Utter Bedlam

Sometimes a company is just so crazy that you have to let them do stuff, even if it’s against your better judgement! That’s what happened when Sam and Dave from Madhouse Ink introduced themselves and their crazy card game Bedlam. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? So I gave them the run of the blog and this is what I came home to…


Dont Go Crazy or Get Scared to Death.


Sam: The card game Bedlam started out as a conversation between me and my buddy, Dave Williams.

Dave: Hi.

Sam: We are both avid gamers ....

Dave: Maybe ‘addicted’ is a better word.

Sam: ... and we spend far too much time late at night playing various computer games while yelling at each other over Skype. A common catch-cry of ours: ‘Why is it always 2am?’

Dave: It does always seem to be 2am.

Sam: Yes, it’s like a rule of the universe. Anyway, we also play tabletop games with a group of friends, like a lot of other game groups out there. After a particular session one day, we got to talking about game design, which was something we have both been interested in for ages. I work as a stand-up comic and a fantasy author, and Dave is more of an entrepreneur.

Dave: Thanks for not saying ‘feckless bum’.

Sam: I’m just trying to make you sound better than you are.

Dave: Well done.

Sam: Dave suggested that with my awesome literary and joke writing skillz, and his non-specific business and mathematical nouse, we could create something together that was both funny and fun. We love the hilarity of Munchkin, for example, and the constant screwing over of other players. We also love competitive play. We wanted a game that would make people yell at each other like we do.

Dave: You should hear what we say to each other. It’s amazing we’re still friends.

Sam: You’re an idiot, Dave.

Dave: See? And that’s nothing. That’s almost a compliment.

Sam: I can’t quite remember what came first, the Slider or the spreadsheet ...

Dave: That old chestnut.

Sam: I’m tempted to say the spreadsheet. We started off by brainstorming funny characters, enemies and equipment, coming up with things like:

The Octopleigic Spider

Doesn’t Care Bear

Squadron of Flying Pigs

Extremely Thin Cloth Hat of Headbutting

Genuine Leather Underpants

The Monster with Two Names, Or Ed


Dave: We didn’t restrict ourselves to any particular genre. Bedlam was born from the idea that fantasy games are fun, well, because they are fun! But the problem with them is really that the fantasy aspect makes it hard to get some people to want to play. All the dragons, trolls, goblins, elves and the like tend to put a lot of people off.

Sam: I have a mate who won’t touch anything that involves the word ‘mana’.

Dave: We wanted to make a game that anyone could be convinced to play, and would get enjoyment from playing.

Sam: Plus we wanted a feel of ‘anything is possible, as long as it doesn’t involve much common sense’.

Dave: That’s why there is an Undead Phonebook in Bedlam. Who brought it back from the dead? Eh? AND WHY WAS IT EVEN ALIVE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Sam: The thematic idea was that Bedlam is like a surreal asylum world, where all the lunatics and rabid dregs from elsewhere in the multiverse have been sent to live side-by-side.

Dave: And they’re all out to make you Go Crazy or Get Scared to Death.

Sam: Yes.

Dave: Anyway, we should talk about the Slider.


Sam: The Slider was the seminal mechanic of Bedlam. I like the give-and-take nature of the sliders in Arkham Horror, in which stats are linked, so that when one goes up, the other comes down, and it’s always a trade-off. I felt there was a way to increase such a mechanic’s importance and place it front-and-centre in terms of gameplay. By raising the numbers, extremes were much more possible –

you can3 see that our Slider ranges from 1 - 9.

Dave: The idea behind our Slider was to loosely link a player’s Courage and Sanity, so that in order to be Brave you must also be Crazy. Conversely, if you are Sane, you are probably Scared.

Sam: There are two ways to change the values on the Slider. One is to use the Gizmo, which can be moved during a player’s turn, up to 3 notches. The other is when cards are used – for good or ill – to send the Slider out of whack. For example, if you used a Double Edged Broom Handle on someone, their slider would look like this.


Sam: You can see this makes life difficult for them, because it becomes harder to get better linked stats.

Dave: When you face an Enemy or Ordeal, you want your Courage and Sanity to be higher than what you are facing. This can be difficult once people start screwing with your Slider! It also created a challenge for us as designers, because mathematically it must be 5possible to beat a monster that is 9/9.

Sam: Bring on more spreadsheets, we said.


Sam: Ah, beautiful spreadsheets.

Dave: They keep us warm at night.

Sam: And there are heaps of cards to keep track of – over 180 and every one of them unique.

Dave: In a regular game you’ll probably get through about a quarter of the deck, maybe. And because cards stack up, get stolen, re-used, passed around, they reoccur in play.

Sam: Yeah, you really find that each Bedlam game has its own flavour depending on what cards have come out. We had a game recently where one player had Mahatma Ghandi, a Book of Inspiring Quotes, and an Effect card called I Am An Island In a Sea of Calm. So he had this whole non-violent, serene man-of-god vibe going on. And he was coming against another player, who was playing cards like the Hammed Devil, Demon Goat Summoning Device, Fireball and Satan’s Belly Button Lint. It was a really thematic clash.

Dave: The feel of the game is quite different to any we’ve played. A lot of Bedlam is based around damage control. For example:6

Dave: See how this card has a condition on it for being Brave? That means if you win on Courage, this condition will apply. But the condition is to lose 1 Mind point, which is bad! Yes, that’s right – if you win, with this card something bad happens to you.

Sam: Yes, the game can be quite mean.

Dave: It is a big old meanie for sure.

Sam: Not all cards are so nasty, of course, but it’s good to keep in mind when playing Bedlam that sometimes you are simply trying to minimise the horrible things being done to you – hopefully long enough to outlast your opponents. And do even more horrible things to others than what is being done to you.

Dave: On that, we should mention the two winning conditions. Either you acquire a certain number of points, or you are the last person not to lose all their points. So you can either play with the intent to cost others their points, or to gain points for yourself. There is a constant flow of decision making.

Sam: Something else we’ve found with Bedlam, which is very gratifying, is that it causes players to say sentences that make everyone laugh.

Dave: ‘You receive a Dead Antelope in the Mail’.

Sam: ‘The Giant Wall of Bricks wants to fall on your head!’

Dave: ‘The Bonsai Triffid licks your feet with its whippy tongue!’

Sam: ‘I scare away the Sponge Cake Elemental with my Sneezing Baby Panda.’

Dave: ‘I throw a Non-alcoholic Molotov Cocktail at the Roast of Christmas Past.’

Sam: ‘I Dress Up Like a Thief and steal your Whale Songs CD.’

Dave: ‘I Look Down the Back of the Couch and find Einstein’s Brain in a Jar.’

Sam: ‘I Watch Braveheart on DVD and now I can beat Scots on the Rocks.’

Dave: Haha! Hilarious.

Sam: Indeed.

Dave: All right – we should wrap this up.

Sam: Hmm. How?

Dave: With some pizzazz.

Sam: And a call to action.

Dave: Good idea – okay readers, if you like the sound of Bedlam, please visit us on Kickstarter and help us make it a reality.

Sam: Yes – we are fully funded so you will definitely get the game!

Dave: Woo hoo!

Sam: Huzzah!

Dave: Whack-e-do!

Sam: Tally ho!

Dave: You can also find out about the Kickstarter exclusive hand-made laser etched wooden boxes I’m making.

Sam: Don’t start with the boxes.

Dave: But I love boxes! I could write an essay on boxes. Nay, a sonnet.

Sam: I know, but if people really want to find out about your boxes, they can visit the page.

Dave: Okay, okay.

Sam: So, thanks for reading this post, and thanks to Unboxed for having us. And now ...

Dave and Sam: Go forth and cause some Bedlam!

Bedlam Kickstarter Campaign: http://kck.st/HX3GNA

Bedlam on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bedlamcards

Also you can find more banter from Sam and Dave in this amusing designer video…

And if you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll enjoy the game so go and support them on Kickstarter.