While at PAX this year, I along with fellow editor, Alex O’Neill, had the pleasure of being able to sit down and talk big giant robots and card games with Drew Nolosco, brand manager at Wizards of the Coast for the Transformers TCG. From the get-go, you could tell that Drew is a longtime fan of the series – a G1-ner. Before even discussing the card game, we shared who or favorite bot is, and a nostalgic and touching story of the first Transformers toy he bought with his money, the Autobot crane Grapple.
After we took our strolls down memory lane, we started talking shop. In Transformers TCG, a defining feature is that your main forces are comprised of double-sided cards, that when flipped, will change the character from one shape to another. One of the main points I was curious about was at what point in the game’s development was the flipping-to-transform mechanic conceived. Drew talked about how that feature was one of the first mechanics of the new card game that Wizard’s nailed down. Transforming between the robot and their alternate modes are what gives the brand its namesake, and having this be done via a two-sided card was an easy way to represent this. It took about two years of designing and game testing before the game we know as Transformers TCG was ready for market.
Currently, much of the art used for the cards are pulled from the popular IDW comics with some (mostly the larger Transformer character cards) being unique to the card game. Drew explained that the aim is that with each set more and more art will be custom and unique to the card game, relying less and less on existing assets from the comics. With as gorgeous as I find the comic art to be, the character art on cards you use for your main forces, with its vivid foiling on the bot side, are works of art. Art like you find on these could easily be framed and hung on your wall together, TCG fan or not.
In the most recent set is the Rise of the Combiners set, which focuses on massive Combiner teams of Transformers. For those that aren’t versed in the Cybertronian lingo, Combiners are a group of bots that unite together to form a much larger robot. How they pulled off this idea in the card game is by utilizing a creative use of folding a card in half. When folded, one side is the alt mode, the other is the bot mode, but when unfolded the newly revealed backside will show which part of the giant bot your character is part of. From what Drew said, there was some back and forth on how exactly this would be implemented. Primarily, how the cards would be orientated for it all to work. What really sells this how the artists at Wizards have crafted art that plays to how the cards are laid out. Nothing is cut off or abruptly ends. A lot of thought went into how both the layouts and art pair together, and it shows.
The scale is an important aspect that the designers are taking into account with this card game. Your armada, the Transformers themselves, are all presented on larger cards. The action, equipment, and other cards are on your traditional playing card sized stock. Titan class Transformers (your Fortress Maximus and Omega Supreme-like characters) roughly the size of a holiday card, since these characters can be as large as whole cities. I asked Drew if there had been any internal discussion or thoughts on the planet-sized monstrosities like Unicron or Primus, and while he couldn’t confirm anything as being set in stone or currently planned, it is something that has been talked about. One idea involved incorporating them in a sort of Raid-style of play. One player would hypothetically play Unicron, with other players teaming up together with their smaller armies. Sign me up. We also joked about how the cards would have to be the size of a play table that you would roll out. I’d love to see how they put one of those in a booster pack.
With all this talk of Combiners, planet-sized foes, and our favorite characters, my mind began swimming with ideas on how other Transformer mainstays could be applied to card game settings. Would we see the Matrix at some point, or characters changing forms (ala Hot Rod into Rodimus or Orion Pax into Prime)? How about power masters or headmasters? Would we see the Maximals and Predacons pop up? With a smile on his face, all Drew could tell me was yes. This was a guy that got it. Now I’m sure we won’t get everything I listed off in the game, it is thrilling to hear that so much is being considered for down the road. Currently, their designers are trying to wrap their heads around how to fold a piece of paper six ways to work for Six-changers (Transformers with six different forms). Godspeed game designers. Best of luck.
With the promise of big reveals for the game coming in early May and a new set on the way, I left my talk with Drew with more anticipation than I have felt for any other TCG in a long time. The passion and creativity of the team is apparent, and with the full pantheon of content they have access to with the Transformers IP, I can see this game evolving and transforming before our eyes for a long time to come.