Designer Diary – Adam Wyse & Masque of the Red Death

How does it feel knowing that the game you worked on so hard, has now come to life and people are able to play the game? Any fun moments from that so far, either online or at a show?

It’s an amazing feeling.  To have something you created be out there in the world – being the centre of an experience for a group of friends around a table – it’s wonderful.

The coolest moment at a show so far was at Gen Con this year, being recognized by the name on my badge by a fan of Masque of the Red Death!  Online, it’s seeing little mentions and reviews popping up here and there, and of course seeing pictures of people’s painted minis!

Do you have any designer tips now that people have been playing? What would you suggest to them to they can survive The Red Death?

Never allow yourself to fall too far behind in popularity; you don’t want to lose the pack or it will be very hard to get back on level ground.  If you have fallen back, remember that you will act first in the round and use that to your advantage.  Take a few rounds to bump that popularity back up!

Start with an initial plan based around your Personality card.  You’ll want to play it with one of your 12 actions, so go in with a plan on when you think that should be.

Most important to survival is using your cards at the right times.  Any action card that lets you take rumour cards from your opponents allows you to specify a time you want to see, so use them a little later in the game when you know exactly where the gaps in your information are.  Especially important is to use Swindle late in the game, as one of your last 2 actions.  Seeing 2 rumour cards and having to remember them can be hard if you do it too early, but is very strong right before midnight.

Lastly, pay attention to what other players are asking of each other!  If I need a 12:50 card, and Duke Desire just stole a 12:50 card from Duchess Vanity, I know who to come after for one.

Any other fun behind-the-scenes stories from when you were making the game that you wanted to share?

I am not a good artist.  At all.  When I was first designing Masque of the Red Death I needed a game board that looked like the Abbey of Prince Prospero that I could envision in my head.  Drawing a top-down view of an abbey proved to be far beyond my abilities.  After a lot of frustrating attempts, I finally decided to 3D model the whole thing, put in lighting and textures, and then just take a screenshot of the top-down view.  Suddenly I had something that looked decent and had walls at angles that actually made sense.  It wasn’t quite as good as Gris Grimly’s final version though!

Anything else you want to say?

I’ve seen the occasional mention of people wanting to take notes when playing Masque of the Red Death.  I understand the desire – my memory is horrible too.  But the memory element does a few very important things here.

First and most importantly, it makes the game more tense.  Masque of the Red Death is all about the feeling of dread and tension as midnight approaches. Having your information be an iron-clad sure thing reduces this tension. If you’re 80% sure that you remember Green was safe at 12:10 but… maybe it was 12:20? That adds to the experience.

Second, as mentioned above, the relative value of the action cards change throughout the night and that’s lost if you could write things down.  Cards like Flirt and Swindle (where you only look at another players’ cards but don’t get to keep them) are weak if played early in the game, but become nearly as valuable as cards like Threaten or Menace when played right before midnight.

And third, drawing an Evidence Card and getting to look at a Red Death Card is, again, very good when it’s close to midnight. But it’s not nearly as good on turn 1 because you have to hold that information in your head for longer. If you got to write the information down, the timing of when you get the information is less relevant and I feel that detracts from the game.