Issue #229 – Kickstarter Bubble Analysis; Should I Buy Hyperborea?

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Sep 29, 2014 – Issue #229

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KICKSTARTER CORNER

In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…
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Today In Board Games Is:Roger Hicks (Editor)
Charlie Ecenbarger (Contributor)
Michelle Mazala (Contributor)
Chris Meeusen (Contributor)
Diana Echevarria (Communications)
Jessica King (Editor)
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Trends in Board Games:

Kickstarter Bubble?

By Chris Meeusen

Recent Kickstarter promotions got me thinking, starting with how marketing goes into the success of games, and in this case, how it changes and evolves as their funding period nears the end. My twitter feed blew up with all the tweets regarding Skyway Robbery and the countdown in hours and dollars until it finally hit its funding goal with sparse minutes to spare….(read the rest)

Articles

Interviews, strategies, and opinions

Should I Buy This?


Hyperborea (2014)
Publisher:
 Asmodee
Details: 2-6 Players, 90 Minutes
Surveyed Gamers Say:
0.00% Own and Love
20.00% Plan to Buy
40.00% Will Try It First
20.00% Might Play It
0.00% It Wasn’t for Me
20.00% Not Interested

Links:
Board Game Geek
Funagain ($51.99)
Cool Stuff Inc. ($44.99)
Amazon ($47.99)

Coming Next Issue

Concordia
What are your thoughts on this game? Give us your opinion!

BOARD BUSINESS

Articles for designers, publishers, and other industry professionals

 

By |September 30th, 2014|Issue|0 Comments

Hobby World at Essen 2014 Press Release

1

It’s that special time of the year again — the long-awaited Essen show is upon us! October 16th-19th Essen becomes the center of the world for all boardgamers. Hobby World is totally going to be there! We will be located at the same place as we were at last Essen — Hall 1, Booth E151.

NEW TITLES ARRIVE!

Hobby World is presenting a lot of exciting new titles this year:

Second Front, the expansion for trending forward World of Tanks: Rush

— Critically acclaimed strategy game Viceroy, that already got petition on BGG, asking us to “publish it internationally NOW!”

— Hilarious party game Spyfall

— Re-invented edition of the legendary Vampire Mafia

— exciting railway adventure Moscow to Paris

There will be seven games to play at our booth, and there will be a bunch of games to buy! Please see the short description for every game we present down below.

PROMO PACK WITH EVERY PURCHASE!

With every purchased Hobby World’s game you will receive a huge set of special promos: 4 outstanding tank cards for each of four World of Tanks nations, 8 Cathedral location cards for Spyfall,  “Essen”and “Happy Train” cards for Moscow to Paris. That’s 14 cards! It is your only way to get these cards, as they are not included in original game boxes!

We are also bringing free game catalogues, art postcards and other goodies to the Essen show. Please mind that we are overloaded with all this boxed happiness, but quantities are limited. Be quick, or all that you’ll get will be the expression of our love. It is the only thing that is unlimited and it always will be!

AMAZING SURPRISES!

Besides games and promos we are preparing lots of surprises and we are inviting special guests. One of them is Hobby World’s very talented artist — Uildrim. She is the creator of magnificent art for Berserk: War of The Realms, Hollywood, Viceroy and many, many other Hobby World’s games. She will be at our booth… hm… if she hurries up and gets her visa in time!  🙂 This is your perfect chance to get your favorite Uildrim’s art signedand also to see her at work.

Come and see how a new masterpiece is created. Uildrim will be doing a live drawing session right at out booth. The process will be shown at a huge plasma screen. On top of that, we will give away free postcards, designed by Uildrim. Yes, you can take the postcard and ask her to sign it too!

GAMES AT OUR BOOTH

You will be able to play and purchase our great new arrivals and Hobby World’s classics right at our booth. Please note that our latest releases – Viceroy, Spyfall and Moscow to Paris – will have Russian boxes but all other contents of these games will be in English. We’d like to consider them ultra-rare-special-Essen editions and their quantities are very limited.

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VICEROY

Players: 1-4 * Age: 12+ * Playing Time: 45 minutes * Price: €20

A beautiful strategy game set in Berserk universe. As a viceroy, you build the “pyramid of power” — a political system based on laws and individual talents of hired characters. Each law and character card in Viceroy is unique.

After watching preview videos about Viceroy, boardgamers started a petition at BGG, asking us to publish the international edition of Viceroy as soon as possible. And so, we are bringing the first limited print run of Viceroy to Essen. Be the first to get your hands on Viceroy — a game that can become a major hit soon!

Here is what’s all the buzz is about:

Rahdo Runs — Through preview of Viceroy:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aigmVhSdZmc

Scott “Tox” Morris (Crits Happen) — Preview:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Tugww6vDA

The informal BGG petition to bring Viceroy to North America: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1237899/informal-bgg-petition-hobby-world-bring-game-north

 

SPYFALL

Players: 3-8 * Age: 12+ * Playing Time: 15 minutes * Price: €15

In each round of the game all players get cards with the same location: a casino, a travelling circus, a pirate ship or even a space station. However, one of the cards says “Spy” instead of a location. Then, players start asking each other free questions, trying to guess — who is the spy. Questions may be: “Why are you dressed so strange?” or “When was the last time we got a payday?” or anything else you can come up with. The spy doesn’t know which location he is at, so he has to listen carefully. When it is his time to answer — he’d better create a good legend!

At any time during a round, a player may accuse another player of being a spy. If the spy is uncovered all other players score points. However, the spy himself can end a round by stopping the game and announcing that he understands what the secret location is. If the guess is correct, only the spy scores points.

After a number of rounds of guessing, suspicion and bluffing the game ends and the player that scored the most points is victorious!

 

WORLD OF TANKS: RUSH + SECOND FRONT

Players: 2-5 * Age: 10+ * Playing Time: 30 minutes * Price for the base game: €23

A deck building game based on hugely popular World of Tanks online game. In World of Tanks: Rush you take on the role of a tank squad commander. You lead your tanks into battle, defend your bases, call for reinforcements, and receive medals. The main idea of this deck building game is to select cards from the hundreds available to form a strong squad.

We are happy to announce World of Tanks: Second Front — the first expansion in World of Tanks series. It will be showcased at our booth. Second Front adds the nation of Great Britain, 12 achievements, the 4th special base for every player, a new play zone, and 2 new card abilities.

 

MOSCOW TO PARIS

Players: 2-4 * Age: 8+ * Playing Time: 30 minutes * Price: €10

You are invited to an exciting railway journey in Europe — from Moscow to Paris, from Rome to Berlin. Build your own routes, play wagon cards and watch your opponents!

Moscow to Paris is a quick and easy to play card game. Four city cards are revealed and placed for all to see. Then players try to match wagon cards played besides cities to wagon cards that they play in their own areas. There are also special cards and cities that bend the rules. You can even add your own city to the game! A traveler that visited the most cities will win the game!

 

HOLLYWOOD: MAKE YOUR OWN BLOCKBUSTER

Players: 2-6 * Age: 10+ * Playing Time: 30 minutes * Price: €30

Rule Hollywood like a boss — hire superstars, choose scenarios and make the movie of your dreams! Hollywood is a quick, fun and very thematic game. There area lot of different specialists to add to your movie: Producers, Sound Engineers, Director Assistants and even Makeup Artists! Different cards bring varying benefits, but they are always connected to the movie-making theme. Hollywood was successfully funded on Kickstarter this summer.

Dice Tower approved:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDFoO9SuWLY

 

BERSERK: WAR OF THE REALMS

Players: 2 * Age: 13+ * Playing Time: 20 minutes * Price: €40

Berserk: War of the Realms is a tactical card game of skill and strategy. This is our best-selling game for lots of good reasons. If you still have not played this — you are missing all the fun.

Berserk is a wargame in which players use cards instead of miniatures. This streamlines and speeds up the game. Both players deploy their cards on the battlefield face down. Thus the opponent cannot see the other player´s army. Then both players turn their cards over and the battle begins!

Did we mention that the art here is top-notch yet? Yeah, Uildrim is one of Berserk’s great artists! Come to our booth and get her autograph!

 

METRO 2033

Players: 2-6 * Age: 12+ * Playing Time: 60 minutes * Price: €20

This game is based on the post-nuclear Metro 2033 universe created by a very famousRussian writer and journalist Dmitry Glukhovsky.

Lead one of many factions in battles for control of what used to be Moscow underground, or Metro as we call it here. Manage your scarce resources — pigs, ammo and mushrooms, vote for new laws together with other players or land devastating attacks on them. But no matter what you do — always be ready to fight back mutants emerging from the dark!

 

SPECIAL ANOUNCEMENT: VAMPIRE MAFIA

We are presenting the re-invented classic: Vampire Mafia — the secret identity party game. Some may say that Vampire Mafia is inspired by the famous Werewolf, but it is quite the opposite. Mafia appeared in the USSR in 1986 and later emerged in USA in a much softer form as Werewolf.

Vampire Mafia is the true Russian mafia-like game, based on a few decades of players’ feedback. It includes the most interesting cards and scenario variants, extensive guide for the moderator and… masks!

Yes, that’s right: plastic masks are added to every base copy of the game. When you “wake up”, you see blood-hungry vampire masks all around you. No faces. Be prepared for the challenge: come to Hobby World’s booth to see the game the way it is meant to be played!

Vampire Mafia will be launched at Kickstarter at the end of October. If everything goes as planned, it will be delivered to backers next year. However, you will have the exclusive chance to see and play the early version of Vampire Mafia already at this Essen!

…Did we mention that Vampire Mafia is set in a unique setting, where vampires are good guys but are ready to spill the blood and vampire hunters are the forces of evil? Well, there it goes!

See you at Hobby World booth in Essen — Hall 1, E151!

About Hobby World

Hobby World is the largest Russian game publisher by print runs, turnover and by number of titles. Hobby World is the official Russian distributor of Wizards of the Coast, Games Workshop Ltd., Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder and other top companies of the board gaming industry.

 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact us:

Trends in Board Games: Kickstarter Bubble?

I’m going to be doing a couple of articles loosely based on the trends that I’ve seen lately in the board game world. This is the first of those and relates to Kickstarter and it’s influence.

Everyone has an opinion or suggestion or thoughts regarding Kickstarter lately, so I thought I’d throw my two cents into the ring as well.

Recent Kickstarter promotions got me thinking, starting with how marketing goes into the success of games, and in this case, how it changes and evolves as their funding period nears the end. My twitter feed blew up with all the tweets regarding Skyway Robbery and the countdown in hours and dollars until it finally hit its funding goal with sparse minutes to spare.

Specifically, buried within those tweets, there had been a comment early in the day that gave rise to this conversation in my head. It was about why another game, perceived to be of (questionable) subpar quality comparatively, had achieved considerably much more financial backing while arguably lacking a significant portion of the major reviewers endorsements and comments (i.e. raved reviews) while the one that had them was limping to the finish line like a sprinter with a torn Achilles.

At first pass, I looked at it like similar to this scenario in another industry; the current TV market. Shows like NCIS and The Big Bang Theory are the most “popular” (by ratings) shows on television the past several years. But are these really the “best” shows on TV? Those seen above could be argued to have much more critical acclaim than their counterparts. Or have they simply used the best combination of marketing with a product that has the broadest and lowest common denominator in terms of likability and used that as an outline to success?

One of the most acclaimed shows in recent memory, Breaking Bad, had an epic, immensely touted, could not miss grand series finale on AMC that had a total of…drumroll please:

10.3 million people watch.

AVERAGE # people watching NCIS during 2013-14 season:

18.51 million (19.7 depending on the source)/(22.4 million w/DVR included)

Just so it doesn’t make it look like I’m totally skewing the data, according to this chart shows like “Mike and Molly” and “2 Broke Girls” both averaged near the 9-9.5 million views mark, which doesn’t put them much below that Breaking Bad number. And nobody should be willing to argue that they’re anything to write home about.

So basically, a middle of the road quality TV show on one of the big 3 major networks is almost guaranteed numbers wise to meet or beat a top tier quality (i.e. demographics/ratings) just through sheer attrition of people. Akin to this, a top notch written board game article on a small blog getting less reads (views) than a “popular” board game site writing one of significantly lesser quality. This is an example of and leads me right into the next point…

Popularity breeds popularity and momentum breeds more momentum which then brings success, and the board game design/publishing race is no exception to that rule (as Jamie so recently pointed out again). I frequently find myself cruising the board game launches page on Kickstarter and admit, I too, love to use the “Sort by popularity” feature to see what’s trending. But recently, my browsing has left me thinking something different; something I shouldn’t have been as surprised by and should have perhaps crossed my mind earlier…

Because as Andy Grove stated “Success breeds complacency” leading me to wonder…

Has the Kickstarter board game bubble burst?

I haven’t crunched the data but the fact that the topic has come up makes me legitimately consider such a thought. The last year on Kickstarter for board games, their funding, and the popularity has been at the very least, outstanding, and the without solid evidence to back it, most likely off the charts historically for this pastime. But like the dot com, housing, and cupcake bubbles, has common spending sense with limited financial resources finally caught up with the recent board game craze?

I’m not sure the reason it looks the way it does right now. Is it that more board games are being put up on Kickstarter thus causing a dilution of limited funds? Are more games just funding at lower goals? Maybe there just aren’t as many people funding in general currently. A big common post that can be found on Board Game Geek at any one time recently is the i.e. “Look at What I’ve Backed on KS” thread. But quite often contained within those threads are the not so subtle posts along the lines of:

“I shouldn’t have back this/as many games as I did…” or

“I’m looking to sell my Kickstarter version of the game because of …{insert reason here}…”

Interpreted basically, has the legitimate concern for having buyer’s regret combined with limited backer financial resources overcome the urge to spend on the sheer premise and promise of a game, even in the setting of stamp of critical acclaim?

Or are we looking at other factors or a combination thereof altogether?

Are people just feeling over-saturated or burnt out? You can only own so many games before some, if not a significant portion, stop being able to hit the table on regular basis regardless the hourly devotion to the cardboard craft. “Strike while the iron is hot” approach is seen on the genre and themes of games but seriously, how many party/Cards against Humanity/Zombie themed games can people back before buyer fatigue sets in? (**This is a topic deserving another article altogether**)

The complacency in this case is one where new and old designers/publishers alike have seen what has been popular, and instead of creating their own unique product, would rather ride the coattails of said theme that people seem to be smitten with. Staying with the TV theme, hence the recent relative years of betting by networks on spin offs and rebrandings (CBS comes to mind in particular for criticism here) and as much as I love me another CSI: Timbuktu (I’m looking at you NCIS: New Orlea-blah), saturation occurs. In the Kicstarter setting especially, it’s an issue even more so when it becomes compounded by the fact that there’s no instant payoff, and can often take months to even a year or more to see a return on funds that become immediately sapped from your bank account.

How about another theory? Are we simply looking at the pendulum swinging back the other direction with the big players, i.e. major board game designers/publishers ramping up their efforts to get those dollars back in their pockets? Are they upping their ante in trying to get buy up smaller games and ideas to keep from giving consumers more options? Let’s not forget how conventions play into this as well. They remain a huge market for hordes of gamers in a single place and having a product in hand that you can physically walk away with. This becomes innumerably more the case with ones biggies like Essen, where each year limited versions and amounts of yet to be broadly released games are given/sold out like Rolls Royce to only the lucky few. Mix that in with a community that has a distinct clique of “I-want-it-all collectors”, the thought of missing out tugs at their heart strings and seemingly provides an unending life to this model.

And publishers know this; they wouldn’t continue such practices if it didn’t bring in the moo-lah. Why else do you think with the recent successes on KS and otherwise, many smaller “Indie” companies have popped up? Their success, often with first projects based off of Kickstarter, allow future support of designers/publishers on subsequent projects and allow them to be more mainstream outside of the Kickstarter funded world. But this too further spreads those dollars.

So what do you guys think? Would you agree that the Kickstarter “bubble” is burst? Or are we somewhere else along that trajectory? I’d love to hear other peoples’ thoughts on the topic.

Let me be clear, though. I think Kickstarter is here to stay and won’t become a dying cause because of any of these reasons listed above. But the pendulum has swung back a little and I do think that it is starting to reach its equilibrium in terms of appeal and total funding levels. And then again, I could as easily be wrong on any of these accounts. But I do think it will remain because I think you’re still looking at a free market capitalistic enterprise where the person with a superior idea/game and initiative can/will find a way to get it funded and made. Those willing and able to be creative, inventive, and bring us games that are fun and of high quality will still manage to succeed regardless of their route.

After all, isn’t that what we’re about?

Sneak Peak of the next article’s topic: Going a little meta, talking about reviewing in general.
So if you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to send ’em to me…

By |September 29th, 2014|Article|8 Comments

Episode #37 – Seth Hiatt / Mayday Games

Week in Review is a podcast from Today in Board Games. It summarizes the top news stories from the week and digs a little deeper with interviews, reviews, and more. In today’s episode:

I interview Seth Hiatt of Mayday Games. We talk about all of Mayday’s recent projects including Coconuts Duo which is on Kickstarter now.

We would love your feedback on this episode! Please leave a comment here or visit us in ITunes and give us a rating and review!

Issue #228 – Designer Wisdom; Should I Buy Descent 2.0?

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Sep 26, 2014 – Issue #228

TOP NEWS

HOT DEALS

Giveaways, specials, and freebies

KICKSTARTER CORNER

In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…
Today In Board Games Is:Roger Hicks (Editor)
Charlie Ecenbarger (Contributor)
Michelle Mazala (Contributor)
Chris Meeusen (Contributor)
Diana Echevarria (Communications)
Jessica King (Editor)
Follow Today in Board Games:
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Designer Wisdom

Curated By Cardboard Edison

Should I Buy This?


Descent (2nd Edition) (2012)
Publisher:
 Fantasy Flight Games
Details: 2-5 Players, 120 Minutes
Surveyed Gamers Say:
58.33% Own and Love
0.00% Plan to Buy
8.33% Will Try It First
8.33% Might Play It
16.67% It Wasn’t for Me
8.33% Not Interested

Buy This If You Like:
Wrath of Ashardalon, Mansions of Madness, Level 7 Omega Protocol

Links:
Board Game Geek
Funagain ($63.99)
Cool Stuff Inc. ($53.99)
Amazon ($53.99)

Coming Next Issue

Hyperborea
What are your thoughts on this game? Give us your opinion!

BOARD BUSINESS

Articles for designers, publishers, and other industry professionals

 

By |September 27th, 2014|Issue|0 Comments

Issue #227 – Should I Buy Lewis & Clark?

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Sep 24, 2014 – Issue #227

TOP NEWS

HOT DEALS

Giveaways, specials, and freebies
KICKSTARTER CORNER

In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…

Articles

Interviews, strategies, and opinions

Should I Buy This?


Lewis & Clark (2013)
Publisher:
 Asmodee
Details: 1-5 Players, 120 Minutes
Surveyed Gamers Say:
50.00% Own and Love
5.56% Plan to Buy
22.22% Will Try It First
11.11% Might Play It
0.00% It Wasn’t for Me
11.11% Not Interested

Links:
Board Game Geek
Funagain ($39.99)
Cool Stuff Inc. ($33.99)
Amazon ($35.30)

Coming Next Issue

Descent (2nd Edition)
What are your thoughts on this game? Give us your opinion!

BOARD BUSINESS

Articles for designers, publishers, and other industry professionals
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By |September 25th, 2014|Issue|0 Comments

Issue #226 – Should I Buy Five Tribes?

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Sep 22, 2014 – Issue #226

TOP NEWS

HOT DEALS

Giveaways, specials, and freebies

KICKSTARTER CORNER

In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…

Articles

Interviews, strategies, and opinions

Should I Buy This?


Five Tribes (2014)
Publisher:
 Days of Wonder
Details: 2-4 Players, 60 Minutes
Surveyed Gamers Say:
16.67% Own and Love
16.67% Plan to Buy
55.56% Will Try It First
5.56% Might Play It
0.00% It Wasn’t for Me
5.56% Not Interested

Buy This If You Like:
Kingdom Builder, Mancala, Istanbul

Links:
Board Game Geek
Funagain ($47.99)
Cool Stuff Inc. ($39.99)
Amazon ($47.28)

Coming Next Issue

Lewis & Clark
What are your thoughts on this game? Give us your opinion!

BOARD BUSINESS

Articles for designers, publishers, and other industry professionals
Follow Today in Board Games:
Facebook
Facebook

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Twitter

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Today In Board Games Is:Roger Hicks (Editor)
Charlie Ecenbarger (Contributor)
Michelle Mazala (Contributor)
Chris Meeusen (Contributor)
Diana Echevarria (Communications)
Jessica King (Editor)

 

By |September 23rd, 2014|Issue|0 Comments

Slaughterball Press release

image005

Slaughterball, the brutally deluxe sci-fi sports board game, is now live on Kickstarter!

Slaughterball is a competitive board game simulating a ferocious future bloodsport where 2-4 teams of genetically-engineered super-athletes clash in a remorseless steel pit. Teams score points by making goals and injuring opponents. The rules are elegant and brutal, quick to pick up, but with the strategic depth to fuel endless hours of thrilling victories and agonizing defeats.

  • 2-4 players
  • Playing time: 30 minutes per player
  • Ages 14+
  • No assembly required

Slaughterball comes with following amazing components:

  • 52 large plastic athletes great for painting
  • 27” double-sided board with awesome, thematic art
  • 21 16mm etched dice
  • 70 strategy cards and 2 plastic balls
  • Scrimmage rulebook for beginners
  • Exhibition and League rulebook for advanced play
  • And more…

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Plus, you can get a bunch of extras based on your Kickstarter pledge level, such as board game celebrity playing pieces like Tom Vasel and Angry Joe Vargas, extra playing boards, athletes, plastic tokens, and more! So, if you love to roll dice and play action-packed games, visit the Kickstarter page! You can watch a gameplay video, review all the pledge levels, read the rules, download a free print-and-play version, and see the glorious figures and artwork. For more information, feel free to contact me. Stay crunchy, my friend, Erik Kjerland Frog the What Games

Frog the What Games is an independent game design and publishing company based in Redmond, WA. It is owned and operated by Erik and Shari Kjerland. Slaughterball is our first game. Feel free to use any artwork from the Kickstarter project in your stories about Slaughterball.

Issue #225 – Interview: Knee Jerk; Should I Buy City Hall?

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Sep 19, 2014 – Issue #225

TOP NEWS

HOT DEALS

Giveaways, specials, and freebies

KICKSTARTER CORNER

In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…
Follow Today in Board Games:
Facebook
Facebook

Twitter
Twitter

Website
Website

Google Plus
Google Plus

Today In Board Games Is:Roger Hicks (Editor)
Charlie Ecenbarger (Contributor)
Michelle Mazala (Contributor)
Chris Meeusen (Contributor)
Diana Echevarria (Communications)
Jessica King (Editor)

TiBG Designer Interview Series

Andrew Federspiel – Knee Jerk

“Knee Jerk came about from a game design summit I put on with my friends from grad. school. We were discussing the different context-types in games and how they could be used to create or modify existing game designs. We each randomly received one different “context” type, and individually brainstormed a game around that. I received “situational context” and imagined a game where players were rapidly switched from location to location and voila! Knee Jerk was born…..” (read the rest)

Articles

Interviews, strategies, and opinions

Should I Buy This?


City Hall (2014)
Publisher:
 Tasty Minstrel Games
Details: 2-4 Players, 90 Minutes
Surveyed Gamers Say:
33.33% Own and Love
16.67% Plan to Buy
50.00% Will Try It First
0.00% Might Play It
0.00% It Wasn’t for Me
0.00% Not Interested

Links:
Board Game Geek
Funagain ($47.99)
Cool Stuff Inc. ($39.99)
Amazon ($47.28)

Coming Next Issue

Five Tribes
What are your thoughts on this game? Give us your opinion!

BOARD BUSINESS

Articles for designers, publishers, and other industry professionals

 

By |September 22nd, 2014|Issue|0 Comments

Interview with Andrew Federspiel designer of Knee Jerk

Today’s interview is with Andrew Federspiel of Knapsack Games designer of Knee Jerk (on Kickstarter now).

Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.

Knee Jerk is “the party game of instant reactions” where players make up endings to funny situations. It’s for 4 to 8 players, ages 9+, and plays in 10 minutes. The host chooses a situation, and the other players have to shout an ending to it as fast as possible. The fastest player wins the point, but if there are multiple answers, the host can choose his favorite. The first player to gain 4 points wins.

What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?

The combination of fast, open-ended, simultaneous play leads players to blurt out surprising, hilarious answers. Also, the unique “arrow-locking” graphical layout of our cards enables the deck to generate over 150,000 different situations.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

Knee Jerk came about from a game design summit I put on with my friends from grad. school. We were discussing the different context-types in games and how they could be used to create or modify existing game designs. We each randomly received one different “context” type, and individually brainstormed a game around that. I received “situational context” and imagined a game where players were rapidly switched from location to location… and voila! Knee Jerk was born.

CardTryptic

Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way.

The game started with the Feeling-Location-Action model of generating situations. Since then, we’ve explored other avenues. However, that model turned out to be the best for players as it’s familiar, flexible, and gives players several elements to draw from without being overwhelming.

 
On a different note, the game started as a single-player 60-second race to finish as many situations as possible. Immediately after, to allow more players to play, we switched to an Apples-to-Apples-style turn-based “judge” method. Many iterations later, we arrived at a hybrid of the two that’s fast AND allows all players to play simultaneously. It’s the best of both worlds.

What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Content. Content has been the biggest challenge by far. If you look at the content of the game – the Feelings, Locations and Actions – you might think it’s easy to come up with, as well as endless. However, through hours and hours of brute force testing and pattern examining, we eventually found that only a specific kind of content is right for the game. For example, some content might be excellent some of the time, but not all of the time. That’s the common case. But we wanted the content to work as much of the time as it could so that the 150,000 situations are all entertaining and make sense. Here is more information about our findings: http://www.knapsackgames.com/blogs/blog/14644655-making-knee-jerk-content-buttery-smooth

Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?

Magic: The Gathering drew me into game design in elementary school. The act of designing a magic deck is similar to designing a game — combining certain components to create different game dynamics. I majored in computer science in college and then entertainment technology in grad school. This brought me into a game designer position at SilverTree Media, and then PopCap Games.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Receiving my first Magic card. It was a tiny window into a sprawling, exciting space that opened my eyes to the world of design.

Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?

I’m from the east coast, so most of my family still resides in the NJ/NY area. They always supported me growing up, allowing me to play an incredible variety of games. Also, they were willing to play the games I designed. As I mentioned before, my professional work has been as a game designer at SilverTree Media and PopCap Games. Now I’m full-time on tabletop games, trying my best to make it a sustainable career path!

 I’m big into films, television series and philosophy — anything that makes us think about our (trivial) existence.

Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?

After Knee Jerk, we will focus on our new Bejeweled-meets-Chess strategy game. It’s a tactical game of player powers and hidden information based in a magic workshop. So far it’s testing incredibly well. I’m really excited to share it.

What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?

I’ve been playing Star Realms, Ascension and Island Siege. I’ve also been playing an iPhone puzzle game called Corrypt. It begins with Sokoban-style block puzzles and then proceeds to explode your mind with excellent, unforeseen puzzle design.

Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?

I’m going with a video game on this one: Diablo II. It has a beautiful combination of pacing, action, replayability, balance and player dynamics. I’ve put more time into that game than any other (Magic is next in line).

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Finish your designs. It’s fun to keep starting new projects, but only finished games are the best they can be. Also, only finished games reach the widest possible player-base… so finish ’em! (Even if it’s tough at times.)

Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)

I’d like to give a shout-out to Jason Mai, the lead designer I worked with on PopCap’s Solitaire Blitz. He taught me so much about listening, communicating and following my gut. All of it has helped me so much along the way. Also, he’s just a cool guy.

Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).

Sure! I’m pretty active on them all:

 
I’ll be at Gen Con, Sasquatch Board Game Festival and possibly BGG.CON later in the year.