Exclusive Interview: Divorce! The Game Designer Andrew Yoon

It’s been said that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. So why not have fun with it? In the upcoming card game Divorce! The Game — which is currently looking for funding via Kickstarter — you can enjoy all the excitement of splitting your property with someone who hates you, but without having to pay a lawyer. Though in talking to game designer Andrew Yoon — who I know from his past life as a game writer for such websites as Shacknews and Joystiq — there’s a bit more to Divorce! The Game than just deciding who gets to keep my rare comic book collection.

Divorce! The Game box

What is Divorce! The Game and how do you play it?

Divorce! The Game takes all the fun of getting divorced and turns it into a thirty minute card game. The deck of cards are your assets, and you have to split them up in a way where you end up with more net worth. It’s incredibly simple to play. All you do is draw two cards on your turn. Keep one for yourself and give the other card to the other player. It gets a little bit more complicated as you play, but that’s certainly how the game starts.

What other card games do you think Divorce! The Game is like, and what makes it different?

I don’t want to sound too full of myself, but I haven’t played anything like Divorce! The Game before. Though I can’t claim to have played every card game out there.

This may seem like a stretch, but the closest game would probably be Magic: The Gathering. Like in Magic, you’ll eventually know what’s in the deck, but the order of appearance of those cards drastically changes your strategy. Money acts like mana, while lawyers are like spells.

But Divorce! The Game is definitely not meant to be as intimidating as Magic can be, even if the strategy can get quite deep if you want to play that way. There’s a shared deck, and players get to choose what their opponents get, and vice versa. Everything is also played face up, which really encourages a lot of in-your-face competition.

I’m afraid to ask this, but where did you get the idea for this game?

My childhood? That answer usually scares people away, even though I’m sure there’s some truth to it.

But more directly, after I left Shacknews, I started prototyping a few games. One was a card game inspired by Mega Man, as you were trying to absorb new powers in an effort to take over the entire deck. But it wasn’t really clicking. Then I saw an episode of Untying The Knot on Bravo and thought to myself “these are really terrible, awful human beings…I’ll make a game about them!”

So how long have you been working on Divorce! The Game, and how different is the final version compared to your original idea?

I’ve been prototyping games since January. However, it’s hard to pin down exactly when I started because its origins actually start in the Mega Man game, as well as a card game I was making about imaginary numbers. The two eventually ended up merging into what it is today. Given that Divorce! The Game is not about robots eating each other or factors of the number i, I think it’s safe to say that the game has strayed quite significantly from its roots.

Given your background in video games, why did you decide to make Divorce! The Game a card game instead of a video game?

I actually started working on a VR game immediately after leaving Shacknews, but it takes a lot of money and a lot of skill to make a video game, and I currently have neither.

That’s not to say that tabletop games are simply a backup. It’s my other true love, and when I created something I was truly proud of, I knew I wanted to share it with the world. I’m a strong believer that you have to design for the medium you’re working on, so I believe Divorce! The Game is a game that’s meant to be played with physical cards. It just wouldn’t work in a digital format.

Divorce! The Game 01

And why did you decide to make Divorce! The Game a card game instead of a board game?

Actually, that’s probably one of the biggest deceptions of Divorce! The Game. Though it is technically a card game, it’s really just a board game without a board. There’s actually a lot of other elements in the game beyond the core deck, including dice, play cash, a separate system for “legal battles,” and even sliding scales for your children. We’re planning on squeezing a lot into the box.

Some people whove gone through a divorce, especially a contentious one, would probably tell you that a divorce is not fun. Was this a concern for you when developing Divorce! The Game?

Absolutely not. Next question.

In all seriousness, Divorce! The Game is not meant to be a serious simulation of divorce, it’s a caricature of the pettiness of the system today. That’s why our slogan is “America’s Favorite Pastime.” It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

That being said, I understand that Divorce! The Game won’t be for everyone. Though, to be honest, our most enthusiastic playtest was with someone that went through a divorce. I think the catharsis is nice. I think of war games. I think most veterans would say that war is not fun, but that hasn’t stopped such war games as Call Of Duty from being popular. We’re just covering a topic that hasn’t really been adapted in a similar way.

How did your personal feelings about divorce impact Divorce! The Game?

More than personal feelings, the cards were designed with one goal in mind: How do we make players feel something? For a lot of cards, we wanted that feeling to be laughter. There’s a punchline to nearly every card, and many of them tie into the game’s systems.

For example, the yacht is a card that many first-time players go for. But it costs so much money to maintain the yacht that it usually ends up making its owner broke.

Seeing people squirm as they regret the decision to get the yacht makes me chuckle every time.

One thing I do want to point out, though, is that we intentionally didn’t gender the game. So, while there is a wedding ring, there isn’t necessarily a “husband” or “wife.” And we definitely don’t take sides. Those kinds of details are meant to be filled by the players.

Are the reasons behind the divorce a factor in Divorce! The Game? Is there something where you figure out if the divorce was because someone cheated, and the person who cheated starts with less stuff?

We intentionally don’t create a backstory for the characters in the game because that backstory is created by players as the game goes on. One of the cards in the game is a Sugar Daddy, and players choose who will get that card. It’s a tactical decision, but it also becomes a narrative tool. Essentially, we ask players, “What are you willing to do in order to win?” The answer, unsurprisingly, is a lot of terrible things.

Divorce! The Game is a two-player game. But divorces usually involve lawyers. Was there any thought to making the game for four people, with two of them playing lawyers?

Multiplayer is one of the most common requests we get from playtesters. But, to be honest, the game works best as a two-player game. In fact, I think it’s one of the biggest selling points of our game. While it may be about divorce, the game is actually best played by couples. They have the rapport with each other to really get into character and add salt to wounds. The best playtests we’ve had are with couples, and a lot of them tell us that they’re grateful to have a game that’s exclusively designed for two players. There just aren’t that many of those in tabletop games nowadays.

Divorce! The Game 02

So what do the lawyers in Divorce! The Game do?

Right now, we’re only talking about three of the lawyers. The Repossess lawyer lets you roll to attempt taking back items from the other player. The Offshore Account lets you move items offshore to protect them. And finally, the fan-favorite Burn “lawyer” lets you burn anything — or anyone — on the board.

Divorce! The Game only comes with two child cards. Why not more? And is there also a provision for playing with just one?

The children add a metagame that ensures that every choice you make adds up to something. Many of the items in the game will affect one of the children, either positively or negatively. By having two kids, players will sometimes have to choose which child they love more. Having more or fewer than two negates the feeling of important decision-making that’s central to the two-card mechanic we’ve created.

That being said, I want to introduce a third child one day…but mostly as a joke. “Who’s the baby’s daddy!?!”

Is there a Take Me Back, Babycard in the game?

There is absolutely no way to reconcile in the game. You can try to go easy on your opponent, but that just means you’ll lose.

In designing the physical cards for Divorce! The Game, what were some of the things that influenced the art style?

We have the very talented Anne Baltazar on board as our artist, while Sunny Nguyen is working on the layout and design. Pretty much the only thing I told them was “retro.” I wanted a callback to old Americana, when the concept of marriage seemed much more idealized and pure. But I also wanted a modern edge to it, because it is about divorce after all.

To get Divorce! The Game finished, youve turned to Kickstarter. Why did you decide to go this route, instead of taking it to a card game publisher?

It’s incredibly hard to talk to publishers, especially if you’re not established. Thankfully, Kickstarter enables almost anyone to become a designer. There’s a huge indie renaissance, not just in video games, but in tabletop games as well. We’re hoping that if the game does take off, we’ll be able to contact distributors.

I also think the success of Cards Against Humanity has proven that the role of the publisher isn’t that important anymore.

Among the things youre offering people who support the Kickstarter for Divorce! The Game is a round-trip ticket to your home in New York City. And, I assume, a couple nights in a hotel and a chance to play the game with you, given that this is only given to someone who forks over $10,000. Do you actually think someone will do this?

Absolutely not. But it fits with our style of humor.

However, I do want to make it explicitly clear: We are not providing any comforts at that tier. For $10,000, you can come to our home, and steal any one thing from us. We’ll help you get here and back. And that’s it. Also, depending on what you steal from our house, you won’t necessarily be our friend either.

Finally, if Divorce! The Game does well, what will you do next?

I’d love to see limited edition skinned versions to sell at conventions, like Anime Divorce! or Superhero Divorce! We actually already have a ton of ideas compiled for a sequel/expansion, but because I’m already starting work on my next game, I won’t be taking point on development. Instead, our current producer David Beck would move into the game designer role. I think having someone else at the helm would take the series into a direction I couldn’t have dreamed of. Knock on wood, hopefully we’ll have another interview about that in the future.

I look forward to it.

 

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