War Co Cover

War Co. Expandable Card Game is a new unreleased game designed by Brandon Rollins.

This is Part 1 of a 3 part interview with the designer of the War Co. Expandable Card Game Brandon Rollins.  A few weeks ago, I reached out on Twitter to inquire as to whether our blog could obtain a copy of his game, give it a play and do a review.  He was very gracious and contacted us.  Here is my review of the game: An Early Review of War Co. Expandable Card Game by Pangea Games as well as a mini-review by my friend Tim: Mini Review of War Co. by Pangea Games

Grant: First off, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.  I understand that you have done at least one other interview but to date, it is as yet unpublished.  That means our interview will be the first one out there and we are honored to be able to assist in bringing your story to the gaming community, as it is quite an amazing one! This is the 1st part of a 3 part interview that we plan to post over the next week as the text of the interview was nearly 8 full pages in length!  Thanks for the detail. So, tell us a little bit about yourself personally.

Brandon: I was born and raised in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I’ve got one brother, Austin. He’s a college student, age 19, who goes to the local university in the same city where I just happened to get a job after I graduated. Sheer coincidence. We share an apartment. I went to college in a small town in Tennessee for undergraduate and graduate business studies. After getting an MBA, I moved to Chattanooga, which is just about the coolest city that no one outside of the South has ever heard of (I have heard of it and driven through it about a thousand times to visit my brother in Atlanta – Grant). I worked several odd jobs to put myself through school during the recession of ’08, one of which involved literally cutting paper out of books. These days I work a good job in the IT department of a hospital. I make War Co., I run a lot, and I go on long road trips for the journey and not necessarily the destination.

Grant: I have read your game’s story in depth and I must say it is impressive how you have worked on this project since you were a young child. Tell us about that process and how you feel you had the fortitude to see this project through to this point?

Brandon: Thank you! It hasn’t exactly been a non-stop process for the last twelve years, but the original roots of War Co. go back to a game I made as a child. Some mechanics are still in place, such as facedown cards, the five card field limit, and the four-to-seven drawing rule. There’s nothing fancy to my process. It’s just a lot of experimentation and testing. I made a decent playable version through self-testing and then released it to the public, where it was slowly disassembled. Then I put it back together again better. It’s a lot of reiteration – perhaps even tedium. But there’s so many good moments like when everything is going right and the games stay tense and interesting that make it all worthwhile. It’s extremely satisfying in a way that makes me suggest people create something for themselves just to experience it.

“It’s just a lot of experimentation and testing. I made a decent playable version through self-testing and then released it to the public, where it was slowly disassembled. Then I put it back together again better.”

War Co. Evolution Picture
The evolution of the War Co. Expandable Card Game from its genesis in 2004 to today!

Grant: Did you ever think that you were “dead in the water” with the design and should just give up?

Brandon: I’ve definitely had times like that. The worst time was in October 2015. I ended up rewriting the whole game from scratch and changing both its genre (trading card game to expandable card game) and its primary objective. This was after receiving some difficult feedback for the first time. In hindsight, the negative feedback was actually pretty tame and one of the best things to ever happen to War Co.

Grant: During this design process, who has been your greatest inspiration and who has given you the greatest advice?  Was there anyone that gave you negativity that fueled you?

Brandon: There’s so many good designers out there I could rattle off in a list, but by far the biggest inspiration has been from fans on Twitter and Instagram. I was building up a following way before I had any idea what I was doing. Every once in a while, when it’s a really hard day, I’ll get a friendly DM from someone online. It’s the nicest thing! Not only that, but having a big crowd, if you know what questions to ask, is a fantastic way of working the bugs out of a game. I can count the number of truly negative interactions I’ve had since I started this project on one hand!

One that stands out was when a friend of mine asked some retailers what they thought of War Co. This was way back in 2015, before the game was remotely ready and while it was still being classified as a trading card game. It went about as well as you would expect a half-baked idea would go over with retailers. The emails, forwarded from my friend, basically said “Do anything but what you’re doing. It’s expensive. It’s hard to balance. People are sick of the genre.” My friend was, of course, a good sport and said “Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they’re talking about!” and all the things you should say to your friends. But I won’t lie to you: I went through the next two or three weeks running on pure “screw you” anger, pushing through sleep deprivation, and running hills at record paces. I’m not proud of this emotional reaction, but it worked. War Co. came out much better because of that and now I laugh at how silly that reaction was.

“But I won’t lie to you: I went through the next two or three weeks running on pure “screw you” anger, pushing through sleep deprivation, and running hills at record paces.”

Grant: I am glad that you were able to persevere and see the project through to the end as it is a very interesting and strategic game, that is most importantly fun!  This game is good and I enjoy playing it.  What is the central strategy of War Co. and what is the game about?

Brandon: War Co. is about scarcity and making hard choices. Every card has its ups and downs. You’re always going to be tight on some critical resource – energy, number of cards, raw strength, etc. You want to learn to play the field and figure out what resource you can afford to skimp on based on your opponent’s tactics.

Grant: There are 6 different decks in the game.  What are the basic strategies and play styles for each of these decks?

Brandon: Here is a rundown of the different decks.

  • Bruiser: Attack hard and try to win the game fast. Play aggressively. Don’t let your opponent get ahead.
  • Conspirator: Be as secretive as possible and force your opponent to take the first step. Take advantage of the complexities of this deck and keep your strategy hidden.
  • Guerilla: Use the low energy use to your advantage and play as many cards at once as you can. Use stackables frequently. Draw from your scrapyard whenever you can. Use placement cards, elimination cards, and traps to control your enemies.
  • Militant: Try to predict your opponent’s moves and prune your hand so that you have the right situational cards to take them down. If you know how to manage the odds and work the tactics, you should be able to break almost any strategy. This is a tricky deck to use.
  • Trickster: Play slowly, hide behind shields, and attack as little as possible. Time is your ally.
  • Wildcard: Don’t plan ahead, work with what you get when you get it. Play as fast as you can, ready to change at any moment.

Grant: Thanks for that insight into the various strategies and play styles of the decks.  For our review, I was able to play the Bruiser and Conspirator decks and enjoyed both and experienced what you described above.  Does each deck have an ultimate weakness?

Brandon:  The decks have the following issues that must be planned for.

  • Bruiser: It’s hard to play more than a few Bruiser cards at once due to their high cost. Its strategy is almost painfully transparent. It’s very vulnerable to energy and elimination technologies.
  • Conspirator: The machines in this deck aren’t very strong, the cards are highly situational, and it’s hard to learn.
  • Guerilla: Machines in this deck aren’t very strong and there’s not many “standout” cards.
  • Militant: Like Guerilla, Militant has few remarkable cards. It’s very easy to draw situational cards at the wrong time. Plus, this deck is the hardest to learn.
  • Trickster: This deck is very defensive – having relatively weak machines and maybe too many shields. It’s also slow-paced, which is a major con for some play styles.
  • Wildcard: It uses a ton of energy. There’s not much chemistry between the cards and it’s easy to draw its most situational cards at the wrong time.

Great information from Brandon Rollins on his upcoming War Co. Expandable Card Game.  In Part II of our interview, we discuss Brandon’s favorite deck to play, where he found James Masino, who does the awesome art for the game (check out a few more pictures of his work below) and take a deeper look at a few of the mechanics of the game.  Until then, enjoy a look at his website for more details about the game located at http://www.warcothegame.com


-Grant