Card games for the mass market are manufactured in large, high-tech production facilities. In a playful parallel universe, there are also card games that tend to serve a niche. Andreas Mettler is one of those lonesome cowboys among game inventors who publish their own titles outside of the big publishers - and even produce them.
In an interview, the game inventor from the Sauerland reveals what makes card games so appealing, even in a high-tech world, and why one can simply ignore the trending topic of board games.
Brilon as the “Gallic village” of card games
There is almost something rebellious about the history of the card game manufacturer Andreas Mettler that reminds players of the political realities of an Asterix comic. Instead of a Gallic village, the focus is on the Sauerland town of Brilon with a proud 26.000 inhabitants. And instead of the Roman Empire, Andreas Mettler takes on the big German publishers - or deliberately avoids battles in open terrain by serving a niche with his card games. It depends on the point of view.
It is not easy for an average creative game designer to take a concept from the drawing board to the finished board game. Even good ideas often fail at the publisher's level because sales success cannot be predicted with sufficient probabilities to generate high production costs. Promising concepts then remain in the drawers of the game designers until the invention addresses a topic that is trendy.
Those who are brave enough (and are not afraid of possible failures) go their own way, independent of publishers, to produce board games themselves. Andreas Mettler, player inventor from Brilon, has dared to take this step.
Making card games yourself: quality instead of quantity?
Before Andreas Mettler worked as an author of card games, digital game concepts were the focus of his interests. He developed his own ideas early on - back then on the Commodore 64 computer. Excursions into the browser game segment followed with the spread of Internet connections. And because Andreas Mettler, in addition to his playful projects, completed a down-to-earth degree as a social pedagogue, the focus was on learning concepts for children. With all the projects in the field of digital game ideas, it almost seems like a coincidence that Andreas Mettler found his way to conventional card games.
And yet the parallels are always recognizable: it is always about entertainment for a comparatively narrow group of players. Instead of relying on mass-produced goods, Mettler is pursuing its own path. He gladly accepts the high amount of work involved in producing card games. He thinks it's crazy to print special paper on your own, then finish it and punch it out - and yet it is actually feasible.
Card games that are created in his factory are created for a niche. But they still have a right to exist - perhaps precisely because of that. An inestimable advantage cannot be assigned out of hand: small editions enable game designers to implement improvements in a timely manner. This not only benefits the game, but also benefits the players. Every single product from the card game manufactory looks almost like a one-off.
Sauerland reluctance: minimalism
As a game designer, Andreas Mettler follows a clear line that is as simple as it is obvious: card games must inspire through their concepts. Design and presentation, while not unimportant, are secondary. For Mettler, on the other hand, lengthy rule explanations are a KO criterion. For him, parlor games don't have to be "epic", but playfully attractive. The game designer from Brilon considers spontaneous gaming experiences to be essential. Therefore, it is primarily compact card games with few accessories that are the focus of his creative work.
Because Mettler cannot do without the trendy epicness that is currently rampant among game fans, one of his card games deals with precisely that. Hero's trip is a card role-playing game for 3 to 5 players, ages 14+, which thematizes classic medieval fantasy - only with cards and the rigorous renunciation of tokens or player boards.
Played satire, on the other hand, is the title enemy image, where political correctness is an absolute no-go. The current card game from his clear portfolio is telepatix, designed to activate the brain cells of 4 and 8 players. The concept behind the "thought experiment" is simple and is a bit reminiscent of the question-and-answer games from adolescence, where you would rather never have given some of the answers.
What is immediately noticeable in all card games is that none are suitable for children. Andreas Mettler caters to the tastes of adult card players.
10 questions. 10 answers.
We asked Andreas Mettler a total of ten questions. He answered everyone - with some surprises, especially in the digital games area.
Andre from Spielpunkt: First tell a little about yourself: Who are you? What are you doing?
Andrew Mettler: Hello, my name is Andreas Mettler. I've been making games since I could hold a pencil in my hand. In the past, these were mainly computer games. In the 1980s for the Commodore 64, later flash games for the browser. Now I'm starting to discover the real world. So it was only a matter of time before we started developing real games.
Andre from Spielpunkt: What is special about your manufacture?
Andreas Mettler: Pencil holder. Game inventor. Educator. Satirist. Trend sleeper. Crazy production manager.
Andrew Mettler: Printing, varnishing, cutting and punching - I do everything myself. And I only have a small supply of each deck of cards in stock. So almost an “on demand” production. In this way, I can implement new ideas and innovations at any time, even with card games that I already sell. Just like you know from updates to computer games.
Andre from Spielpunkt: Why card games and where do your ideas come from?
Andrew Mettler: I also have a few concepts for board games in the drawer. But produce board games yourself? I would have to expand my workshop considerably again.
I implement topics that are very personal to me or to my other projects. In the end, that makes for really authentic games. Since 2015 I have been running the satirical portal "Satirepatzer". "Feindbild - Das Kartenspiel" followed in 2016. This is not a product for large publishers, but I have the right target group for it at hand.
Andre from Spielpunkt: What were the biggest challenges you had to face at the start of the project?
Andrew Mettler: At the beginning there were significant investments in setting up my own small factory. "Normal" printers go on strike when you put in thick cardboard. The biggest chunk, however, was the cardboard lacquering machine. These devices usually fill half a garage and the acquisition costs are in the mid-range of five-digit sums. But the clever Chinese also make desktop devices. They have a lot of quirks, but I've learned how to deal with them and now I'm getting the results I want.
Andre from Spielpunkt: Your opinion is needed. Why are board games currently in vogue? What can card games achieve in a social context?
Andrew Mettler: Are they trendy? I didn't know, but I'm happy. I used to meet up with friends at LAN parties on a regular basis. Once we put board and card games on the table as an alternative. We had a lot more fun that day and we stuck with it.
Andre from Spielpunkt: The step to manufacture: Why produce yourself when there are large production facilities?
Andrew Mettler: That was initially a defiant reaction. I asked in the forums for developers: Can you actually produce games yourself? And the answer was clear: nobody does that! Then I thought to myself: Then it's time for someone to try.
Andre from Spielpunkt: Many experienced players want to invent games themselves. If you had to give a young writer one single important tip: What is important when developing a new card game?
Andrew Mettler: Do not try to please everyone! Mainstream always tends to be boring. We have seen this in the major computer game titles for many years. Especially when you produce in short runs, you have the chance to go your own weird way and find your unique selling point. You can create games that would otherwise never exist.
Andre from Spielpunkt: What is your absolute favorite game?
Andrew Mettler: Dominion
Andre from Spielpunkt: Board games as apps: How do you feel about the development?
Andrew Mettler: I've never played on the phone before. The screen is too small for me and the virtual keyboard too clunky.
Andre from Spielpunkt: Will we see you at the upcoming SPIEL'17 in Essen?
Andrew Mettler: I really hope so!
Andre from Spielpunkt: Thank you very much for your impressions. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers personally?
Andrew Mettler: Achieve Your Dreams! Create something that wouldn't exist without you! Life is short and in a hundred years we will all be dead. And be sure to check out my online shop: kartenspiel-kompakt.de