Courtesy of Greater Than Games
Greater Than Games_2
Art Director Adam Rebottaro, Design Director Christopher Badell, and Operations Director Paul Bender joined forces to found Greater Than Games in January 2011.
By Evan Wood
In August of 2010, Christopher Badell and Adam Rebottaro were sitting in a Kansas City iHop, writing in a notebook, creating a board game within the margins of its pages. About one year later, they were on the road to an Indianapolis gaming convention called Gen Con. They had a finished, playable version of their game—Sentinels of the Multiverse—in hand but not enough money to buy gas for their trip back home. “We just barely made it there,” Christopher says. “We thought, ‘well, I hope we sell some games.’ ”
Sentinels was an instant success. According to Christopher, they had a line of people at the convention waiting to play it every day.
Since then, their company, Greater Than Games, has published three expansions and
an entirely separate board game. More projects are on the way.
Right away, Sentinels is different from the average board game. All players are on a team, and their opponent is the game itself—but don’t be fooled. The game is challenging.
In Sentinels of the Multiverse, players are heroes, working together to fight a villain. For each hero, there is a separate deck of cards containing that hero’s abilities and equipment. Meanwhile, the villain also has its own deck, and each card has instructions so that the actions of the villain are automated and random. During the villain’s turn, a player draws one of its cards, reads the instructions, and follows them.
Although Christopher and Adam originally created Sentinels because it was a game they
wanted to play. Paul Bender, operations director at Greater Than Games, saw the game’s market potential and encouraged Christopher to start a company.
After funding their first game out-of-pocket, Greater Than Games has used the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to cover the production costs of new projects, and it has proved to be a reliable formula. Every project has reached or exceeded its funding goal, with one project reaching $185,200—926 percent of its original $20,000 goal.
These numbers are easy to understand once you’ve played one of their games. They’re fun, easy-to-learn, and flush with stories and eye-catching, comic-book-style art. In fact, instruction manuals for all of their games are comics.
We sat down with Christopher, Adam, and Paul at their St. Louis office to talk origins, future plans, and game preferences.
The company has built upon the success of its earlier games with its recent release, Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom, where players play on a grid system, rather than with cards.
MISSOURI LIFE: What games are you playing these days?
Christopher: The only game that we like better than the games we make is running Greater Than Games. Any of the games that we make, they’re designed to be our favorite games. But the game of running Greater Than Games— it’s a worker placement, resource allocation, risk management, cooperative game. There’s a traitor mechanic because Adam is constantly trying to undermine us. He puts salt in the coffee and hides explosives under the desks.
Adam: [laughs] None of that happens.
Christopher: Running a business is such a game. And it’s very easy to see whether you’re getting points or not.
ML: What type of games are you drawn to?
Christopher: Adam and I have been friends for about twenty years, and Paul and I have been friends for six or seven years. We’ve all played lots of games. We like a lot of competitive games and cooperative games, and we like learning new games. I think the main thing is that we like games that have a story.
Adam: I think that’s just generally true of our lives, that story is more important to us than anything.
ML: Your first game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, is very cooperative, and you said you prefer cooperative games. Where do you think that penchant comes from?
Christopher: A big reason why Sentinels came about was because we wanted to have a game that didn’t require someone to run it. You played against the game, and the game was good enough and clever enough that it would be challenging. We have a lot of friends who like playing games with us but who are much more casual gamers or don’t have as much interest.
Adam: Growing up, Christopher and I both had younger brothers, and we were both way more into games than our younger siblings.
Christopher: If the two of us and our brothers played a game that was competitive at all, it wouldn’t be fun for them.
Adam: We would know how to play the games already, and our brothers were new to gaming.
Christopher: And if it’s not fun for them, then, invariably, it’s not going to be fun for us. So we had to find ways that all of us could play games together. Adam and I took a bunch of games that were not cooperative and made them cooperative. And it became a self-fulfilling prophecy when we ended up creating games where we were working together.
ML: Sentinels is easy to learn, but it is also very complex. Did it start that way?
Christopher: When we created the game, we said it was easy to learn but difficult to master. It’s easy to sit down and play the game; there are only three things that you need to know. Everybody can get right in. But then, between figuring out the villains and playing advanced mode, you should never run out of ways to play. You should never be able to predict how it’s going to go. Some of the characters are more straightforward, but the strategy of how to use them is a lot more robust.
Adam: A large part of that is just the amount of cards and the amount of decks you can play. It’s always been important to have variety. There ended up being around twelve thousand possible setups just from the core set. Beyond that, there are infinite games possible.
Christopher: We made this game to be able to play for ourselves and to be able to play it forever and never get bored.