Washington-based tabletop RPG publisher Heart of the Deernicorn is stepping outside its wheelhouse with a competitive card game called Bad Baby Lich Lords. The title has been in the works internally for two years and will launch a Kickstarter campaign in the near future.
Bad Baby Lich Lords is the brainchild of artist Taylor Dow, who previously collaborated with Heart of the Deernicorn on all-ages TRPG BFF! Best Friends Forever. Dow approached Fall of Magic and City of Winter designer Ross Cowman for help designing a card game idea, and along with Spry Fox game designer Patrick Kemp spent the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown creating the upcoming game.
The narrative framing for the game involves the Lich King transforming an entire rowdy kingdom into a relatively more subdued empire of skeletons so that he may enjoy a prolonged nap. Left to their own devices, the Lich King’s children - the two to four players - set about abusing their powers to bring denizens back to life, making noise in an attempt to wake their father up and give them some attention.
This plays out on the table through players flipping double-sided cards, one side showing the bony undead version of the kingdom’s eclectic citizenry while the other depicts their flesh-forms. Cowman didn’t share specific mechanics with Dicebreaker but did say the team aimed for simple rules - flipping a card, moving it from one zone to another, etc. - that could be combined into complex chain reactions. Players want to collect sets of cards with similar attributes, flipping them to create enough noise to wake the Lich King and win the game, along with an implied punishment for being a rude little necromancer.
Players will also have the ability to interrupt their opponents’ combos, likely by re-undeadifying their cards or throwing a femur into the engine. Cowman said the team wanted Bad Baby Lich Lords to scratch that tactical itch in more experienced card players while providing an approachable runway for those unfamiliar with competitive slingers. He specifically mentioned Wingspan for its readable art and board state, saying the game will hopefully be as aesthetically pleasing to observe as it is fun to play.
“I’m a big believer of letting the game be what it needs to be,” he said. “ The physicality of that core card flipping mechanic is akin to playing with action figures as children. We’ve succeeded in making a game that feels very toy-like and is very engaging.”
This will be the first card game Heart of the Deernicorn has designed, and the outfit is partnering with Panda Game Manufacturing to help with production. Panda has lent a hand in some of the most popular and celebrated tabletop games of the last decade, including the aforementioned Wingspan, Root, Scythe and Twilight Imperium.
The two years spent bringing Bad Baby Lich Lords to life has also forced Cowman to expand his own expertise. The game is currently on its 67th iteration, and Cowman claims the rigorous process has made him a better and more disciplined RPG designer. He hopes that when players see more of the game in its upcoming Kickstarter campaign, they will connect with a game that might play differently from Heart of the Deernicorn’s previous entries but shares their beauty and passion.