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Designer Interview: Jon Cohn and Sen-Foong Lim

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Today we have a double feature! We bring you the two very talented people behind the upcoming Valiant: FIGHT for DEADSIDE. Sen-Foong Lim (Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game.”, The Shining: Escape From The Overlook Hotel, Legend Of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena) Jon Cohn (Ghostbusters: Blackout, Munchkin: TMNT, Grindhouse)

Valiant: Fight for Deadside is a1-4 player Co-Op game that plays in 45-60 minutes. This game will feature some of the mainstays of the Valiant Universe like Shadwoman, Ninjak, Punk Mambo Dr Mirage and more. It will be up to the heroes of Deadside to stop Master Darque’s army prevent him from invading our world. Be on the look out for this game on kickstarter soon.

Sen: Hi! I’m Sen. I live in London, ON, Canada with my wife and children. I work during the day as a professor of developmental psychology at the local college. During the night, however, I transform into a lean, mean, game designing machine! I design board and card games, primarily, and have worked extensively in the RPG sphere as well.

Jon: Hello! After years of trying to live as an adult, I’ve found a happy niche here in San Diego, CA following my childhood dreams of making board games and writing stories about monsters.

What brought you into game design?

Sen: It started as a way to stay in touch with my best friend and frequent co-collaborator, Jay Cormier. We’ve designed a ton of games together like Junk Art, Belfort, Akrotiri, Coded Chronicles: Scooby-Doo - Escape from the Haunted Manor, and MIND MGMT. Now I keep making games to keep myself sane otherwise all of the ideas would threaten to make my head explode if I didn’t get them out and onto the tabletop.

Jon: I think for me it all started back in middle school playing Magic: The Gathering on weekends. That game taught me from a very young age that I often have more fun theory crafting the best possible deck than actually playing the game. When you think of it, that's really one of the core foundations of game design. It was also a great way to enjoy an afternoon with friends where we all shared a common interest or goal. As I got older and online video games became more popular, I found myself even more drawn to analog experiences where I could still have that experience with a group of friends around a table all just having a good time. I have so many fantastic memories of playing games with friends, it brings me great joy to think that I could get the chance to do that for someone else.

Sen: Magic was definitely a catalyst for me as well because it allowed me to “peek behind the veil” of how games were designed through deck construction.

What do you like most about adapting comics to board games?

Sen: I’m a huge fan of sequential storytelling. I grew up on Silver Age DC comics in my aunt and uncle’s garage. They owned a corner store and kept a copy of each comic they ever order for their sons and, by default, me! So I have a long history with comic books. I enjoy working with adapting comics because the worlds contained within their pages are so alive to me and it’s been a joy to bring them to life on the tabletop for others to enjoy. I love introducing avid gamers to comics I love and comic readers to awesome board games set in worlds they know..

What is currently your favorite game to play?

Sen: Right now, I’m playing a lot of Masks: A New Generation which is an RPG about adventure as seen through the eyes of angsty teens with superpowers. It’s so well done! It captures the feeling of comics like Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes, Runaways. and New Mutants perfectly. Hormones and heroes - what’s not to love?

Jon: I’m two years into a deep addiction to Marvel Crisis Protocol. It combines elements of all my favorite hobbies-- painting miniatures, playing competitive strategy games, and Marvel comics. My FLGS has me on speed dial at this point for whenever new figures come out.

Sen: Apparently, we both like superheroes. Who knew?

What did you find was the most difficult part of the design process?

Jon: For this game I think the greatest challenge was making sure we got the world right. When it comes to Licensed games I always focus first on making sure the mechanics fit the theme, and not the other way around. I knew going in that this game needed to end in an epic confrontation with Master Darque, so it was very important to make sure that confrontation felt like the culmination of all the effort the players put in before his arrival. It took a lot of trial and error to make sure that every player's action throughout the game built up to this battle in a meaningful and satisfying way.

What was your favorite part about the design process?

Sen: I’m always interested in how we mechanically represent super powers on the tabletop, especially with the constraints the format imposes. We were able to make all of the powers of the various heroes affect cards and dice in a way that still made them feel very unique, important, and on-brand. For example, one of Punk Mambo’s personal items - her skull - helps mitigate dice rolls so that you can generate more Skull results, which are critical for closing certain areas of the Deadside.

You have done a lot of work with IP, do you have any advice for someone who wants to work with a particular IP for their game design?

Jon: Tough question! Oftentimes working with licenses comes down to luck. I have yet to have an experience in which I get to choose the license I work on, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with publishers who know me and the things I love. I often wear my fandom on my sleeve, (In the case of Ghostbusters, I literally have a tattoo on my arm), so when it came time for a company like IDW to find a designer to make Ghostbusters: Blackout, they knew I would treat the IP with love and respect. To be clear-- my advice is NOT to tattoo your favorite IP on your body and hope a publisher reaches out to you. Just do the best work you can and try to honor the spirit of the world to which you’re contributing.

What's next?

Sen: Well, I’m hoping if this goes well, Valiant will ask for more games to be designed in their worlds. I”m particularly interested in designing a superhero roleplaying system and the Valiant-verse is ripe with great storytelling ideas! I have a few RPG projects that are upcoming with Evil Hat and Exalted Funeral as well as a bunch of past campaigns to go to manufacturing like Kingdom Rush: Elemental Uprising. My writing partner, Banana Chan and I co-wrote Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall as a Tabletop RPG and we’re currently in discussions regarding how to turn it into a movie or television series as well as a graphic novel, so that’s new territory for the both of us! You can find out more about my past projects and upcoming work at

Jon: Shameless promotion time! I’m very excited for fans to get their hands on Fight For Deadside, but in the meantime I’ve got a D&D one-shot coming out in the December issue of Rock & Roll Magazine based on the Oingo Boingo album Dead Man’s Party, and at some point in 2022 my first novel, The Island Mother, will be coming out. You can find more information on my games, books, and upcoming comics on my website

What was the hardest issue you had to overcome while designing Valiant: Fight for Deadside?

Jon: Sen is an absolute nightmare to work with. Just kidding! Honestly I’m continually learning how to get better at running the majority of my playtesting through digital apps like Talbetopia. For me, playing board games is such a social experience that I miss seeing someone's elation when they nail the absolute perfect dice roll, or commiserating our misfortune when the gods of luck are not on our side. At the end of the day, a game is only as good as the feeling players get while experiencing it, and it’s hard for me to gauge that when I’m playing with a disembodied voice thousands of miles away.

What is your favorite mechanic in Valiant: Fight for Deadside?

Sen: I really like the switch in the game when you go from fighting Deadsiders (who are no pushovers) to fighting Master Darque in the final battle to end all battles! The intensity ramps up because the game ends with Master Darque being victorious if your team cannot finish him within the allotted time. You have to co-operate with your teammates to maximize your dice and plan your attacks so that you defeat as many of Darque’s minions and allies as possible before the boss fight ensues.

Do you have any advice for up and coming designers?

Sen: Find yourself a co-designer that you can work together with. No one is able to do absolutely everything in game design - there are a lot of hats to wear! So find someone with complementary skills who communicates well to join forces with. Having a co-designer is invaluable and well-worth splitting royalties for! Jon is worth the pay cut!

Jon: I’ll share the two most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever been given here. The first applies to so many things in life and seems simple, but it’s surprisingly tricky: finish what you start. I can’t tell you the number of hopeful designers I’ve talked to who have fantastic ideas for games, but only half-built prototypes. The second piece of advice I literally have taped to my wall: throughout the design process: constantly ask yourself what the most fun part of the game is, and do your best to make sure that players are spending as much time as possible doing that thing. It seems obvious, but I promise if you keep that in mind it will make you a better designer.

What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?

Jon: Well that depends, are you referring to an African or European swallow?



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