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Cogs and Commissars: A Word from the Artist

Cogs and Commissars is a clever card game of glorious robot revolution that we are currently funding through Kickstarter. One of the most notable features of the game is its art, drawing on Soviet-era propaganda images and early-20th century science fiction pop art. We asked the artist, Zoran Cardula, how he arrived at this delightful art style.

What was your initial reason for going with this look?
"For many years I have been researching the Soviet style and I believe it has a powerful visual impression depicting the retro-future."

How did you approach the card art?
"Each card is a separate propaganda poster showing the retro futuristic style. The chosen colors give even more power to the game. The characters were a challenge for me, they are worked on both Photoshop and Illustrator, and each part of them is separately created in the style of ’30s, simple but powerful."

What's your favorite image?
"I cannot choose my favorite card but in my opinion the cover is the most impressive as it depicts the game concept. Moreover the leaders are great part of the game (I grew up in a period when the Soviet Union was really powerful). All in all I think the game is a really great concept."

The Kickstarter has unlocked its first stretch goal thanks in no small part to Zoran's dedication and fidelity to a fun, consistent look for Cogs and Commissars. We hope you'll become a part of this revolution with us!

The People's Test

As Cogs and Commissars Kickstarts and comes to the end of its development cycle on the way to production, it’s time to blindtest. When I present or talk to people who are interested but new to tabletop game publishing, blindtesting is sometimes a new concept for them.

Blindtesting is simple: It’s handing a group of players the components of a game as you intend to send them to press, then silently watching to see if they can successfully learn how to play using nothing but those items. During the previous and more familiarly named game production step called “playtesting,” the designer or publisher is often present at a test to explain the game, gloss over inconsistencies, and so on. But as we like to say, “The designer doesn’t come in the box.” That is, when a gamer buys a game in a store, they’ll have to learn it for themselves, without the designer’s help. Blindtesting is how we make absolutely sure that process will go as well as it can, before we spent five figures of cash to print thousands of copies.

Common changes from blindtesting often include streamlining the description of the game setup process, unifying game terms to make sure they’re consistent every single time they’re mentioned, calling out overlooked rules to make them more prominent, adding diagrams in places where testers were puzzled, and clarifying what happens in unusual conditions.

Previous projects I’ve worked on, like Witches of the Revolution, saw substantial revisions to their rulebooks as a result of multiple iterations of the blindtesting process. Other games, like Cursed Court, didn’t change much as a result of that process. Sometimes that’s because the rules are simpler, or more time’s been spent teaching the game to different groups and those insights were brought to bear when writing the rulebook. But as a designer, developer, or publisher, sometimes you’re just plain lucky.

If you’re interested in even more detail on playtesting and blindtesting, there’s a whole chapter on it in The White Box Essays.

If you’d like to give blindtesting a try yourself, you can grab the print-and-play files for Cogs and Commissars, try to play using the cards and rules as we currently intend to send them to press, and tell us how it went! Send your comments to game producer Kyla McT, who you can reach at kyla at atlas dash games dot com. You’ll have fun, we’ll be grateful, and Cogs and Commissars will get that much better on its way to release. Thanks in advance!

Matt Haga talks Inspiration and Cogs and Commissars

Matt Haga is the designer of Cogs and Commissars, Atlas Games' clever new card game of robot revolution. We asked him about his inspiration, and here's a little of what he said about it:

"There is no better feeling than knowing that a creation from my mind has moved, inspired, entertained, educated, or in any way left its mark on the life of another human being.

I discovered Magic the Gathering at an early age and played it with my friends, and Dungeons and Dragons a bit later on when I finally convinced some very religious individuals that I wasn’t worshipping the devil or summoning Mephistopheles himself. With Magic I was trying to design my own cards as soon as I understood the game’s mechanics. In Dungeons and Dragons I would spend night after night drawing maps, creating dungeons, and fleshing out stories for my friends to immerse themselves in when we all finally managed to get together.

Of course, these campaigns usually ended up being one or two full nights of character creation, one or two nights of getting the campaign rolling, and then someone couldn’t make it for two weekends in a row and everyone would forget everything - sending us back to square one. But it was still loads of fun.This D&D campaign player absence issue is what actually started me on my journey towards the creation of Cogs & Commissars.

Moving closer to present, my grown up friends and I had not played D&D for years and they expressed to me that they’d love to get together and throw some good ‘ol nostalgia dice. I agreed and got to work, making the most elaborate campaign of my life. Between work schedules, relationships, fickle teenagers, and various dramas, the campaign silently died and board game night was born.

I often thought about the magical formulas which seemed to attract my players over and over again. I wanted to keep my eyes open for fun games to introduce and keep things fresh so I had to know what to look for, but after a while I was having a difficult time finding anything. I wanted something new. It had to be something that we could all play no matter how many of us showed up, it had to be simple enough to grasp for the casual players but deep enough for the rest of us to enjoy, it had to have some degree of personal customization, it had to take up minimal tabletop real estate, it had to have a fun theme, and it couldn’t take all night to complete.

So I started making it myself, and Cogs & Commissars was born."

The Revolution is Here!

Greetings, comrades. As the super blue blood moon rises above the crumbling capitalist dreams of the fleshy ones, we celebrate the launch of COGS AND COMMISSARS, a clever card game of robot revolution. For your convenience, our high-speed data drones have liberated the following information from the grip of the elites.

LAUNCH VIDEO: Here is where you may learn about the game and share with your comrades.
PRINT AND PLAY: Here is where you may download the rules and cards in People's Digital Format (PDF) so that you are enlightened.
KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN: Here is where you may join the revolution and bring about a new era, free from the yoke of lesser card games.

Expect more news and behind the scenes commentary from our glorious leaders in the days and weeks to come!

For the Motherboard!

Comrades! It is such a thrill to announce that next Tuesday we will be kicking off the Kickstarter campaign for Cogs and Commissars, a delightfully irreverent card game about a communist robot revolution by Matt Haga. We'll have lots more to say between now and launch (to say nothing of during the campaign!), but to kick it off please take a look at the wonderful teaser that our own Nicolas Gluesenkamp fabricated out of Zoran Cardula's artwork.

Sign up to get notified by e-mail as soon as our Kickstarter is live for pledges!