Slinging Mud with Matt and Matt
By Ian Shires
I was first introduced to Matt Feazell’s work in 1985, when he replied to a letter of mine they’d printed in Comic Buyer’s Guide. My simple thought that “Someday I’d like to write comics” had led Matt to send me one of his minicomics, saying, “Well why wait!?”. Matt has, in that way, introduced probably thousands of people to making small press comics, and I have had the pleasure of being his acquaintance at countless shows over the last 30 years. At the SPACE show in Columbus, Ohio this year, he showed me Mudslinger, the game he has been developing with Matt Dawson. I knew instantly we had to cover this—and thankfully, they agreed, and we’re now able to get this into the spotlight at the height of the political season.
IM: So, hello Matt and Matt…Let’s start off with ‘How did you two meet?’
MF: Matt Dawson emailed me to inquire about the possibility of hiring me to illustrate some sample cards for a Kickstarter campaign. Said he was a fan of my work from way back. We didn’t actually meet ‘til he drove up to Hamtramck from Ohio to deliver a box of finished decks!
MD: I actually was first introduced to Feazell’s work in the late ’80s at The Atlanta Fantasy Fair (I think that may now be DragonCon). He certainly left an impression on young-teen me and I loved the wit in his work.
Many years later, I became a bit of a political junkie and, during the run-up to the 2004 election, the idea for a game where players campaign against each other for the presidency came to mind. More specifically, a game where the more terribly one behaves, the better odds they have of winning. It’s one of the few games where you can straight-up lie to others at the table, make empty promises, and do everything possible to weaken and confound your opponents.
Designing the game was easier said than done and it took two years to develop, but I, and the many folks who helped along the way, were very pleased with the final result.
IM: What led you to doing it as an independently published game?
MD: I sent out inquiries in 2006 to some publishers and no one seemed interested in even glancing at it. My wife at the time insisted we take it to some publishers personally, so we self-published and rented a booth at the Origins 2007 convention with the hope of meeting publishers, while introducing it to the public. After the first day of people passing by and ignoring us, we began rounding up strangers to play at our booth. Mudslinger can get somewhat volatile with competitive players and our area got kind of rowdy as more and more people came to play and watch others. We sold out of every copy we brought by the end of that day. It was crazy. We even earned a “Best New Card Game” award from a group of hobbyists who attended the convention every year at the time.
We ended up having a major publisher take a very close look at us following Origins, but ultimately, that deal fell through as they didn’t feel Mudslinger was family-friendly enough for their brand. I haven’t yet resubmitted Mudslinger to publishers since the fresh update, but it’s on my radar.
MF: My wife Karen Majewski is Mayor of Hamtramck. That’s as close to politics as I get. Mostly I stay out of it and try not to make her job any harder than it is. What I have learned over the years, though, is that back-stabbing and double-crossing happen all the time. Doing somebody a favor doesn’t mean they will vote your way down the road. Political capital isn’t worth Monopoly money.
Also politicians are usually not corrupt, just stupid. They don’t follow the rules ‘cause they don’t bother to read the rule book. It’s up to the smarter ones to yell at them every now and then to keep things in line.
IM: Were you able to put any of your experience into the game?
MF: Yes! I put as much stupid stuff as I could into the illustrations!
IM: This has been a wild political year. I have to think that has helped your marketing efforts. What happens AFTER the election?
MD: I think it’s wild every election cycle. Mudslinger is capable of being updated with the current events and zaniness of the day. We sold over 200 copies of the original version and we’re on track to repeating that. With the right publisher, I’m convinced (of course I’m biased) it would be it a hit.
IM: What is the strangest thing that has happened in the process of promoting this game?
MF: I sent a deck in the mail and the post office clerk asked me if there was anything dangerous in the package so I said, “It’s so funny you might die laughing,” and he stamped it “Hazardous.”
Not really. I made that up.
IM: At this point, if Hasbro came to you tomorrow and said, “Let us market your game”, would you “sell out”?
MD: Of course. This is politics, after all.
IM: Both of you, what is next on your project lists? Where do you go from here?
MF: Children’s book!
MD: I’ll probably send some inquiries to publishers in the near future, but unfortunately, I have to work in the real world, so I haven’t had as much free time to promote this as I would like.
IM: Take a moment to promote anything else you are currently involved with or have available. What’s your favorite work?
MF: I’m pretty excited about the new Cynicalman “Have A Day!” coffee mugs!
IM: Ok, last chance, if you have anything else you want our readers to know, let them have it!
MF: Go out and vote! It only encourages them!
I want to thank both Matts for taking the time to speak with Indyfest about this truly unique game. We hope everyone will check it out and look forward to hearing from both of them in the future.
Follow Through: Go get a copy of the game at: http://www.mudslingerthegame.com/