Interview with Studio Woe’s Brent Critchfield, Designer of Gruff

Rob Kalajian interview, tabletop 0 Comments

Recently Studio Woe announced their plans to make their card game of battling mutant goats, Gruff, Kickstarter exclusive going forward. Designer Brent Critchfield took some time to answer a few of my questions about Gruff’s transition and what it means for the future of the game.

So before we dig into the big announcement why don’t you introduce yourself and explain a bit about Gruff in general

Sure! My name is Brent Critchfield. I am the Design Director at Studio Woe and long-time veteran of the video-games industry. I am also the creator of Gruff, the tactical combat card game of mutated monster goats!

You’ve already launched several releases in the Gruff series: Gruff, Clash of the Battle Goats, and Rage of the Trolls. You also have a 4th set about to hit Kickstarter, Stuff of Nightmares. Each is a stand-alone set, yet they can all be combined/mixed. Do you consider Gruff to be a Living Card Game, Expandable Card Game, or something else entirely?

I jokingly like to use the term GCG, meaning Gruff Compatible Game. We are definitely a living game, but I think we avoid a lot of the predatory pitfalls in that genre. We create games in complete stand-alone “sets”. There is no need purchase multiple boxes of the same game to assemble play-sets of your card. You don’t need to even collect an original Gruff box. You can start at our latest Gruff game and have everything you need to start having fun in the universe of Gruff.

Each set has been funded through Kickstarter for its initial run. How many additional print runs have you done for the currently released sets?

We started with fairly large editions of our early games, so we are on the last copies of our initial print run. Though huge print runs are going to be a thing of the past for us.

Which brings me to my next question! You recently announced that Gruff will be Kickstarter exclusive with print runs only be as large as needed for backers. Can you tell me more about your reasons for the switch?

Well, there are a lot of reasons for the decision. I deliberated about making the switch to Kickstarter exclusivity for a long time. In Studio Woe’s case, we are a very small publisher, and our mission is to create “Catastrophic Levels of Amazement”. It became clear to me over the last few years that in order to accomplish that goal, we needed to be laser-focused on creating cool new stuff. Basically, in order to pursue what was best for Studio Woe, I had to give up some things that were merely good.

Do you fear that losing retail channels will adversely affect competitive play, or will you have other incentives to entice retailers to run Gruff events?

My hope is that many local game stores will be enthusiastic about this new direction. While it may be a little harder for them to get access to the latest Gruff sets (They will need to order their inventory during the Kickstarter campaign,) the tighter limits on inventory also means that they will not have to deal with unfair competition from online discounters. We also have a rewards program called “The Shepherds of Woe” which awards promo cards to players which host events in their local games store. My hope is that these things will result in a robust competitive environment.

Well that answers my question about a retailer pledge level on future campaigns 🙂

Will you’ve offering any post-campaign ordering, like backerkit, for those who missed out or decide they want to order extras at the end of the campaigns?

I think so, but it will be a more constrained window than on previous campaigns because we will need to turn it off as soon as the order goes to the manufacturer. In fact, this entire campaign is going to be quite a bit shorter than any previous Studio Woe Kickstarter campaign. It is only running for 2 weeks. If Stuff of Nightmares is something you are interested in, I highly recommend checking it out on April 3rd.

What’s the future looking like for Gruff? How far ahead has been planned for the game?

Well, that is actually the reason for the faster campaign. I would love to be able to get a second Gruff game out by the end of the year. (In addition to one super secret non-Gruff game). To make that happen we need to run a shorter Kickstarter campaign. Concerning our long-term launch schedule goes, I have a release cadence planned out for the next 2 years, with a looser agenda going out for the next 5 years. You can expect another new Gruff Faction as well as a massive development in the ecosystem of Gruff. For right now that is about all I can say about it.

You just hinted at my next question about whether or not you had any non-Gruff games in the works. Can you say anything about this super secret game to whet peoples’ appetites?

Well, it is a Dexterity game… about Pirate Tanks….

Yup. That’s got my interest.

You’ve pretty much answered all the questions I had. Anything else you like to add before we wrap up?

I am really pumped about Stuff of Nightmares! Please come check it out on Kickstarter April 3rd! Also thanks for taking the time to chat with me Rob, you are awesome!

Thanks for taking the time to chat!

Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.

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