Sometimes all you need to start a fire is EMBER (By District 31 Limited and Stuart Garside)

Oh hey. It’s a new week isn’t it. I suppose I should do some writing then shouldn’t I? Well, this week, I’ll be getting the inside scoop on a game that will be coming to kickstarter soon, called Ember, from a gent who was involved in development of the game, Stuart Garside.

Who is that do you ask? Well, let’s learn a bit more about Stuart shall we.


I’ve worked in publishing for almost 30 years. I started with popular magazines and have had an in-print column in various forms for over a decade (although I’m currently on Sabbatical). My nonsense has featured in PC Zone, Shivers, Bizarre and many more magazines. I’ve also worked on Dungeons & Dragons, working with Wizards of the Coast, Cubicle 7 and many more companies.

And now for the nearly ritual rundown of the game that is being put in the spotlight, from Stuart Garside himself.


EMBER is a combination of TAROT and POKER where you draw cards to form “hands” which you can exchange for creatures that help you manipulate the game to your advantage.

The EMBER burns down every round until there are no more cards left in the DRAW DECK (and the game is over); the winner is the wizard who has gained the most VICTORY POINTS by CONJURING the rarest creatures. Yet it’s rarely that simple, for every creature has an ability which you can use to manipulate the cards in the game. Some creatures allow you to look at other players’ cards, while others allow you to draw additional cards, or even to force other players to discard their valuable cards. These wizards have reality at their command for, when playing EMBER, nothing is certain.

So, now that you’ve got a bit of background on Stuart, as well as Ember, let’s get into a few questions shall we?

Where did you come up for the idea of this game?

KaBlooey: the Explosive Card Game, was always my intended first game, but I’ve moved to a tiny seaside town in the UK and finding dedicated and reliable testers for a game of that complexity was all but impossible. You need to be able to play regularly – in the flesh – with a group of like-minded developers. So I was relying on taking it to conventions and such like, to get it tested, which was just a huge waste of time as getting the core mechanics tested in that kind of environment is really very difficult as everyone has such differing opinions…

SOOO. I thought: how can I combine an entry level game with something that will introduce District 31 to Kickstarter? AndEmber was just the most obvious choice. It’s really very simple, didn’t require the months of testing that KaBlooey did, and it’s just a fun and bright little game about magical creatures J

Was there a longer process while developing with a company? 

I think the process is gruelling when you’re self-publishing. When you write for someone else, you finish your game, get feedback from the publisher and that’s typically the last you see of it until release. In this case, releasing Ember for District 31, I’ve have to do pretty much everything myself. Fortunately, I’ve worked in publishing for almost thirty years, so this is far from the first game I’ve put to bed. Even still, the process is much more complex and SO MUCH in-depth than I ever realised. Working to release on Kickstarter (in any professional and meaningful way) is a massive undertaking! Just thinking about it gives me the collywobbles – I’m just going to lie under my bed with a cool towel on my forehead and cry myself to sleep! 😀

When the whirlwind of the release dies a little, what’s next for you?

I hope there IS a whirlwind! Although I’d settle for a really breezy afternoon 😀

Next is a game called – actually, it doesn’t have a name yet – but it’s an elemental battling game with yet more wizards (love the magic). It’s a game for lots of players, so it should be fun and fast with hopefully a new mechanic I’ve never seen before in a card game. That’s going on Kickstarter on 2nd Feb 2016 and we’ll be taking that a LOT more seriously in terms of reviews and artwork and promotion.

And then KaBlooey in June. And there’s The City RPG which is going to have to be slotted in there somewhere…
And District 31 is in the process of purchasing a fantasy adventure game from another really talented designer, so look for that next year, too! J

Basically, 2016 will be a busy year!

How stressful was the process of development?  

Oh development of a game like this is EASY. You write it, test it with yourself (on scraps of paper), then take it to your various groups (who are already fed up of playing an endless stream of your unreleased games and you have to blackmail them with pizza and sweeties). After that you just keep on spreading your net wider. Fortunately, the response has been incredibly positive, so it’s been easy to develop.

KaBlooey on the other hand – nightmare! Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to see a game based on their personal preferences. So you get “needs to be fantasy” from the same group who want to see “more guns” or “more zombies”. It’s very hard to keep your end and original goal in mind when everyone is saying completely contradictory things.

At what point in development did you know that you could really get behind this project to make it a reality? 

I’m a completer finisher, so I knew it would be a reality as soon as I played my first game (I write a lot of games and only a few make my own Stewie Seal of Approval). It was fun and there’s nothing to it that people wouldn’t like (apart from, maybe, it’ll be too simple for many people who are really into those gruellingly long Eurogames). I’ve been writing games solely with the intention of releasing them on Kickstarter, so it’s a case of brainstorming like crazy and then following up with HARD work to make that a reality!

How did you enjoy making the art for this game? 

I always loathe doing art design. The problem is no artist ever really shares your vision, so unless you’re George Lucas with millions of dollars, you can’t afford to keep throwing art at a project until someone gets it “right”. So while I love getting the art back, it’s always very stressful as you have to balance up what you have received with your vision. In this case I’m really happy with the art, although I won’t deny I’m hoping the project does well enough that I can have the artist spend a few more hours on every piece J

What piece of art in the game to you like the best?

The cover. All those blues and purples. You probably can’t see on the box art as it’s quite dark, but the high resolution finished version has loads of colour in it J It’s gorgeous. As I was saying about vision, the wizards should never really have beards (to me they’re 16 to 18 year old apprentices) and there should really have been a female wizard, but it’s such a lovely cover. I have absolutely no complaints

Any plans for expansion packs of any sort? Or other games of similar theme?

There will be an expansion released with the Kickstarter. Ember: Legendary Creatures pack contains 15 of the legendary creatures from mythology (the core set is more generic monsters). But you can probably imagine who you’ll see when I mention legendary creatures… Maybe some monsters from TV and movies, perhaps? The Legendary creatures have all kinds of new powers and they add a new mechanic to the game. It should be exciting.

Beyond that, it’s such a small game that 110 cards will probably be it. I could see a few other expansion packs but as they come in sets of 15, it would probably not be worthwhile. We’ll have to see. When you’re running a Kickstarter, everything is up in the air until you’ve made your goals.

What can you tell me about the Kickstarter you’ve got going?

It starts 13th October 2015 at noon GMT. It’ll feature an online launch party with prizes and a really insanely hard geek lore competition. Very excited. I’ve genuinely no idea how well Ember is going to do, mainly because the art is great and the Kickstarter presentation will be really gorgeous, but, well, anything could happen. I’m quietly optimistic, but we’ll see…

Ember is around 90 cards (depending on Stretch Goals) and is for 3 to 5 ages 8+. Best of all, it plays a full game in about 15 minutes. So it’s nice a quick. It’s also retailing at £12, which is a really low price for a game with linen cards and a nice box!

What is your target audience for this game?

I think it’s a great entry level game. So hopefully everyone (who is into this kind of light and breezy game). It’s brilliant with kids as they love the creatures, but generally gamers (especially Poker players) will love this game. Anyone who likes card collecting or card game variants will find it a fun change.
I would say it’ll be popular with families as it’s really an innocent game. No fighting, no nastiness, just wholesome monster conjuring fun!

What plans have you got for future retail placement if any?

With Ember. None. Again, it’s so small, there’s really no point. You’ll be able to purchase it from our website and it will be on sale at a few stores around the country, but I didn’t even approach the wholesalers who took the last few books I wrote. Maybe I should. Maybe I will, if it does well enough!

Where can someone go to give their support of your game? 


Our website (under development – goes live 13th October 2015 at noon):

That is just about it for this week! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this game, and I look forward to giving you something else equally excellent next week! Always remember, I love you all!

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