Posted on Monday, February 20th, 2017 by Jacob Hall
Welcome to Cardboard Cinema, a feature that explores the intersection between movies and tabletop gaming. This column is sponsored by Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy in Austin, Texas.
Mondo has built its reputation on creating objects of tangible, physical beauty: posters, t-shirts, pins, and toys, all of it geared toward pop culture-savvy individuals hungry for something unique. In many ways, their entry into the world of tabletop gaming was inevitable. The company has announced that they’re planning to release their first board game and it is based on one of the most beloved genre films of all time, John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, The Thing.
But speaking as someone with walls covered with Mondo prints and two massive shelves of board games, this is also the kind of announcement that makes me stroke my chin and go “Hmmm.”
What We Know
The existence of the board game, which bears the awesome title of Infection at Outpost 31, was announced on Mondo’s website and details are still scarce. We do know that it will be a collaboration between Mondo and Project Raygun, a new division within board game publisher USAopoly that focuses “on combining iconic properties with visionary art and design.” Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative, a Mondo regular whose work has been nothing short of extraordinary over the years, will take on art duties. Interestingly, the announcement doesn’t name a designer, only noting that Project Raygun handled actual game design duties, implying that Mondo’s main job in this endeavor will be delivering a game that looks really nice.
And that is an area where I have no doubt in my mind Infection at Outpost 31 will succeed. Although there have been a number of great games with bad (and even repulsive!) art and graphic design over the years, a nice-looking game that is pleasing to the eye and looks good on the table has become more and more important in recent years as the tabletop world has gotten more crowded. We’re living in the golden age of board games, where there are more exciting and inventive games lining shelves than ever before. There’s no longer an excuse for a game to look like junk, even if the gameplay engine is solid. Board games are the ultimate physical object – something that you will stare at for hours on end, something that you will get to know intimately as you engage with it. You need to enjoy looking it. You need to enjoy opening it up and sprawling it across your playing area. This is vital and this is why the thought of a Mondo board game is thrilling.
I’m less familiar with USAopoly, a company specializing in taking familiar brands and moving them to the tabletop space. Although they’ve been making headway in the designer tabletop world recently (their Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle card game is well-liked), creating games that don’t have Trivial Pursuit or Yahtzee in their title is still fresh territory for them. Companies that specialize in licensed games are no longer radioactive, but it’s still an area that many gamers approach with caution.
So I’m choosing to be cautiously optimistic about this and hope that Mondo and USAopoly are working to make a game that is actually a satisfying tabletop experience and not just a nice thing that collectors will leave in shrink wrap and put on their shelves. Mondo’s previous output has been intentionally limited and while that works for the art world, it would be tragic for a board game, something that should be engaged with often, to remain untouched because only so many were made and collectors rather than gamers snatched them up.
We’ll learn more soon enough, especially since the game doesn’t even have a release date (although the announcement does note Fall 2017). And that brings me to my chief concern.