ICv2 caught up with Funko Games Producer and Game Developer Chris Rowlands and Director of Marketing – Games Jessica Aceti, two of the folks involved in the Funkoverse board game launch, at San Diego Comic-Con, and learned more about the strategy, the launch, future plans for the line, and more. 

The first games in Funko Games’ new line were announced at San Diego (see “Funko Unveils Funkoverse Board Games”). There will be six SKUs in the launch range, with two- and four-player games tied to Batman and Harry Potter, and two-player games tied to Rick and Morty and The Golden Girls. Launch date for all channels, including hobby game stores, is October 1.

Funko's entry into the board game space was announced at New York Toy Fair when the company announced the acquisition of Forrest‑Pruzan, a development studio with experience in creating licensed games (see"Funko Moves into the Games Business," later vowing to “disrupt” the board game business (see "Funko Plans to 'Disrupt' Board Game Business").

When it announced the Forrest-Pruzan acquisition, Funko said that it was going to disupt the game business. In what ways are these games revolutionary?
Chris Rowlands:  Funko is known for tapping into fans, true fans, of properties, literally fans of everything. For us at Forrest‑Pruzan, now Funko Games, the thing that we're really excited about is the ability to expand who we are targeting games to, outside of the casual gaming sphere. At Funkoverse, we have a Golden Girls board game that we think is really awesome. We feel like that's going to be able to hit a totally different fan than we might have if were just doing standard strategy games. It allows us to kind of flex our creative muscles. We really like the opportunity to work with all sorts of different licenses; we love the challenge of capturing these IPs and then game-ifying them in unique and fun ways. Funkoverse is unique because it's so broad: you have Batman, you have Harry Potter; but then you also have things like Golden Girls and Rick and Morty to round out the entire system. And we feel that's something that's really special and hasn't been done before!

Is the idea to take these different IPs and skin similar engines, or are the engines varied by the IP?
Rowlands: The Funkoverse gaming system is one engine. We created it so that if you are a Harry Potter fan, you pick up the Harry Potter Funkoverse set. You can learn the rules, learn how to play the game, play the scenarios that are in that game. And then, if you're also a Batman fan, you can pick up the Batman set, and jump right into the Batman Funkoverse. The system is one universal system for all of the different games. But then, of course, each game itself captures the individual characters and what they're all about.

A big challenge with this game was that every single character in the Funkoverse is somebody's favorite character. It wasn't enough to just make Batman, who's one of my personal favorite superheroes of all time, I couldn't just make him super-powerful, that he could beat up everyone in Gotham. You had to know that someone else is going to come in there and say, “Harley's my favorite character, I want her to be super powerful.” We tried to create a system where we balanced everything across the board to make sure that everyone is a viable, fun character to play and they're all unique in their own ways.

Jessica Aceti: As a company, we pride ourselves on making experiences that are unique, innovative, and something you haven't seen before in games. We've always been all about that. We want to continue doing that.

It looks like another common element, besides the engine, is that all the games have Pop! figures?
Aceti:  They're not your traditional Pop! figures, they're a new size. We wanted to honor Funko and the history of Funko, obviously, by having a Pop! in the game, but it's a new size.  They also have items that are consequential in the gameplay. Harley has an item that she uses in the game; she has her mallet, that has special abilities in the game. We're not just bringing Pop!s into the game, we're also bringing these items that have some sort of consequence.

How do you describe the game engine?
Rowlands: If players are familiar with tactical board games, this is kind of that. Each character, when you perform with that character you have a menu of actions that you can take: you can move around the board; you can do challenges; you can interact with parts of the map. Then you also have special abilities that you can do, as well.

There are four different scenarios in each box. They tell you different ways that you can score points. In one scenario called Territory, it's kind of a king-of-the-hill scenario where all of our figures score points if we can occupy a certain area of the map. Your strategies for those characters are going to be going to that location and trying to push your opponents out. We have a Flag scenario, which is more about getting across into the other side of the board to where your opponent starts.

The mechanisms that we use are we have dice for doing challenges. Batman can do a punch to someone; he can do a "Pow!" to someone. Joker can lay down some mystery boxes. Those are traps that you can lay. That's all governed through this universal system that we call the Cooldown System, which is a pretty simple, intuitive resource mechanism where players can spend resources in order to do more powerful abilities.

That's the core of the game. Ultimately, if we're playing across the table from each other, I'm Batman and Batgirl. On my turn, I'm going to pick up my characters and go do some stuff, then you're going to take a turn with one of your characters. We're going to go back and forth until we score enough points to win the game.

Who's the target audience?
Aceti:  The target audience for this is pretty broad. That's something that our studio, in general, is very good at. We like to create games where we're bringing in a new audience to play board games, so a lot of the time we'll create games that are more strategic or light strategic games that are in the mass market. It brings in a new kind of gamer. They're robust enough where core and hobby gamers are really excited to play; there's enough depth in the game to continue to play.

What's the difference between the bigger boxes versus the smaller boxes?
Rowlands:  At launch, we have six SKUs. There is a Batman and a Harry Potter four‑character set. Then, there's a Batman two‑character set, Harry Potter two‑character set, Rick and Morty two‑character set, and Golden Girls two‑character set.

All of the games are playable on their own. We call the smaller ones “expand-alones” because they can expand into the system. For example, if you have the Batman 4-pack, you can buy the Batman 2-pack, and mix and match those characters, and play them together. But each game is a standalone game that you can play on your own.

The two-character games are also stand-alone?
Rowlands: The two-character games are stand-alone as well. If you're just a huge superfan of Rick and Morty, you can buy the Rick and Morty box. That's a fully playable game experience out of the box. That was something that was really important to us because, as Jess said, our target audience for this is really broad. We know that this is an opportunity for us, as gamers, to get Funko fanatics into games, we wanted to make that as easy as possible. We are very adamant about anything you pick off the shelf and buy that's Funkoverse: that's a playable experience. You might just buy it for the Pop!s and then sit there. It's Christmas morning. You get your figures. You're like, "You know what? I've got some time. Let's try to learn this game and play it." Boom! All of a sudden we're making new gamers. That's something that's intriguing to us. Everything is playable off the shelf. Then, like you said, you have the bigger core sets and then the expand-alones can build up on the experience.

We see the two-character boxes are for two players, the four-player for two to four players. Does that mean you can play with six if you put them together?
Rowlands: That's an interesting question. In the rules of the game we tell you how to play it in a four‑player game.

Another part of this system that I'm hoping we can create is this feeling that this is a sandbox. We want people to play the game how they would like to play. There's nothing stopping you from combining your four-pack, your two-pack, and then a few other friends and playing a six‑player game. Each player, then, would be controlling one figure on their own and doing some teams. We built the system in a way to promote that type of play. We wanted to create this feeling of having a toy box. You have all of your toys. You can mix and match them, put them together, and play how you want to play. That's how we want people to treat the Funkoverse. The rules support four, but I'm really hoping that the community pulls through and comes up with other variants. Something we might look forward to, in the future if the game continues to grow, is incorporating some more multiplayer scenarios. Really, two-to-four is the sweet spot. That's mostly because in a four‑player game, you're playing teams. You and a friend are against your brother and your brother's friend. We wanted to create that team dynamic.

If they were going to try six, it would be two three person teams?
Rowlands:  Exactly right. More players means more cooks in the kitchen, I guess.

Funko's known for collectibles. Are there any collectible aspects to these games; it's the same figures in every box, right?
Rowlands:  It's not a blind box purchase. You know what you're going to get every time you purchase it.

Aceti:  I think the figures, in and of themselves...We're already seeing people, once we talked about the game. We released the news about the game. People are considering the figures in and of themselves somewhat collectible, especially because they have items. It's a new kind of Pop! figure, but we want people to play the game.

It's not really billed as a collectible product...
Aceti:  It's built to play. We really want people to engage with it and to play the game. Obviously, we know that people get really excited about anything, any sort of Pop! figures. It's inevitable. I think some of them will become collectible.

Is that it for this year? What's the pace of releases going to be for Funkoverse products?
Aceti: That's it for this year, but we have some things that we're working on that we're really excited about for next year. We want to make sure that we're supporting the system. We're continuing to add to it. People are excited about it. We're looking at something maybe as early as Spring next year to continue. We're looking to announce that later in the year.

How many SKUs in 2020? Any idea?
Aceti: It's tricky to say exactly how many right now because we're still working on that. There will be enough to continue supporting the system.

Rowlands: I want to speak from the game design team standpoint. We're exploring a lot of different possibilities within the system. There's no upper limits to what's possible. I think Golden Girls proves that. Golden Girls being in the game means that anything's on the table.

We're hoping to create a system that you can learn in 10 minutes, but you're playing 10 years from now. Part of that longevity is looking at what is a sustainable release schedule. Unfortunately, we don't really know that until we start getting the product in the hands of customers and start to see direction from the stores. We're starting to research and plot what an organized play program might look like for hobby stores. All those factors will work together to determine what the market will bear and what we think players will gravitate towards.

Coming from a hobby games background, I've seen it on both sides. I've seen games come out that I really loved that are not supported often enough. I've seen games come along that I really loved that are supported so much that I couldn't keep up with them. We're trying to strike that balance and do the best we can to make sure that this is a game that's played for years and years to come.

Aceti: From a license perspective, though, we have a lot of licenses that the studio's really excited about from a gameplay perspective. There are certain licenses that work really well for this. Obviously, we moved forward with these licenses because we're looking for things, especially for our base games, that have these really robust worlds that you can dive deep into and continue to support with additional characters. We will continue supporting the worlds that we've put out there this year. Then, we will have some new licenses, as well.

Are these games built to expand or would you start over? For example, you've got a Batman game. There's two SKUs right now. Would you add SKUs to the Batman game, or to other DC characters, or both?
Rowlands: I think it's pretty safe to say that we'll explore either. I think what Jess was alluding to was that you're going to see new IPs appear in the Funkoverse for the first time. We're not just going to stop here. We're going to keep building on that. You will also likely see other characters pop up. I think that's the nature of the product. We're excited to explore all sorts of options.

As Jess said, the reason we picked some of our studio's most beloved fandoms (Harry Potter, Batman) is that these are things that we know that we can really dive really deep into if the community wants that and the customer base is there for it. Of course, we're all fans of different things, too. We want to see everything. We have a lot of stuff in our brainstorm folder. We're excited to see how the community responds to these. I think that these six SKUs, like I said, run the gamut. I think that if you think of Batman, you might guess there was a strategic miniatures-style game that was a Batman game. That's a good fit. Then when you throw in something like Golden Girls, that's out of left field. That's what we wanted to do with this launch, is to say we're going to cover all the bases; we're going to do those classic IPs that you love; we're going to do some new, hot IPs like Rick and Morty; then we're going to do off-the-wall IPs that are also beloved, like Golden Girls. We want to let people know that there's no restraint. We can go any direction we want and let people's imagination run wild.

I see from the boxes these are all for ages 10 and up?
AcetiRick and Morty's actually 13 and up.

Is that due to content?
Rowlands: That was something that was just Rick and Morty being a little bit more mature property. We didn't want mom to pick it up and lump it in with Harry Potter not knowing what the cartoon was about or that kind of thing.

Does that mean there's that age range based on the age range of the core IP or because of content in the game?
Rowlands: It depends on, I'd say, the core IP. We stay true to the philosophy of the game, of the IP.

It was more from the license perspective and from looking at the Rick and Morty show. Again, it's because of the core material. We didn't put any cuss words or anything in to the game. There's nothing in the game that's particularly mature.

Aceti: Mechanically, it's still synonymous with the other games in the system.

When you go out with the games to mass, are you going to display with other Funko products or with other games?
Aceti: We really want to make sure that we're in the game aisle. Being Funko Games is new for Funko. We want people that are walking down the game aisle to see Funko in the game aisle and understand that Funko is making games. This is just the first series of games from Funko. We're going to have all sorts of other games that we're coming out with next year. We want people to become familiar, seeing our name in the game aisle.

What are the price points?
Aceti: The 4-packs are $39.99. The 2-pack expand-alones are $24.99.

Forty bucks and four figures, so....
Aceti: Four figures, four game scenarios. Pretty unlimited gameplay.

Four game scenarios. I guess that's a way to expand these, add scenarios, right?
Rowlands:  Yeah. Across all the first six SKUs we have four scenarios. Each box has the same four types of scenarios. Of course, each box also comes with two different maps. The maps change from pack to pack.

Each game board is double-sided with different maps having different obstacles and depicting different areas of the worlds that they exist in. The scenarios are the same. Future releases might incorporate new scenarios, but again, being mindful of what our thoughts are and our plans are for trying to build a solid player base (especially once you start getting into things like organized play), we didn't want to have so many unique scenarios that a new player is completely overwhelmed to have to learn all of them. It's four scenarios. They all play differently. You're going to have different strategies in each of the four. You might want to choose different combinations of characters to play the different four scenarios. Those are the same through all the games.

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