Tuesday, November 7, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 94: Daniel Grek

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 Patreon!

Name:Daniel Grek
Location:Somerville, NJ, USA
Day Job:I teach civil engineering courses at a community college near me and will be inspecting buildings over the Summer while school is out.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Facebook:Concrete Canoe Games
Other:Daniel (Concrete Canoe Games) in The Game Crafter Chat
Find my games at:Dino Dude Ranch: Hatchlings hits Kickstarter on November 7th. Dirigible Disaster is available from Letiman Games and on Amazon. My Unofficial Pandemic the Cure Expansion is available on The Game Crafter.
Today's Interview is with:

Daniel Grek
Interviewed on: 10/17/2017

Today is a good day for Daniel Grek. Today his second published game launches on Kickstarter. Dino Dude Ranch: Hatchlings is live with Letiman Games as of today! Daniel has also published Dirigible Disaster with Letiman Games and is an active community member on The Game Crafter's chat tool. He also has a pretty cool project coming up where he'll publish a series of 18 card games. So read on to learn more about Daniel and the projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I had gotten into the hobby with Dominion and Race for the Galaxy after loving TCG's when I was younger. I was watching a lot of Food Network shows and wondered why (at the time) there weren't more games about food. Given New Jersey, my home state, has a lot of diners I set out to make a game about cooking in a diner style restaurant. That game is still one I take out and toy with every now and then but I moved onto other designs over the years.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently working with Letiman Games on Dino Dude Ranch: Hatchlings, an expansion to their family friendly game Dino Dude Ranch. If you like adorable baby dinosaurs you are in for a treat. The expansion will be hitting Kickstarter November 7th and Letiman games will also be funding, on their own, a reprint of the base game. I have a few other, larger standalone games but my other main project is a series of micro games I will start Kickstarting next March through my own company, Concrete Canoe Games. The series looks to do small runs of simple 18 card games with limited stretch goals. I've also been developing a D&D 5e campaign that I hope to make available in the future.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
My first published game was a real time co-op released by Letiman Games called Dirigible Disaster. DDR: Hatchlings will be my second published game. I also have a fan expansion for Pandemic the Cure available on thegamecrafter.com and a few other designs I'm in the process of pitching.

What is your day job?
I teach civil engineering courses at a community college near me and will be inspecting buildings over the Summer while school is out.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
My wife and I moved into a small split level less than a year ago and have been turning the lower room into a game room. I like to play there whenever possible so I don't have to lug any games too far.

Who do you normally game with?
My wife and I have a small group of friends I went to college with that we get together every one or two weeks for a few games. This is also our main D&D group so we usually can get some type of game going once a week. We have enough other friends that will play board games so we try to meet once a week for games with someone.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Ideally, I like to pick one or two short games to have on hand. These are great for easing into game night, filling time if we order dinner, or even winding down after a long game or evening of gaming. We prefer to play games with less than 2 hours of play time so we can have some diversity in game night. If alcohol is consumed and there is no mental capacity to learn new rules we often default to Betrayal at the House on the Hill. This is a terrible idea because there are generally new rules each game but we get really invested in the story of the scenarios with a little wine.

And what snacks would you eat?
I like little fun sized candies because you can open up the wrapper enough that you can eat but your fingers don't get sticky.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
We tend to only have music in games that provide it for timers (Escape or Dirigible Disaster) or some ambient music for RPGs. Once we start listening to other songs the night slowly morphs into falling down the Youtube rabbit hole and it is all weird edits of Disney songs and mash-ups of KK Slider from Animal Crossing and Ice Cube. [GJJ Games] LOL, now you’ve got me searching YouTube!

What’s your favorite FLGS?
The Fallout Shelter in Highland Park, NJ is a comic shop that has started becoming more of a game store. They've always been a reliable place near me to pick up games or catch demos.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is Empires: Age of Discovery (formerly Age of Empires III). Lots of choices and turns don't feel wasted even if someone beats you to the spot you wanted. Easy to teach and very well received. Least favorite that I still enjoy I think would be Vast: The Crystal Caverns. I really appreciate it from a design perspective and had won it before but unless everyone knows how every role works pretty well I find that you can do everything right and still lose. Very reliant on other players making choices to stop the right people at the right time. I try not to go too negative with this stuff but the worst game I have ever played was the Awkward Family Photos board game. I picked it up during the initial CAH craze in hopes that it would have a similar feel but it just didn't work. You'd choose an awkward photo, roll a d20, and answer the corresponding silly question about the photo with the best answer winning the round. Questions often didn't make sense to answer with every photo and it was kind of a mess.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
A lot of my favorite games have Worker Placement mechanics so I think that wins. I can appreciate Take That style games when done right but I often find myself trying out more non-confrontational routes when given the option. Roll and Move and Player Elimination seem like the most obvious answers, though.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Haven't played Empires: Age of Discovery lately. I wish I was playing it at least once a month.

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, RPG Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I was a big fan initially when it came out. It got old with the same answers winning and the same jokes being made over and over again. Regardless of opinion on the jokes being made, I've found games like The Game of Things to be more fun as you can craft your own answers and tailor your content to the people playing. You can be blue with your friends and a little more polite with your in-laws and the game is still fun.

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 often like to work from theme first. Lately I have been giving myself initial constraints such as doing a Roll and Write game, but I still like to then come up with a planned theme and try to make specific mechanics fit thematically. If I do come up with an interesting idea for a mechanic but it doesn't fit the theme of what I'm working on I will break the mechanic off into another idea or look to modify the theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered a few on The Game Crafter and recently tried my hand at Button Shy's micro contest. I co-designed a cooperative action-point/deck builder set in WWII with Mike Wokasch (Starving Artists) that finished in the finals of a TGC contest earlier this year. That one I need to put some development work into but it is a really fun experience.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Andrew Parks has been a bit of a mentor at times. I've been impressed with some of his game ideas and his ability to adapt games to new themes or come up with games within parameters of various IP holders.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Dirigible Disaster from Letiman Games
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Dino Dude Ranch: Hatchlings launches TODAY! November 7th
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Highway to Shell: Turtles crossing the road to get to a nature preserve. A bit of lighthearted take that try to bonk turtles around the board and get yours closer to the goal. No turtles were harmed in the making of this game.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve (working title) and 2 other 18 card games from other designers as a line.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Spell Booked: A game of mages competing for the last room available at an Inn.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to count...

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?
ST or SW? I say two great tastes that taste great together. Orange Soda. Betamax does have a nice little window...

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Sometimes stage combat. I'm also getting more into building inspection on the side and that is pretty interesting if you enjoy the practice of construction. My wife and I like to travel whenever we can as well.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Details on masonry wall requirements in the International Residential Building Code (I'm an exciting rebel).

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I think music is much better when you listen to a bunch of different types, I guess I prefer various types of rock but I just listen to stuff that fits my mood. I have read more nonfiction lately (tied to engineering or economics) but I do enjoy some medieval fantasy tales as well. Horror movies will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter how poorly produced.

What was the last book you read?
The Crap Kingdom. I think it is technically a YA book but the story is a neat take on the young person transported to a magic land to save it.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Not as well as I used to but the guitar. I also used to play a huge variety of woodwinds but I lost a lot of that ability after band ended.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
In college I was part of a national competition where we would make and race canoes made of concrete.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I once tried to get a group of people to do a dance from West Side Story through the Olympic park in Atlanta, GA. It took me a while to realize that I was alone in my endeavor.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Dating my now wife was entirely accidental. Long story short, we hung out as friends so we could commiserate about the people we wanted to date not dating us and one night it just clicked.

Who is your idol?
Don't really have one person I look at as an idol. As I get older that's been less important. When I was younger, though, I would probably say Weird Al Yankovic.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Break it. Too much uncertainty with messing with time.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Either an extrovert that frequently needs to recharge his batteries or an introvert with a good haz-mat suit.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Iron Man. Superpowers are nice but financial freedom is pretty compelling.

Have any pets?
Two beagles: Steve Rogers and Natasha Stark (my wife did the deep dive into alternate Marvel Universes).

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?
Other than board games I do like American football and hockey but I think my vote would be for bar trivia. Bar Trivia is pretty great. It's a little mean but we may need all the people that spent a huge amount of time preparing for said event to take an asteroid for the team. I just think they're going to have a real, "told ya so," attitude and I don't know if I need that while I'm making shelter from old jeggings and fighting bears for honey.

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):
Shout out to all the chat regulars at thegamecrafter.com. That community has been a big part of my tabletop life and has pushed me to do more in games.

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

Keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook if you are interested in maybe testing out some 18 card games. We're putting the finishing touches on some and will need more playtesters soon.

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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