Q & A with Cynthia Celeste Miller, President of Spectrum Games and Designer of Urban Manhunt

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Cynthia Celeste Miller

Cynthia Celeste Miller, game designer, role playing game author and President of Spectrum Games will be joining us today to answer your questions about her new game, Urban Manhunt, as well as any other questions you might have regarding her work.

Cynthia's new game, Urban Manhunt is a tabletop mini game with a twist - instead of player vs player combat, you race against each other to eliminate the most criminals in a prison city. Another twist is that you only need one miniature which you provide yourself, keeping this price of this game well below the $100 giant box full of plastic that we gamers have come to expect. 

In addition to her new game, Cythina is the author of several role playing games, including On the Air, which emulates a 1930's radio series; Cartoon Action Hour;  Slasher Flick; The Big Crime; Tacky, Tawdry and Tastless: the Reality Show RPG. Those are just to name a few. Just go to the Spectrum Games website or DriveThru RPG to see them all.

Personally I have dozens of questions, but I want to give our reader's a chance to ask theirs. Just ask you question in the comments section below this article and Cynthia will be stopping by to answer them and talk to us.

I am, however, going to kick us off with my first question. Tabletop miniature gaming seems to be quite a departure from role playing games. What inspired you to tackle a whole different genre of gaming? 

 

There Will Be Games Cynthia Celeste Miller
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Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

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san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #292058 11 Feb 2019 04:08
Kind of related to Uba's question, but I'm curious how your experience writing RPGs informed the design process for Urban Manhunt.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #292066 11 Feb 2019 09:08
Two questions occur right off the bat:

Given that the theme is very Judge Dredd/Escape from New York/Robocop, were there any concerns at Spectrum about changing perspectives on crime and punishment in the modern era? Was the intent to go more toward the "this is obviously wacky" milieu of 2000 AD?

I noticed that you emphasize the storytelling nature of the game via the Event deck. In testing, were there any points where you felt like you had to sacrifice either depth of play or ease of play? I know in many games those kinds of storytelling decks can either seem repetitive after a few plays or, conversely, can seem like you're jumping through more hoops than the base system should require.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #292068 11 Feb 2019 09:23
I'd like to know what kind of player interaction is in the game, since it's not PvP.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292084 11 Feb 2019 13:37
Thank you. To answer the article author's question, while I love roleplaying games with a passion, my primary gaming love is that of tabletop miniatures game. Given that Spectrum has come to focus on faithfully emulating genres with our games, I felt it was important to remain with that theme. Once it dawned on me that the setting I originally intended to be a card game would make for a great miniatures game that emulated the "dark future" films of the late 1970s and 1980s (like The Warriors, Escape from New York and The Running Man), I took that opportunity. I was nervous leading up to Urban manhunt's release, though, as I wasn't sure how well a non-RPG from us would be received. So far, so good.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292087 11 Feb 2019 13:45

san il defanso wrote: Kind of related to Uba's question, but I'm curious how your experience writing RPGs informed the design process for Urban Manhunt.


For one thing, it has helped me know how to organize rules so that they are easily understood. In fact, I obsess about it. Having done it a lot with RPGs helped me know what should go where in a rulebook.

Another thing my RPG experience has taught me is the absolute importance of thorough playtesting. I'm a stickler about that. It's even more important, I've found, in miniatures game design, as there's no fiat of the Game Master being able to hand-wave unbalanced rules.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292090 11 Feb 2019 13:58

Jackwraith wrote: Two questions occur right off the bat:

Given that the theme is very Judge Dredd/Escape from New York/Robocop, were there any concerns at Spectrum about changing perspectives on crime and punishment in the modern era? Was the intent to go more toward the "this is obviously wacky" milieu of 2000 AD?

I noticed that you emphasize the storytelling nature of the game via the Event deck. In testing, were there any points where you felt like you had to sacrifice either depth of play or ease of play? I know in many games those kinds of storytelling decks can either seem repetitive after a few plays or, conversely, can seem like you're jumping through more hoops than the base system should require.


No thought was given to changing perspectives on crime and punishment. If anything, the game is a satirical look at society's lust for violence and reality-type television. It was a tough tightrope to walk. If we made it too dark, it would have lost the overblown, overproduced aspects I was aiming for... and if we made it too gonzo, it would lose the dark and gritty vibe. The game had to be both, but not too much of either, if that makes sense.

One of my goals regarding the implementation of the Event Deck was to focus on things that might happen often in such a sport. This was how I devised some of the cards being "Keeper" cards (i.e., cards that, when drawn, are placed in the players hand for later use). This generalization helps cut down on the cards feeling repetitive. For example, one card allows a hunter who eliminates a crim while near a terrain feature to gain extra points for creatively using that terrain feature in the elimination. This is something that would probably happen quite a lot in the setting.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292091 11 Feb 2019 14:04

hotseatgames wrote: I'd like to know what kind of player interaction is in the game, since it's not PvP.


Much of the interaction comes from the use of Event Cards. Players with "Keeper" cards can target the other hunters to hinder them in some manner. You can really make your opponent have a bad day if you play the right card at just the right moment. As an example, one card can be played on a hunter that is close to the edge of the table (which is, in the game setting, supposed to be a tall wall with guards on top). The guards mistake the hunter for a crim trying to escape and shoots at them.

Also, it's pretty common for hunters to snipe each other's eliminations, since only the hunter that kills the crim receives points for it.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #292095 11 Feb 2019 14:43
How can I purchase a copy of Manos Cards of Fate? I really must have a copy of this game.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292100 11 Feb 2019 15:28

ubarose wrote: How can I purchase a copy of Manos Cards of Fate? I really must have a copy of this game.


Unfortunately, it's not released yet, but I'm hoping to have it ready to roll this summer. I've obtained permission to use the restored version of the film for screen caps, but I've had some issues with retaining the quality of the images. It's been a slow process. In the end, the Master will approve of the final product (R.I.P., Tom Neyman).
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #292102 11 Feb 2019 17:43
Let us know when you have a release date.
Dutch's Avatar
Dutch replied the topic: #292103 11 Feb 2019 17:51
Hi. I've been trying to find a good RPG system for handling the Wild West. Can you give me a brief description of Wild West Cinema? I've played loads of different RPGs, but no Spectrum games, I'm afraid.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292105 11 Feb 2019 18:20

ubarose wrote: Let us know when you have a release date.


I definitely will.
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292106 11 Feb 2019 18:22

Dutch wrote: Hi. I've been trying to find a good RPG system for handling the Wild West. Can you give me a brief description of Wild West Cinema? I've played loads of different RPGs, but no Spectrum games, I'm afraid.


Like all our games, WWC is all about faithfully emulating the genre in question. In this case, it's spaghetti westerns. The system is fast and loose but with enough structure to keep things interesting. Every rule was designed with the idea of bringing to life the feel of those old movies rather than being historically accurate.
Dutch's Avatar
Dutch replied the topic: #292108 11 Feb 2019 19:50
Thanks! Sounds great.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #292113 12 Feb 2019 01:23
Thanks for taking the time to do this Cynthia- I’ve not played any of your games but I am certainly interested.

One thing I really like about what you are doing at Spectrum is bringing back this kind of “lo fi” gaming- it is very much the kind of gaming we used to do back before multimillion dollar Kickstarters. Looking at some of the pages in Urban Manhunt, I’m transported back to middle school, flipping through an RPG or miniatures rulebook with black and white illustrations.

One thing I really miss about that kind of gaming is how you had to really get invested in it- you might have to cut out your own counters, color your own dice, or draw a map. Now, gamers today want the one stop box with everything in it. But you never really get that sense of engaging deeply with most board games today. It’s a more prepackaged, “convenience” experience, miniature games and RPGs notwithstanding.

What are your thoughts on creating a sense of engagement, ownership of play, and hobby commitment? Do you feel like older styles and formats created more of all of the above, and do you think that a design like Urban Manhunt is a way to bridge that generation gap?
CynthiaCM's Avatar
CynthiaCM replied the topic: #292123 12 Feb 2019 13:58

Michael Barnes wrote: Thanks for taking the time to do this Cynthia- I’ve not played any of your games but I am certainly interested.

One thing I really like about what you are doing at Spectrum is bringing back this kind of “lo fi” gaming- it is very much the kind of gaming we used to do back before multimillion dollar Kickstarters. Looking at some of the pages in Urban Manhunt, I’m transported back to middle school, flipping through an RPG or miniatures rulebook with black and white illustrations.

One thing I really miss about that kind of gaming is how you had to really get invested in it- you might have to cut out your own counters, color your own dice, or draw a map. Now, gamers today want the one stop box with everything in it. But you never really get that sense of engaging deeply with most board games today. It’s a more prepackaged, “convenience” experience, miniature games and RPGs notwithstanding.

What are your thoughts on creating a sense of engagement, ownership of play, and hobby commitment? Do you feel like older styles and formats created more of all of the above, and do you think that a design like Urban Manhunt is a way to bridge that generation gap?


Thank you. I'm happy that you like what we're doing. Visually speaking, I wanted Urban Manhunt to give me the same feeling that I got when I cracked open the original edition of Warhammer 40,000. That book pulled me into the setting with the presentation alone and that's what I wanted with this rulebook. I wanted the reader to open it up and, without reading a word, be transported to this alternate future world. Most of our games are full-color, but I went with black and white for two reasons: 1) to facilitate that old school vibe and 2) to keep our overhead down so that we could deliver on our goal of making it a truly affordable miniatures game, while still maintaining enough profit to keep the line sustainable for us.

As for your question, I see benefits to both the "complete box" approach and the "do it yourself' approach. That's why for Urban Manhunt, we're making it possible to accommodate both approaches. You can purchase the book, print out the cards, cut out the tokens and have a more intimate experience with that aspect. For those who prefer the pre-packaged approach, we're making the cards available as professionally produced products (the Event cards already are available), as well as 6x6" dataslates for the 12 "iconic" hunters from the rulebook, 3D-printable tokens and so forth.

Regarding Urban Manhunt acting as a bridge to the generation gap, I sure hope so. Aesthetically speaking, the game is very much "the future as seen through the lens of 1987", yet the game system has a very modern feel to it. I'm hoping that it resonates with the old guard as well as the younger set, bringing them together to play with plastic models at a table. But, hey, I'm an optimist.