Thursday, March 30, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 62: Alex Westreich

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 or in the index.

Name:Alex Westreich
Location:San Francisco, California, USA
Day Job:Packaging Engineer, and freelance Print Production Coordinator
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Black Sands
Find my games at:In person in the San Francisco Bay Area
Today's Interview is with:

Alex Westreich
Interviewed on: 1/31/2017

If you're in any of the board game design groups on Facebook you've probably seen some posts by Alex Westreich. He's working on a game called Black Sands that should be on Kickstarter in the next few months. If you'd like to learn more about Alex and the projects he's working on, keep reading!

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 loved games in all formats, and with a background in print production and manufacturing, it was bound to happen. I've always found myself looking for interesting hybrids of genres with high stakes.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Black Sands, a fantasy arena brawler with unique low luck combat.

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

What is your day job?
Packaging Engineer, and freelance Print Production Coordinator

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Game night meetups at friends houses and at weekly events at FLGS's.

Who do you normally game with?
Competitive gamers

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
A pretty big variety of deck builders, euros and negotiation games.

And what snacks would you eat?
Bottomless tortilla chips and guacamole

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games of Berkeley

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Dominion has been an untoppled favorite of mine. I've always enjoyed Coup, though it has lost a lot of luster with repeated plays.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Both Magic the Gathering and Pathfinder. The first is hard with the time/money investment, and with the second it is hard to keep a coordinated group.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, RPG Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video 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?
I usually build both together. It starts with a spark of an interesting mechanic within a theme. From there, each needs to fully support and complement each other.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No, I usually don't want to design a game based on a prompt.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Wizards of the Coast has always been my favorite publisher

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Reading sci-fi and fantasy books mostly.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Small groups of friends and acquaintances as well as large playtesting events like Protospiel.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I usually work alone with contracted artists, marketers and ect.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Focusing on both the outreach and design/manufacturing sides of game publishing.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
A spellcasting game based on the Kingkiller Chronicles

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
A player's first experience with a game is the most important. Before each playtest, review your rulebook so you can best explain the most up to date information.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Meeting and engaging with players is by far the biggest and most important aspect of tabletop game design.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Black Sands: a fantasy arena brawler
Games that I'm playtesting are: Spellweavers: a fast paced handbuilding game
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Orc Chieftan: a negotiation game to become the most orcy.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Several untitled games

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

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, Rootbeer, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Archery instructor, blacksmithing, recreational fighting.

What is something you learned in the last week?
How to upholster furniture.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Indie/Alternative, Fantasy/Sci-Fi

What was the last book you read?
The Ember Wars series by Richard Fox

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I've built real armor and fought in recreational SCA fighting.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Spent 70 hours in one week building giant fabric wrapped boxes.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Applied to a program in college a year too early, but got in anyways.

Who is your idol?
Elon Musk

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Game the stock market, amass wealth, build space ships and mine asteroids.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

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

Have any pets?
Two dogs. One is half chihuahua half labrador. He's basically a miniature lab.

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 politics and the pettiness of humanity would be wiped out, but it is almost certain to survive.

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):
Sean Plott (Day9), the top video game streamer imo.

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:

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