Actor Liam McIntyre’s Secret Tabletop Origins

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If you’re into sci-fi and fantasy, you likely recognize Liam McIntyre. Most notably he headlined Spartacus: War of the Damned and plays Marc Mardon (aka the Weather Wizard) on The Flash. But did you know he created and successfully Kickstarted his own tabletop game, Monster Lab?

Liam has always wanted to create a game of some kind. While he definitely wants to make a computer game one day, he currently lacks the necessary programming knowledge. But an opportunity lay in one of his other loves. “As I got to know more and more about board gaming, I started thinking that it might be a better place to start, but nothing really happened until a Supanova convention in Australia a few years back,” he recalls. “Nathan Fillion and I were going to get dinner after the con had finished, but, well, Nathan being Nathan, he had a line that was, oooohh….4 hours long. Not wanting to sit there doing nothing, I decided, ‘Hey, why not start making that card game I keep talking about.’ It was built around a game my wife plays called 31, in the sense that I thought it was interesting building sets of three things that had to match up. It started off as Killer Penguins, and, eventually, after LOTS of testing (no one told me how hard that bit would be!), became the game you can buy today!”

Liam’s tabletop interests began as a kid. He also showed a penchant for creating gaming rules early on. “I guess my first, childhood introduction was in the more usual way, with Cluedo (Clue in America – why we changed it, I’ll never know) and Monopoly and the usual ‘standards.’ For a young kid, those games were fascinating and fun but as I grew older, I started to see them as a little too random, to the point that my Dad and me used to start making up complex trading and loan systems for Monopoly. And I have a lot of memories of playing a early ’80s Australian version of Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition. I know a lot about ’70s cricketers now…,” he muses. “My second board game era probably started later in my school years, into my early 20s with an amazing game called Catan (so simple, so fun!) and the always enjoyable Munchkin (certainly an inspiration for my Monster Lab card game!). These were so much fun with friends, and added another level to playing that was really exciting for me.”

And as time has progressed, Liam’s taste in gameplay has evolved from games that left your fate up to chance to games that required resource management or other forms of planning with multiple paths to victory. “I guess things like Lords of Waterdeep and Castles of the Mad King Ludwig are my favorites right now, but I still have plenty of time for the faster, sillier games like Epic Spell Wars and, of course, CAH. Fun times.” While never quite made the leap into Magic: The Gathering and D&D despite some interest, he definitely has an RPG class affinity: “[I]f there’s a Paladin, that’s my guy. Lawful good, heal-y smash-y…what’s not to like?”

All that gaming growing up created a great bond with Liam and his friends. “We had a really tight knit board game group of my closest friends. I guess it’s fair to say we were the nerdy kids…I certainly have zero memories of being anywhere near any of the ‘cool’ kids! But it worked for us and those same friends are my best friends now, and we still play whenever I go back to Australia. So board gaming certainly kept us close.”  There is, however, one game some of his friends play that he tends to avoid. “Another group of friends were avid Risk players and that was great too, but I have one too many memories of boards upended in furious rage as someone took Yakutsk.”

But just because he doesn’t play Risk or D&D much doesn’t mean he hasn’t been part of some very epic gaming sessions, with varying degrees of success. Axis & Allies, for example, did not go very well.  “Nine hours later we’d barely made any progress at all. I did not convince them to finish that game. Likewise, I once tried to read the rules to the tabletop version of [Civilization] – we also did not get far there.” Those marathon sessions very much helped Liam in the development process of play-testing Monster Lab, particularly with seeing the maximum number of players it’d work with. “I think 9 people ended up joining in. I think we got through 5 or so hours before we realized there was never going to be a winner. Glad we checked.”

In addition to testing with friends, Liam also demoed the game at cons all over. “I got to watch a game of Monster Lab where it all came down to one roll of the dice, the last two players left playing. A good die roll won, a bad one lost. The die literally span like a top for 10 seconds before coming down on the winning result. I got pretty excited seeing the game played like that!” He’s definitely excited to see more and more people play thrilling matches like that now that its arrived in time for Tabletop Day!

“Well, I gotta say, seeing people post on my Twitter and Instagram feeds images of them and their little gaming gang playing Monster Lab is one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had. Also amazing is the fact that people seem to really be having a lot of fun (there was a moment, as I was packing up the boxes to send people, that I realised…oh gosh, people are going to play it…is it FUN ENOUGH – insecurity’s great, huh?), which is incredible. To think that it’ll be one of the games on somebody’s shelf they might take down and play for Tabletop Day. Ha, well… that’s just about the most amazing thing, isn’t it!?”

If you’d like to grab a copy, US residents can snag a copy on Amazon (and there’s a few Collector’s Editions available as well) while International folks can pre-order on the Monster Lab website (“the order system is a little janky… I’ve been off filming since the launch and haven’t been able to fix it yet, it’ll get better!”) Feel free to follow Liam on Twitter and Instagram and, if you happen to be playing his game, share your photos with him!

Who is your favorite celebrity tabletop gamer? Let us know in the comments. 

Images: The CW and Monster Lab

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