Ultra-classified interview with Diane Sauer, creator of “Conspiracy!” card game

Written by Russ Dobler

Enraged that world governments continue to pollute the skies with chemtrails? Ready to expose the Men in Black who cover it up for the Reptilian Overlords? Then “Conspiracy!” might be the game for you.

“Conspiracy!” is a light strategy game for 2-4 players schemed into being by Diane Sauer, who’s been a boardgamer since the late ‘70s. She and her husband Nick founded Shoot Again Games three years ago with a similar game called “Legends and Lies.” A van with no markings has been parked across the street since I spoke with Diane to find out how “Conspiracy!” is different.

DOBLER:  Tell us about “Conspiracy!” What’s it about and how does it play?

SAUER:  In the game of “Conspiracy!” you’re a conspiracy theorist. All the players are conspiracy theorists, and you’re trying to basically warn everyone because you have all these true conspiracy theories that you KNOW are absolutely true, but for some reason nobody listens to you. That’s what you’re trying to do; basically prove these conspiracies to the world before it’s too late. The game is kind of a rummy-style game, but it has a lot of twists and turns and unusual things that are not typical. It’s not like any other rummy/set collection type game.

DOBLER:  You have made similar kinds of games before, right? “Legends and Lies” is kind of similar to this one, isn’t it?

SAUER:  Yes, basically. Actually, “Conspiracy!” is based off of the engine that we did for “Legends and Lies,” only that we basically decided to make it more of a “gamer’s game,” and by that I mean – “Legends and Lies” is a fun, casual game. With “Conspiracy!” we added a lot of levels. We simplified the game and then we added a lot of levels of complexity, as in the various conspiracies that you play. When you play – which we call “reveal” – a conspiracy, it has some kind of an in-game effect, and the same is true when you strengthen a conspiracy.

So let’s say I play “The Philadelphia Experiment.” That allows me to take a card out of the discard pile. Because you know that was about teleportation, so you get to “teleport” a card out of the discard pile into your hand. Or, the opposite kind of effect is “The Moon Landing” … and when you play that, you get to discard a conspiracy card from in front of another player. And why this is important to you, by the way, one of the big mechanics, or one of the big, cool things in the game, is that the discard pile is called the Tabloids. And the reason it’s called the Tabloids is because it represents, like, the old Weekly World News … I don’t know if you remember …

DOBLER:  Oh, yeah.

SAUER:  At the end of the rounds, whoever goes out basically “reads” the Tabloids. They pick up the Tabloids, and any cards in there that match a conspiracy in play that somebody’s trying to prove – whoever has the most of those cards, loses a card for everyone that’s [in the Tabloids]. Of course, why that’s even especially important is that after you do that, any conspiracy on the table, regardless of who has it – so if I have six points on a conspiracy and you have four points – if there’s 10 or more on the table, it doubles everybody who has it. So that’s basically how you raise to the level of, I don’t want to say proving it, but getting people to take notice.

DOBLER:  You’ve already had some success with “Legends and Lies;” there are a bunch of expansions for it. One of those expansions, the only one that seems to be out of print, unfortunately, was called “The Skeptic.” Do you personally come at these kind of weird things from a more skeptical point of view?

SAUER:  Yes, very much so, though that wasn’t always the case. When I was a kid, these kind of things were really big on TV. There was In Search of …, there was a bunch of others, a couple other shows like that, too. Bigfoot was big, Chariots of the Gods? [by Erich von Däniken] – you know, where supposedly aliens built the pyramids – was a big book. Loch Ness Monster, basically all that stuff, all these things were very big, and I was kind of always intrigued by them and thought they were cool, and as a kid, thought, “Wow, maybe there really is a Loch Ness Monster. Maybe there really [are] aliens.” But as I’ve gotten older, of course, I’ve become much, much, MUCH more skeptical. Very skeptical. There’s really very few things that I would even give a small percentage chance of … even having a chance of being real.

DOBLER:  But you’re still interested in it, and you’re still making games about it.

SAUER:  Oh yeah, I think these are interesting subjects. They’re very interesting, and nowadays, with Facebook and everything, I can’t tell you the number of conspiracy theories I see a day. [U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia just died, and literally within two hours, there’s somebody posting, “Oh, maybe, it’s probably murder. Does it makes sense, because of blah blah blah.” They’ve already got it all – they’re already down that road.

DOBLER:  And with a lot of these, kind of weird, outlandish things, it gives a good opportunity for an artist to kind of go nuts, too. Tell me about the art in “Conspiracy!”

SAUER:  One of the things with “Conspiracy!” which was something I hadn’t done with any of the other games, is I kind of decided I didn’t want to go with just one artist; I wanted to go with several. I had one main artist … but I wanted to go out and look for specific conspiracies and try to match artists to those conspiracies. I looked for somebody who was very good, very highly technical. If you look at the artist that we got to do Area 51 and the crashed UFO, he also did “Cold Fusion” and the lab explosion that goes with it. If you look, that’s a very hyper-realistic, very exact style.

Now on the other end, like “Role-Playing is Devil Worship” … back in the ‘80s they had that big [Dungeons and Dragons] scare … and they had the Chick tracts that had the story of about how, you know, somebody lost their soul to D & D. And if you look at those old Chick tracts, they’re black and white, and they have this very interesting art. So one of my Facebook friends, I had seen her art, and she does a lot of the black and white, and I said, “I betcha she can do something with this.” And she’s a gamer, too.

“Conspiracy!” has been fully funded on Kickstarter, but you can still get in on the mystery until February 25. Bundle it with “Looting Atlantis,” a different kind of set collection game, for maximum Illuminati-busting! The original “Legends and Lies” is still available on the Shoot Again Games website, and the new “Bigfoot vs. Yeti” should sneak onto Kickstarter later this year.

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