Thursday, September 8, 2016

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 4: Adam Watts

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:Adam Watts
Location:Vermont, USA
Day Job:Web developer for a marketing agency.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:On Kickstarter, and thereafter on my website.
Today's Interview is with:

Adam Watts
Interviewed on: 08/26/16

Adam Watts has a game on Kickstarter right now! It'll be his first published game. The campaign runs through September 27 and is for No Honor Among Thieves, a competitive/cooperative game for three to five players in which each player assembles a crew of thieves and sets out to see who can steal the most wealth from the rich and powerful of a fantasy city. The game is $45, so be sure to check it out after learning a bit more about Adam below!

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?
When I was a kid, it was because I was bored. More recently--in that 2-5 year period I mentioned above--it's been because I wanted to make games and I didn't manage to get a job working for a video game company.

What game or games are you currently working on?
No Honor Among Thieves, a fantasy heist card game, is my current project, going up on Kickstarter very soon. I'm also working on a cyberpunk RPG, a noire social deduction game and a science-based card game. Not sure yet which one of those is going to become my next main project.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet. Ask me again in a couple months and hopefully the answer will be different, though.

What is your day job?
Web developer for a marketing agency.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home, or at my friend's lake house. In private settings, mostly. I get the idea of board game cafes and whatnot, but I like being alone with friends more.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and family.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I'm answering this question while waiting for people to come over to play Kingdom Death, actually. Our usuals are Betrayal at House on the Hill and Cosmic Encounter, though. We play a lot of different games, but we keep coming back to those two.

And what snacks would you eat?
Iced tea and some kind of less-seasoned chip, so you don't get as much stuff on your hands. Pita chips are great for that.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Depends on the game. We don't usually do that, though.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Quarterstaff Games was my go-to for years, but I've been going to Braps' Magic a lot recently, because they gave my game design group space to meet every Thursday night.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Hm. I don't think I really have a favorite. I like playing a lot of games. Least favorite that I still enjoy is easy, though, that's Diplomacy. That game has caused so many arguments, and it's still so damn good. Worst game I ever played was a samurai game that I don't remember the name of that I played freshman year of college--I won because I was the last one to quit in disgust at how much of a back-and-forth grind it was.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite game mechanic is social deduction. Least favorite is player elimination.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Lords of Waterdeep. I've only been able to play it a couple of times because one of my friends really doesn't like it for some reason, and I don't want to exclude him just so I can play it.

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, Video Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
In specific circumstances. It's a great game for meeting people, or just hanging out while drinking.

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?
Every time I've been able to push a game to the point where I had a working prototype, I'd come up with both at once. They work with each other. In general I think I tend to come up with themes more often than mechanics.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes. I came in third in a RPG design contest called Hack Vornheim a while back, and more recently No Honor Among Thieves won entry to the Tabletop Showcase at the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I really like Jamey Stegmaier because of his blogs, but I've never actually played any of his games (hoping to change that soon, though--someone I know got their hands on Scythe recently). Overall...whoever Fantasy Flight Games has working for them, I guess. Those guys don't miss.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
They usually come to me during moments where I'm forced to do nothing but think. In the shower, or the car, or while waiting in line.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I get some friends together and playtest them. Then, once I've done that often enough, I give them to other friends or volunteers to do blind playtesting.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I've done both, and I enjoy both. Even when I'm working alone, though, I have to run stuff past people--send them rules, show them art and graphic design, etc. You can't work entirely alone.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting enough playtesting in. I have a tendency to design and redesign stuff without actually getting it in front of people.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Honestly, I enjoy making my own stuff more than I think I'd enjoy working with anyone else's. So...I think I'd like to make a game using the fantasy world that I write stories and run D&D campaigns in. That'd be fun.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You CANNOT do it alone. Hire freelancers, playtest, get co-designers, whatever you want, but put other eyes on the thing.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Make something simple first. Keep making simple things. Never stop. Everything big started as something small.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?

This is what I have currently crowdfunding: No Honor Among Thieves (launched campaign on Tuesday, August 30, 2016)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Cyberpunk space-opera roleplaying game
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Noir game, sci-fi environment game

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

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?
Either. Coke. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video games, writing, drawing, graphic design.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Adobe Premiere CS3 can't import .mp4 files.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music is kind of eclectic--I like hip hop, rock, blues rock, electronica and some folk. Books are sci-fi and fantasy exclusively. I like action movies and pretty much nothing else.

What was the last book you read?
Abaddon's Gate, book three of The Expanse. Great sci-fi.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Not anymore.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I once lived for two months almost exclusively off of Chinese takeout.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
The craziest stuff I've ever done was probably tearing around the neighborhood and going off of jumps on my bike as a kid. I still have the scars on my knees from those days. I can't think of any specific incident, sorry.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Deviled eggs are really, really, REALLY good if you add about five times the Worcester sauce that the recipe calls for. Kind of a small thing, maybe, but I really like deviled eggs.

Who is your idol?
I don't think I have any one person who I can point to for that. I take inspiration from a lot of people in my life.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Buy bitcoin, sell right before it crashes. Then...I dunno, kill Hitler or something?

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Bit of both? If I spend too much time around people I start wanting everyone to fuck off and leave me alone, and if I spend too much time alone I start wanting to talk to someone.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Superman. He's got all the good shit.

Have any pets?
I'm allergic to most of them, so no.

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 classic games should survive. Settlers of Catan, that sort of thing. The ones that started the current golden era of board games. What should be destroyed are all the terrible games like Monopoly that soak into the consciousness of the population and make people who don't game look at you oddly when you tell them what you do for fun because every board game they've experienced wasn't fun at all.

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'd like to thank my brothers, Colin and Nathan, and the Academy.

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

If you have an idea, you can make a game. If you have a game, you can publish it. Just put the work in.

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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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interview, man! Cool to see people interested in this stuff.