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Myth & Goal - Design Diary 1: Welcome, Sports Fans!

Hello! James here from Needy Cat Games.

For the better part of a year we’ve been working with Blacklist Games to design and develop the rules for Myth & Goal, and now we’re being given the opportunity to tell you the story of that process. Over the course of multiple designer diary entries like this one, we’ll be sharing some sneak peeks, giving you detailed breakdowns of gameplay and diving into the philosophy behind the game.

First up, though: who the heck are we?

Needy Cat Games is a small tabletop game design studio based in Nottingham, in the UK, run by me and Sophie Williams. We’ve both been working in and around tabletop games for almost two decades, and since setting up Needy Cat we’ve been lucky enough to work on a few big titles that have proven pretty popular (the most well-known being Hellboy: the Board Game for Mantic Games, Devil May Cry: the Bloody Palace for Steamforged Games, and – most relevant of all – Blitz Bowl for Games Workshop). Blitz Bowl was the game that caught the attention of Adam and Brady at Blacklist Games, but it wasn’t my first tabletop sports game. While I was at Games Workshop I was in charge of the rules for the 2016 relaunch of Blood Bowl, and a few years before that I got my first developer credit on DreadBall for Mantic Games. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the genre!

James Hewitt and Sophie Williams of Needy Cat Games

When Adam first reached out to me to talk about Myth & Goal we’d already chatted a few times in passing, but even if that hadn’t been the case his pitch would have caught my attention. Blacklist Games was already doing a great job of producing ranges of high quality, affordable fantasy miniatures, and wanted to get into the fantasy sports market. After all, the variety of “third party” Blood Bowl teams has seen a lot of growth over the past decade or so! That said, most of these teams are produced in metal or resin, which can be challenging for anyone who’s used to plastic, or who just wants to play the game without having to deal with assembling miniatures. It was exciting to hear that Blacklist Games wanted to release a solution to this, in the form of a line of single-piece plastic miniatures.

They didn’t just want to release the miniatures, though. Adam and Brady were really keen to release a game to accompany them – mainly because none of the games currently on the market seemed to tick all of their boxes! They wanted a fantasy sports game with crunch, strategy and team development, but one that still played quickly and was accessible to newcomers. I was glad to hear that Blitz Bowl was pressing a lot of the right buttons, but it had been very intentionally designed as a “gateway game” into the wider hobby, so it lacked the depth and progression that they were looking for.

The most important thing for me was that they didn’t just want yet another take on Blood Bowl – I felt like I’d drained that well pretty dry by this point, and I wanted to work on something that could stand on its own two feet and explore new ideas. They turned out to be totally in agreement, and I came out of that first Skype call buzzing with ideas. I quickly drafted an email with a couple of broad concepts for what the game could be, and suddenly the ball was rolling.

So what, exactly, is Myth & Goal?

Well, it’s a board game for 1-2 people (yes, solo play is fully integrated!), each taking control of a team of 8 Mythball players. There are four teams in the box – the Durnhold Anvils (dwarfs), the Belhurst Imperials (humans), the Westarch Ruffians (orcs) and the Athrian Sapphires (high elves). Choosing your team is as simple as picking one of these four Factions and adding a Team Focus, which lets you tweak their play style to suit your own. This also gives the game plenty of variety; a "Mighty" Westarch Ruffians team goes all-in on the heavy-hitting plays, but an "Indomitable" Westarch Ruffians team is able to keep its players from becoming exhausted too easily.

An example of Team Focus cards

Managers (which is what we call those playing Myth & Goal – i.e. you and your opponent) who want to customise their team further can swap out players with Free Agents; maybe your Durnhold Anvils are struggling to move the ball upfield, so you might trade out a defensive Guardian for an elven Vanguard player. You’ll also be able to customise and develop your team over the course of a league, full rules for which are included in the box!

The sport itself is loosely inspired by American Football, borrowing some cues from other real-world sports and adding a strong fantasy theme and flavour. Each team is trying to score in one of two ways: either throw the ball through the opponent’s Goal (an elevated hoop at their end of the field) or run it into their well-defended Bastion. Managers need to think ahead, as play only stops at the end of a Period – once a team scores, the other team will immediately have the chance to retaliate.

Some of the mythball players found in Myth & Goal

At its heart, the game is all about team management. I wanted to design a game where players start to get fatigued if they’re used a lot, and accrue penalty points for sloppy play. As time goes on, Managers are presented with tough decisions. Do they send their best player in, knowing they’re only one infraction away from being ejected from the game? Do they use their preferred squad of players, even though some of them are risking exhaustion?

This felt like a really interesting decision space, and again, one that I hadn’t seen explored in many tabletop sports games. As we’ve developed the game it’s become the main focus of gameplay, and it’s something we’re really proud of.

Speaking of gameplay, that sounds like a good topic for the next design diary, so I think it’s time to bring this first instalment to a close. Next time we’ll take a closer look at how teams are built and how players function on the field.

Myth & Goal is coming to Kickstarter on September 21, so make sure to sign up for updates and previews by visiting the Myth & Goal page so you're the first to know once we launch!

Also, make sure to follow Blacklist Games on Instagram to see the premiere of many exciting character art pieces!

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