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Meromorph Games is a game company, creators of the card games The Shipwreck Arcana and Norsaga.

Meromorph Games Blog

Art and gameplay design diary as well as current news and updates.

Shipwreck Arcana Reprint and Mini-expansion

Meromorph Games

Post-Gen Con greetings! While we've previously talked about potential upcoming projects, this post is meant to cover a new subject (for us): reprints! We're close to exhausting the initial print run of The Shipwreck Arcana, which means we're figuring out the logistics of a 2nd Edition print run campaign.

Why run a reprint via Kickstarter? Primarily: logistics. We can try to personally fund a print run up front, but we're not sure how many to print. We can freight them to the U.S. and continue fulfilling via the webstore, but that's challenging for international patrons who can't afford expensive shipping. We could try a preorder system, but raising awareness is hard. Doing a Kickstarter -- and throwing in some spicy new bonus cards via a mini-expansion -- helps solve all three issues.

We're currently planning to launch the 2nd Edition campaign on January 29th, 2019. If you or someone you know has been waiting to grab The Shipwreck Arcana (especially internationally), this will be a great time to obtain everything at a reduced shipping cost. If you're a previous backer who's interested some new cards, please keep an eye out as well. You can join our mailing list to be notified when the Kickstarter launches (currently, that is absolutely all we use if for). You can also keep an eye on the Meromorph Games page on Kickstarter directly.

And speaking of those new cards, here's one of the concepts we're playtesting:

 Fuse: Play one of your fates here. Each turn, I fade if the sum of my visible fates is at least twice your hidden fate.

Fuse: Play one of your fates here. Each turn, I fade if the sum of my visible fates is at least twice your hidden fate.

Dev Diary: Arcana Breakthroughs

Meromorph Games

Over a year ago, I posted about the iterations that The Shipwreck Arcana's art and theme underwent... and said that my next post would talk about some of the mechanical evolutions that accompanied them. Well, better late than never! Here are some of the minor tweaks that had major impacts on how the final game would play.

Cards fade into powers

An early issue was the search for a comeback mechanic that could provide access to the "helper" powers. Since these powers help you guess right, it felt wrong to reward them only to players who were already succeeding. The suggestion by a friend to award powers each time a card faded meant that you naturally unlocked them as the game progressed, independent of doing well. This was crucial not only to helping players who fell behind, but also in adding more strategy to fading as a whole. "Do we want this to fade so we can use its power later?" became an interesting choice (soon).

The final piece of this puzzle was realizing that we could actually print the power on the back of the cards themselves, providing a clean throughline for how cards transitioned from one game use to another.

 

Canceling fades

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After a year of iteration, the game was "done" but still felt lacking. Turns felt homogenous and the decision making of when to guess versus when to pass wasn't gelling. Another friend and fellow designer suggested something brilliant: what if fading penalties didn't apply when you guessed right? This finally broke the stalemate and created a sense of pacing. Now turns feel different based on how many fates are accruing, which cards are close to fading, and how many powers you have to cancel the penalty.

 

The Hours

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The final major innovation was crafted on a drive back from Playthrough convention in North Carolina. You see, at the time, the rule for "I can't play anywhere" was to begin replacing arcana cards until you could make a play. Sometimes this cycled through 6-9 cards, giving far too much information while skipping over fun card abilities.

We needed a better way to handle this scenario, one that would still cause the game to advance (usually by adding fate to the board). The solution was... what if you just put your fate on the board? But in a way that signaled "I'm playing here illegally." We created a "dumpster" card to make this easier, and had it shift fates to the right so that they would still pile up in front of cards that could fade. (The "shift right" was chosen to prevent gaming the system by piling fates up onto the most durable or least useful cards.)

We got home, playtested it, and found an instant improvement. "I can't play" turns are still rife with information, but no longer the insta-wins of yore.

 

And that's all for today! I can't say thank you enough to the friends who playtested the game with us so much over 2 years, and who helped us slowly but surely craft it into the final version. You are all wonderful!

Gen Con 2018 and Upcoming Games

Meromorph Games

Gen Con 2018 is approaching (Aug 2-5), so here's what's coming up for Meromorph Games!

Gen Con 2018 Exhibit Hall

You'll be able to find us in the Exhibit Hall this year at booth #2646. We'll have existing Norsaga and The Shipwreck Arcana products for sale. Stop by with your Gen Con coupon book to grab a free promo card:

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If you're a Kickstarter backer of either game, we'll also hook you up with those promos, regardless!

We'll be running demos of both games in our booth, along with something new we're working on...

Prototype artwork shown.

Our current project is a pocket fighting game, which requires only a handful of components and features quick, tactical gameplay.

  • Players secretly and simultaneously program their desired actions and movements each round, then reveal and resolve them, which keeps gameplay moving and limits downtime.
  • Luck is limited to a single die roll each player makes each round, which determines their priority. Everything else is outguessing your opponent to land hits before they do.
  • A diverse roster of 12+ characters with their own abilities and signature moves gives endless variety. Special map tiles, gameplay modes, modifiers, and items can be mixed in for even more.
  • The game scales easily from 2-4 players, and we're testing it all the way up to 8 players. Modes include free-for-all and team battle, and we're testing AI opponents for solo and co-op play.

Overall, this game presents a very flexible, expandable fighting system that you can take anywhere, teach anyone, and play quickly. We're excited to be demoing it at our Gen Con booth this year, and after the convention we'll be preparing Print-and-Play files for anyone interested in playtesting the game at home (shoot us an email at meromorphgames@gmail.com if that's you).

If you enjoy it as much as we have, I expect it will make its way to Kickstarter in 2019!

Game design by Peter Plashko, Matthew Bishop, and Dan Miller.

Dev Diary: Shipwreck Lore (3 of 3)

Meromorph Games

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

The Shipwreck Arcana is a real game about a fictional deck of cards. The deck exists in a world which is described only as "sunken" or "drowned." The world's history is unknown -- but it is hinted at by the fictional illustrator of the tarot deck, providing a glimpse of the history that surrounds it.

There are two discernible plots which influence the card illustrations within the main deck. However, the collected promo cards supplement that with a third tale, one that already underpins the deck and the fictional world it exists in: the tale of The Hours.

It begins at Dawn, this tale. When the light ascends and the land is laid bare, it begins. The sun shines down upon land and sea, separated by the cold smooth sand. You might think its light falls equally upon both realms, but this was never so.

Though the waves feel the light, the depths do not. In that abyss sleep the drowned, the dead, the darkened. Most dream, of a sun long lost. But some do more than dream.

So it was that a nameless ghost -- nameless in these depths, name stripped away, name floating somewhere far above and long ago -- woke in her silted cradle and remembered light. She trekked far across The Deep, following a glimmer or a lie, but it does not matter. She found light: The Lantern of the sun, its candle burning without air. It reminded her of what she'd lost.

She snuffed it out.

The darkness held. She could not see the ripples, the waves she'd begun, but in the sky above it could be seen. It could be seen at Dawn -- for Dawn did not come. The sun and moon had been split Asunder, and the sky was cracked.

Midnight came, holding a bone-white moon over the world. She held it low, searching for Dawn her brother, but all the moon saw was night-drenched sand. Her hours passed one by one, but Midnight remained. There was no one to take her place in the sky.

The seas swelled in pity, reaching to comfort the moon. They broke their sandy shackles and overwhelmed The Shore, drowning a hundred kingdoms in their sorrow. One mattered more than most: for on its shore stood The Belltower, which separates the living air from the drowned depths. It was washed away.

In The Deep, the dreamers woke.

Mortals whisper of a devil that floats through the black abyss: Leviathan, who swallows islands as easily as ships. The creature is a continent of bone and coils, bringing both doom and sustenance to those who dwell below. Upon its severed fringes the drowned will teem, engaging in The Feast which never satisfies.

In the sun's absence, this hunger only burned brighter. It lead the drowned like a torch, guiding them through The Passage which had been unlocked by The Belltower's fall. It lead them through twisting corridors rotting with gold, past frenzied eyes that flocked like stars overhead. It lead them onto The Shore.

You may recognize them. In The Deep they were fleshless bone, but now clothed by air and moonlight, they don familiar faces of long ago. Most want only to breathe deep, to taste food again. A few have darker urges, and it is small thanks that no sun remains to illuminate their wake.

Did all escape The Deep? No. Some of the drowned remain, and new mortals continue to be ferried into its halls by The Pallbearers, whose work is unhindered by Midnight. Iron masks hide their faces -- if they ever wore faces. Their path is quicker than it once was; busier, too. But they are the ones who made The Passage. It was meant for them, and those they carry.

Our tale might end here -- the world in fathoms, Dawn shattered, dead souls unfettered and ill at ease. But in these darkened times, even the faintest candle will catch our notice. It is yet a ways off, but it flickers in the distance.

It begins as a sinking ship.

The Hours slip away one by one as wood sinks beneath waves. Can a ship die? Has it died already? Or does it breathe as its captain does, taking one final bite of the salted air before the black waves wrap it tight?

The ship dies, but The Captain does not. She watches her vessel and her crew descend. It is many years before she stands on dry land again, but the image never fades. She will not forget The Hours and what they took from her. She stands upon The Shore, staring down the black corridors that lead below. The Passage leads to her ship, her crew. Where else does it lead? Who but The Pallbearers can navigate its depths?

The Hours may have robbed The Captain, but she has made good use of the years. The Wish is what she's gained: a gift from an indebted spirit, to be granted at her request. She can ask for anything she wants, but she knows what she needs.

She needs a guide.

She leaves behind only footprints and a black feather at the mouth of The Passage. Somewhere in the maze, beneath seas, beyond death, she searches: for her ship, her crew. When she finds them, she does not turn back. The Passage is not the only way out of the afterlife. Why return to a drowned world, when there are others to explore?

She does not know it yet, but her search for other worlds may save her own. The trail she blazes through The Passage to other lands, strangers will pass through on their own journeys to this one.

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He is one such stranger. He may have come through The Passage for gold, or lore, or to escape. He may not even mean to find this world. But he is fated to -- it is his Fortune. What will he do with it?

He will not leave it to chance. The deck is in his hands. He reads the cards to find out.

In the cards he sees The Mirror, cracked. He sees the moon, unreflected. The Mirror desires balance. It calls out for a new sun.

We have spoken of The Deep, but there is another darkness, a different darkness. It is not crushing but empty, so empty, so completely and nearly empty.

Nearly empty.

And yet filled beyond measure with stars.

One star hears The Mirror's call, and bends its voyage towards this world. Its heart is Iron. It will be here soon, ready to be forged into something new.