Greater than Games has been combining fun, interesting gameplay with geek-friendly themes like baseball, chemistry, and beer brewing successfully for several years now. They've recently debuted a roleplaying game version of one of their most popular games, Sentinels of the Multiverse. I had the opportunity to sit down with Mara Johannes-Graham at PAXU's inaugural event to talk about a few of their now-classics and some upcoming releases.
AMJP: For starters, how about a brief history of Greater than Games? How did all this get started?
Mara: So, Greater Than Games became a company back in 2011. Christopher Bedell and Adam Rebottaro were just two friends that had a love of gaming and wanted to play a game where they played superheroes. A game like that didn't exist at the time, so they put one together, though they had no intention of publishing it. They showed a third friend, Paul Bender, the game and Paul’s like “you know, this is a really great game, guys, you should actually think about publishing this." After some arm-twisting, they were convinced to 'make this a thing’. So they published ‘Sentinels of the Multiverse’ and that created the company! Since then, they’ve published quite a few games; there have been several expansions to the Sentinels of the Multiverse universe and then games like Lazer Ryderz, we’ve just had Spirit Island, which is doing amazingly well for us, come out, Fate of the Elder Gods, etc.
AMJP: What's your next upcoming release?
Mara: We just finished our most recent game that’s going to be coming out next year which is called Legends of Sleepy Hollow. I'm really excited about this one because the theme of this game, in particular, resonates with me. I'm a big fan of the literary works and you’re playing it a tabletop kind of RPG game - a campaign based kind of legacy hybrid game. It’s like the continuation of the storyline, three days after Ichabod’s gone missing and as residents of Tarrytown, you’re trying to figure out where the heck he's gone. It’s gonna be a really fun game and its illustrated by Hugo award-winning artist Abigail Larson.
Also, releasing the final edition of the Sentinels of the Multiverse line - it is and will always be in print, but that’s the ending of the storyline of the card game. It’s like the FINAL BATTLE with the big bots! We're turning our focus to the Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game .
AMJP: How’s the reception for the Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game ?
Mara: It’s been really great! I mean, it’s been our hot seller so far for the show. We got the first edition of the Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game Starter Kit out now! It comes with the gameplay guide, six of pre-generated characters, and it then it comes with six scenarios. You play through the first three in order, but then the remaining three it’s kind of user's choice. The great thing about these is that they are probably one of the most comprehensive RPGs that you would ever get into. So it teaches you, a new GM, how to be a GM and it teaches a new player, how to play an RPG.
AMJP: So you start with that starter box, and you could really sit down with someone who’s just been playing the boardgame and say ‘let’s try it this way’?
Mara: Exactly. So, we’re encouraging people to do that, because getting into RPGs can be kind of daunting for the new player. Being that Christopher, Paul, and Adam are all very seasoned RPG players, they had the ability to make it very comprehensive - little notations where it tells you exactly how everything works so this is the great thing it’s a great entry into role-playing. The core book will be out in 2018. It will also have pre-gen characters and scenarios that you can play through but it also has rules and things so that you can write your own characters and your own scenarios. You can do whatever you want within the universe to create a beautiful game for yourself.
AMJP: On the other side of things, there's the Sentinels of the Multiverse digital - how do you guys feel about moving from tabletop to digital app?
Mara: So, I mean, going into the digital aspect of games, it introduces a new user base for us. It gets people into the game via the app and when we introduce it to the mass market via a retailer like Target they say "Hey, there's a board game version". That introduces more people to board gaming who then seek out smaller, hobbyist game shops. So it’s really a way for us to reach more people and bring more people into the hobby. We just really want everybody to know ‘hey there’s some awesome fun games out here!’ y’know? Those classic games are great, but hey, Monopoly’s not the only thing.
AMJP: That’s great! Bottom of the Ninth happens to be one of my favorite games so I have to ask, more expansions coming, or…?
Mara: As a matter of fact, we just released Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse, which is an expansion, and so that just came out here,. It has the cutest little peanuts actually, and you can play through an entire game baseball game if you wanted too. If you wanted to put a whole team together and play through a game you could do that. I mean, if you’re really into that big, whole experience of the game you can honestly do that. But at its core, it still really focuses on the bottom of the 9th inning.
AMJ: It’s the decision to set it at the very bottom of the ninth that makes people excited like you would be at the end of a baseball game...
Mara: It really does, and trying to trick the opponent too is fun. It does get that level of real game intensity and competition. And if you look at Bottom of the 9th there is a number of female player cards, and that's very important for us.
AMJ: I think that’s another thing that drew me to it. I mean, I like baseball, but then once I discovered there were women in the game - that’s a really big deal.
Mara: That’s huge for us. We attend a lot of panels about women and gaming during Gen Con so it’s very important for us.
AMJ: And is there anything upcoming that you might want us to mention, or that you are excited about?
Mara: So, yes, Legends of Sleepy Hollow’s definitely one of those coming up, but then we have another one coming up called Homebrewers. We’ve just started the development of it. I know it has similarities to Brew Crafters but the mechanic is completely different than Brew Crafters. I haven’t actually gotten to sit down and play through it, yet, so we'll all have to wait and see!