Tuesday, August 1, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 80: Isaac Shalev

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. Support me on Patron!

Name:Isaac Shalev
Location:Stamford, CT, USA
Day Job:Data consultant for nonprofits
Designing:Two to five years.
Facebook:Isaac Shalev
Find my games at:Your local store, online game stores, Amazon, etc. PnPs of upcoming stuff is at my website, kindfortress.com/pnp
Today's Interview is with:

Isaac Shalev
Interviewed on: 7/31/2017

If you've been around any of the board game design forums you've probably seen stuff from Isaac Shalev. He's very active in the community and happy to share his experiences. He's had a few games published with a bunch more on the way, so be sure to keep your eye out for his games. Read on to learn more about Isaac and the projects he's working on.

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?
When I was punished by my parents as a kid and wasn't allowed to play games, I'd design my own games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My partner and I are always working on a few games at a time. Right now, I'm excited about Energy Engine, Beneath the Sands, and First Contact.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. Ravenous River, ChronoSphere, Retreat to Darkmoor and Seikatsu are out now. A few others are signed and making their way out into the world over the next 12-18 months.

What is your day job?
Data consultant for nonprofits

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere that's not wet or windy

Who do you normally game with?
I game at my local gaming store with a shifting group of attendees. I also game with my three kids, and recently, with my wife too.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
If I'm having people over, we're usually playing something longer, like War of the Ring or Terraforming Mars.

And what snacks would you eat?

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

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Battlegrounds Gaming in Norwalk, CT

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite is Jump Drive, but it's not in my all-time top-10. The worst game I've ever played? I play a LOT of prototypes, so that's not really a fair question.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Card-driven mechanisms like in Twilight Struggle are great. I tend not to like social deduction.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
High Frontier. It's such a beast to teach, and it's not a short game either.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video Games, Other 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?
I come up with ideas based on a dynamic, a set of relationships that are in tension with one another. But the truth is you need some mechanics to prototype a game, and if you have a theme it will answer many questions and be a source of ideas. And don't forget components! I love grabbing some components and challenging myself to make a game out of them.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes (and yes, I was one of the winners)

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I love and look up to many designers. Phil Walker-Harding is a designer whose clean style, focused design and smooth gameplay is a real inspiration.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
If I knew, I'd have a glass of it every day! Inspiration happens when you're consistent and do the work, but I don't know exactly what triggers it. If you stop doing the work, your brain disengages and moves on to something else. When in doubt, go for a long walk, or look at art, or read a really challenging book.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start with a solo test, then I inflict it on my son, then I make it prettier and test with my playtest groups.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I co-design with Matt Loomis. Neither of us are artists, so we have teamed with graphic designers and illustrators on our published games.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
There's never enough time!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Isaac Asimov's Foundation series [GJJGames] I loved this series! It’s what got me interested in sci-fi back in high school. I’d love to reread it...

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Playtesters are always right, even if their ideas about how to fix it are wrong.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The only way to know if a game is good is to let other people play it.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: ChronoSphere, Ravenous River, Retreat to Darkmoor, Seikatsu
Games that will soon be published are: Flip the Table, Daimyo, Crimson Sails, Show & Tile
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Space Race, Dance of the Druids

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

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, Seltzer, streaming

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Ain't nobody got time for that!

What is something you learned in the last week?
That silos is actually spelled siloes. Who knew!? [GJJ Games] Actually, silos and siloes are two different things. Silos are those things on farms for storing grain, or underground missile launch tubes. Siloes are isolated systems or processes. Both have the singular ‘silo’ though. And now I learned something new this week, too! =)

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like music, books and movies that help you think about life and big ideas. Also, comic book movies and RuPaul's Drag Race.

What was the last book you read?
My Favorite Thing is Monsters

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes,mostly guitar, and a little bit of keys.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I once ran a theater company.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Started designing board games.

Who is your idol?
Albert Einstein

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Destroy it immediately.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert, or possible really bad at being an introvert? Somebody mentioned the term ambivert to me, but I can't decide if that's just being indecisive.

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

Have any pets?
My dog, Ione.

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: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

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