive into. Many people dislike games where you need to construct a deck to learn to play, but you need to learn to play to construct a deck. Not to mention, is deck construction even very fun? For many, the answer is a resounding “no”. This is an ongoing problem that we'll do our best to mitigate, though one that has and will continue to trouble the genre.
Herocrafting was a direct answer to this problem. Smash Up had a cool 'shuffle building' system where you could customize your deck but in its simplest form. Only two choices were required. I thought we could pay tribute to that system, given that one has to make three archetype choices in Ivion, plus a couple of traits.
For now, there are no plans to make any major changes to the customization systems in place. Herocrafting has been a success, and full control deck construction is still popular with those who enjoy that. I'm sure we'll find ways to experiment in the future, but we sail steady as we go right now.
What do you think of Ivion customization? Is there anything about it you'd like to see changed? Could Herocrafting be improved?
The graphic design overhaul of Season One wasn't the only thing that had a massive change. The way Ivion is delivered was also significantly altered. Instead of a singular, massive box, we opted for smaller boxes that told a quicker story. There are quite a few reasons why we made this change, and I'd like to spend some time lending insight into them.
A massive render of all the primary content available in the Winter's Bite Kickstarter
There are five reasons that all strongly contributed to our decision of splitting the game up into more bite-sized boxes: price for consumers; Price for us; release cadence; expandability; and finally, approachability.
We are a relatively unknown force in the tabletop gaming world. We aren't a big publisher that has years of experience and other titles under our belts. We don't have trusted franchises we're porting to the tabletop world. We're a starry-eyed company bringing our own IP into a difficult genre. These factors all contribute to consumers furrowing their brows a lot more at a larger price point. The ability to dip your toes in for $39 instead of $60 (and far more if we kept our old model) is a nice place to start.
Touching more on the $60 price point of the Winterstorm box. That was a horrible financial decision for us! Each box ended up costing about $39 per unit. In the tabletop world, a general rule of thumb is to sell your product at five times your total manufacturing cost to generate a profit. If we were to follow that rule with Winterstorm, we would have instead sold it for $200 per box. That's too much! Especially with my first point in mind, there's no way we could continue to sell a product like that and expect people to take us seriously for the content we'd provide. And as a side note, I know there is a group of folks who, if the cost were less than $200, would gladly say "I'll pay less overall for a single box!" Yes, definitely, I probably would too, as a player. However, the reality is that the group that would do that is the minority—we need to think about retail viability. A window shopper who reads the back and thinks it's intriguing isn't going to be willing to drop $100 + on an unknown competitive card game. But if it's $39 instead, they might pick it up to try. And some of those players will convert into diehard fans who will spend far more than $200 over their time enjoying the game. That works a lot better for us as a company and a community.
This model allows for us to fully embrace the 'expandable card game' niche that Ivion fits in. Running Kickstarters for massive boxes of 6 Classes and 12 Specializations would take even longer than it's already taken us to get new projects up and running. The cost of that much art and development time to ensure the set is balanced is quite staggering for our current operation. It's much easier for us to prepare 3 Classes and 6 Specializations each on a more regular basis at the moment.
It's also way easier for folks to feel like they're expanding their collection and that they'll constantly have options to improve their choices as we move forward. Even with Season Two's release and especially when Season Three rolls around, having nine boxes available to complete your collection will allow people to go hunting for the specific archetypes they'd like to make characters, then pick and choose what they'd like to add later. It makes the game, as a whole, feel like there is more to discover.
Last but certainly not least, the smaller boxes have created a far more approachable environment for new players to try Ivion within. Each box comes with a pre-defined matchup, little stories for players to immerse themselves in, a board catered to that specific duel, and introduction decks designed to introduce core concepts. All these factors combined make Ivion easier to enjoy on your first playthrough, and ensure our long-term success as more players will stick with the game.
These reasons combined led to the overwhelmingly clear decision that we should split our product up and swap to this model. I'm happy with how it's going but I know there are still pain points, especially for enfranchised players that would like all content and a way to seamlessly store that content. While the majority of the feedback has been positive, there have also been criticisms. Some are fair, some too demanding, especially with what I stated above in mind. The most prominent one to surface here is the frustration with the storage solutions mentioned above. The good news is that we are working on fixing that in Season Two with the Anthology Box!
There are some clear elements that I think could be improved. Firstly, some health trackers didn't fit nicely into the board. That was a big problem, and one we intend to ensure is solved for future printings. Additionally our miniatures don't quite hit the mark, so we are searching for a new sculptor to partner with for Season Three and beyond. Finally, opinions on how the Gametrayz store collections have been mixed, which I think is fair. We're investigating how we can alleviate this issue and create some new, more long-term solutions with larger Gametrayz for the Anthology Box.
Something we've already improved for Season Two that I'm very excited for folks to see is the detail and perspective on our boards. Each board has a more unified scale and a lot more fun details that better mesh with the size of our miniatures.
An avalanche high on a Skelic peak.
What improvements do you think could be made to our physical products? Are there any categories that stand out to you as exemplary or worse than you'd like them to be?
A lot of new is coming in Season Two! New art, new cards, and most of all, new products! As I mentioned before, products were our focus this season. One could call it the 'Season of Products', though that does give off a bit of a dystopian capitalist vibe...
One of the playmats we'll have at Gen Con and tokens for scale.
We got a lot of feedback from Season One about products. Folks were excited to have the option to snag some playmats, sleeves, or a storage box. We coulding deliver on those ideas right away, so we took the time between Season One and Two to make a lot of that happen. There will be five add-ons available that won't be making their way to retail on this Kickstarter.
Sleeve Pack. This pack will include 93 "skill" card sleeves (the cards you shuffle) and 7 "feat" card sleeves (the cards you don't). There will be enough in each pack to sleeve two Ivion decks with a little extra in case anything goes awry. They come in an Ivion-themed tuck box that can also fit a deck!
Trait Pack. This is the gameplay add-on we'll be offering. I'm super excited about it because it will include 11 all-new traits of various color combinations that explore a new trait-only keyword, Charge. We'd like to create new Trait Packs consistently to include with new projects. Our philosophy surrounding these traits is that because they require prior knowledge of the game or more significant buy-in, we can afford to explore wilder concepts with them. That isn't to say they won't be understandable or fun, and some are still very simple. The overall variety should add a lot of options for deck construction! The pack also includes a punchboard for new tokens you'll need and a reminder card to reference for new mechanics.
Acrylic Tokens. This pack will include some nice and shiny acrylic plastic versions of the resource, control, and initiative tokens. A simple upgrade to deluxe-ify your Ivion experience even further.
Neoprene Playmats. These playmats will be high quality and edge-stitched. They'll feature your choice of the Rune & Rime, Ram & Raven, or Fox & Forest box illustration. Two of them perfectly fit together with a board on top and extra space for holding cards to play a two-player duel!
Anthology Box. This will be our shiny new storage box. We're working on creating a new Gametrayz that will be more comfortable and accessible and fit up to six boxes worth of content. It'll also have a separate compartment with some nifty sleeves that will hold your Learn to Play, Rules Reference, and board from each of your six boxes.
Sleeve Trove. This is an extra tier I didn't count in the five because it's ten of the Sleeve Packs. We are including this as an option so it will have a discount for bulk orders. Originally we weren't going to do this, but we had to price the Sleeve Pack slightly higher than originally planned because we opted for higher quality printing. We still wanted an overall cheaper option for people that wanted to sleeve their entire collection, so we're going for this as a compromise.
While all these new add-ons are mostly an experiment, I'm excited to see what the community thinks. I hope it will be a great way for us to push Ivion further and enable us to continue expanding our operation!
There is so much potential for Ivion products in the future it's hard to even know where to begin. Draft Packs? Specialization Packs? Class Packs? Playmat Boards? Pre-Painted Miniatures? Event Decks? 2v2 Sets? Some kind of Boss Rush mode? Solo mode? All and more are on the table, but we have to take it one step at a time. We've locked in on the goodies we're offering for now, but the future is bright for what kind of goodies we can conjure up in the future.
The tuckbox the sleeves will come in.
What kind of products would you like to see in the future? What do you think of what we're offering in Winter's Bite? Are there improvements you think could be made?
As a card game grows, so do the options on how to experience it.
The new player experience is important, as it determines whether new folks will join eternal formats.
The primary way that Ivion is played, believe it or not, is the starter deck experiences. Most people will either only ever play with the introductory decks. It's our job to make that gameplay as smooth and enjoyable as possible so they're excited to keep playing more.
As more people take the plunge into the depths of Ivion customization, we will shift our design emphasis towards constructed play. We still put a lot of time and energy right now into making that happen, but the time we spend on constructed testing pales in comparison to the time we spend on intro decks. As the constructed scene grows, so too will the need for a comprehensive rules document. Aaron has resigned himself to writing it some day, but for the time being I can't convince him it's worth his time (it is).
Let's swap gears a bit and talk about one versus one relative to two versus two. I love 2v2 Ivion. Truly the ultimate in Ivion experiences to date, two versus two is a brain-burning, epic battle of wits that exemplifies all the work we've put into making Ivion a compelling game. At least, in my opinion! I've immensely enjoyed all two versus two matches I've played and I highly recommend it if you have four players who are all literate in the game. The depth of strategy, ability to defend your ally and focus an opponent down, the board and body-blocking for your friends, how card's effects become more or less powerful, it's all terribly interesting and very fun.
The strategy of Ivion is flipping on its head in two versus two.
We'll likely continue to test the waters and see if we can compel folks to try more two versus two in tournament formats in the future, but there may be too many barriers to entry—at least for now. It will be critical for us to streamline the onboarding process and make the format as appealing as possible without stepping on the toes of one versus one. One versus one constructed will remain the primary way for players to test their mettle and play Ivion. But that may not always be the case! There are other formats out there that may arise, such as the inevitable 'Standard' if we continue making Ivion for long enough. Paragon, where one plays three Specializations instead, remains a dark horse waiting to arrive as well.
What kind of formats would you like to see? Do you think additional formats are good for the game?
Organized Play, or OP, is key to the living card game community. Regular events to prove your mettle, try new ideas, or build within certain restrictions. Juicy, exclusive prizes. An excuse to gather with friends and meet new ones. Magic keeps many stores alive by itself with how many players it grabs and brings out to support their FLGS.
Thousands of people make their way out to competitive Magic events.
Some day, we would love to provide product and support Ivion organized play, but that is still a ways away. Also we have no idea how to do it yet, so that will be a fun challenge to figure out. Personally, I'd love for Season Three to become the season of organized play.
Setting up organized play over the next couple of years would be an excellent boon for the game. With a growing player base, we can better support something like a monthly tournament / casual play night, or support stores in setting up their own leagues with achievements and prize support. A larger 'season' of play, probably per each set release, would also be fun. We could allow folks to log games they play during officially sanctioned events, then host tournaments to earn extra points towards prizes throughout the season. It would also be delightful to host a capstone invitational around the time the next season's Kickstarter is running. The best players competing for the ultimate prize each season? With commentary? Sounds awesome!
Over time, I think it would be very nice to additionally allow supplemental formats to earn points towards organized play. Including two versus two and other emerging officially supported formats to earn points towards the season would encourage players to play the way they'd like and be allowed to participate in the overall fun.
Opportunities for rewards are also very exciting for organized play. Playmats, acrylic tokens, alternate art cards, even promotional miniatures could happen. Because Ivion is an expandable card game and we utilize miniatures, I think there are multitudes of ways we can let players strut their stuff.
What would you like to see in organized play? Would you participate in online organized play? Physical? Why or why not? Are there rewards that you think are best suited for organized play? What about ways that organized play is set up?
Tabletop Simulator and Tools
Ivion has been on Tabletop Simulator since its debut back in 2016. It has been and continues to be an integral part of how we reveal and test new ideas. Originally, we'd print and cut hundreds of cards on printer paper, then sleeve them in front of Magic cards. Those days are long since gone, though it did have a certain charm to it. Regardless, let's talk about Tabletop Simulator and how it assists us in preparing Ivion for everyone!
Currently, our Tabletop Simulator mods serve two primary purposes: to exist as a means for players to play games of Ivion from around the world and to exist as a beta testing ground for new sets. Both of these are very useful, though it's possible in the future we may need to more formally separate beta sets from release sets.
In another vein, recently a member of the community, Aldenwar, created an amazing tool online for constructing Ivion decks. It keeps an up to date record of cards in the game and automates the process of selecting archetypes. After you've constructed the deck, you can take a look at advanced statistics, like the resource and range distribution, control you apply or are susceptible to, total damage and tons of other nifty factoids. It can also import directly into the Tabletop Simulator mod. Check it out here.
Aldenwar's excellent deck construction tool in action.
Finally, we've spun up a rudimentary Ivion card database on playivion.com/realms. You can search through for any card that is currently released. I'd like to improve it in the future by improving the user experience and eventually finding a way to host a deck construction tool on our own website.
What do you think of these tools and what kind of additional tools would you like to see?
Exclusives, exclusives, exclusives... a double-edged sword that both excites and infuriates players. No one wants to miss out and everyone wants to get in. FOMO is a powerful tool and one I personally believe is overused.
We see it a lot in the world of video gaming where predatory 'dark mechanics' dominate the phone market and seep into mainstream culture. Some AAA studios spend their time devising how to (ab)use player's dopamine levels through scientific theory rather than finding the fun and providing excellent experience. In my opinion, this approach takes the soul out of gaming.
A render of the first Ivion Trait Pack. Exciting!
The tabletop world is different in that we provide physical goods. Everything we sell comes with the real-world guarantee of a box showing up at your doorstep. I've spoken with many folks who think both ways; it's fun for crowdfunding campaigns to have reasons why you would back them now instead of waiting for retail. I've also spoken with folks who grimace at the thought of missing out on everything. I think both perspectives are fair, and I've come to appreciate the exclusive side more as a creator. It does give us additional tools to electrify our audience, and makes folks feel more like they're a part of development, which is cool.
For the Winter's Bite Kickstarter, new exclusive content will become available. How and where we offer that exclusive content is something that we'll continue to refine over time as we find a happy balance that the community appreciates the most. Make no mistake: most exclusive products we will offer on kickstarter we'd be happy to bring to retail if we felt we had the means to.
With the above in mind, I want to stress that this content won't just be available on Kickstarter. There will be more ways to access it. After the Kickstarter, we'll launch our Pledge Manager and exclusive content will be available there for as long as the Pledge Manager runs. Additionally, as we make our way across America in the convention circuit, we'll bring what promotional content with us that we can and sell it there for con-goers. Something like the set specific Make-A-Trait cards will likely stop appearing as bonuses once we stop selling a given set, but variations of playmats will return. Things like the Trait Pack, Acrylic Token set and Sleeve Pack will possibly make returns depending on demand.
We don't want anyone to feel like they've missed out; we want folks to participate and join us when we need support the most. I think those two feelings can seem diametrically opposed at times, but I ask if you feel that way, that you understand where we're coming from as indie developers and work with us to improve our offerings over time. Money is a thing we absolutely have to think about, and not from a 'how much do we have to sell for our new yacht' perspective, more of a 'how much do we have to sell to pay rent' perspective.
In the future, I'd like to see both more ways for players to feel like they're customizing their collection and more avenues for players to acquire what we create. As I stated before, Season Two is where we're focusing on expanding our product offering, so this is our first major step towards achieving that goal. It would be cool to see things like Specialization packs with alternate art for their cards as well as two new miniatures choices (one man, one woman). There are many, many more ideas we have and I'm sure many more you guys have on how we could expand Ivion even more and make it exciting to be a fan of.
To wrap up this section, I'd like to say that we did purchase a small bulk order of Calbrian-themed playmats to sell at Gen Con and future conventions! We're using this batch as a test run to see how successful that kind of product will be. If you're heading to Gen Con or other cons in the US in the future, ping us and let's see if you can snag one. Plus, it's always fun to meet new people!
What are your thoughts and what would you like to see out of Ivion exclusives?
For the next two months, we'll be completely dedicated to running our Kickstarter, of course. We'll have a lot to talk about and will be engaging with everyone in the comments, hosting let's plays, and staying active on the Discord. Naturally, however, there is more on the horizon!
Aaron peruses a hand of cards... what's his next move?
After the Winter's Bite Kickstarter, we plan to focus and push hard to finish all manufacturing work for Season 2 and its supplementary products. There will be quite a bit to do here, as we're not only creating the three new boxes but five new ancillary products as well. This is a big step for us, and was our primary focus to go along with Season 2—improving the product lineup of the Ivion franchise.
Once we've given our manufacturer the final clear and production begins, Aaron and I plan to spend some time improving our workflow. To do this, we'll move more of our files to the cloud and future-proof our operation. With that done, we'll be able to continue making content faster so there's less downtime between releases.
While all this is happening, we'll be continuing to brainstorm and prepare for our next step. As you might imagine, there will be three more boxes coming after Winter's Bite. Whether that will be the remainder of unreleased Skels content or something new is yet to be determined. I'll be hosting a poll after the Kickstarter ends to parse how people are feeling and where the community would like to go next.
It's hard to look so far in the future and say anything with certainty, but what I'd like to focus on improving for Ivion in Season 3 is our organized play. At that point there will be six released boxes and three more on the way, providing numerous options for players to customize and prove their mettle. The community will also have grown, and my current thinking is that it will be an appropriate time to introduce more formal structure to how expert players can find opponents and win rewards.
Wow! We really did have a lot to go over here. Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. I'll try to keep next year's "State of Ivion" shorter and focus on expanding my stances here, plus updates on what's changing. If you have any thoughts you'd like to share about what I've written (or really anything else about Ivion, because that is what this was about), please join us on the Discord and discuss with us!
In the meantime as we approach the Kickstarter next month, I'll be posting more about our Trait Pack reveal and showing off some neat images plus maybe even a teaser trailer. If you're going to Gen Con, stop by our booth! See you for the Kickstarter, and fingers crossed we can beat our last record of $44,636! And if you're reading from while the Kickstarter is live or afterwards, hello from July 2022!