Interview with Maverick Muse

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oddball Aeronauts by Maverick Muse is on Kickstarter now. This clever 2 player game requires no surface to play, has gorgeous art, and has been in development for 2+ years. I really wanted to ask some questions of the lads who made this thing possible. 

My questions will be preceded by HG, with their responses as MM.

Hyperbole Games: Nigel — Welcome to Hyperbole Games!

Maverick Muse: Thanks Grant and thanks for this opportunity.

HG: Tell me about yourself, your brother, and Maverick Muse.

MM: Maverick Muse is actually 3 people. Myself – primarily game design, my brother Ash – primarily artist, and Debs our Creative Director. Between us we do everything including website design, fulfillment, administration, branding, legalities, accounts, customer service. Everything. I haven’t worked out yet whether we’re gluttons for punishment, stupid, or inspired? But we have a lot of fun with all of it.

Obviously, Ash and I grew up together and we’ve played and designed games together, as well as created worlds for those games, for as long as we can remember. As the game designer and artist you really get to see what we do – it’s right there in your face.

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Debs, my wife, grew up playing lots of traditional card and board games, but she’s really embraced modern games. As Creative Director, she’s our designer and graphic designer. She looks after the brand which means she’s had a major input into the look and feel of the world, the game, the company and, well, everything. Her contribution isn’t always so obvious as Ash’s and mine but no less impactful for that. We work really well as a team and without each of our contributions, oddball Aeronauts wouldn’t have been half the game it is. So it would have only been 23 cards . . . hehe!

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HG: Your first game, oddball Aeronauts, is currently funded (past its goal!) on Kickstarter. The most important question on all of our minds, firstly, is: Why don’t you capitalize the “o” in oddball?

MM: Because keeping it lowercase is in keeping with the world itself. It’s oddball. It’s a bit maverick. Simple as! It’s one of those branding thingys!

HG: Now that that’s out of the way, tell us about the game?

Right – oddball Aeronauts is a light strategy, play in the hand, no surface required, card game of dirigible dog fights in an oddball fantasy, steampunk-esque world for 2 players, ages 9 and beyond. A game takes about 15 to 20 minutes to play, but don’t be fooled into thinking there’s no depth to the game. A lot of reviewers and gamers have been happily surprised on this score.

Yep, you can say all of that in one breath! Test it for validity!

HG: Many Kickstarter games get the reputation for being under developed. I was really impressed by the fact that oddball has been in development for over 2 years. Walk us through your process. What was your inspiration for the game?

MM: I don’t think we do anything too different to other designers. The idea first, work out some rules, create a very rough prototype, play it a bit in house, fix any broken rules and smooth out the rough points as much as you can, then take it to beta testing and through blind beta tests polish the game off. As simple as that really. I know I can say that to you jokingly as it’s never that simple in practice but maybe one day, for one of our projects, it will be!

In all honesty, I don’t know how any small or start up publisher can bring a game to market in less than 2 years. They’re obviously doing something we’re not and I’d sincerely like to know how they do it. It’s the number of beta tests which are absolutely needed that takes the time. There’s a lot of back and forth in that period. Once we’re more established we’ll be able to get a lot of beta testing going at the same time, and so reduce the time it takes to thoroughly test games but until then its a slow-ish process. If you want to create a good game you can’t skimp on the beta tests unless you’re very lucky.

When it came to oddball Aeronauts, I grew up playing Top Trumps as a kid. It’s an incredibly simple game and really only suitable for very young gamers. I used to play it in the school yard a lot. Then a few years ago I stopped doing that and I thought it would be great if there was a game with more depth that kids could get into but with the same play in the hand, no-surface dynamic as Top Trumps. That was the impetus and when I nailed the core mechanic the gameplay slotted into place quite quickly. Then it really was a case of testing, testing, testing. Plus a bit of testing as well. Along with some testing that is.

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HG: What were some of the early problems you faced with the game? How did you solve them?

MM: The biggest issues have been around balancing the two factions. When you’ve got a primary and secondary stat on each card – the Skill Level and Skill Bonus – and one of those stats comes into play twice as often as the other, it makes it a bit trickier. We had to look at all 24 cards of a single faction as a whole and ensure that in their entirety these 24 cards balanced out with the other faction’s 24 cards. Solving it was a case of 1 part maths and a lot more parts trial, error and testing. We’re back to that testing thing again.

HG: What would you say are the top things that make oddball Aeronauts a must-own game? Who would love it?

MM: oddball Aeronauts is an incredibly portable game and can, literally be played anywhere two people can get together. It’s a fact. I’ve even seen someone play it on a ski lift. And up a tree. It’s the start of ‘extreme oddball Aeronauts‘!

So it’s an ideal travel game and great for “killing time” – say in a convention queue. Also, its so quick to play that you can play it in between long games or, with some of the games out there, while you are waiting for your turn to come around. You can also easily pause a game of oddball Aeronauts and come back to it later – simply put your deck away mid-game and get it out again later – it’s easy to carry on from where you left off.

As for ‘who would love it?’ Tough question. We know it goes over really well with kids and its great for parents to play with their kids as the game has enough depth to keep us oldies interested. So, we’re thinking anyone!

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HG: When did you decide to publish oddball yourself instead of using the traditional method of finding a publisher?

MM: Right from the start. As a studio we’re more than just the game design. We really enjoy creating worlds for our games and so with an artist, game designer, graphic designer, writers and world ‘builders’ between the three of us, we decided from the outset to publish our own games.

What’s fascinating is that we’ve found the game adding elements to the world and the world adding to the game. It’s an interesting experience. For example, we’ve been working on the ‘of Shot & Blade’ adventure game and from a game perspective have a number of skills that are used to overcome threats and obstacles – think scouting or sneaking – and so worked out all the different combinations of those skills. Then we look at the world and see if there is an obstacle or threat that would match the different skill combinations. Let’s say you’ve got scouting and sneaking as your combination and the obstacle is an enemy patrol – you can get by the patrol by either scouting a route, or sneaking by. For some skill combinations there just wasn’t an obvious world threat or obstacle to use so we had to get imaginative and create one. The result, we hope, is a game that fully complements the world and vice versa.

HG: You are both designers and artists, correct? Tell us about your art background.

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MM: I used to draw reasonably well when I was younger but never pursued it. Debs is an artist herself and uses that skill with the graphic design and so on. Ash is the illustrator and is mainly self-taught. He’s become as good as he is through hard work and a lot of practice plus innate talent.

I like to think game design is part art and part craft. Then I can say I’m an artist and use that to excuse my eccentricities and oddballnesseses.

HG: How did you pick the theme for oddball Aeronauts? The art is outstanding. It’s an 18th century steampunk style thing with animals. It’s really fantastic.

MM: Thanks. Ash has done a great job of visualizing all our oddball Realms ideas. And Debs steered it in the direction of steampunk. I just sat back with my feet up and cracked the whip!

The world of the oddball Realms came first. We all had a hand in creating that and still do. We wanted to have a setting that would have as broad an age range appeal as possible and so using anthropomorphic characters was ideal. Then we fleshed the world out (to a point) and established its look and feel. So the world building came first. We’ve got several ’worlds’ created specifically for backdrops to our games.

So when the game design for oddball Aeronauts came to me, we looked at what would best suit it. We wanted this game to have a broad appeal as possible and so the oddball Realms was the ideal world fit. And as any reasonable person would do, we decided on the specific theme of duelling dirigibles. I mean, who wouldn’t?

HG: What did you learn through iteration with the art? What were some of the challenges you faced?

MM: We’ve got a big advantage in that we have both an artist and graphic designer as part of the company. This means we can all work very closely together to ensure all aspects fit. The challenge was working out how to produce the art in such a way that all three of us were happy with the results. Over the course of this project we’ve learnt to take the art in steps just like you do with game design. We start by going over a concept – or concepts – Ash then starts with concept sketches and runs these by myself and Debs. We then tweak the look and firm up the sketch before moving on to line work and finally colour with input from Debs and me at each point. We’ve streamlined this process along the way and the results speak for themselves.

Another great advantage we have with an in-house artist is the ability to tweak and adjust at any point. For example, during the Kickstarter, one of our backers had the idea to put a monocle onto one of the bots. We thought this was really cool and relatively quick for Ash to add the monocle in, so in it went! We’ve really enjoyed this kind of interaction with our backers and want to keep going with this after the Kickstarter when we start work on the expansions. So you can expect monocles on everything!

HG: What are some of your favorite games to play? Did they influence oddball in any way?

MM: We definitely prefer games that can be learnt easily. That’s a primary factor as we don’t have a lot of time to game. And we play the same games a lot before getting new ones. Recently we’ve been playing a lot of older games – Ghost Stories, Elder Sign, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Escape: Curse of the Temple and The Hobbit. None of them directly influenced oddball but you’ll see some key elements in common – player choices, random elements, easy to learn, different characters or factions, special abilities, variety and replayability. We definitely aim to include all of these elements in our games.

HG: What are your plans for oddball, aside from the obvious of publication? Is this a game that’ll work with more players? More complex deckbuilding? Peel back the curtain and tell us how the sausage will be made, if you don’t mind.

MM: Well, we’ve tested out a 3 player version and some of our backers are currently testing 4 players. In fact, one of them came back with a great suggestion that we need to fully test that I’m excited about. So, oddball Aeronauts does work with 3 or more players but we’ll always market it as a 2 player game with rules available for 3 or 4 players. The main reason for this is that you’ll need 2 sets to play 3 or 4 players and we have no plans on creating a version with 3 or 4 factions in the one box.

As to the future, we have 6 factions already worked out that need to get beta tested fully. These will be the first couple of expansions. We’ve also been playing around with Upgrade and Damage cards. Basically, the concept is that if you’ve got an oddball Aeronauts session going, after each game in that one session you play you select one Upgrade Card of your choice and add it to your deck. However, you also randomly pick one Damage card that you also add to your deck. There will also be Trophy cards to represent the winning of a game. It’s just a little thing but your deck changes over the time of the session which is fun – a ‘flash’ campaign almost.

And we’ve got ideas for giant dirigibles. These would be twice the size of regular dirigibles and so the 24 cards representing them would have higher stats and so on. You could play giant dirigible vs. giant dirigible or you could have 2 players with regular dirigibles go up against 1 player with a giant dirigible – 2 versus 1.

As you can see we’ve got a few ideas we’re working on and it’s possible that not all of them will work out. When it comes to more complex deck building I’ve been thinking about deck ‘rigging’ where players can decide the exact order their faction cards are in at the start of the game – so there’s no shuffling. This is literally just an idea as I haven’t even tried it out myself. The question is what to do with the Event cards? Maybe still pick 2 randomly but, again, you can put them anywhere you like in your deck? If someone out there wants to give it a go and let me know the results that would be great.

HG: Do you have any other games you’re working on? I remember you had a few when you contributed to my community preview article. I’d love to know what else is coming from you guys.

MM: Yes we’ve got quite a few games lined up in various stages of design. Some are just pure concepts whereas others are on the verge of going to beta testing.

We’ve got another 3, play in your hand, surfaceless card games. These all use the same core mechanic that’s in oddball Aeronauts but do provide different experiences in different worlds to the oddball Realms.

Then there’s the oddball adventure game where up to 6 players split into 2 teams of up to 3 players in each. Each team then takes on roles of officers and crew of an airship and the two teams race across the oddball skies from air island to air island in search of fortune and glory. It’s a modular board game that allows for many different adventurous scenarios and a lot of variety. I don’t think I’ve seen a game like it and that’s why we’re creating it. We’ve got a similar game to this called ‘of Shot & Blade‘ but set in our own fantasy world of Edath.

Those are ones that are closest to beta testing.

We’ve also had a request to produce an RPG in the oddball Realms and I think role-playing in the oddball Realms would be a lot of fun. Ash and I were RPGers before we were board gamers. I’ve got ideas on how to make it a bit different to other RPGs…but our focus right now is on our board and card games. If there’s enough demand though…

HG: Where do you see Maverick Muse headed as a company? Focused on your own games? Do you see yourselves taking submissions? What do you think defines a Maverick Muse title?

MM: We’re definitely focusing on our own games and the worlds they’re set in. We’ve started discussing the idea of taking submissions but haven’t decided on a policy as yet. If we did take submissions then those games would have to fit into our studio criteria and that leads nicely into your last question about what defines a Maverick Muse title.

Our worlds are designed to be adventured in and so our games are designed around the fundamental themes of adventure and action plus we aim to instill story and narrative into them. If our games can get players groaning, fist pumping, moaning, cursing, laughing and celebrating then I think we would be very happy.

HG: Anything you’d like to add?

MM: 3 + 3 ?

I just wanted to thank you for this opportunity and say that I’ve been following your blog for a while – your posts on game design are always interesting and get me thinking. So thanks for that as well.

I want to thank the folks at Maverick Muse for helping me with this interview. If you’re interested in oddball Aeronauts, it’s on Kickstarter (already funded) for another week!

Interview with Danny Devine

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Danny Devine is a great guy and a really smart designer. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person in the Summer of 2013 and again at an UnPub event in Sacramento. He’s got a great sense of humor and a great design sense. I have played his game Ghosts Love Candy and loved it. When I found out Mob Town was coming out on Kickstarter, I knew I had to interview him.

Hyperbole Games: I’m looking up my police file on you. Danny Devine of Reno. Introduce yourself — who are you? What should we know about you?

Danny Devine: Well, my name is Danny Devine…and I’m from Reno NV… (dang it Grant! You stole my well crafted intro!)

I am happily married to my beautiful wife Rachael, we have a rambunctious 2 year son and a dachshund that is somehow more rambunctious than he is. When I’m not working at my day job or chasing the family around the house, you can usually find me at the kitchen table with a new game prototype or in my office working on some art for said prototype.

Hyperbole Games: Your first published game, Mob Town, is now live on Kickstarter for funding. Your publisher is 5th Street Games, the kind soul who saw fit to publish Farmageddon. Tell us about Mob Town. 

Danny Devine:  Good ol’ 5th Street Phil, he sure knows how to pick ‘em.

Mob Town is a 2-4 player area control game that features secret agendas, set collection and a little dash of take that. Every round starts by building out a randomly generated town that is different every time you play. Players play as rival Mob families competing over limited space in order to earn the most points before the Law shows up and ends the round. The game takes between 30-45 minutes to play making it a great game to play during lunch, which is when I usually play.

Hyperbole Games: What is the origin of Mob Town? How did it come about? 

Danny Devine:  The very first thing was the core set collection mechanic. The main deck has 5 suits each of those suits is helpful at taking control of exactly 2 types of the 5 different areas you can control. The theme was a basic medieval theme, really pasted on and dull, but it gave me a place to start. Once I had that I built, I added on from there. I had created the Map Building mechanic for a game called “Space Thingz from Space.” That game was terrible, but the Map mechanic had real promise.

It was literally the same week that I had added that to the game that the Game Crafter announced their Map Building Design contest. It was too perfect to pass up. How could the contest be based around something I just started working on? As dumb as it sounds, it felt like more than just a coincidence to me. I had never entered a design contest before, nor had I ever released one of my games into the wild. All I knew is that if I didn’t try it, I would regret it.

Hyperbole Games: Who would love Mob Town?

Danny Devine:  I would say that Mob Town is for people who like fast paced gameplay, simple mechanics with plenty of decisions and options, and people who don’t mind sticking it to their neighbor when they get too big for their britches.

The theme is friendly and inviting enough that you could play this game with Kids or Grandparents and no one will be offended.

Some of initial rules go a little beyond really casual games, but if you have played games like Ticket To RideCarcassonne or any of 5th Streets other games, you will have no issues here.

Hyperbole Games: You’re also the artist for Mob Town! Tell us about your inspiration for the style, which is cute, anthropomorphic mob animals.

Danny Devine:  The look for the 5th Street redesign was definitely inspired by the movie Roger Rabbit. We needed a way to make Mobsters family friendly to match 5th Streets line and that was the way to go. Artistically the look for the game was inspired by the load screens from Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. They are clean, simple, gritty and appealing all at once.

Hyperbole Games: I had no idea, but the connection really makes sense. I LOVE Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Brilliant film.

What are some of your favorite games? Did any of them influence Mob Town?

Danny Devine:  My favorite genre of game currently is deck building; I am in love with TrainsMarvel LegendaryPathfinder Adventure Card game (that one is pushing it, but it still has a semi deck building feel to it). Unless I’m thinking of someone else, you’re a little “meh” on deck builders right Grant?

Hyperbole Games: Not necessarily. I love Ascension and have played it almost 2000 times. And, I think Dominion is brilliant, though I don’t want to play it much. I guess I find many of them very same same, so I lose interest. That being said, one of the prototypes I have in mind next uses a deckbuilding mechanic at its core with some other innovations. So…who knows?

Danny Devine: As far as the influence for Mob Town, I can definitely pinpoint the main 2, Ticket to Ride and Small World. The suit matching set collection aspect and idea of 5 face-up cards to trade with all came from my love for Ticket to Ride, along with the 1 action allotment per turn. Having only 1 action per turn makes your decision harder and makes downtime between turns almost non-existent. With Small World I loved the idea of everyone competing over cramped quarters and the aspect of things getting harder and harder to take from people as time went on.

Hyperbole Games: Do you have any expansion ideas for Mob Town? What do you think about expansions, in general?

Danny Devine:  We are actually including the first expansion “Mob Town City Limits” in the Kickstarter campaign, so for $35 you can get the base game and the expansion straight away.

The cool thing about the expansion is that it really feels like 3 mini expansions that you can mix and match or use all 3. We have City Cards, which have “clever” animal pun names like Beaverly Hills & Clam Francisco that not only name the city each round, but alter the gameplay that round as well.

Landmarks are shuffled into the property deck when you build the town, controlling these spaces gives you a special ability on your turn or bonus points. Finally we have my favorite, The Professionals, these are for-hire characters that grant you a powerful ability to help turn the tide in your favor, things like taking over certain properties for less or getting and extra turn when the Law shows up.

We also have a solo/co-op variant in which players take on the role of the Police trying to run a powerful Mob Boss out of town before he completes his operations.

I love expansions! When there is a game I really like, I want more of it especially if it adds new mechanics or shakes up gameplay. The only problem I have with expansions is when I can’t play with them because its someone’s first time playing. My game group ruined Carcassone and Small World for a couple of our friends because we gave them too much at once…oops.

I know you are a fan of them in general as well, and you’re working on a fantastic one that I got to play last year for Farmageddon. What is your favorite expansion, what about your least favorite? Why?

Hyperbole Games: My favorite expansion is probably Kaispeicher for The Speicherstadt. It’s a very smart way to expand the game that still feels core to the experience. I played Leaders for 7 Wonders the other day and thought it was brilliant. I also own and love tons of expansions for Memoir ’44 and Summoner Wars and Netrunner that are basically more stuff.

My least favorite expansion is probably the one for Alien Frontiers. It added a lot of stuff that didn’t feel necessary, greatly slowed the game, and made it too complex. We stopped playing with it pretty quickly and never looked back. Ultimately, it felt like it wasn’t needed.

You also have an adorable game called Ghosts Love Candy, which I played last year at GaymerX. That is a delightful game. Tell us about Ghosts Love Candy and the schedule for it.

Danny Devine:  Ghost Love Candy is a quick playing cardgame (about 20 minutes) for 2-6 players. It’s based upon the common knowledge that Ghosts absolutely love candy but can no longer acquire it. However, on Halloween, rules are off! Ghosts have learned that they can temporarily possess trick-or-treaters and eat all the candy they can get their invisible hands on. The mechanics were inspired by games like Get Bit and Smash Up. It’s really light-hearted easy to teach and play but still offers plenty of room for strategy.

Ghosts Love Candy is currently scheduled for a Kickstarter launch in late June early July.

Hyperbole Games: Will you also do the art for Ghosts Love Candy?

Danny Devine:  That is the current plan; I already have some art styles in mind for it that I can’t wait to try. I currently have a LOT of art to do for the Mob Town expansion and we have the talented Derek Bacon on board to help out there. I’m running a tight deadline to finish art for Mob Town and get Ghosts Love Candy rolling, so we have polished looking review copies to send out, but I am looking forward to the challenge. Having a finished game designed and Illustrated by me is truly a dream come true.

Hyperbole Games: When you generally begin work on a game, what is your process or approach? How do you create something?

Danny Devine:  Theme or mechanics, theme or mechanics, that’s what people always jump between. I am no different; it really depends on the situation. A lot of times my ideas for mechanics will come from games I’m currently playing that I mash together until something new and interesting emerges. That was the process for Mob Town, mechanics were in place before the theme emerged. With Ghosts, the complete opposite. I had an idea that I wanted to make a game about ghosts possessing people at a party, I mentioned it on Twitter, and it eventually evolved into a Halloween inspired game. The mechanics fell in place shortly after I realized I wanted it to be more chaotic free for all like Smash Up, instead of a Mr. Jack like deduction game.

In general, I design games that fit in the medium to light category and can be played during lunch (under and hour).

What about you Grant? Based on your games that I have played, I get the feeling theme is really important to you up front when designing.

Hyperbole Games: I design for an experience and bring in thematic and mechanical pieces as I satisfy that. For York I wanted an attrition heavy, aggressive war game that used technology from about the mid 19th century. I didn’t want to use dice and I wanted it to play in an hour with 4 or fewer players. That drove a lot of ideas. For Sol Rising, I wanted space ships and fleets. I wanted you to be an admiral. For Flipped, I wanted a light euro first and came about a light city builder thing as a follow up.

Two published games is a big deal. But, I have to ask you what’s next? Any other ideas you’d love to pursue? Themes that interest you? Mechanics that are exciting?

Danny Devine:  Too many to list! I can’t possibly make them all, but I am certainly going to try. I will give you 2 quick examples of the front runners right now. Keep in mind, they are basically both in brainstorming states right now.

Monkey Fruit Farmers: 2-5 Player worker placement game. Players take on the role of a fruit farmer that hires local monkeys to pick fruit for them in order to sell them to the market or fulfill the endless amounts of orders flowing in. There is going to be a fluctuating economy based on the demand of each fruit. Sometimes bananas are worth more than apples. The monkeys you are hiring must be paid in fruit, and they want what the people are eating, which means you have to decide when to feed your monkeys the top dollar fruit, meaning more monkeys but less profit, or throw them the leftovers and watch as half of them go on strike.

I don’t have a name for this other one yet, and it’s pretty ambitious but what I want to achieve is the overarching character development from the Pathfinder card game or how Risk Legacy changes from game to game, but make the experience more compact and easy to play. I want something that can be played at lunch, and the whole campaign takes 5 playthroughs allowing for a week long lunch campaign. I love how dice games like King Of Tokyo or Bang the dice game play, so if I could fit a dice and card game as the core mechanic I would love to. And to top off this pile of random, I want players playing as Super-Hero Vigilantes, not with super powers, but like Kick-Ass or Batman. I would love to figure out a way for you to start the game day 1 as your origin, and by day 5 you are battling your arch nemesis that developed along with you in a glorious final battle!

I want to thank Danny for taking the time to conduct this interview. Check out Mob Town on Kickstarter now!

Interview with David Chott

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As I often do, I encountered David Chott via Twitter and its growing game design community. David and I hit it off and began exchanging emails with some regularity. We even met at a small cafe near my home when he came to visit SF.

David has been working on his game, Lagoon: Land of Druids, for quite some time. In this period, he has quit his job and formed a publishing company, launched by this game. That seemed like a good interview. 

My questions are preceded by HG, with David’s answers tagged with DC.

Hyperbole Games: David, welcome to the Hyperbole Games Hot Seat! That’s a name I created just for you. Tell my fine readers a little about yourself.

David Chott: This heated seat makes me feel so pampered, thank you! I was raised in a gaming family and have played a wide range of tabletop games over the years. I started designing games more than a decade ago, but mostly just recorded my ideas in notebooks. I got serious in the fall of 2012. A year later, with Lagoon well along, I quit my job to become a full time board game designer and publisher. That might seem crazy to some folks. But I live in Portland, so I can get away with it.

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HG: Your first game is Lagoon. Before we dig into the delightful details, please give us the quick details.

DC: Lagoon: Land of Druids is a strategy board game for 2-4 players set in an unconventional fantasy world. It’s a game about determining the fate of the world, with each player leading a circle of druids on a quest to bend Lagoon’s destiny. Most games finish in an hour or less. Players build the world through placement of double-sided hexagonal tiles drawn from a bag. Use your druids to magically shape and redefine the world to bring about one of three possible destinies. The player who best masters the emerging destiny wins.

HG: What inspired you to make Lagoon? What was the spark?

DC: After hitting a wall as a designer, I read through all my old game design notebooks for inspiration. When I was done, I’d literally only found three ideas that excited me:

  • A scrap of paper I found with a sketch of hexagon tiles forming a landscape
  • Old notes about tokens that could share abilities
  • A recent idea for conflict between non-player entities being the focal point of a game

To my delight, I realized in a matter of minutes that I could combine all three elements cohesively. The idea with the tokens had players putting them on cards that conferred abilities to your other tokens. I thought it would be cool if instead the tokens were placed on hexagonal tiles to gain and share abilities from the hexes. Each hex would represent a different place in my world offering a unique power. The tokens, now druids, could then move around the hex-based world to do things and access different site-based powers. The scrap of paper with the hexagonal tiles called for them to be double-sided, which still seemed more interesting than single-sided tiles.

Lastly, I was obsessed with a particular scheme for non-player entities in circular conflict, and had been weaving it into each of my game designs for months. I decided to bring that in by aligning every site with one of the non-player entities and making sure the two sides of a site tile were always aligned with different entities. This would offer a choice whenever a player added a new site to the board. At the end of the game, the entity with the most sites in play would win the conflict. Players freely support or oppose any entity they wish, but the winner is the one who best supported the final dominant entity.

Amazingly, that’s pretty much Lagoon right there. All the core ideas were in place right there at the beginning. Because I was obsessed with the scheme for non-player entities in conflict, I had actually already worked out thematically that the entities would be opposing energies in a fantasy world. Players would manipulate the world to support one energy or another. At the end of the game, one energy would dominate and the player most responsible for delivering that dominance would be the winner. In previous designs there had been four energies. I thought that would be too many different tile alignments to give players sufficient control, so I went down to three energies. That also happened to make for a much more balanced and interesting circular power dynamic as well: the familiar rock, paper, scissors. The only significant mechanic that was added later is rewarding a player for exploring a site with a seed token that matches the explored site’s energy.

HG: What are some of your favorite games, and why?

DC: My taste in games has changed a lot in the past 5 years. I used to favor heavier Euro strategy games. Today, my favorite games include Liar’s Dice, Innovation, Tash-Kalar, Netrunner, Hive, Jaipur, Tigris & Euphrates and Dominant Species.

But my hands down all-time favorite game has long been Magic: The Gathering, even though I haven’t played very actively since the 90′s. There is so much genius in that game, but perhaps what I like best about it is the wide latitude it gives players to express themselves. Being able to compose your deck from thousands upon thousands of different card choices makes it possible for a player to innovate something wild that’s never been done before. It’s a sandbox. You can build a deck that perfectly matches your personality, mood or preferred play style. Back in college, I could look at any deck in our large play circle and probably be able to guess which of my friends built it. Building decks can be a highly creative act, and in many ways building and tuning a deck is a form of game design. This experience influenced me as a gamer and designer more than all other games combined.

HG: Did any of those favorite games drive you towards Lagoon? Which aspects?

DC: I adore emergence in game play, and many of my favorite games have it in spades (Magic, Innovation, Netrunner, Hive, T&E). This was a goal for Lagoon from the beginning. I find emergent game play so deeply satisfying for several reasons. Games with a good deal of emergent mechanics tend to provide a richly complex universe of possibilities without necessarily being so complex to play. The depth of possibilities in each play of these games means they often have a higher order of replayability than games without much emergence. Emergent mechanics are also quite good at delivering surprising situations play after play. The range of things that can happen in such games tends to be wider than in more rigidly constrained games with low or no emergent mechanics. When all of these factors come together at their best, the game experience is something like exploring a living system whose mysteries and possibilities can never be fully grasped or exhausted even after hundreds of plays. To me, that’s magic in a box. That’s what I want most when I sit down to play a game.

So I’m delighted that even after playing or observing more than 100 games of Lagoon, I am still seeing interesting new situations and combinations emerge that surprise me. Lagoon offers tremendous emergent potential. The game includes 24 double-sided hexagon tiles, for a total of 48 sites that each have a unique action players can use. The “board” of the game is a constantly changing layout of site tiles whose spatial positions have tactical and strategic significance. Throw into that mix the ever-changing balance of power represented by the number of tiles in play aligned with each of the three energies competing for Lagoon’s destiny. It’s a recipe for a whole lot of variety and surprise every play. I think players will find Lagoon has an extremely high replay value without the aid of expansions. At the same time, it is imminently expandable and I have some exciting ideas about how to do that.

HG: Who would love Lagoon?

DC: Lagoon’s fans like it for different reasons. There’s the emergent game play, combo building, and puzzle solving. Many appreciate that Lagoon is both highly tactical and highly strategic. Lagoon tends to go over exceedingly well with Magic: The Gathering players. But I’ve also had train game players geek out over Lagoon because its scoring mechanic has similarities to scoring in stock holding games.

HG: You released a PNP (found here) some time ago. What did you learn from the PNP?

DC: I made the PNP because several people who played it at BGG.CON were asking for one. I was optimistic that many more would try it too. It was downloaded more than 130 times, but I only heard from a handful of people that they actually made a copy and played it. Maybe more did, but they didn’t report back.

What I learned is that some Board Game Geek users are amazing people who are willing to invest a ton of time giving feedback on a PNP. I had one user create his own suggested iconography to represent a variety of the basic actions that might appear on site tiles. Another user went even further and completely recreated the PNP exclusively using beautiful icons he designed himself instead of text. I was floored by the energy they put into offering these suggestions for Lagoon, without really even knowing me personally. Our hobby is filled with so many wonderful people, that’s one of the things I love most about it.

But although it would be great if a game like Lagoon could be made language-independent by using icons, it would require a large glossary of icons to achieve that. Which creates a learning barrier for many players. Considering my desire to expand Lagoon with new mechanics that would only expand the glossary of icons further and exacerbate the problem over time.

HG: Let’s take it a step back. What were some of the key lessons you learned from testing in general?

DC: All the basic things you read about play testing and game design are true, but most of them you have to learn yourself the hard way before you really accept them. For example, less is more. Or a designer’s job is done when there is nothing left to take out. Be willing to kill your darlings. Figure out which are the interesting choices your game presents to players, and strip away everything else. Know your target audience. And so on.

It’s funny how, in retrospect, every single mechanic I pulled from Lagoon so clearly and obviously made a better Lagoon with their absence. But so many of them were darlings I fought and resisted removing even when my testing showed they were problematic and sometimes even when my players kept asking me to. This is a lesson I hope not to soon forget.

Lastly, players who get your game and like it are great ego boosters, but it’s the players who struggle with your game that you really need to talk to. These players may not have much to say in a post-game debrief because they don’t want to look dumb for not understanding aspects of your game if other players did. If a player struggles with your game, try to talk to them one-on-one where they may speak more freely. Try asking them to explain how to play your game, maybe even the day after they played it. You may be shocked at their understanding of how your game works, and then it’s on you to make it easier and less confusing.

HG: I’m an absolute board game art snob. I buy, or don’t buy, games purely because of their art. Lagoon’s art is just astounding. It’s gorgeous. Lay out for us the art direction points you gave to your artist. What was your vision for Lagoon’s presentation?

DC: There’s no substitute for working with talented people, so enormous credit goes to graphic designer Peter Wocken and illustrators Eduardo Garcia and Chase Velarde for crafting amazing visuals for Lagoon.

Doing the art direction for Lagoon has been one of my greatest joys in this whole project! I’ve invested a lot of time developing the story and aesthetic concept for the world of Lagoon, and have actually been working on this world for more than a year before this particular game existed.

I take my inspiration from nature. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and backpacking trips into our phenomenal forests are one of my favorite summer activities. I’m a forest person and Lagoon is primarily a forest world. The magical features and natural wonders depicted in the art are the sorts of things I would be delighted to stumble upon while wandering the forest, and maybe the sort of things as a kid I secretly hoped might lie around the next bend.

To convey my vision for the world’s aesthetic, I wrote a fairly detailed artistic sourcebook for Lagoon that establishes a lot of the basics for the benefit of my illustrators. I cover things like what druids should look like, the kind of mood illustrations in each of the three energies should establish, and more. Then for each illustration I often provide a paragraph or two describing what I’d like depicted. But I also like to be vague sometimes and let the artist make most of the decisions. I love being surprised with something awesome that is outside my own imagination! It’s a fun process, and I love it. I’m incredibly lucky to see my world come to life at the hands of such gifted and versatile artists!

HG: You recently quit your steady, paying job to become a full time game designer and publisher. Dear god, man. What is the reason for this? What do you hope to accomplish this year?

DC: I needed a change in career for a long time before making this shift. Frankly, I needed a change in my life even more. As someone in love with story, there’s something especially powerful about taking responsibility for the story of my own life and setting a new course in the direction of my dreams. It represents a major shift in my approach to life, and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. Staying true to that is more important than whether I succeed as a designer or publisher. If it doesn’t work out, fine, I’ll set a new course based on what I’ve learned and who I am at that point. I’m learning so much now every day and growing so much as a person, I have confidence that I can keep moving forward. I have a lot of exciting ideas for what I’d like to do after publishing Lagoon: Land of Druids, but the timing depends so much on the game’s reception and other factors that have yet to unfold.

HG: What are the key elements of 3 Hares Games? What makes your company unique? What will make you successful?

DC: Three Hares Games will focus on developing a high quality library of games that collectively tell the unfolding story of a single world, Lagoon. My vision is to set every game I publish in the world introduced by Lagoon: Land of Druids. I think that’s unique for a board game publisher.

I will strive to make Lagoon a unique and compelling world that players will want to revisit in a wide range of different games. I’m excited to dive deep into Lagoon’s mystical landscape and share more of its lore, its mysteries, and its characters with every game I publish. You’ll notice in Lagoon’s art that the three hares motif that is my logo and gives my company its name is taken from the world of Lagoon itself, so I’m very committed to this vision.

As a person, I am extremely motivated by story. Perhaps more than anything else. Which explains why this approach to publishing makes sense for me. If the world of Lagoon resonates with players, I will get to tell more of its stories in the future. Nothing would make me happier. I believe this approach can contribute to 3HG’s success, but no amount of story matters if the games are not fresh and fun to play.

I place a high premium on originality, and I like to think that shows in Lagoon. That’s a quality I want to cultivate as a hallmark of Three Hares Games, and I’m willing to take some chances to do it.

HG: Do you see 3 Hares accepting game submission in the future? If so, what would you think would be the defining characteristics of a 3 Hares Game?

DC: With my plan to set all the games I publish in the world of Lagoon, that makes accepting game submissions trickier. Mainly that’s because I’m unwilling to paste the Lagoon theme on a game that doesn’t evoke the world already. And I wouldn’t expect designers to invest the time to design something native to my world and thereby limit their chances for publication. I can envision collaborating with other designers though. Or potentially inviting a designer to make a game because I think it would work out well. As for defining characteristics, I address that to some extent in the previous question. I think it would also be safe to assume emergent mechanics will be an important characteristic.

HG: Lagoon is on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW. What were some of the most important Kickstarter lessons you took to heart before launching?

DC: This is hard to answer because there are so many lessons I tried to internalize and at the same time there were so many lessons available to me that I didn’t have time to assimilate. I have tremendous respect for anyone running a board game Kickstarter campaign on top of a full time job, because it has been a mad dash for me to cover everything and this IS my full time job (just about every waking hour). Since so many more experienced and wiser folks than I have written volumes on this subject, I don’t have a grand list of things to rattle off.

But here is what I can offer. The amount of time that goes into preparing a board game KS is mildly insane, so double or triple your time estimates. You’ll still be scrambling. Also, realize that your development process to test and polish your game should be on a totally different timeline than your KS preparation schedule. Game quality is primary. Don’t let the tail wag the dog and rush into your KS with a subpar product. It is a crazy amount of work to publish a board game using KS, so don’t put yourself through that with a game that isn’t your best.

My next lesson is that the board game community is filled with amazing people who are eager to see you succeed and often willing to help. Immerse yourself in the community on Twitter, go to board game conventions and make friends with other designers and publishers, help test other designers’ games, and try to be awesome to everyone you meet. I have received more help, support, encouragement, valuable advice, introductions, and all manner of other useful assistance from so many fellow gamers, and I only really got into the community starting back in August at GenCon. Without them, my game would never have reached this point, it would never have reached this level of polish, and I may well have given up.

HG: Final question. I know your focus is on Lagoon. I have done enough interviews to know you’re going to say “my focus is on Lagoon being a success.” But, can you hint at what’s next? Surely you have some ideas (and revenue needs) lingering in your brain.

DC: I’ve already hinted at plans to offer expansions to Lagoon: Land of Druids. I think that would be the most natural next step, assuming there is demand for them. I do have a small handful of new game ideas I’m very excited about as well, but none of them has made it to the prototype stage yet. So they could totally suck for all I know!

I want to thank David for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re interested in Lagoon: Land of Druids, check out the Kickstarter page here

An Interview with Ty Franck

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James S.A. Corey is the writer of The Expanse trilogy of sci-fi books, beginning with Leviathan Wakes, continue with Caliban’s War (my personal favorite of the trilogy), and ending with the recent Abaddon’s Gate. I recommend these books as strongly as I am able. If you love great stories and characters, read them.

The problem is, Corey doesn’t exist for me to interview. It turns out, Corey is the pen name for a duo of writers, one of whom is Ty Franck. Franck is not only half the writing team for one of my favorite books ever, but he has experience writing for games.

One of my goals for Mars Rising is to create a narrative for two friends to enjoy together. Franck’s experience with both games and stories made him someone I very much wanted to interview.

My questions are marked by Hyperbole Games (HG), with Franck’s responses following (TF).

Hyperbole Games: What do you think of the current use of story in games, print or digital? Have you encountered any that are particularly impressive to you?

Ty Franck: I think digital gaming is experiencing a golden age of storytelling. Gamers have told developers, with their buying dollars, that graphics and game play are less important than a compelling story.

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Telltale recently won pretty much every game of the year award there is for a graphically primitive media tie-in game entirely because the game had an incredible story.

My favorite games of the last few years were Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, and Last of Us. All games with strong narratives and powerfully told stories with great characters.

HG: I haven’t yet played Last of Us, but I have played Naughty Dog’s other PS3 titles and I think they are masters of interactive fiction. I’ve enjoyed most of Bioware’s efforts, as well.

The key element that distinguishes games from other platforms (books, movies) is interactivity. Do you personally prefer to experience a game story that is told to you (ex: Call of Duty), or do you prefer to affect and create your own story (The Sims, Skyrim)?

TF: I don’t like sandbox games. Never have. Honestly, after a few hours playing I get bored. I need a compelling narrative to truly engage with a game. If a game tells me I can do anything I want, it has also told me that nothing I do actually matters. Now, if a game can match a strong narrative to a feeling of making important choices, like Dragon Age did for me, then I’m hooked. That’s the perfect structure for making me love a game.

HG: In my prototype Mars Rising, I’m trying to provide some narrative for each scenario to set the scene for the players. What are some of your preferred methods to quickly establish a scene?

TF: Sensory details and familiar situations.

A man walks into his dining room. His wife is sitting at the table, a cup in front of her and the bitter burnt smell of coffee that’s gone cold filling the air. Her eyes are red, her face tracked with tears that have long since dried. She says, “We need to talk.”

Four sentences, a bit of sensory detail, a situation we can all relate to, and the reader will immediately fill in all the bits you left blank with their imagination. No matter how outrageous the setting, anchoring it with the familiar engages the reader. If the dining room above is the galley of a space cruiser, it doesn’t change the familiarity of the moment or the tension of the scene.

HG: That’s fantastic and simple, thank you! One of your main characters in Caliban’s War, Chrisjen Avasarala, is such a rich and hilarious character. What makes a great character for you?

TF: Honestly? It’s pretty simple. They want things. The things they want are hard to get. They work hard to get them, in spite of all obstacles. Along the way, they act like real humans act.

HG: The execution required for that seems quite difficult to pull off, but the guiding note is again, quite simple. Thank you.

You write collaboratively with a partner, which to me doesn’t seem terribly common. Could you briefly describe your process?

TF: Short version is, we plot together, we outline together, we split the actual writing with each person doing half the book, we edit each others work along the way.

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HG: You and your writing partner chose a technological level for The Expanse that seems “realistic.” Far more so than the more fantastical technology of Star Trek, for example. Why?

TF: Because we wanted to write stories that focused on the humans, not on the tech. And if the setting is incredibly exotic, it’s easy for the human stories to get lost in it.

HG: Do you have any favorite stories from other mediums that you’d like to see as games?

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TF: If somebody figures out how to do a Jack Vance Dying Earth or Roger Zelazny Lord of Light game that respects the original source material, they can have all of my money forever.

HG: I just bought both of these as I realized I’ve never read them. Who knows, maybe I’ll earn all of your money forever?

The Expanse trilogy is full of so many experiences. In Leviathan Wakes (the first novel), we read about shoot outs, limited ship-to-ship engagements, some sci-fi horror, some detective business, and even a love story. Do you have a particular element you would want to play as a game?

TF: We’ve had lots of space flight games, including some great ones. We’ve had lots of SF RPG games. I want to play a game that does both well. I want to fly my spaceship from planet to planet, getting in space battles with pirates, then get off the ship and walk around having adventures. I know for a developer it’s like making two completely separate games, but I’d love to play it if someone does it.

HG: That would be very fun. I have friends who play the new Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG, but when they are in space they use the X-Wing Miniatures game system.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

TF: Thanks for the Mars Rising game. We need more space battle games.

HG: I certainly hope I can find a publisher who shares your sentiment! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.

An Interview with Colby Dauch

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Colby Dauch is the owner and chief game designer of Plaid Hat Games, one of my favorite companies that has created two of my favorite games: Summoner Wars and Mice and Mystics. In just a few years, Plaid Hat has grown from a single game company to one with a huge booth at GenCon, two games in Barnes and Nobles, and a legion of fans, err, Dougs.

As an aspiring designer and entrepreneur, I really wanted to interview Colby for this blog. He kindly set aside time to answer my 10 questions. My questions are marked with HG, with Colby’s questions noted by a CD.

Hyperbole Grant: You are overwhelmingly a theme-first designer, which means you approach your games from that of story, the experience, and, of course, theme. What is the most important element in making a game thematic?

Colby Dauch: Keep the theme in high regard throughout the design process. I once heard that a company I won’t name will strip all theme out of a game they are interested in publishing. If it is still a good game, then they will publish it with whatever theme they like.  That’s so against my sensibilities that I find it shocking. I feel like a game that does a good job of transporting you into its world is just doing it right.

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HG: Dead of Winter (Pre-Order Here) is a game that, due to its social mechanics and theme, really provides a platform to tell stories. What is one of your favorite stories from the game?

CD: I’m not blowing smoke when I tell you every time I play a new story develops. It is hard to pick a favorite, so I’ll just tell you about the last play I watched. I took the game over to a family Christmas.

I had a full crew of 5 family members playing so I sat out and taught. I watched my family generally work together to overcome adversity — that is until Rod (one of the game characters) had a heart attack. The players decided they couldn’t risk the exposure of carrying him to the hospital where they thought they saw a defibrillator. They instead let Rod die.

My stepfather, who was playing Rod, was not cool with that (Editor’s Note: Players control multiple characters throughout the game). His reaction was that every time someone needed his help, he would ask them where they were when Rod had his heart attack. Morale (a game stat) started to quickly take a dive and they lost that game. I was very intrigued by the drama that played out there around the dining room table. It’s interesting to watch people who you’ve seen interact many times before thrown into a situation where you are seeing a whole new side to their interactions.  And all in the relative safety of a board game.

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HG: Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia really opened a lot of eyes to what a video game conversion to board game can be. What are some of your other favorite video games that, due to their themes or mechanics, would also make great board games?

CD: This is a tough question. I think it could be the case that if a video game’s mechanics transition neatly into a board game, then there may not be much reason for that board game to exist. Because you are just giving fans an experience they’ve already had.  This is something we didn’t want to do with BioShock. So I think theme holds precedence here for me.

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That said, if you are asking me what my dream video game license is, it’s either Final Fantasy Tactics or Final Fantasy 7. They both had a huge impact on my development.

HG: Having played a significant amount of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, I feel that’s a game that’s right in your wheel house. Speaking of…

Heroscape is your favorite game and the one that brought you into this hobby full steam. As a side note, it had a huge impact on me and my college friends as well. What are your favorite things about it?

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CD: The game is gorgeous. Its visuals alone pull you in. Put on top of that a fun game and the community that formed around that game and generated so much content and formed so many connections and relationships for me.  It was just all consuming for a period of my life. I never had that experience before or since as a fan, so it remains my top game and I can’t imagine it ever being dethroned. It wasn’t just a game I played, it was a game I immersed myself in even when not playing.

HG: Listening to your podcast, you really seem to be able to have a vision for the early prototypes you are shown. Mice and Mystics is one of my favorite games, but your first viewing was, from what I understand, a bit rough. What did you see in Jerry’s early prototype that led you to devote years of development and a lot of money on the project?

CD: Easy. I saw Jerry. I believed in him.

HG: I finished the base game over my Christmas break and plan to begin Heart of Glorm shortly. The tidbits you and Jerry have hinted about the next big box expansion sound incredible.

What were some of your favorite games of 2013?

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CD: If I can cheat and do a video game, everyone should play Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It was a powerful experience for me.

HG: I didn’t specify, so the judges have ruled this a perfectly suitable answer. For those curious, Brothers is only $15 on the Steam platform for your PC.

2013 was a big year for your company. Summoner Wars Master Set and Mice and Mystics are both located in Barnes and Nobles. You added your first full-time employee (the charming Isaac Vega). Seems you’re working to add a second (graphic designer). You attended Essen, plus a huge Gencon booth. For you, what was the biggest “holy crap!” moment of 2013?

CD: Watching the Mice and Mystics fan base have fun with and spread the word about that game.

HG: Having a full-time staff member must be one of the biggest changes to your company ever. What opportunities and changes have come about by adding Isaac to the staff?

CD: People bring with them ideas and experiences and talents all their own. People, not one person, make a company. I have long dreamed of having a community of people working on games together in the same place. Isaac was the beginning of that and I’m looking forward to where it leads.

HG: You guys are testing machines. Summoner Wars has always had a steady testing team (and it shows in the product) and Dead of Winter had a small army of testers, which Isaac covered on the Podcast. What tips can you provide to aspiring publishers to create such an infrastructure?

CD: It’s hard to do for an aspiring publisher. Prospective testers need to be excited about what you are doing. With so many aspiring publishers and prototypes out there, it is hard to do unless you’ve got some kind of track record that has created a fan base you can tap into. When I started out, I was just relying on friends and there was no real infrastructure to speak of. You’ve really got to keep your nose to the grindstone and find ways to keep your friends interested in continued playtests. Because friends and family are the ones who believe in you at that stage.  It also helped that I was so involved in Heroscape. I had made many gamer friendships through that. Heck, I turned my local friends into gamers though that game.

HG: You’ve surrounded yourself with a great team of frequent freelancers who almost seem to be family. As an outsider, that team really seems to be one of your competitive advantages. What advice do you have for hopeful entrepreneurs to create and foster such a team?

CD: Much of that team comes from the Heroscape days I’ve mentioned multiple times here. I guess I mostly feel lucky. Fostering it comes pretty naturally if you are working together on great stuff and everyone’s doing great work then the projects themselves are motivators. You keep being excited about the project and let that rub off on others. It is a lot of work to publish a game, but in the end, you are bringing something into the world that a group of people will really appreciate and enjoy. Hearing those stories from people motivates the team on the next project.

Be passionate and when you attract passionate people, appreciate them. I guess that’s my formula. Or, like I said, maybe I just got lucky.

I want to thank Colby again for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck in 2014. If you’re curious about Plaid Hat and their games, visit their website. I also recommend their weekly Podcast.

Interview with Byron Collins

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I have a lot of respect for Byron Collins and I saw his recent Kickstarter project as an opportunity to interview him. Byron is the type of scrappy entrepreneur I would like to be myself. He sets high standards, goes above and beyond to support his community (check out all the post-release content!), and has great ambition. 

His recent Kickstarter project is for Eastern Front, a standalone addition to his Spearpoint 1943 game. Spearpoint is a great entry-level war game for folks interested in conflict. It’s portable, plays quickly, has tense, exciting dice rolls, some historical elements, as well as deckbuilding at the outset (like Magic, not Dominion). I own a copy myself and recommend it.

Below, my comments are labeled HG. Byron’s are BC

HG: Tell us about yourself and Collins Epic Wargames. What do we need to know?

BC: I am a 1 man company and have been from the start.  I am solely accountable for anything that is related to my company or my games.  I treat that responsibility and our fans with great respect.  The only thing I do not fully do is some of the artwork for some games (others I’ve done all the art except the cover).  I rely on some great artists like Marc von Martial and Mark Mahaffey to carry me through on some projects.

While I will accept any failure or shortcoming I may have, I will not take credit for all of the successes.  Without great fans, these projects I’ve so enjoyed creating and bringing to this niche market- would not exist.  What you need to know?  3 things:

  1. I stand for a quality made-in-the-USA product.  Everything is printed stateside.
  2. I strive for bringing you the best possible games I can.  My heart is in them.  It’s my passion.
  3. I help others.  I’ve been a presenter at the GAMA Trade Show regarding self-publishing and I’ve blogged on it and helped many in the Board Game Design forum over on BGG.  Gaming and creation of games is much bigger than my little 1 man company.
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HG: Can you walk us through Spearpoint at a high level? Describe the game and if you would, give us a little history on the franchise.

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The Expansion

BC: Spearpoint as a system plays in two ways- one is as a fast, tactical, abstract, quick-and-dirty, portable filler wargame– when played with just the cards.  Two is as a boardgame when played with the optional Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion.  The two ways feel completely different, but have enough crossover in the rules that it’s easy to transition from one to the other.

Where the original Spearpoint 1943 is all cards (Editor’s Note: And dice for combat resolution), the Map Expansion takes those same cards, adds a few rules, and turns it into a full-on board wargame with a miniatures feel.  In fact, you can replace the cards on the terrain map with miniatures.  The line is growing.  Spearpoint 1943 Eastern Front, on Kickstarter at the time of this writing, expands the system further to a different front with all new cards and the addition of the Red Army.

HG: What inspired you to make Spearpoint?

BC: Spearpoint came about when I was demonstrating combat from my first game- Italian Campaign Introduction- which is a very in-depth game.  The combat portion was quick enough to demo at conventions to get people interested in the full campaign game.  While sitting there doing a demo, some friends in a neighboring booth said “those combat demos are working great- people love the quick combat.”  The idea to turn that portion of a larger game into its own standalone game was sparked right there.  I believe it was Historicon 2009.

HG: How is Spearpoint unique from other war games?

BC: The original has a single sheet of rules that’s really easy to pick up yet offers enough of a tactical flavor to feel like a much heavier game.  Where it really succeeds is telling a good story.  When you play the game, you will remember the “oh YES!” and “oh NO!” moments.  You remember exactly what led up to your victory – or defeat – and you can quickly relay that over a beer with friends.  A lot of wargames are “fun.”  This one is fun and accessible to the intro-wargamer.  It’s a great gateway wargame.

HG: Why did you choose to take Spearpoint to Russia? Why the Eastern Front?

BC: By popular demand.  A while back, I polled my e-mail list subscribers on “where to go next?” with several options— Eastern Front, British / Commonwealth Forces, Pacific, etc. and the fans we love chose Eastern Front.  So it’s a direct result of that poll that drove the line this direction- and I think it was a good choice.

HG: I’ve been reading more about the Commonwealth forces – they did some incredible things throughout the war. I’d love to play that expansion at some point. I agree with the vote though – the Eastern Front is the obvious next step. What is different about the Eastern Front version?

BC: The system rules are very similar to the original Spearpoint 1943 with a few tweaks.  Also by demand we’ve included tracking counters with the Eastern Front version.  The cards are all new- though some German units must repeat because to exclude them would not be very realistic (such as the Tiger I, Panther, etc.).  There are some major differences with Infantry and Crews.  Infantry and Crews are not all the same.  Before, a Tank Crew was a Tank Crew.  Now, a Tank Crew may be Green, Regular, or Veteran.  With more experience comes more ability, but at an added cost to your Reserves deck build.

HG: Those counters will really improve the experience. Great idea. Do you have any favorite movies or books that cover this aspect of the war? Did any of these inspire you in creating the game?

BC: The Rick Atkinson books are great.  Some of the US Army pubs are also inspiring.  You can find a lot of those online (if not all) such as Fifth Army at the Winter Line.  The Scenario “Man vs. Beast” in the Spearpoint 1943 Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion was inspired by Saving Private Ryan (the scene where they take on a Tiger Tank in the middle of a village).

HG: Saving Private Ryan is my favorite movie. I’ve watched it so many times. The film scene I want to capture (at some point) in a board game is Easy Company taking that battery of German .88s from Band of Brothers.

What do you think is the right balance between historical accuracy, simulation, and fun?

BC: If you are not having fun playing whatever game you’re playing, what’s the point?  It must be fun first.  It must have enough historical accuracy to feel real and be plausible.  And last would be simulation.  In my opinion, a game that tries to simulate every single aspect of every minute in a soldier’s life drowns players in those details.  I try not to do that.

HG: What are some of your favorite war games?

sos-box-cover

BC: Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel by Academy Games is a great game.  I also like games in the World at War series by Mark Walker and Lock N Load Publishing.

HG: I’ve only played my copy of Storms of Steel a little bit, but it’s such a well-designed, fun game. I’m going to look up World at War.

I really hope to I can’t help but ask you about Polyversal by Ken Whitehurst. What can you tell us about Polyversal? When can we expect to see this game?

polyversal_cover_800w

BC: Yes, that’s correct.  Polyversal is a huge leap for me.  Stepping out to publish a 6mm sci-fi mass combat game is quite a departure from light card wargames.  What’s great about Polyversal is the Poly in the name is really an applicable term.  In boxed sets of the game, we’re working with multiple miniatures manufacturers in the range of 6mm to supply minis for the boxed games.  Bringing together at least 5 manufacturers at the moment is not an easy task.  The core of the game is easy to pick up and teach.  It’s a lot of fun.

And working with the concept artist, Bruno Werneck, who did concept art for Tron: Legacy, Thor, the new Star Trek, and other movies, has been amazing.  We’re going with top notch artwork for this game and it’s gorgeous so far.  While we continue to develop the game, you may very well see a two-phase Kickstarter approach to Polyversal:

  1. To help fund artwork
  2. For production of the game itself

Why?  We want to break up the project into smaller chunks.  We need funding to afford Bruno’s services.  And, we don’t want to keep people waiting on a game while we rush to get artwork done as part of a production Kickstarter. That’s just not cool.  More info about the game is available at www.polyversal-game.com.

HG: Wow, really cool! Bringing in such talent must be incredibly exciting. I love hiring my favorite artists. Anything else you want to add?

BC: Yes, we have a current active Kickstarter project for our next game AND a current Boardgamegeek.com contest going for it.  Go help us out and pledge to get a great standalone card wargame, Frontline General: Spearpoint 1943 Eastern Front.  The system is fun and is getting high marks as it gains momentum. The second game in the series (Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion) is also nominated for a 2013 Origins Award in the Best Historical Boardgame category.

Some Helpful Links!

I want to thank Byron for taking the time to talk to me. If you have any questions for him, post them in comments below. Check out Spearpoint!

FreeStarter Interviews Grant Rodiek

Freestarter

Four friends recently launched a project called FreeStarter. Why? To give away free games and thank the awesome board game community for being awesome. We also wanted to help you get to know us better. This is the final of four interviews, one with each of us. Today? We’re talking to me, Grant Rodiek. Matt Worden, Chevee Dodd, and AJ Porfirio are also in the conversation.

To learn about the contest, click here! To enter, send an email to grant@hyperbolegames.com, tell us which contest you want, and follow us on Twitter!

Matt: I’ve known Mr. Rodiek for almost 2 whole years, which allows me to have an inside knowledge of just about nothing of him. So, this is my chance to get into those deep, dark places and poke around a bit.

Grant, any chance you could share a picture of Peaches with us?  I know you’re normally pretty shy about your Corgi, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s somewhat cute. Your thoughts?

AJ: Ah, good plan Matt. Soften him up with a Peaches question.

peachy

Grant: Peaches is my adorable, bossy 3 year old Welsh Corgi. When I’m not at work, she’s my constant companion. A lot of my creative exercises are conducted while walking Peaches at the park. I love her dearly.

Matt: (Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, Grant won’t be wondering when he’d get an opening to show off his favorite daddy’s girl.)

Can you give us a little background?  You know, everything else in your life up to this point.  You have 280 characters: GO!

Grant: I’m 29, male, and I live in San Francisco with my girlfriend, Beth, and our corgi, Peaches. I’m a professional digital game developer and serious board game design hobbyist. I’ve published/self-published two games so far, write my blog (if you’re reading this, you’re here!) and would like to one day publish games.

Matt: I’ve heard people call you “the Farmaggedon guy” … why?

Grant: Farmageddon is my first published design. It was published last year by 5th Street Games and in less than a year has sold through its first print run and won a Parent’s Choice Award. We’ve been very fortunate. The second print run was just ordered and I very much hope it continues to be well received. I try to promote it constantly, so if you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware of it.

The first expansion for Farmageddon, Livestocked & Loaded, is coming out this year. Plus, other Farmageddon things…

AJ: I’m looking forward to adding animals into the mix when we play Farmageddon!

Matt: (Quick note-to-self about AJ wanting to “add animals into the mix”.)  So Grant, I’ve also heard people call you “Grand” … but I really don’t want to see your answer as to why.

Grant: Typo? From those less Grand?

Matt: Sorry, but I need to sidetrack: Why is it that you showed up late at the JW on the last night of last year’s GenCon and then proceeded to buy all of us shots?

Grant: Because last year at GenCon I worked from 8pm to midnight nightly testing Battle for York. I was late because I tested with the most analysis-paralysis group in history and they took 2.5 hours to play my 60 minute game. It was epic. I bought shots because I’m a giving soul and I want everyone to consume the delicious nectar of GenCon.

AJ: Oh man I wish I saved our text conversation from that playtest. That was hilarious.

Grant: AJ and I were texting to each other while watching these poor guys decide, re-decide, debate, re-debate, every decision in the game.

Matt: Mmmm … nectar …elven-served nectar is the best, I hear. Anyhoo … have you ever put a single-use card into any of your designs?  (I won’t believe you even if you prove that you have.)

Grant: Yes! The General in Battle for York has a singular purpose! But typically, no. Many designers have favorite mechanics and one of mine is multi-use cards. For example:

  • Crop Cards in Farmageddon can be planted, used as fertilizer, or discarded to activate Action cards.
  • All cards in York (except the General, Saboteur, and Tactician) can be played to place reinforcements or activate special powers.

Things are changing though. All the action cards in Blockade are single-use and very simple. Then again, my other new game returns to multi-use cards. I’m like a broken record.

Chevee: I’m all over this. Adding multiple uses to cards gives you another decision layer without increasing components. I also hate those games where you have a hand full of useless cards.

Matt: You’re providing a copy of Farmageddon and Battle for York as part of our freestarter giveaways. Anything else you want to add-in here about the former? And what can you tell us about the latter?

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Grant: Farmageddon is a light take-that for 2-4 players that plays in about a half hour. A few things help it stand out from other take-thats. For one, the take-thattery/aggression is constant and evenly distributed. It happens every turn and is a part of the strategy. By this, I mean you don’t go a round or two then get screwed. You know it’s going to happen so you plan against it.

Also, you only get to play two Action cards, which limits the amount of things that can happen and also generate a lot of combo driven play. I think it’s really fun discovering new combos and choices for different scenarios.

Board

Battle for York is an area control/war game that plays with 2-4 players in an hour or less. The game is entirely action and card driven — no dice. I tried to make something different than the typical war games in the market, which tend to be highly complex, lengthy simulations between only 2 players. Another cool aspect is that the game features 4 asymmetric factions as well as a generic tutorial faction to help players learn the game.

The game requires “thoughtful aggression.” You can’t sit and wait. You need to take territory, win battles, and carefully manage your hand of cards to have the right balance of units on the ground and special tactics. I self-published Farmageddon, then it took off. I’m hoping the same happens for York.

Matt: York is really my sort of game. Not sure I’ll ever win, but I will enjoy every play. You had me at “Y–”!  (Farmageddon is okay too, I guess. Even if the stupid pre-5th Street version out-sold Jump Gate on TheGameCrafter.)

Chevee: I like York a lot. I can see my group playing it regularly. I also never see myself winning against them.

Matt: So if Chevee and I were to play a 2-player game … would both of us lose? We may need to figure this out the proper way! What ever happened to my all-time favorite design of yours, Up Your Missouri?

Grant: Frontier Scoundrels, aka Up Your Missouri was a semi-cooperative (bad, avoid at all costs) game based on Lewis, Clark, and 2 other fictional explorers. After about 10 tests I scrapped it. It was just a highly random, meandering, no decision, pile of junk. I didn’t see how to salvage it so I dropped it and went elsewhere. I have about 6 of these per year.

Matt: I think I love it even a little bit more now …  *sigh*

AJ: Can I have the time that I spent rule reviewing that game back? I kid, I kid.

Chevee: Was this before my time or is my memory that terrible?

Matt: It was before York and his first try at Poor Abby. Lasted about 2 months I think. I liked it, so he crumpled it up and threw it away.

In my eyes, you can be extremely self-critical … not so much of yourself, but of your designs and things that you create.  You seem to have a very tight, quick loop of assessment and determination of whether something works or doesn’t.  Where does that come from?

Grant: If I had to pin it on something I’d say my training at work paired with my personality of impatience. I’m a producer/designer at work, traditionally on large teams. From time to time I’ve had to make a lot of quick decisions and assess things so we can keep moving and make progress. I’ve always looked to decisive people as well. I think one of my best strengths and weaknesses is haste. It gets me in trouble and helps me succeed at the same time. I’m critical because I want to make really good things. Anybody can just put stuff out there and I want to be good. It’s a really difficult road and I’m not sure how it’s going yet.

Matt: “Anybody can just put stuff out there …”  Hey, that’s what I do!!  “… and I want to be good.” … oh, I see the difference.

Chevee: It’s two entirely different methodologies that lead to the same point. Grant likes to think and think and think before spending real time and money making something and Matt and I prefer to just make things and figure it out as we go along. I have convinced Grant to try his hand at the “Chevee Method” of design recently… in fact, I think Blockade started that way?

Grant: Molly’s Last Hope was Chevee Method. Blockade is pure me.

Matt: You are also very open in your design work, sharing a ton of information about your thoughts, processes, steps you’ve taken, results you’ve expected vs. what you’ve actually gotten, etc.  Do you find this is helpful to you in your game design work?  Is it helpful to you in other ways?

Grant: It is helpful for me in that I’m always thinking about how to present my ideas and share them. I have to position them such that people care and can digest the information. Something many designers fail to do is ask “How will players learn this? How will players first experience this? What is the best way to teach this?”

Another way is that I think it helps me build awareness for my games. I’m a relative nobody. [ed: Matt - we can’t all be The Beast] I’ve never published a game “for real,” I have a single published design… I’m a minnow in a big pond. I don’t quite have the presence yet to just put something out there and have people care. So, by sharing it openly, I hope I build some of that trust and presence so that long term, people do care.

Chevee: I appreciate the openness and it’s one of the things that pulled me into this community. I like reading about other peoples trials and tribulations, even if they are a “nobody” because there is always something to be learned, even from newbies.

Matt: Who do you learn from and what are the most important knowledge bits or habits you’ve gained over the past two years?

Grant: I learn from the games I play. I’m highly influenced by what I consume as a player. I learn by watching others — I love to watch Kickstarter projects and other publishers. If I cannot learn by doing (yet), I can learn by what others are doing. I also learn a great deal at work and then try to apply it to my hobby exercises.

Some things I’ve learned include: The ability to test and iterate on my designs. I know how to get what I need from testers and keep improving my games. I’ve grown much stronger in writing rules. Finally, I’m able to get my designs to a “good place” much more quickly.

Matt: Besides the multi-use-cards mentioned earlier, what are your other go-to mechanics?  Can you specifically respond to the ideas of randomness and everyone’s  favorite: chit pulling?

Grant: I personally don’t enjoy a great deal of randomness in my games, though what random means is different for everyone. For example, games like Arkham Horror or Talisman seem utterly boring to me. But, I absolutely don’t mind dice rolls for resolving combat, like in Summoner Wars or Memoir ‘44. Personally, I like making decisions against probability. I always like having options.

Randomness and luck are excellent tools for variance, which is how I try to use them. Others use it more to create unexpected moment. That has its place, but that’s less how I tend to use it.

Mechanics I love — in general, cards. I love having a hand of options and deciding how to use them. Lately, I’m obsessed with weird components, like blocks, and figuring out how to incorporate them. I also love social mechanics. I need to create a game with them.

Chit pulling is a really neat mechanic that I haven’t factored in properly yet for a personal design. Maybe soon?

Chevee: Everyone should be required to design a chit pulling game. MOAR CHITS!

Matt: You really, really, really like to playtest your games.  So much so that you even created a network of playtester “ penpals” to help other designers get their designs blind tested by other experienced folks.  What benefits do you normally get out of a high level of playtesting?

Grant: How much I love my games matters a lot less than how much others love my games. And, unlike Chevee, I actually like my games (I kill the ones I don’t). Playtesting helps reveal favorite mechanics that need to be tweaked or removed. Playtesting helps you refine your experience and improve rules and accessibility. Playtesting proves how well your graphic design supports the games.

A design, without testing, is just a hypothesis. Playtesting for me is the scientific aspect that refines the art and creative stuff.

Chevee: Hey now! I like at least one of the games I’ve designed! You have a mysterious ability to keep enjoying your projects after you are done with them… I can’t do that.

Matt: What new games are you working on right now?

Blockade

Grant: I’m working on a tactical (and tactile!) fleet battle game tentatively called Blockade. Players have Jenga-like blocks that have lasers and weak points on them. Players arrange the blocks in formations to hide their weak spots, but also potentially bring fewer weapons to bear. The game is highly tactile, distilled, and uses a fun dice mechanic. It also has a big story written against.

I also started a second new design for which I have really big hopes. I’m not talking about it yet.

Matt: You say that you would like to become a publisher at some point. How do you see that unfolding? What sort of game(s) do you see Hyperbole Games logos on?

Grant: There are so many chances to screw up when you publish a game. I’d hate to do this with someone else’s game for my first outing. So, I need to design a game that I think is a.) amazing and b.) I can produce fantastically. Once I have that, if my personal funding is relatively happy, I’ll finally create my Hyperbole Games LLC and release the game.

Without a doubt, Hyperbole games will play in 60 minutes or less. Ideally 45 minutes or less. They’ll target the masses far more than the hardcore niche. So, more Ticket to Ride than Terra Mystica. I’m seeking games with fun components, $40 or less MSRP, and ones that can support a gorgeous presentation. Gameplay wise, I’m looking for games that are clever. Clever is a word I really like.

Matt: Each of these interviews has had some advice given. I’m curious as to the advice you would give to how designers should prepare for playtests and how they should gather feedback during and after play from the testers.

Grant: Know the goals you have for your game. Know what you’re trying to create. For example, for Battle for York, my goals were:

  • 2-4 players
  • 60 minutes or less
  • No dice. Low luck, in general.
  • Conflict driven, war-style game
  • No player elimination.
  • Players are never “out” of the game. You can always win.

Everyone has ideas for how to make your game better. Everyone knows the game they want to play. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll meander all over the place with feedback. If you know what you want, you’ll be able to process the feedback and use it to improve your game.

Chevee: I’d like to highlight that last sentence: “improve your game.” There comes a point in life when you have to accept the fact that you can’t please everyone… and that heavily applies to game design. Make your game the way you want it. That doesn’t mean that you turn away all advice and criticism, but you need to keep the focus on making something you want to play. If the advice helps get you there, awesome.

Obligatory Promotional Section

FreeStarter Interviews Matt Worden

Freestarter

Four friends recently launched a project called FreeStarter. Why? To give away free games and thank the awesome board game community for being awesome. We also wanted to help you get to know us better. This is the third of four interviews, one with each of us. Today? We’re talking to Matt Worden. Me (Grant Rodiek), Chevee Dodd, and AJ Porfirio are also in the conversation.

To learn about the contest, click here! To enter, send an email to grant@hyperbolegames.com, tell us which contest you want, and follow us on Twitter!

Chevee: Tell us about yourself, Matt. Let the readers in on the life of The Beast.

Matt: I’m a pretty typical upper-midwestern, suburban dad.  I’m a business systems analyst for a day job, and design games (and do other creative outlets, like writing and music) during my freetime.  I’ll have been married to my high school sweetie for 20 years this August, and we have 2 kids and 2 cats.  I love to get out in nature — camping, canoeing, fishing, etc. — and will play or watch just about any sport or game that is going on.  I also do some volunteer work via my church, focusing on youth.

Grant: All hail The Beast!

Matt: You know that I find this nickname that you and Chevee gave me to be pretty funny. And that’s probably why it’ll stick long-term now.  Back in high school, my basketball coach gave me the nickname “Brick” due to my sweet, sweet hoops “skills” … still have a few old-time buddies that will call me that.  But really only 2 people that call me “The Beast”. ;-p

Chevee: “Probably stick long-term?” Did you think we were just going to drop it!? Silly man.

AJ: I am… speechless.

Chevee: It happens in the presence of The Beast. You’ll get used to it.

Chevee: Did you grow up gaming? Have you always gamed? When did you become a true “gamer”?

Matt: I grew up in a playful family.  Lots of traditional games, especially card games like cribbage, canasta, and sheepshead. Cribbage and sheepshead are still some of my favorite all-time games  and I’d like to get back to remembering how to play canasta again sometime.  Whenever we had family gatherings, there was always a table of card-players, or Clue or Monopoly, or Yahtzee out on a table somewhere.  My brothers and I were both really into sports too. Softball or football out in the yard was pretty commonplace growing up.  The extended family still gets into a serious basketball game in mom’s driveway at gatherings now-adays.

I have a brother that is a few years older than me, and we played a lot of different games growing up.  Early on, we played a very informal version of miniatures wargaming, as in setting up the GI Joe guys and throwing things at them. But, as we got into our teens, we played more serious games.  We put a lot of hours into APBA Baseball during those years.

I didn’t really realize what was out there for good modern board games until just the past 10 years or so.  I still have not played much of anything yet (compared to most folks into hobby gaming). But, I’m always willing to try things out.

Chevee: You like everything, so asking about your favorite games is dull… what games do you NOT enjoy and why?

Grant: You’re going to break Matt’s programming with questions like this.

Chevee: But, I’m honestly curious. I’ve never heard Matt say he didn’t like a game! And I don’t want some lame “it’s not for me” answer. I want some real, backhanded bashing here Matt.

AJ: There goes Chevee trying to start fires… man you are still taking that “add some explosions” suggestion I made last year at Gencon WAY too seriously.

Matt: I think you see my positivity around newborn creative projects as “liking everything” … really, I just love the creative process and enjoy seeing the new ideas that come out of it.  I’m seeing potential … and have no reason to bash that ever.

I don’t love all existing/finished things.  I don’t like games where I have to read a lot of stuff on a card to figure out what rules that particular card is adding/changing/breaking … therefore, I haven’t made it very far into any traditional CCG-style game.  Also, games that have so much going on in them that it muddies-up the view between a player’s choices/actions and the targeted end results …I play by intuitive feel (and maybe a little strategic planning, but not  much), so I need to be able to quickly sense how what I am able to do will impact my outcome or someone else’s outcome.

Oh! Let me have a range of options of actions. Please don’t constrict me too much, and allow me to choose how I balance between building up my stuff and tearing down (or, at least, interfering) with other players.  Which means, I like to have the ability to directly influence other players’ stuff.  Haven’t found a deck-builder I like yet either. Sorry, deck-builder folks.

Games I didn’t enjoy playing (actually naming names): 7 Wonders, San Juan, Catan: Card Game, Finca, silly poker variants with wildcards and special combinations.  I only watched people play Seasons. It’s beautiful and has some interesting things going on in it, but it presses at least 3 of my bad buttons.

AJ: Man, you hate everything!

Chevee: I know right!? What a jerk!

Matt: Did you want me to tell you about the things I love in games?  I’ll sum-up: take out the stuff I listed above and I love everything else. :-p

Grant: I agree on Seasons. Can’t stand it now — it pushes a lot of my bad buttons as well. I must say, Matt’s support was really helpful creating York. Having him push and encourage me early on really helped.

Chevee: I think we are all on board with Seasons. I am not a fan. It’s playable with two, but there are other games I’d rather play if it’s two-player night.

Grant: Summoner Wars, X-Wing, Fleet Captains, Dragonheart, Conflict of Heroes, Memoir ‘44, Mr. Jack

AJ: I won’t pile on further other than to say I agree regarding Seasons.

Chevee: Tell us about the two games you’re giving away for the FreeStarter Group Hug.

49252_Space_Mission1

Matt: Space Mission is a beautifully rendered, simplified version of my game Jump Gate.  It was published by Schmidt Spiele in Europe and has everything in it you would expect from a good German company like that — good components, wonderful artwork, clean rules in 5 languages, etc.  It’s a lighter game that works well as a gateway game when playing with non-core gamers, and can serve as a filler for experienced gamers.  There’s hand management, action selection, and set collection inside of a space exploration theme.  And it has 3D miniature spaceships.

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Dicey Curves is a family/party-style dice-rolling racing game.  You build the track from randomly-drawn cards as you race.  You roll dice and try to make Yahtzee-style combinations from them, which allow you to move your car down the track and through the curves.  There are also control chips that let you adjust the dice a bit, so it isn’t 100% random results.  Very fun and simple: Roll ‘em and Race ‘em!

AJ: As a proud owner, let me say that Space Mission is a beautiful production. The winner of the serious game package will really be getting a gem of a game in Space Mission.

Grant: Honestly I want to steal this version of the game, which I don’t have, and send something random off my shelf instead.

Matt: And, um, Dicey Curves is okay too, right?  Right?  Uh, Guys?

<crickets>

Chevee: You self-published Jump Gate (the predecessor to Space Mission) before Kickstarter was a thing. How did that work out for you and what spurred that decision? Would you have used Kickstarter if it were available?

Matt: There’s a lot going on with that question. First, I’ll answer strictly financially, since that’s easy to measure: we broke even.  We put way-too-much money on a credit card to get all of the materials needed, then overestimated my ability/willingness/time-allowed to do that hand assembly. But in the end, a little over a year later, we were able to pay off the credit card. And I still have a lot of materials sitting in my basement. Now that it’s a 2-year-old, lighter, indie-produced hobby market game, demand has dropped to nearly zero. I don’t expect that I will self-produce another game in this same manner.

Now, with the business side out of the way, I will say this: I gained *so much* from this experience beyond the money stuff.  The support I received from my family (especially my wife, who is awesome) and friends and the game community at-large has been amazing and a real blessing to me.  And, it opened a ton of doors that I didn’t even know existed before it all came about.  I owe a lot of thanks to the board game reviewing staff at GAMES Magazine, especially John McCallion, the editor in that area — that’s what got the whole thing rolling and kicked off the chain of events that lead to Space Mission happening.

I probably would have used Kickstarter at the time if it had been something I knew about, but that would have only changed the financial part of things.  I do not expect that I will try to use Kickstarter on my own for one of my games.  Though, I am open to partnering with someone who knows how to use it successfully and has a good way to doing fulfillment … those are the areas I like the least in this whole process.

Chevee: I know we both spend a fair amount of time on thegamecrafter.com trying to make our work available. How has that community treated you and do you have any advice for people looking to use thegamecrafter.com?

Matt: The TGC community is really great and has treated me very well and I hope others would say that I have treated them well and been helpful to them there too.  That’s really the only way that sort of community can work and become the positive thing it is.  My advice would be to purposefully engage with the community via the forums and, especially, the always-on web chat that TGC hosts.  Ask questions, talk about what you’re working on, let your sense of humor show, etc.  Also, make sure to engage with the TGC staff. They are really easy to work with and are focused on making the site a success.  Others there could probably give better advice than I could about the technical aspects of using TGC to produce prototypes or shop-sold games. Don’t be shy — ask them questions about what you’re trying to do.

Chevee: Yeah, I just like hanging out in the chat. I enjoy talking about game design and I feel like it is a great forum to help others… and get help… about all aspects of the design process.

AJ: It really is a good resource for bouncing ideas around.

Grant: In general, it’s good advice to ask people for help in this business, whether you’re a designer, publisher, or even just want to start a blog. I’ve sent a lot of weird emails to people and most of them get a response. If you ever have a question, ask someone.

Chevee: What are you currently working on?

Matt: As you guys know, I always have too many irons in the fire.  For board game projects, I’ll make a quick list:

  • Jump Gate, 3rd Edition: This will be a small-box edition with some rules tweaks, available only via TheGameCrafter.com. Should be out this summer.

  • Thunder Run to Gratis-3: This will be my entry in the miniatures game design contest running at TGC through June. It’s a trashy pummel-your-neighbor dicefest: “Thunder Road INNNNN SPPPAACCCEEE” set in the Jump Gate background story.

  • Magistrate: The monster of a game that I’ve been working on forever. An area control game with 3 different areas to control without the ability to focus on them all at the same time.

  • For Goods and Honor: An odd chit-pulling, bidding, negotiating, worker placement, resource production game that I introduced at Protospiel-Milwaukee in March

  • SharkBait: A simple round-the-table family dice game where you are trying to keep fish from being eaten by sharks

  • Cosmic Critters: A family card game about selling pets from outer space. It has a neat little multi-hidden-bidding mechanic at the core

  • Dicey Curves: Secret: Mix what I have so far with Dicey Curves with the old arcade game “Spy Hunter.” It’s currently a big mess

  • Dicey Curves Deluxe: Re-forming the existing Dicey Curves + the DANGER! expansion into a full-sized box with hex tiles and tweaked dice-control rules.

  • Colonies of the Jump Gate: A bigger sequel to Jump Gate. I had an early version of it at GenCon last year. It needs a lot of work and is currently percolating on the back burner

I won’t list the games that are only ideas at this point … I’d need to use another dozen bullets there.  And lately my interest has been re-piqued in the area of writing PC games and doing some longer-form fiction writing.  And, apparently, I’ve taken up wood-working as a new thing now too. ;-p

Grant: I look forward to your fiction! You know, you can help me write stories for Blockade…or even just send me plot points. Can you bring Colonies to GenCon? I also want to play the updated Magistrate. You did update it, right?

Chevee: Why do I not own For Goods and Honor yet!? I want that game!!!

AJ: Come on Matt, FINISH SOMETHING already! (subtle foreshadowing)

Matt: Yeah … not all that subtle.

Chevee: People tend to like advice. Do you have any for new designers or people considering self publication?

Matt: Yeah, I’ll give 2 pieces of advice: (1) Talk with Folks, and (2) Finish Something.

Talk with Folks: I’ve found that I’ve improved what I’m working on at a much faster pace and with higher quality improvements the more I’ve been open with people about what I’m working on.  I’ve re-learned this point over any over. Initially when first getting involved with the BGDF website, then with Protospiel, then with the community at TheGameCrafter, and now with all of the designers and gamers I’ve gotten to know via Twitter and Facebook and from visiting cons.  The more open I’ve been — both in discussing what I had going on AND in honestly listening to the feedback — the more I’ve learned and improved my habits and my design.  I also like to hear what other people have going on and get into those “talkin’ shop” sort of discussions on the topic.

So, get out on the web, go to cons, go to designer get-together events, etc., and talk with folks.

Finish Something: I think it’s important to finish something end-to-end as a way to simply prove to yourself that you can do it.  As creative/design folks, it can be easy to get caught in the spin-cycle of tweak-and-test-and-think-and-change … but there needs to be a point where an individual thing that you’ve created has to come to a resting point.  Then get on with another thing.  Learning that you have much more ‘’in the tank” is another lesson that comes from this.

This is the area where I think I’ve been different than the other 3 guys in this cabal … I get a lot of things spinning in parallel, and I work to get them finished off and “out there” in a faster cycle.  Not sure this is a great long-term or all-the-time type of strategy, but it’s something I need to do as a way to prove things out and — in an odd way — to sort through the ideas in my head.

So, I offer up “finish something” as a counterweight advice to the majority behavior of “you can never test too much” and “keep refining it until it’s perfect” … you obviously need to find a good balance between those things.

Chevee: I agree completely with “finish something.” It is very simple to start things… and get bored with it and start something else… or tell yourself it’s not what you want and keep hacking at it… but once you have that Finished Something under your belt, it becomes much easier to move forward with other ideas.

AJ: Great advice. I think there some designers out there that never get to a real end state with any of their designs and it is a real shame. At some point you have to stop tweaking and get it out in the wild!

Grant: Ideas are cheap. But making a fun game? That’s the key. You can hypothesize all day but it’s so key to really make something.

Chevee: Share something awesome about the gaming community with us.

Matt: To me, the community of gamers and designers in this hobby are what’s kept me working on board games.  The games are cool too, but I don’t get a lot of opportunity to actually just sit and play. But, thanks to websites and social media, I can interact with cool people who are into this same thing I am on a daily basis.  It was AJ, on the TGC chat about a year-and-a-half ago, that suggested  I should think about using Twitter, which lead me to get to know you guys.

Getting to the in-person events is really where it’s at though. Meeting you guys for the first time in-person at GenCon last year is a great example.  Same thing for when I met Cyrus Kirby and Jeff King for the first time in-person at Con of the North in St. Paul a couple years ago, and David Whitcher, Clark Rodeffer, and everyone involved at the Ann Arbor Protospiel a couple years before that.

These are all really good people that you can learn a ton from, and have a really enjoyable time while you do it.

AJ: Pshhhhh. Name dropper.

Matt: I do drop names … I also buy people beer.  It makes me feel special.

Chevee: Good beer too! Not the swill I was begging people to drink at ProtoSpiel.

Grant: Shameful of you to have spent so much on Pabst.

Obligatory Promotional Section

FreeStarter Interviews Chevee Dodd

Freestarter

Four friends recently launched a project called FreeStarter. Why? To give away free games and thank the awesome board game community for being awesome. We also wanted to help you get to know us better. This is the second of four interviews, one with each of us. Today? We’re talking to Chevee Dodd. Me (Grant Rodiek), Matt Worden, and AJ Porfirio are also in the conversation.

To learn about the contest, click here! To enter, send an email to grant@hyperbolegames.com, tell us which contest you want, and follow us on Twitter!

AJ: Tell us about yourself. What is under that fedora?

Grant: Ego?

Chevee: Dayum. Out of the gate with the snarkiness? I didn’t even get to answer the first question yet!

I’m a tall, lanky father of two little girls, who’s been happily married for 10 years. I’ve been gaming since I was in diapers and don’t see an end to that hobby in sight. I’ve been designing games since the late nineties, but have only seriously sought publication on a few different occasions… one of which landed me a deal… and from that, Scallywags was published. Post-Scallywags, I’ve been designing stuff for me, doing most of the art and graphic design myself, and releasing things through thegamecrafter.com and my own site. When I’m not gaming or designing, I like to spend time with my family, ride my motorcycle, build stuff out of wood, and play some video games.

Grant: Tell us about cornholing, Chevee.

Matt: And completely no mention of fishing … sigh

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Chevee: Well, Matt might be more qualified… cornhole is about as huge as baseball in the Midwest… but, yes, I am in the process of constructing my very own set of quality cornhole boards. No mention of fishing because it’s been about a year since I last fished. I need to correct that problem… but I do love fishing!

AJ: I can totally see Chevee and Matt sitting out on the lake in a little jon boat, rod and reels in hand, not saying a word. Then one second goes by, Chevee gets a game idea, and Matt can’t get him to shut up the rest of the day! 20 game designs and 0 fish caught later, the date is over! What are some of your current favorite games?

Chevee: Well, certainly nothing I’ve designed… my regular group plays a lot of the same games and the top three are games I always enjoy playing: Settlers of Catan, Acquire, and Tichu. Some of the newer stuff we’ve tried that I really like are: X-Wing Miniatures, DC Deckbuilder, and Spartacus.

AJ: Spartacus! And X-Wing! Yes!

Grant: What is it you like about Catan? I’ve played it a handful of times and it just frustrates me.

Matt: Settlers is good fun … Grant isn’t.

Chevee: Catan is a speculation game with a good bit of social interaction and manipulation tacked on. It’s different every time you play and never fails to engage me. Maybe I’m just swooning over my first love?

Grant: No, that seems reasonable. I think you need the right group.

AJ: Tell us about the two games you’re giving away for the FreeStarter Group Hug.

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Chevee: Tuesday Night Tanks… well… there’s one you’ve never heard of! I started on this design last Christmas as a silly entrant into thegamecrafter.com’s Map Builder contest. Grant already had a game rolling for it and I joked that I was going to build a game the week before and whoop his pile of crap with my awesomeness. Well… I did build the game (though I spent a few months on it), but in the end, Grant’s game got further than mine (Editor’s Note: Emphasis is Grant’s). TNT was inspired by Car Wars (a childhood favorite), Robo Rally, and Wings of War. I wanted a simple, light, tank fighting game. I think it turned out pretty darn great.

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Scallywags, well, that’s the game you might have actually heard of. I designed it during a family vacation to the beach, playtested it once, and released it as a Print and Play on boardgamegeek.com. A few years later, it got picked up by Gamewright and saw publication last year. It’s been an awesome year so far and the game turned  out amazing with their art department in charge.

AJ: For the record, Tuesday Night Tanks doesn’t have to be played on Tuesday right? Although I would only play it that day otherwise it just wouldn’t be thematic :P

Chevee: You are free to play Tanks whenever you like. The naming is a spin on Monday Night Football and Friday Night Fights. In my fantasy world, both those things still exist and Tanks needed a night to air. The actual tank league is called CTD for Combat Tankers Division which was originally formed by the Army.

AJ: What games do you think are awesome? What makes a game incredible for you?

Chevee: I love depth built of of simplicity. The pinnacle of that sentence is Coloretto. The game literally offers you one decision each turn and sometimes it’s one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make. There is a bit of subtle social engineering in there which is important for me also. I like playing games where I need to guess or manipulate the actions of others… for me, that adds depth. I mentioned it earlier, but Acquire also fits in this category. It is, after all, my favorite game of all time. There are very few choices to be made each turn, but they are exceptionally deep and important choices.

Grant: Everyone should own Coloretto and have it in their backpack. It’s so good. Honestly, we should swap out Farmageddon for Coloretto in the giveaway.

Matt: Chevee knows that I had already designed that game ahead of time, but just never finished it. ;-p

AJ: Ever consider Kickstarter for publishing one of your designs?

Chevee: I’ve considered it long enough to know that it’s not for me. I don’t work well with stress. I’m not good at managing things. I’ve been told that a few of my games would do great (Princess Dice especially) but I’m just not comfortable with spending more energy on trying to sell myself than designing games. I’d rather spend that time and effort making more cool stuff and let someone else handle all the business stuff. I’ve offered to let others have the games and run campaigns for them, but no takers so far. :-D

AJ: Princess dice is really good. Yeah, I said it! I like princesses! Are you working on anything we should know about?

Chevee: I’m pretty sure anyone reading about this wants to know about everything that I do. Duh.

A few months ago, I released Leathernecks ‘43 on thegamecrafter.com. That game rocks and I’m seeking publication for it or a form of it… it’s the same game as Princess Dice. My latest project has been a betting game based around mechanical greyhound races in the not-too-distant future. I really like it, but I’ve been rather quiet about it on my blog. It’s just not a candidate for print and play because of the component requirements, but it’s certainly a candidate for publication. I’m going to be pitching it hard this summer.

Some older projects, specifically Project: Dead End and Hexploration have started to resurface and I expect there to be some new articles about them in the near future. I picked up a co-designer, Neil Roberts, on Dead End and together we have been able to take the game where I want it. I’m really excited about it again.

Matt: Leathernecks is not the same game as Princess Dice … one is Marines, machines guns and smoke grenades  – the other is Princesses, fairies, and unicorns … NOT the same game!

AJ: See Matt on the other hand is NOT in touch with his feminine side. Embrace your inner princess Matt! How did you get started in the board game community?

Chevee: In 1996 I had a chance encounter that afforded me the opportunity spending the summer demoing  the X-Files CCG with United States Playing Cards. That was the same year Settlers of Catan released in the US (still had German rules/components at Origins… I’m a hipster) and I discovered this whole world of awesome games I’d never heard of before. I was instantly addicted and quickly got over my CCG addiction to focus more on multiplayer strategy games.

AJ: I should have asked how you got into design. I love that story! Everyone should ask Chevee about it when you see him at Gencon. Do you have any recommendations for folks just getting started with design or publication?

Chevee: My most given piece of advice is to start small and get something playable. I don’t like spending hours and hours with a bunch of ideas and plans only to find out that the underlying game system is flawed or boring. Make the simplest form of your game playable and try it. Then build on that if it’s not complex enough.

For publishers? I dunno… I once heard James Ernest say: “Don’t start a game company unless you like companies more than you like games.”

AJ: Do you have any good stories or memories you’ve gained from hanging out with the board game community?

Chevee: So, a group of us were going to meet at the JW Marriott one night after the GenCon hall closed. We all gather, but one of us is missing…

Grant: Okay and that’s everything! Nothing more. Nothing to see! Huh…this reaction implicates me…

Matt: I think I was too busy buying AJ beer while he pummeled me at my own game to really notice anything else at that time. :-/

AJ: That was just ONE night?

Chevee: We played games!?

Obligatory Promotional Section

Jamey and Grant Discuss Everything (Pt 1)

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When I see a project or designer that interests me, I go bug them for an interview. A few months ago I asked Jamey to participate in an interview and he agreed. A few weeks ago I sent him the questions, but Jamey changed things up a bit and also asked ME questions. A discussion ensued about Viticulture, Euphoria, our processes, reading habits, design, and more. It’s one of my favorite things that’s ever been on the site. 

As the discussion grew quite long, we decided to split it into 3 parts. Come back tomorrow and Friday to read the second and third parts. 

Jamey’s company just launched a Kickstarter for their new game that has funded in under an hour. Check it out here and ask any questions in the comments. You can also read my original interview with Jamey here.

A discussion between Jamey Stegmaier and Grant Rodiek (bold)

HG: Hi Jamey! Can you please refresh us…who are you? What do we need to know about you?

Jamey: Hi Grant! Thanks for having me. The three most important things you need to know about me are:

(1) I am the president, lead designer, logisitics coordinator, playtest organizer, and head of customer relations and marketing for Stonemaier Games, a company I co-founded last year with a friend, Alan Stone, to publish our game, Viticulture.

(2) I write a series of Kickstarter lessons for fellow project creators to use. You can find it over on www.stonemaiergames.com.

(3) I have two cats, Biddy and Walter, one of whom loves to sit in game boxes, and the other of whom is an excellent Tzolk’in player. I have to restrain myself from posting photos of them every day on my personal blog, www.jameystegmaier.com. How about you–what are three things about yourself that you haven’t already shared on your blog?

The tables have turned! Three things I haven’t shared…

1.) It’s my goal to one-day found and manage a board game publishing company. Until that day I lie in the shadows, observing and learning everything I can.

2.) I’m definitely the self-loathing creative type. I’m constantly questioning what I make in the hopes of making it fantastic. It can be very hard sometimes and something I need to work on.

3.) I own a corgi, Peaches, and I love her dearly. I have to restrain myself from posting more pictures than I already do via Twitter and FB. She is endlessly entertaining — a great companion.

Jamey: Thanks for sharing. #2 is particularly interesting to me. I view that as a good thing…unless it really gets you down when something isn’t perfect. That’s where Peaches comes in.

It never gets me down. It’s who I am. I have friends who accuse me of pushing things too far but I don’t think I’ve done that yet.

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Let’s talk quickly about Viticulture. Your first game raised $65,000 on Kickstarter and it’ll be sent to backers shortly. What was the single most important thing you learned from Viticulture?

Jamey: Great question. It’s tough to boil down to one thing, as I’ve learned a lot by managing this process. Single most important thing: Okay, I’ve always heard that if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. I have a day job, a very good day job with great employees. I’m very grateful for it. And every day I go home and spent another 4-6 hours working on Stonemaier Games. Added to the time I spend on weekends on the company, it’s easily a second full-time job. But it doesn’t feel like a job at all. Even though I haven’t made a dime off of Viticulture (every cent and then some went into making the game as awesome as possible), I love every second that I spend working on it and our other games and with interacting with all of the people who became connected to use through Kickstarter. Do you feel that way when you’re working on your games?

I often joke that game design is my second job that pays horribly. I used to play video games and do other things in the evenings and weekends. Now, my spare time is spent designing, doing graphic design, writing, and generally trying to take this whole board game thing as seriously as possible.

I love the process. I love writing and reading rules, figuring out the board layout. One of the main reasons I want to become a publisher is I love the development just as much as the initial design, often more so. Like you said, it’s not quite work if you love it.

Jamey: I’m glad this topic came up, because I think some people may see the financial success of our projects and think that we might be able to afford to make game design/publishing a full-time gig. What I’m starting to realize is that the only way that could happen is if a game really takes off post-Kickstarter. The sunk cost of making a great game is rather large–all that art and design, and often moulds and schematics on the printer side. The first copy of a game can cost upwards of $15,000 due to professional art and design. Once you make a second copy, the cost for each of them drops to $7,500. And so on. So if a game enters a second print run, the art and design cost per unit is negligible by that point, and all you’re paying for is the manufacturing cost and shipping. I’m preaching to the choir, Grant–you know all this–but I bring it up so that other game creators on Kickstarter don’t quit their day jobs. :)

I still haven’t broken even on Farmageddon! For better or worse, my royalty hasn’t quite covered the money I spent on 80% of the art, pitching to publishers, and marketing the game. Long term my goal is to start small with a self-financed game, learn the ropes, then go through traditional funding methods to try to take a stab at things “for real.”

Your money-back guarantee garnered a great deal of attention. When so many publishers take the stance of “buyer beware,” you took a different approach. Why did you do this?

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Jamey: “Buyer beware” is a cop-out to me. When I buy a gallon of milk from the grocery store, is it my job to research the milk company and the hormone levels of the cows and run the milk through lab tests to make sure it’s good for me? Not at all. Kickstarter is no different. In my opinion, it’s the job of the project creator to clearly explain what the project is and how it’s going every step of the way. It’s their job to price their rewards fairly and deliver amazing value for the people who made their dream come true. It is addition to all of those things that I decided to offer backers a money-back guarantee on Viticulture (and we’ll do the same for our next game, Euphoria). That puts the impetus on me to make a great product. And sure, some people simply are not going to like the game. Some of them might return it. And that’s okay. They gave me the initial capital to create the game in the first place, something I could not have done on my own. Their responsibility ends there. The rest is on me.

That said, I completely respect project creators who aren’t comfortable with that approach–just because they don’t have that level of confidence in their product doesn’t mean that they won’t deliver in the end. What do you think?

I agree with you. It’s what I would want as a customer. One of my biggest fears in self-publishing is that what I’m creating isn’t good enough. It’s not up to the level of the competition, which I consider to be both the established publishers (Z-Man, Fantasy Flight) and new ones you see on Kickstarter. When I sat back and thought “would I give a money-back guarantee on this?” for my own games, my answer wasn’t always “yes.” I think it’s the best way to treat your customers and a great motivator to create amazing games.

Jamey: I like that you asked yourself that. I think that’s a great question for self-publishers to ask themselves, even if they don’t actually do a money-back guarantee. “Would I give a money-back guarantee on this game?” If the answer isn’t yes, figure out why.

What can we expect from Viticulture this year? Anything special? Anything of note?

Jamey: I’m currently wondering the same thing! A lot of it depends on how the game is received by the backers and the general public. If it does well and people want to expand the world of Viticulture, the idea we’ve discussed is to concurrently design 4 expansions that can be played in any combination with the original game and include them in a single box. Have you ever thought about doing a Farmageddon expansion? Why or why not?

Farmageddon raised $25,000 on Kickstarter, which was the level for our main stretch goal — a full expansion. The expansion is called Livestocked and Loaded and introduces animals, weather, and new Action cards. It’s 99% finished and is awaiting art production, followed by the long, slow manufacturing process. It’ll be shipped free to all backers, then sold in stores.

I’ll keep designing Farmageddon games as long as Phil (the publisher who manages 5th Street Games) wants them.

Jamey: That’s awesome! How has feedback from Farmageddon fans impacted the expansion, if at all?

It’s difficult with a game like Farmageddon. Much of the negative feedback comes from people who don’t like take-thats, don’t like luck, don’t like games this light and silly. I tried to take a step back and think about things that were missing after years of playing it. Put another way — what are obvious holes I can fill?

My answer was that the game could use some more long-term aspects. This is where animals come in. Whereas crops are very fragile and temporary, the animals can’t be destroyed. Winning an animal is a game-spanning activity that requires a little more strategy.

I also thought the game could use a few more unexpected elements, but not the destructive kind. When you’ve played a simple game like Farmageddon dozens of times, it can (arguably) use a little more pizzazz. This is where weather comes in. Every game, you’ll get 5 randomly selected weather cards (out of 10) that will emerge at different times in the game to present new opportunities and shifts in the game.

Jamey: Both of those concepts (the long-term viability of the animals and the pizzazz of the weather) sound awesome. I tried adding weather into the original version of Viticulture, but I couldn’t get it to work. I look forward to seeing how you made it work.

I must admit it has little to do with the actual relationship of weather to farming. I essentially took an event card system, tied it thematically to weather (and used that as inspiration where possible), and went with it. My goal was to create opportunities, not sew destruction.

Why four expansions? What do you think each of these would entail? A new mechanic per or…? I would love to one-day release a big, epic Farmageddon with lots of expansions and a big tin box.

Jamey: These are all in the brainstorming stage, so don’t hold me to this. But the general idea is that at the beginning of each game of Viticulture, each player will draw a mama card and a papa card (or whatever the Italian words are). They’re your parents. They’ll each give you a special starting resource, an ability to use throughout the game, and the mandate that you follow their passion. Your papa may have an Italian restaurant he needs to pass down to you, or your mama might want you to take over her dairy farm and gelateria. Thus each player will extend their player mat based on those mandates. Each of the expansions will be playable without the mamas and papas, but the mamas and papas would tie them all together.

That’s just one idea. I also have an idea for the game to expand into vineyards around the world, possibly using 7-Wonders like player mats that give players different options based on their region. And I have a Roman gods expansion idea that adds a supernatural element to the game. So we’ll see–it all depends on if people want more Viticulture.

For all our sakes I really hope they do! I’m a huge proponent of the expansion business model. I think it’s a great, lower-risk way to drive additional revenue and a good way to keep your best fans happy. Days of Wonder does this very well. They are a big inspiration for me.

That’s it for today! Come back tomorrow to find out about Euphoria, which is on Kickstarter now. Feel free to ask Jamey any questions below.