Interview: Vigour Games / Joey & Dino talk about "Growl Madness and Plagues"

 GROWL: Madness and Plagues Expansions on Kickstarter

"GROWL is a very fast team-based social deduction game for 4-10 players of all ages."

- Joey Vigour (Vigour Games)

Interview led by WereDINO on The Social Deduction Network Discord

Note: This is not a word for word transcript of the interview, some grammatical mistakes and other things of that nature were altered. For the full unaltered transcript, go find this interview listed under the interviews tab in The Social Deduction Network discord.

Mikrofon, Diskussion, Sprechen, Datensatz, Radio

Dino: Beings (human and otherwise) of the Social Deduction Network, we are proud that after a four and a half month period of marination, we are back with Joey Vigour for another interview! This Tuesday, September 1st, he is launching a kickstarter campaign with two new expansions to one of my favorite social deduction games, Growl. Tell us, Joey, what is a growl expansion? To me, it sounds like a breathing exercise for wolves. Is it like lycan yoga or something?

Joey: Hello!

Dino: Hi! So, should those hairy guys grab their yoga mats? Returning viewers know that I like to start with the tough questions.

Joey: Thanks for inviting me to another interview about GROWL. I like to keep it all capitalized, like the acronym SCUBA. Actually, pro tip: the game still works if the werewolves hold their noses and say “SCUBA” at the end of the game instead of growling. Okay, back to the question. Sorry for being a lycanthr-- I mean misanthrope. GROWL is a very fast team-based social deduction game for 4-10 players of all ages. There’s four mini-expansions currently available, and now we’re publishing two more.

Dino: Ah! Sorry, I was thinking about my trip into the dark web, last week… Those familiar with Growl might point out that it already has several expansions (i.e., 7 Sins, Spells, Undead, and Curses). I have actually played some games that incorporated all the expansions, which was nuts! For people who missed them the first time around, will the base game and these expansions be made available via your new kickstarter?

Joey: Yes, this may be the final opportunity to acquire some of the expansions as I’m working with a bigger publisher for 2021 and beyond, and I’m not sure which expansions will be republished or how long they may be out of print in the meantime.
I’m a bit concerned about people who play with all the expansions at the same time, but all 6 expansions are technically compatible with each other.

Dino: Oh, I've done it, and you are right to be concerned about me. How about that awesome box with that weird blue muppet thing that looks like it’s eating the box? Can people still get all that?

Joey: Yes, this is probably the last chance to get the Howly Growly box, which is the deluxe edition that comes with “Growlie,” the blue furry monster bag, plus two expansions (Curses and Spells).

Dino: You can do it, little guy! Unlatch your jaw to finish the job!

Joey: Hah!

Dino: Okay, I want to talk about each of the two expansions that your campaign is offering. First off, the art on the cards for the original game and its original expansions really made the game pop. Will the art for the new expansions be as awesome as it was before?

Joey: If you like the original art then yes. I worked with the same team of artists so the art should look very similar. Artist unavailability has been an ongoing threat to my projects, but luckily I have supplemented my original 2 artists with a new artist who paints in the same style:

Dino: Cool! Wow, those look great! And yes, very reminiscent of the original art.
So the game has two expansions: Plagues and Madness. Let’s talk about Plagues first. Is it true that this game comes with tokens, or am I thinking about Chuck-E-Cheese? If so, how do the tokens work?

Joey: Plagues comes with 30 heresy tokens. Fun fact: If you put one of them into the coin slot in the back of the box then the box will sing the 1961 classic “Blue Moon” by the Marcels. Unfortunately we don’t have a refund policy in place if you are one of the unlucky backers whose box plays the Olive Garden commercial “Hospitaliano” instead… ):

Dino: Ah…

Joey: I'm trying to match your style!

Dino: If people get enough heresy tokens, do they get banned by the pope?

Joey: No, they get banned by an even more powerful dude. That's why it is called Plagues.

Dino: Eek! Thought His vengeful days were over… The tokens can even result in a new faction in the game, right? How does that work?

Joey: Each player is given 3 plague tokens at the beginning of the game, and they are stored under your home tile. On your turn you may give one of the tokens to another player (usually someone you think is not on your team). Each token is like a single spore of plague. One alone is not terrible, but they compound. Players are encouraged to accuse each other of heresy verbally while giving a token. The tokens add varying amounts of heresy icons. Some cards also add heresy. Nights are actually replaced with Plagues, and when a Plague is triggered players reveal their heresy tokens face-up. The player or players with the most heresy get horrible consequences; Plague of Livestock turns heretics into a new mini-faction called The Herd, and they can only win if they infect all the other players with plague before the game ends. With Plague of Beasts, the heretics can’t win the game unless at least one starter wolf (“Wolf Zero”) is dead – even if the heretics themselves are Wolf Zero! You can still win if dead, but it isn’t always easy to die on purpose.

Joey: Note the word "Night" now says "Plague"

Dino: Whoa! That sounds cool! I love the idea of having a variety of win conditions determined by other factors. And again, love that art! There are also a bunch of new cards that come with this expansion, including new nights and spells, as I understand it. Nights and Spells are always great because they are randomly chosen for games without players knowing what makes it into the deck, greatly increasing replayability. Could you tell us about a new night and spell that comes with this expansion?

Joey: Spells are played face-up as a player power. An example of a spell in the Plagues expansion is “Mark of the Condemned,” which makes that player immune to wounds, but doubles all their heresy, so they are more likely to get hit by a plague that night. Currently the Plagues expansion contains 7 new Nights and 3 new Final Nights. We’re going to offer one or two additional Night cards as stretch goals. For example, a night that forces all players to scramble the in-play spell cards.

Dino: Oh! Stretch goals? I'll ask more about that a little later! I feel like I would love a spell that makes me immune to wounds… But maybe I am underestimating how severe those plagues would be…

Joey: The Curses expansion has a Super Salve, which is ridiculous.

Dino: I love the Super Salve… I try to get a few of those and then I'm set.

Joey: Luckily the game is self balancing because everyone always beats up the guy who got that.

Dino: Nothing like telling everyone I'm still alive when they expect me to be dead.
During play-testing, did any players sue over the plagues that you inflicted upon them, or did you have them sign waivers?

Joey: Hah, luckily our plagues have no lasting ill effects.

Dino: Oh. Well, that's a huge selling point, then! Glancing at the images of these expansions, Madness Expansion appears to be a far larger and more ambitious expansion than any of expansions that have come before it. I understand that this expansion will affect the way that players interact with one another. How will that work?

Joey: Yes, it is probably about 4 times the size of the mini-expansions, but it is actually pretty simple; it needed to have a lot of cards to make the interaction possibilities seem infinite in scope. Gold provides a trigger and Bites provide an effect. These effects are behavioral adjustments, like scratching your arm or making strange noises. The “madness” compounds, so part of the fun of this expansion is trying to avoid getting too many pairs of gold and bites. If players are too greedy and hoard gold, they will be obviously more and more mad, which makes them a killing target by the humans.

Dino: People always ask me what Gold does in the game. If we are playing multiple games, I explain that winners count how much gold they have so that we can determine an overall winner at the end of many games, but I also say that it gives players something harmless to pass. Sounds like this game adds something even extra. Strategically, do you think players should get rid of all their gold when playing with this new expansion?

Joey: I never really worried about what gold does; there's some cards in each expansion that can get triggered by discarding gold, but also I like the idea of neutral cards; you want to know your neighbor has neutral cards because if he gives something else to you it makes the transaction suspicious. Plus, there's so much design space we can exploit with Gold in future expansions.

Dino: Future expansions? Glad you are still thinking about that!

Joey: This expansion still rewards people who hoard gold but it's complicated situationally as to WHY you would save or give a card.

Dino: If players have more than one tainted bite card, but only one tainted gold card, do they choose which tainted bite card gets activated?

Joey: Yes. But it is smarter to keep the pairs together so you don’t come off as looking too mad. Depending on the circumstances this can reveal your team. This is an expansion where you really have to play it to get the feel of it. Everything is situational. Wolves get less and less mad, which is bad because people can sniff them out. Humans get more mad and want to lose their triggers but need gold for points and to activate spell powers.

Dino: I see. I could see players switching if they come into possession of a tainted bite card that advises them to do something they could do more subtly. If all I had to do was scratch my nose, that would be easier to do secretly than howling every time someone speaks. I am making these up, I don't know what the cards make people do.

Joey: And everything compounds like I said before, so by the final day phase, players will frequently have 2 or 3 or even more effects all triggering other players' effects. Because the effects and triggers are often similar. It's simple things that you don't notice at first, like using the word human in a sentence.

Dino: Cool! I could see this getting pretty chaotic. Have you played any games that incorporated all the expansions, including these two new expansions? If so, what was that like?

Joey: It's not that chaotic; it still feels integrated into the base game. I’ve played all the published expansions together several times, but I’m still working on playtesting various combinations with the new expansions. I need to test these new ones at high player counts, but that has been difficult with the recent lockdowns. But these expansions bring me joy because they are something to look forward to when the quarantines have ended.

Dino: Yes! I have many games ready to be introduced at a game night! Whenever that will happen… But, like you said, something to look forward to! Sounds like this is a very fun expansion for groups that enjoy getting silly and loud during their games, but the silliness also contributes to the social deduction aspect of the game, right? Could you elaborate on how this is the case?

Joey: Here in L.A. they have begun to shut off power to houses that try to have game nights, but that's a tale for another day.

Dino: How do they know you are having game nights?

Joey: Instagram live, whoopsie!

Dino: Oh.

Joey: Madness actually is not that loud or silly; most of the madness traits are subtle, like I said. We are not expecting players to do anything over the top; this is not a game that requires performance art. The key to the social deduction is understanding how the flow of gold and bites affects the game. For example, if one player was doing a specific thing and later that player’s neighbor is doing something similar, the first player may be a wolf who passed that bite to their neighbor. It’s hard to explain but there’s a lot of gameplay that emerges through the flow of bites and gold.

Dino: Awesome. That is good because I know some players would rather not do crazy things. Sounds great!

Joey: I found that out years ago when I was playing "Never Have I Ever" and at the end someone proudly proclaimed "and guess what, I was LYING the whole time!"

Dino: Love how this game builds on what already existed and makes new use of the gold cards.

Joey: Kind of defeats the purpose if players can't get into it. This is not a clown show with touching your nose!

Dino: We apologize to all the clowns who tuned into this interview… Now, I have to wonder about the stretch goals. Last time we got a lot of extra stuff, including some crazy things like the Undead expansion when the campaign did so well. What will the stretch goals be this time around?

Joey: In an earlier draft months ago, all the triggers and effects were on the bites only. But you'd see the same events over and over and it didn't work. So now you discard a gold or bite and the player draws a face-down Tainted version from the new decks. So that way the game setup is identical to the base game, you just add the expansion decks. Probably we’ll have a couple new non-essential cards (not too many, as the art gets expensive very quick) and 6 tokens with the icons of the 6 expansions on one side. Players can shake the tokens and drop them onto the table to determine which combinations of expansions to play with. Working on a name for that stretch goal. The Randomizer?

Dino: Thank you for explaining how set up works! I was thinking the tainted cards replaced the old cards. That makes more sense because this way, people won't know what behaviors you are getting! Nicely done!

Joey: Interestingly since you mention the Undead expansion, originally for the first Kickstarter I was flying by the seat of my pants and promised a stretch goal for a "plague cannon" - eventually that just ended up being the Undead expansion but the plague cannon made its way (with another name) into the Plagues expansion!

Dino: The Randomizer? Sounds like an Arnold film with a convoluted plot. I'll come up with some ideas for you…

Joey: Better tell me quick as I launch on Tuesday and that stretch goal should not be too difficult to hit!

Dino: I remember that! You were really scrambling to come up with that, but it paid off big time. I love the "Undead Expansion"! I have learned not to play it unless I have at least seven players, though.

Joey: I agree, it is brutal with lower player count.
As for name ideas, challenge accepted! Last time you were here, you talked about so many upcoming projects, and I have to ask how those are coming along. Bad Koalas… Is this still coming to Kickstarter?

Joey: YES! Bad Koalas is so great! Bad Koalas is mostly finished, including art other than the cover. It’s coming to Kickstarter January 5th.

Joey: Bad Koalas has several different koala types and they are naughty naughty.

Dino: January 5th? What a scoop! Yeah, those Koalas seem pretty bad… Look at all that crime and mischief!

Joey: Yes they are in trouble. Not sure what the cowboy is doing though, not sure he is in the right game…

Dino: He should at least be wearing a black hat. Bad guy cowboys wear black hats, you know. There should be one loitering. That's pretty bad. Well, the one in the upper right might be doing just that…

Joey: I guess he fits the idea of rebel still.

Dino: How about one playing with its food? Or one removing the tag from the mattress?

Joey: I'll look into those! Thank you!

Dino: What will this game be like?

Joey: Visually it looks like solitaire, there are columns of koalas in a parade and if you get 3 or more awake koalas in the same column then that koala type riots, and each koala type riots in a different way. It's a bit like a card game of Pandemic; you are putting koalas into playpens to keep them out of the parade - to keep them from rioting
like tetris almost, but not in real time.

Dino: That sounds interesting! Is it for single players?

Joey: Works great solo but plays 1-4.

Dino: I love that! I am going to back that in a second! I have an idea that is better than "The Randomizer" by the way? It goes more with the theme: "Fate". What do you think?

Joey: Not bad!

Dino: Unlike those koalas, am I right?

Joey: Yes, the koalas are very bad.

Dino: Terrible! They probably steal candy from babies. I mean it's easy to pull off, sure, but it's definitely the wrong thing to do! Anyway, feel free to use "Fate," if you like...
I won't feel offended if you don't use it, but I will brag to everyone I know if you do.
What about the two Growl Sequels? Biters on the Boat was the first one? When is that happening? How will it differ from the Growl gameplay?

Joey: There's so many different sequels to GROWL, all totally different and each featuring a different monster with different gameplay. The sole feature that binds them is a face up deck and you give the top card to someone. Everything else is different. I’m tormented. I still sort of want to call the first sequel SUCK. Maybe I just won’t actually print the name on the box, so players can call it Suckers... or Biters on the Boat if they want. This sequel is still deep in playtesting but the newest version is very close to complete. You still give a card off the top of the deck, but this time there’s no player hands, just face-up cards in front of you, and some of the cards have a bite on the face-down side. The gameplay takes place on a boat, with the players on the deck keeping watch or going on supply runs, and the players in the cabins avoiding danger... unless their bunkmate happens to be a biter.

Dino: Wow to everything you just said except the title you want to go with! At least make it an acronym. Maybe if it has a four word title that can be abbreviated with those letters, it would be okay.

Joey: I feel like people who don't like the title might need to consider that THEY might be the one with the issue!

Dino: Hmm... And... How many people have been against the title? And how many have been for it?

Joey: Yeah, like GROWL is an acronym for GROwnups playing Werewolves and Lycanthropes.

Dino: It's telling, Joey! Interesting. Anyway, if you really want it, I suggest making it subtle or cleverly integrated. Then you get the best of both worlds. That's just my advice though. Knowing you, I'm sure the game will be fantastic regardless. The other one is Stay Awake. This one sounds like a difficult game for me considering all the time I spend teaching and taking care of my kids. After a while I just pass out, you know? What will this game be like and when will it come out?

Joey: I relate to your issue as a koala wrangler. Stay Awake is a very exciting concept, so I’m not quite ready to discuss it because I don’t know if I’m self-publishing it yet. This one is about pod people. There’s some They Live in there, as well as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of course. The ending of the game involves the pod people hissing at the humans. The win conditions are very different than the other two games in the series. This game has some things to say about conformity versus individualism, and I take the theme very seriously. I don’t want to ever force players to be pod people at the beginning. There’s no “starter” pod people. If you become a pod person it’s because you made a terrible mistake and were not able to stay awake... or because you went to sleep on purpose, which is a valid strategy but a terrible anti-human decision to make.

Dino: Whoa! I am intrigued!

Joey: By the way, I just checked my survey and 71% loved "SUCK" as a vampire game title and 29% hated it.

Dino: That can't be accurate! Who took that survey? Probably many people with oral fixations. That's biased! Any idea when either of these sequels might see the light of day? I'm guessing you may have a better idea for Biters on the Boat than Stay Awake...?

Joey: 300 respondents. yes, because there's nothing wrong with the name. Anyway, I'll finish Biters/Sucker by the end of this year design-wise and it will likely kickstart next spring, after Bad Koalas.

Dino: At the end of the day, though, I would back the game no matter what you called it, and I am just one voice. Listen to yourself before you listen to me. Next Spring? That's awesome! Nicely spacing these things out, aren't you?

Dino: Okay, that does look cool!

Joey: I have alternate versions of the name though.

Dino: And I admit, you might pass out trying to write Biters on a Boat in blood... The last project you told us about, and you were super cryptic about was called Calamity, Inc. I am guessing this is a big one. What is Calamity, Inc, and when is it coming out?

Joey: Calamity Inc. is my next MASSIVE ambitious project. It needs at least another year of development. It's easily 10 times more ambitious than Chaosmos.

Dino: Ten? That's... a lot! Because Chaosmos is already quite a big game!

Joey: This is a massive, massive undertaking and I’ve decided to take most of 2021 to design it. That’s all I’m willing to say about that for now. It is a massive leap forward mechanically for board games. I’m not even 100% sure it can be done as a board game. But I’m going to try my best. Let’s talk later next year about it.

Dino: Wow, okay! Will it feature any misbehaving marsupials or supernatural creatures?

Joey: It's a simple game; half of the components in the box are not really necessary; that's what happens when you Kickstart without planning. There actually is a misbehaving joey in the game but like I said, more on that later.

Dino: Ha! That's a pretty clever pun, you created there… Joey, we are so thrilled that you took time to be here today and for being such an important part of the community here at the Social Deduction Network! I hope everyone joins me in backing the new Growl Expansions Kickstarter this September 1st!

Joey: Thanks for hosting and I appreciate the support. Here’s the link, and everyone can go here to get notified when we launch.

Dino: I'll get Bad Boy Bail bonds on the line...