Ben Swainbank

Today’s feature designer is Ben Swainbank who created Villains and Vigilantes the card game.


Three Random facts about Ben:

  • For a time he was White Wolf's official Vampire Prince of Portsmouth, NH. (This mainly involved promoting the Vampire: the Eternal Struggle CCG)
  • His favorite book is "Soon I Will Be Invincible" by Austin Grossman. That's his favorite superhero story in any medium.
  • One of his lifetime gaming highlights was traveling to GaryCon to play in an extended RPG-campaign-in-con with the creators for the classic Villains and Vigilantes RPG -- Jack Herman and Jeff Dee, GMed by the infamous Bill Willingham (Death Duel with the Destroyers, Elementals, Fables...)


Questions by Kimberly Bullock (KB), answers by Ben Swainbank (BS).



Three game design related questions:


KB: Was there an ah-ha moment when designing Villains and Vigilantes that you really felt like the game was coming together? If so, when was it?

BS: The game had a really long incubation period. There were years spent tinkering and trying to get it to really gel. Superheroes are a tough genre to design games for.

As my kids were growing up, I would try out different iterations with them. When they started to really enjoy it, and wanted to play it more, that's when I knew it was coming together. And because we were playing it more and more, there was a tighter loop to refine and balance the game.

So, no big Ah-Ha moment. But lots of little ones over time to bring it all together.


KB: Are you currently working on any other designs?

BS: I am working on some new designs. I've been developing lots of new content for the Villains and Vigilantes Card Game. Plenty of new heroes, villains, and powers and missions to play with there.

But I've got a few others that I consider "design-complete". I am trying to decide if I want to try and move forward commercially with them.

Those games are:

  • "Revolution Day" - A game of action, intrigue, and hidden agendas on a day that will determine the fate of a war-torn nation. Each player is secret faction leader within the rebel forces or the regime. Each has their own agenda and tries to shape events in their favor on a fateful day.
  • "Squabble Quest" - The dread dragon Zargofax has kidnapped Princess Melody! Will our brave adventurers defeat the dragon, claim its treasure and survive the journey home? Will they? They might. But mostly they just fight among themselves.


KB: Is there any game mechanic you would really like to include in a future design?

BS: The core mechanic in the Villains and Vigilantes Card Game is basically an action-point system. But there are no intrinsic actions in the rules. Instead everything is done through power cards that have an action-point cost. That's a fairly simple mechanic that allows for balancing the whole gamut of super-powered activities. It's handy and versatile. I don't know of any other games using that mechanic.

I haven't based any other games on that idea. But I've been thinking about where else it might work...



Three questions that are just for fun:


KB: How many times per week do you usually get to play games?

BS: My mid-week gaming is mostly computer games these days. But every weekend involves some board and card games. I play a lot at in-store events or with friends. And my son is an avid and capable gamer. So, we're always playing something. Lately a Pandemic Legacy campaign and lots of Netrunner.

Having a worthy adversary in the house is real blessing.


KB: Do you have a favorite friendly local game store?

BS: I do! We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance to downtown Portsmouth. So, I am a Diversions regular. Great store, great selection of games, lots of events and in-store gaming support. I love having them so close by.


KB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?

BS: That is a tough one. Teleportation is a sentimental favorite. And the comic characters I like tend to be the acrobatic, martial-artist types.

But if we're talking about me personally that's getting this power, I think I'll go for something more practical like super-intelligence.

Then I'll invent a teleporter.




Ben's game:
Villains and Vigilantes Card Game
His company is: Super Human Games
You can find him online at:
On Twitter: @superhumangames