Welcome, star pals! You’re hopefully here to help us finish the star-spanning sequel to Calculords, the beloved collectible card number puzzle game! If that sounds crazy and you have no idea what any of those words are, I’m happy to explain:
I’m Seanbaby, and I started my career as a comedy writer (Seanbaby.com, Cracked.com, Electronic Gaming Monthly), but several years ago, I set out to make a unique game—one with strategy and tactics in every direction, set in space, where the wisecracks cared about being funny. We called it Calculords and it’s free right now on iOS, Android, and even the Windows store.
Explaining Calculords to someone who hasn’t played it is like turning off your TV with a boomerang—I do both of them all the time and it’s always breathtaking. See, watch: You are the Last Star Nerd battling for three lanes of outer space with a deck of collectible cards you pay for with math. For instance, if a skybike costs 60, you add, subtract, and multiply to get a 60. If you manage to use ALL your numbers to make that 60, you are the best, and you get more numbers.
I know that sounds insane, maybe even educational. And you’re kind of right. We’ve received hundreds of emails from parents and teachers who used our game to trick children into becoming geniuses. I promise I didn’t mean to do that—this was just supposed to be fun way to use math to create emergent number puzzles. Helping the world was a total accident.
No one can put a number on the enrichment of young minds, but game reviewers can absolutely put a number on how fun your game is. Ours totally was. We got 10s and 9s like crazy making Calculords the most critically acclaimed collectible card comedy math game ever. Geek.com called it “the best card game on iOS.” TouchArcade called it “brilliant.” Richard Garfield, the man who invented Magic: The Gathering, called it “innovative” and “fun.” Two media outlets gave it Runner Up Mobile Game of the Year, losing both times to Super Smash Brothers.
So now we’re making a sequel, and it’s no tiny upgrade. Calculords 2: Rise of the Shadow Nerd has been designed from the ground up. I can’t wait to show off all these new things we’re adding.
The first game was drawn by me, pixel-by-pixel. Critics mentioned how I wasn’t the world’s greatest pixel artist, but the joke’s on them because I already knew that. We also discovered that keeping pixels looking nice when you fit a game onto 250 different resolutions is almost more trouble than it’s worth. So we learned our lesson and this time, we’re using beautiful, hand-drawn art by an artist far more talented than me—Dave Bardin.
His illustrations bring layers of personality to every space marine, flying saucer, and Photon Man. Every single thing I ask him to draw comes out twenty times better than I could have hoped. He’s a future nerd-household name.
This game takes place 30 years after the original in a time-spanning cosmic story almost too gripping to trust near fragile human hearts. There are tons of new cards, bosses, abilities, alien races, and playable commanders. From the deckbuilding to the combat, everything is improved. Most notably, the sound is light years better. We brought in amazing sound designers, Auralnauts to do all the effects, voices, and music and they crushed it.
This time, players can pick from a squad of commanders to take into battle. And each leader has his or her own special abilities and tactics that can, forgive the game jargon, synergize with different deck designs. Will your speedy robot deck work better with the buffing abilities of Axel Armadia or the tricky psy-powers of Pong Neuro? It’s a whole new level of customization, and speaking of:
If you’re like me, you “wasted” a significant amount of your childhood designing your own Magic cards. Well, in Calculords 2, those skills will finally come in handy. We let you build your own cards from a vast pile of art and abilities. When you’re done, the game’s deadly, infallible computer mind calculates the card’s power and generates an appropriate cost for it. That means it’s “balanced,” so you can add it to your deck and use it in every game mode! Make a fast, basic soldier or a complicated walking arsenal; it’s all up to you.
This feature is seriously so satisfying and long-overdue I can’t believe we’re inventing it. History will certainly look back on this game and say, “Can you believe gamers couldn’t make their own cards before Calculords 2!? It was SO OBVIOUS!”
Years of over-videogaming has rendered my brain unable to care about anything unless it has RPG elements. If you don’t give XP when I kill you, what’s the point of you? I don’t even wave hello to people unless I’m wearing my Fitbit. And I’m bringing this philosophy to Rise of the Shadow Nerd.
Each card gains XP when you use it, but each also has its own mission to complete. Some cards might need to train to repair tanks, other cards might live only to see Fungoids die. Basically, the more you use a card, the stronger it becomes because the player shouldn’t be the only one getting enriched by this magical gaming experience.
This was the most requested feature in the first game—the ability to go head-to-head against other human players. Calculords 2 allows for asynchronous PVP, which means Star Nerds can send turns back and forth at their rivals at any time.
The first game was designed so expert players could set up devastating first turn kills, and we’ve obviously fixed that. All the abilities and tactics in Calculords 2: Rise of the Shadow Nerd have been redesigned and rebalanced from the ground up to accommodate fair human-on-human matchups.
Prior to launch, we’ll be inviting backers to an early beta, and we look forward to hearing how overpowered I made all these abilities.
This is turbo nerdy, but the design behind Calculords was to take my enthusiasm for card battle games and eliminate the dumbest part of them—lack of decisions. See, on the first turn of most deck building or card games, you’re making 0 to 1 choices. For instance, you put down one cupcake and, if you’re lucky, a monster that costs one cupcake. Or maybe you curse fate for giving you the wrong flavor of cupcake and just pass. It’s a type of gameplay that wasn’t exactly “broken,” but Calculords fixed it anyway. With its math system, you have this infinite source of cupcakes and you’re allowed to play any or all cards your genius allows.
In Calculords 2, we’re trying to fix even more. We’ve added new factions, abilities, and synergies to give you more deckbuilding options. Plus, the custom cards give your decks crazy, unprecedented possibilities. I came up with some pretty deadly combinations, but if you’re smarter than me and have better card ideas, awesome—make them.
We’re pricing the game at the reasonable cost of free, and it’ll be easy for anyone to enjoy it without spending a dime. Card packs and other DLC are available at friend prices for people who want to love and support us.
Anyone who plays most mobile games knows they are three things: shameless ripoffs of someone else’s idea, easy things to passively tap, and psychological traps to siphon money from game addicts. We set out to do the opposite of all that—we want to invent new things, fully engage the player, and earn money only when we’re good at all of that. I wouldn’t call us heroes for these aspirations, but future mobile game historians almost certainly will.
About the Team
After inventing comedy on the Internet, I started making jokes about terrible games in Electronic Gaming Monthly. I’ve been a longtime columnist and editor at Cracked.com, an illustrator, a pro-wrestler, co-host of G4’s Attack of the Show, writer for dozens of magazines, games, and TV shows, and now I design video games.
A professional software engineer for 19 years and the brilliant, hard-working programmer of the first Calculords. He’s also a capable illustrator, architect, and designer, which is a pretty handy skillset for a two-man game development team. Rich has also contributed to Dwarven Descent and War Room for TinkerHouse Games.
A comic artist from southern California, Dave has produced a huge collection of amazing cards for the game. And thanks to his laser-like linework, we were able to mix and match pieces of his art to build the “paperdolls” that make our Custom Card system work.
You’ve probably seen at least one of Zak Koonce and Craven Moorhaus’ outrageously good Youtube videos. They’re best known for their Star Wars and Batman redubs and their Kill Count videos, and now they’ve produced all the sound effects, voices, and music for Calculords 2. I asked them to create a soundtrack that captured the electric guitar radness of space, and no one has ever fulfilled a request so perfectly.