Going to California

Making Magic — 12

In a couple of days, Steve returned with a very big set of prototype cards. “I have a call in for how many of these people cards we can use,” he said, and there were a lot, from Madonna to Dr. Dimento. Within days, the lawyers had verified that only public figures could be used without license, so most of those were trashed immediately. But Steve had made a pretty good effort at taking a small game, one you could carry in your back pocket, and turning it into a 400-card deck-building game.

Steve was on a roll the likes of which I’d never seen. As he pulled our the playtest cards to show them off to us, he happily edited as he went, crumbling up cards that in the cold light of day must have no longer made sense, and scribbling notes on cards where elaboration suddenly seemed obvious and necessary — he was a force of nature in motion, doing the work he was put here to do.

When I’d been working on my book, I’d had a chance to see him in action. “No, no,” he said, pawing over my translation of the original French game. “Something more like this.” Then he drew out in pencil a graph that made perfect sense of the likelihood that a player might roll one number or another, in relation to how skilled a character might be. The numbers were clear and inarguable. It was late in the evening, and I walked back to my office, cowed, as he’d just formed a shell of reason around something I’d been struggling with for months by that point. What I saw with him working on Illuminati was something even more different.

Two days later, I asked him, “How many cards?”

Steve looked up from his laptop. “We looked at the math,” he said, “and it seems we can get a certain number of cards per sheet, which ends up giving us about 400 cards, plus the Illuminati. I have a few changes still to make but that’s what it turns out to be.”

That’s about what I was expecting. “That’s a lot of cards,” I said.

Steve nodded, smiling, eyes closed.

I took a deep breath. “Four hundred is a lot,” I said. “But —“

“I have a couple of artists lined up.”

“But they’re black-and-white artists.” I took a deep breath again while Steve nodded. “I’ve had good luck color art in Pyramid.”

“I know.”

“But it does take time. Coloring one image per hour — and that’s very optimistic — is ten weeks, with one person.”

“Presuming no burn-out.”

“Sure. And that’s too much time, anyway. So I figure I’ll show Jeff how to color art. Still, very optimistic. So call it eight weeks for me and Jeff, if we’re lucky. And we only have nine weeks. I have to lay out the cards, and the point-of-purchase display boxes.”

Steve steepled his hands over his eyes. “Your point is?”

“We need a third person.” And I knew just the man.



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