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.
Interviewed on: 8/27/2016
Vassil is a game designer from Bulgaria that has an uncanny resemblance to a very tabletop game crazy celebrity. Can you guess who? Vassil has been designing games for a bit over a year now and has just published his first game, Among Thieves, which was a Kickstarter success last year. Read on to learn more about Vassil and what he's currently working on.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always loved games. The idea of games, the atmosphere of games, the purpose of games, the versatility. I also like to think of myself as a creative person in general, so I guess these two passions just found each other and united. I couldn't really do anything to stop it. If asked, I'll say I've started designing tabletop games about a year ago, but actually I did it as a kid as well, especially roleplaying games, so I have a rather long history of it, although as a small hobby.
What game or games are you currently working on?
Just finished my first Kickstarter campaign - Among Thieves. Currently, I'm working on two parallel ideas, but it's a bit too early to say anything, so be on the lookout soon ^^
Have you designed any games that have been published?
If self-publishing counts, then I guess Among Thieves.
What is your day job?
A struggling-to-finish-Law-school storyteller extraordinaire. Basically, I work for smiles and laughter, not money, at the moment.
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
I occasionally go to a local boardgame bar, The Three Trolls. Best place, though - at home, with friends. Up to 5 people, comfy sofas or on the floor. Mostly on the floor, I guess.
Who do you normally game with?
Usually, I play with my friends (no huge fans of gaming in the family). Different groups, different games. Since I started promoting Among Thieves about a year ago, I've started playing a lot with strangers and I have to say I really enjoy it. But friends would be my first choice.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
If it's up to me - Cosmic Encounter! Alternatively, it could be Dead of Winter, Game of Thrones or Robinson Crusoe. And, after that, Citadels or Gloom. Oh, oh, oh! I missed Fury of Dracula.
And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza all the way, yo!
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yeah, usually for background I use something that's in the style of the game. For example, for Citadels I put some old medieval town music. Especially awesome thing, music, when we're playing an RPG.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
It's called The Three Trolls: amazing place with games and many, many kinds of beers.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Hm, most favorite right now would be Dead of Winter, I guess, because it's still new to me. Something I don't really enjoy as before, but still play - Codenames. It's nice, but I got bored of it pretty quickly. Sometimes the games are a blast, and other times - not enjoyable at all. Worst one I've ever played is most certainly Munchkin. I dislike it a lot and wouldn't play it.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite mechanic of mine is role-playing, 100%. In the meantime, it's hard to point out one that I dislike, because one of the things I enjoy most about games is the versatility that comes with the different mechanics. But I'd probably say dice, specifying that I don't like them in games like Monopoly and King of Tokyo. Otherwise, they are just as fun as everything else.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Fury of Dracula.
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, RPG Games
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes, for the first 3 times. After that, never.
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 always start at the theme. Designing games is a hobby for me, so I'd only enjoy it if it was directed at something I really like and enjoy and this is determined mostly by the world and/or atmosphere of the game. I enjoy stories too much and tend to start with them.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered the Cardboard Edison Award of 2016 with Among Thieves, but didn't win. On the other hand, Among Thieves won the first ever Bulgarian Game Award for most anticipated games. Against video games, so take that, web-guys! :D
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No, never had one. Not a fan of idols. But my friends and I have a joke about Dr. Reiner Knizia designing 90% of all existing games.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually, the best ideas just come to me unexpectedly and I could be anyplace. I never think to much of it, I don't like fishing for inspiration, but rather prefer to let it naturally come to me. So far, it's worked excellently.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
First, it's the friends phase. Then, I play with vaguely know people from the local club and listen to their critique and take notes. Lastly, I go about showing the game to complete strangers and see how it works with people outside of the development process.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Never tried co-designing, but I would. But I work with artists and other people who contribute to the game in different ways. I'd like to be able to do all the work myself, but relying on other people's talents is a pleasure, not a drag. Except sometimes.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Coming up with an idea, that is original, likeable and satisfying for me. The last part is the hardest.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
If I get the question right, Star Wars.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
"Choose this, not Law school."
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Even if other people don't enjoy your work, if it brings joy to you and your friends, keep on going. And don't be afraid to experiment and try new things.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Among Thieves
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yeah, some, but nothing super special - all the basic ones.
And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!
Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars. I don't like soft drinks. VHS!
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I'm a huge cinema fan. I read a lot of books, all genres. Languages and distant cultures are one thing I enjoy and I'm fascinated by mythologies, folklore, strange customs. I love the Far East, especially Japan.
What is something you learned in the last week?
There are places on Earth where dead people stay with their families for as long as two years after the tragic event. Of course, they are conserved properly and look like normal objects. Macabre, right?
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I enjoy blues, Fleetwood Mac, Arcade Fire and Chris Cornell, among many. In books, I go for almost everything, but one especially favorite niche is old-school sci-fi, like H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. Regarding movies, I like what I consider 'Golden Age Hollywood' (1940-1962).
What was the last book you read?
The Darkest Room, by Johan Theorin. Before it was Lao-tsu's Tao Te Ching.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Sadly, no, but if I had the chance, I'd try either the piano or the classic guitar.
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I never liked ice-cream. I also learned to ride a bike at 16 and never ever got on a bike again. Sometimes I wonder if I was ever a kid :D
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I consider myself a rather strange, but not a crazy person, so it's hard to tell. I missed the last concert of Buena Vista Social Club a few years back, because I spent the money for tickets for a concert of Hugh Laurie. For a girl I loved, obviously. Now that I look back on it, it's not a big deal, but ... I love the BVSC and I still haven't completely forgiven myself.
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My first child, Sam! Nah, just kiddin', I don't have kids yet. I think the Hugh Laurie concert, if we consider missing on the Buena Vista as an accident. It was an awesome concert and I really enjoyed every minute of it.
Who is your idol?
Never had, never will.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Wow, what I wouldn't do! Stay in the present is one thing I wouldn't actually.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Ex-introvert, not-really-extrovert. Limbo!
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I've never given this enough thought. I think Doctor Strange would be fitting.
Have any pets?
No, never had any. I'd get a cat, though.
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?
If humanity survives, games will always survive. Anything would be fine, but I think a new era will require new games. So I'd say I prefer for the easy superclassics to survive - chess, go, shogi, etc. I'd love to see what replacement of dice the new people would use at some point.
If something is to be wiped out, let it be jealousy. Life would be so very different.
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):
Suck monkey balls! [GJJ Games] I’m hoping that’s an inside joke to someone! =)
Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?
As Wil Wheaton says - PLAY MORE GAMES!
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
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