Hitch your Way to Victory! (An Interview with Luca Caltabiano)


There are games with tightly wound mechanisms about building a microscopic economic system efficiently to score points faster than the other players in order to win.  And then there are games in which players attack each other wildly, hinder each other at every step, make deals and betray them, and hope that with a little skill and some luck sprinkled on top, they’ll finish on top.

CarmaRace is definitely the latter.  It’s a frantic racing game with a lot of “take that” elements that promises to be easy to learn, quick to play, and very customizable.  This game is now on Kickstarter and we had a chance to talk with the designer, Luca Caltabiano, to give you a better idea of what this game is all about.  Enjoy!@Futurewolfie is in bold italics, while Luca’s responses are regular weight.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, some personal background, how you got into gaming, etc.

Well, i’m an Italian 31 years old, getting married in January to a lovely girl who is helping so much during this campaign.  She and her friends played CarmaRace and really liked it, might have turned them into true gamers at last!

I grew up in Montreal, Canada and am still living here. I studied in film making and started making short films for film festivals and then started my video production company. One night, during gaming night, I wanted to try out a new camera I bought and so I filmed our gaming session. I put it online to show people the quality of the image and get some feedback, instead I got feedback about how good the video was and people wanted to see more.

So I started a small blog called Board to Death TV and it’s grown into what is it today. A video review site which distributors and retailers use to boosts sales.
I started at a young age when my brother bought Fireball Island! Must have been in the 80’s. Then from there we started playing Stratego and Lionheart and D&D, and haven’t stopped playing since.

Time to sell your game – describe CarmaRace for us in 1 sentence.
You’re playing as hitchhikers, racing across the continent using plane trains and automobiles, while wishing bad or good Karma on the other racers.

Nice. Okay, now you can give us a more detailed description of what your game is about.

It’s about ruining friendships! No no… just kidding. It’s a game about how far you’ll go to ruin the guy in front while helping the guy in back. It’s one of the only games I can think of which rewards you for helping your opponents. You see, you’re all hitchhikers, so at the start of your turn, you’ll jump into one of the 35 vehicles. Then the next phase is the Karma phase where players (including yourself) will play good or bad karma cards on your vehicle. This will affect your speed value and how much you will advance at the end of your turn. If someone plays a good karma card on you, they advance 2 spots while helping you advance as well. The road is full of surprises and you never know where your driver will take you.

What is your favorite game (Besides CarmaRace, of course)?

FireBall Island! Well it was my favourite game until I lost it, or broke it.. or something…

But I don’t really have one favourite game, it’s like video games for me, I play them till I can’t any more and then move on.I do go back to some games once in a while but I pull out the games that I think will suit the group I will play with. To me, the best game is the game that goes well with the group who is playing it. I have Dixit for one group, Seasons for another, Spartacus for another and so on…So I guess my answer would be “My favourite game, depends on my group for that night”

Did you draw any inspiration from other games or game designers in your design of CarmaRace?
I did. I have some Munchkin in there, Chutes and Ladders, Magic the Gathering (on some abilities) and probably others that my brain only knows of which I might have done subconsciously. A lot of people told me it reminds them of Milles Bournes or something like that, but I never got the chance to play that game.

Your game sounds interesting – especially the part about how helping your opponents can help you. One of the issues that “take-that” games often face is the hurt-the-leader aspect of it can cause the game to drag, because any time someone gets close to winning everyone hits them with everything they’ve got to stop them, and the winner ends up being the one who happens to be ahead when everyone runs out of spite cards. Does the game do anything to keep the game moving along, and to give the leader the possibility to play well and stay in the lead?

YES! We worked on that from the start. The thing that KILLS Munchkin for us is that being first sucks. Not in our game. Of course they will try to gang on up you, but imagine this. I am in last and YOU are in first. Now on my turn you make a deal with me and help me out so that I don’t play bad karma on you. Well, I agree so you help me (which makes you advance 2 spaces).

Now it’s your turn and I do not keep my promise and still try to stop you, even If I do stop you little, you still advance 2 spaces before. So the trick here is to try to get ahead early so that later on you can
help others while slowly getting to the finish line. The game NEVER comes to a halt this way, but most games (3 out of 4) will be close ones.

Can you recount one of the most exciting/interesting moments you’ve encountered in your game?
I think it was when we learned there was an accidental bluffing mechanic. You see, in the game you can stop anytime during your movement instead of going the whole distance of your vehicle.
So I ended up stopping next to an airport to take the plane. But then I drew a really nice car a the end of my turn.  However, everyone thought I was getting on the plane, so they all drew plane Karma cards hopping to hinder my flight. When it cam to my turn, I played a nice motorcycle! You should have seen their faces.  Not only was my ride fast, but they had NO road Karma in hand since they got ready for planes.  It was priceless… but hard to repeat too often.. still fun to do though.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome over the course of the game design?

It was to try and keep up with all the ideas we were getting for new cards. We really needed to narrow them down so that the artist could keep up with each card that we were inventing/creating. We still have lots of cards which will not be in STAGE 1, but will be used in our expansion packs. Another big challenge was doing other video reviews for other board games for Board to Death TV while play testing CarmaRace at the same time, however, doing this made us realize what fun game we are making and we knew we had the next Munchkin in our hands. Other then that, the process of making a game is super fun but a lot of work. I am lucky to have an awesome team of reviewers/friends who are always there for me and are ready to play games all the time. We love what we do.

Any final words? Anything else you want our audience to know?

I would like to tell the readers that not only supporting CarmaRace will get you a fun game, but you’re supporting our video reviews as well. And most of our fans tell us all the time that they saved money thanks to our reviews. So help us continue, and support CarmaRace, even if it’s just by sharing it with your social media. Everything helps.

Thank you.

Will CarmaRace be the next Munchkin?  Well you never know until you try.  In the meantime, the game is over halfway to its goal, and you can help it get all the way with your good Karma (and your money, of course).  Here’s the Kickstarter page for your convenience:

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

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