WHEN PEOPLE GENERALLY TALK ABOUT MONSTERS, IT’S USUALLY THE HORROR MOVIE VARIETY…DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, FREDDY KRUEGER, MICHEAL MYERS, AND SO ON. WHAT MOST FORGET IS THAT HISTORY IS CHOCK FULL OF “MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES, ANCIENT GODS AND GROTESQUE demons” just as eager to haunt our nightmares. This week’s clubhouse guest, however, has not forgotten those hidden horrors of history and literature. In fact, they’re among his favorite. So much so that he’s spent the past few years conjuring up a card game in which you can summon them—on purpose!
A corporate web designer and developer by day and a cosmonaut* of the creepy and strange by night, artist ANDY HUNT is also a student of the darker side of mythology—an interest which led him to create NECRONOMICARDS, a horror themed tabletop card game that was recently publicly released. I caught up with Hunt to learn more about the game and where he plans to take it next.
LET’S START THIS OFF WITH SOMETHING SIMPLE…PEPSI OR COKE?
ANDY HUNT: Uh, is that even a question? Has anyone ever answered “Pepsi”? If so, did you immediately scream INTERVIEW OVER in their face and walk out? Because you should have… You absolutely should have…
IT MAY HAVE LED TO A FEW DISPUTES. MOVING ON, YOUR NAME IS AN ANAGRAM FOR ‘YA DUN NTH’…FESS UP, ARE YOU REALLY ONE OF THE OUTER GODS IN DISGUISE?
AH: It is also an anagram for “Handy Nut” and “Ad Thy Nun” but unlike “Ya Dun Nth” neither of those phrases will open temporal hellmouths when whispered backwards during a blood moon. I think.
Actually, you know, I haven’t tried Ad Thy Nun, I’ll give that a shot next time I’m calling home.
…ALRIGHT “ANDY”, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
AH: I’m from a tiny town in North Carolina, and while I’ve drifted around quite a bit, I’m still in NC, living in the liberal bubble just outside of Chapel-Hill & Durham. By day I do web design in the marketing department of a software company, and under the black of night I do freelance design & illustration, and draw weird stuff, and create fun creepy things like my card game NecronomiCards. I’ve also got a wife and toddler and a ton of cats, so I genuinely don’t know what sleep means anymore.
BACKING UP A BIT, YOU GRADUATED IN 2004 FROM APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY WHERE YOU EARNED A BFA IN GRAPHIC DESIGN. DID YOU LEARN ILLUSTRATION THERE AS WELL, OR IS THAT A TALENT YOU HAD GROWING UP?
AH: I did take an illustration class and a ton of drawing and painting classes while I was there, but it was always a love for me long before college. I struggled for years trying to figure out if I was an illustrator who designs or a designer who illustrates, and then I realized that was a stupid question. I’m neither. I’m just a bag of meat that breathes.
WHAT LED YOU PURSUE A CAREER IN THE DESIGN FIELD, SPECIFICALLY, VERSUS BECOMING A FULL-TIME ILLUSTRATOR?
AH: The primary answer for that is that I genuinely like making things that people interact with everyday look good and be more pleasant to interact with. It makes the world a better place in general. The lame answer for that is that I’m a big fan of having steady work. There’s always been a huge part of me that would absolutely love to be a full-time freelance illustrator (and more recently game designer), but I’m also a big fan of knowing for sure that I’ll always have a steady source of money and health insurance.
Plus I’ve always been good at shuffling my work around to make free time to also do illustration and other more fun projects. If an opportunity ever came by that would allow me to do dark/weird/fun illustration type work full time and still comfortably support my family I’d be in there like swimwear.
AS A FREELANCER, YOU’VE WORKED FOR SOME PRETTY INTERESTING BRANDS…CRACKED, MARVEL, BINDING OF ISAAC AND HASBRO TO NAME A FEW. WHAT’S BEEN ONE (OR TWO) OF THE MOST INTERESTING COMMERCIAL PROJECTS YOU’VE WORKED ON?
AH: I think the most fun I’ve had in a while working on a commercial project was illustrating the Nightwalkers shirt/poster for Cracked.com. I’d done a few small design projects for them, and I was even a freelance article editor for the website for a little while, which mostly involved finding funny images to accompany articles and punching them up with jokey little captions. They contacted me one night and asked if I was interested in doing a Walking Dead parody of the famous Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks, and of course I jumped all over that. It was seriously fun to do. So far as I know you can still buy prints and shirts of it in their store.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER HOW YOU JUST RECENTLY ENTERED THE WORLD OF GAME DESIGN WITH NECRONOMICARDS. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT IS EXACTLY?
AH: NecronomiCards is a really simple game to pick up. You have two decks of cards: Spell cards and Summon cards. Spell cards have different magic symbols and runes on them that you’re trying to combine together in different combinations of matching pairs. When you put together the right combinations you get to discard those cards to draw from the Summon deck. Summon cards have an illustration of some sort of monster, demon, or mythological creature and an action that either helps you or hurts another player. Every time you play a Summon card you earn a point, and the first person to get seven points wins. Also shuffled into the Spell cards are Curse cards which can cause you to lose turns, discard cards, etc.
It’s pretty brutal and backstabby, with Summon card actions causing other players to lose multiple turns, discard their cards, and other painful setbacks. You never know when a card will come along that sets you way back or gives you a massive edge.
IT WAS ORIGINALLY ENVISIONED AS A MOBILE GAME CALLED ABRACAPOCUS. HOW DID THE GAME EVOLVE FROM THAT ORIGINAL CONCEPT INTO NECRONOMICARDS?
AH: It was originally going to be a very different game geared more towards kids. The object was going to involve using touch controls to quickly and accurately trace magic symbols as ghostly images of them appear on the screen to summon and collect monsters. I really liked the idea of making a game that taught kids about different world mythologies, because that’s what I was into as a kid. Unfortunately that was a project I couldn’t develop myself and I had a hard time trying to raise money to hire developers, to I decided to rework it into a card game. As a card game I knew I could do everything myself and not have to rely on other people’s abilities. With that change the target audience shifted toward older players and I decided to get a lot darker and weirder with the art style.
YOU ILLUSTRATED THE ENTIRE SET OF CARDS YOURSELF, CORRECT? IS THERE A PARTICULAR CARD AND/OR CREATURE THAT YOU ENJOYED WORKING ON THE MOST?
AH: Yep, I did all of the art and design myself. I think my favorite card in the game so far (I am planning expansions) is the Jabberwock. It has some of the weirdest art in the game, and the joke of the card is that it’s totally nonsense and does absolutely nothing. Apparently that joke went over pretty well because at PAX West I had a bunch of people ask me to sign that card for them!
SYMBOLS SEEM TO BE AN IMPORTANT PART OF NECRONOMICARDS. DID YOU REFERENCE ANY SPECIFIC SOURCES WHEN CHOOSING THEM FOR THE GAME?
AH: They came from all over the place. Tons of nordic sigils and runes, symbols from demonology grimoires, etc. Anything that looks cool and cryptic has a place.
ANY “SAFETY PRECAUTIONS” PLAYERS SHOULD BE AWARE OF? LAST THING I’D WANT IS A LICH SHOWING UP IN MY LIVING ROOM…
AH: The only real precaution I’d say is if you have any evangelicals in your family don’t let them sneak off and burn it “for bein’ a wicked tool of the Debil”.
YOUR KICKSTARTER FOR THE GAME WAS A HUGE SUCCESS. ARE YOU ALREADY CONSIDERING EXPANSION SETS AND/OR ADDITIONAL PRODUCTS FOR THIS LINE?
AH: I am! I’m currently starting to plan expansion decks that add tons of new monsters and deeper levels of gameplay complexity, and I’m definitely going to try to use Kickstarter again to do pre-orders. I also have a few other fun ideas for unrelated games that I’m hoping I’ll have time to work on soon.
OKAY, LAST QUESTION…PEPSI OR COKE? …NO, WAIT, WE DID THAT ONE. UM…HERE WE GO: WHAT’S THE STRANGEST THING YOU REMEMBER DOING AS A KID?
AH: Oh, jesus… hrmm… I was a pretty normal kid. I pretty much just blew up M.U.S.C.L.E. Men with firecrackers, obsessively collected Monsters In My Pocket, and spent hours playing the Darkman NES game, the usual stuff. You know, I covered my face in peanut butter and howled at the moon like everyone else. I mean, you know, I had weird moments I guess, playing with guts, but whatever, kids will be kids, right?
HIGH FIVE TO THAT — NOW LET’S GO RAISE THE DEAD!
*EDITOR’S NOTE: To my knowledge Hunt is not Russian…’cosmonaut’ just sounds so much cooler than ‘astronaut’. Amirite?