“No-one wants their nostalgia slapped onto something without care”: Disney Gargoyles: Awakening creators on the cult series’ tabletop revival
Why should you care about a board game based on an animated show from the ‘90s?
Gargoyles is an animated show that’s about as old as I am and whose last episode aired back in 1997, so why has a board game based on the series been released just this month? Featuring the characters that starred in the cult classic Disney show and containing iconography, components and scenarios taken whole-cloth from the series, Disney Gargoyles: Awakening is more than just a retheming of an existing game, but a tribute made from the ground-up with the fans in mind.
Considering that Disney has yet to announce any new plans for the almost 30 year-old franchise, it seems to be an odd time to see a faithful adaptation of a beloved - now fairly niche - animated kids show hit store shelves. We spoke with the game’s designer, Nate Heiss, and its lead developer, Steven Warner, about the newly released title, who its intended audience is and the decision to release a Gargoyles game despite the show’s current age and relevance.
What is Disney Gargoyles: Awakening? What do players do in the game?
Nate Heiss: Gargoyles is a card-driven tactical battle game based on the hit 90's cartoon! You take on the roles of the heroes and face scenarios from episodes of the show. Most of the scenarios are co-operative, so you can team up with your friends and defeat villains like Xanatos and Demona.
Steven Warner: Disney Gargoyles: Awakening is a cooperative light strategy game. Players take the role of Goliath, Brooklyn, Hudson, Broadway, Lexington, or NYPD Detective Elisa Maza. Working together, they face off against Demona and/or Xanatos in one of four “episodes.” Depending on the episode, they may be trying to keep secret information on floppy disks away from Xanatos, or trying to free victims of Demona’s spells. In one of the episodes, one player can take control of Xanatos while the other players play against them.
I personally loved the show as a kid, so I knew I wanted to be involved in designing this game.
Why make a board game based on Gargoyles now? So many years after the show aired?
Heiss: With the launch of Disney+, the show has had a new wave of interest from both folks who loved the show when it originally aired and a new generation of Gargoyles fans. I personally loved the show as a kid, so I knew I wanted to be involved in designing this game.
Warner: Though it’s been nearly 30 years since Gargoyles aired, some members of our team have always been fans of the show. Thanks to Disney+, Gargoyles is seeing a revival, both with existing fans and new ones—fans of the show can share one of the most exciting cartoons from their childhood with their kids.
Who is Disney Gargoyles: Awakening for? Fans of the original show? New potential fans? People who just love thematic co-op board games?
Heiss: Yes to all three! I think it's best played as a family - I have seen several parents enjoy playing the game with their kids. It is really nice when two generations can get satisfaction out of the same experience. The game is approachable enough to teach it to kids, yet can still provide some surprising depth for the seasoned gamer.
Warner: We designed it for everyone. Existing fans can experience fond nostalgia through the art and characters. New fans can enjoy getting to act as characters from the show without spoilers. Finally, gamers can enjoy combat on 3D board and try each of the four episodes since they all play differently.
It's important that the games are made with the original content and fans in mind.
Do you think that the tabletop gaming industry is a good space for older licences to see a revival?
Heiss: Absolutely, and we have been seeing a lot of that happen. The trick is making sure that the games really exemplify the license. No one wants to see their beloved nostalgia slapped onto something without care. It's important that the games are made with the original content and fans in mind.
Warner: We've seen plenty of movies from the past find new life in a board game. Ravensburger alone has published ALIEN: Fate of the Nostromo, The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game, and Back to the Future: Dice Through Time. We like bringing back fond memories of players’ favorite stories while giving them opportunities to make new ones.
What do you think the Gargoyles board game offers that simply watching the show wouldn’t provide?
Heiss: The feel of playing as one of the characters. Each has their own unique deck and abilities so it is fun to replay and try different ones! Plus, there is always the thrill of rolling dice and cooperating tactically with your friends. Oh, that and 3D buildings - the board and minis look so sweet! Ravensburger did a really stellar job with the visual design of the game.
Warner: In Gargoyles, you get to take the role of a member of the Manhattan Clan. You choose how to move, how to glide, how to attack. Each character’s gameplay is designed with his or her personality and abilities in mind. You also get to strategies with your fellow Gargoyles.
Will other ‘lost’ Disney licenses see a tabletop revival in the future?
Heiss: I sure hope so! I would love to see, play, and design more!
Warner: You never know.
Disney Gargoyles: Awakening is currently exclusive to Target retail for $29.99 (£21).