Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #25

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.
So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the fourth Friday of July, 2017:


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
The Spiel Press Roll and Write Gamebooks - Book 1 and 2
  • Roll & Write games seem to be rising in popularity lately, and these two games seem like they are taking the genre to a whole new level. Deeper strategy, campaign style play, and an absolutely gorgeous presentation set these apart from most other roll & write games.


Chart the universe in Star Maps or hold the throne in Blood Royals. Strategy game books with full color, perforation, and variable play.

These game books change as you play them. Depending on the game, this happens in different ways.

In Star Maps, the book changes in two ways as you play. First, the winner of a game will be able to name a star on a special star map in the book. Eventually, winners will be able to build a constellation using those stars. At the end of the book, this will be your great discovery, the cooperate hard work of all games played and won.

The second way is through technology. Players who don't win can unlock new technology. Unlocked technologies gives Bonuses players can use during the game. In future games, any player can use any available technology. In this way, both the winners and the not-so-winners get to affect the story elements.

In Blood Royals, players take on the role of would-be monarchs competing for the throne. When you take a game sheet, it marks who you are. You and your opponent will always be political rivals (ex: Ulthar and Theonid). After you play, the winner is significant. In your next game, you'll circle the name of the character who won the last game. In this way, it creates a "lineage" of kings during your campaign. In addition, you'll read the fiction specific to the new King. That fiction will set up the next game, often asking the players to adjust their sheets in some way.





Perdition's Mouth: Traitor Guard EXPANSION
  • I had my eye on Perditions Mouth when it was originally on Kickstarter and now there's an expansion available. This still looks like an incredible horror game with some really cool mechanics.


Feudum: The Queen's Army
  • Feudum is another game I ogled over in its initial Kickstarter run, and now there's a new solo play expansion. Plus, if you didn't grab the game in the original campaign there's a Big Box version available here with all the other expansions for a somewhat reasonable price.


A Place in the Sun
  • Here's a game with some pretty unique mechanics where actions are determined by the positioning of a dial. I love the space theme, and the mechanics look like they're a fresh take on deck management and action allocation.


Master of the Galaxy
  • A space themed 4x game with bag-building, resource management, area control, tech-tree development, and card drafting? Yes please!


VISITOR in Blackwood Grove
  • I really like deductive logic games, and this looks like a super interesting take on that style of game. Plus I love the E.T. theme here!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 78: Daniel Zayas

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.


Name:Daniel Zayas
Email:dmzayasplus@gmail.com
Location:Phoenix, AZ
Day Job:Consulting Creators and Marketing Board Games
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:dzayas.com
Blog:dzayas.com
BGG:dmzayas
Facebook:The Daniel Zayas Company
Twitter:@zayasgames
Instagram:@zayasgames
Find my games at:Kickstarter ;)
Today's Interview is with:

Daniel Zayas
Interviewed on: 5/15/2017 & 7/22/2017

This week we have a special People Behind the Meeples interview with Daniel Zayas, a name many of you may be familiar with. While Daniel has worked on designing a few games, he is best known for his work in the Kickstarter community as a reviewer, blogger, and campaign consultant. Today's interview is about Daniel in his capacity as a Kickstarter Expert, according to Kickstarter's own site.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start helping tabletop game crowdfunding campaigns?
I started helping tabletop campaigns as a reaction to almost no one in the industry working directly with creators to implement best practices. Reading blogs to learn on your own is great, but why not just hire someone who can help you avoid the pitfalls in the first place? Especially if that person only collects from the Kickstarter funds itself versus how a traditional contractor is hourly. It is an all-positive scenario!

What campaigns are you currently working on?
Bridges to Nowhere, Manaforge, Skyways, AEGIS, and Loot & Recruit are some recent campaigns!

Have you worked on any games that have been published?
I have incubated many games which have been published over the years. Some examples are more hands on than others.

What is your day job?
Consulting Creators and Marketing Board Games

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I enjoy public spaces, so conventions and game stores are a good fit for me when able.

Who do you normally game with?
I normally game with a couple friends I know from a game night which used to be held in Phoenix. I am looking to revive that program since returning to town.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I really gravitate to clever card games. But I don't discriminate. I am down to play anything once. You will have a hard sell with me if you bring out a straight co-op though.

And what snacks would you eat?
I usually have a Powerade on hand.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually. I don't really put anything on, but I do enjoy casual beachy tunes when I do have music on.

What's your favorite FLGS?
I've only been to one called Games Depot since returning to Phoenix.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I don't really understand this question. My current favorite game is probably Terraforming Mars followed closely by Rococo, but I have been getting a few Valeria universe games on the table more often it seems. There is an ongoing joke at EGG that I keep unsuccessfully trying to promote Freya's Folly, which unfortunately hasn't done well in sales, but is a brilliant game. I don't really have a least-favorite game, but it is probably a co-op. Maybe Hanabi?

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I like saboteur or a hidden role/missions types of games. I dislike straight co-ops.

What's your favorite game that you just can't ever seem to get to the table?
Probably Siege of Verdan. I got the collectors box and that is intimidating on its own. But also it is a brutal game of killing and destruction, so I can imagine people being overly sensitive to losing. I think Siege is an awesome hand management game disguised as an area control game and I highly recommend it.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Other Games?

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
When I got started gaming, that answer was probably Stefan Feld. As I play more games, that is probably shifting to a tie between Eric Lang and Scott Almes. Fairly ironic that they seem to produce polar opposite style games.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
In the morning with a cup of coffee in my hand.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Rick and Morty

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
To listen to people who you think probably have your best interest in mind.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Stop procrastinating. Make something and don't be that guy who says I thought of that first. Go make it and stop complaining.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker's Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
All of them. I admin a good chunk.

Your role in the tabletop gaming industry…
Over the last few years you've run a series of web sites all about rating and promoting Kickstarter campaigns and board games in particular. I've been following along since, I think, the beginning. First you had the Meeple Mechanic, then Smarter Backer, and now The Daniel Zayas Company. Through it all you've changed and evolved your sites a lot, but some stuff has stayed the same.

What can you tell us about the history of your involvement in supporting Kickstarter backers and mentoring Kickstarter creators?
I have been helping Kickstarter creators and backers arguably since launching my first blog about 3 years ago. In that time, I have released nearly every week a top 10 list of new tabletop game Kickstarter campaigns. The actual list evolved from following a rubric of common best practices to now related to total money raised. I also have directly mentored countless creators on an informal basis in that time. This was in addition to my former position with Eagle-Gryphon Games and now through my new position through LongPack Games. Only recently was my consulting for creators formalized through the Kickstarter Experts program.

Through all your sites' iterations, one thing you keep coming back to is the "Badger". Can you tell us a little about your original goals of the Kickstarter Badger, or Board Game Badger, and how that evolved over time?
My original goal was to objectify a very subjective topic at the time, what was the ideal Kickstarter campaign. As the rubric was refined, most anybody in the industry looking to do well on Kickstarter started playing to this rubric, which almost became a practical checklist of everything creators could learn from Jamey Stegmaier's blog. That goal shifted a number of times as I experimented with the format, even at one point soliciting weekly user ratings to earn a project more points based on its likes and comments. Now the list is simply to celebrate projects which have the most funding, separated into five projects which are funded and five not yet funded. This is likely the format I am to stick with for the foreseeable future because the listing stays true to my original goal of having nothing to do with my opinion of the actual game or campaign.

And why a badger?
The badger is where my opinion actually does comes in. I am not known for holding punches if I see something that can be improved. Users on my site need to register for a free account to see my opinions on the campaigns, but they are there! I eventually personified the badger moniker and made the mascot standing over every Board Game Badger and it is now my official logo for The Daniel Zayas Company.

One of the things I really liked on your old Meeple Mechanic site were the interviews with designers. In fact, that's what inspired me to start up my People Behind the Meeples series. You also did game reviews and more. I know you are keeping the Board Game Badger alive on your site, but do you plan to bring back any of the other features that you had on your sites in the past?
I did a lot of work early on to maintain the Foxhole Fiver project, something I am sure you can relate to. I ended up losing my data in an unfortunate hosting switch, and lost all of my content, including the Fivers. I got burned on the idea of content which would be valuable except right in the moment of publishing, so I have avoided starting up my own interview series again. One thing I have started is solicitation from experts in various fields for collaborative content, whether that content is hosted on my website or theirs.

Last year you became the Marketing Directory for Eagle-Gryphon Games (congrats!). What has working for an established game publisher that uses Kickstarter taught you about the behind-the-scenes of running a Kickstarter campaign and game publishing in general?
I probably learned a fair amount of humility if I am being honest with myself. The stakes are low for scorched earth arguments when you are simply the owner of a blog. When you are representing a large publisher who has entrusted you with their voice, you learn quickly that honey works better than vinegar. Practically, I also learned that you can plan everything as well as you are able, but things still go wrong and that is just part of it. It has helped me not leap to verbal fisticuffs when a campaign is delayed or a game production has minor flaws. It is all part of crowdfunding and I am just happy to be part of it lately, warts and all.

About Being a Kickstarter Expert
This is a good segue to the next topic I'd like to cover. You recently became what Kickstarter calls a "Kickstarter Expert" and have a feature on their Kickstarter Experts page.

What is a Kickstarter Expert and what exactly is it that you do for creators?
Kickstarter Experts is a new initiative by Kickstarter to separate the wheat from the chaff and truly endorse the companies and individuals helping new creators become successful on the platform. As a listee, I am a paid consultant who helps creators navigate campaign layout, production, manufacturing, freight shipping and fulfillment for their campaign. I specialize in consulting for future and current tabletop game publishers.

Do you only work with creators in the tabletop games category, or do you work with other categories as well?
I have one client currently who is not in the tabletop games category, a friend of a friend who has written a novel, actually. But I love my lane and am passionate about tabletop games. I always turn down project pitches where I don't feel I can help adequately and always refer them to the Experts list to find more people who can better assist the creator's efforts.

What are the top 5 things you'd recommend that a creator should or shouldn't do for their campaign?

  1. A game creator should not become a publisher unless he or she has money and time to invest in the art and marketing of a campaign. Emphasis on the art. That means outsourcing his or her own shortcomings and paying for that.
  2. A creator should not hire me unless he or she is ready to possibly transform a game itself to perform better on Kickstarter. This is what a publisher would likely do, so be ready to kill your darlings to make a viable product.
  3. Every Kickstarter today lasting longer than 10 days need substantive stretch goals. If you have a problem with that, pitch the game to a publisher. They will approve it and publish it traditionally or change it to build in stretch goals for a Kickstarter themselves.
  4. Listen to all advice from all sources, but pay attention to where the advice is coming from, too. Some people with strong opinions don't have any foundational experience to speak of as a publisher or a Kickstarter creator.
  5. Lastly, create content. George Jaros is better off to launch a tabletop campaign than other would-be publishers because people know he is invested in the board game industry based on the time investment of constantly and consistently blogging. Same goes for me, same goes for Jamey Stegmaier, same goes for any other would-be publisher.

There are a few controversial topics when it comes to running Kickstarter campaigns. I'm not sure there are right or wrong answers to any of these, but what are your opinions of the following topics?

  • Early Birds - Wrong. Early birds reward people who back you often times on the first day of the campaign. Those same people are most likely to have paid the full amount. So, even if you fund and used early birds to get there, you arguably threw away thousands of dollars, depending on the discount.
  • Free Shipping or Lower Pledge + Shipping - Right. Amazon spoiled American backers. You as a publisher live in that world, regardless of what you want the world to be. Offer shipping included for US backers, unless your campaign will include weighty stretch goals, such as in miniatures games.
  • No Promos / Kickstarter Promos available later / Kickstarter Exclusives - Right. I love Kickstarter exclusives. Why not? Because retailers will be angry? Most games on Kickstarter will never be on their shelves, so let them be angry. I say go for it. I will say that KS exclusives should also be used as convention promotions as well.
  • Using Kickstarter just for Pre-orders - Right. Kickstarter is for everyone. Kickstarter brings products to life which otherwise would not exist, and maybe some which would exist anyway, but the key is we get to be a direct part of the process this way. Kickstarter has democratized production, even if the creator is coming from the means to not require Kickstarter to manufacture a game. To those who whine about the oxygen getting sucked up in the room, I say to them, why not just be better and actually compete for backers instead of complaining about the way the world is? I want more of the products in my hobby and passion to exist, regardless of the source. I want my industry to grow.
  • Stretch Goals - to reveal them or not? - Right. I am in the camp of, "if you don't know that you will fund early, you should not be launching a campaign." In that regard, reveal the first 2-4 stretch goals at launch.
  • Premium pledge tiers, e.g. get your image in the game, etc. - Sometimes. I think personally those are gimmicky, but I have seen it work firsthand. I will not outright say not to try them. I will say instead to know your audience and make your decisions accordingly.
  • Promo only pledge tiers, e.g. support us and get just a t-shirt, etc. - Wrong. People are there to back a game. Do not distract your backers with a million ancillary purchase options. In general you should be aiming for less pledge levels than more. Trim the fat.
  • Anything else that stirs up discussions you'd like to leave your opinion on? - Here's a big personal wrong which has come up in the past and has lead to vitriol against me to no end. Embargos for Kickstarter releases are backward and old fashioned. The campaigns which employ them are generally attached to strong IPs and would have funded anyway. These campaigns specifically always benefit more from the hype of the earliest announcement possible. If you are ever offered this information which would be valuable to your audience on an embargoed press release, I say publish it immediately. Save them from themselves with such a terrible marketing decision.

Aside from tabletop games, what is your favorite Kickstarter category to peruse?
I went to a journalism school, even though I focused in public relations and crowdfunding. There is a lot of great work being done in the journalism category on Kickstarter and I highly recommend you help fund the projects which impact your life.

What was the very first Kickstarter project that you backed? The most recent?
The first project. I honestly don't remember off hand and I also swapped to a new Kickstarter account in anticipation of the Experts program. The most recent Kickstarter I backed was the Ascended Kings game. Go check it out!

Obviously we hope that all campaigns we back and support are successful, but sometimes they aren't. What is the campaign you were most hoping would be successful that just didn't pull it off?
I do not have remorse for failed campaigns because they can always regroup and relaunch. I am generally more annoyed by relaunches which look identical or too similar to the prior campaign, having not learned the lesson they needed to learn which caused them to fail in the first place. One specific campaign I am looking forward to is ELO Darkness, which made my Badger list but ended up cancelling. They are slotted for a September 5 relaunch, so I will have my eye out to see how they do.

Were there any campaigns you were surprised didn't make it? Any you were surprised were successful? And why?
I am less and less surprised by successful and unsuccessful campaigns overall. You realistically only need 200-400 people to pledge to fund most board games. That is an infinitesimally small amount of people you need to believe in your product and get you over the finish line. It has seriously gotten to the point where if you don't fund on day one or two, you shouldn't have launched in the first place. I would advise future creators to spend a lot more time in premarketing to capture the most potential backers and then continue to keep them engaged through the whole process. If you are not a type A extrovert, this may be a position you outsource.

There are a lot of Kickstarter Experts on that list, including a few others who say they work with games. What reason should a creator choose you over one of the other experts?
I don't think creators should hire me without also looking into the services of other Experts. We all have different models that work for our needs and different skillsets we bring to the table for campaigns. I will say that even though other Experts also work in games among a number of other categories, I only work in tabletop games within the Games category. I am good at incubating tabletop game projects, and I have the connections necessary to facilitate a smoother and faster build time, whereas I would be totally lost even with a video game project. I know that most self-publishers of tabletop games are not trust fund babies, so when I sign projects, it is under the agreement that I don't make money until we all make money. That is in the form of deferred payment related to the performance of the Kickstarter itself. That seems to be working, for now.

Do you have any advice for those of us that want to back a ton of Kickstarters, but just can't afford them all? Please? =)
That's easy. Use my curated lists of the best campaigns to back each week to spend your money in the best way possible. When you create a free account, you will receive an email update for new content, so you will never miss out on a worthwhile opportunity.

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 Enterprise, La Croix or some Mineral Water, and I am too young to have an opinion on either of those. I will say Chromecast over Cable?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I love to ride my bike around town, trying new items on various downtown menus. I also have two dogs who I spoil with bananas.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned how to create an ebook infographic using canva and the importance of offering an ebook on my site to generate subscriptions and sales leads.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Beach Vibes on Spotify. Also my friend is in a band called El West on Spotify which I listen to often. I like to read edutainment sort of books, like Creative, Inc. or anything by GaryVee. I watch a lot of movies. Most recently I enjoyed Handsome on Netflix. Before that, I rewatched Big Trouble in Little China.

What was the last book you read?
Last book was Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. That is a head scratcher for any sci-fi fans.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I actually had my first run in with college under a choral music program, and I picked up very basic piano. I recently bought a piano and am refurbishing it to eventually play again.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I was an airborne cryptologic linguist in the US Air Force. I still know a lot of Korean I learned in my time there.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
In the military, I was stationed for training in Monterey. A couple friends and I hatched a crazy idea to get some In-n-Out a couple towns over. None of my friends had vehicles at the time as we were mostly just out of basic training. So we were left to navigating on our own via the public transit system, which was lacking in that area to say the least. We ended up walking a few miles at the end of it to reach In-n-Out. That's not really the crazy I think you had in mind, but I don't think I would make the same trip again.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
When I was younger, I went to a water park in southern California called Raging Waters. At Raging Waters, they have this ride called the Black Hole. I wanted to ride on my own instead of with a family member. But I didn't really weigh enough, so when I started down the slide on an inner tube, I didn't actually have enough momentum and stalled. The workers there couldn't see or hear me, so they sent the next party down, my mom's boyfriend at the time and my brother. They ran into me so hard that I did a flip in the air, they grabbed me so I didn't fly off the ride, and I rode the Black Hole on top of them the whole way down.

Who is your idol?
I am a fan of Scott Bakula. Seen a majority of his stuff from Quantum Leap and Star Trek Enterprise.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would jump to a future where they have solved death and bring that technology back as early as it would be feasible to use.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert. On the Briggs-Meyers System, I am a ENTP, which 16 Personalities defines as the Debater.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I would be Dr. Who

Have any pets?
2 Dogs! Einstein and Darwin

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 everything survives and nothing is forgotten.

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):
I'd like to give a shout out to Scott Bakula and Dr. Who for being such great answers in this interview.

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

Be sure to read the Board Game Badger on my site every Sunday to see the best new tabletop game campaigns I think you should back or follow.




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.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

GJJG Game Reviews - Herbaceous - by Pencil First Games

Herbaceous
Designers: Steve Finn,
Eduardo Baraf, Keith Matejka
Publisher: Pencil First Games
1-4p | 15-20m | 8+
GJJG Game Reviews - Herbaceous - by Pencil First Games
Disclaimer

One hobby that my wife and I have is gardening.  Maybe I should say 'had' though.  As our boys have gotten older and more involved in extracurricular activities, and homeschooling them has gotten more time consuming, gardening has taken a bit of a backseat (and the sorry state of our garden is the result).  Fortunately they're very interested in gaming and my involvement in the hobby has grown immensely in the last few years.  But I still miss my time gardening and enjoy the little time I get to spend outside, even if it's just pulling weeds or mowing the lawn.  Fortunately there's Herbaceous, which let's us scratch that gardening itch without all the sweat and dirt.

Herbaceous is a quick filler for one to four players from Steve Finn (Biblios, The Butterfly Garden) and Eduardo Baraf (Gempacked Cards, The Siblings Trouble), both very well known for their quick, family friendly games.  Herbaceous even has a solo variant designed by Keith Matejka (Roll Player, Bullfrogs).  But the star of the game is the gorgeous artwork by Beth Sobel.  As in all of her artwork, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.

So, we know the game looks great, and had some great names attached to it.  Does it stand up to expectations?  Read on to learn more.

Game Overview:
Herbaceous is a pretty simple game to learn.  There are really only two steps on each turn: Pot and Plant.  The idea of the game is that you're planting an herb garden and then potting those herbs for use in your kitchen once they're growing in your garden.  Each player will have their own garden, plus a community garden that everyone has access to, and four pots that they'll eventually fill with herbs from the gardens to score points.
Fill your containers with herbs from your garden to score points.
On your turn you'll have the option to pot your herbs before planting.  I'll cover this step more in a bit.  Then you get to plant.  When planting herbs you'll draw two cards, one at a time. For each card you'll need to decide to either plant it in your own garden or the community garden.  One card has to go in each garden, so if you place the first in your garden the second must go in the community garden.  Placing an herb in a garden means you just place the card face-up in the appropriate location.  That's it!
You'll have a private garden, public garden, and your containers to collect herbs in. 
After a few rounds you'll decide that you want to start your turn by potting some of the herbs that are growing in the gardens.  Each of your four pots has a different requirement for scoring.  The purple pot requires one card of each different type of basic herb (there are seven different basic herbs).  The blue pot requires all of just one type of herb.  The black pot requires matching pairs of herbs.  The green pot takes up to three of any type of herb, but this is the only pot where the special herbs (there are three of those, but they're more rare than the other herbs) can be potted.  The special herbs also give bonus points, and the first player to pot all three of them in their green pot earns an herb biscuit bonus of five points.  Each pot scores you more points the more you fill it, but once you put stuff in a pot you can't go back and add to it.  When you choose to pot, you can take herbs from both your garden and the community garden.
Once you add stuff to a container you can't add anything more.
The game plays until everyone has potted their herbs, or until the deck runs out.  This is usually after about 20 minutes, so you can play several games in a short time!

Components & Packaging:
Even though Herbaceous is just a card game, the components are all top notch.  Everything from the linen embossed quality cards to the super thick box with UV spot varnish is premium.  Thanks to the very successful Kickstarter, there are even garden markers for each player to designate their own garden area and a great insert to keep everything nice and organized.  The markers have no real purpose in the game, but are a great, thematic way for each player to identify their own garden area.
The box, insert, and component quality is excellent! 
What really stands out about every aspect of Herbaceous, though, is the artwork.  Even if the game components were of the lowest quality, Beth Sobel's artwork would still make Herbaceous a stunningly beautiful game.  With Beth's artwork on top notch components, Herbaceous is probably my most beautiful small box game.  This is artwork that any gardener would love to have framed on her (or his) kitchen wall.  Beth has been creating some of the most gorgeous artwork in board games today (Between Two Cities, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, The Last Garden, Viticulture, etc.) and Herbaceous owes as much to her as it does to the designers.  It's her artwork that really makes Herbaceous a joy to play.
Every single piece of artwork is DELICIOUS!
The only thing that might make these components better would be scratch-n-sniff! 
Score: 10/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
Rules and setup are a breeze.  Herbaceous only takes about 20 minutes to play, so quick setup and learning are essential.  Setup consists of passing out four pot cards and a garden marker to each player (a reference card, too) and then shuffling the herb cards.  Depending on the number of players, you'll also need to remove some of the herb cards from play.  If you're playing with the flavor pack mini-expansion, you'll also shuffle two of the three spices into the deck.
All set up and ready to start playing.
I pretty much covered all the rules in my overview above.  So it's super fast to teach Herbaceous.  You can be up and playing with new players in less than five minutes!  If you're playing with the Flavor pack, when a spice card comes up, everyone does what it says, then you continue on with your turn.

Score: 9/10 x2

Gameplay:
Both Steve Finn and Ed Baraf are known for designing fun, light games that are great filler and family games, and Herbaceous may be the best yet from either of them.  Dr. Finn is probably most well known for Biblios, a great casual game of set collection, press-your-luck, bluffing, and bidding.  Herbaceous borrows quite a bit from Biblios, particularly that game's initial phase of collecting and distributing cards.  In fact, when I first described the gameplay oh Herbaceous to my wife her response was "that sounds like Biblios light", and it sort of is.  Herbaceous takes the collecting mechanics of Biblios and makes that the entire game.  This is great news for anyone who doesn't like the bidding phase of Biblios (like my wife).  That said, Herbaceous is definitely not just a rethemed, lighter Biblios.

For all that Herbaceous shares with Biblios, there are a few features that really set it apart.  Both games have a similar press-your-luck mechanic where you draw a card, decide where to put it, then draw again, but in Herbaceous you are only drawing two cards per turn, so the feel is different.  The press-your-luck element doesn't feel quite so stressful, especially since the card you didn't take will go into the community garden, so there's a chance you'll still get to grab it if it's the card you need.
Cards added to the community garden are still available for your use, until someone else grabs them. 
The set collection is also much more straightforward in Herbaceous.  Since all gardens are publicly visible, the decision of what to keep and what to put in the community garden is fairly strategic at times.  You know what everyone is collecting, so you can make decisions based on known info.  In Biblios the sets everyone are collecting are much more secretive, especially since some sets may get dumped during the auction phase, and you never see what someone takes, only what they offer up publicly.  Herbaceous is both more friendly and occasionally more cutthroat because of this public information.
You can see who is collecting what, and set scores are very clear, so sometimes you'll
take a card you don't want just so someone else can't get it.
My wife enjoyed Herbaceous a lot more than Biblios and everyone else I played with had a great time, too.  Turns move quickly, so there is very little downtime.  The hardest decision is when to pot your herbs, but since that happens at the beginning of your turn it's something you can be thinking about and planning between turns.  At least until the player before you pots some herbs and uses those plants from the community garden you were planning to snag.
Building a set and scoring some points!
Also available for Herbaceous is the three-card mini-expansion called the Flavor Pack.  If you choose to use these, two of the three are shuffled into the deck.  When they come up they 'spice' things up a bit.  Each spice has an effect that affects all players.  This might allow players to steal herbs from a neighbor, add something to an already potted set, or take an herb from the community garden.  These do exactly what their name implies.  They don't change the game drastically, just spice it up a bit.  Unfortunately the flavor pack isn't available in retail copies of Herbaceous, but if you really want the cards, keep an eye on the next Pencil First Games or Dr. Finn Games Kickstarter to grab a set.
The flavor pack is very flavorful!
One other thing worth mentioning is that Herbaceous has a solo variant as well.  The solo variant was designed by Keith Matejka, of Roll Player and Bullfrogs fame.  I found the solo game to be very light.  It's more of a snack than a savory meal.  Play is very similar to the standard game, except you start with half the deck and on each turn you put one card in your garden, one in the community garden, and one gets discarded from the game.  Whenever the community garden fills up to five cards they're all discarded from the game, which does provide some tension and forces you to make some critical decisions.  However, with so many cards removed from the deck I felt that there was way too much luck in the solo variant.  Mechanically it worked, but I felt like my success was based more on chance than skill.  So while I love Keith's games, and I think Herbaceous makes a great multiplayer game, as a solo game it felt a bit bland.  I won't knock the score though, because the game is really meant to be multiplayer, and that's where it is most delectable.
While still fun, the solo variant felt like just a diversion, not a full game. 
There is also a team variant, however I didn't get a chance to try that out.  In team play players draw three cards each turn, one for their garden, one for the community garden, and one for their partner's garden.  Team scores are summed at the end to determine the winning team.  Expert team variants include limiting tabletalk and having the team only score the lower teammate's points.

Score: 9/10 x3

Replayability:
Herbaceous plays very quickly, especially after you have a couple of plays under your belt.  You can knock out a game in under 30 minutes pretty easily, and even under 20 minutes sometimes.  It's a great game to introduce to new players, warm up with at game night, as a filler, on your lunch break, or just to play whenever you have a few minutes.  Setup is quick, cleanup is fast, and it looks gorgeous!  Herbaceous is definitely a game that'll hit the table quite often if you like quick fillers.
Fortunately if you don't get the herb biscuit at first you can play another game!
Unlimited herb biscuits... I wish life was really like that!
Score: 8/10 x1

General Fun:
Everything about Herbaceous is fun!  From the beautiful, thematic artwork to the tight mechanics, Herbaceous does everything right.  It offers a game that is light enough to allow for social conversations, but strategic enough that it doesn't just play itself.  You can play this with non-gamers and have a great, casual time, and you can play it with seasoned gamers and have a great, cutthroat time!  I've had a blast with everyone I've played with, from family to gamers, kids to adults.
Filling up your containers with savory herbs is a ton of fun! 
Score: 8/10 x2

Overall Value:
Herbaceous has a $25 MSRP, but you can find it for about $22 on Amazon and other online retailers.  For a game that is essentially a large deck of cards, that may sound a bit high, but the component quality, gameplay mechanics, and box size all feel right for that price.  Considering that four people going to a movie for two hours is about $50, you'll definitely get more entertainment than that from Herbaceous.  It's well worth $20-$25 for such a beautiful, fun game.
For $25 or less you can get cards that are almost worth framing!
Score: 8/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
When I first saw Herbaceous I was drawn in by the artwork, but after reading about the mechanics I wondered how similar it would be to Biblios.  I didn't back the Kickstarter because of this concern.  My gaming budget is limited and I thought I didn't need another game just like Biblios in my collection.  But when the opportunity to review Herbaceous came up I jumped at the chance.  I'm thrilled that I did!  Herbaceous definitely stands out as a unique game, even though it shares some mechanics with Biblios.
I could sit and stare at these cards all day...  Except I'd get hungry and have to search down an herb biscuit...
 The more I play Herbaceous the more I like it.  Each game is different, and timing when you pot your herbs is critical.  I like the open information and interaction that the community garden promotes.  I like the swiftness of play and how games can be casual or very competitive depending on who you play with.  I absolutely LOVE the artwork!  I really can't think of anything that I don't like about the game.  If you want a quick game that you can play with just about anyone, grab a copy of Herbaceous now!
These special herbs get you some bonus points if you have them in your glass jar.
 Overall Score: 87/100



Want another opinion?  Herbaceous was also reviewed by Dane on the Everything Board Games Network!  Check out his review here!



Did you like this review?  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.








GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 77: Bryce McNalley

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.


Name:Bryce McNalley
Email:info@dicederbi.ca
Location:Alberta, Canada
Day Job:I am a Lieutenant Firefighter / Paramedic for a suburban community outside of Edmonton, AB. Working full time shift work has given me some challenges developing my games, but as a whole I feel it has been advantageous. It is however quite the contrast from career to hobby. One day however my hobby WILL become my career.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:dicederbi.ca
Blog:tumblr.com/dicederbi
Facebook:facebook.com/dicederbi
Twitter:@dicederbi
YouTube:youtube.com/dicederbi
Instagram:@dicederbi
Find my games at:Amazon (Canada) as well as many other online stores. They can also be ordered directly from www.dicederbi.ca . There are not currently any USA dealers...but I will have many of them soon.
Today's Interview is with:

Bryce McNalley
Interviewed on: 6/16/2017

Coming up in my review queue is a fun dexterity game called Dice Derbi by Bryce McNalley. Here's a spoiler: it's not a deep, meaty Euro, but it's a ton of fun! It's great to get non-gamers playing something and great for outdoor play. This is the first game that Bryce has published, but he has a whole line of similar games planned. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Bryce has up next, but read on and you can learn more about Bryce and his projects!

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 began designing tabletop games because I recognized a new play style that I incorporated into my games designs, and have decided to run with it and take it all the way. My passion is enriching people's lives and I find that the games market is a very genuine way to do this.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently working on an entire library of games for my company, %90 of them are top secret (not even my wife knows) but I have concepts and prototypes for many of them. There will be another title released very soon however...

Have you designed any games that have been published?
My original creation called "Dice Derbi" is published and already has sold hundreds of copies, and I look forward to selling many many more to gamers all over the world. My mission is to "Bring FUN and ADVENTURE to game nights across the globe!" and I plan on doing whatever I have to do to achieve it.

What is your day job?
I am a Lieutenant Firefighter / Paramedic for a suburban community outside of Edmonton, AB. Working full time shift work has given me some challenges developing my games, but as a whole I feel it has been advantageous. It is however quite the contrast from career to hobby. One day however my hobby WILL become my career.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I am a big fan of party games so you will usually find me playing games with friends at a get-together or at home for an intimate gathering. I enjoy playing games outside as well and that is why I have accustomed Dice Derbi to be playable on picnic tables.

Who do you normally game with?
I have a small group of friends that usually game together, and my family is also very into games. Whenever we get together for holidays there are always many games out and being played. Anything from Scrabble to Outburst, Monopoly to Chess, and Dice Derbi to Cranium.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Well obviously we would have to bust out Dice Derbi and have a few rounds of it, I would let people provide some insight into my future titles, and then we would wrap things up with the Drinking Game version of Dice Derbi (soon to be released as a pdf download / add-on to the original game) and we also like Cards Against Humanity.

And what snacks would you eat?
Chips and dips...that is all there needs to be!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I am a big music fan so absolutely there has to be ambience and mood. Music is by far the best way to create this. Turn the lights down and turn on some classics or even top 20.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
My go-to store up to recently has been River City Games as they always have a great selection of what I need. However since several stores now carry my game as part of their inventory, I have to honestly say all of them because they are all unique in their own regards and I have developed relationships with the people that work there and run them. That is after all the most important part, the relationships we get to build with each other!

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Aside from my own creation obviously, I would have to say that my favourite game is Slang Teasers. A classic that takes me back to my childhood every time I play it. Very rare these days, but still a classic that deserves to be reborn.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love group interaction in games. It's a great way to get people involved and create great memories. There are also times when I enjoy a 2 player game of crib or something similar with my wife, but I definitely prefer bigger crowds when playing games, and I think my line of games reflects that.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
It truly is a shame that more people don't play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit...especially against me...I love the movies, I love the game!

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

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?
When I design my games, first of all I come up with a play style that is similar to all the other titles that I am working on. Afterall, it is the play style that makes my "Derbi" games unique. I usually think of a suitable game or sport that already has been established in the world, and put it into a game style that can be played on tables.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No I never have entered a competition, but it is something that greatly interests me and something I would jump on for sure if I had the chance. Being that I am still relatively new to the industry, I am still finding out new and exciting ways to get my game in front of people.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
You have to stand in awe of some of the great names in the industry, and for me it goes to Parker Bros or Mattel.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
It's actually pretty funny because whenever I have an idea I always say "uh oh....(and then I grab my head) "my brain is getting stormy!" I get my inspiration from my hobbies and passions. I am an avid outdoorsman and so making games based on those passions that already exist comes like second nature to me.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I do most of it myself and with my immediate family, but I also do have a large group of people who give me input through trials and test-runs. It makes things go much smoother having people I can depend on to help me out (and give me the honest truth and sometimes ridicule/critique ).

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like to work alone for the most part, however I do rely on artistry from other professionals, because that is definitely NOT my strong part. I design them, let others do the artwork based on my drafts, and then together we make a masterpiece.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The biggest challenge I think we all face as game designers is coming up with new and exciting ways to get people to play. Board games have been around for a very long time and people usually buy one, play it a couple times, and then quickly stack it with the rest of their games in the storage closet. Well, I am hoping to make a change to that habit.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I think the best way to answer this question is to say that I would be more than flattered to be doing this within ANY IP. I think truly that whoever gets to do this for a living is very fortunate. I think we all grow up wishing to make games for a living in some way, shape, or form.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I honestly have yet to experience this "sensation" of wanted clairvoyance. I am sure it will happen some day, but in the meantime I have nothing but positive feedback from most people. I guess if I HAD to choose something I would say "Why didn't anyone tell me to do this a long time ago!" I have undergone a lot of personal growth over the past decade and learned a lot about chasing dreams and entrepreneurialism. Needless to say it's been incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
TAKE YOUR TIME! Test everything, take no shortcuts, and accept nothing but perfection. Don't rush things to meet deadlines, don't try to cut corners on quality, and never stop dreaming!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: I currently have one game called "Dice Derbi" that is published and available for sale.
Games that will soon be published are: That's top secret....haha
I'm planning to crowdfund: possibly some titles in the near future...
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: 2
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: 5

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
There are a few boardgame groups that I am a part of on Facebook yes.

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 ALL THE WAY! I want to be seen flying my Millennium Falcon sipping an ice cold Coca Cola Classic, with Empire Strikes Back playing on VHS in the background. I can see the illustration already...haha.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I enjoy fishing (obviously as my game Dice Derbi is based on that) and I also love hunting and camping. I play sports of all kinds including Volleyball, mountain biking, swimming, and much more. I am also very involved with music as a second passion. I play guitar, drums, and also sing and have even written my own music. I mess around with video editing, and I am very big into professional development and helping people achieve their goals and dreams.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned what a FLGS is from the previous question...

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I love the Top 20 type music, classics from the 80's and 90's and generally anything with a catchy tune or beat.

What was the last book you read?
Master Money - by Tony Robbins (A MUST READ!)

Do you play any musical instruments?
As stated above, yes I do. Guitar, drums, vocals, a bit of piano and I even played trumpet in my younger days.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I once hypnotized my sister and made her chase Smurfs around the campfire.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I like to think I have done many crazy things in my lifetime, but one thing that always stands out in my mind is when I was given the "pleasure" of being the first one to test out the new trolly ride in our treehouse. I actually got nominated because I was the youngest and didn't know any better. BUT, none the less I sat on the ride and flew 20 feet in the air across the zip line to the landing platform on the other side. SCARY? Hell yeah! Worth it? UNDOUBTEDLY!

Who is your idol?
I have a couple idols but one of my biggest ones is Leonardo DiCaprio. He's an amazing actor and I just really like his style. Aside from that I also am a big fan of Tony Robbins, Jim John, Nick Sarnicola, Blake Mallen, and my brother Arliss.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Oh wow...what WOULDN'T I do? I would take huge advantage of my knowledge of the future and establish a big chunk of wealth. Make myself famous, and then go retire on a lakefront mansion where I can fish and hunt every day.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I am very much an extrovert. I like to think of myself as a people-person and very outgoing.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Luke Skywalker ( kind of a controversial superhero, but he's by far the right choice).

Have any pets?
I actually just put down my great dane of almost 8 years, Apollo. He was my best friend his whole life and we had many great times together that have lead to some awesome memories. There are also 3 cats in our family.

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 really hope that dice live on! They offer such a tremendous experience with games. BUT as far as I am concerned we could put all the horses, tomatoes, and tax collectors under that asteroid and let it smack down!

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):
I want to give a big shout out to the person who read this thing through to the end. The person who might be where I was back when I began, thinking to themselves "can I do this?". There is nothing more satisfying that making it on your own terms...GO FOR IT and don't look back!

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

"The only limitations are those you set up in YOUR OWN MIND! There is no such thing as impossible. If you can believe it, you can achieve it!"




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.