May 31

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DC*DEMONS Political Card Game Darkly Funny Fun


PLAN A—DEAD ON ARRIVAL

DC*DEMONS is yet another insane, hairbrained concept my partner KS Knight and I have been workin' on. But it didn't start out anything like the card prototypes you see here. In fact, the only thing that hasn't changed through several major iterations is the concept of doing a political card game with recognizable versions of real people in the mix.

The original concept, aka Plan A, was an extremely cynical, darkly funny political card game satirizing the way things work (or don't) in Washington D.C., wherein the personality cards would represent well known modern pols from Donald Trump to Nancy Pelosi, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and individual victory conditions.

But the more we batted the idea around—and after talking to many other gamers, geeks and even the general public—we realized that a pure political card game was probably a non-starter. As a rule, people hate politicians so much, they mostly choose to ignore them (which, I should add, is a fate nearly worse than death for a narcissist, which describes most of 'em). People have about as much intrinsic interest in a political card game as they do in politics. Which is to say, not much.

We also came to the realization that one of our goals—educating the public about realpolitik, at least to some small degree—was putting the proverbial cart before the horse. It seemed that we were going to try to interest people in the subject in order to get them to buy (a difficult proposition), when they would just buy in the first place if they were already interested. Which they weren't. Ugh.

I mean, we are tough old cusses up for a challenge, but Sisyphean rock pushing is not one of them.

One of the DC*Demons: Darnold Jawin Tramp

Klik Image to Enlarge.

One of the DC*Demons: Hellory Rodem Clawem

Klik Image to Enlarge.

While making a political card game for wonks and other governance nerds would undoubtedly be satisfying on some level, we also learned that there were already several "funny" political card games on the market, and as far as we could tell, none were exactly sellin' like hotcakes, either! Not good signs, brah.

Creative satisfaction is important, but if you're going to pour months of your life into a commercial venture, it would be nice if it were... uh... actually commercial! 😮

It had never been a goal to create a product for an audience of five, or fifty, or even five hundred. The goal was to create something with broad appeal. And besides, too many people told us that even a gritty, grimy, cutthroat card game about "how the sausage really gets made" was just too... well, "icky" was a word that came up more than once.

Yeah, it's apparently true. Most Amerikans consider politics as revolting and gut churning ("icky") as watching pigs getting ground up into sausage links—but considerably less appealing!

Sigh.

After crying in our beers for some time, Knight remarked that if the game were about politicians being ground up into franks, people would be much more receptive!

Which is when the light bulb, as they say, flickered on.

PLAN B—THE UNDEAD LIVE

Despite being grossed out by the thought of playing a straight-up political card game, gamers are known to have no such aversion to blood and gore in general. Quite the contrary, in fact. It's not that they don't like "icky." It's just that it's gotta be the right kind of icky. Which gave me an idea...

Illustration from HOLLYWOOD ZOMBIES of PARIS HELLTON (Paris Hilton)

Paris Hilton must really love this one. Though some would argue it's absolutely delightful in comparison to her infamous split beaver feature.

Being big fans of zombie culture in general, Knight and I really liked the late, lamented, long-gone Topps Hollywood Zombies series. We thought—why not do something like it, but a as a card game, rather than pure collectibles?

Politicians as zombies! It's a natural, right?

What if the zombies took over, and these zombies have some small semblance of intelligence left? Sounds just like politicians, right? And what if they tried to organize their society by modeling it after what once was?

Furthermore, what if the currency in the game was not gold, or guns, or even butter, but living, breathing human beings—their brains, in particular? These hapless humans would be an ever more valuable commodity as the species nears extinction! And what if the zombie bosses can only maintain their modicum of smarts—the thing which gives them the edge over all the other flesh rippers, who are mostly as bright as the darkness at the bottom of a well—by eating fresh, hot, human brains?

Sure, the sweet meats are great, but they don't give you an edge, man!

Er... zomb!

Bring on the brains! Yummmm.

We also played around with the idea of a West Coast, East Coast rivalry thing, like with rappers back in the day. What if, on some level, it was D.C. Zombies vs. "Hollywood Zombies?" (We definitely couldn't call them that, though!) Maybe each group was vying for control of all of "ZombieLand." (Another no-no for copyright reasons). Now that could be interesting...

The whole project was particularly appealing, being that we're both A) former "Hollywood insider" types, and B) politics dorks as well. This also got more traction with our informal focus group.

Again, nobody has gotten worked up over the idea of running for office. Talk about "icky."

Illustration from HOLLYWOOD ZOMBIES of RANCID O'DONNELL (Rosie O'Donnell)

Rosie O'Donnell as zombie. Mz. O'Donnell did try to warn us about the brain damaged ghoul currently occupying the White House, to no avail. No amount of hot, juicy grey matter can save him from himself—or us from him.

Of course, people didn't get how low down 'n' dirty what we had in mind was—with cards like Dirty Hurty Secrets, Blackmail by Email, Dick Sent Pics, Hush Money Honey, Extortion Racket Packet, Skeleton Closet Rattle 'n' Tattle, etc.—but so be it. The thing needed to have instant nerd appeal, since it's fanboys (and girls) who play crazy card games, not policy wonks.

Zombies will do that, and a game about zombie politicians shredding each other not only had instant appeal on it's face, we learned that it plugged into something else we didn't know about the general public—but probably should have (the market research team really blew it here). That being, they secretly despise politicians! And in some cases, not-so-secretly.

A game about politicians and politics was never of much interest to "average joes." But a game about the savage dismemberment and murder of zombified D.C. denizens? Well, that was a different story altogether! "Hell yes!" the throng screamed. 😉

Things were looking promising. Exciting even!

And then...

Well, and then, it all came crashing down after our mutha f'n fabulous lawyer got involved.

We had a serious concern, which is why we went to him for input. Were we getting too damn close to Topp's Hollywood Zombies in form? Could we get sued for copyright infringement, or some such? Theirs was not a card game, but it was all about satirizing famous people. As zombies. On cards.

What we had in mind was not identical, but it was pretty similar.

What we really wanted to know was if our concept for D.C. Zombies—and possibly zombies in Hollywood, too—was close enough that it might land us in legal trouble.

"Well, yes, it might..." was Mr. Lawyer's indefinite but thoroughly murderous answer. Again, we're ballers and everything, but we seriously don't want to spend any of our precious time in court fighting over a silly political card game (no matter how serious the subtext might be).

I mean, as in never. As in never-ever. Know what I mean?

You can read more on this particular aspect of the saga below (WHAT THE (DAMN) LAWYER SAID), should you really care to.

So anyway, that was that for Plan B, friend. So goes it in development land. What next?

DC*DEMONS Political Card Game Darkly Funny Fun 1

John Martin's depiction of the underworld, called Pandemonium. The government center of Hell City aka Dys?

PLAN C—THE DEAD DON'T DIE

So after a lot of back and forth, we came up with what we thought was a pretty fun one. A new plan. A better plan. An infallible plan. Ahem.

Plan C, in other words.

The latest (and hopefully last) prototype version of our "simple little" political card game. The new concept was maybe a bit more on the nose (horn?) than even the zombies thing, but we thought it was still damn good. And it has the added benefit of not being limited in any way by "reality."

Ancient figures could be mixed with modern ones, and it's no problem, either. Imagine putting Caligula (Calighoula?), David Koresh (Davy Korpsesh?) and Donald Trump (Darnold Tramp) on the same team. Insane? Yes. Bound to lose? Probably. Fun to play? HELL YES!!!

In DC*DEMONS, each player takes control of a prominent human-turned-demon in the underworld (known as a Persona). Players attempt to build up their Faction as a power base from which to achieve victory. Often, this is by adding valuable allies (secondary Personas) and seizing and holding the all-important position of Potentate of Dys. Dys being the central hub of power in Hell and the Potentcy being the top job, directly underneath Old Scratch himself (i.e. the Devil).

Personas have one or more of the seven deadly sins working against them, and this makes for potential ongoing issues during play.

Gluttons can be sidelined by getting a plate from the Feast of All Devils (a virtually endless smorgasboard of remarkably edible food which tastes like home cookin' on the way down, but has a tendency to come roaring back up—and out).

Those with Lust in their hearts can be sidetracked by Perverse Promises or Succubus Surprise.

The Greedy have many Temptations to deal with, from My Ponzi Party to Satan's Cash Box. You get the idea.

DC*DEMONS Political Card Game Darkly Funny Fun 2

A demon from Hans Memling's Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation - Panel 3

Much of the play involves acquiring and using powerful Event cards which hinder opponents and help yourself. For instance, the Plague of Spiders can weaken and even kill Personas within a Faction, whereas Satanic Favor can, momentarily at least, give you a number of benefits.

One of the most dread of all Events is Banishment to Sheol, which sends a Persona to the furthest (and worst) regions of Hell where, if you're lucky (!) you get a Tormenter personally assigned to you.

Oh yeah!

Reclaimation can bring a Banished Persona back to the Satanate, whilst Restoration can bring a "dead" Persona back to "life" (and the big city), but often at great cost (such as being "remade" with two heads, or massive disfigurement, or with other limitations). 

It can even occasionally (rarely) result in being better off (such as receiving a boost to abilities, or some other benefit)—though one would not want to go through the process of dying in Hell (never pretty) on the small chance of "leveling up" for the experience. 

And let's not even talk about being Reborn.

There are also "real-world" problems to be dealt with, like The Righteous Riot to Demonic Strike Action, Sewage Surprise to Conspiracy of Curses, Assignation Assassination to My Personal Vietnam (a reference real Trump fans will understand) and many, many more. Deal with an Event well, and you get the glory; deal with it poorly, and you may find yourself diving for rectal polyps (certain rare ones are very valuable) in the Diarrhea Sea.

Each Persona is a "leader" in Hell, vying for more power, wealth, authority and prestige. See, Satan can't be bothered with running the day-to-day affairs of Hell, or of overseeing the hundreds of millions of sinners in his region of the underworld. He's got much more important things to do! Therefore, he delegates the work to the current Potentate and Sub-Potentates (i.e. Personas)—and he's a very harsh taskmaster.

Those who let Lucifer down can find themselves exiled to the parts of Hell even archdemons avoid—or worse! Which is how and why the Potentcy has been known to change hands at a moment's notice.

The idea was that DC*Demons would be a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, darkly funny game of double-dealing and dastardly deeds set in the hellish version of D.C.—the real District of Corruption—where just about anything goes. I mean, in this locale Bribery is not a crime—it's Just How Business Gets Done.™

Hillary Clinton (Hellory Clawem) would vie not just with her own contemporaneous rivals, but with those from the recent past like Richard Nixon (Dick Nixum) and LBJ (Lynchem Banes Jawrun), as well as those from history near and far—such august figures of renown (ahem) as Hitler (Hateler?), Saddam Hussein (Goddamn Insane?), Torquemada (TorquedMotha?) and so on.

Booster packs would include new Persona cards (there's a virtually endless supply, when you factor in historical figures), new Event cards and more!

DC*DEMONS Political Card Game Darkly Funny Fun 3

Triumph of the Guillotine by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay: The French Revolution as a scene from Hell. Or vice versa.

We prepared a pretty crude prototype and did some informal playtesting, to see just how well this rather strange, off-beat political card game would do. Was it fun? Was it funny? Did it actually work for people who cared nothing about real world politics, or those who knew little more about the subject than the names of it''s most famous players?

The answer, we were astonished to learn, was a rather thundering "YES!" 😀

Which is great, but it sorta leaves us on the (demon) horns of a dilemma. Drop everything and push forward, full steam ahead, to get this thing out there ASAP... or park it on the slow boat from China? Or maybe on the raft crossing the River Charon, as the case may be. Unfortunately for those who want to see our deeply cynical, slightly subversive, darkly funny political card game on the market immediatamente, you're gonna haveta wait. 🙁

WHAT'S NEXT FOR DC*DEMONS?

The project is now "in development," as they say in Tinsel Town. This means we're workin' on it, but it's not the top priority. Knight has got his writing and I've got my various art projects. We do think there's a lot of potential here for a really, really great political card game, something which could become as popular as Hollywood Zombies was at one point, but with even broader appeal and a lot more zazz.

Our playtesters and small network of boosters seem to agree.

Alas, there are just so many hours in the day.

However, YOU can make a difference! How? First off, if you dig this concept, let us know. The easy way to do that is to give this post a Like. But the far better, more valuable way would be to give this post a Like and Comment!

Further, if you really, really, really want to see this thing hit the market, then... TELL A FRIEND! Or 20 of 'em. Or 50! Share this post, brother (or sister)! Share it!!!

Additionally, we'd really love to hear from you. Tell us what you think! What are your ideas, questions, concerns or constructive criticism? Would you be willing to put your money where your mouth is? (Not that we really want to know where your mouth is, or where it has been!)

With enough interest and excitement, we could crowdfund this bad boy and really make it something special, much faster than it might otherwise materialize. Does that sound like a good idea?

Without a push like that, this badass, satirical, funny political card game is likely to remain on slow burn—just like the hordes of the damned sizzling away for all eternity in the Great Lake of Fire. 😮

WHAT THE (DAMN) LAWYER SAID

Our irritating ever-vigilant legal eagle told us (reminded us, really) that Amerika is an extremely litigious nation, and anybody can be sued over just about anything, no matter how trivial or frivolous. Caution was warranted.

Yes, he frequently rains on our creative parade. The bastard nice man.

But his point is and was relevant and valid. "Sure," he told us, "such a lame lawsuit is not likely to last long in court, but that's not really the point. When one of these big boys sues for copyright infringement, the aim is quite often not to win, per se. It's to kill your progress. In other words, make it so expensive to compete, you have to cease and desist. That you take a beating in the process is just part of the fun."

He further went on to say: "Big operations intimidate small operations all the time. It's how they keep the competition out of the market, and control it. It's the American way."

It just makes ya proud to be "a Murican," don't it?

In other words, what happens is that well heeled folks sue us paupers just to make our lives a living hell. They know we can't afford to fight them, but if we want to try, we have to lawyer up at great cost. They don't expect to win, or in many cases, even get to court. But it's all about sending a very strong message: F with us, and it's gonna cost you. And cost you. And cost you.

Such things are inherently unAmerican and opposed to the entire free market concept capitalists are supposed to adore. But the truth is, big capitalists are quite often totally opposed to actual competition, so much so that they'll stoop to any kind of legal (and sometimes illegal) sleaze to protect their markets. The famous industrialist John D. Rockefeller once said: "Competition is a sin." Big capitalists are often just cartelists in disguise.

Once upon a time, when I worked in Korporate Amerika, I saw such efforts in action. Furthermore, I'm ashamed to say, I was even part of them, at least to a small extent, by being an employee whose work touched on same.

Ugh. I still feel dirty and hope someday, in some way, to atone for my sins. Hopefully not in the Great Lake of Fire, though I'm told by some that's likely.

Anyway, so it goes working for Korporate Amerika, where bad karma comes as part of your deal package.

And so it goes with your next "great idea" if there's any chance it might piss off one of the big boys. Or really, anybody with a significantly bigger bankroll than you have. 🙁

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About the Author

Mann is a former Hollywood/Fortune 500 Wunderkind/Creative Director who was lucky enough to escape the ad biz with his integrity and sanity still intact. Well, mostly.

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