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Mutology Interview

How many mutants could a scientist make if a scientist could make mutants? Let’s find out with Mutology!

“Mutology is a tactical card game for two geniuses. You are Mutologists, brilliant but crazed scientists studying the amazing effects of radiation on living organisms. With three different kinds of radiation at your disposal, you will create Mutants which are unique to the radiation you choose to deploy and earn you victory points. Win more victory points than your rival Mutologists by creating as many Mutants as you can, or by investing your energy into one impressive creature!”


I’m really glad to have an indie card game featured on the site! I tried to make it to one of the play-tests but unfortunately got the flu. Jeremy Bartlett has been play-testing, making improvements and implementing feedback from the players. I really like the look of this game. The card layout and artwork are great! There’s definitely a cohesive style evident in the design.  There several things in his interview that I, and other developers, can relate to. I think this is a great example of the commonalities of all indie developers, regardless of it being a card, board or video game.


On that note I’ll turn it over to Jeremy from thinkform games!


What sets Mutology apart from other games in this Genre?

Playtesters tell me they enjoy the tactical aspect of Mutology. You play the game by deploying cards into the “Field” or “Lab” zone, and attaching cards onto other cards. Your cards behave differently depending on which zone they’re sitting in, and some cards affect the cards next to them. It makes the player think about more than what’s printed on the card because the board itself is a shifting landscape and you have to adapt to what’s going on each turn. Add the fact that you don’t need to rely on a combat strategy to win, and I think Mutology has something for every kind of player who enjoys strategy card games as a whole.



If you could create a group of mutant subordinates, what would you task them with?


Part of me wants a giant psychic rat around the apartment to help me utilize untapped parts of my brain, but I think I’d ultimately want a mutated archaeopteryx to fly me to work.



Tell us about the team of creators whose job it is to bring Mutology to life.


I’m a one-man team at the moment. I started with the concept while commuting to Manhattan from Long Island every day for work, and I’ve been plugging away with the looks of each monster and game mechanics since 2015. The art, however, is done by several amazing artists I connected with on DeviantArt. We discussed rates and I slowly paid for most of the game’s artwork over the years while redesigning the mechanics.



How different is the current revamped version of Mutology from your first rough sketches of the game?


The game has had a lot of changes. It used to be a dice rolling game but that ended up being terrible because most players wasted their turn doing nothing. Specimens used to only turn into one Mutant creature, instead of two as the game plays today, and there was no variety of Radiation cards. Mutology still has some pacing issues at times but its evolved to include way more decision making for the player. Many of the cards are multi-functional by design: you can play the same card twice and it does something different each game. This creates the opportunity to build strategic decks for serious gamers, and provides fun variety for casual players.


Do you have a favorite creature out of your collection of “guinea pigs”? Why?


I think I’ve got a soft spot for Experiment 02 which is basically an enlarged guinea pig, funny enough. It was the first Mutant I sketched up. Mechanically I love Experiment 06, which is a kaiju which shares Radiation cards with all your other Specimens and Mutants.



How long have you been working on Mutology?


I started in 2014 but didn’t get serious until 2015 when I discovered the tabletop game design subreddit and was able to pitch ideas with other like-minded people.



What has been the most challenging part of your games’ development?


Any strategy card game with a large card pool is going to need a lot of time invested in checking game balance. Mutology is designed from the top down, meaning I’d come up with the sci-fi concept and translate that into the game’s mechanics. Some cards still aren’t perfect, like the Time Machine… It’s a tough concept to build into a game without breaking it, but even if I nailed the Time Machine card, I have to make sure it plays nice with every other card it’d come in contact with. Because Mutology is a strategy card game, it will inevitably be compared to things like Magic or Pokemon right off the bat – I’ve worked hard to make my game unique.



Have you ever thought about abandoning this project? You obviously haven’t so, what  motivates you to continue?


There have admittedly been some large gaps in time when I didn’t even look at these cards. Life gets in the way, or you need to recharge creatively. Whenever I couldn’t see past the statistics in my head and enjoy the game as I was playing it, I put Mutology down. I’d always come back to it because Mutology is the game I want to see exist in the wild. Its something I wish was already made, but I’m going to have to do it myself! I’m my own consumer.



Can you tell us some highlights of play-testing feedback?


I think Mutology is scratching an itch that doesn’t often get representation on gaming shelves. I love the imagery of mad scientists and their creations made in a laboratory, and I think the game-play evokes those feelings of weird science and fantasy for players. The pacing of a game seems delicate because it’s not always easy making a Mutant, or players might want to hold onto cards and wait for a perfect combination. But nobody seemed frustrated with mechanics, and took to the rules fairly quickly. I’m very proud of where its at right now.


How has that feedback altered the game development?


Feedback has been vital to getting the game to where it’s at now. There are perspectives I would never consider, combos I’d have never come up with, if I didn’t share my notes with others more senior in this business. I wouldn’t have thought of designing a card layout with color blindness in mind, for example, but thankfully feedback got to me early enough that I could adapt. Play-testers have been my copy editors, my rules breakers, and my continued dedication to seeing this game to the end.



Has there been a suggestion so absurd that it just left you scratching your head?


I’ve heard suggestions that essentially would make Mutology more like Magic: the Gathering or another strategy card game. I designed this game both because I love those games but also because I wasn’t satisfied: I wanted this game to already exist.



When and where will Mutology be available to purchase?

The game’s art isn’t 100% complete but I could make the game available for purchase as a print-on-demand product… if people are interested. I’m hoping 2018 will be the year I get a lot of eyes on this game and really learn if it’s worth going for a Kickstarter, or if a Patreon is a better fit (to help pay for art so it can be bought as a print-on-demand service sooner.) I guess I’d like to hear what people want.



Do you have any schooling in game design and development?


None formally, no. But I believe I have a good imagination and critical thinking skills. I’m self taught, but game design has always been a part of me. I can’t help but think about a game designers’ decision making and I apply their logic to my own preferences.



Have you ever aspired to a career other than making games?


I’ve worked in television, then digital video, now I’m an office admin, but throughout all those years I’ve always picked apart games I enjoyed playing and deciding how I’d design them differently.


What is your all-time favorite table-top game?


Quartz is a pretty fun push-your-luck game, and I really like Imhotep because of all the creative ways you can focus on getting points. Smash Up is a great card game you can play out of the box… I’m not sure if I have one favorite game, but instead I love aspects of many different games.



You’ve also created a game called The Colony which will likely be developed into a mobile game in the future. Can you detail the differences in creating a game that lives in a device versus a tangible game?


I’ve only started playing with Twine, the app I’m using to build The Colony, for a few months. It’ll more likely be a free game you can click a link to play on your phone. That’s a game that scratches another aesthetic itch I really like, which is rural horror: haunted forests and witches in the 20th century kind of stuff. The biggest difference in designing a card game and a video game is how easily you can playtest the video game: you only need one player to test it!



Are there any plans to make a digital version of Mutology?


I don’t have any knowledge about app development and the like, but its on my radar. I think I’d make an app game apart from Mutology before I digitize Mutology as a card game.



What “dev to dev” advice do you have for other indie developers?


I’ll probably come off as a hypocrite when I say “don’t worry about artwork til later” but I think that worrying about the aesthetic look is something to consider but not delve into during your first year of development. I’m a perfectionist so TK.


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