Interview with Yisong Yang designer of Two Armies and Four Armies!

Banner_300x250Today’s interview is with Yisong Yang designer of Two Armies and Four Armies!

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

This board game of battle field strategies has two versions: the two player version is called Two Armies and the four player version is called Four Armies. Here is how these games are played.

In Two Armies each player commands a troop of 25 game pieces: 1 Flag, 1 Army, 1 Corps, 2 Divisions, 2 Brigades, 2 Regiments, 2 Battalions, 3 Companies, 3 Platoons, 3 Engineers, 3 Mines, and 2 Bombs. To win a game, one must either capture the Flag piece or defeat all the movable pieces of the opponent player. The battlefield consists of railway tracks along which the pieces can move continuously, country-road routes along which the pieces cannot move continuously, and bases which provide shelters to pieces occupying them. On each side, the Flag piece is to be secretly placed in one of the two castle-shaped headquarters and guarded by movable troop pieces and unmovable Mines.

The game Four Armies is similar to Two Armies. Four players are playing as two opponent allies and the goal of a game is to capture the two Flags or defeat all movable pieces of the two allying opponents. This game requires a high level of cooperation and coordination between the allied players and is full of challenge and surprising outcomes due to the complexity of the involvement of four players since each player can only read the player’s own pieces and make judged decisions based on the movements of the ally and opponents.

Where did you get the idea to develop Two/Four Armies into an online playable game?

I have great passion for this game and wish to let people outside China know and enjoy it too.  Internet gaming has become more and more popular. So I believe it will make the game known more quickly and effectively through making it available online.

What has been your biggest challenge in programming this game?

The programming part is not too much a challenge. The biggest challenge I face is to make it known and enjoyed by people outside China.

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

First I like this game very much. I have played it since childhood. I basically grew up playing this game. For the past 15 years, I joined a local game club in the Princeton area in New Jersey and we have played Four Armies almost each weekend. Sometimes I got invited to local libraries and cultural events to demonstrate the game and kids often waited in line for their turns to play it. These give me enthusiasm to promote the game here. I also developed electronically refereed game sets which have been sold to nearly 20 states in US and 6 other countries all through the praise of mouth of customers. Since online gaming is now widespread, I made the current online version too for players to enjoy for free.

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

I am not a professional game developer but a mathematician. I do research on mathematical problems arising from theoretical physics and teach at New York University. My wife and I live in New Jersey and we have three college kids. Another of my great hobby besides board games is electronics. I also enjoy travel and reading history and culture.

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

I can be reached at my personal email address: yisongyang@gmail.com

or at the website www.starletgames.com

By |April 20th, 2015|Interview|Comments Off on Interview with Yisong Yang designer of Two Armies and Four Armies!

A Look at Zombie Mutation from Pixel Productions

boxxOVERVIEW:

 

In Zombie Mutation™, each player will take the role of one of the six heroes, all fighting to escape the growing Zombie hordes. During the game, players will fight their way through a multi-level 3D game board searching for items that can help them survive, rescuing other survivors and of course killing zombies.

SUMMARY OF GAME PLAY:

Ultimately there can be only one winner or one winning team; however to make it through the various levels of mutating zombies alive; you will find that this game definitely promotes team strategy.  This game can be played individually as a “free-for-all” or as “opposing teams”. (Best when played with 4 players in teams of two).

The main goal of the game is to make it successfully from the top of one of the starting buildings, down through the city streets and to the helicopter rescue on the top of the hospital building with as many survivors as possible. To achieve this, players will need to seek out supplies and survivors indicated by ‘action, supply or survivor icons’ on this grid based game board. When a player becomes adjacent to any of these game icons, all movement stops and the icon is activated. The player must then draw from the corresponding deck of cards being; action, zombie, supply or survivor. The thing about ‘action cards’ is that you never know what you’re going to get; you could wind up drawing anything ranging from much needed health or a weapon to a survivor, zombie horde or even triggering a mutation.

At the beginning of a players’ turn the player must determine what action they will take. A player gets two actions per turn; and may choose one of the following:

Move and Attack      >     Attack and Attack      >     Breakaway and Move

Players will roll one die to determine the number of squares the Hero can move, and two dice for an attack. If a player chooses to breakaway and flee from combat, the player will roll one die with a minus 1 to their movement.

There are many obstacles each player will face during the course of the game. The dice rolling in conjunction with the card drawing aspect of this game creates a very random influence on how the game can and will be played out. Some examples of this might be drawing a key, a rope, a mutation card or even the number of zombies encountered. Depending on where you happen to draw one of these cards it could change your entire strategy by creating opportunity or pressuring you to react and move quickly.

Just like the name of the game implies, zombies can randomly mutate during game play. Drawing a Mutation Card causes all zombies on a specific level to change by increasing their strength or ability.

Zombies move or attack after each player turn. Heroes and Hero Zombies use a slider to track Health Points located on each player card during game play. A single successful roll kills regular zombies.

A little about Hero Zombies:

If a player’s Hero depletes their Health Points and is unable to heal at the start of the next turn, that Hero becomes a Zombie Hero. It is the objective of a Zombie Hero to prevent all remaining Heroes from reaching their objective. Zombie Heroes have the ability to merge with other zombies and survivors on the game board to create a horde controlled by the Zombie Hero. When Mutation Cards are drawn, Zombie Heroes will reap the benefits regardless of the level they are on.

Players can also choose to begin the game as a Zombie Hero playing against the Hero players. The goal for a Zombie Hero is to eliminate all Heroes before they can reach their extraction point.

GAME COMPONENTS:

1          Game Board

3          Buildings

30        Action Cards

42        Supply Cards

30        Survivor Cards

24        Zombie Cards

12        Sliders

6          Hero Miniatures

6          Zombie Hero Miniatures

36        Level 1 Zombie Miniatures

30        Level 2 Zombie Miniatures

30        Level 3 Zombie Miniatures

6          Hero Special Ability Cards

6          Hero/Hero Zombie Player Cards

6          Zombie Player Tiles

54        Action Tiles

9          Movement Trays

 


We utilize several different game mechanics such as a grid system based board, roll and attack, and cards. Our goal was to create a game with such a random dynamic that the outcome would be different every time you played it. We also incorporated some elements of strategy to achieve goals as well as when playing opponents.


We’re huge zombie fanatics here at Pixel. Ever since the first Walking Dead comic book came out we were fans. Years later we were inspired to create a board game based on zombie fan fiction. Aside from that Pixel is also the production design company for Eagle/Gryphon Games, working on games such as Incan Gold, BlockIt, Pastiche, Roll Through the Ages and many of other wonderful games. Being around such a constant barrage of great games got us itching to create a game from scratch ourselves. It’s such a thrill to see a game that we’ve worked on in retail stores.  We kind of want to claim complete ownership to a game like that.

Unfortunately for our game, paying clients come first, and the game kept getting side lined. The perpetual lack of time was probably our biggest hurdle in developing Zombie Mutation™.

Our crew is pretty talented and diverse. We run a full service advertising and website design agency based out of Southern Oregon. We all share many common interests such as the love of problem solving that design provides. Outside of work we do very different things…

Kevin Williams, our head of multi-media and Ecommerce spends most of his ‘free time’ rebuilding Volkswagen buses. Kevin’s a great guy but he’s one of those guys that is great at everything and frankly we all get a little tired of that J.

Paul Quinn is an Owner/Creative Director here at Pixel. He’s also the reason this game is coming to fruition. Paul spent countless hours after work hours and on weekends creating the game play and play testing with family members to get a solid foundation for us to spring board off of. It’s safe to say we probably wouldn’t be releasing this game without his driving force.

Chris London, I’m the one writing all of this down, and I used to enjoy my free time and would spend much of it diving. I’m also an owner here at Pixel, however, at age 41 with a 5 and 3 year old at home, I find myself with very little ‘free time’. In fact, I’m lucky to simply get a bathroom break. Thankfully, I have a very loving wife, who is extremely understanding and supportive of me staying late to ‘play games, eat pizza and drink beer’ as she would put it.

Shannon Crutchfield is an amazing artist with a fantastic sense of humor. Her love of coffee is only second to her love of corgis! Shannon works from our Portland Oregon office and fits into the Portlandia scene quite well. Shh… don’t tell her, she thinks she’s normal.

Dillon Quinn is an intern at Pixel. Dillon is an avid self-taught guitarist following in the footsteps of his favorite band, 5 Finger Death Punch. In his down time he enjoys playing H1Z1 because Zombies rule!

gm-brd

 


 We’re all pretty blessed to get to do what we love.

Remaining Questions:

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

Not right now, Zombie Mutation takes up most of our time!

  • What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?
  • Roll Through the Ages, Heroclix, D & D, Settlers of Catan & Cards Against Humanity.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

  • Keep pushing ahead and don’t give up!
  • Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)
  • Jordan, Katlyn, Christian, Emily, Shea, Brandon, Dillon & Steve
  • Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).

Pixel Productions Inc

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/174448/zombie-mutation

https://twitter.com/ZombieMutation

https://www.facebook.com/zombiemutation

By |March 17th, 2015|Interview|Comments Off on A Look at Zombie Mutation from Pixel Productions

Interview with Jim Pinto designer of Gondola

af315ce32a9cbb33121318609b74d104_largeToday’s interview is with Jim Pinto designer of Gondola now on Kickstarter!

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

Gondola is a tile placement racing game through the canals of Venice. Players race to be the first through three checkpoints to win the game. You draw tiles into your hand and place one on your turn, so you build the course as you play. Then, you move your gondola. Each tile has three values on it: speed, drift, and capacity. Speed tells you how fast you can go (how many spaces you can move), but drift limits this; you move the lower of the two values. Capacity determines how many boats can occupy a given tile. There are also special tiles in the game that can help your strategy or block other players.

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

No one has made a tile-laying game like this. The drift mechanic is the most important mechanic in the game. It stops the person who draws the best tiles from running away with it. If you played a racing card game and one person drew all that 6s and you drew all the 1s, you’d lose. Period. In Gondola, the drift mechanic is a throttle for controlling just how fast you can move off the tile you are on. So, unless you’re very good and play all the elements of the game, simply having all the 6s won’t help you. You’ll need to plan where you’re going and how you’re going to land. For such a simple game, there’s a lot of strategy to it.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

Just sort of came to me in the shower one day. The drift mechanic popped into my head and the rest of the game wrote itself.
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.

cf2dcf189526d1e0a98fc0cc06a9750f_largeWhat has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Every playtest, people wanted to give feedback that clearly showed a lack of understanding of the game. And these were top designers in the industry trying to change one minor thing, which would end up causing two problems. In the end, the game hasn’t changed at all since the original design, except for the values on the tiles. I’m just lucky, I guess.

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

My story always annoys people, I think. I fell backwards into game design from tech writing, back in 1997. I heard about an opening for a magazine editor and I applied. The magazine died within a year, but I stayed on as a writer/editor after that. Then an art director. And years later I was writing roleplaying games and board games. You might know me from Dominare. Maybe. If you’ve played that. I have a passion for design. I would be doing this even if I wasn’t getting paid. By the way. I’m looking forward to getting paid.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

I don’t think there’s a singular moment. I recently received an encouraging e-mail from a teacher saying that he was using one of my games to teach kids about colonial-era America. That was pretty cool.

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

There’s a life outside of game design? How many people answer this question that way?

Actually. I’m particularly private. I don’t really talk about my personal life. If you friend me on Facebook, you might find pictures of places I’ve hiked. Or read one of my classic screeds about bad writing. That’s as personal as I get.

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

100 A.D. is coming next. It’s about about the Roman senate and all its corruption. Then there’s Forum, which is finished, but I’m tinkering with how I want to produce it. I’m working on a card game about kids building a time machine. It’ll be cute and simple. Maybe a $15 POD game, or something. I write a lot of roleplaying game stuff too. And that keeps me busy.

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

I played a bunch of Dominare recently. I even took some time to make 110 totally new characters and rules for it. I even printed them out. I can’t sell it, but I might give the PDF away to people. I love Orleans, but hate hate hate the graphics. Hate. And not because they are archaic or historical looking but because brown, gray, and black are not good colors to distinguish your jobs with. Not to mention, nothing on the main board is in the same order as the elements on your own individual board. Awesome game, but graphics need a lot of work. Bush league mistakes.
I’m tired of solitaire games (like 7Wonders) that try to disguise themselves as something else. I could do without those. I really like Mysterium (which isn’t available in the US yet). Jaipur and Longhorns are fantastic two-player games. Genius, really.

d00fb70f348ff9068496ef5c03e02e8e_largeShare your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?

Dominare. Hands down. I can’t say why without sounding arrogant, but I designed it, I’ve played it over 100 times and I’m not tired of it. I think that’s reason enough, right?

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Design what you love. Stop worrying about making the next crunchy-Euro and make sure you design something you want to play. You’ll be involved with it for the next five years or so. So make sure you enjoy it.

Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?

There are tons of players out there who are ambassadors of the hobby. They teach games, run events at stores, help at conventions, and all of it without getting a paycheck. Those guys and gals deserve a medal for doing our jobs for us.

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

I’ll be at gamestorm at the end of March. Gencon as well. Souljargames.com has this and one of my previous board games. You can find me on facebook, twitter, and the web.
By |March 1st, 2015|Interview|Comments Off on Interview with Jim Pinto designer of Gondola

Interview with Ivan Turner designer of Titans of Empyrean

titanslogo

Today’s interview is with Ivan Turner designer of Titans of Empyrean now on Kickstarter!

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

Titans of Empyrean is played on a hex board, but is very much driven by what we call maneuver cards.  You control 4 titans (dragon, manticore, pegasus, griffon).  Each titan is unique and has unique abilities.  You also have a deck of 28 maneuver cards, which you will deal out to your titans, leaving over some for a reserve stack.  Throughout the course of a turn, each titan can move, attack, play a maneuver, and/or place a card from the reserve stack under its own stack of cards (replenish).  Each titan can perform these actions in any order so there’s a high level of decision making throughout the course of the game.  The object is to simply eliminate your opponent’s titans.

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

The game is actually chocked full of innovative mechanics.  Just being able to choose the order in which your titan takes its actions expands the decision tree exponentially.  The thing that really separates it from other games, though, is the maneuver stacks.  In a card game, the player has his or her own cards.  In Titans, the cards go to the titans instead of the player.  A card on Drake’s stack is no help to Barnabas.  In addition, the maneuver cards double as the creature’s life.  When a titan is attacked, damage tokens are placed onto it.  Each titan can hold a certain amount of damage and still function, but it must burn or discard maneuvers in order to get rid of the excess.  This brings in a real resource management side to the game.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

I literally woke up one day and thought, “I want to make a game about giant flying monsters fighting each other”.

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.

Initially, I wanted Titans to be a straight card game.  I worked out a system where you would place your cards in formation on the table and attack, etc…  That didn’t even get to the prototype stage.  I quickly realized that the best way to include a tactical side was to run it on a game board.  In early iterations, the game ran very much like a standard card game.  You drew a hand of cards and you played your maneuvers from your hand with whichever titans you wanted.  Each action had its own phase.  It was okay, but not terribly unique.  From there, I moved into giving stacks of cards to each titan.  Initially, players still drew a hand from the reserve stack and had many options for playing cards.  Only when I was testing with a wargamer friend of mine did we hit upon what was really holding the game back.  The phases.  Being forced to move before attacking or attack before moving really restricted how you could play your maneuvers.  We debated on which should go first, but couldn’t come up with a solution.  In reading over the maneuver cards, I recognized that there was no right answer.  Some cards worked better one way while others worked better the other way.  So I eliminated the phases and let each titan do its own thing in any order it wanted.  Each titan was given a unique initiative value so that I could mitigate the advantage a player might have by going first or last.  Ultimately, the game took real shape.  By the time we were testing it at Gencon 2014, the only changes that needed to be made were on the cards themselves.

What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Randomness.  There are no dice in Titans of Empyrean.  Each titan has a strength characteristic and that’s how much damage it does every time it attacks.  It was my original intent that all randomness be eliminated from the game.  Even the card stacks were meant to be pre-arranged by the players.  One of my partners, Chris, was very against that.  He felt it required too much setup and he, personally, couldn’t get into the game without that small spark of randomness.  Ultimately, he suggested that we just shuffle up the maneuvers and deal them out to the titans.  I have to say he was 100% right.  Not only does it make for a more tactical game, forcing players to react to events, but it makes each game different, increasing replayability exponentially.  The best part about it is that that tiny bit of randomness doesn’t detract from the strategic impact of the player.  In all the games I’ve played and watched, I can only recall 2 instances where I could say that the arrangement of the cards was a key factor in the outcome of the game.

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

When I was 12, my parents would not buy me a Gauntlet arcade game (the nerve!), so I set my sights on recreating that experience with miniatures.  30 years later, that game is still being developed.  A friend of mine and I were working on it and started playing it at conventions a few years ago.  One day, we decided to switch gears and work on a card game.  That was ApocalypZe, which was the first game 9 Kingdoms published.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

I like to design mechanics around a theme, and my mechanics are generally just slightly out of phase.  I do that to keep a game interesting and fresh.  There is nothing that gives me more pleasure and more satisfaction than when a player “gets it”.  When that light bulb goes off over a player’s head and he or she really understands and appreciates what the game is about, it makes the whole process worth it.

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

There’s a life outside of game design?  I’m 43 years old and I’m married with 2 children.  You’d think with a 10 year old and a 7 year old I’d start thinking about kids’ games.  My full time job is as a teacher.  I teach in a NYC public high school, primarily computer science.  It’s actually a really great job.  I love it almost as much as I love game design.  Oddly enough, I’ve lost a lot of my interests over the years.  I used to own a comic and game store.  During that period in my life, I was able to get into everything and had the time to pursue it because it was “work”.  Now, aside from my family, I like to focus one or two games, poker with my friends, and the Walking Dead.

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

Our next project is a party game.  My partners and I have been wanting to do one because they’re light and fun.  We came up with something called Keep Calm, where one player presents a situation and the other players have to Keep Calm and respond to the situation.  The cards range from the mundane to the absolutely ridiculous and, in play tests, it has met with laughter and general merriment.

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

I recently stopped playing Star Trek Attack Wing.  Part of the reason I stopped was because of time, but there were other factors.  I chose it over Star Wars X-Wing because, at the time, Star Trek provided a lot more options for customizing your ships and strategies.  I love options.  Unfortunately, I feel that the game grew too large too fast and the gameplay suffered for it.  They weren’t careful about how it expanded and there are too many elements that are useless and too many others that are all powerful.

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

I think my favorite game of all time is the Star Wars CCG that was put out by Decipher in the 1990s.  That game was so brilliantly designed and executed.  It held my attention for about 3 or 4 years (which is a lifetime for someone with my attention span) before they began changing the mechanics and adding new types of cards.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

There’s so much about the process that you have to learn for yourself.  There’s plenty of material that you can read online about best practices and such, and it’s all helpful, but you won’t really understand what you’re reading until you’ve experienced it for yourself.

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

We have had so much support over the years that I can’t even begin to list all of the names.  The standouts, however, are Jim, Jeff, and Matt of Not Just another Gaming Podcast and Vinny and Avi of Double Exposure (they run the Morristown, NJ conventions Dreamation, Dexcon, and Metatopia)

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

Our Facebook page is facebook.com/ninekingdoms.  I tweet @igturner and the company tweets @NineKingdoms.  There’s a BGG page for Titans of Empyrean and another for ApocalypZe.  As far as conventions are concerned, we are always at Dreamation and Dexcon and Metatopia in Morristown, NJ.  We always attend Unpub in Baltimore.  We’ll be at PAX East in Boston, Phillycon in Cherry Hill, NJ, and Too Many Games in the Philadelphia area.  And, of course, we’ll be at Gencon 2015.
By |February 19th, 2015|Interview|Comments Off on Interview with Ivan Turner designer of Titans of Empyrean

Interview with Eric Vogel designer of Don’t turn Your Back

30d204599e25321b3d90031adb6834f4_original (1)Today’s interview is with Eric Vogel designer of Don’t turn Your Back now on Kickstarter!

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

Don’t Turn Your Back is set in the world of Fred Hicks’ RPG Don’t Rest Your Head, about insomniacs whose lack of sleep pushes them into another world called The Mad City, where they are pursued by nightmares.  It’s a bit like Lords of Waterdeep, or my last game Zeppelin Attack, in the sense that it is set in the world of an RPG, but the action takes place at a very different level within that world than the RPG does.  The players are competing for a boon from a powerful nightmare called The Wax King, and must manipulate the complex systems of the Mad City in order to do so.

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

Don’t Turn Your Back is an unique integration of deckbuilding and worker placement.  So like all deckbuilding games, you have your own personal deck of cards that you add to and subtract from throughout the game, strategically.  However, instead of just playing those cards in front of you on the table, you have to play them into available slots on the game board, and cards have different effects depending upon what section of the board you play them into.  So each round, the players put one card onto the board: in one region, the card’s text effect activates, in another, the card generates the ability to buy new cards, in one the card gets trashed and contributes to an endgame bonus, and in two they contribute to majority control battles for victory points.

 Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

The game really sprang from a single “ah-ha” moment.  I was thinking about how to really integrate deckbuilding and worker placement, when the idea just popped into my head “the cards ARE the workers!”  Everything distinctive about the game stemmed naturally from that idea: placement restrictions on the cards, different functions for cards in different board areas, etc.

 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.

This game went through a lot fewer iterations than my last game Zeppelin Attack did.  I think I made something like 28 different prototypes on Zeppelin Attack.  For Don’t Rest Your Head I think I only made 9.  That’s because about 80% of the game was done almost after the first prototype.  It just game together almost effortlessly.  I usually find that kind of inspiration process is a sign that I am doing my best work.

 What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

It was easier than most design processes.  It was hard to come up with much in the way of bonus content for the Kickstarter campaign, because it was a fairly tight game.  There wasn’t a lot of slack between the number of cards the game could have and the number it needed to have.  Fortunately for me Evil Hat was willing to go forward with the game as I envisioned it, without a lot of promo cards or expansions.  I guess that’s the downside of making something you feel is perfect the way it is.

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

I am a clinical psychologist, and my first game was actually a psychotherapeutic game to teach cognitive therapy skills to children, called Land of Psymon.  It’s not a game any of your readers would want to play.  About the same time I designed that, I started getting back into board gaming, having given it up after High School.  So I became a pretty avid gamer about 12 years ago, and anything I enjoy a lot as an audience member, I eventually want to try my hand at creating.  So for a couple of years I designed lots of really terrible games and inflicted them on my friends, until finally I created a good game – an early version of what was eventually published as Cambria.  I got that game under contract to a publisher who sat on it for 3 years, and never published it.  So at that point I published it myself in a small desktop-printed edition of about 70 copies (this was before Kickstarter was a thing).  I later self-published Hibernia the same way, and Hibernia got me a couple of notable good reviews.  This attention, along with some help from my friends at Endgame got Cambria and Hibernia republished by Sandstorm – at which point I guess I was a “professional” game designer, whatever that means.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

There have been several of about equal excitement for me.  Unexpectedly discovering the review of the desktop published edition of Hibernia in Games Magazine was really exciting, and started to make the whole game design thing seem real to me.  Getting a really great review from Bruno Faidutti was really exciting.  I had a bit of a fanboy moment there.  The adaptation of Romans Go Home into an online game was also kind of a milestone for me.

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

As I mentioned, I am a clinical psychologist.  I’m a professor in the doctoral program at John F. Kennedy University.  Aside from psychotherapeutic game development, I also focus on qualitative research and cognitive behavioral therapies.  I’m the primary caretaker of a parent with dementia, so that unfortunately dominates my family life these days.  I’m kind of a film buff.  I like arty movies and cult films.  The kind of things that dominated the midnight movie circuit back when there was one.  I studied film as an undergraduate, and worked in film and TV for a couple of years before I went into psychology.  Now I’m using those rusty skills a bit to make Kickstarter videos, which as been fun.  I even composed the music for the last two I did.

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

The next project I have in the pipeline with Evil Hat Productions is called Kaijuco.  It’s a tableau building card game, in which the players are multinational corporations rebuilding the world after giant monster attack.  It’s a really funny game, with hilarious art by Brian Patterson.  I think we are going to give a sneak preview of it to the backers of Don’t Turn Your Back at some point during the Kickstarter.

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

My favorite game so far this year has been Roll For The Galaxy.  I was a big fan of Race For The Galaxy, and I think the new game is just as good while being quite different from the original.  I’ve also been playing a lot of Splendor, and really like it as a filler.  I like elegant simplicity in design.  I just picked up the two new Martin Wallace games, and so I’m hoping to get those to the table soon.  Really liked Five Tribes and Masquerade, which are 2014 games I guess, but I only just got around to them.  I don’t know if I want to get into what I’ve disliked lately.  I already make too many enemies with my big mouth.

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

Martin Wallace’s London.  It is easily the most-played game in my main game group, and we keep on finding new little strategic angles, even after all these plays.  Really has a lot of depth, in spite of having fairly simple rules.  I really feel like that was Wallace’s masterpiece.

 A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Your local game store is one of the most valuable allies you can have.  Build that relationship.

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

All my homies at my FLGS Endgame, who have been integral to the publishing of 5 of my games: Chris, Chris, P.K., Aaron, Matt, and Mike.  The king of French board game designers Bruno Faidutti, who really has been a patron for me.  Shannon Appelcline, who has always been an invaluable design consultant to me.  And my core group of playtesters: Jon, David, Michael, Carmen, Heather, Dan, MacKenzie, Jos, Jasper, Mak, Brad, Andrew, Eric, Hey and several others I can’t think of at this moment because it is late, and I’m getting sleepy.

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

I always like people to find me, and Vainglorious Games (my design house imprint) on Facebook.  On board game geek, I am “erichv” I’m on twitter, but I am not very active there. My website is vaingloriousgames.net, but I don’t update it very often.  The facebook page is more useful for seeing what I am up to.  My con attendance is a little erratic, because I only like to go when I have a publisher to hang out with.  I went to Gencon last year, because Evil Hat came out en-masse for it, and I had a game at the Asmodee booth as well.  However, I’m not sure if I’ll be there or at Origins this year or not.  I keep hoping to make it to Essen, but so far I haven’t made it.  I’ve been demoing at Big Bad Con in Oakland the last couple of years, because the con has an association with Evil Hat through Sean Nittner.
By |February 18th, 2015|Interview|Comments Off on Interview with Eric Vogel designer of Don’t turn Your Back

Interview with Jon Ruland designer of Gangster Dice

1622632_353100991531138_3707080847336107834_nToday’s interview is with Jon Ruland designer of Gangster Dice now on Kickstarter!

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

In Gangster Dice you play a 1920s era gangster who has been caught pulling a big job along with a few other gangsters. The cops are investigating you and you need to ditch the evidence against you to be found “innocent” and win the game.
Each round you will roll your dice and then secretly bid for control one of 4 separate tokens using your cards. These tokens represent people and places of power. If you win a bid for a token you get to use its special ability to manipulate your dice or favor cards, ultimately allowing you to ditch all your dice and win the game.

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

While Gangster Dice is a dice game, it’s very different from many of the recently published dice games that use the “Yahtzee!” mechanic. Because you bid secretly for each token but you and the other players can see the dice everyone rolled, you are able to make educated guesses about what the other players will do but you cannot be sure until everyone reveals their cards.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

My co-designer and I noticed we had a bit of a gap in our collection in that we hadn’t managed to find any games that were both very quick to play yet strategically deep enough to keep us interested for more than a few plays. Gangster Dice has filled this void in that it is very easy to learn and quick to play, yet we are still finding new strategies and paths to victory even after hundreds of test plays.

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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 finished game is very different from the first few iterations. For example, dice rolling used to be hidden behind player screens, but we found this to be clunky and non-interactive. We didn’t even use cards originally. The game is far smoother, easier to play, and more strategic now than it was in the early days.

What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Getting the gameplay to flow smoothly, quickly, and intuitively was always a big challenge. It’s tough designing a game to be fast and simple yet still have lots of strategic depth. It took us many months to iron out the game into the smooth and elegant thing it is today.

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

My co-designer and I have been making games since we were kids. We used the Starcraft and Warcraft 3 map editors in college to create some pretty cool mods, one of which became quite popular (The Black Road RPG). Since graduating college our interests have shifted away from video games and more toward tabletop games because we prefer enjoying a game with friends over sitting alone in front of a computer.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

That would probably be watching people enjoy Gangster Dice at RinCon this October. That was the first time we showed our game to complete strangers, and most of them seemed to love it.

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

I live with my girlfriend and 7 pets (3 dogs, 4 cats). On weekends when I’m not gaming I like to get out and rock climb in the beautiful mountains around Tucson and the southwest. My co-designer has a wife and 2 daughters. He likes gaming and football.

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

Our next game currently in the works is a zombie-themed card game in which you try to collect vehicle components to escape the city to a safe house out in the country before you are overwhelmed by zombies. Like Gangster Dice, the mechanics of this game are very different from anything we have seen in other games.

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

I like all kinds of games so long as they keep me engaged the whole way. I have a soft spot for quick games that pack a lot of punch, but I also enjoy games of any length so long as they meet the “keep me engaged” criteria.
Games that I dislike include any game in which your decisions don’t matter very much (i.e. games that play themselves) or games where one or more players don’t really get to participate for a significant portion of the game.

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

I’m not sure I have a favorite game, but one game I have played a fair amount of recently is Sheriff of Nottingham. This game is great because it relies on human interaction for its core mechanics, and to me that is what tabletop games are all about.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Playtest as much as you can. Get as many other people involved as you can. Get other people as excited about your game as you are. You can’t do it by yourself; the more the merrier.

1014042_254479898059915_878547251_nAnyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)

I’ll refrain from using last names, but our artist Danielle has been amazing. Also, Aaron and Hoss have been closely involved in the development process and have helped immensely. There are plenty of other people who have been very helpful as well, but that would be a lot of names. You know who you are. Thank you very much.

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

I am on Facebook as Jonathan Ruland; our Facebook page is Spider-Goat Games. My BGG user name is jruland.

Interview with Anthony Contra designer of Funemployed

75f65bd776f62930870cddfb9fcaca3d_largeToday’s interview is with Anthony Contra designer of Funemployed now on Kickstarter!

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

Funemployed is a party game for three or more people (we’ve played it with up to 20 at one time–it can get a little crazy!). In Funemployed, people apply to (mostly) real, everyday life jobs a person could have, but in order to do so, have to use crazy, unreal qualifications that’d you never actually say on an interview. For example, you could apply to be an Astronaut, but have to explain why your Dragon, Lasso, Sad Childhood and Foam Sword make you the best for the job. There will be a lot of “qualified” candidates, but only one person can get the job!
The goal of the game? Get as many jobs as you can!

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

In most party games have you submit your cards as secret information, hoping a judge picks your submission. We felt that this process stifled creativity and didn’t allow people to explain their cards, so we went with a storytelling mechanic instead. There have been several story telling games before, but they’ve been set in fantasy or otherwise unreal settings. In Funemployed, we’ve chosen the real world as our inspiration.
Additionally, a lot of party games of this ilk don’t allow players to exchange their cards if they don’t apply to the situation at hand, which results in players sometimes “throwing away” cards in order to get rid of them. In Funemployed, not only are the cards incredibly open ended so you can tell whatever story you want, but there are also mechanics in place that let you exchange cards with a common pool of cards, so you can prevent situations where you would otherwise throw away a card you can’t use.

de6dc5c4b83ef56273319d4ab07df37a_largeTell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

 We were playing a ton of party games, and we really enjoyed them–they were light, easy to play and allowed a lot of players at once. However, we became frustrated when we couldn’t “explain” our cards–we never got the opportunity to say why our cards should win, instead relying solely on the discretion of the judge. We decided we wanted to make a game that allowed for more open discussion, where players could explain why their cards were funny instead of let the cards speak for themselves. We thought about situations where people would do the most explaining, and came to the conclusion that the most common form of explaining, a form that anyone could relate to, was “selling themselves”. We figured out that the quintessential form of selling oneself is a job interview. But, those can be pretty boring, so we decided to make them completely satirical and fun instead of stressful and complicated. Thus, Funemployed was born!

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.

Some of the biggest design challenges have been which words to choose for the game–since the game doesn’t use different art for each card, the only information we can convey is the text on the card. Because of this, we have to carefully craft each word in order to optimize its play potential. We have to choose between singular or plural, verb or noun, constantly crafting the language on each card to make sure it fits. Then, we have to craft an environment for those cards to make sure they fit together. It’s a laborious, yet rewarding process.

What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Crafting the language, definitely. Choosing which words to go into the game has been the greatest design challenge.

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

I’ve always wanted to make games, but never thought I could do it without coding. Two years ago, my friend said he was making a physical game, and I said I wanted in. Soon enough, I found out you don’t need to program to design a game, and I haven’t looked back since.

 bba4309f1700270cbbf4d0bf813c3b79_largeWhat is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Selling out of Funemployed, my first published game, at PAX East 2014–it was surreal. It was the first convention Urban Island Games had a presence at, and the Megabooth was very accommodating. Those guys were great.

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

I’m getting married in April (I actually used Funemployed to propose to my then girlfriend!), I’m a chess tutor for 3-7 year olds and academic tutor to teens and above on the side, and I enjoy playing all sorts of games in my spare time. I’m also really into Marvel right now (because the MCU is impressive to me as a designer and a consumer).

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

None that I can talk about, sadly.

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

I love all forms of Smash Brothers, so that’s taken up a lot of my time. It’s got such simple mechanics yet such incredible depth and customization, that I could never get sick of it. I’m also into the Binding of Issac and Sentinels of the Multiverse currently.

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

Since I can’t code (yet!), I’ll share a physical game. I wish I had designed (or helped design) Sentinels of the Multiverse, because it’s an awesome cooperative experience, customizable, and rather unique–I have yet to find a game like it.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Plenty, but that’s a separate topic. I’d say iteration is one of the most important things you can do, as is being open to criticism. If someone is spending the time to test your game, honestly listen to what they say, and don’t take it personally.

428dfccb6dab8a25ab8f7264d7a65f52_largeAnyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)

Thanks to my incredibly supportive partner (in life and in business) Carrie Neff, and the rest of the design teams for the projects I’m on: Kyle Gallagher, Matt Ferrando, and Miles Rodriguez; Brian David-Marshall and Matthew Wang of Top8Magic; Rob Daviau, Steve Butcher and Bob Driscoll at IronWall Games; and all the playtesters of my games. I wouldn’t be here without all of you.

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

I’ll be at Toy Fair, Pax East, Gen Con, and hopefully a few other places in 2015, but you can always find me on Twitter as @ACMaverick. We’ve also got a Twitter for Urban Island at @UrbanIslandGame,  a Facebook page, and a website.

Interview with Anthony Conta designer of Emergents: Genesis

9f6e64edd13f1a6c5aa5f6de2da551d8_largeToday’s interview is with Anthony Contra designer of Emergents: Genesis now on Kickstarter!

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

Emergents Genesis is a 2-4 player deck building game with a superhero theme. You’re an emergent–a super powered being–battling against other emergents to train and improve your skills. The goal of the game is simple: be the last emergent standing. To do this, however, you’ll have to use your hero, your cards, and a collection of other cards you acquire as the game progresses in order to be victorious.

The game takes place in the Emergents Universe, created by Brian David-Marshall. Four of the first Emergents (known as the Genesis Squadron) created a school to train other emergents that developed similar powers to them, and they each created a discipline in that school based on their powers. In Emergents: Genesis, we took each discipline and made it a faction in the game. The four factions we have are StrongHarms (powerful, muscular emergents), Acolytes (stealthy, mental emergents), Non-Stops (fast, speedy emergents) and Sculptors (emergents that shape elements like fire, energy, and ice). Each faction has multiple strategies toward victory, which gives them each their own, unique feel.

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

A lot of deck building games are about collecting points and don’t allow for much interaction with other players. We wanted to change that–we’re all about interaction. As developers, we don’t like “cellphone syndrome” in games–the concept of being engaged only during your turn. We’ve played a lot of physical games where only one player is paying attention to the game, while all others are just looking at their cellphones or disengaged in some other way. We wanted the gameplay to be tense, engaging, and interactive–so we built an engine that allowed us to do so.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

We wanted an interactive deck building game–that was the real spark. We felt that the best way to accomplish that was by building mechanics and interactions that allowed players to beat each other up. It’s very satisfying to say “I’ll punch you!” to your friends.

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.

Originally, we had a ton of mechanics in the game–each faction had around 2, and then we also had a lot of evergreen mechanics that every faction had. After we found that player turns were taking too long and that even the developers were confused about some of the mechanics, we realized we had to pair it down. Now, we have one core mechanic for each faction (but each faction has multiple strategies), and a few evergreen mechanics that should feel familiar to long time players of the genre, yet easy to understand for newcomers as well.

We also spent a ton of time refining the language and aesthetic of the game–from the names of cards, to the art on those cards, to the names of mechanics and game zones as well. We wanted everything to feel like you were in the comics, so we chose names like “erase” for getting rid of cards and “The Page” for one of the zones you can buy cards from. The end result makes it feel like you’re in an 80’s comic book, which is exactly what we were going for.

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What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Balance–between four factions, 12 heroes, and 56 unique cards to purchase, we had to make sure everything fit together yet felt fresh, multiple times in. Luckily, we were able to figure it out!

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

I’ve always wanted to make games, but never thought I could do it without coding. Two years ago, my friend said he was making a physical game, and I said I wanted in. Soon enough, I found out you don’t need to program to design a game, and I haven’t looked back since.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Selling out of Funemployed, my first published game, at PAX East 2014–it was surreal. It was the first convention Urban Island Games had a presence at, and the Megabooth was very accommodating. Those guys were great.

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

I’m getting married in April (I actually used Funemployed to propose to my then girlfriend!), I’m a chess tutor for 3-7 year olds and academic tutor to teens and above on the side, and I enjoy playing all sorts of games in my spare time. I’m also really into Marvel right now (because the MCU is impressive to me as a designer and a consumer).

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

None that I can talk about, sadly.

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

I love all forms of Smash Brothers, so that’s taken up a lot of my time. It’s got such simple mechanics yet such incredible depth and customization, that I could never get sick of it. I’m also into the Binding of Issac and Sentinels of the Multiverse currently.

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

Since I can’t code (yet!), I’ll share a physical game. I wish I had designed (or helped design) Sentinels of the Multiverse, because it’s an awesome cooperative experience, customizable, and rather unique–I have yet to find a game like it.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Plenty, but that’s a separate topic. I’d say iteration is one of the most important things you can do, as is being open to criticism. If someone is spending the time to test your game, honestly listen to what they say, and don’t take it personally.

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

Thanks to my incredibly supportive partner (in life and in business) Carrie Neff, and the rest of the design teams for the projects I’m on: Kyle Gallagher, Matt Ferrando, and Miles Rodriguez; Brian David-Marshall and Matthew Wang of Top8Magic; Rob Daviau, Steve Butcher and Bob Driscoll at IronWall Games; and all the playtesters of my games. I wouldn’t be here without all of you.

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

I’ll be at Toy Fair, Pax East, Gen Con, and hopefully a few other places in 2015, but you can always find me on Twitter as @ACMaverick. We’ve also got a Twitter for Urban Island at @UrbanIslandGame, a Facebook page, and a website.

Interview with Alistair Banerjee creator / developer of Qetchup!

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

Qetchup contains 53 cards. 7 Q cards, 8 Veggie cards, 8 Protein Cards, 8 Fruit Cards, 8 , 8 Grains card, 8 Beverage cards, 5 Junk food cards and 1 restart card. It’s a game for kids but its twists and turns will keep an adult happily entertained as well. A healthy meal consists of 1 of each of the Veggie, Protein, Grains, Beverage and Fruit cards.The winner has to create a healthy meal with 5 of his cards, have no junk card present on his meal and no card left in his hand. Opponents can slow down your progress in the game at every turn…by messing up your meal by placing a junk food card on it or by forcing you to start all over by using a Restart card on you. No matter your progress in the game, if a Restart card is used on you, you’ll have to draw a fresh set of 8 cards. I’m yet to come across a kid that played the game and didn’t love it!

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

What primarily differentiates Qetchup from any game is that it openly adresses a social cause: childhood obesity. The “veggie” card in this game can’t be replaced simply because you just can’t skip those vegetables. The idea that junk [food] card messes up a healthy meal is clear. This is the type of game that many of us will relate to. As far as the game mechanics go, it’s a game for kids and the rules are kid-friendly. The Q card has three different function each of which will potentially help you win the game., including the card’s ability to steal a random card from any player. The Restart card will force you to put those gloves back on and cook your meal again!

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

My daughter Arianna who is now a 3rd grader loves card games. It was just an idea until I consulted her…I use the word “consult” because she gave me valuable feedback. The card game industry in my opinion needs a revival. While there are great classic games that are known to many, not much has been done to create something that addresses a social need. Childhood obesity is a social threat to this nation and this game is a fun way to address the cause. At the end of the day, you are what you eat and Qetchup will make you hungry. I’m working on a couple projects and will keep you guys updated. One is a game and the other is a secret.

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.

Qetchup was first released in July 2014 on Amazon. My company holds the Qetchup trademark and a provisional application for patent has been filed with the USPTO. We received many great reviews on the game but every product needs improvement. Imperfection is what forces us to be perfect in the first place. I wanted to make the cards looks more colorful for the 2nd version and we did. Also, I felt like the ways the instructions were written required more clarity and we completed that part too. The gameplay remains the same as when it was first released!

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

As the head of a web development company, my primary focus is web and mobile applications. We also develop premium domain names and turn them into scalable businesses. Take a look at our recent creation: www.organic.boutique. This site is the first to be developed on a .boutique extension. I’m a big fan of premium .com domains but currently testing out the new gTLDs too (.club, .media, .toys etc) What I’m really happy with is that I’ve been able to enjoy a healthy balance between my businesses that are both offline and online. Our projects brought us in contact with many talented people which I’m sincerely thankful for.

2014-11-23 14.25.46

Alistair with Cheong Choon Ng (developer of Rainbow Loom) at ChiTag.

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

I wanted to thank Stefan Dragos for bringing my vision into art. This project that brought us together also made us good friends. Also, I wanted to thank Ian Stedman from GU Games, who helped us rewrite the rules for the revised version.

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

I’m not a typical “forumer” and Qetchup did not have a BGG page until I spoke to John McLeod from Pagat. Our username at BGG is Qetchup. The good thing about this industry is that there are so many good people that are always openly willing to share their experiences with you.

Interview with Trevor Lehmann designer of Crop Cycle

photo-carouselToday’s interview is with Trevor Lehmann designer of Crop Cycle now on Kickstarter!

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

Crop Cycle is a card game themed around competitive farming with the goal being to plant, protect, and harvest crops before your opponents can. The game cycles through the four seasons, with certain cards only being playable in particular seasons. The same seasonal rules apply to utility cards, which represent both human and nature’s efforts to help or hinder agriculture. The winner is the first to collect five harvest points, with each crop having a harvest point value based on how long it takes from planting to harvest.

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

The seasonal mechanic is an innovation that requires players to plan ahead, creating tough choices on whether to keep a hand that will be great two seasons from now or to discard and draw (hopefully) more immediately beneficial cards.

The game also has a realistic basis both in the artwork and the game mechanics. Farming favours a diversity of crops to ensure that a single disease or threat doesn’t wipe out you whole field; so an important consideration is not only the length of time until harvest, but also the crop type to ensure you don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

Finally, the game is modeled on real world agriculture and we tried to maintain a sense of accuracy by having the cards (abstractly) reflect their real-world counterparts in terms of when they are planted, harvested, etc. Of course, I had to take some liberties for the sake of game design, but the game maintains an educational component without being overt about it.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.

I grew up in Manitoba, a province within Canada that has agriculture as a major part of the economy.  Additionally, my father worked as an agricultural scientist and much of my family works in the agricultural field in one way or another so I was surrounded by farming throughout my life, even if I haven’t practiced it myself.

I also share my father’s interest in photography and thought that it would make a great basis for game art. The opportunity to drive around the province photographing crops was a great experience to share with him and a great way to draw attention to an under-appreciated area of the Manitoba economy.

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 has underwent a number of renditions from an initial prototype to its current state. The first version of Crop Cycle had no crop types, leading to all player’s fields being wiped out every turn. The gameplay is still frantic now, but you are rewarded for diversifying your crops as well as carefully using defensive cards.

The artwork has also went through many renditions, as I worked with a digital artist to maintain the integrity of the photos while reducing how busy the images were through use of a Posterization effect in Photoshop. I am very happy with the results however, as the card images use the full length of the card while still keeping the relevant information accessible.

I have written a number of developer diaries on designing Crop Cycle that can be found here.

What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Card layout was easily the biggest challenge. Most games use the Magic the Gathering template with an opaque or semi-transparent (mostly opaque) textbox covering a portion of the card. For Crop Cycle, I wanted the image to take up as much of the card as possible, so the challenge then became how to convey all the information without shrinking the image or covering to much of it up.

I reached out the design community both online and locally. My outreach generated a ton of feedback, some of which I agreed with and some of which I did not. Eventually, I settled on a minimal amount white text that makes use of several transparent gradients adjusted for each card that highlights the text subtly while minimizing obscuring the image it is imposed on.

I owe a lot of thanks to my graphic artist who also happens to have a background in print design; he was a great resource that was both open to suggestions and able to effectively implement the new renditions.

A lengthier explanation on the card layout can be found here.

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

I have been playing games my entire life, but when I was in middle school, I started designing war games. I was trying to create a faster paced and more affordable version of Warhammer and ended up creating a 60 page rulebook before realizing the limitations of the project. After that, I created a total of three other unpublished games before starting University and then I stopped designing games for a while.

About halfway into my university career, I took a job at a daycare and had the pleasure of playing chess with kids. The experience reminded me of how much I enjoyed board games and sparked the desire to create games again. The result was the creation of Centaurus, an apocalyptic fantasy game that is still under development today. Since then, I have went on to design Crop Cycle as well.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Watching people playing my game get excited. Seeing a grown man jump out of his chair and start hoping around the room after winning by the skin of his teeth was a great scene to watch.

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

I live with three roommates so life is always interesting. I work for the University of Manitoba as an Academic Advisor, which is a fancy way of saying that I help students choose courses and complete their degree. It’s enjoyable and you feel like you are helping students achieve their goals.

I have a lot of interests outside of gaming and am a big believer in breadth of knowledge. I have done marathon running, weight training as well as less physically intense hobbies like coffee and beer brewing.

I also enjoy public speaking and have done so competitively through the Toastmasters organization. Beyond that, reading and writing use up whatever free time I have left.

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

Right now Crop Cycle is using up the majority of my focus, but I am continuing to develop the aforementioned Centaurus. The game is a squad-based tactical strategy game set in an apocalyptic fantasy world where players fight to control a Circle of Power. The game has been in development for a long time, but given the highly detailed artwork and resources required to launch the game, Crop Cycle got finished despite beginning much later than Centaurus.

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

I haven’t played a lot of board games lately, as building momentum for my Kickstarter has become an all-consuming experience [laughs]. I did win a Small World tournament at a local Games Day event though and that was a lot of fun. I enjoy strategy games that reward risk taking and insane strategies.

Generally, I prefer games that are quick to play and let players interact and engage constantly with one another. For that reason, I struggle to enjoy worker placement games and have yet to find one where I am not just burning through my turns by the one hour mark trying to make the game end faster.

I also enjoy games that put a lot of effort into their aesthetic as I feel that this is integral to player engagement. 7 Wonders was a great example as it drew me in and kept me engaged even if I didn’t care for the gameplay mechanics.

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

Small World. Makes fantasy accessible with streamlined rules, excellent artwork, fast-paced gameplay, and the inclusion of every fantasy trope imaginable. The rulebook’s layout and presentation of information alone was something that I have pored over and tried to emulate in my own games.

 A word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Don’t go into this industry if you are looking to get rich…especially if you are looking to get rich quick. Do go in if the idea of having your game design ideas go from an idea in your head to a physical product in front of you and maybe break-even in the process.

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

My local game store Game Knight has been a big supporter of both my board game design efforts as well as a supplier of beer brewing supplies, so they have been a great one-stop shop.

I have been listening to quite a few podcasts religiously for the last 6 months including All Us Geek’s Game of Crowd funding, On Board Games, Ludology, and Funding the Dream. These have all been fantastic resources.

Also James Mathe and Jamey Stonemaier for their informative blogs and comments to my questions.

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

Lots of ways to communicate with me. The most direct is to email me at convergent.games@gmail.com

I also have a website, Facebook  and Twitter.

Finally, I will be attending C4 Comicon and Jim Con in November and Prairie Con and Keycon later this year. I keep a list of upcoming events I will be attending here.