Thursday, March 23, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 60: John Brieger

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.


Name:John Brieger
Email:jwbrieger@gmail.com
Location:Sunnyvale, California - I just moved from London last week!
Day Job:I design experiences for a large chain of retail stores. Projects can cover anything from how product might be laid out and displayed to how employees use systems to assist customers. It's a really interesting design space that has a lot of really cool parallels when I move over to designing tabletop games. I always think about how I'm creating that holistic experience with my games, and where the key moments and feelings I try to capture will appear mechanically.
Designing:Two to five years.
Blog:blog.johnbrieger.com
Facebook:pyraustatyralis
Twitter:@dasbrieger
Instagram:@dasbrieger
Other:
Find my games at:https://facebook.com/groups/MissionControlTesting
Today's Interview is with:

John Brieger
Interviewed on: 1/29/2017

John Brieger is another game designer that's hoping to have his first published game released this year. He has a ton of games in the works, and several are under consideration with publishers right now. Read on to learn more about John's projects, including the games he hopes to have published this year.

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?
When I was in university, I did a series of game design projects as part of my design and art coursework. Those, I took through to a playtested prototype stage but never got any further. Now, I've been continuing work on a few of those games, and started developing some new ones. It's a good way to flex some design muscle outside of my day job.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Currently, my major focus is Mission Control. It's a semi-cooperative game for 2-5 people in which players are rival scientists at the prestigious International Space Agency. They have to share control of a single rover on a distant planet, competing for funding and influence while working together to avoid steering the rover into hazards.

I'm also entering the pitching stages with a light bluffing game, Door Number 3, and a drafting/timing game about big wave surfing called Surf Gods.

In early testing I've got:
Carpe Demon - a social deduction game about hunting a bodyswapping demon
Beneath the Mists - entry level capture the flag wargame (with Vincent Hirtzel & Gavin Kinder)
Relaximus Maximus - lightweight set collecting game about roman dogs throwing a party
Robots Want Rights - realtime voting in a robotic civil rights movement (with Paul Spencer)
2017.A - (with Bez Shahriari)


Working on several games at once has a lot of advantages. I highly recommend it.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Mission Control is in with a publisher right now, and I'm waiting to hear back. Surf Gods, a publisher requested to see after revisions are finished. So hopefully one of those two is going to be my first published game.

What is your day job?
I design experiences for a large chain of retail stores. Projects can cover anything from how product might be laid out and displayed to how employees use systems to assist customers. It's a really interesting design space that has a lot of really cool parallels when I move over to designing tabletop games. I always think about how I'm creating that holistic experience with my games, and where the key moments and feelings I try to capture will appear mechanically.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Since I moved to the UK, I've been playing in a lot of pubs. British pubs are often quiet on off nights, and have wonderful food and drink. Other than that, a friend's apartment does nicely.

Who do you normally game with?
In the US, I had a few game nights that met regularly. Now, I game pretty regularly with a group of designers in the London area, Playtest UK. It's a really wonderful community that comes together multiple times a week now to play games and give feedback.

I've also recently started going to meetups for board game groups, which is a really different experience than going to a regular board game night with my friends. I highly encourage people to try gaming with total strangers, as it gets you exposed to TONS of new games, and gets you really comfortable with teaching and explaining games. Playing games with strangers is really an invaluable experience as a designer.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Currently, my favorite light game is Sea of Clouds, a gorgeous pirate-themed game from Iello that I think slipped under the radar at Essen this past fall.

And what snacks would you eat?
I'm a cheese and crackers man to my core.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I definitely don't prefer it, but often I play in pubs that'll have innocuous pop or rock music at low volumes in the background.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Great Escape Games in Sacramento, California is a wonderful shop

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is the lovely Inis. It's a great area control game that discourages heavy combat. It features a really nifty mechanic that any time during a battle, all parties involved can make peace and end the conflict immediately. Board games often do a poor job of modeling conflict, so I really enjoyed that idea.

Least favorite I still enjoy: Scrabble. Not my favorite, making words is still an enjoyable activity.

Worst game I ever played: Zombies!!! A spectacularly boring game that frequently resets the players to the beginning and drags interminably forever.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love a good draft. It's good for adding player interaction, and help self-balance your game as picks are made (though it can't cover all flaws). I used to play a lot of Magic: the Gathering, which has a really excellent draft format.

My least favorite mechanic is probably dice based combat.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Spyfall. I love the game, but people get really confused about what type of questions are good to ask. It's fallen flat a couple times I've tried to introduce it, so part of my regular gaming group and my family never want to play.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Video 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?
I go theme first in almost every case. I think I have a single prototype of about 12 where I went mechanics first.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I just entered the Cardboard Edison contest for the first time. I also used to enter a lot of different themed entertainment design competitions. My team won the Disney Imaginations Competition in 2014 with our Antipode festival design.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Bruno Cathala. His mastery of designing 2 player games is unparalleled.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I look for themes that I think are underused, or models I think are underused. Many of the best ideas I've come up with are about taking a new approach to an old theme.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'm fanatical about testing, and typically run about 12-20 tests of my games per month. Part of my job is running user studies in our stores, so I use a lot of the same research techniques as I test. A core part of my playtesting strategy is to only test with people who aren't my friends and family. It's common advice to "start with friends and family first, then test with strangers", but coming from a research background, this made very little sense to me. I always jump straight to testing with other designers or with playtesters I don't know personally. It helps avoid bias, increase response diversity, and avoids early anchoring to friend and family feedback. I think many people reach for friends, family, or significant others as testers because it is convenient, not because it is the best process to design and test a game to completion.

I try to attend every playtesting meetup I can, wherever I am. My games aren't always getting played each session, but testing for others helps me learn as well. I'll test there, and with some other board game groups I'm part of. I'll email conventions with board game rooms if I can test in their space, and try to make it wherever cost is reasonable. I run remote tests with PnP versions for any game that makes it reasonably far. I print prototypes on A4/Letter paper anyway, so it's easy for me to upload my files for testers to print themselves.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Pair design is really excellent process I use quite bit outside of board games, but I haven't found the right co-designer for board games yet. I just had the chance to co-design a voting game about a Robot Civil Rights movement with Paul Spencer as part of a game jam, and that was a really great experience.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding the right testers. I get games tested 1 to 2 times a week, but if I'm working on a family game or a gateway game, the heavy game players or designers that I'm testing with don't represent the target audience very well, so it requires a lot of interpretation from my end as to where root problems might be.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd really love to design a game based on Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, which is a truly wonderful book.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
An idea for a game is not a game. A prototype of a game is a game. Stop writing big rules documents in advance and just make a game. If you have been working on the first draft of a game for more than 10 hours or so without playing it, you probably wasted a bunch of time designing things that will change the first time you bring it to the table.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
User experience matters. You don't need to be an artist as a game designer, but if you can teach yourself some basic graphic design and layout skills, it will VASTLY improve your prototype quality. Having clear, readable, understandable testing materials is really important, and clip-art icons and tiny, poorly chosen fonts are not the way to do that.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Mission Control is with a publisher right now, waiting to hear back.

Door Number 3, a lightweight memory and bluffing game in which players are game show show hosts trying to bluff their opponents into taking terrible prizes.

Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Mission Control is also in a large blind playtesting round right now as well. If anyone is interested in joining the testing, send a request to join https://facebook.com/groups/MissionControlTesting
Games that I'm playtesting are: Beneath the Mists, a 2 player miniatures skirmish game set in a dark german world inspired by the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and the art of Caspar David Friedrich.

[Untitled Surfing Game], a 2-6 player drafting game featuring a unique timing mechanic where players must time tricks catch waves at specific points.

Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: 10 Days to Christmas, an auction and worker placement game where players design firms preparing holiday window displays to attract customers.

Rights for Robots, a cooperative voting game where players are the founders of a robot civil rights movement, voting on how to resolve crises within the movement and respond to the crackdown from the human governments. Each situation within the game echoes real moments from civil rights movements throughout history.

[The Colony] (working title), a social deduction game set in an ant colony. You play a resource management game about expanding the colony and gathering food between rounds of voting.

FEATHA - From Each According to His Abilities, a worker activation game about meeting wartime quotas in a communist dictatorship

And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Everyone has lots of ideas, I personally don't consider ideas for games worth anything. I think my backlog for games ideas is somewhere in the low 70s at this point. One thing that helps is every time you have an idea, write it down, no matter how stupid or impractical you think it might be at the time. My design collective does this for every idea we have (across all product sectors). You'll be shocked at how easily you get into the habit once you start journaling.

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

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. Diet Coke. Laserdisc.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I'm big into cooking, and spend a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen and inventing new recipes.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Don't order a burger for delivery. It will be soggy and you will be disappointed.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I listen to a lot of dutch house, read a lot of design non-fiction, and love a great heist movie.

What was the last book you read?
London, the Information Capital. It's a collection of really amazing infographics and visualizations of data about the city of London.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope!

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I used to do a lot of fashion design. I designed two full lines when I was in university.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I once made a pair of shoes out of two pineapples.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
If you use chorizo grease to base your roux for mac and cheese sauce, it will be a magical experience and will change your life. (I ran out of butter and now my life is changed)

Who is your idol?
Susumu Tachi. His diversity in terms of research is amazing. Invisibility

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I'd go back and tell 2012 me to leave college for a year and focus on design.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert. I get a lot of energy being around people, which is one reason I love board games so much.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Frozone from the incredibles

Have any pets?
My family has two labs, Ellie and Echo.

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?
The song from the Meow Mix commercial.


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




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?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 59: Patrick Marino

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.


Name:Patrick Marino
Location:San Diego, California
Day Job:I work in the Residential Life Office at the University of San Diego where my primary role is to oversee the on-campus housing for all of our first-year students.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Webpage:guilderlandgames.weebly.com
Blog:guilderlandgames.weebly.com/designers-blog
BGG:sevenofalltrades
Facebook:marinopc
Instagram:@GuilderlandGames
Other:Unpubminisd.com
Find my games at:At various play-testing events including Unpub 7, Unpub Mini SD @ Kingdom-Con, First Exposure Playtest Hall at Gen Con; and in stores starting this fall!
Today's Interview is with:

Patrick Marino
Interviewed on: 1/28/2017

If you're in southern California and into game design, chances are you've run into Patrick Marino. He's an active designer in that community as well as online in a number of different design groups. He doesn't have anything published... yet. Two games are currently with publishers and will hopefully be seeing publication some time this year. Read on to learn more about Patrick and the other projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I played a lot of games with my brother Jim as a kid and then fell out of it during college when my focus turned more to video games. As an adult I was reintroduced to boardgames through Catan and was immediately hooked. I became a bit obsessive in learning about hobby games. Not long after an idea came to me for a new game and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I did some research on the industry and decided to make a prototype and start testing it out.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I have quite a few projects in various stages right now including "Spell Bound Books," "Mountains Out of Molehills," "Faberge Chickens," "Frankenstein Academy," "Spirit of the Trees," "Powder Keg," "Action News Team," and "Restaurateur." Many of these are being co-designed with my brother Jim DiCamillo

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Both "Faberge Chickens" and "Mountains Out of Molehills," which Jim and I designed together, are under contract for publication. "Faberge Chickens" should be out first later this year; though likely under a different name due to trademark issues with the Faberge brand.

What is your day job?
I work in the Residential Life Office at the University of San Diego where my primary role is to oversee the on-campus housing for all of our first-year students.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I mostly play games at home or at a friends home. With that said we have some great stores in the San Diego area as well, including "At Ease Games" which is now connected to the Barrel Harbor Beer tasting room; and Pair-a-dice in Vista where I have helped to host a few Unpub play-testing events.

Who do you normally game with?
I probably game with my wife most often, and then I have a few different friend groups in the area as well. We also have a great community of game designers here in San Diego and we meet-up to test each other’s prototypes. When I am back East I also play games with my brother Jim who I also design with. Our Mom also enjoys playing games with us over the holidays.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I usually tailor the game selection to the players and their level of experience with tabletop games. Personally, I like Euro games, so an ideal scenario for me is to have a group that is interested in a weightier euro game. Alternately, I always appreciate an opportunity to play-test one of my own designs to get feedback.

And what snacks would you eat?
I have a weakness for baked goods, so if it were up to me it would probably be cookies or brownies. Though I periodically do the Whole30 diet to eat healthy, in which case it would be fruit and veggies.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I do enjoy having music on in the background, but rarely think to turn it on when playing games. If I do have music it is usually one of my many Pandora stations which cover all genres of music.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
This is a tough question. I used to live in Rochester, NY, so we had Millennium games which set a high standard. Here in San Diego there are several great stores. At Ease Games has my favorite gaming area and the connecting beer tasting room, Pair-A-Dice has the best selection of board games in the area, and Game Empire is close to where I live, and is good about featuring new games, so they are all great in their own ways.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite might be Burano, it just has a good mix of mechanics I like and I love the 3d building aspect of the houses. I also got to play Raiders of the North Sea and Champions of Midgard recently which I really enjoyed as well. My least favorite game that I still enjoy is probably Pandemic, I really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy but I often hesitate to play the original. In general I tend to prefer competitive games but a coop can be great with the right people. The worst game I have ever played is a toss up between two kickstarter games I backed a few years ago. I won't name them here, but both of them had serious issues with the mechanics - one was broken and the other was missing key parts of the rules.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I really enjoy worker placement games and set-collection mechanics when they are done well. I also like puzzles within games, which some of my designs tend to have. I am not a big fan of bluffing games, for some reason they just don't seem to click with the people I game with.

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

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
In the right circumstances it can be fun, but not my first choice.

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 depends on the game. I have designed from both perspectives, but I usually get more excited about the mechanics. My most successful designs are those that blend the two really well.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I submitted Frankenstein Academy and Spell Bound Books to this year’s Cardboard Edison Award; which is my 1st design competition. I am honored that both games were selected as finalists, and that Frankenstein Academy got a shout out on the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast when they did a news segment about the competition. There are a ton of great games in the finals, and the winner will be announced on 4/6 at cardboardedison.com The website also has videos on each of the finalists and I recommend checking them out.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I am a big fan of Uwe Rosenberg and I am really drawn to Alexander Pfister's work recently.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I keep a notebook where I write one new idea a day for either a mechanic or a theme or both. I have been doing that for the last 155 days or so. Prior to that I would jot things down as they came to me. My ideas come from all kinds of sources, I am always thinking about games and sometimes the connections just come. The original inspiration for Spell Bound Books came from watching a casino dealer shuffle domino tiles for Pai Gow Dominos. Most importantly I work with my older brother Jim DiCamillo. I'll share a rough idea, and then he will add his own thoughts or interpretations; which always leads to better games; in fact Jim and I co-designed both of the games that are being published.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start by testing them myself to work out the biggest flaws. When the game seems to work I will bring it to our designer meet-up, share it with my gaming groups and/or bring it to conventions. I help coordinate the Unpub mini here in San Diego which has been a great source of feedback. I also attend GenCon each year and test games in the First Exposure Playtest Hall. This year I will attend Unpub 7 in Baltimore as well.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I enjoy working with my brother as he and I have similar understandings of game mechanics and themes, but different ideas and approaches. I have designed a few games solo as well, but I think having co-designers can lead to stronger games. My friend Tristan Rios is also a great sounding board for ideas.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
There is never enough time! I work full time and I am working on a PhD, so making the time to build prototypes and test them is always a challenge. At this point I have more ideas than I'll ever be able to use.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
When I designed Spell Bound Books it had a very different theme. In its current form I think it would be awesome to fold into the Harry Potter IP as a Flourish and Blotts game. I would also love to work with Patrick Rothfuss on a Kingkiller Chronicle game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I was fortunate enough to find The Kobold Guide to Boardgame design fairly early on and I think that book saved me from making a lot of mistakes. I do wish I had been introduced to podcasts and social media networks earlier though as I do a lot of research through these channels.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I think it is really important to do your homework and listen to the advice of publishers and other designers. It is essential to approach game design as a constant learning experience - whether that is learning about how to better pitch games or learning from play-testers. It can be hard to receive critical feedback, but at this point I love when my play-testers are critical because it gives me something to work on and ultimately because I want to make the best games possible.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Nothing yet- but coming soon
Games that will soon be published are: Faberge Chickens and Mountains Out of Molehills
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: None - I prefer working with publishers over crowdfunding.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Frankenstein Academy, Spell Bound Books
Games that I'm playtesting are: Powder Keg, Spirit of the Trees, Restaurateur
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Action News Team: 12 Hour Cycle
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to list!

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Card and Board Game Developers Guild, Unpub Mini SD, San Diego Board Game Design Group, SoCal Playtesting, and several other smaller groups.

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. I gave up drinking soda so coffee for me. If it's movies I'll take Blu-Ray.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I rock climb and play guitar, though I am not very good. Mostly tabletop games are my singular obsession.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I just started my last semester of classes in my PhD program, so I learned a few new things about qualitative research design. I also picked up a few tips on pitching games from the Board Game Design Lab podcast.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like a very wide range of music, but I am partial to songs with great acoustic guitar. Favorite books at the moment are the Kingkiller Chronicle series, I am also a big fan of the Ender's Game series, LotR and Ready Player One. As for movies I enjoy the Hobbit and LotR movies; and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.

What was the last book you read?
"The Evolving Self" by Robert Kegan (for class) before that "100 Principles of Game Design" Edited by Wendy Despain.

Do you play any musical instruments?
In school I played the viola in the orchestra. I played electric bass in a band as well. Now I just play a bit of guitar when I can find the time.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I was really into B-boying (breakdancing) for awhile and took lessons several nights a week.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
The past two years I went rock climbing in Joshua Tree over Thanksgiving.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Faberge Chickens as a game design probably qualifies. It start out as a joke between my brother and I and it turned into a great game.

Who is your idol?
Not sure I have an idol per se, but there are a lot of people whose work I admire. In the game industry it ranges from designers like Uwe Rosenberg and Alexander Pfister, to content creators like Rodney Smith and The Secret Cabal Founders. There are a lot of musicians I really admire as well.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Tough question. If I could, I would try to undo historic atrocities. Selfishly I would convince my younger self to start designing games earlier in life.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
An introvert. I can play the part of an extrovert when needed, but it is exhausting.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Professor X I think, as he is powerful, but wise.

Have any pets?
An amazing dog named Murphy.

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 would hate to see any aspect of geek culture destroyed; as every game or fandom is important to different groups of people. If anything I'd like to see the culture around judging people's interests or hobbies be destroyed along with the Gamergate mentality.

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):
I'll give a shoutout to my brother Jim and Tristan Rios for being a part of my game design journey; and to my wife for supporting my game design pursuits.


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?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quick Review - Bridges to Nowhere - Kickstarter Preview

Bridges to Nowhere
Designer: John Olson
Publisher: Doomsday Robots
2p | 10-30m | 7+
Quick Review - Bridges to Nowhere - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

Bridges to Nowhere...  For some reason the name reminds me of this scene from The Blues Brothers. (Warning, there's a bit of language because it's, well, the Blues Brothers.)  In Bridges to Nowhere this is the exact situation you're trying to avoid, but chances are you'll occasionally have a bridge or two that ends just as suddenly.  If you're lucky though, you'll be able to build a majestic double, or even triple decker bridge and score yourself a ton of points, without having to flip a vehicle end over end to avoid political extremists.

Bridges to Nowhere is a small, quick playing drafting card game for two players.  It'll be available on Kickstarter in April.


Bridges to Nowhere came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!


Overview:
In Bridges to Nowhere two players are each competing to build the highest scoring bridge they can.  Each player will start with a set of pillar cards, which will be used to support the bridge cards that will be drafted from six available cards per round.  There are three types of bridges (suspension, truss, and cable) that can be built attached to their corresponding pillars.  Each card also has a number on it that denotes the bridge's elevation, and two symbols on it (fish, birds, or boats).  Over the course of four rounds each player will draft twelve of the bridge cards that will be used to construct as high scoring bridges possible.
Getting ready to draft some bridge parts!
A quick game lasts only one full playthrough, but a longer game can be played until one player wins two games.  For the longer games, there are also contract cards.  These give bonuses if certain objectives are reached to fulfill the contracts.  The winner of each playthrough keeps the contract card from that playthrough to keep score.  Play until one player earns two (or any predetermined number) contract cards.

That's the game in a nutshell, but let's take a closer look.  There is a lot more strategy in Bridges to Nowhere than you might think at first glance.

Each of the four rounds contains two phase, a drafting phase and a building phase.  The drafting phase starts with drawing six of the 24 bridge cards and laying them out in a row between the players.  Then, taking turns, each player chooses one of the bridge cards until both players have selected three cards.  Then the building phase begins.
The prototype art is great.  The production art will be even better!
The building phase is where things get a little tricky.  The first round is pretty simple, but as the game progresses the way your bridges are taking shape will really influence what bridge cards you choose in each drafting phase.  This is because there are specific rules that must be followed when building.  They're not too difficult to remember, but they add enough complexity that the game gets pretty thinky by the end.
  1. Bridge parts must be connected to other bridge parts or pillars of the same type of bridge.
  2. Bridge parts must all connect to the initial pillar through other bridge parts and other pillars.
  3. Bridge parts cannot be placed next to another bridge part with the same elevation (number) value.
  4. The entire span of a bridge may only ascend once and/or descend once (based on the elevation numbers).  This is probably the trickiest rule to pay attention to.  So you can place a sequence like 1, 2, 5, 3 or 3, 2, 1, 3, 5 or even 2, 3, 5.  But placing 1, 2, 5, 1, 3 would be illegal because the numbers increase, decrease, then increase again.
As you play your bridges will take shape.
But there is more you must consider, too.  Each bridge part has two symbols on it; fish, bird, and boat.  If you place two cards so that they have the same symbols adjacent you'll score bony points.  You can also discard any bridge parts you can't or don't want to play.  This may happen in the last round, or occasionally earlier if you have a certain strategy or drafted something useless for you just to prevent your opponent from using it.

But wait, there's more!  It is also possible to build a double, or even triple decker bridge!  While building a bridge you can add more pillars on top of the base pillars.  The catch is that you must complete the bridge below before you can complete the higher bridge, but if you manage to do this the rewards are great.  Any second tier bridge will score double points, and the elusive third tier will score triple points!

After each build phase a new drafting phase will begin with the opposite player choosing first.  After four rounds all 24 bridge parts will be drafted and the final building phase will commence.  Once a bridge part is placed it cannot be moved or removed, so this last round can be pretty cutthroat.  Then scoring commences.
Games result in some pretty complex bridges and combinations of cards.
Incomplete bridges score nothing.  Each bridge card will score the points indicated on the card.  Second and third level cards will score a second time, and third level cards will score a third time.  Then every instance of two adjacent symbols will earn five more points.  Finally, if playing with the contract cards, any bonuses from those are added.  The winner is the player with the most points and most valuable bridges!

Final Thoughts:
I'll be honest, the first two times I played Bridges to Nowhere I had the rules completely messed up.  The rules are clear for the most part, I was just unusually obtuse for some reason.  In addition to having missed some of the building restrictions, I was playing the game with only three rounds!  I'm not sure why I thought there were only three rounds, but that's how I played.  Despite all the mistakes though, I still enjoyed the game.  It was simple, fast, yet had a little depth.  It seemed a little easy though, and somewhat unbalanced.  I was still planning on a favorable review, though.
There are several problems with this layout: 1) Both the first and third levels ascend and descend multiple times,
2) The pillars on the left shouldn't have been added until that second level was complete, and 3) We stopped playing
after this, but there should have been one more round of drafting and building in the game.  We still had fun!
Then I started writing and reviewed the rules before I related them here, and found that I had not one, not two, but four things wrong!  So I set the review aside for a bit and played properly a few times.  And you know what?  The game got even better!  (It's amazing what playing by the proper rules can do.)

Bridges to Nowhere is really quite an amazing little game.  For such a small game it really packs a lot of thought, depth, and strategy in it.  The first round seems mind numbingly simple and will likely throw you off your guard if you're not careful.  Every single decision you make, even in that first round, has important ramifications throughout the rest of the game.  The cards are balanced between their values, symbols, and bridge types in such a way that every draft phase gets more complex.
That long span has too many ascending and descending numbers, but it's not a bad layout after three rounds.
There is a lot to think about here.  From deciding which bridge types to build, to what symbols to try to match, to whether you should get the one point card you can use or the three point card you can't, just to block your opponent.  Games only take ten minutes or so and offer a lot of strategy in those few minutes.

The artwork is great, even in the prototype I have, and the new artwork is even better.  Bridges to Nowhere is a great, take anywhere game that couples will love playing.  It's a great filler when you're just waiting for the last couple people to come out to game night.  It would be a great game to take to a restaurant while waiting for food.  It's also a great family game that even younger players can play.  My seven year old son loved playing!  This is definitely something to check out on Kickstarter.
It's quick, and thoughtful fun for the whole family!
Bridges to Nowhere will be available on Kickstarter in April.  Be sure to check it out when it's available!

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


Did you like this review?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.






GJJG Game 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 are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 58: CB Droege

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.


Name:CB Droege
Email:contact@cbdroege.com
Location:Munich, Germany
Day Job:I'm an author and a voice actor. I was a journalist in a past life, but that work has dried up and I've turned to fiction. Most of my writing is supported by my Patreon patrons, and includes short stories, comics, and poetry. I'm working on a new novel as well. You've probably heard my voice before in a commercial or a cartoon or a video game. I 've done lots of projects over the years, though my most recent work is almost all audiobooks. There is a lot of demand for those these days.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:manawaker.com
BGG:CB Droege
Facebook:cbdroege
Twitter:@cbdroege
YouTube:CB Droege
Find my games at:The Game Crafter, Amazon
Today's Interview is with:

CB Droege
Interviewed on: 1/28/2017

CB Droege is an active member of several of the game design groups that I frequent on Facebook. When he's not designing games he'd busy writing novels, RPG games, or doing voice work for documentaries and audiobooks. His first published game, Dragon Line, is a real-world creation of a game first imagined in an RPG world he created. Read on to learn more about CB and the projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I started designing games for my friends when I was a kid. I was into all manner of game design. I learned several programming languages, so I could make computer games (at the time mostly BASIC programs on tape drives). I made boardgames and card games, wrote interactive novels, and designed RPG systems. All of this was just as a hobby for my friends until a few years ago, when I was encouraged to release one of my RPG settings commercially. That also led to other tabletop games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on an expansion to my first card game, "Dragon Line", and I'm in the thinking stages for the next card game, "Interstellar Shipping Line".

Have you designed any games that have been published?
My d20 setting, "The Book of the Isles of the Sun", was published independently through a Kickstarter campaign. My card game was one of the stretch goals for that campaign, and so was published the same way. It's all through Manawaker Studio, my own small imprint, which I established years ago for writing projects of my own as well as collaborations with other authors.

What is your day job?
I'm an author and a voice actor. I was a journalist in a past life, but that work has dried up and I've turned to fiction. Most of my writing is supported by my Patreon patrons, and includes short stories, comics, and poetry. I'm working on a new novel as well. You've probably heard my voice before in a commercial or a cartoon or a video game. I 've done lots of projects over the years, though my most recent work is almost all audiobooks. There is a lot of demand for those these days.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I like to play at home with friends, but since moving into a smaller apartment here in Germany, I've been gaming with friends at a local game-shop instead. If you're ever in Munich on a Thursday evening, you'll likely find me playing games at the FUNtainment downtown.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Small World and Dominion are the two that hit my table most often.

And what snacks would you eat?
I try not to snack while I game. I find it leads to over snacking, but if I'm hosting I usually put out a bowl of Goldfish Crackers.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Symphonic music, especially video game soundtracks. I keep a well-stocked spotify list if you want to listen: https://open.spotify.com/user/cbdroege/playlist/7Fu66UtdvNzrwkLysdPzBq

What’s your favorite FLGS?
FUNtainment in Munich

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Small World is my favorite game right now, with Terraforming Mars a close second. Some of my friends really like Terra Mystica. I don't really 'get' that game and would never pick it up myself, but it's still fun to play through with the friends who enjoy it. Worst game was Princes of Chaos. We couldn't get through the first few minutes it was so bad. Lots of gratuitous complexity.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I think drafting is a very interesting mechanic if used well. Fighting over territory with dice is not very interesting.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
History of the World! It's similar to Small World, and I actually like it a little better, but it takes at least four hours to play, and requires EXACTLY 7 players to be really fun, so it almost never gets played.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Other 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?
In the case of Dragon Line it was theme first but only because of the game's strange history. It started its life as a fictional game. The characters in "The Isles of the Sun" campaign setting play a card game called Dragon Line. In the d20 game, your character plays the game, and you just roll dice to see how well they did, like everything else in a d20 system, but when fans saw it, they wanted to know more about how the game actually works, so I made it a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign. I put it pretty high, never expecting to actually have to make the game, but then the Kickstarter hit all of its stretch goals, and suddenly I had to design a new game, and all I had to start with was the name "Dragon Line" and the media, cards. In the d20 setting, the game is essentially a CCG, where the characters are collecting cards for the game around the setting, and the better cards they get, the more bonuses they get when they roll in playing the game, but I didn't want to make an actual CCG, so I designed a stand-alone card game to fit the theme and title. It became one of the most successful things Manawaker Studio ever released. Even more so than the original setting it was taken from.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Mostly I get volunteers from my gaming group and from among my students (I'm usually teaching one or two sections of creative writing), but since I'm currently on sabbatical, and so have no students, I'm not sure yet where I'll get so many willing volunteers for the next game.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have very little visual talent, so I have to work with visual artists to get the job done right. I worked with three different artists on Dragon Line, and nearly a dozen artists for "The Isles of The Sun"

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding time. I love designing games, but it takes time away from my other loves, writing and voicing. It's tough to choose what art to spend time on when I have time for art, and since voice acting pays the most bills, it usually wins out for most time spent.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
As an author myself, I'm always design within the IPs I create myself.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The number one most important thing, more important than any theme or IP or mechanic, is to give the players interesting decisions to make. The presence of interesting decisions will make or break a game.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Dragon Line
The Isles of the Sun

Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Dragon Line: Fade and Flow (working title)
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Interstellar Shipping Line (working title)

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

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 Trek. Star Wars. Digital media only.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video Games. Travel. Linguistics.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Finally learned to play Hive. It's very popular, but I'm not sure I get the appeal.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like symphonic music, 90's alt-rock, and techno-ambient-world stuff. I read science fiction books almost exclusively. I've been enjoying anything Marvel puts out lately at the cinema.

What was the last book you read?
The most recent book I finished that I wasn't being paid to read out-loud into a microphone was "Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds, a classic of sci-fi that I'd been meaning to get to for a long time. It was excellent, and well deserving of its awards.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I was in a garage band as a teenager as percussion and vocals. I haven't played in a long time now, though I'm pretty good at Rock Band drums.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
The first novel I ever wrote was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanfiction. It gave an alternate and more sympathetic origin story for The Shredder. I was 8.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Destroy it.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert, unless I'm in front of a classroom.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Squirrel Girl is the best, but really I wouldn't choose to be a superhero.

Have any pets?
For most of my life I've kept cats, but not in this tiny apartment.

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

If anyone wants to help support my writing and game design, my patreon is at patreon.com/manawaker




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?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 57: Christopher Chung

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.


Name:Christopher Chung
Location:Toronto, ON, Canada
Day Job:Looking for one
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Christerical
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/FlashForwardGames/
Twitter:@flashforwardco
Find my games at:https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/160851/lanterns-harvest-festival
Today's Interview is with:

Christopher Chung
Interviewed on: 1/28/2017

Christopher Chung is the designer of a little game you may have heard of called Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. This was his first published game and it made quite a splash, being picked up by a few different publishers, earning the 2015 Mensa Select Winner and other awards, and even being featured on the popular Tabletop web series hosted by Wil Wheaton. That's pretty exciting for a first published game design! Read on if you want to learn more about Christopher and the other games he's working on.

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?
Dream I had, literally

What game or games are you currently working on?
Shiengxiao, an abstract game based on the Chinese Zodiac

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

What is your day job?
Looking for one

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Snakes & Lattes, friends' houses

Who do you normally game with?
Other game designers, other gamers, sometimes family

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Would love to finally play Imperial Settlers or Puerto Rico

And what snacks would you eat?
Mini-sandwiches and sliders

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Usually don't but would put on piano music

What’s your favorite FLGS?
BoardGameBliss & 401 Games

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Parade / Eminent Domain / In the Year of the Dragon

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Tile Placement / Rondels

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

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, Miniatures Games

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

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?
I tend to look at experience first, I'm not picky about starting with either.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
My local Board game jam :D

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Reiner Knizia, Michael Schacht

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Anywhere and everywhere. I just think what would I like to play and go from there.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
At a few local events like Snakes' designers' night or friends' houses

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I work well either way, I like working alone mostly but will team up when I know there's an opportunity there.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting to conventions to pitch games.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Pokemon

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
How many hours you'll need to sacrifice to get where you want to be.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Always be playtesting.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Games that will soon be published are: Cannot disclose
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Shiengxiao, Flow
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Shiengxiao
Games that I'm playtesting are: Trick Play, Council of Exile
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Orchards, Weapon Shop Wars, Bad Cats, The Tallest Restaurant in the World
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Draw my Dungeon!

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

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?
Neither, Coke Life, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video games, listening to music, reading when I can

What is something you learned in the last week?
Anything can happen.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Piano music, post-rock, underground hip-hop / The Long Walk / Inception, The Breakfast Club

What was the last book you read?
Can't recall

Do you play any musical instruments?
Used to play clarinet, trombone

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I've been a dragonboat paddler for 7 years

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I tend to not do crazy

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back a few years to slap myself for falling in love

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

Have any pets?
I live with 2 cats

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 hope Lanterns does (lol) / country music


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?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.