Thursday, February 16, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 50: Troy Pichelman

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:Troy Pichelman
Location:Lees Summit, MO
Day Job:Unix and Storage System Administrator. A long title that means "I work in IT" to most people.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:The Game Crafter
Today's Interview is with:

Troy Pichelman
Interviewed on: 11/8/2016

Troy Pichelman is a game designer from the Kansas City, Missouri area that I met at last year's first Protospiel Chicago. I was only there for Friday, but Troy and I played a bunch of each other's games. Then in October we met up again at Protospiel Madison and played each other's games some more. I really like quite a few of Troy's games and hope to see them in stores someday. He's got some great ideas and I can't wait to play them some more at Protospiel Milwaukee in a few weeks.

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 worked on modifying games since junior high, and I've worked on several computer games over the years. But I really started getting back into doing board games as something more than just a little hobby a few years ago after I found the Game Crafter. There is just something very satisfying about seeing people really enjoy something you've created.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Escape From Lunar 7. This is a cooperative game where you are prospectors on the moon when aliens arrive and blow up your ship. You are trying to explore an abandoned base to find the parts to fix a shuttle so you can all escape. I'm currently pitching this to publishers, but haven't quite got it yet.

Goblin Stole My Chicken. A take that style game for 3-6 players. Here you all have chickens with fences protecting them from goblins, and on your turn you play goblin cards on other players. But they can play defenses like sign posts to send goblins to their neighbors, burn down some of your fences, and other things to mess with your plans. First play that is out ends the game, so there is also an incentive for the losing players to protect each other against the leader.

Pluto Attacks. Another cooperative game that I keep saying is finished. Then I go to a Protospiel and find out another thing to change. You are all teenagers in a small 1952 town in Kansas trying to save your town from invaders; think old B monster movie. This one is a dice chucker, where you use your skills to determine how many dice to roll to try and take cards to prevent the aliens from taking over your town.

Junk Yard Starships is the current design that I've got started. Here each player wants to be a starship captain, but can't get anyone to hire them. So you each decide to build your own ship from the scrapyard and try to complete missions for various organizations anyway. But the ships keep breaking down, and trying to keep them repaired while accomplishing the missions can prove tough. This one is still early in the design phase, so it will be making the rounds in the Protospiels.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet!

What is your day job?
Unix and Storage System Administrator. A long title that means "I work in IT" to most people.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Preferably at someones house, I think it makes for a more personal atmosphere and has less distractions. But I do more playing over lunch at work these days since that's when I seem to get the time.

Who do you normally game with?
Coworkers for quick lunch hour games, and the other members of the KC Game Designers, a group of designers that get together here in the Kansas City area to help each other get our games ready for publishing.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Hopefully something that I haven't played yet!

And what snacks would you eat?
Anything that doesn't get my cards all greasy (I'm one of those that doesn't sleeve my cards).

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually, but sometimes something that doesn't distract too much.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Tabletop Game and Hobby in Olathe KS. This is also where the KC Game Designers meet.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is my current favorite, a group of us play about twice a month. It helps to me to get my D&D craving satisfied.

Catan, I just don't care for this game that much, but I still enjoy playing with people that do like it.

Worst game? Some social deduction game I played at Gamehole Con, but I don't remember the name. Probably blocked it out of my memory.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Hm, this is a hard set of questions. I don't know that I have a particular mechanic that I favor more than others. As long as the mechanic makes sense for the theme of the game I'm probably OK with it.

My least favorite is anything that makes the game mostly luck.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Elder Sign. My wife and I both like this game a lot, but never seem to have enough time to get it out.

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?

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 mechanics change several times before I find something that fits. For Goblin Stole My Chicken I actually had the title for a few months before I figured out the theme to go with it, and then tried several things until it became what it is now.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered a few, haven't won one yet. I just can't get a design down fast enough to meet the deadlines, or at least I'm not happy with what I have by the time the deadline arrives. Some of the ideas from the contests have become the games I'm working on, so it's always worth entering.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I hate to admit it, but I am terrible with names. I keep forgetting who did which game, and most of the time I get the publisher mixed up as well.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I never know. Sometimes it's while talking about something with people, sometimes while browsing the web, sometimes while working on a different game.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Usually I work it out by myself until I think the base mechanics are starting to work, then bring in a couple of friends to hammer on it. After that take it to the KC Game Designer meetings and let the other guys do some tear down on it. And get it to Protospiels when possible. After all that, well, time to do some more testing with strangers.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Mostly on my own, with ideas from a few friends to get me through some of the early speed bumps.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. Full time job, and my wife is working on a masters degree, so we are both short of free time.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
The Dresden files. I absolutely love Jim Butcher’s books, and I think it would be awesome to build a game in that setting. I've got the Dresden files RPG and waiting anxiously for the Kickstarter Dresden co-op game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
To get to work on it and do it. Stop thinking you can't get it done, don't worry about it and just work on it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Make sure to design games that you like playing. Don't worry about trying to make something popular, or that fits what the market wants. If you like it, make it.

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: Escape From Lunar 7 and Goblin Stole My Chicken
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Pluto Attacks
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Junk Yard Starships

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Facebook groups: Protospiel, Card & Board Game Designers Guild, STARTUP Board & Card Game Designers

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 AND Star Wars, both are fun in different ways. Coke over Pepsi always. Never owned a betamax, so can't say much there.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking in the mountains with my wife, long walks when we can't go hiking. Reading a good book over the weekend when it's cold and snowing.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: instrumental, so I don't sing along. Books: The Dresden Files, science fiction. Marvel and DC movies, my wife and I love action movies.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading Shadowed Souls

Do you play any musical instruments?
Used to play the trumpet in school, and the piano some. I started trying to learn guitar but didn't have the time.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Since most of the crazy stuff I did was before cell phones and the internet, it shall stay safely hidden in the past.

Who is your idol?
Everyone who rises up and meets a challenge, even when they don't succeed. That's the kind of inspiration that keeps us moving forward in bad times.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Probably mess up the entire history of the world. Let's not give me this, OK?

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert most of the time

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?

Have any pets?
A mean cat

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 don't think I can handle the situation that you've presented me. I'm going to go watch something cute on the internet now.

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 everybody!

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

Game time is fun time!

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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