Tag Archives: designer blog

Designer Blog – All is Lost!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

All is Lost!

I have been throwing around a new concept to add to #IntoTheBlack that is tentatively being titled “All is Lost!”

The premise of this rule is that when you reach 15 (actual number pending a bit more testing) on the Apprehension Track (which, as we all know by now, if it reaches 25 you lose the game), “All is Lost!” is triggered (and a handy reminder will be placed on the Apprehension Track so you don’t forget, of course). At this point, players may vote to replace their current primary mission with a new (randomly drawn) mission and choose one of them to complete. Any vote to replace the mission must be unanimous. If the players vote to replace the mission, immediately reduce morale by 2 and everyone loses one reputation, then draw a new mission.

15356773_933716610062758_2664727965366727548_nPerhaps replace is not the best wording though? Supplemental mission. Additional mission? In any case, you now have two missions and two paths to win the game, but your time is cut drastically!

The goal of this tweak is to give players hope of completing their primary mission in the chance that their current one becomes impossible through any acts of extreme misfortune, or to perhaps draw a simpler mission (or even one that everyone has already completed – luck of the draw can win the day).

We’re going to have to test this out and see how it works!


As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – Active vs Passive Abilities

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

Active vs Passive Abilities!

Every crew member of your Pirate Ship has their own special talents. Some are more effective than others, for sure, but each has crew mate has his or her place on your crew for a reason!

As we have adjusted the special abilities of many of the crew members to be more balanced and in-line with updates that have been made we came to realize that SOME of those special abilities are triggered without the player even needing to make a choice. Thus was born the PASSIVE ABILITIES vs SPECIAL/ACTIVE abilities.

Each player’s character board will have a Passive Ability listed. These passive abilities trigger whenever a certain condition applies throughout the game. Some of these are a one shot deal, while others will be ongoing throughout the game. Be sure to know your character’s passive ability so that you don’t miss out on bonuses!

Let’s look at a few of these passive abilities in conjunction with their specials;

The Captain is Feared, and respected. As such, every time the Captain rolls a critical hit during an attack action, he or she earns one additional reputation, even if this exceeds the regular maximum of 5 (up to a maximum of 6, and only once per game round). This allows the Captain to maintain a high reputation, as any good Captain should have! Additionally, the Captain has specials allowing her (once per round) to re-roll any die roll (including another players) OR once per turn change any hit to a critical hit (and this stacks with the passive ability – super reputation earner).

Mr. Pitt, the Quartermaster, is incredibly disorganized (not the best trait for a quartermaster generally) and an epic Hoarder. He may always take a second piece of loot in every search action! As the Quartermaster, he may also choose to trade any number of items between himself and any other player in the same location without action cost or discard useless junk from his hand without any decrease in morale (The Quartermaster knows best, right? That stuff must have been worthless).

The simple Ships’ Mate, a generally humble position is overly Eager. As such, he takes on ALL SPECIAL abilities of ALL other crew members located on the same tile! If he’s alone, however, he does tend to take more time searching for goodies (add an extra die to any search roll).

Any time one of the conditions is met in game for a passive ability, that player takes the benefit of the ability. These abilities are not optional, unlike the Special abilities that the player may choose to take.


As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – The Evolution of the Player Board

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

The Evolution of the Player Board!

Who said design work is easy? Anyone? If anyone ever, ever said that they’re full of it! Really .. this is a very long process and we can certainly appreciate those who charge top dollar to do this work in a timely and efficient manner!

As progress continues on the revamp of #IntoTheBlack, we have gone nostalgic and taken a look over the design history of something that (oh, how we thought so naively) was so simple (lol!); the player board!

From it’s humble beginnings as some scribbling on a note card, to todays most recent update (and still, not entirely happy with it), here’s the evolution of the Into the Black: Boarding Party player board in pictorial form;


Yes, friends, that’s what a game looks like when it’s first being tested out!


Subtle but important changes from one version to the next through 0-5, yet retaining the overall feeling and layoutintotheblack-playerboardv1-6

Once someone suggested moving the character’s title to the top, it was like a light bulb turning on – so much cleaner!intotheblack-playerboardv7-8

Adding a reputation marker track posed another challenge, plus making the boxes next to the action icons more ‘meaningful’ – those dice looked horrid!intotheblack-playerboardv9

As information got denser, so did the card – a move to horizontal cleaned things up significantly!

As these player boards are on the table in front of each player , it also made sense to make this change.intotheblack-playerboardv10

How about a visual representation of what is equipped (and the maximum number of those items you can equip)? Yes please!

Also added a visual representation of what you can SPEND your Reputation on so players don’t need to constantly reference the book!intotheblack-playerboardv11


As there is (technically) a maximum of 5 reputation the 1-5 bar made sense .. but wait, there is a way to go to 6 or even MORE (although rare, it’s possible)
Making the reputation bar into a box where you place your reputation markers is more realistic but wow, we’ve gotten crowded again.
(Oh hey, you noticed that PASSIVE ability vs SPECIAL now have you? You bet, each players’ character has an ability that triggers without having to make a choice in addition to those they may choose to take – more on that later!)
As crowded as it’s gotten again, ALL the information a player needs is now on their very own player board. As the size of these boards can be increased or decreased as needed, this actually may work out in this form!

What do YOU think?

As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – New and Updated Loot Items!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

New and Updated Loot Items!

Loot – It’s what Pirates crave, right?

Most of the personal missions require some particular combination or set of loot items. Some of the primary missions require them as well. Then there is the good ol’, generally useful loot like weapons, armor and single use items that help you get out of a sticky situation.

Until now, getting that loot that you NEEDED was, at times, extremely difficult. There was a limited amount of loot available per room, and once it was gone, there was no reason to return to that part of the ship, ever! Getting what you needed from the loot deck meant looting non-stop to drill down through the deck to find what you need; assuming nobody else discarded what you needed (effectively removing it from the game and destroying your chances of getting a win)!

Some MAJOR looting changes have been made that fix these issues while still keeping some of the luck of the draw involved (because really, you’re not always going to be guaranteed to find what you want, when you want it – that’s an unrealistic expectation, right?).

  1. Loot available in rooms : Assuming a room has loot available, there is now NO LIMIT to the amount of loot you can find (outside of the limitations of the loot decks of course)!
    • Loot til your hearts content – Each time you search successfully you can draw three loot cards and keep one, returning the rest to the bottom of the deck
    • Beware – The longer you stay in a room, the more likely you’ll be discovered by enemies! Each turn you spend in a room (beyond your first turn there) you risk enemies arriving!
    • Some rooms have limitations on what you can find – When this is the case, it will be clearly defined on the room tile
  2. Loot Deck Separation : There used to be ONE loot deck. Finding what you wanted was pure chance and incredibly unsatisfying.
    • The loot deck has now been divided into two decks : Gear and Valuables
    • In the Gear deck you will find helpful items like weapons, upgrades, armor, explosives, stim packs and more
    • In the Valuables deck you will find gemstones, trinkets, stim packs (yes, they’re in both decks), food and fuel

In addition to this, a couple of the characters have the special ability to take TWO loot cards on a successful search instead of just one. You can also spend reputation to take a second card or even to redraw all three cards in the hopes of finding something better!

More choices available to you, but be careful; There is a limit to what your character can carry, and once you’ve discarded an item it is effectively removed the game and potentially destroys another players chances of completing their personal objective!

We’ve also added MORE EXCITING LOOT to the decks!

While there was already a good selection of loot available, even more has been added, while some have been seriously updated!


  • Elegant and Master Crafted : These weapons of a previous, more sophisticated era, provide both form and function. They provide a combat bonus, as any weapon or upgrade does, but also count as Valuables/Collection items towards some of the personal objectives at games end
  • Invisicloak : Technology has advanced over the centuries and the Invisicloak is one of the greatest inventions.. for a pirate! This wearable does not take up a wearable slot on your character (can be equipped in addition to any other wearable item) and allows the player to pass enemies during movement without the requirement to stop immediately and fight!
  • More to be announced!


  • Hyper Rifle : This weapon previously provided a bonus to damage – nice, but nothing exciting, right? Now it allows you to attack from a distance! A major bonus when trying to clear corridors of enemies!
  • AutoTargeting and Explosive Munitions : These items have been designated Weapon Upgrades instead of Weapons. You can now equip these upgrades to an existing weapon card in order to add even more bonuses, and it doesn’t take up a weapons slot on your character!
  • Melee Weapons : Some weapons have been designated as Melee. These weapons cannot have any of the weapons upgrades added to them, but do provide decent bonuses of their own!
  • Many more updates have been made as well for balance and to coincide with the other updates that have been made to the game over the past couple of months.

We hope you are as excited as we are to see these new and updated systems come into place and to see Into the Black hit a gaming table near you!

As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – Good Vibes (Positive Events)!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

Good Vibes (Positive Events)!

One of the most common things I have heard over the numerous play testing sessions I’ve been a part of is “Oh my god! Are there no good events? Is it all bad things?!”

Well .. short answer was “Yes. Yes, all events on this enemy ship are bad, unless you count the “No Event: You’re safe, for now!” cards”. It seems the onslaught of non-stop bad things that happen any time you entered a room was becoming overwhelmingly dreadful and bringing about a defeatist feeling! While I did design the game to be rather difficult, I do realize there needs to be the occasional good vibe to help propel the team to a potential victory!

So, you spoke up, and we listened!

unexpected-allyIntroducing 3 new Positive Events cards (totaling 5 cards in the deck) to help you along the way when all else seems lost;

  • An Unexpected Ally – You’ve encountered an unexpected ally aboard the ship; someone who’s goals align with yours and is willing to follow along for the ride. These allies can, essentially, take damage in your place allowing you to better survive combat. They cannot fight or loot for you, but they’re still there to help in a great way!
  • Holonews Bulletin – News of your exploits has made the Intergalactic HoloNews Network! You’re reputation is growing as your name spreads among the stars! Gain 2 reputation for drawing this card, while everyone else in your group gains one. Even if this brings you above the maximum of 5 reputation!
  • New Orders Incoming – You have received a message from the mother ship – They have new orders for you! The players may choose to replace their current primary mission with a new one drawn randomly from the missions deck. Choose wisely. While the current mission may have become impossible to fulfill, who knows what the new mission brings!

As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – Space Pirate Reputation!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

Earning and Expending your Reputation!

A space pirates reputation is ever so important. It must be earned, and it can be used to influence the outcome of any number of situations the pirate may find himself in.

In Into the Black, each player character has reputation that they may earn and spend.

Through continued play testing, it has been found that the current reputation system is overpowered. Having a maximum of 6 reputation points (4 to begin the game) and the ability to earn 1 for each successful combat situation and expend 1 or 2 for any variety of outcomes without limits (beyond the amount of reputation available) is too much and the pool of reputation available has been near endless.

We’re going to test out a new reputation system that will go something like this;

  • Each player begins with 2 reputation points out of a maximum of 5.
  • Players earn 1 reputation (to a maximum of +1 per round) for every 5 enemies they defeat and return to the bag (this has the added bonus/penalty of returning more enemies to the pool)
  • Bonus reputation may be earned based on special event cards
  • Players may spend reputation a maximum of once per turn and each benefit may only be used once until reset
  • Benefits are reset after all benefits have been used

reputationBenefits of spending reputation;

  •  Heal one damage
  •  Keep one additional loot card during a search
  •  Re-roll a single die (at any time, including out of turn)
  •  Re-draw loot cards (place initial draw back to the top of the pile)
  •  Immediately retreat from combat with no penalty
  •  Exit a room before applying the immediate effects from an event

In order to track what benefits have been utilized, reputation cubes will shift from the reputation track on your player board to the benefit track on your player board. This has the added bonus of providing a visual reminder of what each reputation benefit is as well, rather than referencing the rules or a quick reference card.

We’ll see how this works! As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Continuing the Saga!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

Continuing the Saga!

Added development and updates to the game Post-Kickstarter


Though the Kickstarter may have flopped, I got a lot of fantastic feedback from backers and play testers than has been going into the updated design of #IntoTheBlack. The core of the game remains the same, but the evolution has brought us into territory that I never would have imagined when I first started building this little universe.

A year in the making and still going; Expect the relaunch of the Kickstarter in the new year!

Additional Scenarios and Primary Objectives!


One of the little nagging things that bothered me all along, starting with day one, was the single, lonely primary objective. While it certainly made the game easier to balance and quicker to learn it left something to be desired. With backer feedback and a little help from some friends several new scenarios have been added to the game and are currently going through play testing!

What does this mean for players? Instead of a simple “Find and take over the bridge” scenario to win you will now have to select (at random) a scenario from a deck of cards for the game. Some are easy, some .. well not so easy (heck, downright nightmarish in some cases). Along with your personal objectives to complete there is now a whole lot more to deal with than ever.

Custom Dice!

Dice are great, but custom dice are better! Moving on from a simple x+ roll system the games dice system has evolved into one involving several custom dice. Each players’ character has a different set of dice to use for their actions; some better than others! Of course, you still get the opportunity to manipulate the rolls throughout the game via special abilities, upgrade loot cards and special events.

Upgraded Artwork!

All of the rooms and corridors, loot cards, events cards, objectives and player boards have gone through artwork revisions. While I originally thought “Hey, these look good”, upon further reflection the old art was mediocre at best. The updates are light years ahead of what we had before! Take a look for yourself at a couple of samples here;

Into the Black - Boarding Party - Room Tile Upgrade Example Into the Black - Boarding Party - Corridor Tile Upgrade Example


Name Change!

While not necessary, there has been a slight name change. This will help bring Into the Black into the universe that is being created in a better manner.

“Into the Black: Boarding Party (A Game of Space Piracy)” – a little long, but the game of space piracy is the common theme throughout the series. Yes, that’s right; this is a series of games, not a single one-off! More on that another time, I promise!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Retreat and Regroup!

Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

Retreat and Regroup!

Never surrender, never give up!


A 28 day journey for #IntoTheBlack has come to an end, 3 days early. As of today we decided to retreat from the star ship we so coveted and return to the depths of space to lick our wounds and regroup.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Into the Black began on June 7th and over the course of the next 3 and a half weeks we attained a grand total of 15% of our funding goal of $20,000 Canadian with 69 Backers behind us. Not fantastic, but not the worst that could happen! Perhaps this is the best thing that could have happened. I knew from the start that the launch was probably too soon, but that it was to be a great learning experience; and that it was! Having never run a crowdfunding campaign before it was good to dip my toes into the waters and figure it out, even if that ended up in cancelling the project; and so it did.

Never fear! This, my friends, is a great step in development of the game! Read on;

Onwards and Upwards – Regroup and Relaunch!

The best part about having run this crowdfunding campaign, beyond learning the ins and outs of Kickstarter is the feedback and comments from backers. With that feedback, and the lessons learned running the campaign we will relaunch in the new year stronger than ever!

One of the biggest hurdles faced was just launching the project in the first place. Something went wrong on the back-end with Kickstarter and nobody could trace it! This caused a delay of over a week from our announced launch date to the day we actually went live. While this may not have been a big deal it certainly caused some ripple as news was released about the launch date which then came and went with no project live.

Add to that the expected number of day one backers did not materialize. The project was launched safe in the knowledge that there were 60+ people ready to back on day one! That fizzled out to just about 16 (plus a few strangers). What happened to those others? I’m not sure. Some forgot. Some just disappeared. Lesson learned? Ensure your fanbase actually is ready to go on Day one!

What can you expect in the Relaunch?

Taking into account all of the great feedback from playtesters over the months, people who checked out the rules from our campaign page and the print and play files and those we got the chance to talk to, some things will definitely change in the relaunch of #IntoTheBlack. Some of those are;

  • Upgraded artwork – all of the tiles and character boards will be revamped and upgraded!
  • Decreased funding goal – we are working hard to reduce our upfront costs so that the funding goal is lowered and easier to attain!
  • Better stretch goals – the stretch goals will be improved upon and grouped, moved to more appropriate, more exciting levels of funding
  • More community outreach – we’re going to do our best to push visibility of Into the Black further with more social media, more news articles, more demos and more Reviews/Previews

In addition to all that, we’re making improvements to the game play as well. Adding more scenarios, more options and balancing them out to make for a deeper gaming experience.

There is even an add-on/expansion in the works that I’ve mentioned before that will bring Epic Encounters to the game; heroes, allies, villains and creatures to battle, outwit or assist, complete with Epic Loot to go with it.

Prepare yourselves, rest up, get excited for the relaunch because; This.Will.Be.Epic! (Have I said Epic enough times for it to be epic?)

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.