Leaving a stable and steady job for something off the beaten path, to pursue your dream and have no fail-safe is what some would describe as scary. Not for Brent Critchfield, founder of Studio Woe and creator of Gruff: The Tactical Card Game of Mutated Monster Goats. He decided to do just that and created a tabletop card game for people to battle. And what are they battling, but mutated, mutant goats. Yup, crazy, misshapen, malformed goats. I had a chance to talk with him about this upcoming game, Gruff, and learn a bit more about Brent and about the game.

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In short, this card game is based on the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Under a slightly different time line and circumstance than what you might be used to, these goats came across a troll on a bridge. The troll attempted to eat the goats, but the goats outsmarted him. But what you didn’t know, is these goats were actually being watched. When the world saw just how smart and ferocious the goats were in defeating the troll, they decided to weaponize them! Then, thanks to black magic and rogue science, new goats were created which are now mutated monster beasts.

This is a very strange concept, so I asked him about it. Why did he go with such a crazy idea? Well, it turns out the origins lie with his wife, Virginia Critchfield. Both are hard at work on Gruff, and both have their origins in art. Turns out, she’d spend time doodling in a sketchbook. She filled a sketchbook of over 1000 images of mutated bunnies for fun and for laughs. Work led them to move to Austin, TX where Brent began working on Darksiders 2. Here, the concept of the game started and bunnies changed to mutant goats. As they were building out the images, this led them to begin battling the goats. They were on a long thin thing, which looked like a bridge. Thus, after the core concept was in place, the ideas of Billy Goats Gruff on a bridge took root.

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I asked him to elaborate on why he’d want to leave a good job. Brent was working on League of Legends, and while working there, he gathered the courage to “flex my own muscles” and break off on his own. He went from a solid artist job, where he helped to do art for “Summoners Rift in League of Legends. He learned many card games as a kid, and this led him to looking at a card game like Gruff.

Of all the questions I asked, and answers I received, what really stood out was Brent’s respect for learning and observing. He discussed multiple times that his success in getting this game to market in March is due to others. He worked with other companies, and was able to be an observer of different ways of operation, and to respect the different techniques and approaches. “While at Disney, I got to see a lot of different approaches that I respected and were working really well for what I was doing, but not what I wanted to do. I saw what worked well for their priorities, but wanted to develop for a different direction.” This respect he had led to furthering the respect I have for an entrepreneur like Brent.

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Finally, the game itself. A card game stemming from the likes of Magic, but similarities end with the cards. Gruff is a mix up of Cube Draft style, deck building, and Commander mode, and adding in a few mechanics of poker to outplay your enemy, while having a bit of a miniatures feel to it as well. Each player has three goats and one shepherd, with multiple combinations of each. “You pick a team of goats, and those are your boys. They go to hell and back with you” Brent said, laughing. The cards played require “crazy” points, obtained by commanding the insane goats to perform actions. Their defense is “fat”, and that’s how much damage they can take. The damage dealt is reliant upon how “mean” they are. One particular instance while I had the chance to actually play the game at PAX Prime, I found myself almost planning to the level of chess, planning out 3 or 4 moves in advance. Taking advantage of the “crazy”, finding ways to build my power so I could sacrifice a goat, use a card to bring it back, and in just 4 moves obliterate my enemy! Sadly, I didn’t take his cards into account, and all plans were foiled. So I plotted again.

If this game of mutant goats battling out to the death is of interest, take a look for it in stores in March of 2016. Those who backed it on Kickstarter should be seeing their copies in January, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the Austin, TX area you can find it in stores in February. Ready to order now? Check out the link to pre-order Gruff Here.

About The Author

Bobby C
Director, Editorial/Reviews

Bobby C is a veteran FPS and adventure gamer, starting with the NES and Super Mario Bros. The game that really started his love for the FPS Genre was Goldeneye for the N64. Since then, the love grew. From casual, to semi-pro COD with Modern Warfare 2 and 3, and back to casual, it’s a bad week when there isn’t at least 15 hours of games played.