Tuesday, July 7, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 232: Steven Vesci

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Steven Vesci
Email:vescis@gmail.com
Location:Cleveland, OH
Day Job:IT - software testing
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:Vesci Designs
BGG:vescis
Facebook:Steven Vesci
Twitter:@vescis
YouTube:Steven Vesci
Today's Interview is with:

Steven Vesci
Interviewed on: 3/7/2020

I first met Steven Vesci at Protospiel Chicago last year. Since then we've crossed paths quite a few times online. He's an active member of a bunch of game design Facebook groups and The Game Crafter community and we both entered games in The Game Crafter's Staff Roll and Write Design Contest (which is still in limbo waiting for the results due to the pandemic). Read on to learn more about Steven and his numerous game design projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I needed an outlet to devote energy to that was a little more productive than constant social media scrolling! Had always been into tabletop games and spreadsheets, so it seemed like a natural fit.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Petri - an card-driven area control game where players are Biology lab tech using CRISPR to cheat at their Fantasy Cell Culture League
Cthulhu Snacks - a blind bidding game where players are billionaires trying to attract weakened Lovecraftian Gods to their zoo by feeding them employees, but the Gods awaken if overfed
Spellbook - a puzzly solitaire legacy game that I'm currently trying to adapt to a 1-4 player coop legacy game

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Days to Harvest by Glass Shoe Games will hit Kickstarter as soon as in-person conventions start back up (was previously scheduled for July)

What is your day job?
IT - software testing

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Play a lot on my gaming table at home, also enjoy a local meetup in a large community center space

Who do you normally game with?
Playtesting with Cleveland's Ultimate Team-Up group, regular playing with the Board Gamers of Greater Akron, and local cons at Ravenwood Castle

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Terraforming Mars, Scythe, or Spirit Island. Still hoping to trick someone into

And what snacks would you eat?
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Generally not

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Critical Hit Games, especially for their annual flea market sale. Recently I did a playtest session at Rogue's Den which I'd like to visit more. Shoutout to local game cafe Tabletop for hosting too many playtest sessions

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Scythe is probably #1 - I love the uniqueness of the map and the upgrade system. Terraforming Mars is high for its ambition, Spirit Island for its complexity. The worst game for me was something I believe was called 'the Logo Game' - which combined mass-market roll and move with crappy trivia about advertising.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Engine Building has got to be the favorite, because there are so many flavors of it. Not sure I have a least favorite - I'm really bad at social deduction but I still enjoy it!

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Spirit Island! Seafall is conceptually a favorite, but haven't actually been able to play it yet

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered several Game Crafter competitions, and one ButtonShy. No wins yet!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Rob Daviau - I am totally in love with Legacy games and Pandemic Legacy in particular. Also a huge fan of his efforts to rehabilitate old classics!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I like to try to capture the essence of iconic scenes from books or movies - not specifically about the particular IP, but the thematic content. I have games based off the Council of Elrond, the shapeshifters duel in Sword in the Stone, and Spellbook has some Neverending Story reading a magic book vibes. I've also been inspired by iconic quotes, like "God does not play dice with the Universe" and cool technology like CRISPR.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Ultimate Team-up hosts weekly meetups around the Cleveland/Akron area so there's lots of opportunity for great feedback. I will occasionally lean on family, and in real early stages I'll load things into Tabletop Simulator and mock a few turns myself. I try to have specific questions I want to answer from each session, though in early tests those questions are usually just 'is this fun?' and 'does this work?' Also love to attend Protospiels! I frequent PS Chicago, Cleveland, and starting to frequent Proto ATL. Hope to hit Indy, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Toronto someday!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
The Ultimate Team-up crew provides fantastic insights and suggestions, and a lot of our games contain a lot of ideas from team mates, though we don't tend to officially co-design.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The cold pitch. Haven't mastered the art of getting publishers excited about my games from a quick introductory pitch, and I'm not notable enough to get warm ones!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Veronica Mars, Consulting Detective

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It took me too long to grasp the idea of Minimum Viable Prototype, and my early designs definitely tried too much too fast. Also needed to know not to start with your most ambitious ideas, I've had much more success with smaller swings and those efforts have helped shape bigger efforts.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Enter contests! Not necessarily to win, but to give yourself artificial constraints and a deadline. Game design is so open ended, and you can easily get lost in all of the options and never finish anything. It feels good to finish an entry, and the constraints will force you to try things and learn things you wouldn't naturally do.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Days to Harvest, by Glass Shoe Games, is a light drafting and push your luck game, where players select garden gnomes to add to a community garden. Placing lazy gnomes gives more points, but you'll be kicked out of the round if the garden fails and you've been the laziest!
Currently looking for a publisher I have: For the Greater Good is a Negotiation/Take That game where the players are ambassadors to a great council planning the defeat of an encroaching evil while plotting and scheming amongst themselves to have the most influence after the dust settles. Think of the 'Council of Elrond' scene from Lord of the Rings where everyone behaves like Boromir.

Spellbook is a Solitaire Legacy game where the player is a would-be magician huddled in a library basement, attempting to learn magic from a mysterious book. It's a grid manipulation and pattern matching puzzle with legacy mechanics giving the player more options as they learn spells, allowing them to match more complicated patterns

Petri is a low-medium weight area control game where the players are Biology lab technicians using CRISPR to cheat at their Fantasy Cell Culture League. Players play 'splice' cards to add, move, and remove cells from petri dishes trying to establish majorities, and playing multiple cards of a given type lead to splashy combination effects.

Mintilization is a civ-building game in a Mint Tin! Players use simultaneous hidden worker allocation to try and grab land, technology, and buildings before their opponents do, trying to grow the mightiest mint empire!

Dice with the Universe is a kid-friendly Roll and Draw where players get to draw their own personal Universe! Dice rolls determine which astronomical objects players can choose to draw, with different objects scoring in different ways.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Board Game Design Lab, Card and Board Game Designer's Guild, UTU Creators' Space, Meeple Syrup Shop Talk, Protospiel

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
I like both Trek and Wars, but currently prefer The Expanse! Dr. Pepper. Streaming.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Raising a tabletop gaming daughter (yay My Little Scythe!), and a little bit of video games when I should be designing.

What is something you learned in the last week?
My six year old trash talks other six year olds in Mario Kart

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I listen to way more podcasts than music - favorites being NPR Politics, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, 99% invisible, Board Game Design Lab, The Dice Tower. For books, I recommend the Expanse series and the Broken Earth Trilogy. I don't get to non-kids movies very often at all!

What was the last book you read?
Uncrowned by Wil Wight (The Cradle series)

Do you play any musical instruments?
I do not, but enjoying listening to my daughter starting piano lessons

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
My shortest attempt at a game design lasted 5 minutes - I had an idea for a kids worker placement that I tried on a whim with my daughter that had her in tears on her first turn. Turns out when you tell a child they can't do something because the other player did it, they don't like that at all.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
If I've ever done something crazy, I've probably suppressed the memory

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My laptop was being repaired after a drop. Couldn't design my usual way using spreadsheets and Nandeck, so I sat down with dice and paper and ended up with a roll and write

Who is your idol?
N.K. Jemisin - she turned her writing side hustle into repeat award dominance of the field

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Answer a lot of theological questions definitively. I'm sure that would clear everything up and people would gladly accept the findings without complaint....

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Exceedingly introverted!

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Captain Planet would be super useful right now

Have any pets?
Currently one cat, but at Peak Pet had 6 cats and a dog

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I don't think any specific entertainment is vital enough to worry about in such circumstances, I think a whole new culture of entertainment would result. But there would be some interesting archaeological discussions around digging up meeples and cubes - it's too bad the rules documents wouldn't survive!

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Thanks so much to my wife Sara for the understanding around playtesting outings and conventions!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Vote!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 231: Seth Cooper

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Seth Cooper
Email:support@blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Location:Chicago, IL USA
Day Job:Project Manager
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Blog:www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
BGG:Blueprint Gaming Concepts
Facebook:Blueprint Gaming Concepts/
Twitter:@concepts_gaming
YouTube:BlueprintGamingConcepts
Instagram:@blueprintgamingconcepts/
Other:
Find my games at:FLGS Locator on www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Today's Interview is with:

Seth Cooper
Interviewed on: 5/5/2020

In this week's intervew we get to meet another game designer that is fairly local to me. Seth Cooper is from Chicago and has run a successful Kickstarter for his first published game, a game about some dark Chicago history and lore: Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle. If you're interested in some darker historical stories and games, be sure to check it out. And read on to learn more about Seth and his projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I have been an avid board game player for years and have thought of some new ideas and themes to pursue.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle

Have you designed any games that have been published?
This is our first self-published game and is supported by 1800 backers from Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter late pledges.

What is your day job?
Project Manager

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Like to host

Who do you normally game with?
Friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Wingspan, Terraforming Mars, Watergate, Smash Up, Scythe, Azul Stained Glass

And what snacks would you eat?
Veggie Trays, Brownies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes, 80s and 90s

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Dice Dojo

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Wingspan; Puerto Rico; King of Tokyo (due to the rulebook and event card language)

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Connections; Player Elimination

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Steampunk Rally

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Come up with the mechanics first and then add the theme

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
In the middle of night, true eureka style!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Design the game with playtesting approaches in mind, playtest with friends, playtest with game designers, then blind playtests

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Team

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Building the right team

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Back to the Future

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Find an artistic friend!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
You really have to become a swiss army knife of as many trades as possible if you want to self-publish (game design, playtesting, manufacturing, fulfillment, marketing, rulebook editing, IT, etc.)

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: 2
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: 1

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars; Coke; VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Beach and Indoor Volleyball

What is something you learned in the last week?
Steampunk Rally has a sequel being Kickstarted!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
80s/90s; Devil in the White City; MCU

What was the last book you read?
Teammate

Do you play any musical instruments?
No

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
DJ'd for 15 years

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Jumped off a tall waterfall in Hawaii without checking the bottom of the pool to make sure it was deep enough

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Car accident

Who is your idol?
I don't idol that many people. :)

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Travel to the future to understand how awesome or bad the future may be...

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Flash

Have any pets?
Nope

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
True humanity kindness; disease and guns


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

People Behind the Meeples- Episode 230: Ivan Alexiev

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Ivan Alexiev
Email:admin@playerlair.net
Location:Sofia, Bulgaria
Day Job:I am a double bassist, who works mostly in the evenings, so still not really a day job.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:playerlair.net
Blog:http://playerlair.net/designers-blog/
BGG:ThePlayerLair
Facebook:@playerlair/
YouTube:PlayerLair
Find my games at:Games, my blog, my brother's artwork and assets can all be found on playerlair.net
Today's Interview is with:

Ivan Alexiev
Interviewed on: 5/4/2020

This week we get to meet Bulgarian designer, Ivan Alexiev. Ivan works with his brother, Vesselin, designing tabletop games, a passion they've shared for many years, but just recently became serious about it. Their first game, Satchel: A Journey Unknown, is available as a free print and play and it recently won a prize in Edo's Stay at Home design contest. To learn more about Ivan, read on, and be sure to check out Satchel: A Journey Unknown!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I got back into the hobby through Scythe. My brother and I played a lot of board games as kids (Axis and Allies, Risk, Stratego, etc.) and even then made attempts at design. We drifted away from the hobby as we got older and had to focus more on our education and careers. In 2017 I decided to get my brother Game of Thrones (the card game) as a birthday present as I knew he loved Game of Thrones and playing board games was something we used to do together. Getting each other games became something of a tradition and we slowly began getting together to play them. It wasn't until I received Scythe as a birthday present that our sessions became weekly and it didn't take long to get talking about our earlier attempts at designing games. So, we started anew (as our first game which we designed some 10 years ago was lost in time) and began designing our first finished game Cosmic: The Iliad.

What game or games are you currently working on?
We recently released Satchel: A Journey Unknown as a solo print and play to keep people playing while distancing. We are currently working on expanding the Satchel universe so it will feature a co-op mode, choices which have narrative impact, new characters, a plethora of new bad guys to defeat and more scenarios and places to interact with.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes, Satchel: A Journey Unknown is web-published and free to download from http://playerlair.net/satchel-a-journey-unknown/

What is your day job?
I am a double bassist, who works mostly in the evenings, so still not really a day job.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
There is a board game cafe I frequent called the Three Trolls. Like most board game communities I've been part of, they are some of the most positive and welcoming people I know. I don't mind playing at home either, but I do like the social aspect of playing games. I also love showing my prototypes to new people, so I can get some fresh feedback and ideas.

Who do you normally game with?
I usually game with my brother and our significant others. I'm also part of a board game club which gets together once a week in a board game cafe.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on the amount of people. If we were 5 or 6 people I'd love to play Dune, 2-4 perhaps Architects of the West Kingdom or Scythe with the Rise of Fenris expansion. If nobody shows up then Mage Knight!

And what snacks would you eat?
I'm not a snacker, if we were to eat it would be either prior to the games or after.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Board games paired with the right music can completely amplify the experience. When playing a fantasy game we usually go with Heroes Orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VzzCBQb9IY), oh the sentimentality that music brings.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Well, my local one is Fantasmagoria, shout out to them for having deliveries during quarantine! I couldn't pick a favorite as they're all such great places full of adventure and mystery.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite would be Mage Knight (only because I got it last week and have been drooling over it since December when I first played it). I wouldn't call any game the worst, just because I know the time and effort that goes into the game. Also, if you look for the good parts of a game, you'll most likely find many. Even in the least enjoyable games, I've found some very cool mechanics and things which make it worth it, even if I wouldn't play it again.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I really like mechanics which feature some sort of artificial intelligence- like the epidemic mechanic in Pandemic. You know exactly what cards are on top of that deck and it fits in so well thematically, having the cities which are affected from the earliest get worse progressively. The world in Pandemic really seems alive to me because of the way the diseases work.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Pandemic Legacy... I started it over a year ago and we're still on month 3. I want to finish it so much, but we'll have to change players around as some of the initial group decided it wasn't a game they enjoy.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
It's a mixture of both, usually theme suggests mechanics and mechanics suggest theme. That being said, when it comes down to a choice between the two I usually choose in favor of theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered several. The first competition we entered was the Sofia Board Game Weekend prototype contest, where despite not winning a prize, we saw how our game compares with other games and at the same time the competition was something we could work towards, so it inevitably helped us become better designers. Later, that same game got 2nd prize in a national competition(Sofia Game Night) and an award from another small competition. I think competitions are a great way to become a better designer, even if it's just because of the deadline you have to meet. Currently our game Satchel: A Journey Unknown is also competing in Gaming with Edo's "Stuck at Home" design contest.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Well, I can't help but admire Vlaada Chvatil's diversity when it comes to games. He's been able to make some great games in many different scales.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I'm not superstitious, but I do feel like the best ideas come when I've worked for a very long time on a project and just stop working on it for a bit. For some reason that's when I get those eureka moments in the middle of the night. I try my best to avoid relying on that method though, because that might let me slip into not doing much. The problem is, a lot of times I've had those eureka moments just a day or two after submitting a game to a contest or publishing it somewhere... that's when I really wish I had a time machine. But hey, that's what expansions are for, right?

How do you go about playtesting your games?
The first couple of prototypes I playtest with my brother. Usually those prototypes involve very little fun and I don't want to subject other people to a game which doesn't yet work. When we do find the fun in our game, we begin taking the prototype to town in board game cafes to get feedback from friendly local board gamers. When we feel good about how the game does in most playthroughs, we find blind testers to see if our rulebook can bring the same experience that we can when we're at the table helping out. I only recently found out about Tabletop Simulator and during quarantine we're taking the exact same steps but in the simulator. We found several groups of playtesters as well as blind playtesters (those are really hard to find in the real world) and I can't believe how much this software has made our lives easier.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I prefer working in a team, and for the past two years I think my brother Vesselin and I have made a really good one. We can really push each other to do better and can divide up the work. He does artwork, graphic design and a bit of game design, while I focus almost completely on mechanics and narrative.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
What I find most challenging is turning off that little voice in my head when I play a great game which says "Oh man, I wish I designed that". I can't help but feel a bit of jealousy when I play a game I truly love. It's so awesome when a designer can make people love his game as much as he does. I wish we could all experience that feeling one day.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Isaac Asimov's Foundation would really be a dream come true. I also have a few ideas of how to make Satchel be in The Witcher universe, if anyone knows how to make either of those happen... please tell me!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't get discouraged when your game isn't fun. Don't get discouraged when you see better games. Keep working on your game and keep loving it and I believe you'll find out what it needs.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Satchel: A Journey Unknown
I'm planning to crowdfund: Cosmic: The Iliad, Satchel

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes, Board Game Design Lab, Board Game Revolution, BG41, and a bunch more

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars, Water, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Playing music, hiking and sitting in cafes watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll (I hope you get that reference).

What is something you learned in the last week?
I keep learning how amazing the board game community is, since our release of Satchel: A Journey Unknown last week we've had over 1000 downloads and so many positive comments and feedback.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm stuck in the 60's when it comes to music, books I like sci-fi, fantasy and philosophy. I'm a big fan of Taika Waititi's movies.

What was the last book you read?
The Witcher

Do you play any musical instruments?
Double bass, bass guitar, guitar, piano

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Becoming a game designer, haha

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Both at different times... Like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Yeah, I want to invite people to share their ideas and creativity. Don't be afraid to reach out and tell us about your games and what you think we can improve in our games or even just to say hi. If there's something you want to see in our games or assets or anything we do, tell us about it. The more people join in, the cooler our projects become.




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!
Vitals:
Title: The Whatnot Cabinet
Designed by: Steve Finn
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Year Published: 2021
MSRP: $??
1-4p | 20-30 min | 8+
Kickstarter Link: The Whatnot Cabinet
Kickstarter Price: $39

Disclaimer: This review is for a prototype version of the game.  Art and components may not be final and are subject to change.

Introduction:
Back in 2017 I was fortunate enough to review A game called Herbaceous by the board game design supergroup of Steve Finn on design, Eduardo Baraf on development and publishing, Beth Sobel on art, and Keith Matejka on solo gameplay.  I absolutely loved the game. And since then have been equally impressed with their other games: Herbaceous Sprouts and Sunset Over Water.  All three games are excellent, relaxing filler games that play in about 30 minutes.  When I heard about The Whatnot Cabinet by the same dynamite team, I was very excited.  I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Whatnot Cabinet while it is still on Kickstarter, but let's see if it holds up to this team's other games.

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Fast, simple gameplay.
  • Good player interaction.
  • Puzzly moments.
  • Fun solo play.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • The Fascination Pack mini-expansion adds more variety.
  • The game plays great at all player counts I've tried, I look forward to trying at the other player counts.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Turns can sometimes feel a bit limiting when bad luck won't get you the tiles you need.
  • There are limited ways to mitigate bad luck.
  • Ran out of tiles in a two-player game.
Final Thoughts:
I really like The Whatnot Cabinet, however, I do feel it had one flaw.  My biggest concern was with the amount of luck in the game and an inability to mitigate it occasionally.  It is pretty easy to get yourself in a situation where one tile is the difference between a bunch of points or none and if that tile doesn't come up when you can get it, you're out of luck.  There are several ways that tiles in the "ouutdoors" (the publicly available tiles in the game) can be cleared and replaced, which is fine for when you are digging for that desired tile, but when someone else does that and dumps your tile before you ever have a chance to acquire it, that can be frustrating.  Additionally, at the end of every round the "outdoors" is refreshed, so tiles can be discarded before you ever have an opportunity to acquire them.

I'd love to see a way to get discarded tiles back, or at the very least, only have the "outdoors" refill every round instead of getting wiped completely.

On a somewhat related note,  we used the actions to refresh the "outdoors" so often in one two-player game that we ran out of tiles before the end of the game.  I'm not sure if that's a common occurrence, but maybe returning discarded tiles to the bag each round could help with both of these issues.

Overall though,  I really liked The Whatnot Cabinet.  It fits in perfectly with the other relaxing themes this team has released.  The puzzle the game presents is engrossing, the artwork is gorgeous, and the game plays a lot faster than you expect.  I especially liked the solo game.  It plays fast, presents an interesting challenge, and is quick and simple to set up and take down, all attributes I look for in solo games.  Steve Finn, Eduardo Baraf, Beth Sobel, and Keith Matejka have knocked out of the park again with this design.

The Whatnot Cabinet earns a Bloom from me.  It's a perfect addition to this team's game catalog.  If you enjoy any of those other games, or any of Steve Finn's other games, then you'll love The Whatnot Cabinet.  Check it out now, on Kickstarter, for only the next week!

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 

Pictures:
















Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.


GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Leaving the Everything Board Games Review Network

GJJ Games and 16 other reviewers formerly affiliated with Everything Board Games have put out a statement.


This decision was not made lightly.  I approached the owner of EBG directly, asking for his side of the story and he only gave me vague semi-answers so that's what sealed my decision to leave with the others.

Everything Board Games was a wonderful, open community for many years, and I hope that it remains so.  The answer I got from EBG reflects that, however the issue of silencing reviewers in a private forum was not addressed.  This is the response I received:  "Everything Board Games is committed to bringing Board Games and People together to have fun. We're keeping out anything non-board games such as religion, politics and hot topic issues out of EBG."  

Please make your own decision on whether to support EBG or not, but it is time for me to officially leave, even though I have not been an active reviewer for the group for over 2 years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 229: Rebecca Horovitz

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Rebecca Horovitz
Email:annapurnaboardgame@gmail.com
Location:USA
Day Job:This. This is my day job. I am an entrepreneur hoping to make my way into the industry as my full time job.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:annapurnaboardgame.com
BGG:https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/240322/annapurna
Facebook:Annapurnaboardgame
Twitter:@annapurnagame
YouTube:>Annapurna Board Game
Instagram:@Annapurnaboardgame
Find my games at:Kickstarter on the way, otherwise, it's in the Steam workshop for Tabletop Simulator.
Today's Interview is with:

Rebecca Horovitz
Interviewed on: 5/3/2020

This week I'm happy to introduce you to Rebecca Horovitz, a true all-around artist. She creates art in many different mediums, including board games! Annapurna: Leave No Trace Behind is her first game that she'll have on Kickstarter soon. Read on to learn more about Rebecca and her projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I want to go into video game design as well and this seemed a place to show off my design skills. I fell in love with designing boardgames and plan to keep making them, even if I work on video games as well.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Annapurna: Leave no Trace Behind and a new game that involves moving parts and concentric circles.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Annapurna is my first game, but we are almost there. We hope to have the kickstarter this year.

What is your day job?
This. This is my day job. I am an entrepreneur hoping to make my way into the industry as my full time job.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
I like at home or at a game shop.

Who do you normally game with?
My roomates.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Fury of Dracula, Mansions of Madness, or D&D.

And what snacks would you eat?
Almost anything.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Whatever music fits the game, unless there is a lot of thinking or discussion.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
It unfortunately closed last year.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I don't remember the bad games, I delete them from my memory. I love playing the Firefly RPG, D&D and horror games like Mansions of Madness and Betrayal at House on the Hill.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm not a fan of games or mechanics fully dictated by chance. A roll of the dice is one thing, but when the big end of the game is determined by it, it can feel cheap to me.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I bought Cthulhu Wars years ago and still have yet to play it. I played it once and fell in love.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Video Games, Other Games?

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Varies. One I tried to make one game and it turned into something else. Another I came up with a mechanic I wanted to try, a few times I thought of places in the market that need to be filled, or problems. For instance the lack of games that are friendly to those with audio or visual impairments is a problem I wish to tackle with a future game.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Not yet.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Two. Curt Covert of Smirk and Dagger and Christoper Badell of Greater Than Games

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
While playtesting or playing other games. Or talking to people.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First by myself, then with friends, then at local stores or cafes, then at colleges and conventions. Sometimes I will test a specific mechanic, or look for opinions on art. Other times I will throw out the whole game and look at reactions. During, I take notes on what I had to explain or what reactions people had. At the end I will usually give out surveys.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I always am open to working with others. My dream is to collaborate on designs or offer assistance to other designers.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Rules. Writing rules and getting people to understand them. The second, and just as difficult, is getting noticed.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I honestly don't know. I'd have to have a design that fit the IP before I decided. I don't want to make a game and then throw an IP on it, I'd want to have a game that fits with the IP. Although I'd Love to work for Wizards of the Coast.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You don't need to print your design and have it look pretty out the get go. Use paper and slap on some sticky notes.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Re-re-re-read your rules. Have other people re-re-re-read your rules. Then have a stranger read your rules. I can't tell you how many times I changed things, not because the mechanics didn't work, but because the way they worked was difficult to explain. That said, don't change the full game to fit the rules, two or three people out of twenty not understanding is going to happen. People hate reading rules, so make sure they are easy to read and reference. When in doubt ask yourself if a child could understand or misconstrue it, because someone Will misconstrue it if it's possible. And look for typos over and over.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Annapurna
Games that I'm playtesting are: Spinning board game
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Spinning race game. A modular board RPG/adventure game.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Underwater in the pool game. Game for the auditory and visually impaired. Movie Design Memory Game.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yeah, there are quite a few. Some are me, some are my page.

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Make it so number one.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I have too many. I paint in oils. I draw and write. I'm a rockhound and tumble the stones I find. I enjoy carving, and making jewelry and wire wrapping. I'm learning how to draw on my tablet and trying to get better at realism in my art. Oh, and photography.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Tabletop Simulator has a limit to the level of detail in imported models, and how to lower the level of detail in Blender so you can import said models.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like rock and metal with a slight blues or country twang, lots of music in minor keys or major keys with power chords. I'm currently watching How To Get Away With Murder, very good show. I love books, but haven't read many of late, been busy working on my own art.

What was the last book you read?
Re-reading Dracula.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I work in almost every medium when it comes to art, except thread. I can't sew or use a sewing machine at All.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Jumped from a second story onto a bean bag. I missed, but rolled out of it. My butt was super sore.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I was spray painting some cabinets with stencils and the spray paint got underneath the stencil. It left an awesome mark. I ended up spray painting the cabinets putting textured paper on the wet paint to pull it off and leave reverse stencils on them. It looks awesome.

Who is your idol?
My Dad. He worked extraordinarily hard and built his own business from the ground up.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Travel to numerous points in the past and draw stuff. Maybe get lessons from a painter, but probably not until I knew how stepping out would mess with causality.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert. I love people, but being around them makes me nervous and tired.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Dr. Strange. Magic yo. Immortality. Teleporting. Infinite beer.

Have any pets?
Two kitties. Athena and Artemis.

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
Anything simple and transportable with dice or anything with records online. What will be popular? RPG's for escapism, anything with betting because gambling is a way to make money and an escape, and anything that causes laughter. I hope single use plastics and the way the current economy works gets thrown out, to that end I hope every copy of Monopoly gets destroyed.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
All the people going out on the daily to keep our world running while this virus is controlling our lives. Thank you.

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Annapurna is on Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator and we will be at VGC Con.

The sun sets past the horizon, and I see the light fade into a promise of opportunity.




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.