Tuesday, November 12, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 197: Dave Neale

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:Dave Neale
Email:daveneale.writer@gmail.com
Location:UK
Day Job:I am a researcher in the Centre for Research on Play, Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at The University of Cambridge, and I look at how play helps children learn and develop. From October, I will be doing game-design full-time for a while, though intend to return to academia soon.
Designing:5 to 10 years.
Webpage:www.dneale.com
BGG:Dave Neale
Twitter:@DaveNealeWriter
Instagram:@daveneale.writer/
Find my games at:Most online stores and probably their FLGS
Today's Interview is with:

Dave Neale
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

This week we get to meet Dave Neale, a UK based designer with a penchant for designing games based on Sherlock Holmes. He even has a title coming out next year in the classic Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective line, one of my wife's favorite series of games! Keep reading to learn more about Dave and his Holmes based games and other projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Six months to a year.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always dabbled in ideas for board games since I was a child, but it really started in 2012 when I played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and had an idea for a case. I liked the idea of coming up with mysteries and letting my friends and family investigate them.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Three very different mystery/narrative games, all due to be released at some point in the next two years. I'll also soon be checking the proofs for my Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective set, 'The Baker Street Irregulars'.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. The scenario 'Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet Thread of Murder' in 'Unlock! Heroic Adventures'; the real-time tile-laying game '5-Minute Chase'; and 'Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars', which is due for release in around 4 months' time.

What is your day job?
I am a researcher in the Centre for Research on Play, Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at The University of Cambridge, and I look at how play helps children learn and develop. From October, I will be doing game-design full-time for a while, though intend to return to academia soon.

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

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
A variety. Perhaps a euro-style game with a good narrative, like Village or Alchemists; an escape game such as Unlock! or Exit; and then some social deduction to finish - probably The Resistance: Avalon. Alternatively, we could make a whole night out of a good Consulting Detective case.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Heffers in Cambridge - friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated staff; huge games selection and great games nights.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Right now I am really liking Black Sonata by John Kean - it's technically a solo game, though I've played it as a co-op. It's not my current favourite in the sense of the enjoyment I get from it (though I definitely do enjoy it!) but because I am impressed and fascinated by the design. I mean, a hidden movement game for one player, how can that work? Well, it does. And it's not a narrative game, so it is a refreshing change from the heavy story stuff I spend most of my time buried in when designing my own games.

Least favourite I still enjoy...? That's tricky - I have to think of something I like less than almost everything else, but also do like a bit? Coup probably falls somewhere in that zone for me, because it's primarily a bluffing game, and I prefer the simplicity of Skull. Yet, every time I play it I enjoy it. There must be others like that but I can't think of them right now.

And I don't know what the worst game I've ever played is, but it's probably something based on a tv gameshow. They seem to be universally bad.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't tend to think about mechanics in isolation, but more about the theme and experience around them. I think any mechanic can work or fail depending on the context. Even roll and move - which is often lambasted by gamers - works well in games such as Deep Sea Adventure.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I like This War of Mine, but have only managed to play it once. It requires a big time commitment and the right mood - you need to be prepared for some depressing stuff!

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

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 have done both. Normally, as I primarily design narrative games, it is the theme first.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Often when exercising - running, walking, cycling. When the brain is allowed to drift a little, new, unusual ideas can sometimes emerge.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I attend a weekly play test group which is part of Playtest UK. I also have various groups of friends and family who tend to be first to experience new ideas and mysteries, when they are normally a little too challenging...

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Both. I designed 5-Minute Chase with Anthony Proietti, and am currently co-designing games with Matt Dunstan and various other designers. But I created my Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective set alone, my Sherlock Unlock! scenario alone, and have a few other games in the pipeline that will be all me.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Creating a realistic, immersive, believable, highly interactive, world in a box.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Playtesting is everything. Although in this, and many other aspects of game design, narrative games are a very different beast to more conventional games. I don't have the time to outline all the ways in which this is true, but over the past few years I have learned narrative game design is a very specific craft.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet Thread of Murder', in Unlock! Heroic Adventures
5-Minute Chase

Games that will soon be published are: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars
Perspective (a mystery-solving card game)
The Science of Deduction (title TBC, essentially Sherlock Holmes the party game)

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

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking, traveling, rock climbing, running, playing guitar, songwriting

What is something you learned in the last week?
That dolphins juggle jellyfish

What was the last book you read?
Appropriately, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar!

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I once got drunk with the Foo Fighters.

Who is your idol?
Not sure, but Sherlock Holmes has to factor in there somewhere!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I tend to come across mostly as an extrovert, but growing up I was always more of an introvert, so it's a bit of both. The best way to phrase it is probably that I'm an introvert trapped in an extrovert's body.


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.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Eye on Kickstarter #77


Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any related reviews or interviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2019 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.
So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the second Friday of November, 2019:

Live Campaigns from Past Eyes:
Gameboard-1 by The Last Gameboard - ENDS TODAY
Beyond Humanity: Colonies by Three Headed Monster


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Legacies
by Brookspun Games
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • I've played Legacies twice now, once at Protospiel Milwaukee in April and again last week at my 24 Hour Gaming Marathon for Extra Life. It was excellent in April and even better last week. The few rough spots have been smoothed out and the artwork is gorgeous. It was such a hit last week that players were talking about it all evening and even at this week's game night, and at least one went all in and backed the game. This is Jason Brooks's first published design and he's self-publishing. It's an ambitious undertaking for a first game, but he's nailing it! This is an amazing design that will have amazing production quality (from what I've seen so far). This may be Jason's first time publishing, but he already shows a wealth of knowledge and has many connections in the local midwest designer and publishing community, so I'm confident the campaign will be run as impeccably as the game has been designed.


You are famous - one of the most well-known names of the early 19th Century. That's not enough for you, though. You want to leave a legacy, with your name living far into the future. Make strategic relationships, well-timed investments, and marvelous heirlooms to leave a lasting mark. Most importantly, identify the ideal successors to carry your reputation and fame across multiple centuries. This strategic, action-selection, economic game challenges you to navigate events of the past, present, and future to cement your legacy. What kind of legacy will you create? How will YOU be remembered?

Legacies is unique in its integration of primary mechanisms including: multi-use cards, market manipulation, area control/worker placement, variable round-ends, variable player powers, and variable scoring. Many paths exist to build your fame, but it would be foolish to focus only on your own heirlooms and industries as that path will likely benefit your opponents more than it will benefit you.

The player cards and entire board evolve throughout the game highlighting inflation, and more importantly, showcasing the visual progression from the 19th century into the 20th and eventually the 21st century creating an effect that carries the player through a journey that truly feels as if it spans 300 years in just a couple of hours of game-play.





Honey Buzz
by Elf Creek Games
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • Honey Buzz is another game that I played a much earlier version of at Protospiel Madison last year. I haven't had the opportunity to play since then, but I've watched the game evolve online, at Protospiel events since then, and a bit at Gen Con. The game was very interesting last year and has only gotten smoother and better since then. On top of that, the artwork that has been added to the game is absolutely amazing! This may be the most beautiful game I've seen all year! Combined with great gameplay and top notch components, Mike and Brent at Elf Creek Games have another huge hit on their hands.


Titan
by Holy Grail Games
  • I saw this out at Gen Con and the table presence it amazing! I love the idea of a thematic Euro game with such an Amerithrash style board. The theme and mechanics look interesting, too. This is definitely one I'd enjoy having out on the table.


Clash of Minds: Holmes vs Moriarty
by CREATIVEMAKER LLC
  • My wife loves Sherlock Holmes, so we're always interested in games based on the sleuth. In Clash of Minds two players pit themselves against each other, one trying to commit a crime, the other trying to prevent it. This has some very interesting hand management, tableau management, bluffing, and deduction mechanics that look like they really capture the back and forth mind games that the two characters are famous for.


Seven Bridges
by Puzzling Pixel
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • This was on Kickstarter a few weeks ago, but was cancelled when it looked like it wouldn't fund. The game looks incredible, but the biggest complaint was the cost. In the last month the publisher has gone back to the drawing board and figured out some ways to reduce costs. Now this is back with a more reasonable price point and it funded very quickly and is now knocking out stretch goals. If you like roll-and-writes, maps, or mathematical puzzles, check this one out!


Tranquility
by Board Game Hub
  • Tranquility is a cooperative game played in silence. Like The Mind and other games, Tranquility makes players work together to play numerical cards in a particular sequence. In this case you are trying to build a grid of cards that increase in value from bottom left to top right of a playing area. You gain rewards for the team as you fill up rows, complete achievements, and overcome obstacles. If you like games like The Mind, The Game, Hanabi, or other casual cooperative games that focus on non-verbal communication, check out Tranquility.


On the Origin of Species
by Artana LLC
  • Artana has been publishing games based on the lives of scientists since their first game, Tesla vs Edison several years ago. On the Origin of Species is their latest game, based on Darwin's travels through the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle. Gorgeous artwork and interesting set collection mechanics make this look like an incredible entry into the Artana line of games.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 196: Nathan Harvey Hansen

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:Nathan Harvey Hansen
Location:Riverside, CA USA
Day Job:I'm currently unemployed / working on self-employed as a publisher, but I was a Developer at Victory Point Games for 9 years.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:nathanhansengames.com/
BGG:Despot9
Facebook:Nathan Hansen
Twitter:@hansen_harvey
Find my games at:https://nathanhansengames.com/
Today's Interview is with:

Nathan Harvey Hansen
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

Nathan Harvey Hansen has been designing games for over a decade, many of those years with Victory Point Games. Lately he's been working toward self publishing, initially via print-n-play games. He already has quite a bit of experience, with eight published games, so keep an eye out for his future endeavors! Read on to learn more about Nathan and his projects.

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've always had an interest in design, but always thought I'd go into videogames. While in college I had a design teacher that taught the class using boardgames. Prior to that experience I basically thought of board games in the vein of Monopoly. By the end of the class we had to design a board game and I was hooked.

What game or games are you currently working on?
This would be a long list if I included everything. 30+ at least across a wide spectrum. I have a couple that are approaching publication. Head Cases is a party game where you try to diagnose the other players. Spray and Pray is a first person shooter with what I think is a unique randomization method. Federation of Sol is a solitaire space 4X-ish game with war, colonization, politics, etc. It doesn't technically have all 4 Xs but it scratches the itch.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I've had 8 games published, but none that have had real commercial success. Battle of 4 Armies (and an expansion), Rules Lawyer, Why?!, Swytch, Symmetric, Dawgs of War, Pew Pew!, and The Chosin Few.

What is your day job?
I'm currently unemployed / working on self-employed as a publisher, but I was a Developer at Victory Point Games for 9 years.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere really. As long as there are minimal distractions I'm happy.

Who do you normally game with?
I try to have a game twice a month. Most the people I invite are old college friends and former coworkers.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
It depends on who I invite. Some of my friends are down for marathon games like Twilight Imperium and some want short filler games like Pit. My personal preferences lean towards the heavier/longer stuff.

And what snacks would you eat?
I usually make bean dip and have chips. Maybe a veggie platter so we can feel slightly healthy, but it doesn't usually get finished.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
In general no because I think it distracts from the game experience, but for lighter and party experiences I think it is ok. Or if the music is carefully selected to set a mood for the game. I'd actually like to see particularly mood heavy games come with a soundtrack.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I don't have one at the moment. At least not a local one. I used to like Brookhurst Hobby but its not really in range anymore. I recently found out about one opening fairly close to me but I haven't had the chance to check it out yet.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My favorite is probably Twilight Imperium 3rd edition. My least favorite that I still enjoy, maybe Catan. But I have modded it quite a bit. The worst game I've ever played... This is probably unfair, but Android. My group got so frustrated by that game that it went back into the box mid game without bothering to put anything away properly. I think it was probably just a bad experience of a good game but it left a sour taste behind.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't know that I have a favorite. Or least favorite. It really comes down to how they are used. If I absolutely had to choose I would probably say area control/influence is one I really like and Roll and Move is one I don't but its not really fair. Roll and Move has been used poorly over the years so it has a bad reputation, and I can certainly think of ways to use Roll and Move well.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I'd like to get Twilight Imperium to the table more than once a year.

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, RPG Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
While not a favorite, it did bring a lot of people into the hobby. I'm glad it exists.

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've done both, but I think I come up with mechanic first more often than not.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered yes. Won no.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Kind of. A big part of why I decided to make games in the first place was playing Fallout on the PC. Years later I was able to work with one of the principal designers of Fallout on his board games with Victory Point Games. Chris Taylor.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
They can come from anywhere. All at once or over time. I've woken up in the middle of the night with an idea that just had to come out, and I wasn't getting back to sleep before I had a working prototype. And I've had ideas that sort of came together piece by piece over weeks from separate inspirations. A movie here, a podcast there.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Start with gross testing (just me moving the bits around), then try to get a friend to try it. Then a stranger. At each step pulling further away from the player in terms of how much information I give them. The goal is to be able to just give someone a game and say nothing.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I mostly work alone, but I would love to co-design. I think it can only help to cross-pollinate ideas and approaches that way.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding testers :0)

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I don't think I'd want to work with someone else's IP. It feels limiting. Maybe something in the public domain, but I don't think that really what you are asking. I think 1984 will be in the public domain next year so I'll go with that.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You will throw away 99 out of every 100 ideas.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I know these are cliches but... Your first games will be terrible, but they need to be made so you can get to the good ones. There are no bad mechanics, only bad executions of those mechanics. Do not fall victim to loss aversion, if something isn't working throw it away, move on.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Battle of the Dale, Dawgs of War, Pew Pew!, Swytch, Symmetric, Why?!, Rules Lawyer, and The Chosin Few
Games that will soon be published are: Surrounded! With a Shotgun - A 1 to 4 player "siege" game inspired by Assault on Precinct 13. I'm going to be releasing a PnP version on my website later this week.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Head Cases, Federation of Sol
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Trade Port of Sol, imPede, Capitalism 101, Rondel, Monsters Labyrinth
Games that I'm playtesting are: Aotearoa, The Devil's Own Day, Reich, Trader of Sol, Conquests of Sol: Europa, Ninja Death Battle, Day at the Dawg Track
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Spray and Pray, The Factory Floor, Law Offices, Rule the Waves
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Oregon Trail, Last Flight of the Valkyrie, Roll & Rondel, City-States

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

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. Option 3: Dr Pepper. VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I make my own Mead

What is something you learned in the last week?
In the early days of the Roman Empire the right to collect taxes from a region was auctioned off.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm fairly eclectic but my favorite band is Pink Floyd. I like fantasy and science fiction. I'm basically a superhero junkie when it comes to the movies.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I finished would be the last book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series to come out. I think it was A Song of Dragons but I'm probably messing up the title. The last book I read but haven't finished yet is The Business Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Depends on how broadly you define that. I own a couple of guitars and can play a few measures of a song or two.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I learned to read by playing / watching my brothers play video games.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
"Surf" in the back of a flatbed truck in the rain. It was fun. It was stupid.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My first published design. I was running a tabletop RPG (Mutants and Masterminds), and I have a very loose style of GMing which allows for rather large groups. I think I had 25 people in the campaign at one point, but about 15 regulars that showed up every week. I can't recall specific details but at some point the players did something that I wasn't planning for that resulted in me needing an easy way to choose one of the players to take on a specific strategically important leadership roll and didn't want to just have them roll against each other. I told them to take a short break and be back in 15 minutes. I spent the break making a quick abstract game that mirrored the game setting visually and had them play each other in character with the winner getting the position. Of course, that version of the game wasn't what I ultimately published but it still has a lot of the same core elements.

Who is your idol?
I'm not sure I have one. Or maybe I don't just have one. There are a lot of people I respect for a lot of reasons, but I don't think I'd put any one person on a pedestal. I think it is dangerous to do so.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Get the lottery numbers and go back one day to buy the winning ticket. Then shut the machine down.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
None. They all come with tragedies I wouldn't want to face no matter how much I might want the powers. In terms of powers I would want though. I'd probably want some variation of super speed. So Flash?

Have any pets?
Yes. A cat. Her name is Checkers.

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'd like the idea of cooperative games to stick around. No specific game mind you but if we need to rebuild I think having games to learn from that reinforce cooperation would be a good thing. As for what to wipe from existence... I don't know. We learn lessons from everything. If we wipe something from our collective consciousness we lose the lessons and will probably repeat mistakes. Maybe some kind of weapon?


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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Quick Review - Snow Day: The Cold War - Kickstarter Preview

Snow Day: The Cold War
Designed by: Andrew Voigt
Published by: Vitamin D Games
2-4p | 30-60m | 10+
Quick Review - Snow Day: The Cold War - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!

At the first Protospiel event I ever went to I played a bunch of really interesting games, including one called The Dark Forest by Andrew Voigt.  We chatted about the game for a long while and then kept in touch after that.  Since then we've played games together at several other Protospiels, including his pretty complex W.A.R.P., a tactical combat game.  Fast forward a few years later and Andrew contacted me to see if I'd review his newest game, about to hit Kickstarter, so I said sure!

Snow Day: The Cold War is a tactical combat game for two teams of one or two players, for a 2-4 player family weight game.  Snow Day is much simpler than W.A.R.P. with a theme much more suitable for kids in the 8-12 years range.  It's appropriate for adults, too, and plays in just 30-45 minutes.  Snow Day is on Kickstarter from Tuesday, October 29 to Tuesday, November 19.  You'll be able to grab yourself a copy for just $30, plus shipping (estimated at $12 for the US).

Overview:
In Snow Day: The Cold War two teams of players are trying to destroy each other's snowmen.  Teams can be either two teams of two, two teams of one, or a team of one versus a team of two.  Regardless of the number of players, each team will consist of four characters.
The game looks great when all set up and laid out.
Setup is fairly quick and simple.  Just take the four yard boards and lay them out in a 2x2 grid.  Have the houses on the outer edges and the yards all together toward the center.  Then divide up the characters for the teams according to the house colors and decide who will play each color on each team.  Give each character two snowballs and add snow forts to the yards where indicated.  Then set up the snowmen on the spaces indicated and place the character standees in the playing area and get ready to start.
Actions are kept simple for fast, straightforward gameplay.
Alternating turns, each team's characters will take two actions each.  Actions are pretty simple.  Characters can either move up to four spaces, make any combination of two snowballs or snow forts, destroy up to two adjacent snow forts (and gain a snowball for each), knock down a snowman, or throw a snowball.  These are pretty simple choices, with the most complex being movement and throwing snowballs.  Movement is only orthogonally, however snow forts slow you down and ice lets you slide.  This is still pretty straightforward though.  Each level of a snow fort costs you one movement (snow forts can be up to two levels tall).  If your character encounters ice it'll slide in a straight line to the opposite side, potentially letting you gain additional distance, but also requiring you to maneuver just right to get where you want to go.
The ice paths allow for some interesting movement options.
Throwing snowballs is the combat method in Snow Day.  This is only slightly more complex than the other mechanics in the game.  Each character has a range of 7 (in the base game - there are advanced character abilities that change this).  Range is measured by orthogonal spaces, so there's no tricky diagonals or anything to consider.  If a character's target is within range you'll roll a D12.  Whether you score a hit or not depends on your roll and how well protected your target is.  If the target is in the open you score a hit on a 3 or higher.  If one snow fort protects the target a hit requires a roll of 7 or more, and if there are two snow forts it takes an 11 or higher to hit.  Snow forts only protect characters that are directly adjacent to the fort from throws that are from any space across the line the fort creates across the entire playing area.  This means you don't have to worry about line-of-sight or figuring out crazy angles, keeping the game fast and simple for younger players.

When a character gets hit, place a snowball on their health meter on the character card.  This indicates how cold the character is.  If there are snowballs on all the spaces on the health meter the character must go inside to warm up.  They'll go to the nearest house and have to wait a few turns to warm up.  If an opponent's house is closest they'll have to wait an extra turn, however when they come back outside they're that much closer to their opponent's snowmen.
Hanging out in a warm house for a few turns gets you all fired up and ready to fight again!
When your character is next to an opponent's snowman you can use the Knockdown action to knock over the snowman.  The first team to knock over both of the other team's snowmen is the winner!

There is both a simple and advanced version of Snow Day.  The only difference between the two versions is the character abilities.  In the simple version every character is the same.  Flip over the character sheets, however, and each character has a special ability.  The Quarterback has a range of 9, the Digger can make extra snowballs or snow forts, the Figure Skater can turn once on ice, etc.  Some of these abilities seem pretty powerful compared to others, but overall the balance seems pretty good.  Each color has two characters and often when one of the characters has a pretty powerful special ability (like the Quarterback's extra range), the partner character is weaker or more situational (like the Bully's ability to move 1 space and push someone out of the way).  This seems to balance the game overall.
Between the snow forts and ice areas the playing area provides a nice maze.
Final Thoughts:
Overall, Snow Day: The Cold War is a very simple game.  The rules are light and very straightforward.  This is great for an introduction to tactical combat games.  Combat is simple, just a roll of a die, with few modifiers, just a check of any defensive snow forts.  Movement is just simple orthogonal movement, but the inclusion of ice to slide on and the snow forts to climb over add just enough variability to make movement decisions important.  The characters' special abilities are likewise simple, but different enough that they add some interesting interactions and feel like different characters, or units.

Personally, I'd really like some optional ways to increase the complexity just a bit.  I'm not a huge fan of rolling a die to determine outcomes without having some way to mitigate bad luck (one game I played I only hit my target once out of about 8 throws, but my opponent hit me every single time).  It would also be nice if there was an option to rebuild a knocked down snowman somehow.  Currently, losing one snowman means you have to really defend your last remaining snowman, changing your strategy significantly.  If there was a way to rebuild a snowman that has been knocked down it would definitely lengthen the game, but would also keep you from feeling like your only option is to defend if you lose a snowman before you have a chance to hinder your opponent.
Sometimes it's good to hunker down behind your snow fort.
Tactical combat games aren't usually my preference, mostly because I'm not very good at them.  Whenever I play a war game or other tactical combat game with friends I almost always end up feeling like I'm fighting from a disadvantage.  Sometimes I can manage to work my way out of a hole, but I didn't feel like that in Snow Day.  Because the game is so simple I felt like a run of bad luck wasn't easy to recover from.  Once you're down a character or two even some good luck isn't always enough to recover.  A simple fix might be to have ambush cards that can be acquired somehow.  These could be one-time use special abilities that change the rules of the game slightly (additional movement, throwing range, dodging a snowball, etc.).  Teams could start the game with one or two and then you earn another one when a character gets sent inside, so they come out of the house all warmed up and ready to fight.  This would add just a tiny bit of mitigation to bad luck that I think would benefit the game greatly.
The game is fast, easy, and thematic.  Perfect for family play.
As it is, Snow Day: The Cold War is a great, light tactical game.  It's a great introduction to war game mechanics with a more family friendly theme.  Its simplicity makes is a good game for families with younger kids (I'd recommend age 8 and up), non gamers, or those times when you just want something light and casual.  You probably won't pull this out with your hard core gamer friends, but it's a fun game for family game night.  If you're looking for a fun way to introduce your family or non-gaming friends to tactical combat games, without overwhelming them with all the complexities or theme of your typical wargame, Snow Day: The Cold War is a great choice!

Be sure to check out Snow Day: The Cold War on Kickstarter between now and November 19, 2019.

Preliminary Rating: 6.5/10

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: 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.

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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 195: Marco Valtriani

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:Marco Valtriani
Location:Pisa, Italy
Day Job:I design games and I work as an advertiser. In both cases I really prefer to work "on demand", on specific targets, with a strong focus and a well planned strategy.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:marcovaltriani.com
Blog:marcovaltriani.com
BGG:Marco Valtriani
Facebook:Marco Valtriani Designer/
Find my games at:Mostly Amazon and stores.
Today's Interview is with:

Marco Valtriani
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

Italian designer Marco Valtriani has been designing games for over a decade and has a number of published games to his name. Voodoo and the Super Fantasy series are probably his most well known games. Read on to learn more about Marco, his current projects, and how he goes about designing games.

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 suppose it was some kind of inclination. I'm a really creative person - in addition to game design, I work as an advertiser and a graphic designer - and since I was a child, and like many children, I always loved not only to play, but also to modify or invent games. I play tabletop boardgames and videogames since I was six, and role playing games since I was eleven. I started designing board games for a million reasons why: it's creative, it's fun, it makes people have a good time and socialize. And you never stop learning while designing games, and I really like to learn new things.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I'm working on four projects right now. Three of them are specific requests for the publisher I mostly work with, Red Glove, and the last one is a personal project. I can't say much on the first three games due to a non disclosure agreement, and the third one is a huge thematic game about ethical choices in a twisted world, but it's still a work in progress. I also have a story-driven rpg in my drawer, but I have not enough time for everything.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Sure! Twelve games designed or co-designed by me found their way to the shelves. My first published game is O11, published by Scribabs in 2011. The most known in Italy is undoubtedly Vudù (Voodoo in the US) with Red Glove, and the last one, Armata Strigoi, a game involving the power metal band "Powerwolf" and published by Scribabs.

What is your day job?
As I said, I design games and I work as an advertiser. In both cases I really prefer to work "on demand", on specific targets, with a strong focus and a well planned strategy.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home. I like playing at fairs or events, but usually I have to work there. If I play just to enjoy the experience, my home is my favourite place.

Who do you normally game with?
Mostly with my partner, sometimes with my 11-years old child (but he's more attracted by video games, as I was at his age). And, obviously, with friends. I also like a lot to play with publishers and fellow designers, because it's nice to comment on games with professionals, but this is more "work" than "recreation".

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Well, it depends on the friends. I have a small collection of 250 games of any genre, I think I'll ask my friends what theme they like the most and, considering their experience, I'll try to find a game suiting their taste. My favourite games are usually thematic\hybrid, and I like long games, so if I can freely choose I will probably go for an american\hybrid co-operative game.

And what snacks would you eat?
Is beer considered a snack?

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
If I play, I favour silence. I really, really like music, but music and board games does not fit well together for me.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Stratagemma, in Florence. They're really nice, and in addition to the newest releases they have a lot of rare and old thematic games, which is great.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Ouch, I can't choose just one. My top 3 here and now is Lobotomy (american), Mage Knight Board Game (hybrid) and Puerto Rico (eurogame). Least favorite... probably games that do not regulate interactions between players, like free bargaining.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite mechanic is probably Mac Gerdts' rondel. But I also like a lot deckbuilding, card driven games and role\action selection as in Puerto Rico or Twilight Imperium.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Twilight Imperium on top. Britannia, Shogun and Game of Thrones Board Game tailgate it.

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

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I really enjoy black humor, but CAH as a game is not my cup of tea.

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?
The first thing is always the player. My design method is built around Tracy Fullerton's ideas about player-centric game design and a creative use of the "Five Ws" of journalism (each "W" covers an aspect of the design process). Depending on the target and the genre of the game I may start from the theme or the core mechanic, it does not matter so much, I always try to bond them a lot, I believe that theme and mechanics must work together to make the player experience meaningful, engaging and satisfying.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes, in my early years I entered twice a card game design competition in Lucca Games, one of the biggest Italian fair. I made it to the finals once, but I never won. The winners submitted better games, I have to admit.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I really like Vlaada Chvatil's designs, and I think that Mac Gerdts is both a great designer and a really nice person. I also harbor a lot of esteem for Paolo Vallerga, not only as a game designer, but as an all-round artist (he's a graphic designer, a musician, a composer and a video-maker).

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I don't know how to describe it. My best ideas come from the game itself: while thinking about "how" to make the best experience, while trying to figure out how I can make people "feel" the emotions and the sensations I want them to feel, usually something pops out in my mind when I look at the "big picture". It's like a puzzle that solves itself (with a little push from my mind).

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I must admit that I don't like very much playtesting, but it's a really important part of the job, so I try to do efficiently. I do a lot of solo-test, if possible, trying to make the game the most entertaining before playing it with other people. then I try the game over and over with my playtesting group and with publishers. I think that here starts the real development phase, when you polish the game with iterations that sharpen the rules play after play.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like working alone or with selected people. I really like working with Francesco Giovo, co-designer of Vudù, and I really enjoyed working with Diego Cerreti. I'm a bit of a lone wolf, but working in teams is crucial (and you'll have to do it anyway during the development\editing process, so you can't skip this part), so I always try to get better at team working.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
In general, I think that making people have a great time is a fantastic job. Not easy, but really satisfying, so I always hope (and try) to do my best, and it's tough anyway. I also try to put some original ideas in every design, maybe just a twist, to make people say "wow, this is clever!". More specifically, I would like to make a board game that allow players to make real ethical choices (not dictated by mere utilitarism). I'm working on it, but it's not an easy task, and I'm really curious about the incoming "King's Dilemma" from Horrible Games, which seems to go in that direction in a smart way.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Dragon Ball, I think. I'm a really big fan. Unfortunately CMoN just announced a game with the licence, so I think it will remain a dream. But I'm a metalhead and I had the luck to work with Therion and Powerwolf, designing two games with a "heavy metal" theme, I worked as a developer on a Disney CCG, and Vudù got a Cthulhu spin-off, so I really can't complain, I worked with really nice IPs. Probably the best thing would be designing a game for Fear Factory, my favourite band ever.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish someone told me how hard it is designing games and how frustrating can be finding a publisher, especially at the beginning. Sometimes you seriously risk burnout. Often the gaming market seems a big happy family if you look it from outside or superficially, but it's not. I always thank Piero Cioni, a fellow designer that unfortunately had passed away some weeks ago, one of the few people that had the guts to tell me how things work in gaming world.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Well, I have a three point list that is the motto of Board Game Designers Italia, my little Facebook community about game design. The Motto is: "Play. Know. Design." You have to play, you really have to play a ton of games, because you can't make something without knowing deeply how it works in practice. And you must play also to keep you updated about news, trends and audience's taste. You have to know at least the basics of game design theory and what Game Studies are: games are a complex subject and no one is born with spontaneous wisdom or infuse science. So you need to study and to learn: talent is a good thing, but it's not enough in 99% of people. And you have to design. To design a lot of games. Make a lot of them. Make mistakes, learn from them, and start again. Don't get stuck on that single, 10-years old project: make new stuff, be creative. I think that these are three good starting points.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: With Scribabs:
011 (2011)
Armata Strigoi (just released at Essen 2019)

With Red Glove:
Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault (2013)
Vudù (2014, with Francesco Giovo)
Godz (2014, with Diego Cerreti)
Dogsitter (2014)
Ghiotto di Ghiande (2014)
MagiKaboom (2014)
Merry Yard (2014)
Super Fantasy: Night of the Badly-Dead (2014)
Vudù - Ninjas vs Pygmies (2015, with Francesco Giovo)
Vudù - Double Trouble (2015, with Francesco Giovo)
Vudù - Barbarians vs Zombies (2016, with Francesco Giovo)
The Tales of the Jungle Book (2016)
Vudulhu (2017, with Francesco Giovo)
Vudù - Monsters vs Aliens (2018, with Francesco Giovo) Vudù - More Dollz (with Francesco Giovo, also just released)

Games that I'm playtesting are: Lot of stuff here, but all of them are under non-disclosure agreement.

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?
Star Wars. Beer. On-demand media-services providers.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I have a degree in arts and the disciplines of performing arts: Cinema and Music are a fundamental part of my life. I also really like videogames.

What is something you learned in the last week?
New tendencies on US gaming market. But also that anxiety is usually wrong. And an alternative way to cook a Weißwurst.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: mostly metal (power\gothic\death), punk and darkwave, but I really enjoy a lot of different genres. Books: apart from great classics, my favourite genre is undoubtedly fantasy. I also like horror and I'm a huge fan of Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. I also devour tons of japanese and american comics and graphic novels. Movies: A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick is my #1. I like both deep movies from visionary directors and light-hearted, entertaining movies. I like mostly action, horror and comedy, but as you may presume with a degree in Cinema I really watched a huge amount of movies of any genre.

What was the last book you read?
I would like to say "Fenrir's Awakening" by Paolo Vallerga, but it's the penultimate. The last one is "Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design (Voices That Matter)" by Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Not anymore.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm koumpounophobic. I have an irrational discomfort with buttons, so I never wear them (just like Steve Jobs, but with less money on my bank account). And I always wear black.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I've done plenty of crazy things, but I fear that most of them are not suitable for any audience. Maybe I can get away with it mentioning the time I made an unplanned travel in Germany, with almost no money, no contacts and no ideas about where to go, lodging in the red light district of Frankfurt (because it was cheaper), just because it was fun. And it was.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
It happened more than 15 years ago. I was completely frantic after the end of a love story. I decided to go on a trip with two crazy friends across Italy, visiting people we met on the internet and random places. Most exciting, insane, adventurous travel ever, without even leaving the country.

Who is your idol?
I don't have an idol, I take inspiration from many people but I tend not to idolize anyone. I really like Giulio Cavalli (a writer and dramatist strongly involved in the fight against italian mafia), Doug Stanhope (stand up comedian), Neil Gaiman (writer), Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory singer and songwriter), Fat Mike (NOFX singer and songwriter), Richard Dawkins (scientist) and a load of writers, musicians and directors. Also, I really admire strong people that have made something good, it's a long list ranging from Charles Darwin to Muhammad Yunus. People can be awesome.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Nothing. Life is just a ride, a single ride, let's enjoy it as it is.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Totally introvert. I fake extroversion if needed, but it's exhausting.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman, without any doubt.

Have any pets?
Two pets. Sayuki, a mutt dog, and Ichigo, a norwegian rat.

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 think that the instinct to play will survive until humanity does. I don't know which games will survive - it's probably mostly a matter of chance - but I'm sure that people will make new games anyway. So, who cares? We will always find something to play with.

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):
Please, study and learn. Ignorance is a scourge. And be honest and kind. Being an asshole is really humiliating, considering the potential of any human being.


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!

\m/(^_^)\m/




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.