Thursday, September 1, 2016

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 2: Joachim Heise

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 and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.

Name:Joachim Heise
Location:Oslo, Norway
Day Job:Daycare assistant.
Designing:Two to five years.
Today's Interview is with:

Joachim Heise
Interviewed on: 08/22/16

Joachim was the first person to fill out my interview questionnaire. He’s been an incredible personality in the game design community, managing the Game Maker’s Lab and being an active member of many other game design and board game related groups. I’m happy I got the chance to learn a little more about him and I think you’ll enjoy learning about him, too. Thanks for all you do for game designers, Joachim!

Have something else you'd like to ask that I didn't cover here? Go ahead and comment on this post. I'll ask the designers interviewed to answer any questions!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

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

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always had the bug in me. Something about constructing a closed system that made so much more sense than the chaotic world around it. It's an escape from the more frustrating aspects of my Aspergers. As a little tyke I would draw boards and fiddle with cards, magnets, letters, maps, toy soldiers, stories, anything really. Only in recent years have I begun to crystallize this tendency into actual, proper board game creation.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I've got more than a few on the back burner, but my main squeeze is Promethean. It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, interspersed with 30-90 minute missions that feature tactical hex combat and randomly generated loot, events, and enemies.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Nope. Sooooooonish.

What is your day job?
Daycare assistant.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I'll game anywhere, but I prefer my kitchen table, with a cognac in hand. Braastad XO, if you're wondering.

Who do you normally game with?
I have a sporadic but dedicated group of serious gamers upon whom I inflict my prototypes when we're not jamming some heavier fare. For light to midweight games, I run a game night every other week at the local library.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Junta! Too long has it perched on my shelf, taunting my low player counts!

And what snacks would you eat?
For Junta? It'd have to be pistachios, dark rum and cigars.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Funny you should ask! I make my own. You can find it by googling Absolution Ceramics. I can do audio for your KS video as well.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Sentry Box in Calgary, Canada. Hands down.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current fave: Xenon Profiteer. TC Petty III did a great job on that one. Great card quality, multiple balanced paths to victory, and enough push and pull in the game state to force you to respond instead of just pursuing your own ends.

Least fave still in rotation: Sentinels of the Multiverse has been hit and miss lately. 1-2 players and you get slaughtered or spend too much effort juggling multiple characters. 4 and it takes too long for what it gives. 3 is the sweet spot, and you have to really get into the card names and the story they're describing. With such a narrow suitability range, I'm not sure it'll return to my A list.

The worst game I've ever played is without a doubt Disney's Frozen Ludo. Like any version of Ludo, it drags on and on, offering zero interesting choice, but he horror doesn't stop there, oh no! The board is flimsy cardboard under a plastic ummm, thingy, and the cruddy plastic pieces are supposed to fit into these shallow, molded spaces around the board, but they're nowhere NEAR the right size (like seriously, embarrassingly far off) so they just rattle and fall constantly. This is compounded by a horribly designed pop globe for the die in the centre of the board. Like, what were they thinking? Obvious coast on the IP. They got the proof back and just said "whatever, parents don't care, they'll just buy it for the half hour's peace in the car ride and then it'll sit in a closet until someone chucks it anyway." And don't get me started on the stupid, flimsy tray the pieces are stored in! It took me 5 minutes' fiddling to get all 16 of them to sit without popping out! I already boycott pretty much everything Disney because they're dicks with dick lawyers, but this was the nail in the coffin. GAH!

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Really grooving on bag building at the moment. As for least favourite, I'm just going to join the choir and say roll'n'move, mostly because it's just so dull. It has been implemented well, though. Camel Cup ftw!

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Tzolk'in! Or Mage Knight. Or Fields of Fire. Or a dozen others. Don't make me choose!

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games and other types of games, too!

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

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?
For me, the inspiration comes in the form of a new idea. This can either be a cool setting, or a neat way to employ cards and blocks or something. Or a marriage of the two. So the answer is, it varies.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Only one. Eric Jome's bizarre theme competition at the Card & Board Game Designers' Guild. I didn't win, but I really liked my entry. I might develop it at some point. I really should do more, but I'm bad with deadlines.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Kristian Amundsen Østby, the designer of Escape and Automania.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually out of the blue, while I'm doing something entirely different, and really shouldn't be thinking about games.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'll iterate on my own for months and months, take it to one playtest, then iterate on my own again for months and months. I have yet to get a game to the blind playtesting stage.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I usually get my best work done when I'm deep inside my head and nobody can bother me. That said, I do need a sounding board from time to time. Perhaps more often than I'd like to admit.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. Two toddlers and a day job.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would say William Gibson's Neuromancer, but Netrunner kinda subverted that (without so much as his name in the fine print, believe it or not. Yes, I looked.) So I'll go with Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You're going to be cutting, drawing, gluing and fiddling for SOOOO many hours!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't be too lazy to test. At the end of a long day, if you feel like working, but don't feel like getting out the card stock, tokens, cubes and scissors, don't feel like scribbling notes, etc... do it anyways. You KNOW you always get really into it once you start. Just open the damned drawer, get that spark going.

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: Bumbling Tourists. This is more "games as art", and probably belongs in some pnp compilation of absurdities.
Games that I'm playtesting are: Promethean, Omniurge, Golem Throne
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Carp Cap Clip Clop Crap Cup, The League of Dueling Beetles, The Signal
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Garglerama 3000: The Garglening

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

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, cognac, and kaleidoskopes.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Making music, DJing, and reading.

What is something you learned in the last week?
A duck penis basically functions like a rocket-propelled corkscrew. [GJJ Games] - I see someone has been watching zefrank1’s True Facts About Ducks?

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I really like any kind of mysic that's super-intense and pushes boundaries. Grindcore, speed metal, breakcore, hard drumandbass, art rock, noise, live hardware jams, etc. It doesn't have to be new either. Bebop, dadaism, and free jazz are all storied genres that are still relevant today.

...I also like Falco.

What was the last book you read?
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. I only got halfway before I spilled coffee all over it. Next up is the Holy Quran.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I started with drums at the age of 6, but had to set aside the sticks when I moved into a small apartment. I went over to creating electronic music. I also fiddle a bit with piano and guitar.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I haven't the foggiest idea what surprises people.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I accidentally cured my epilepsy by binging on acid.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Haha, wow. I accidentally cured my epilepsy by binging on acid.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I uh... would travel to a time when there was actually an original reply to that question, and I would NAIL it.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
An extrovert. I push my personality outward and let it deflect everything so I can think in peace. I just realized that about myself, so thank you. I should try harder to connect with people.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Dr. Manhattan. I would design SOOOOO MANY GAMES!

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 only want one thing to survive: Justin Bieber's Christmas album. Yes, I am a monster.

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):
Hey, Satan! Come at me, bro!

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

Get in touch! I'm super nice!

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:

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