Few things capture the imagination the way that dragons do, and the dragons of Havok & Hijinks doubly so. Just look at them! They’re mischievous and adorable at the same time. We weren’t sure what the inception behind these little balls of chaos was, and so we’ve decided to go right to the source. Designer Adam Trzonkowski has offered to divulge the secret of baby dragon making and elaborate on their creation story here. Enjoy!
Havok & Hijinks was born while my wife and I were waiting in line for a panel at Dragon*Con. She simply commented that she wished we had some sort of game small enough that we could play while waiting for things. It was an interesting notion, and we started discussing it between ourselves and our friend that was with us.
I should also add that she had the caveat that it should feature cute dragons.
It seemed like a fun challenge and we’d designed some games just for us before, so I sat down and started hammering out the basics of the rules and the cards themselves. The original title for the game was M3: Mischief, Marauding, and Mayhem. Dragons would have mischief between them, go out marauding for treasure, and occasionally mayhem would ensue.
The first prototype actually went pretty well. It featured six dragons and played like a game that isn’t horribly broken should. Once we realized we had something that was actually pretty solid, we set down some design rules that we were not allowed to break:
- It has to play fast. On average, no game played by experienced players may last more than 30 minutes. Anything that violated this rule and slowed down play had to be removed.
It has to be simple enough that you can just read the cards and understand them.
- It has to be approachable enough for my parents (i.e. anyone) to play. My parents are sharp cookies, but they’re not big into table top games. We wanted to have a game that brought people back to the table like Bridge or Spades. To do that, if my parents didn’t understand it, it had to go.
- It must feature sickeningly cute dragons.
Some designers start with mechanics, build a game, and then theme it. Others start with a theme and then build mechanics to suit. I had a loose theme and four commandments. It actually worked out pretty well for us.
M3 evolved fairly quickly. Six dragons slowed the game up way too much. You only had a 1-in-6 chance of getting your affinity cards. Two had to go. Some events were funny inside jokes but just never worked (as was the sad case of our parrot Mango’s, a.k.a THE Mango, card being funny but too insane). Those went too.
We playtested it constantly internally and with a small group of testers that were honest enough with us to say “this sucked.” The key with them is that they always wanted a deeper strategy game. It was tough to balance, but I think it worked out. The parent test was equally important. I’d play with my mother, and when her eyes would glaze over I knew a change was coming.
Eventually, we realized that what we had done may be commercially viable, so we signed up for an Unpub Mini to put it in front of people who had no vested interest in us. It was also about that time where we decided that ‘Mischief, Marauding, and Mayhem’ was a mouthful. We shortened it to Mischief & Mayhem. However, a Google search found some similarly named things. Then I came up with Havok & Hijinks, and it stuck.
Our first Unpub Mini was excellent. We ran a huge amount of players through H&H, and the response was great. It put a ton of wind in our sails. From that point on, we just continued to refine the core concepts until we reached the point where we felt comfortable going to Kickstarter. The rest is pretty much history!
Discuss this, and other articles, on our social media!