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 or in the index.
Interviewed on: 1/28/2017
CB Droege is an active member of several of the game design groups that I frequent on Facebook. When he's not designing games he'd busy writing novels, RPG games, or doing voice work for documentaries and audiobooks. His first published game, Dragon Line, is a real-world creation of a game first imagined in an RPG world he created. Read on to learn more about CB and the projects he's working on.
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 started designing games for my friends when I was a kid. I was into all manner of game design. I learned several programming languages, so I could make computer games (at the time mostly BASIC programs on tape drives). I made boardgames and card games, wrote interactive novels, and designed RPG systems. All of this was just as a hobby for my friends until a few years ago, when I was encouraged to release one of my RPG settings commercially. That also led to other tabletop games.
What game or games are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on an expansion to my first card game, "Dragon Line", and I'm in the thinking stages for the next card game, "Interstellar Shipping Line".
Have you designed any games that have been published?
My d20 setting, "The Book of the Isles of the Sun", was published independently through a Kickstarter campaign. My card game was one of the stretch goals for that campaign, and so was published the same way. It's all through Manawaker Studio, my own small imprint, which I established years ago for writing projects of my own as well as collaborations with other authors.
What is your day job?
I'm an author and a voice actor. I was a journalist in a past life, but that work has dried up and I've turned to fiction. Most of my writing is supported by my Patreon patrons, and includes short stories, comics, and poetry. I'm working on a new novel as well. You've probably heard my voice before in a commercial or a cartoon or a video game. I 've done lots of projects over the years, though my most recent work is almost all audiobooks. There is a lot of demand for those these days.
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
I like to play at home with friends, but since moving into a smaller apartment here in Germany, I've been gaming with friends at a local game-shop instead. If you're ever in Munich on a Thursday evening, you'll likely find me playing games at the FUNtainment downtown.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Small World and Dominion are the two that hit my table most often.
And what snacks would you eat?
I try not to snack while I game. I find it leads to over snacking, but if I'm hosting I usually put out a bowl of Goldfish Crackers.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Symphonic music, especially video game soundtracks. I keep a well-stocked spotify list if you want to listen: https://open.spotify.com/user/cbdroege/playlist/7Fu66UtdvNzrwkLysdPzBq
What’s your favorite FLGS?
FUNtainment in Munich
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Small World is my favorite game right now, with Terraforming Mars a close second. Some of my friends really like Terra Mystica. I don't really 'get' that game and would never pick it up myself, but it's still fun to play through with the friends who enjoy it. Worst game was Princes of Chaos. We couldn't get through the first few minutes it was so bad. Lots of gratuitous complexity.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I think drafting is a very interesting mechanic if used well. Fighting over territory with dice is not very interesting.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
History of the World! It's similar to Small World, and I actually like it a little better, but it takes at least four hours to play, and requires EXACTLY 7 players to be really fun, so it almost never gets played.
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, Other 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?
In the case of Dragon Line it was theme first but only because of the game's strange history. It started its life as a fictional game. The characters in "The Isles of the Sun" campaign setting play a card game called Dragon Line. In the d20 game, your character plays the game, and you just roll dice to see how well they did, like everything else in a d20 system, but when fans saw it, they wanted to know more about how the game actually works, so I made it a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign. I put it pretty high, never expecting to actually have to make the game, but then the Kickstarter hit all of its stretch goals, and suddenly I had to design a new game, and all I had to start with was the name "Dragon Line" and the media, cards. In the d20 setting, the game is essentially a CCG, where the characters are collecting cards for the game around the setting, and the better cards they get, the more bonuses they get when they roll in playing the game, but I didn't want to make an actual CCG, so I designed a stand-alone card game to fit the theme and title. It became one of the most successful things Manawaker Studio ever released. Even more so than the original setting it was taken from.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
Mostly I get volunteers from my gaming group and from among my students (I'm usually teaching one or two sections of creative writing), but since I'm currently on sabbatical, and so have no students, I'm not sure yet where I'll get so many willing volunteers for the next game.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have very little visual talent, so I have to work with visual artists to get the job done right. I worked with three different artists on Dragon Line, and nearly a dozen artists for "The Isles of The Sun"
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding time. I love designing games, but it takes time away from my other loves, writing and voicing. It's tough to choose what art to spend time on when I have time for art, and since voice acting pays the most bills, it usually wins out for most time spent.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
As an author myself, I'm always design within the IPs I create myself.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The number one most important thing, more important than any theme or IP or mechanic, is to give the players interesting decisions to make. The presence of interesting decisions will make or break a game.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Dragon Line
The Isles of the Sun
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Dragon Line: Fade and Flow (working title)
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Interstellar Shipping Line (working title)
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Game Maker's Lab
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. Star Wars. Digital media only.
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video Games. Travel. Linguistics.
What is something you learned in the last week?
Finally learned to play Hive. It's very popular, but I'm not sure I get the appeal.
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like symphonic music, 90's alt-rock, and techno-ambient-world stuff. I read science fiction books almost exclusively. I've been enjoying anything Marvel puts out lately at the cinema.
What was the last book you read?
The most recent book I finished that I wasn't being paid to read out-loud into a microphone was "Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds, a classic of sci-fi that I'd been meaning to get to for a long time. It was excellent, and well deserving of its awards.
Do you play any musical instruments?
I was in a garage band as a teenager as percussion and vocals. I haven't played in a long time now, though I'm pretty good at Rock Band drums.
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
The first novel I ever wrote was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanfiction. It gave an alternate and more sympathetic origin story for The Shredder. I was 8.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert, unless I'm in front of a classroom.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Squirrel Girl is the best, but really I wouldn't choose to be a superhero.
Have any pets?
For most of my life I've kept cats, but not in this tiny apartment.
Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?
If anyone wants to help support my writing and game design, my patreon is at patreon.com/manawaker
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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