Designer Kane Klenko is known for designing tense, real-time games that test your wits and reflexes. His next project, FUSE Countdown is coming later this year from Renegade Game Studios! We thought it would be a good time to sit down with Kane to discuss his career with Renegade.
Renegade Game Studios: What excites you as a designer? What would you call your signature style?
Kane Klenko: I think people see me as the real-time game designer, and that’s probably true, but I’d say my signature style is tension. At least that’s what I’m going for. Real-time games inherently have that tension built into them, but even when there isn’t a timer counting down, I want players on the edge of their seats. Whether that’s the impending doom from explosions and enemies in Dead Men Tell No Tales, or the final shot needed on the mothership in Flip Ships, or staring down your opponent hoping they don’t take the card you need in Covert.
RGS: You’ve partnered with Renegade for multiple game releases. When did that relationship begin?
KK: I was introduced to Scott Gaeta at GenCon when he had just started Renegade, and I was immediately impressed with his knowledge and we just clicked. The main game I was pitching that year was FUSE, and I had interest from a few large publishers. Even though I had just met Scott, and he had just started Renegade, everything felt right and I decided to sign FUSE with him.
RGS: How’d you get the idea/concept for the original FUSE? Can you talk about the design process a little bit?
KK: I remember driving to my son’s soccer practice, and I had a picture in my head of dice being rolled and then players discussing which die they wanted. A couple of days earlier I had the thought that defusing bombs would be a cool theme for a game. I immediately merged the two ideas, and I made a few player boards that night. In the initial version each player had their own player board with colored columns. Each column had a number on it, and you were taking dice trying to match those spaces to ultimately unlock the code and defuse the bomb. I tried it out the next day, and after five minutes I knew it didn’t work. I enjoyed the idea of rolling the dice and talking about what we wanted, but the actual game had no interesting choices. I thought through the issues and decided that instead of columns you were trying to fill on a board, players should have a couple of cards in front of them, and each card could have different mixes of dice needed. That would allow endless combinations and make the game feel more exciting with a faster payout for players as they defused several cards in every game.
RGS: How does it feel to partner with Renegade to bring Dead Men Tell No Tales back into print?
KK: It feels great. It was one of my first releases, and the second game I ever designed. Having it available again with the Kraken expansion is amazing, and Renegade has done a great job repackaging it so that we could get the minis into the base box. I’m excited for new players to be able to get their hands on this game.
RGS: Flatline is a game set in the FUSE universe, why do you like returning to that setting?
KK: Flatline was actually designed before FUSE. FUSE was obviously released first, and once it proved to be doing well, it seemed like a natural fit to add Flatline to the FUSE line. They’re both cooperative real-time dice games, but they’re very different in feel. While FUSE is a compact 10 minute, quick-hitting little game, Flatline is the bigger brother.
RGS: This brings us to the present: you’re revisiting FUSE with FUSE Countdown coming in 2022 from Renegade Game Studios – Why revisit FUSE? What makes this expansion different? What did you want to accomplish when you sat down to design?
KK: When I go to gaming events and introduce myself to someone, a lot of the time I get the response “I know who you are, I love FUSE!”. That’s still crazy to me that people around the world are playing my games, and FUSE is a big part of that. It’s the game that most people seem to know me by, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve demoed FUSE so many times and in so many different situations, that I can’t help but think about new things to add to it, or things I would maybe design differently now. For years I’ve thought that it would be fun for the players to have special abilities. I’ve had all these different ideas just swimming around in my head for so long, that during the pandemic lockdowns I thought that I should just take all of those ideas, put them together, and see what another FUSE game would be like. What I was going for was a game that very much felt like FUSE, but was different enough, and had enough new ideas, that people would be excited about it. Countdown adds new elements to make the game more difficult, but also new things to help players to mitigate luck and to feel more powerful. While still feeling like FUSE, it increases the need for better communication between players, and offers an even deeper puzzle to be solved. And of course, you still only have 10 minutes!