[Interview] 1 Survives

By Patrick R. McDonough

All the 1 Survives content.

Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Thank you for your time, Ross. Your horror card game looks fantastic. Mind giving us the bullet points?

Ross Glover (RG): Sure! 1 Survives is a fast-paced game of strategy and skill. It’s every player for themselves, as you try to find an alternative way to escape the island while evading and fending off the killer’s attacks. 

The backstory is that a high school boat trip goes gravely wrong when the engine dies, and the vessel drifts onto the rocky shoreline of a seemingly deserted island. The boat is damaged in the collision and the group must search for a means to repair the craft or an alternative way to escape the island.

However, all is not as it seems, as the island has one lone inhabitant, who has removed themselves from society to avoid the temptation of taking further lives of innocent victims. The disturbance has reignited a bloodlust and every soul who remains on the island is their next potential victim…

Of course, sending the killer after one of your ‘friends’ might just increase your chances of success.

Game play is a mix of set collection and ‘take that’ as you attempt to find a way to survive while thwarting your ‘school friends’ efforts to escape. 

To play the game each player choses a character card and places this together with their starting location card face up in front of them.

7 cards are dealt to each player from the deck and place the remaining cards down as the ‘draw deck’.

Players then take turns to move the killer (attacking players in those locations), move themselves to other locations or collect cards to escape the island or to kill the serial killer.

If you are attacked by the killer, you must defend yourself by playing a weapon card (fight), move to another location (run) or die an unimaginable death.

If you can fight off the killer or avoid their attack by running to another location, you do not replace the card you were forced to play, reducing the number of cards in your hand, making it harder to collect the components to escape or survive other attacks.

A number of special cards can help you win the game including:


Sacrifice – push a friend in front of the killer’s blade while you run in the opposite direction.
Jump scare – without warning the killer lunges from the shadows, attacking an unsuspecting player.
Frenzy – the killer loses all control, attacking all players in one location.

You can escape the island by collecting parts to repair the boat or to signal for help, or if you can find what is needed to make a Molotov cocktail, perhaps you can fight back and put an end to this madness.

DHR: You had me at serial killer. Seriously, picturing me and a few writer friends of mine playing this game sounds amazing! You’re getting your funding through Kickstarter. It’s only running through the end of October. How has the campaign been going?

RG: We have had a strong start and after 3 days we are 25% funded. Of course we are hoping we carry this momentum through the campaign and see the game funded. That would be amazing!

DHR: Sounds like a good start. What is the game competition like? How about within horror-based games?

RG: The board game industry has exploded in the last few years and is continuing to grow. Kickstarter is a little busy with various game types, however the horror genre isn’t too crowded, and in particular one of the reasons for creating the game was that we weren’t aware of any horror/slasher card games that were easy to learn, quick to play and you could carry with you easily, say to take on a trip or holiday.

DHR: Now that you mention it, I can’t think of any others. What is the genesis for this game? Who wanted to create it and who helped make that idea come to fruition?

RG: So the idea came about when we were packing a bag for a vacation. We take card games with us to play usually after dinner. My son is a huge horror fan and I asked him if he was aware of any card games that we might be able to pick up to play, he said ‘no’ and that for the moment, was the end of it …. until we had a 6 hour wait for our flight home. At that point the suggestion to try and make a horror /slasher card game came to life. In a few hours we had the first playable version, made of cut up drawing paper for some hand written cards. Of course it had some kinks but it showed some promise. 12 months later and we are now on Kickstarter!  

DHR: That’s really interesting that this all came down to there not being a horror game for your son to play, so you made one. I love that! Is this the first game you’ve made?

RG: This is our first venture into game design, and one of the great things has been learning the process and getting to know the communities that we have found in both gaming and horror. Really inclusive and supportive, positive and helpful.

DHR: Couldn’t agree more about the horror community. So, why a card game?

RG: The games we play when we go on holiday are usually card games, games like Uno or timeline. As mentioned we wanted to make this something you could take with you easily and keeping this a card game, rather than a board game with more components was the way to do it. It also means that the rules are kept simple and the game is easy to pick up and play.

DHR: That makes sense. Are there any expansion packs in the works?

RG: Throughout testing there have been lots of suggestions for additions, such as adding weather effects that impact locations, more special cards or additional locations. There could be an expansion that delivers some of these ideas, but of course our focus for the moment is to get the core game up and running via our Kickstarter campaign.

DHR: The logo for this game is pretty neat. On the package it reads: “Ages 9 up”. I take it the kills aren’t too graphic. Why did you choose that demographic, as opposed to an 18+ crowd?

RG: So there needs to be some parental discretion when it comes to playing 1 Survives. The theme is mature and some of the cards depict blood splatter and dark scenes, however there is nothing overly graphic in the cards themselves. However, part of the fun of this game is the narrative that we have seen players add as they play, story telling each of the killer’s moves, that is where the graphic imagery can be ‘part’ of the game, but the players are in control of that.

If this kickstarter is successful one option we have considered is producing a “Not Safe For Work” version where the images in the cards is updated with more of 18+ rated theme.

We’ve had a range of younger players play 1 Survives from 9 upwards and they have certainly enjoyed the game. The 9+ came about as this was the youngest “play tester” who had fun playing the game, however, with games safety rules within the US, we may increase this to 12+ in the final text.

DHR: I’d love to see the “Not Safe For Work” version. Also on the package, it reads “2-6 players”, how did you land on that number? 

RG: Initially we had up to 8 players, however through play testing we found that the games lasted longer than intended with 8 players and reduced the chances of escape. It just didn’t feel balanced, so we tested with a max of 6 playing and this seems to work well. You do need at least 2 players to play and it plays best with between 3 and 6 players. It can be a really good party game to play with friends. Perhaps we could look at adding more characters in an expansion!

DHR: Right on. Playtime is 10 to 25 minutes long. That seems like a satisfying time frame. When you and friends tested out the game, what has been the average playtime?

RG: Number of players can impact this, and generally the higher the number the longer the game. However the average is in the middle of that range, but I’d also say that depending on the cards dealt out, the game can change considerably. It can mean a game ends quickly (possibly under 10 minutes) but it would be really unusual for this to go beyond 25 minutes, especially if you are familiar with the game play.

DHR: Was the location of this game, an island, based on a real one?

RG: That would have been great, imagine actually visiting this island! It is however purely fictional, when designing the game we had a camp crystal lake setting in mind, but I’d thought of the abandoned island in New York (North Brother Island) which was part of the inspiration. Not so far from civilization, but far enough that someone could live their un-noticed. The individual locations were those that would work as escape points, but also some classic slasher locations, such as a campground.

DHR: The folded pamphlet (covered by a map of the island and synopsis of the game on one side and the breakdown of the rules and cards on the other) is visually pleasing and easy to follow along. How long did it take to design all of that? How many drafts did you go through before landing on the final product?

RG: The original set of rules was typed up in a word doc, and we worked on that basis as we continued to refine the game balance and game play. These have been updated countless times as the game evolved and as we tested players understanding of the rules themselves. The rules and graphic design are the work of a friend (Windmill Graphics) after we spoke about what we were doing, and provided an outline of what we had in mind. We love the job that Michael has done on the box and the rules! 

DHR: The artwork on the cards is also pretty great. Did you hire an artist for that?

Cards from 1 Survives.

RG: We have had two artist work on our cards and we think these are great and are in a style that really fits the theme. We had taken time to share different styles with our play testers and on social media to gauge reaction. The artist ‘paintbrush’ effect was the winner, which we were happy with as it was also our favorite.

DHR: Do we ever see what the serial killer looks like?

RG: The most you see is the killer’s partial or full silhouette. There are a couple for reasons for this. It obviously leaves the player to imagine the killer in the way that fills their fear the most. In addition, and it doesn’t give too much away to say, perhaps the island was uninhabited and you brought the killer with you!  

DHR: Are you fascinated by serial killers? If so, mind naming a few you find most captivating?

RG: This is more Ryan’s (my son) fascination. Jack the Ripper (as unsolved), Jeffery Dahmer (The difference of knowing right from wrong, or just not caring) and Dennis Rader (Delusions of grandeur to a degree where he saw himself as an enlightened figure).

DHR: Your son has good taste. Ever watch the Netflix original series, Mind Hunter? 

RG: It is on the list, but it’s not something that we’ve seen yet. I take it this is one you would recommend?!

DHR: If you like serial killers (strictly speaking in the psychology-focused sense) then absolutely YES! My wife and I are big fans! I have the book as well, but haven’t read it yet. Is there anything else you would like to inform people about?

RG: If anyone is visiting Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando during the month, watch out for someone wearing a 1 Survives t-shirt and say “Hi”.

DHR:  Oh, neat! If one of our readers does that, I’d certainly love to know! Is there anyone you would like to make a shout out to?

RG: If any of the horror superstars out there (Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Doug Bradley, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, John Carpenter or Jason Blum) would like to back our game or our social media, that would of course be bloody awesome 😊!

DHR: Ha, seriously! Ross, thanks again for letting me interview you. I hope to play 1 Survives, eventually. Best of luck on the Kickstarter campaign!

RG: Thank you for taking the time out to interview us!

DHR: My pleasure.

You can follow 1 Survives on:

Kickstarter Campaign: Kickstarter Campaign
Main Website: 1survives.com
Twitter: @1survives
Instagram: /1survives 

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