Tuesday, December 12, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 98: Mark Jindra

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:Mark Jindra
Location:Seattle, WA
Day Job:I am a web developer.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:markjindra.com - but it’s terrible
BGG:dolomite13
Facebook:Alien Overrun
Twitter:@markjindra
YouTube:dolomite13
Other:I'm on all under my name I think.
Find my games at:Check out facebook for my games and I have been updating Tabletop Simulator regularly with test copies.
Today's Interview is with:

Mark Jindra
Interviewed on: 8/3/2017

Mark Jindra is a common contributor to a number of the game design forums and has a slew of games he's designed. He's working through the process of getting some published soon, namely Alien Overrun. Development on that game has been going strong for quite a while, and we'll hopefully be seeing it on Kickstarter soon. Be sure to read on to learn more about Mark 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 think I just wanted to see if I could do it.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Alien Overrun, Delving!, Before They Hatch, and Pencils & Powers

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have not yet been published but I have playtested many published games and have somewhere around a hundred articles published on the 3rd and 4th edition D&D website. I also owned and operated a play-by-mail game company back in the day.

What is your day job?
I am a web developer.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home

Who do you normally game with?
A few close friends except when I am playtesting at local conventions.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I really want to get Xia to the table and absolutely love Small World.

And what snacks would you eat?
Honestly just give me a nice glass of red wine and I'm good.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes I often ask my amazon echo to play ac/dc, or motorhead nice and low although recently I had it play Dio for two hours.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Mox Boarding House

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite is probably Small World. Least favorite could be any number of really bad games but I honestly have no desire to play Ticket to Ride again in spite of it actually being a pretty fun game to play with non-gamer family members. The worst game I ever played, well I don't want to say because it was created by a friend and is considered to be a huge success so let’s say it was a heavily home ruled game of monopoly.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite mechanic has to be roll-and-move. Just kidding that would be my least favorite although Merchant of Venus got it right. Actual favorite would probably be a variant on worker placement.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Supremacy. It was one of those games that you just fall in love with but I haven't got it to the table in probably close to 20 years. Want to play?

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I am more of a "People Against Cards Against Humanity" type of person

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 really love to write the theme out first then see what mechanics might fit. Although I did recently make a mechanic list for a project I wanted to work on and still don't have a theme for it.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I won a pitch contest on BGDF.com and have been in the finals for a few but have not yet won one.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Paul Petersen the creator of Guillotine and Smash Up.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
It will sound strange but I have a huge soaking tub and the best ideas come while in a nice hot bath.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I usually just get together with a few close friends but also take the games to Playtest Northwest events at local conventions. They have done so much for game designers.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I really prefer to work another designer. I really need someone to bounce ideas off of.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Staying on target. I tend to get distracted easily which is probably why I have four games in the works all at the same time.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Heavy Metal bands. I had this idea to to a card game where the booster packs were albums and the cards were themed off the actual songs of the actual bands. So you might play "Hells Bells" in response to me playing "Ace of Spades" or whatever ... I just think it would be super fun to work on.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Ask people who play your game how the game made them feel. An emotional connection to the game is just as important as the math.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Have Fun! If you are not having fun then you probably need another hobby.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Alien Overrun, Delving!, Cooped Up, Pencils & Powers
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Alien Overrun, Delving!, Cooped Up, Pencils & Powers
I'm planning to crowdfund: Maybe all of the ones I'm working on
Games that I'm playtesting are: All of my games are pretty much here at the moment
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too early to say but I have a game about Flesh Eating Bacteria that I really want to get to prototype soon.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
It is OK to say all of them.

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, Coke, Neither but probably VHS as it was more readily available

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play too much World of Warcraft, I love to make Sushi rolls and I'm getting pretty good at it.

What is something you learned in the last week?
About board games it was probably something scale/scope such as local global etc from an episode of Ludology. And outside of games I learned that promulgate is a word.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I love Heavy Metal, Blues, and Funk. I rarely read but when I do it is pulp sci-fi from the 60's and 70's. Movies are usually sci-fi or action oriented sometimes horror but much less these days.

What was the last book you read?
Hmmmm... probably the novel that the movie Damnation Alley was based on.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I play guitar.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I drove from Wheeling WV to Atlanta GA overnight with two friends just to play D&D

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I think I would travel to the future to see just what the impact of man will be to this planet. And I want to see what the next iPhone is going to look like of course.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Some of both. It depends on if you want me to call someone or talk to them in person.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Super powers seem cool but it is hard to argue with being billionaire playboy philanthropist like Tony Stark .

Have any pets?
Nope, unless you count the toy stuffed Snow Leopard named Jasper that lurks in our bedroom.

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 that scientists of the future will find meeples and be completely confused as to what rituals they were used for. And I hope that Hive will replace Checkers.

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):
Shout out to my wife Shawn. She has been super supportive of my game design hobby.

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?  Pleasse 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.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2017

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2017
10 Kickstarter previews, and 12 prototypes

Once again, in 2017 I played a pretty big number of unpublished games.  I played a bit less than last year since I had to miss Protospiel Madison this year, and did reviews of more published games than ever before, but since I started this list last year, I wanted to continue it this year.

So for 2017 I'll once again have two more lists, in addition to my main Top 10 New-To-Me Games of 2017 list (look for that in a week or so).  I've included a quick list of the best Kickstarter previews I've done as well as a list of the top prototypes I've played throughout the year (aside from my own, of course).  Keep your eye out for these, some may be coming to Kickstarter or a FLGS near you!  My main list will only contain published games that I've played for the first time this year.
Here are my Top Kickstarter previews and Prototype games that I played in 2016!

Top 8 Kickstarter Previews:
(k-f) Kickstarter failed.  (k-s) Kickstarer was successful.  (k) Kickstarter hasn't launched yet.

First, an honorable mention.  I first played and reviewed Radiant last year, but after two unsuccessful campaigns it was finally funded successfully this tar!  I'm super thrilled that it finally made it because I thought the game was an excellent gateway game with gorgeous artwork.  Radiant, by Randal Marsh, made the number 1 spot on last year's list, so I'm happy it'll finally be released to the masses!

10 - Dragon Dodge (k-s) - This is a cute, light strategy game with a family friendly theme.  Dragon Dodge is a fun little strategy game.  I really like the theme and the mechanics are solid.  It's super simple to teach and doesn't take long to set up or to play.  Dragon Dodge would make a good filler or light, family friendly strategy game.

9 - Pocket Ops (k-s) - The more I think about Pocket Ops the more I realize just how brilliant this take on tic-tac-toe is.  Pocket Ops is definitely an improvement over tic-tac-toe, with the only exception being that you can't play it on a fogged up window in the winter.  That's a small trade off though.  It's small size means that you can take it just about anywhere.

8 - Wanted Earth (k-s) - I had fun playing Wanted Earth.  Overall it played very smoothly.  I've not had the fortune to play a lot of heavy miniatures based games, but of what I have played, this definitely holds its own.  I've heard stories of games having awesome miniatures and horrible gameplay and I'm happy to say that Wanted Earth is not one of those.  Wanted Earth has very cool looking minis and very solid gameplay.  So if you're looking for a good tactical skirmish game with cool minis and accessible gameplay, Wanted Earth should hit the mark for you.

7 - The Brigade (k-s) - The Brigade is a pretty fun game.  I enjoyed every game I played, loved the theme and setting, and liked how each game is a new puzzle to solve.  There are a lot of important decisions, and personally I like having to figure out a new, ideal strategy each game.  The jam packed playing area was a bit of an issue for some of the players I showed the game to, but some didn't mind it either.  If that's something you can tolerate, then the artwork in the game is really great.

6 - Bridges to Nowhere (k-s) - 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.  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.

5 - Manaforge (k-s) - Manaforge is a dice based resource management and engine building game for for two to four players that takes about 20-25 minutes per player.  I found Manaforge to be mechanically simple, strategically deep, thematically fun, artistically beautiful, a great balance between luck and strategy, and a very enjoyable way to spend about ninety minutes.

4 - Fields of Agincourt (k) - My review for Fields of Agincourt hasn't been released yet (look for it in January), but this list will serve as a bit of a spoiler.  I really liked this tie-laying, area control game and so did everyone I played with.  This one is a winner, and I look forward to seeing how well it does when its Kickstarter launches early next year.

3 - Rabbit Island (k-s) - I really, really liked Rabbit Island, and so did everyone I played with.  This was one of the few review games I've received that my friends actually asked to play again.  The theme is fun, the mechanics are very simple and easy to learn, and the gameplay is engaging.  It's a tough task to build a 4x game that is truly a great gateway game, but Rabbit Island accomplishes that goal and more!

2 - Lucidity: Six Sided Nightmares (k-s) - Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares definitely brings out the awesome theme in a very unique, and frighteningly gorgeous way.  The game looks beautiful, plays smoothly, is interactive, and tense.  For a press-your-luck game there are a ton of choices to make, and choices that matter.  It's more than just a decision on whether or not to push your luck, these are decisions about probability, and making the best of a bad situation, and which strategy is right for you at any particular time.  There are many layers to Lucidity, and I think you'll have a ton of fun peeling them back to examine the Nightmares inside.  NOTE: I actually game Lucidity a slightly lower review than a couple of games lower on this list, but the Kickstarter campaign added a TON of really cool stretch goals that added some really cool variants to the game.  The core game is still great, but some of the mini expansions that you'll be able to add to the game, plus the whole de-lux package look really awesome.  I can't wait for this one!


1 - Roll Player: Monsters & Minions (k-s) - I'll be honest, deciding which game to put into the number one spot on this list was a challenge.  Lucidity is a really great game, and this is just an expansion, but in the end the strategy and theme that Monsters & Minions adds to an already incredibly awesome game put this in the lead (But just by a bit!)

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds what everyone wanted from the original game; the ability to fight the baddies with the characters you create.  And it does this without adding significantly to the complexity or time that the game takes.  Instead it takes the gameplay that you're already familiar with and adds to the strategic choices, giving an even richer gameplay experience in the same timeframe.  Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds just the right amount of new experiences to keep the game exciting yet familiar; .The minion battles are thematically and mechanically perfect for the game, and the monster battle at the end of the game can help drive alternative strategies, without dragging the game out any longer.  If you enjoy Roll Player, the Monsters & Minions expansion is a must-have.  I'll be including it in every game of Roll Player that I play, once I get my own copy!



Top 12 Prototypes:

I wasn't as involved in BGG contests this year as I was last year, so all of my top prototypes are games I played at Protospiel events this year.  I'm sure there were some awesome titles in the contests, though.  I was just too busy with other stuff this year.  There were also quite a few awesome games at the Protospiels I attended that I didn't get a chance to play.  These are the ones I enjoyed the most from what I did play, though.

12 - U.S.A.T. - This was a very early draft of a game that combines trick taking mechanics with area control and combat.  It's an interesting concept and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Andrew does with it, even though this very early version had a lot of issues.  Lots of promise though! (Andrew Clark prototype)

11 - Unnamed farming game - This game didn't even have a name when I played it in April, but it was a ton of fun!  Some very interesting mechanics revolving around planting crops in your fields and scoring points when you can harvest.  Weeds and other disasters gave the game a bit of a take-that feel, too, which really helped with the player interaction.  Beth and Scott just successfully Kickstarted a very adult card game (that I also playtested and found enjoyable, despite the theme), so hopefully their success there will mean this one will see Kickstarter soon, too.  It's definitely a lot more family friendly! (Beth/Scott Harris prototype)

10 - Farts are Funny - Yes, yes they are.  And this game is a blast! (Pun intended.)  It's low on strategy, but has some interesting player interaction, bluffing, and deduction, all wrapped up in a hilarious card game.  Best of all, it plays up to six players, so you can all pass the blame! (Troy Pichelman prototype)






9 - Sea Dogs - Dave Fulton was part of the team that designed the awesome Grifters, which made it to the number four spot on last year's top ten new to me games list.  Sea Dogs is a pick-up and deliver game about canine pirates sailing between various islands, collecting loot (like tennis balls and dog biscuits), and trying to become the richest dog on the seas.  It had a few rough spots, but will hopefully be polished into a great family game. (Dave Fulton prototype)

8 - Omicron Battles - I played a very early draft of this at Protospiel Chicago in 2016, but the version I played this year was completely revamped, only keeping the general theme.  The new version still has a lot of kinks to work out, but it plays fast and fun.  It's currently a two player game, but will likely be expanded to support multiple players.  The idea is that each player is a ship that is battling another ship in space combat.  Each ship has certain offensive, defensive, and other stats reflected in cards.  Combat is generally determined by cards, but can be adjusted by some dice rolls.  I can see this becoming a big hit for lovers of fast skirmish style card games, like Star Realms.  The game seems super marketable, too, since each ship could be its own booster pack of 20 or so cards.  So get yourself the base game with a few ships to choose from, and then buy the latest ship packs from your FLGS every few months.  Look for this to be a big hit sometime in the future, hopefully! (Troy Pichelman prototype)

7 - Middlin' - Middlin' is sort of a trick taking game with some interesting twists.  In Middlin' each player is dealt a hand of cards.  On their turn they can play, face-down one or two cards from their hand.  After everyone has played, cards are revealed each players' cards summed.  The highest and lowest players are out for the round and the other players can choose an action from one of their played cards to apply to their penguins on the game board.  Through careful selection of actions the penguins can huddle closer to the middle, gaining more points the closer to the middle they are.  But it's not always good to be in the middle.  Each time you are in the group to 'win' a trick you get a pebble.  At the end of the game pebbles are worth negative points, so you really want to balance taking actions with avoiding the pebbles.  This leads to some intense bluffing and deduction scenarios toward the end of the game.  I really enjoyed Middlin' and look forward to seeing it develop further.  (Randy Ekl prototype)

6 - The King is Coming - The King is Coming is an interesting type of area control game.  It uses a very unique mechanic that I don't think I've encountered before.  Over the course of multiple rounds players secretly assign various types of resources into various locations to exert different levels of control over those locations.  Then they gain additional resources for the locations they control.  It's a super interesting bluffing, bidding, and deduction mechanic that translates into a super unique area control game.  I'm hoping to be able to try this one out again at another Protospiel someday. (Daryl Kessler prototype)

5 - Prime Location - In Prime Location players are playing sets of cards in order to build skyscrapers across a cityscape.  As the name implies, there are a lot of prime numbers involved in this game.  It can get a bit mathy, but really has a great feel.  It reminded me of a classic 3M bookshelf game, and one of the good ones, like Acquire.  It has a simple elegance and great table presence. (Randy & Maxine Ekl prototype)

4 - Town Gates - I believe Town Gates was brand new when I played it at Protospiel Milwaukee in April, and it was a really intriguing game.  It's a mix of bidding/action selection/worker placement in order to collect resources that will allow you to complete projects.  There's a variable setup so no two games are exactly the same, and a depth to the strategy that becomes apparent as you play more.  The interactions of the different card types is pretty fascinating.  This is another one I can't wait for the opportunity to play again. (Daryl Kessler prototype)

3 - Rurik: Dawn of Kiev - Rurik Dawn of Kiev is the only game on this list that I didn't play at a Protospiel, although it was at Protospiel Chicago when I was there.  I agreed to playtest the game with my game groups a few times and provide feedback to Piecekeeper Games during their development process.  This one will be on Kickstarter some time next year and I can say it's a solid area control euro game.  It's got some great resource management, area control, and action bidding mechanics that come together in a fairly quick, super interesting game.  And the artwork that is coming out for the game is fantastic.  Keep your eyes peeled for this one! (Piecekeeper Games prototype)

2 - Company of Thieves - Company of Thieves is a really great competitive game that requires cooperating with your opponents  Even as a prototype this was a blast to play.  It's a game where each player is a burglar attempting to steal stuff from neighborhood houses (ok, so not the most moral of themes).  However, these houses are protected by all sorts of challenges that thieves may face.  I found Company of Thieves to be a very fun mix of resource management, cooperation, bluffing, deduction, and competition.  Aside from some balancing and minor tweaks, this game is mechanically very solid and a ton of fun to play.  Table talk is allowed, although resources are all private, so depending on the players this can be a straightforward cooperative game or turn into a traitorous game of wheeling, dealing, bluffing, and deceit. I almost put this game in the number one slot because it was really awesome.  It was a super tough decision and, depending on the day you ask, it's very possible that I would swap the top two places on this list.  Both are great games and I really hope both find a publisher sooner rather than later. (Scott Starkey prototype)

1 - Globalization - Along with Scott Starkey's Company of Thieves, I think Globalization was the best prototype I played all year.  This one needs a bit more work to polish up, but I think it has huge potential to be a huge seller.

Globalization takes some mechanics from Ticket to Ride and blends them with an economic area control game.  Each card can be used for multiple purposes: either as set collection to gain control of areas, or for their economic abilities to produce, transport, or manufacture resources and goods.  Players can go for an economic victory or area control victory.  The game was pretty solid as is, but does have a few rough areas.  It only plays 2-3 players right now, so it needs to get gameplay up to 4 or even 5.  It also has some special bonus cards that were a bit overpowered because they came up repeatedly.  Making them one-time-use cards that are removed from the game after use will help drive early strategies without becoming over powerful in the end game.  A few of the economic tracks also need a bit of balancing, and maybe need to contribute to multiple potential end game conditions.  But overall the game was very solid, played quickly, and was both thought provoking and simple.  It's just a step up from Ticket to Ride in complexity, so it won't be hard to teach to others, but was deep enough that it'll appeal to even hard core gamers.  Keep an eye on this one, it could be a big hit!  (Dan Germain prototype)


Well, that's it, my top Kickstarter Previews and top Prototype games of 2017!  I really played some awesome games and the top few on both of these lists were very difficult decisions.  2018 and beyond is going to be a great time to be a board gamer.  There's some really awesome stuff on the horizon!



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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Wizards of the Tabletop - Book Review (and more!)

Wizards of the Tabletop
By: Douglas Morse
Publisher: Grandfather Films Press
Wizards of the Tabletop by Douglas Morse - Book Review (and more!)
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!


Wizards of the Tabletop came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!


Overview:
Back in 2014, shortly after I first started designing games, I stumbled upon a website called the Meeple Mechanic that, among other things, posted short interviews with game designers.  I used to love these interviews, but over the years the site evolved and changed and the interviews were part of the past.  So in 2016 I started my own People Behind the Meeples series of designer interviews, which is coming upon 100 interviews.  I love reading about what drives other people to design games, and what their other interests are.  So when I had the chance to take look at Wizards of the Tabletop, I jumped at the chance.
Just a few of the games and designers featured in the book.
Wizards of the Tabletop, by Douglas Morse, is a kind of book that is right at home on the game table, rather than the coffee table (although it'd be great there, too).  This large, 12" x 12" book is filled with gorgeous pictures and short, but interesting pieces about some of the biggest names in modern board games.  You'll recognize some of the most famous designers, including Alan R. Moon (Ticket to Ride), Reiner Knizia (Tigris & Euphrates), Richard Garfield (Magic: the Gathering), Jamey Stegmaier (Scythe) and tons more!  There are also features on other personalities in the business, like Wil Wheaton (Tabletop), Brittanie Boe (GameWire), Scott Alden (BoardGameGeek), and more.
Of course Andy and Kristin Looney have a feature!
Coupled with these fascinating blurbs is a wealth of incredible photographs.  There are great photos of all of these personalities as well as some awesome shots of some really awesome games.  These are gallery quality portraits, and gorgeous views of games,but there are candid shots and convention photos, too.

Interspersed within the designer and game profiles are other short articles, too.  There's a very nice three-page summary of the history of modern board gaming, from 1900 to the present, plus some speculation on what's to come in the next few years.  A few companies, like Funagain Games and The Broken Token have highlights, too.
The Broken Token is featured with their inserts for Scythe.
Most books have a short blurb about the author or editor right at the end, but Wizards of the Tabletop moves that a bit away from the last pages.  It's still toward the end, but Douglas Morse has made his own contributions to the tabletop games community, too.  Starting with his impact as a player, and culminating in, not only this book, but also his The Next Great American Game documentary about the process of looking for a game publisher, Douglas has his finger on the pulse of the tabletop game community.  Regarding The Next Great American Game, you'll also find a bit about Randall Hoyt in Wizards of the Tabletop.  Randall was also responsible for the graphic design and layout of the book.  And guess what, I have a special bonus for you!  After my Final Thoughts, I'll include a mini review of The Next Great American Game as well as the bonus features that are available with the movie.

Final Thoughts:

This is truly a great game table book.  It's gorgeous to look at, both inside and out.  The information is presented in easy-to-read, brief articles that can quickly be read between turns or while waiting for the next game to start.  While this isn't a must have item, it is a definite boon to any gamer's collection.  The cover looks stunning and the 12" x 12" dimensions mean it'll fit perfectly on your game shelf next to some of the games featured in the book, when it's not out on your game table, that is.
The book is the same size as many of the square box games you'll have in your collection.
While the interviews don't go into a lot of depth, they're perfect to give you a quick background and insight into the designers, publishers, business owners, and personalities that populate the tabletop game community.  It's great to see and read about how personable, passionate, and inspirational these true masters in the art of tabletop games can be.

In my People Behind the Meeples interviews, most of the designers aren't yet very well known.  All are aspiring to be of the caliber of the names in this book, and someday hopefully some of them will.  Plenty already have published games that may be on your shelves.  One thing I've learned from my interviews is that game designers come from all walks of life, have vastly different experiences, occupations, families, and backgrounds, and find their inspiration and techniques in a myriad of different places.  One thing unites them though, and that's the excitement of seeing other people having fun playing the games they've created.  I haven't yet met a game designer that isn't friendly, helpful, and just an overall nice person.  It's great to see from Wizards of the Tabletop that even the biggest names in the industry are cut from the same mold.
Where else would we find Alan R. Moon, except on a train?
If tabletop games are your passion, this is a book that you'll love.  If you know someone who loves tabletop games, then this would be a unique, thoughtful gift.  Keep that in mind for the gamer in your life this holiday season, especially if they're running out of room on their shelf for more games!

The Next Great American Game
By: Douglas Morse
Grandfather Films
1:20 - Unrated
Bonus: The Next Great American Game - Movie Review

OK, so I'm not Robert Ebert, but I'll do my attempt at a movie review.  In addition to Wizards of the Tabletop, Douglas Morse also sent me a download copy of his documentary, The Next Great American Game.  In The Next Great American Game we follow graphic design professor Randall Hoyt around the country for about a year in his attempt at finding a publisher for a game he designed, called Turnpike.  At the start of filming, Randall had no experience with modern board games.  His experiences were with the traditional, mainstream games that we all grew up with; Monopoly, Sorry, The Game of Life, etc.  By modern board game standards, these games have some serious flaws, and unfortunately, Turnpike was a design that came directly from that family of games.  Yes, it had some new mechanics that set it apart from those classics, and that's why Randall felt that his game was better, but it still suffered from many of the flaws that modern games have found great solutions to.

Making a common mistake among new designers that are not familiar with the modern tabletop game industry, Randall was pitching his game as the next great American game (which also gave the film its title).  Describing your game as such to a publisher is an immediate red flag indicating you are someone who is out of touch with the industry, as Randall definitely was.  However, through the documentary we watch Randall learn and grow.  He learns what publishers are looking for, and especially what they're not looking for.  He has a number of setbacks, but each time uses that as a learning experience on how to pitch better, how to improve the game, what the public is looking for, what makes a game fun and exciting, and what causes a modern gamer to lose interest.
Pitching a game unannounced, on the floor of a convention is probably not the best method.
By the end of the movie (minor spoiler here), Randall has improved his game and actually has something that has gained some interest.  The movie ends saying that Randall is still looking for a publisher for Turnpike.  If you read through Wizards of the Tabletop, you'll find out (another spoiler) that he was actually successful in finding a publisher!  In 2017 Jolly Roger Games and Ultra PRO published his game as Road Hog: Rule the Road.

I found it interesting that Douglas Morse chose to follow someone around that had so little experience in the industry.  At first I almost felt like the movie was a cruel joke on someone that was obviously an outsider.  I felt bad for Randall for the situations that Douglas put him in (it was obvious from the film that many of the publisher interviews for Randall to pitch his game were set up by Douglas and his team).  Often he was turned down without any sugar coating: "You made an '80s game for the year 2013.  So good luck on your '80s game, I hope you find a time machine to go with it."  Despite it all, Randall remained optimistic and pushed on.
James Mathe of Minion Games was his usual to-the-point, no-holds-barred self and didn't have much positive to say. 
But it is fun to see friends of mine in the video!  Hi Gary and Vicki!
Eventually he began listening to the feedback he was getting.  He made changes and updates to the game, and the responses he started getting were more positive.  It was at this point I realized the genius in finding someone like Randall to follow, and help get those audiences with publishers.  Douglas must have recognized that Turnpike had the spark of a good idea and wanted to see what it could turn into.  In the process, he made a documentary that shows the trials and tribulations of seeking a publisher for a game, all the way from pure disappointment through to the rays of hope.  During the movie we come to know Randall as a person, possibly more than we'd hope to know, and the struggles in his life outside of getting a game published.  By the end you feel as if you're rooting for a friend rather than watching someone you don't know anything about.

This is just the beginning of Randall's journey; the movie doesn't follow through to see Road Hog: Rule the Road get published. (Maybe there's a sequel coming out?  I don't know.)  However, it's enough to inspire anyone to keep pushing, to pursue their dreams, and to never give up.  It's also a great educational tool to see what you should do before pitching a game to publishers, or presenting any idea to a company in any industry.  Namely, do your research and learn about the industry you're pitching to, make sure what you have to offer is something the industry wants, be excited about your product yet humble at the same time, and take feedback constructively.

Quality wise, the film suffered from some areas that were difficult to hear because of background noise, but that lends itself to the homegrown nature of the video and really gives you a sense for how distracting a convention environment is, and why it's not a good idea to pitch right in the middle of the action.  The noisy parts didn't detract from my enjoyment, but did have me pause and back up a couple of times so I could re-listen to what was being said.  Also, the segments on Talk + Listen seemed a bit disconnected from the rest of the story.  It was interesting, and ended up tying in more by the end, but when that game turned up about halfway through the movie it felt out of place and a bit jarring.  A few earlier mentions of that, or a better segway would have helped tie in that side story better.
Randall working with a team, discussing options for how to package Talk + Listen.
There are also about 3 hours of additional videos available (more on the deluxe version), featuring interviews with designers, like Matt Leacock, Antoine Bauza, Bruno Faduiti, and more.  Want to know how Rampage (now Terror in Meeple City) came about?  Are you curious about how Steve Jackson went about creating the big box version of O.G.R.E.?  All of this, and tons more, can be found in the extra footage.  These are great bits that go into a lot more detail than anything in the book or movie.  They're worth the price on their own!
The extras include some really great interviews with HUGE names in the industry.
The movie isn't for everyone though.  Plenty of people don't like documentaries, and even for those that do, this isn't Discovery Channel production quality.  It is a close intimate look at a pretty niche process in a niche industry.  I'd say Wizards of the Tabletop is a book that can be enjoyed and appreciated by pretty much any board gaming fan.  The bite-sized chunks of information are great for casual fans.  The Next Great American Game, though, is probably best for those die hard board game addicts interested in how the industry works, or those that really like documentaries.  In all, though, both the book and movie are great peeks into the world of tabletop games, and I can't wait to see what comes next from Douglas Morse.



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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.