Unplugged: Anthony Conta talks Emergents: Genesis

December 16, 2014


Emergents: Genesis is a new deckbuilding game currently finishing up a successful Kickstarter campaign. Designer Anthony Conta took some time out of his schedule to talk to us about the game.

Snackbar Games: To begin, tell us a little about the Emergents Universe.

Anthony Conta: The Emergents Universe is a world where individuals have begun to realize powers that lay dormant within them. As the storyline unfolds, peoples’ powers emerge and they start to become extraordinary. The first emergent, Zeroth, uses his powers to recognize and fend off an alien invasion, with the help of several others he gathers to fight. The others that fight also have powers, and after the battle, the four go on to form a school to teach others These four others — Helios, Moxie, Billy Stopless and The Abyss — were each members of the Genesis Squadron, the first team of Emergents. Thus, we’ve named this game after them: Emergents: Genesis.

The powers in the Emergents Universe are broad, though in Emergents: Genesis, we’ve chosen to focus on the Genesis Squadron and keep to their four disciplines: StrongHarms (Moxie), Sculptors (Helios), Non-Stops (Billy Stopless), and Acolytes (The Abyss).

SBG: Did you start with “I want to make a game in this universe with these characters,” or did you have the framework for a game and decide that it would be a good fit for the Emergents?

AC: I’d say it was a mix. I had a few ideas for some games that were in preliminary stages, and I showed them to Brian David-Marshall (Emergents creator) and Matt Wang (the other half of Top8Magic). They described the Emergents Universe to me, and we both felt that one of the engines I had been developing would be perfect for it. The foundation of the games I showed them led to us developing Emergents: Genesis together.


SBG: A comic superhero deckbuilder isn’t a new concept to the board game scene. I’m assuming you’ve played DC and Legendary? Mechanically, what makes Emergents: Genesis different?

AC: Yes, there have been several comic book deck-building games, even outside of the Marvel and DC ones. We feel that the gameplay in Emergents is drastically different, however — in Emergents, the mechanics were designed from the ground up to be interactive. We wanted you to feel like you were punching another person, not just collecting resources. One of the biggest pet peeves we have are games that suffer from “cell phone syndrome,” the feeling where things only matter on your turn, so you disengage after you’ve taken it. I’ve played plenty of deck-building games where I was only engaged when I was taking my turn. In Emergents, you have to pay attention all the time, since you’re literally being attacked when you’re not the active player.

We think our gameplay and our art style is unique enough to differentiate from other comic book games. We’re going for a real Golden Age aesthetic for our game.

SBG: The concept of attacking other players does raise an interesting question. Why are the Emergents fighting each other and not, say, villains? It feels a bit odd, conceptually, although heroes fighting amongst themselves is certainly not unheard of.

AC: Well, at the school the professors started (the Genesis Squadron), there are training facilities that allow the Emergents to learn how to use their powers more efficiently, so flavorfully, battles are taking place in those training rooms.

SBG: I’m guessing you have plans for further potential expansions that might include villains and such. Will the Genesis box have space for them, or is that something you guys will sort out when the time comes?

AC: We’ve definitely got a lot of ideas for expansions (which might include villains…) but we haven’t spent a ton of time considering box space for them. We’ll probably sort it out later.


SBG: Looking at the characters revealed for Genesis so far, most of them seem fairly straightforward except the sculptor Professor Helios, who has his own specialized Construct cards. I don’t see these included in the contents of the box, so how many does he have? Will other characters have their own personal cards besides their avatars?

AC: Those cards are included, though it may not be directly spelled out in the components list. Helios has five constructs, all of which are used once then return to the pile to be obtained again. He’s the only one with that type of external card resource currently, though each professor has a different form of external advantage: Moxie has her tokens, The Abyss gets tactics from the Page and Billy gets to search for cards from the Book.

SBG: It seems like this gives you the feeling of building the character and not just a deck of good stuff, although you can certainly diversify. Also, kudos on the comic-specific terminology for the different zones. I really appreciate those little touches.

AC: Thanks! We worked very hard on “feel” to the game, from aesthetic to mechanics. We wanted each faction to feel different, think about cards differently and play differently. And yes, the specific comic terminology was fun to create. The “exile zone” in the game is called The Gutter, which is a specific term for the place between panels. We also wanted the cards you buy to mean more than just points, and for you to accumulate a ton of “things”. We want all the cards you buy to matter toward your specific strategy.

SBG: As of this interview, the campaign has amassed about 5/6ths of its target. (Editor’s note: the campaign has since passed its funding goal.) How far do you think this will go?

AC: Who knows? We’re really excited to get the game in the hands of players and review sites, and to let more people know about the universe. We think that once you experience it, you’ll see how deep and immersive it is.


SBG: You guys obviously have a bunch of stretch goals in mind, although as of today none have been revealed; are there any that you would particularly like to hit, from a “this will be so cool” perspective?

AC: Well, we had a few ideas floating around for gameplay variants, so if we hit those that’d be awesome, and if not, we could develop that content for a future release.

SBG: Assuming you fund, is the game being printed Stateside or overseas?

AC: We’re aiming for overseas production.

SBG: I hope you have better luck with that than some of the other projects I’ve backed recently. It can be tough for the little guy.

AC: Thanks! It can be super-difficult sometimes. There’s a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes, and even after all that work is done and you hit launch, you can still miss on funding for a variety of reasons, sometimes not even in your control. Even if you get funded, Kickstarters can still “fail,” financially or otherwise.

SBG: Is there anything else you would like to mention before we finish here?

AC: Just that it’s been great chatting with you, and that we’re exciting for when we can finally get the game into the hands of players!

Thanks to Anthony for talking to us. The campaign for Emergents: Genesis wraps up on December 19.