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A Rochester man is developing his own card game.

The pitch for Puppet Masters, a game by Austin Koepp, reads like popular card games like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic: The Gathering – with a brutal bent.

“The main attraction of the game mechanically would be the concept of throwing away minions that are close to death because they take up ‘strings,’ a special currency unique to Puppet Masters that is used to control things,” he said. “More strings are needed to control a dragon, per se, than a zombie. Would you like to be a demon lord riding the back of a dragon with a golden sword or a beast-master leading a horde of dozens of barbarians? Both are possible and so much more.”


Similar to other games, players position themselves as sorcerers in charge of teams of beasts, minions, and spells. Players choose a deck out of 10, then battle each other for supremacy.

Puppet Masters is the first game Koepp, 25, has tried to publish, but it’s the second of four that he’s made from scratch in the last four years.

“I have some friends that really like board games and we like to sometimes take things we play and modify them or improve them to be more fun for us,” he said. “It was a short step to go from that to making our own games from scratch!”

The card game developed from a perceived shortcoming in dueling card games Koepp had played.

“A lot of the time it felt over before it began, that my opponent’s cards were good against the ones I had chosen,” he said. “So then it was a waste of time to finish the game. In Puppet Masters, the deck is shared and shuffled, meaning both your decks are in there and drawn in tandem. Therefore if your deck is bad against theirs, you can snatch up their cards and use it against them.”

With that core mechanic worked out, Koepp set about designing original characters and items to fill each deck until the full game took shape.

“The folks at D6 games in Rochester have really helped me out with my project,” he said. “They helped me play-test it and gave me advice on how best to continue towards production. It’s a place with a great community atmosphere and really nice, very passionate staff who want to help you find something fun.”

Currently, Koepp is pinning his hopes for the game on a Kickstarter. The project is set as an all-or-nothing one, with a community-funded price tag of $25,000.

Koepp says he calculated the costs of purchasing art for the 300 cards and produce a hard copy of the game, to be distributed to backers at the start of 2020.

“I didn’t want people to contribute $17 thousand and expect a game when I would have to put in the other $8 thousand myself to make the game exist,” he said. That could be problematic.”

If the game isn’t funded, it’s “back to the drawing board,” Koepp said. However, keep an eye out for him at D6 – when he’s not play-testing his own games, Koepp enjoys strategy and narrative games like Settlers of Catan, Smash-up, Mysterium, and Pandemic.

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Anne writes for Rochester Magazine and the Post Bulletin, and edits 507 Magazine. She hails from Lafayette, Indiana and enjoys reading, tea-drinking, and her cat, Newt Scameownder.