I’ve been a long-time fan of Penny Arcade, and when I would attend Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) every year, getting to watch their Acquisitions Incorporated live gameplay sessions was always the highlight of my con. When Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade tweeted me out of the blue saying he loved Pocket Paragons, it was a surreal experience, and when that eventually led to us teaming up with Penny Arcade to do a special crossover box, I was over the moon!
The biggest challenge in designing this box was making it feel distinct from Pocket Paragons Origins. After all, the game already had a Paladin, a Monk, a Bard, and a lot of other staple RPG fantasy character tropes that had overlap with the characters featured in Acquisitions Inc. I decided to put the focus on creating the feeling of “leveling up”, because that’s my favorite part of playing role playing games. Leveling up and learning new spells and abilities is an exciting thing to look forward to!
Early mechanisms I tried out included having characters gain multiple new abilities as they gained energy. Not ultimates that needed to be re-earned, but adding more and more “regular” abilities so it felt like your spellbook was expanding. It ended up being too powerful having all these extra cards, even if those cards were weaker– and what’s the point of even doing it, if the extra abilities need to be so weak that it’s not even exciting? I also tried a version where each character had a “signature” ability that got upgraded to more powerful versions each time you gained energy, sort of like DeMattei’s kit from the Temporal Odyssey box.
Eventually, I landed on abilities that just got stronger if you had a certain amount of energy. Each character in the Acquisitions Inc box has one or more abilities that get stronger as your energy increases. This is a simpler execution of the level-up design than the previous ones I tried, but I think it captures that “level-up” feeling without adding a lot of extra fiddliness.
Omin Dran is not just the CEO of Acquisitions Incorporated, but he’s also the field commander. He’s a sturdy cleric who is always thinking about growing the business. His passive helps bail him out of bad situations, allowing him to play the long game. His combination of powerful healing and solid defense means he can easily outlast the competition.
Jim Darkmagic, on the other hand, never plays it safe. Jim is flashy, reckless, and totally in your face. Most of his power is consolidated into Fireball, every wizard’s favorite spell for every situation! Just uh, make sure it doesn’t get countered or blocked, otherwise you run out of gas (and spell slots) very quickly. If your enemy dares to think they’re a better wizard than you, shut down their spells with Raw, Unbridled Arrogance.
Strix Beestinger, cheerfully known as the Trash Witch, has powerful sorceress abilities, including the gift of Metamagic, the ability to alter spells as she casts them. For Strix, this means that she can take her abilities, which are extra powerful against specific enemy abilities, and change their conditions using her passive to meet any situation. She can also summon her owlbear Waffles to crush her foes while keeping herself safe.
Certainty Dran, Omin’s daughter, is a bard, and there’s nothing a bard loves doing more than mocking an enemy to death. With her passive, Vicious Mockery, Certainty proves her superiority by predicting your enemy’s obvious moves and making sure they’re so embarrassed they could never use those moves again. Once your enemy is down to very few cards, an Execute is easy to come by, but for extra style points, you can kill them by playing your unique Rest. Certainty isn’t all-in on this gameplan, though. If you can sneak in a powerful grab or two with your Legally Binding Documancy, you can always win the old fashioned way.
Evelyn is a cheerful, lawful paladin, and in the case of Pocket Paragons, she just refuses to kill. She’d rather beat you unconscious, then sing the praises of her god and convert you! Hooray! Her Weapon can’t execute her enemy, which seems like a hefty drawback, but she makes up for it by having powerful haymaker attacks, including 3 full damage on that same weapon. Another 3 damage with Stun and Vicious on her Divine Smite makes her enemies fear her in ways other than execution. Her passive keeps her safe in longer games, making it so she can’t be executed or countered. Your opponent will have to beat you the “fair” way, and that can pretty unfair when Evelyn is stacked.
Môrgæn comes out of the gate fast and attacks from a variety of angles. Getting a free use of her Ultimate at the beginning of the game, she can play it early to start the aggression, and having an extra card helps you outlast your opponent, making them have to rest first. Her Precise Shot can be used early to disable your enemy’s weapon, giving you a safer rest and making them lose cards in hand, or can be played after they’ve already played their weapon for a guaranteed 4 damage. Her Entangle can put more pressure on their hand, even when they’re trying to defend themselves from her onslaught.
Portentia Dran is Omin’s sister and evil business rival. She’ll steal your abilities out from under you, and prove she’s better at using them than you are! Portentia is a schemer, and you have to be careful when playing against her. Her Ultimate lets her play the ability her enemy played last round, so you always have to be careful not to fall into the trap of your own cards! But it’s not just last round’s cards you have to worry about, because Infringement can show up and steal your effects while you’re playing them! Portentia can also get back her cards with her Buyout, so you have to be careful what symbols are in her discard that she wants back.
Omin’s mother, Prophetess “Propha” Dran has retired from the adventuring life, and now spends her time running the “Dran & Courtier”, a friendly tavern and home to the local C-Team branch of Acquisitions, Inc. She starts off low in power, but if the game goes on long enough, she’ll come out of retirement and bury you under her righteous wrath with her passive that adds a pile of unblockable damage on top of her strong healing.
This wraps up the 8 new characters of Pocket Paragons: Acquisitions Inc.! I hope you enjoy leveling up your gameplay, but don’t get too greedy resting for energy or you might get TPK’d! Check out the kickstarter launch page!