Q&A Time! Exploring Gangs Of The Undercity With Designer O.C. Presley

April 3, 2020 by crew

We got a chance to talk with Opti from Fragging Unicorns Games about his upcoming project to bring the epic looking Gangs Of The Undercity to the tabletop through a Kickstarter in July.

oc-presley-interview-coverimage

This game is packed with fantastic looking characters, deep and intriguing background and we hope you learn more about it here with us!

Ben: First off, could you introduce us to yourself and what Fragging Unicorns Games is all about?

Opti: Hey all! I’m O.C. Presley, but my pals call me Opti. Like most of you reading this, I am a huge gaming nerd. My parents bought me the D&D Red Box, and my friends and I played AD&D during lunchtime at school. Soon, we bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, and when Shadowrun came out, we got that, too. Along the way, after graduating and getting a real job, I dove into Warhammer as well. As we continued playing, we realized there was something awesome about being adults, but still having all the fun associated with being kids. Part of the reason we started Fragging Unicorns Games is to try to bottle that up and help other people feel the same way we do about games, no matter who they are.

Gangs Of The Undercity Main

The bottom line for us is this: There is a lot – a lot – of negativity, gate-keeping, prejudice, and hurtful behaviour in the gaming community. I say community because it doesn’t have to be an industry. It doesn’t have to get so big that corporations take it over. But I digress. Most of us who play games with others were drawn in because we were accepted in those communities and maybe not so much in others. So for me to look out and see how awful some of the most influential people in the community are being to others, it broke our hearts.

Akin to that, we are seeing many companies in the community alternating between exploiting fans, ignoring them, and just generally acting shady. We just think, perhaps arrogantly, that we can do better. We can BE better. We simply don’t value money over people. We don’t value the next, biggest thing over what’s best for the game and the community. We are fans. We want to continue to be fans. We want our friends and our kids and grandkids, and our cyberpunk AI descendants to be fans. And that sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when people purposefully carve out space for others, especially those who aren’t us.

There is much more to say about the way we operate, how we handle money, how we partner with creators, how we work with fans, but for now, here’s us:

Fragging Unicorns Games desires to excel at the stuff you already love about RPGs and Tabletop Games: innovating new things to love, and crafting experiences that bring people together. We believe in working with the best writers, designers, artists, and sculptors, paying them fairly, and treating them well. We believe in listening to fans and inviting them into the creative process to collaborate with us. We want to be the best there is at being cool. To everyone. For everyone. We want to be decent people. We don’t want to step on people on our way up. We want to see things and do things differently. If that means we don’t get rich? That’s ok.

It doesn’t do us any good to gain the gaming world but lose our selves in the process. We hope you’ll join us by supporting us around social media, supporting the crowdfunding to make our games a reality, and most importantly, by being a fragging unicorn, that is – being a mythical gamer – awesome and welcoming, for everyone you meet.

B: How did the idea of Gangs Of The Undercity first come about?

O: The idea for Gangs of the Undercity began in 2015. My friends and I were heavily into Warhammer Fantasy Battles, spending all of our time modelling, painting, and playing, and participating in the tournaments at Adepticon every year. At this same time, I began a podcast focusing on the roleplaying game Shadowrun. Around the time Warhammer Fantasy Battles ended, Catalyst Game Labs announced they would be producing a Shadowrun-themed skirmish game called Sprawlgangers.

Triggerman - Gangs Of The Undercity

That was when my friends and I decided to stop our other wargaming and go all-in on Sprawlgangers. Five years later, Sprawlgangers never materialized. In the in-between time, I ended up authoring books for Shadowrun and other RPGs, and met a lot of wonderful people in the gaming world. Together with some of those pals, Fragging Unicorns has created a brand new fantasy/cyberpunk world, and we felt like it was time to finally get our fantasy/cyberpunk skirmish game with rival gangs. Since we didn’t have anyone to tell us we couldn’t do it, we just went for it!

B: Could you give us a bit of the background for Gangs Of The Undercity looking at some of the key players in the story?

O: Gangs of the Undercity is a cyberpunk/fantasy skirmish game set in the Undercity of Neo-Babylon. The city is bright, magical, and wonderful above; but below, the only sources of stability, community, and aid are the Gangs. Unstable magic, outdated Cybertech, and the constant stream of garbage from the overcity, become invaluable commodities underneath. The civilized species - dwarves, goblins, humans, orcs, and elves - fight amongst themselves and each other, with alliances formed and broken as just another day’s work.

Naqar - Gangs Of The Undercity

Neo-Babylon is a futuristic city in a world where magic has always existed. So the worst, and sometimes the best, of both cyberpunk futures and fantastic worlds collide. In Gangs of the Undercity, you not only have to contend with cutthroat corporations, but also mythical beasts, and arcanist wizards, all fighting to control the same resources.

In Gangs, our focus is on the Undercity of Neo-Babylon, where there is far less control and forgotten citizens slave away at menial jobs to keep the Overcity functioning. Gangs are the only source of stability, for good or ill, that the Undercity has. So you take the role of a gang leader. In our starter box, the major gangs are the Valyrs, a militant elf-only gang, and the Flaming Skulls, a motley group of misfits that use terror to keep their turf secure.

To choose two characters, in particular, Adelante and Vengeance are the leaders of those two gangs. They each have their own motivations and vastly different skill sets. Adelante is an ex-military Sorcerer-General, looking to gain a power base to eventually force her way back into the graces of her elven homeland. Vengeance, on the other hand, is an outcast orc disillusioned with his strict Yojin (mystical warriors) training. He’s gone back to his roots and now defends his people with all means available to him. Of course, those are only our creations! We hope our players will create their own gangs and their own personalities in them!

B: With a broad look at the background of the game how does this then tie into the gangs that players take control of when they take to the tabletop?

The Undercity of Neo-Babylon is vast, and we imagine that gangs control almost every inch. Some larger gangs will rule entire sectors, while smaller gangs will claim only a city block as their turf. A such, our various gangs, like the Valkyrs, Flaming Skulls, Neverkin, Bulls of Heaven, Shadow Caste, Sons of Scratch, and others, function like templates for all the other gangs in the Undercity. So a player can either chose to be one of those existing gangs or simply use that gang’s rules as a template and create their own!

B: Could you walk us through a typical game turn and scenario might play out during a game of Gangs Of The Undercity?

O: In any typical round of play, you will have Models running across the board at each other, dodging into cover, or claiming control of objectives. Breachers will be hacking cyberlink terminals or sending out drones to wreak havoc and control the field. Empowered Models will be casting spells, healing allies, or amping their bodies up for combat. And, of course, everyone else will be firing weapons, claiming loot, or carving up enemy models.

Domino - Gangs Of The Undercity

Play in Gangs of the Undercity is divided by Rounds. A Round begins with a Refresh Phase, is played out as each Model in the game takes its Turn, and ends once every player has taken Turns with all their Models. A Turn is the sum of a single Model’s actions. Each Model gets a Move Action and a Main Action, and once a Model is through, the other player chooses to take a Turn with one of their Models.

B: Could you talk about some of the campaign elements that you've been working on which then take these skirmishes and scenarios to the next level?

O: Campaign play is centred around two things: Gaining and losing turf and Fortune. Turf elements add to your gang’s abilities and give bonuses both in and out of the game. Collecting gambling dens, weapon shops, etc. in your gang’s turf will affect how they play long term. And turf is gained by defeating other gangs and gaining Fortune.

Vengeance - Gangs Of The Undercity

Fortune is the primary currency in Gangs for building up gangs and models. It determines the models, abilities, and gears available to your gang. Conceptually, it covers what money, experience, or destiny that has made the gang what it is. Defeating opponents or achieving certain objectives in play will give a gang Fortune points it can spend in-between games. Individual models, as well as gangs, both gain Fortune, which is important because if a gang Boss dies or becomes incapacitated, another model takes their place and has to grow into the role…

B: Have you had any awesome watercooler moments that have stood out to you during the playtesting of the game?

O: My favourite moments so far are always when two of my favourite characters enter combat with one another. Vengeance, with his wicked axes and Mormeghul (a cybered up Valkyr) and his Black Sword, always make for an amazing match-up. But my favourite moment so far was during a match where the Flaming Skulls were losing quite badly, but a gutter witch managed to get a spell off and push the Valkyr leader Adelante off a building, plummeting to her doom. The usual difficulty of killing Adelante and the brutality of the steep fall made that particular turnaround something we talked about for weeks.

B: Some of the miniatures we've been seeing for the game are already looking amazing. Could you tell us who is behind these and what the process is for bringing them to life?

O: Absolutely! There are number of folks behind the minis and the look and feel of the game. But I have to give the lion’s share of the credit to two people. First, our amazing sculptor, Kieran Russell is doing all our sculpts. He has just been masterful in crafting our undercity personalities and everyone who sees them is awed. But not to be left out, our concept artist, Darko Kreculj works closely with Kieran and is the one who takes our initial ideas and notes and forms them into something that can be sculpted. They are both amazing.

Ansa - Gangs Of The Undercity

Behind the scenes, we’ve treated the process like we do in RPG art. That is, we get our stories and background info down, then we make documents of art notes that we pass around between the lore folks and the mechanical folks. Once we’re all satisfied with the guidelines for a gang or model, we make a document and send it off to Darko. We go back and forth a bit about designs, but once we have something we like, we send the art to Kieran who works his magic!

B: Are there any particular favourites from the miniatures so far that have really grabbed your attention?

O: I truly do love all the minis we’ve made so far. But If you are forcing me to choose just a couple, I’ll have to say Vengeance is my favourite. It could be because he was the first and represented a dream coming to life for us, or it could be because he is a cyberpunk orc berserker that looks like he is going to claim some skulls. But either way, he is amazing. But on the other side of the scale, our smallest model, Singe, who is a goblin infiltrator, is so damn cute I just want Kieran to sculpt an entire gang of goblin gals because I love them so much!

B: I believe that you've been taking people on board to do some playtesting with you to refine the game and its mechanics. Could you fill us in a bit on how that has all been going?

O: To be honest, we have a little bit of fear. We’ve played so many games, and been involved in the process of making games where we wanted more playtesting, but the company pushed the product out anyway, that we are paranoid about the quality of our game. We decided early on that we would let our playtesting be open to as many people as possible as early as possible. We want to put out the best game we can, and we feel that inviting fans into that process early and often is the best way forward. So we’ve got a lot of amazing feedback from lots of hardcore fans and we will always be thankful.

Playtesting The Game - Gangs Of The Undercity

One of the challenges we’ve run into, however, is that by opening up playtesting so early, we’ve invited people into a version of the game which has drastically changed along the way. So it can be hard to get folks who were playtesting six months ago to come back and give the game another hard thrashing because they have already played it and have turned in their results. But the game we have now is so much stronger as a result! We’ve learned lessons from all of it, even the rough comments. Ultimately, it is the fans have the last word, no matter what.

B: Could you tell us a little bit about the Kickstarter you have planned for later this year and what your aims for it are?

O: Absolutely! Our Kickstarter campaign is planned for late July this year. We had originally planned it to coincide with GenCon, but given all that is happening in the world with COVID-19 and quarantines, we may have to adjust slightly. But as of right now, we are still planning on late July.

Crew - Gangs Of The Undercity

We are planning to raise enough money to produce our box set, which at very minimum, will include two gangs of six minis each, dice, tokens, and rulebook. If all goes super well and we make our stretch goals as well, we are looking to add an additional model to each gang (for a total of fourteen unique models), and have Lawjack (police) models, creatures, terrain, and even whole other gangs unlocked to add onto the core box.

B: And finally, do you have anything sneaky that you could preview or tease for us that no-one knows about yet?

O: Sure, I’d love to tease a few things that may yet be! First, here is a WIP of our guardians of militant status quo, the Lawjacks. These are the police force of Neo-Babylon and while they aren’t a gang, we may be having some fun with these models in our campaign and solo modes!

Lawjack Preview - Gangs Of The Undercity

And second, the super-super secret is this concept art for our first critter, a gryphon! Notice the variable configurations of armour and cyberware.

Gryphon - Gangs Of The Undercity

This will be a huge model, so it will only unlock if our campaign is wildly successful, but we are completely optimistic we’ll see both these models in the hands of players!

B: Thanks Opti. We can't wait to play around with Gangs Of The Undercity some more in the coming weeks and months!

If you're interested in more about Gangs Of The Undercity you can check out the Game Hub here OnTabletop and their website where they offer up lots of updates on the playtesting process.

Are you excited to learn more about this game?

"In Gangs, our focus is on the Undercity of Neo-Babylon, where there is far less control and forgotten citizens slave away at menial jobs to keep the Overcity functioning..."

"Our Kickstarter campaign is planned for late July this year..."

Related Games

Related Companies