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The Meeple Guild: Going to battle with kitties in quirky PnP

When it comes to PnP games there are hundreds and more being released to the gaming world every day.
Print and Play game pre cutting out the cards.

YORKTON - If you are a board gamer and just a little bit crafty too, print and play game options might be just right for you.

When it comes to PnP games there are hundreds and more being released to the gaming world every day.

One of the new offerings being created right now is Paw of Duty by designer Derrick Hwang.

“I wanted to design a new game that my wife would be interested in playing with me. When I asked her for theme ideas, she suggested I make my next game about ‘cats taking over the world’. So here we are,” Hwang explained via email.

Yes that is correct readers, Paw of Duty is about battle cats, although in this card game the cats have access to tanks and assault rifles. If that sounds a tad corny – and sure it is – it’s also sort of fun too, so that is a plus.

So what was Hwang trying to achieve with Paw of Duty? 

“One of my favourite video games is Into the Breach, which is about a small squad of mechs that bravely fight off aliens through careful tactical planning,” he explained. “I wanted to create a game that has the same kind of chain reaction combo game play that involves moving and re-positioning units for a coordinated assault.

“I also wanted the game to be easy to learn, without overwhelming newer or younger players with too much information to keep track of.”

In the end Hwang noted, “the game play in Paw of Duty combines several basic mechanics that are very easy to learn.

“However, if you want to win, this game can definitely be a brain burner.

“Every turn is a puzzle that involves manipulating both your units and the opponent’s units to achieve one or both of the win conditions. “Combos in this game are extremely satisfying to pull off and can be accomplished even if you are a brand new player.”

Sure if you can arrange a nice combo play in any card game – going back to Magic: the Gathering – it is satisfying, but doing it with cats in army helmets that is very cool.

Hwang said he likes the depth he feels he accomplished in PnP, but another element wins out as his fav’.

“While the tactical depth of the game play is one of my favourite parts of the game, it might actually come in second to the theme,” he said. “Compared to my first game, a wild west themed duelling game (Gunfighter), I’ve been getting tons more requests online and in-person to play this game whenever I post a development update. I designed the game play from the ground up to go hand-in-hand with the theme, so everything just clicks together without feeling forced.”

Ah, but what does this game offer that others don’t? 

“There’s really a combination of factors at play here,” said Hwang. “It’s easy to pick up and play; players aren’t overburdened by an overwhelming multitude of stats to track.

“At the same time, it’s got enough tactical complexity to satisfy more experienced gamers as well.

“All of that is enmeshed with the theme to really make the player feel like a Commander who is sending their kitty units into battle. Each decision you make has weight - from which units you select to deploy, to which tactic cards you play, which units you play them on, and what order you take your actions.

“There is also no ‘optimal’ path to victory, as the game encourages you to naturally adapt to what is unfolding on the battlefield every single turn.”

Within that Hwang said he feels he has some unique rules too.

“The position-based combo system - this essentially lets you do things like launch one of your units over an enemy, deal some critical damage from behind (depending on unit type interactions), then push one of your other units out of harms’ way,” he said. “The system is directly linked to the strength of the unit that you choose to deploy on the same turn, which forces you to make some key decisions. Do you want to play a super strong unit but sacrifice your combo potential on this turn, or do you want to play a weaker unit in order to pull off a smooth multi-card combo?”

But, in the end why opt for PnP?

“I always start my games as PnP because it is the most accessible way for everyone to play the game,” offered Hwang.

“My goal is to try and get as many people to play and enjoy my games as possible. Since PnP files are digital and therefore easy to distribute, it also has the added benefit of getting tons of play testers outside of friends and family to provide feedback and improve the game.

“With access to PnP files, players are also given more agency to inject their creativity in their builds and create translations. For example, my first PnP game (Gunfighter) was translated to Spanish, Portuguese, and German before it even got picked up by Everything Epic for publishing.

“I love seeing others’ posts that showcase my games and the unique ways they have crafted their components. In many cases, the time and love that some people put into their builds makes the game look, play, and feel a lot better than a factory manufactured copy.”