A Roman history of Epic Duels Part 2 of 2

After announcing the end of organized Epic Duels tournaments, and many of the game’s most creative deck designers moving on, it might have appeared like interest in the game was coming to an end, but in fact it was just warming up for the second act.

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Roll Call

So by the time the Golden Age of Dueling ended, pretty much all of the old old guard had moved on.  Moonsylver, Bradyseverns and PD Magnus never even made it to the online age to begin with.  Rich Pizor helped get organized online play going, but had moved on to other things long before it reached its conclusion.  At this point, I was really only the remaining member of that old old group, and even later comers like Aaron Shockley and Scott Hagarty had come and gone.  Sultan (Tom Baumbach) and Tim Wutke (volleyballgy) were the ones still keeping everything afloat.  Sultan ran the forum (below) and epicduels.com, and Tim was the last acting commissioner of the EDOL, I believe, but it was not really much of a thing anymore.

The old Epic Duels forum. Depending upon what was going on, I would check in several times a day. I do that now with the blog and the Wiki.

Epic Duels Revival 2010-2013

In 2010, the talented Mike Maloney joined the community, brought a new crowd with him, and a new set of decks with their own style, which took deck-building even further.  Mike was an unabashed fan of collectible card games like magic and pushed card effects to new limits, including “remains in play” types of cards.  He also ran tournaments with League of Legends style dynamics, where all decks were made roughly equal strength, and the contest came down to interactions and matchups.  Epic Duels had a social media presence and once again had online tournaments and now even had organized in-person tournaments.  Mike, Sultan and I were all Gen Con attendees, so we met there and ran Epic Duels events, bringing together Epic Duels fans from around the country together in person.

Mike Maloney and friends at Gen Con 2011

In what was for me the high point, we ran an Epic Duels tournament at Gen Con 2011, with Mike and I coordinating, and got something in the neighborhood of 20 people to participate.  A couple of Mike’s buddies used Mike’s R2-D2 and Sultan’s Qui-Gon Jinn to defeat CageyBB and me using Luminara and the EU’s Mara Jade, for the championship.  On a personal level, Cagey wouldn’t accept the possibility of a deck like R2’s working without a big attack until he saw it played that way against us, so I felt like I won the argument.

I’ve always really liked Sultan’s Qui-Gon deck because to me it feels like what the deck would have looked like had Rob & Craig and Hasbro done it.
Mike Maloney’s R2-D2 deck is a classic. It’s appropriately weak yet effective.

By 2012, the cast of characters around Epic Duels had already changed several times, but I remained a fixture.  For one, the Geektopia guys and I played pretty regularly from 2007-2011 so we kept building out our decks and this blog.  Also, as mentioned previously, I think that by not ever taking on the commissioner spot, I was able to avoid the burnout that claimed many of the others.  Rich, Scott and Sultan had all, at different points, really put their hearts and souls into the game and into the community itself, and it took a lot out of them.  Sultan and Tim still hung around though, and they and Mike and I kept the drum beating, especially when we could meet at Gen Con.

To that end, the Gen Con events led me to figure that we would all benefit from a “standard” set of custom decks that everyone uses.  I thought such a set could serve both as a tournament version of the game and a version that people could play online, which worked out later on when Tabletop Simulator came to Steam.  A “sequel” to Epic Duels had been proposed by the community in the past as a project called “Epic Duels 2,” but then it was shelved when it appeared that Hasbro was going to publish its own sequel.  I realized our Gen Con 2011 tournament set was pretty close to a 12-deck “Epic Duels 2” set and proposed to the online community at the forum that we get something going:

“Releasing” a set like this in 2012 coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Star Wars Epic Duels. It could be a great portal to different decks and deck designers. We could make this available through the various Epic Duels channels: Yahoo! groups, wiki, epicduels.com, here, etc. I still get new Epic Duelers on Geektopia every now and then (got one today actually), and while I’m thrilled if they like my group’s stuff, I feel like what people really need is a place to start. I wanted to tell the guy not to miss out on other people’s work but there’s no place to point him besides the Wiki, which to me, is overwhelming to new people. This set of 12 decks would be a great collection/addition.

We decided to put together a set of 12 decks, collaboratively, of course.  It was apparent that Hasbro never would publish a sequel, so we would take it upon ourselves to do so.  Sultan set up a forum for it and Mike and everyone still around jumped in on it.  I got Scott Hagarty and Rich Pizor to pop back up to participate. Even Moonsylver returned to get in on the action.  We discussed which characters, which decks, voted on each and published the set.  It’s probably the favorite project I’ve worked on in Epic Duels just because of the collection of characters it brought together — 10 years of fans who had come and gone.  It really is the wonder of this game, not just the ability to expand it, but the ability to collaborate in that expansion.  Even the 4 decks Geektopia contributed were almost all collaborative in nature: The Luminara & Barriss deck was mostly my design but I collaborated with Rich and worked it out with the Geektopia group over the years.  The Grievous deck is based pretty heavily on one of Rich’s designs, and pulls in cards from other Grievous decks I liked, and was also work shopped with the group.  The Nute deck was ours but SWED Fan helped revamp it for the 10YA set.  The Ahsoka deck is basically all mine, but has some flavor of Demolishor.

I figured this would be more of a “leave behind” set, thinking there weren’t many new people to come, but I was wrong about that once again, and many of today’s most active members came in through the 10-Year Anniversary set.

Epic Duels dormancy 2013-15

As the community around the old Epic Duels forum slowly began to dissolve, I took over moderation of the Yahoo! groups. By this time, Star Wars Miniatures was no longer being published by Wizards of the Coast, and interest in both it and Epic Duels began to dwindle. There were once 4-5 Yahoo! groups dedicated to the game, plus the Forum, the Wiki and epicduels.com, but things began to consolidate. I was going to run another GenCon event in 2013, and was excited to see the 10YA Tournament Set in full action for the first time, but I cancelled the tournament due to scheduling conflicts among my own Gen Con group, which was more into Star Wars Minis than Epic Duels.  Still, there were Gen Con Epic Duels tournaments for Smash Bros. and Gundam, so the game had pulled in some new fans and continued to be played. New decks continued to be added.  A few new designers popped up during this period and added new decks, and the game kept going. In 2015, Scott turned over administration of the Wiki to me.  I didn’t figure there was much left to administrate, with interest in the game slowing to a trickle.

Even now, I’ve mostly played other games besides Epic Duels for years.  I’ve participated in and run events for some of those other games. I’m fairly connected to the games community overall through Twitter @geektopiagames and through Facebook, and I’m even getting ready to launch my own game.  Yet, Epic Duels is still my favorite game, and in many ways at this point in time, I’ve made it my own.

2016 – 2019,The Disney Years Resurgence

When Disney bought the franchise and started developing new movies, I got excited about creating for Epic Duels again. The Force Awakens came out, my wife got me tickets to see it for Christmas in 2015, and I was a fan of the film.  I felt like, well somebody has to make decks for this movie, and all of the old guard had departed.  The other thing that had changed was that there was a new group of Epic Duels fans, who now came to the Wiki as the main place to discuss the game, and it all happened to be under my sole administration.  We’ve seen a surge of interest over the past 3 years, and I think interest in those films has helped drive it.  The decks for Rogue One and The Last Jedi all got a lot of comments.  About a year after The Force AwakensI see that traffic to the Wiki and to this blog are in the hundreds, and think about what I can do to drive more interest, so I contact Rob Daviau and you guys get an interview.

I’ve been designing games since I was 8 or 9 years old, when I designed a Transformers game around the toys, where you battled by using the stats on the backs of the boxes and throwing dice.  It was a hit, and kids from around brought their toys over to do battle.  I bought a second copy of Buck Rodgersn Battle for the 25th Century Game so I could add the moons of Jupiter and Saturn to the inner ring of planets.  I soft-published a role playing game when I was a teenager, when role playing games were big, and it became the preferred game of my playing group.  In undergrad, I got into Magic the Gathering.  So, you can see how I might have an affinity towards a customizable game like Epic Duels.

In undergrad, I also met the guys who would later form the Geektopia group, CageyBB and Ian.  We started out with poker, where we invented many of our own card games.  Then, we started playing Monopoly, and later, Illuminati.  Once we all finished undergrad, we’d meet during the Christmas holidays to play games, and one day Ian had the Epic Duels game with him.  It quickly became the only game we’d play, and the rest is the history you’ve just read.

That’s how you’ve come to interact with me, not because I’m the one who came up with most of what’s out there for Epic Duels or even much of it, but because I’m the one who has been here since pretty much the beginning, and the only one of that group who still remains, and has always had a prominent role with a memorable name.  I got into this game in its infancy, and have seen an entire online subculture around this game rise, fall, and then rise and fall again.  I’ve seen literally everyone who plays or contributes to the game online come and go, and seen all the drama and infighting that goes along with that.  If you’ve explored the online world of Epic Duels at all, you have probably run into me.  I administer most of the sites, and of course, this blog.  I’ve run Epic Duels events at GenCon.  I’ve interviewed one of the game’s creators.  I’ve met many of the “big names” of Epic Duels in person including Rich Pizor, Tom Baumbach, Mike Maloney, Adam Reid, Aaron Shockley, and of course Doc Mogs.  I have made lifelong friends, attended weddings, and had people at my wedding, all through the Epic Duels online group.  In addition to those I’ve met, I’m here carrying forth the work of online pioneers like Scott Hagarty and Tim Wutke, the old old guard of Moonsylver, Brady Severns, PD Magnus, and my crew of Brian Barth, Ian Baaske, Erik Baaske, Doc, JJ, and many, many others.  Roman Farraday the Epic Duels guy is essentially an amalgam, the last of the old Jedi, a remnant of a group of people who really brought this great game to life beyond anything the designers had imagined.

 

The Future

I used to be surprised when new people would show up and get into the game, but I’m going to stop underestimating this game.  It’s been over 15 years, and new people are still discovering the game, and getting involved in adding on to it.  There’s something about the way “a difference of just 12 cards,” as Rob Daviau  put it, allows exploration of a character, or even development of a certain aspect of that character’s personality in a way that is deeper than what I experienced playing Star Wars Miniatures, or really anything else.  And, thanks to Disney and Rob, there is more content to come:

  • The Mandalorian” TV series
  • At least one more Star Wars film
  • The game Unmatched by Rob Daviau and Restoration Games, a restoration of Epic Duels, in part because of this group

In the mean time, check out how Rey, Jyn Erso, and Kylo Ren are expressed in Epic Duels terms.  Check out how Sophist’s Game of Thrones set brings those characters to life.  Dozens of decks were added or modified in 2019, none by me.  Fire in the game still exists, and so I continue to carry the torch.

Happy dueling!

Roman

3 comments

  1. JusDon says:

    Roman, this is such an awesome read. I’ve been following you guys for years. I remember downloading a bunch of decks back in 2009 and revamping my original core game and buying new characters using the Miniatures franchise. Even recently, i downloaded and updated all the way up through Rogue One and SOLO.

    I now have over 30 decks, all entirely remade using Star Wars Miniatures; even to the point where i’ve custom built and painted pieces using an amalgam of Star Wars Miniatures body parts and weapons and a heft of super glue(my Kylo Ren grabs the most attention).

    I just want you to personally know that i appreciate you and everyone else’s hard work over the years. You’ve brought a lot of great stuff into our homes and lives and increased in the enjoyment of an already legendary game. When i pull out my $500+, completely re-done, multi-mapped, custom built AND LAMINATED Epic Duels:: People GO CRAZY.
    Most don’t even know the game existed and i’m always happy to introduce it to more and more people. As far as i’m concerned, the fanbase is still there and growing.
    I may not have been around for the tournaments or the good-old-days you’re describing, but from where i’ve been — this game has ALWAYS been such a big part of my gaming groups and game nights. You’ve all had such an influence on me and i wish you all the best.
    Thank you for everything, especially the memories.

    Additionally, if you’re ever looking for professional graphic design services in deck-building, let me know! I can design like a fiend, but i don’t think i’m at the point of making my own decks. hahah

    • roman says:

      Thanks JusDon! I showed this comment to my wife, who asked me the other night why I was staying up late to write this. Let us know which decks are you favorites! We want to see pictures of your laminated set and modded figures! Send them and I’ll post them here if you want.

      • JusDon says:

        Absolutely. I’ll send pics of my entire set and specifics in regards to alterations as well as my decks!
        Where should i send them to?
        You can send me an email to justin(dot)doncsecz(at)gmail.com and i can reply with a string of stuff and reply to any questions you may have!

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