One of the many big announcements to come out of Skybound’s Invincible 20th Anniversary panel at SDCC 2023 was Invincible: The Hero-Building Game. A tabletop game from Skybound and Dire Wolf Digital, it’s one of several new games we’ll have at this week’s Gen Con 2023. To get ourselves amped for its arrival, we sat down and spoke with the two folks responsible for the game: Scott Martins, President of Dire Wolf, and Kevin Spak, Design Director and Lead on Invincible: The Hero-Building Game. Here’s what they had to say…
How did you discover Invincible?
KS: I first heard about it in Wizard magazine, if that gives you an idea of how old I am. [Laughs.] Very early on, I heard about this great new superhero comic, with this big twist, where the dad is evil. So I got in pretty early. It was on my pull list, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I thought it was an amazing comic.
SM: I had also read the whole series. I got into it digitally just in the last few years. I got the compendiums and basically read them all on my iPad.
How did the relationship between Dire Wolf and Skybound began?
SM: Obviously, you all have your own internal team with Skybound Tabletop. So I basically sought out an introduction with Garima (Sharma) [Skybound’s VP of Product & Strategy], and said to our team, “Hey, let’s get together a pitch for this IP and see if they would be willing to work with an external party on publishing and development.”
So we reached out specifically with this pitch. A connection was made through a mutual friend, and we just started talking, showed the pitch, got into the conversation, and basically came to the table with an idea for making a game based on the IP.
What were your objectives for the game and how did you approach them?
KS: What really unlocked it for me was realizing that at the core of Invincible, it’s about character growth. It was about young heroes figuring out what they can do, what they should do. And in game terms, that meant we could make the game about progression, which of course is one of the most fun dynamics in gaming, just getting more powerful over time.
So that’s where we started with the idea that it was going to be a hero-builder, where your power increases over the course of the game.The first version of it was a dice game. We started with like a Yahtzee-like mechanism, and then added a more Push Your Luck concept.
But the core idea was always that it was going to be a game about learning to be a hero and getting better over time. Eventually we moved to this current bag builder system, which really made the game play more fluidly. It was just a more elegant system.
SM: And it focused on co-op, teaming up with your friends to defeat the bad guys as you’re all growing together.
KS: In terms of co-op, one thing that I think people will be really interested in is we’ve got this free-form system. Where you don’t just have my turn, your turn. Everybody gets to play at once. It makes it take on this superhero battle feel. Where everybody’s coordinating and working together, but it also plays pretty snappily. Over the course of turns, you’re not only dealing damage to bad guys, but also building up your confidence. That confidence is what you use to learn new powers for future rounds of the game.
There are so many characters in Invincible. It’s such a diverse, eclectic group of characters. How did you guys arrive at the four you chose for this game?
KS: It just seemed obvious from the beginning that those were the core characters. Obviously, you have Mark and Eve, those are kind of mainstays throughout the series. Rex and Robot distinguished themselves as the most prominent of those early characters, the ones I would want to see as a fan of the game.
They’re definitely favorites! How do you describe the game to the uninitiated?
KS: The simple version I’d say is it’s a game where you work together as heroes to defeat villains and are constantly learning new powers and constantly taking big risks for big rewards.
What’s your favorite element of the game?
KS: For me, it’s all the crazy combos you can build. There are these ultimate powers that you have to build up to over the course of a turn. Sometimes there are big payoffs for these different ways you can construct your hero. That’s a big thing for me.
The other thing I love in this game is there’s a lot of fun, high-leverage Push Your Luck moments where everybody is watching to see your next pull from the bag and whether you’re gonna crash or not. And everybody is watching to see if you’re gonna succeed in rescuing another player.
SM: Yeah, it’s the bag-building and bag pulling aspect of this. We first did it in our in our Clank! series. It’s almost like sitting around a craps table right where you’re waiting to see what happens when somebody pulls the cubes out of the bag, and it creates this really fun social energy to the game where we’re each anticipating what’s going on with the other players.
What do you think Invincible fans – those folks who either watch the show or have read all 144 issues of the comic – will appreciate about the game?
KS: Hopefully they’ll see our love for the material shine through. I think we were trying to hit that specific tone for Invincible. Where it’s bright and it’s fast paced and it’s fun, but it also takes everything seriously to a degree where there’s consequences to your actions. Our hope is that the game is fast-paced, accessible, and easy to get into, like the comics. But also, when you mess up, people die. It’s going to have that tone and feel that they expect from Invincible.
SM: I think one of the one of the things that the Dire Wolf design team does particularly well is design content around themes. We feel like we accomplished that with Dune: Imperium, and we’ve worked on other IP-based games. Matching up the villains, matching up the mechanics, matching up basically the whole thing so that when one of the villains hits the board you go, “Ah, of course! This is what they do!”
KS: From the ground up, that was always what we were hoping to capture with Invincible.
Do you each have a favorite Invincible character?
KS: It changes each time I read through it. I think I would say either Allen or Dinosaurus. I can’t wait for the show to get to Dinosaurus, and I hope we get to do him in the game someday.
SM: Is it wrong to say Omni-Man? [Laughs.] Actually, one of my faves is Monster Girl. A super cool, wacky, interesting character. She reminds me of my daughter. [Laughs.]
What are your plans at Gen Con for Invincible?
SM: We are headed to Gen Con this week. We’re gonna have prototypes of the game playable and for people to check out in our event room 233. We had listed this in the hopes that it would all get approved in time, four or five months ago – “Come check out an unannounced game by Dire Wolf.” Fortunately, we were able to get it all done and approved and announced at San Diego Comic-Con, which was super exciting for everybody here. So we’re taking prototype copies of the game, for people who signed up blind. We’ve been telling people to stop by the room and check it out and give us feedback and tell us what they think as we continue to finalize and tune the product.
What’s next for Dire Wolf?
We’ve got a whole host of cool new digital and tabletop projects and partnerships to announce. But it’s been great to see the reaction to this project and, as fans, all the news coming out of San Diego Comic-Con for the future of Invincible. It’s super cool for us to be a small part of it.
INVINCIBLE™ © 2023 Robert Kirkman, LLC & Cory Walker. SKYBOUND and all related images are owned by Skybound, LLC. IMAGE COMICS and all related images are owned by Image Comics, Inc. All rights reserved.