Cardboard Cinema: DesiQuest Launches, Monty Python Goes Full RPG, And Disney Takes On Magic: The Gathering

(Welcome to Cardboard Cinema, an ongoing series where we look at board games inspired by or connected to our favorite media.)

One of the goals of our monthly Cardboard Cinema roundups is to help people bridge their love of tabletop games and Hollywood. Sometimes, that means shining a light on some of the best licensed adaptations on the market; other times, that means sharing more independent games that capture the spirit of our favorite franchise.

And while walking that line can sometimes be a little tricky, this week, we've got an excellent lineup of games for you to consider. From a high-profile "Monty Python" adaptation to an off-brand "Terminator" RPG, there are plenty of options for fans who like to live in other worlds or create their own. Oh, and we've even thrown in a little Disney news, too, because what doesn't Disney have a hand in at this point?

So kick back and open your wallets because it's time for another round of Cardboard Cinema, aka The Article That Makes You Spend Money Each Month.

And now for something completely different

In the tabletop world, big properties go to the big publishers. There's a reason companies like Fantasy Flight Games and Free League Publishing oversee so many significant adaptations. These publishers offer tons of talent with a high degree of confidence to brands looking to make risk-averse decisions with their licenses. So it came as a bit of a shock last week when it was announced that independent publisher Exalted Funeral would be producing a "Monty Python" RPG titled "Monty Python's Cocurricular Mediaeval Reenactment Programme."

On paper, any marriage between "Monty Python" and roleplaying games feels tricky. It is difficult for even established comedians to lean into the franchise's mode of satirical absurdism, and campaigns built around a specific type of humor might not work for many players. But in an exclusive interview with Dicebreaker, the designers made it clear that the spirit of the movies is present at a much more mechanical level. For example, instead of a dungeon master, "Monty Python" has a "Head of Light Entertainment," a producer whose persona-based storytelling approach can be "fired" (changed) midsession should the players lodge an overabundance of complaints.

From the sound of things, Exalted Funeral has approached "Monty Python" as half adaptation, half roleplaying game spoof, with gameplay designed to support shorter or one-off sessions. That's enough to make even the biggest skeptics of a "Monty Python" adaptation bookmark the Kickstarter when the game is released. You can't help but root for something this different.

Disney wages war against Magic: The Gathering

Woe to those who threw their "Magic: The Gathering" or "Pokémon" cards away in high school. Since 2020, trading card games have exploded in popularity and sparked record-breaking sales. Trading card games have also broken through to a broader audience; these days, you can hardly open TikTok without stumbling across some influencer opening old booster packs in front of a camera. Much like "Dungeons & Dragons," this makes trading card games your uncool childhood habit that is now decidedly mainstream.

And with that much excitement and opportunity available, it should be no surprise that Disney is about to move into the market. Earlier this month, Disney announced "Lorcana," a collectible card game that would span the breadth of its classic properties. As part of the announcement (summarized here), Disney claimed that "Lorcana" would include "more original Disney artwork than any other single product ever created." This assertion was backed up at D23 with the introduction of several new cards – including an exclusive Mickey card for attendees.

The first set is planned for fall 2023, with four card sets planned each year in perpetuity. Disney also announced plans for organized play, which could be a true differentiator for the Mouse. High-quality tournament play – think the World Series of Poker but with trading cards – has historically been missing from other titles. If Disney can effectively dramatize "Lorcana" games via Disney+ or other platforms, it could be a big draw for new players.

Support DesiQuest on Kickstarter

We are living in the golden age of actual plays. Found in podcasts and Twitch streams, actual plays are live productions of roleplaying games — most often "Dungeons & Dragons" — that combine the spontaneity of improvisation with the rich worldbuilding of high fantasy. But while some actual plays build diverse casts and stories, the medium too often remains overwhelmingly white and male. Just as with film and television, original stories made with and for communities of color need our attention.

This is why fans have been so excited — and, if the latest Kickstarter numbers are any indication, financially supportive — for "DesiQuest," a new "Dungeons & Dragons" actual play developed by South Asian creators. As of this writing, "DesiQuest" is being prepared as a three-person campaign, with "Dimension 20" and "Critical Role" alumna Jasmine Bhullar set to GM. The cast will include a talented collection of writers, voice actors, and performers, including Sandeep Parikh (who also directs), Rekha Shankar, and Anjali Bhimani.

According to Kickstarter, the plan is to create between five and ten full-length ("three-hour") episodes of the original series. Funded in a single day, the campaign has moved onto the stretch goals of adding players and increasing production value, which can help set "DesiQuest" apart as a top-tier actual play. And with a list of rewards that includes soundtracks, world guides, and watch parties, your contributions will come with some sizable rewards, too.

Cy_Borg goes full Skynet

Real ones know that there will never be a better "Terminator" video game adaptation than "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," the '90s arcade shooter that pitted you and your quarters against the armies of Skynet. But while the video game title is not up for debate, the tabletop crown is still up for grabs. "Time Scape," a new "Cy_Borg" roleplaying module with explicit (if not legal) ties to the "Terminator" franchise, offers players the latest chance to bring the revolution home.

Based on "Mörk Borg" — the old-school style roleplaying game that blended fantasy world-building with post-apocalyptic designs — "Cy_Borg" is a love letter to cyberpunk and digital dystopias. As a supplement to that game, "Time Scape" effectively recreates the scenario from "Terminator 2," asking players to travel back in time and prevent the prevention of the assassination of wealthy CEO Ronald Reagan the Third. Writer Josh Dunham describes the scenario as "highly random, yet structured and lightweight," with replayability baked into the design "as you attempt to close the time paradox for good.

"Time Scape" will join 2021's licensed adaptation ("The Terminator RPG") as variations on that central theme: time travel and killer robots. And while "Time Scape" may not come with all the bells and whistles "Terminator" fans might be looking for, its status as an old-school RPG means an easier learning curve for your friends. So perhaps start small and graduate to the real thing if your group decides you need more proper nouns in your gameplay.