Carniverse Interview – Gaming in the Modern World with Dinosaurs!

Back on July 30 (2019), I unveiled a really cool Kickstarter called The Carniverse. In today’s post, I dive a little deeper into that game with an interview with its author. If you have not heard of the game, it is a 28mm miniatures skirmish game where you try to survive in a modern land of dinosaurs. If you haven’t checked out the Kickstarter page, be sure to do so.

In the text below, I posted my questions in bold and Nick Wilkins’ (the designer of Carniverse) responses in italics. Now, let’s jump into the Carniverse Interview.

The Carniverse Interview

Hi Nick,

Thank you very much to agreeing to an interview about your first ever Kickstarter campaign. For a first ever Kickstarter campaign, it has been doing very well and is already funded.

Thanks for talking to me about it, the entire process has been pretty humbling so far.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the game when I gave it a try with you at a local gaming convention, and am very happy to see your campaign doing so well.

I’m glad you had an opportunity to try it out prior to launch, hopefully that was just your first game of many.

Without further ado, I would like carry on with the interview.

The Carniverse World

For those not familiar with Carniverse, can you tell us about the world and game setting?

The Carniverse (while a game) is at its core a story about people, and their survival when the world they know gets flipped on its head. It’s set in modern day, and is relatively location agnostic so that anyone playing it can make it familiar and local to them, or they can place it wherever in the world they want to set it in. The idea is that the events taking place in the game are new, its the first days, weeks, and months of the new world, what started out as dinosaur sightings being taken as jokes or hoaxes has turned into people running from their home as its being torn apart by a hungry Tyrannosaurus. So from a plot point people don’t really know what’s going on or why, where the dinosaurs came from, or how to stop them, they’re merely trying to survive any way they can. The fluff throughout the book will slowly lead to some clues as to the future of the world, but you’ll have to read them to find that out. But picture the chaos and lack of preparation that would accompany the fall of society in the first days, and that’s basically the setting. But with dinosaurs!

What size of table and miniatures do you need to play?

The game was designed to be played on a 3′ x 3′ table with 28mm miniatures.

Carniverse Interview - Table Set up
A scene from a Carniverse game in progress. Gotta love gaming with dinosaurs!

The Inspiration

What inspired you to create this gaming world?

Wow, where to start. There’s a lot of influences that went into making this. Obviously Jurassic Park is one, and there was an old set of trading cards in the 80’s called Dinosaurs Attack which really caught my attention at a young age. I’ve always been intrigued about how small we are in comparison to them, and how lucky we are that we don’t share a world with dinosaurs anymore. But I was tossing around game mechanics that I’ve enjoyed over the years (X-Com, D&D, etc) at the same time that I’d decided to re-watch the Jurassic Park movies. My son had just started to walk and during one of the movies he stumbled across the basement while basically strangling a stuffed T-Rex while yelling in its face, and I realized that man vs dinosaur was 100% the theme I wanted to go with. Dinosaurs are also something that is weirdly under represented in gaming, especially when you consider how amazing of a thing they are to literally everyone at a young age.

Character Development

One of the things that has me very excited about this game is that you have a campaign system. Can you tell us a little bit about team creation and character progression through the game?

For sure, the game is truly at its best when played in a campaign. This goes back to my love of RPG’s and really wanting to see progression and growth, while having some measure of control over those things. Players start with a point pool to build their team much like any wargame. You choose your leader and the rest of the characters that make up your starting team, then give them some gear. Most of the characters allow you to select which skill paths they’ll be able to progress in as they level up so you have some control in how they’re built. They also each start with some special skill that sets them apart from one another. Currently, if you include the Tales of Survival mini expansion going to all backers, the game has 4 leaders, and 18 different character types to choose from. During your games characters can sustain long term injuries affecting their battlefield ability, they can find new gear, they can even die, but most of them should jump some levels before anything truly horrific happens to them. There’s 10 levels that they can earn experience towards, and at each one they can choose to roll for a base attribute increase, or roll on one of the skill paths available to them. With a little luck, even the lowliest of characters can turn into hardened combat veterans as they get more experience under their belts.

Carniverse Interview Character Development
This character gains experience as he takes out some dinosaurs.

Base Building

When we played the Demo game earlier, you alluded to the fact that your team can build a base. Can you talk to that or give us any teasers on what we can expect when we buy the book?

Base building is really neat, and its a throwback to the X-Com series of games where upgrading your base would offer you different in game perks and so on. In the Carniverse each team starts with the same blueprint for their base. It can support 6 characters, is self sustaining with no upkeep costs, and has 4 build slots for facilities. There are 10 different facilities that you can choose to build, each one offering you different advantage or perk, there’s also the option to expand that base (in Tales of Survival) allowing you to build even further. Each facility allows for a certain number of characters to work it between games, and they also come with an upkeep cost. Upkeep costs come out of your Resource Pool after each scenario, and if you can’t afford to pay them then you base begins to sputter and fail as systems shut down. So while having the bonuses of those facilities is great, most of them also come with a drawback if you cannot afford them. Careful planning when building your base is very important so that it doesn’t become an anchor for your team. Having said that, there’s living quarters to increase your team size, training rooms to raise experience points between games, material salvage allowing you to turn unneeded equipment into resources, and a surgery centre to try and mitigate injuries received to your characters just to name a few. It’s an area of the game that I expect to grow quite a bit over time.

Carniverse Tabletop Game Interview
In Carniverse, you build a base to give your team advantages against the others on the field.

Rules Highlight

The rules to the game seemed pretty simple, yet fun. Could you talk to what you feel would be highlights of your battle system?

Much like every other game out there, The Carniverse was built upon the games that came before it. To any long time wargamer there will be a lot of things that feel familiar, but there are a couple new things to wrap your head around as well. You’re very right in saying that it’s a simple system, everything can be resolved by using 2 six-sided dice. The one section of the game that turned way more strategic than I had ever imagined at conception was the melee phase. Melee is played out with the fastest weapon speeds attacking first, if tied then the character with the highest dexterity goes first, if still tied it goes to the highest melee, then ultimately rolling off. It sounds confusing but its super easy, and creates some really interesting moments. Along with the bonuses and penalties affecting your melee rolls, combat positioning and turn order can become its own mini game within the game itself, especially when taking some of the special dinosaur skills into account. That’s the other area where I feel the game sets itself apart, each dinosaur has different special rules governing it, and there is literally no way for either player to know what species is going to hit the battlefield next.

Carniverse vs. Last Days

What sets you apart from other games like “Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse?”

I’m glad you mentioned it, Last Days was a big influence. Anyone who’s played it should be instantly comfortable with the overall turn structure, and damage resolution mechanics that I employ in The Carniverse. There’s some blending with a lot of wargames when it comes right down to it, as soon as you are into measurements and dice it’s difficult to differentiate yourself 100%. But what I believe sets it apart is that the game itself is as much (if not more) of a threat than your opponent. Because of how the action economy works itself out its very difficult to outrun a dinosaur, and in close combat most of them have the ability to remove a character with one well placed hit. So while in other games where game controlled models are a threat and nuisance, the dinosaurs in the Carniverse are truly your greatest enemy on the battlefield. This will lead to some scenarios that end up almost feeling co-operative, as both players are just focusing on fighting off the game instead of each other. 

Carniverse Interview - melee fighting
In Carniverse, the dinosaurs are even more dangerous than rival teams.

The Missions

I see that there are six scenarios going into the core rulebook. Can you give us some exciting tidbits about those missions?

Six in the core book, and another four in ToS (Tales of Survival). The core book scenarios include your basic snatch and grab learning scenario, an ambush style scenario where one team is at a large disadvantage to begin, there’s one where you hunt a T-Rex (yikes!), one where you’re assaulting a dinosaur nesting ground with a random species starting on the table, another where the stench of decay draws dinosaurs in quicker which ramps up the Scent of Meat rules that are in play for each game, and a final one where you’re hunting for access codes to a bunker while every dinosaur in the area comes down on top of you (which is my favourite so far). The four in ToS are still in the final stages of development so I won’t speak to them yet, but there are also rules for randomized weather and time of day in ToS that when applied to all 10 scenarios gives you 150 different potential battlefields to fight on. 

The Dinosaurs

What determines how the dinosaurs move during the battles? Can you tell us a bit about what you find to be the most exciting dinosaur scripting in the book?

All the dinosaurs work on the same premise for movement. They spend all their available action points moving in the most direct line possible to the closest human model they can see. During this movement they ignore any obstacle 1″ or lower which gives them much greater battlefield manoeuvrability. If they can’t see a human model, or cannot physically get to that model, then they move towards the largest stack of detection tokens currently on the battlefield. If a human model comes into sight at any point in that movement towards tokens, then they change direction towards that model. It’s a predictability that you can play off of to sometimes drive them towards your opponents. Each of the five species has some really fun scripting to them which I’ll try and break down. The compy’s all move as a pack, so they enter the battlefield closest to another compy, then they all follow the one who activated closest to a human model. When they get into base contact they begin to swarm, meaning that the more of them that are in contact, the stronger they become and the harder it is to escape them. Very weak on their own, but scary in a group. The dilophosaurus has a spit attack that activates if it ends movement within 6″ of a human model, they roll a ranged attack applying light damage on a hit but also push tokens which decrease the amount of action points available to that model on its next activation, allowing the dilo to run them down. Pachycephalosaurs cause a charge attack if they move 2″ or more before entering base contact. This makes them a real handful on the battlefield as they can potentially attack a human model twice in one turn. Raptors are just nasty, they’re faster than the other four species, fast in combat, stronger than most humans, and cause ranged attack penalties at a distance as they make use of available cover. Last but not least is the Rex, which ignore terrain when moving around the battlefield, even shoving it out of the way sometimes. Rex’s are slow but beyond strong. The standard human model is removed from play from even the lightest of hits from a Tyrannosaurus. There’s two more species in ToS, but I’ll keep those as a surprise.

Carniverse Interview Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs hunt humans in this exciting game of post-apocalypse survival.

Stretch Goals

I noticed a lot of news about new stretch goals over the past week. Can you tell use about those?

I believe you’re referring to the add-on’s as the campaign itself has zero stretch goals. I felt that I would have to make concessions in multiple areas to offer stretch goals so opted to do without them. As for the add-on’s, I’ve partnered up with Six Squared Studios, who are a local producer of many different gaming related items. Most people would likely know them for their MDF bases which are the best deal out there in my opinion. But they’ve been gracious enough to offer some really good discounts on some of their terrain items during this Kickstarter, along with some custom Carniverse tokens sets they’re producing. They’ve also started sculpting some new terrain items to compliment the Carniverse game world like dinosaur nests and a triceratops carcass. I believe there are 8 or 9 different add-on options at this point, all of which can add to multiple game systems. There may be some more add-on’s coming down the pipeline from another source, so I’m hopeful there will be more before the campaign ends.

Future Expansions

Your book is well past goal already. I am guessing you have expansion products already in the works. Can you allude to what we might see in The Carniverse later in the future after the game has more time to develop?

The story of the Carniverse is meant to be a trilogy. This core book follows the fall of society and the beginning of the new world. So yes, there are definitely expansions in the works. I’m currently writing the 2nd and 3rd full book releases and hope to get those under play-testing in the new year. There’s also the ToS PDF series that I plan on putting out between book releases, with the current plan being one or two between each book, the current one will be about 40 pages of add on content. As for what that content will be, there will be a lot of new options as far as team construction and base building, including entirely new unit types and rule sets. There will be loads of new gear, plans to include roughly twenty new dinosaurs, dozens of new scenarios that are under development, and entirely new campaign systems and tweaks. There’s some crazy stuff down the road. I’m also working with a local sculptor to bring a series of Carniverse themed miniatures to life in 2020. 

Closing up the Carniverse Interview

Is there anything that we missed that you would like to tell us about The Carniverse?

Just that if anyone needs more information or wants to get involved with the Carniverse community, they should head over to the Cardboard Dungeon Games Facebook page and join the Carniverse group there. It’s been growing constantly with people posting the dinosaurs they’re painting, and terrain they’re building all in anticipation of the game coming out. Oh! And speaking on that, since the core book is basically ready to go, anyone thinking about backing for a PDF will be able to get that quite soon, I expect to be sending those links out to backers in October at the latest. So you can get this on your tabletop in a couple months!

Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.

Anytime, it’s been my pleasure.

 

Wrapping it up…

I have to thank Nick Wilkins again for the time that he took to answer my questions about The Carniverse. This game looks really cool and I plan to take a look at a copy of the game for when it comes out. If this game interests you, be sure to check out The Carniverse Kickstarter before it finishes on August 29, 2019.

Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!

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