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: 9/15/2016
I first met Charles online through the game design contests on Board Game Geek. Last year he started a thread there to discuss how to improve those contests through some 'best practices' and good ideas for contests to follow. Over the year that evolved into the idea for an annual awards contest for the best print and play games of the year. Kind of like the Oscars or the Olympics. Together he and I organized that contest and the 2016 PnP Game Design Awards are running right now, so check it out here: http://georgejaros.com/GJJGames. Charles has his game Haze Islands entered, which is a really great game that I recommend checking out. And be sure to follow along with all the other games Charles is working on over at Ex1st Games!
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 returned to board games through teaching English in Japan, as a way to use language in a meaningful way. With this in mind I started creating and trying out things, and researching card and board games. Then my life changed when I found boardgamegeek.com. After absorbing over 1000 playthrough videos and finding the design forums, the focus switched from educational to emotional, psychological, mechanical, artistic, financial... you know, all the things that make a good game. It is pretty much a part of my daily life now.
Now that my game collection has increased, I bring more and more games into the classroom. I use them as teaching resources more than games. And as a way to inspire my students to see board games as awesome stuff.
What game or games are you currently working on?
HAZE ISLANDS is the front runner now. It’s a pirate card game that plays great with 1, 2, or 3. On the small side but packed with tension and meaningful choices. Its has elements of exploration, an innovative board system, a growing threat, no player elimination, cooperative mode, great artwork, a lush rule book, and it’s free! Go get it.
Have you designed any games that have been published?
I self published Blood & Fortune and would like to... revisit it one day. As much as I like the game, it needs a lot more love and attention. Publishing was a good experience. And I hope to be able to do it for a long time. I know publishing is not designing, but it has helped me design better. Now, I think more about production, components, delivery, timing, price, and expectations when designing the game. Some people thrive on self imposed limitations, others need some sort of reality check to refocus their attention. I'm a bit of both.
What is your day job?
I do a bit of everything, mainly teaching.
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere. Everywhere. No so much online now.
Who do you normally game with?
A few expat friends and the local gaming groups.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
For beginners - No Thanks! Carcassone, Ticket to Ride. For party people - Spyfall, Coup, Get Bit. For experienced games - Scythe, Scythe, Scythe.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
You guys don't know how lucky you are to have one of these! For all the tech and novelty that Japan has... it will catch up eventually. I have yet to find one.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite - Vast, The Crystal Caverns. Still unplayed. Least favorite that i still enjoy - Werewolf. My stubble gives me away. Worst game I ever played - Well, I play badly all the time.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm happy playing almost any game once in a while. Short games preferred. But give me a good blend of mechanics (it does not matter what they are) and I can play long games, back to back, till sunrise. Traitor mechanic seems a bit old now, I would rather have a change in role when eliminated.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
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?
Theme first, then some sort of restriction, then add mechanics, remove mechanics, test and tune, put it on hold while you get it out of your head, revisit and repeat.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Almost. It's still too painful to talk about it.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier seems to be doing a good job putting out games.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Sleep is very underrated.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I lock the doors.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
It's more fun with people. And you would have to be a genius to do everything. I usually work by myself but not out of choice.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Playtesting. Playtesting. Playtesting.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I find this hard to answer because I don't have a TV or read much, and I don't want to seem like I'm really good at this business, and I like to create a world of ideas, so... something unexpected like facebook would be a good starting point.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It's really hard. No, it's REALLY hard. Go for it.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Give it time, do it often, share everything, expect nothing, have fun.
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?
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Rock climbing, swimming underwater, building a house.
Do you play any musical instruments?
I picked up the violin a few months ago.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Get the kids to school on time.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I still don't know.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
An invisible flying one.
Have any pets?
I had 4 chickens. They are now fox poo somewhere. Does homemade yogurt count? Its been with us for over 10 years.
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?
Keep: Egg and spoon races. Lose: Ignorance, greed, and hate.
Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?
I'm testing an abstract tile laying game. If you like that sort of thing please send me an email.
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? Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter . And be sure to check out my games on Tabletop Generation.