Tuesday, January 31, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 45: Eric Bittermann

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:Eric Bittermann
Email:ericb@skykingdomgames&#46com
Location:Chicagoland
Day Job:I work as a Network Analyst in an underground data center in the Chicagoland area, and I have been playing and teaching percussion (drums) for nearly 30 years.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:www.landofzion.com
Blog:www.skykingdomgames.com
BGG:Sky Kingdom Games
Facebook:skykingdomgames
Twitter:@skykingdomgames
YouTube:Sky Kingdom Games
Instagram:@skykingdomgames
Find my games at:Land of Zion is on Kickstarter since January 24th and in retailers soon.
Today's Interview is with:

Eric Bittermann
Interviewed on: 09/23/16

Eric is a fellow Chicagoland game designer that also owns Sky Kingdom Games. Unfortunately we haven't crossed paths yet, but hopefully someday we will get to meet in person. In the meantime though, he is currently Kickstarting an absolutely gorgeous game called Land of Zion that is worth a look, even if it's just to oggle the artwork (but consider backing the project, too). Read on to learn more about Eric!

Some Basics
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 had a love for gaming, and a desire to get people together. In a world that's consumed with digital entertainment and a generation that's stuck looking at their phone screens everyday; I wanted to create something that got people together - face to face. There's nothing like sharing a great game with great friends and good conversation.
What game or games are you currently working on?
I've been working on Land of Zion since around 2000 which will be the foundation for several titles by Sky Kingdom Games.
Have you designed any games that have been published?
No - Land of Zion will be the first title published if our Kickstarter is funded this February.
What is your day job?
I work as a Network Analyst in an underground data center in the Chicagoland area, and I have been playing and teaching percussion (drums) for nearly 30 years.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home or at the several FLGS places locally.
Who do you normally game with?
The last few years it has been with my development team at Sky Kingdom Games.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I'm personally a big fan of deck builders and story driven games.
And what snacks would you eat?
Dr Pepper and Twizzlers :)
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
That depends on the game and group I'm playing with, but I prefer something that doesn't distract from the game experience itself. Sky Kingdom actually brought on composer Bill Piyatut H to write an OST for Land of Zion which some gamers may enjoy during matches.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
No question - I have several Gaming Goat stores in my area that have a great selection and a great group of gamers! [GJJ Games] I love The Gaming Goat! They’re a great chain!
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I'm currently enjoying Scythe and several titles from Red Raven. I don't particularly have a least favorite or worst game choice. I'm not a huge fan of games that are strictly luck based with no skill involved.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Resource Management - Player Elimination
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Many of them since most of my time lately has been spent developing Land of Zion :)
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?
No

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?
Land of Zion had a theme first and mechanics were slowly added and refined over years of playtesting and feedback.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Never entered
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Big fan of Eric Lang and Jamey Stegmaier.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Many of my ideas and inspiration stems from childhood gaming moments that I enjoyed. Every mechanic I add to a game I have to enjoy doing.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
Land of Zion was play tested for multiple years by a group of about 12-15 gamers. Each session was about 4-5 hours long and we played focused on refining all of the elements of the game. How long the game took, balancing numbers, removing broken abilities and mechanics, and adding aspects we loved were all part of the play testing process.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Team based design and art is definitely my preference!
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding that perfect balance of fun and replay-ability using a theme that many gamers will appreciate. We hope Land of Zion has those qualities.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd love to create a project using the characters and world from Chrono Trigger - an old school RPG from Squaresoft (now Square Enix). I think the world and lore would open many possibilities because of the time travel used in the game.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
The challenge of designing and publishing at the same time as a first time publisher! lol
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Do what you love doing. If you're enjoying yourself and using your natural gifting and passion you're where you should be.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Land of Zion
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Land of Zion on Kickstarter started January 24th 2017
I'm planning to crowdfund: Land of Zion - Into the Depths - single/Co-op campaign 2017
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Land of Zion - Into the Depths
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Multiple Titles from the Land of Zion world and lore
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes - multiple gaming 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?
Both, Neither - Dr. Pepper, VHS
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Music - Percussion and Piano
What is something you learned in the last week?
That I need more sleep than I've been getting the last month preparing for a Kickstarter launch :)
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Symphonic, Fantasy, Classic fantasy or Sci-Fi
What was the last book you read?
The priest with dirty clothes by R.C. Sproul
Do you play any musical instruments?
Percussion and Piano
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
Nothing too surprising :)
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Went out in -25 degree weather without insulated boots in Ukraine :)
Who is your idol?
Big fan of Carter Beauford - drummer
What would you do if you had a time machine?
I'd love to visit my ancestors and find out what they did for their professions years ago.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Both - depends on the day and who I'm with.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Silver Surfer so I can travel through space.
Have any pets?
Yep - 2 dogs, some fish and a guinea pig.

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

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.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Quick Review - Vampires & Villagers: The Curse of Christoph - Kickstarter Preview

Vampires & Villagers:
The Curse of Christoph

Designer: Dave Logvin
Publisher: Askwith Games
2-4p | 30-45m | 10+
Quick Review - Vampires & Villagers: The Curse of Christoph - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

From Buffy to Blade, Dracula to Lestat, True Blood to Twilight... OK, maybe not Twilight...  But usually vampires and vampire hunters are pretty cool.  Who doesn't fantasize about being a creature of the night, stealthily sneaking up on unsuspecting prey, either as the vampire or the hunter.  As creatures at the top of the food chain it's thrilling to imagine that there might be something out there that can hunt us, and even more thrilling to imagine those that hunt the hunters.  In Vampires & Villagers: The Curse of Christoph players can take on both roles as they work to both build up the fearsome strength of their own vampire crypt as well as send angry townsfolk led by ruthless hunters to attack opponent crypts.  Will your vampire clan be the strongest once the town is wiped out?

Vampires & Villagers is a fast card based game for two to four players.  It takes 20-40 minutes and will be making it's second run at Kickstarter very soon.


Vampires & Villagers: The Curse of Christoph came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!

Overview:
In Vampires & Villagers players will play through four rounds, trying to build up the strength of their crypts while also defending against attacks against their crypts and attacking the terrified villagers.
The different card backs in Vampires & Villagers, featuring the game logo.
To set up the game you first have to separate all the cards into separate decks.  There are Master Vampires, Lesser Vampires, Thralls, Hunters, Turned Hunters, Villagers, War Events, and Terror Events.  Each player gets one Master Vampire and one Lesser Vampire.  Then the Lesser Vampires, Thralls, and Hunters are shuffled and two more creatures are dealt to each player.  Any remaining Master Vampires are returned to the box.  

Next the village square is set up by placing four Villagers in a tableau and four into a discard pile.  Then all the remaining Villagers as well as the deck of creatures are shuffled together to become the draw pile.  The Turned Hunter cards are set aside and may be used later in the game.  Each player also receives nine Stealth Tokens and two Link Tokens.  The War Events and Terror Events are set aside, near the village square, as are the Stealth, Mist Form, and Giant Bat tokens.
There are a lot of different cards and a lot of sorting required to get a game ready.
Now play can begin.  The first player is the player with the latest bedtime.  Since I usually end up going to bed around 2am most nights that'll probably be me.  I really should get more sleep, but then when would these reviews get written?

On your turn, all you really do is draw a card and play a card.  Then there are all sorts of attacks and abilities that need to be resolved, and that's where the meat of the game is.  When you draw a card, if it is a Villager it goes into the Village.  A Lesser Vampire, Thrall, or Hunter goes into your hand.  Then you can choose to either play a card from your hand into your crypt, or play a card to attack a creature in an opponent's crypt.

If you play a card into your crypt (either a vampire or thrall) you can choose to play it face-down and add two Stealth Tokens to it (if you have them), or face-up to use its abilities.  If you decide to attack an opponent you can either attack with a Hunter from your hand or with a Villager that has the Leadership ability.  Hunters are better since they're stronger, but village leaders can sometimes rally a sizable force, too.  Regardless of which you attack with, the rest of the village will show up to support the attack.  
Each player has a limited supply of Stealth Tokens that they can use for various purposes throughout the game.
However, between declaring an attack and resolving the attack (or after adding a creature to your crypt), you can perform some stealth or direct attacks on the villagers.  If you are attacking an opponent's crypt you probably don't want to thin out the village, but if you didn't attack a neighbor taking out a few villagers may score you an extra point or two.  First, any face-up creatures in your crypt can use their abilities (and you can choose to reveal creatures if you want).  Vampires can each kill a Villager and Thralls can kill one or two Villagers, but only if they were revealed this turn.  Creatures may also have other attack abilities that could be useful, too.  After resolving any abilities or direct attacks, stealth attacks occur.  Any face-down creatures in your crypt that have one or more stealth tokens on them may discard one stealth token to kill a Villager (only once per turn though).  If you manage to kill two Villagers with the same occupation (e.g. two farmers) or three different Villagers you'll gain a Bat token in your crypt, for bonus points at the end of the game.
Bat Tokens give bonus points at the end of the game, if you can earn them.
After resolving these attacks, any remaining villagers join the Leader or Hunter in attacking a crypt, if an attack was declared.  Crypt attacks also follow a series of steps.
  • First, if the attacking Hunter has the Word of Truth ability, the defender must reveal all creatures in the crypt, or discard a Stealth Token per creature to keep hidden.
  • Next, the defender may reveal hidden Thralls in order to use their abilities to defend.  A face up Thrall that was just revealed this turn can kill a villager, as long as the villager doesn't have Dodge.  If the Thrall has Rage it can kill two villagers without Dodge.  Vampires never defend other Vampires (except for Turned Hunters).
  • Third, hidden defending creatures can each use one Stealth Token to remove one villager, except Fearless Villagers and Villagers with Dodge.  The defender can gain Bat tokens if enough Villagers are killed during a crypt attack.
  • Fourth, any surviving villagers with Combat can each kill one Thrall with equal or lower strength.
  • Finally, the combined strength of all the remaining Villagers & Leader or Hunter is compared to strength of the attacked creature, plus any supporting Thralls or Turned Hunters.  
If the crypt defense is successful all the remaining Villagers (including the Leader) are returned to the village.  Defeated Hunters are discarded, unless they have been defeated by a Master Vampire.  If so, and if they are not Unbreakable, the Hunter is turned into a Vampire.  The Hunter card is removed from the game and the defending player gains the "Turned" version of that Hunter.  Turned Hunters will only defend their sire Vampire in crypt battles, not other Vampires.  The defender gets to draw a card (Villagers drawn are added to the village, creatures and hunters are kept in hand).
Villagers can be killed when creatures attack the village, or when creatures defend a crypt from being attacked.
If the crypt defense failed the creature was defeated.  Defeated Thralls are discarded (Thralls that defended a defeated Vampire are returned to the player's hand, unless they have Loyalty), Turned Hunters are removed from the game, and Vampires turn to Mist Form.  When a vampire is in Mist Form it is particularly vulnerable to attacks.  When a Vampire is defeated it is placed in the Village with one or more Mist Form tokens placed on it, face down.  Some Master Vampires let you add two Mist Form tokens, but most Vampires let you add only one.  You can add an additional Mist Form token by discarding one Stealth Token, if you like.  

At the end of your next turn any Vampires in Mist Form will rematerialize in the Village, but in a weakened state.  Reveal the Mist Form token(s) on the Vampire to see what it's weakened strength is.  Mist Form tokens have a value ranging from 0 to -5 on it.  The highest value (i.e. closest to 0) Mist Form token is used to modify the Vampire's strength (any others are just discarded).  If the Vampire's modified strength is less than the total strength of the Villagers currently out, that Vampire is destroyed and removed from the game.  If the Vampire survives it is returned to its owner's hand.
Mist Form tokens may weaken your Vampire when it rematerializes in the village after being defeated in a crypt attack.
Play continues clockwise until one player defeats all the Villagers.  That ends the round.  Then six new villagers are added to the table and an event card is drawn.  There are two types of events, War Events and Terror Events.  War Events tend to affect the players while Terror Events tend to affect the gameplay.  After the first round a War Event is drawn.  After rounds two and three the player that ended the round chooses which type of card to draw.  Some of the event cards effects are one-time effects and some are persistent, remaining in effect for the remainder of the game.  The player that ends each round also gains a benefit of gaining one or two Stealth Tokens and a Bat token.
After each round a War or Terror Event is drawn and resolved.
After the fourth round is completed no event is drawn and players tally their scores.  All creatures in your crypt are scored based on their strength.  You'll also get a bonus point for each Bat you've collected.  The winner is the player with the strongest crypt!

Final Thoughts:
I really liked the idea and theme behind Vampires & Villagers, and the game plays fairly quickly - anywhere from 20 to about 45 minutes.  There is a lot of player interaction, but it doesn't really feel like a take-that style of game.  There is also an interesting contrast between trying to build up your own crypt, weakening opponents' crypts, and attacking Villagers to drive towards the round end.  If you attack an opponent you won't want to attack the village because you'll want the villagers strong enough to take out your opponent.  But your opponent may take out enough Villagers to allow the next player to end the round.  This results in some interesting decisions and more depth than seems apparent at first.
Defeat the Villagers before building up your crypt and you'll fall behind,
but let the Village get too strong and they may attack you!
However, I feel the game fell short in a few areas.  First, and perhaps most critical, the game didn't feel balanced.  Often it didn't feel like it made strategic sense to attack an opponent's crypt.  It usually felt better to add a creature to your own crypt and then attack the village.  That would add points to your crypt, strengthen your possible defenses, add Stealth Tokens to your arsenal, and give you a point or two worth of Bats if you could kill enough Villagers.  The only time attacking an opponent felt necessary is when the village was strong, the opponent had few Stealth Tokens at his disposal, and you had no choice other than a Hunter to play.

Because of this we found rounds to go by almost too quickly.  In many rounds players only had one turn, and a few times the round didn't even last for a complete cycle, leaving a player without a turn at all for the round.  If all players choose to hold off on attacking the villagers the rounds last a bit longer, but as soon as someone takes out several Villagers either through direct attacks or through crypt defense, the village falls pretty quickly.
Lots of Villagers, but it seemed like too often they were too easy to defeat.
Additionally, the events felt awkward and even a bit out of place.  They almost felt like they were part of an earlier version of the game where events happened more frequently.  Some events felt wildly unbalanced as well, with some being mostly ineffective and others causing devastating effects, sometimes to all players and sometimes to just one player, and some others really need some clarification or refinement in the text.  I'm also not sure the game needs the additional complexity added by having two different event decks.  Only three events are going to come out per game, and only twice do players have a choice of the event type.  It would streamline the game a bit by just having one event deck with somewhat more balanced events, or maybe even no events at all.

Why there are two different types of events, and why their effects are so varied (some are super strong, some are pretty weak,
and many are very situational) is beyond me.  One event deck is enough, if any at all.
They just add more randomness when less would probably be better for the game.
Speaking of balance, the starting Master Vampires also felt unbalanced.  Two have identical strengths and abilities.  Bela the Flayer and Lady Cseithe both have strength 10, Darkness Spawn and Sire Slave abilities, and get one Mist Form token.  The other two seem significantly weaker.  Lafaura has strength 9 and only one ability (Sire Slave), but does get two Mist Form tokens.  Count Christoph (the game's namesake) only has strength 8 and two abilities (Cloud of Shadows and Sire Slave), and does get two Mist Form tokens.
Lafuara and Christoph definitely seem much weaker than Bela and Csejthe.
Less critical to the gameplay, but still important in a game is the artwork.  Some may like it, but I find it a bit haphazard.  The style looks like it wants to be simultaneously dark, and humorous, and mysterious, yet also contain a Disneyesque playfulness and cartoony feel.  However, it doesn't quite pull it off.  The artwork is busy and very dark.  Dark colors, not mood.  Many of the characters are shown in partial or all shadow, making them difficult to see - thematic, but it doesn't work for the cards.  The humor just misses the mark in the cards that attempt it.  The graphic design is also questionable.  Each type of card has icons on it that identify the card type, but they are in different places on each card and difficult to see.
Why are the icons scattered all over the cards?  And do you think they could be more difficult to discern?
Finally, the rules...  The rulebook is 13 pages.  There's a lot going on in this casual game, and a lot that has to be done in very specific order on your turn.  Doing anything out of order really messes up the mechanics and strategies.  Each step is described in detail in the rulebook, however with so much going on in the game there will be a lot of flipping back and forth through the rulebook.  And even though there's a lot of detail, it's not always explained clearly.  Fortunately each player gets a reference sheet... that's about the length of a rulebook...  Each reference sheet is a full letter size sheet folded in thirds with the gameplay summary and summary of all the different powers that Vampires, Thralls, Hunters, and Villagers can have, and whether those powers are offensive or defensive powers.  I found the description of turns and attacks clearer in the references, but the fact that the reference sheet is nearly as long as the full rules for many other games indicates that there's too much going on in this game.  The mechanics are far from elegant, not very intuitive, and the amount of rules underlines this fact.  There are a ton of areas where Vampires & Villagers can be streamlined into an efficient, fun filler game, and the rulebook is a great place to start.  A turn overview should fit onto a postcard sized card, or smaller, and the rules for a filler game should only take a few pages in a rulebook.  The complexity of the rules, and the amount of work needed for game setup (there's a lot of sorting decks, then mixing decks, dealing out certain types of cards, etc.) is really disproportionate to the length and style of game.
13 pages of rules are a lot for this light of a game.  Add in a pamphlet worth of player reference per player
and it's obvious the game needs a lot of streamlining.
Overall, I wanted to like Vampires & Villagers: The Curse of Christoph more than I actually did.  It feels like a game with promise, but still some rough edges and kinks that need to be worked out.  If I had played at a game design event I'd have been encouraging, and excited to see the next iteration, but it doesn't quite feel finished yet.  I do like the contrast between choosing to extend the round to add points to your crypt versus driving the round to its end by attacking the Villagers.  And I really like the mechanic of sending Vampires to the village in a weakened mist form.  The game isn't bad, it just feels unfinished to me.  But if it sounds like something you'd like to give a try, be sure to check out the Kickstarter, coming soon.  In the meantime you can follow along with the developers here: http://vampiresandvillagers.weebly.com/


Preliminary Rating: 6/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


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.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #13

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 January, 2017:


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
  • It should come as no surprise now that I absolutely love the Tiny Epic series by Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games. Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is the first not-tiny, but still epic game from that team. It's a huge 4x game that plays on a 26" x 39" board, has 80+ minis, and a bunch of cardboard constructs. Unfortunately for me the price is similarly epic, coming in at $100 for just the base game ($60 without miniatures) and $220 if you want everything. That's a bit outside my budget at this time, unless I can find someone to pay me for this puddle of drool...


Heroes of Land, Air & Sea breaks the mold of regular 4X games in that it is easy to learn, simple to play, and games only last 2 hours. It is a Scott Almes design after all, designer of the Tiny Epic series.

It's this simple: each player performs two actions per round. You can take a Capital Action, which could be followed by other players by using a peon. Or, you may take a Conquest action, which can be rallied and allow you to double down on your own actions. After each player has taken their two actions, players will collect resources based on the regions they control and then start a new round. This continues until a player triggers one of the four end game conditions: Expand, Exploit, Explore, or Exterminate!




Land of Zion ECG
  • Interview Coming Soon
  • Land of Zion is a gorgeous looking Expandable Card Game from a somewhat local designer (only about an hour away from where I live). If you're into ECG style card games be sure to check this one out.


Kiwetin
  • This looks like an adorable, light game with a fun theme. It's definitely for the more casual crowd, but it just looks like a ton of fun.


The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch
  • I have the first game in this series; On Her Majesty's Service. I really like that game since it's a relatively light puzzly type of game, but this one seems to be quite a bit different. It has some awesome miniatures and looks like an interesting campaign style game. The world that is being build for these World of Smog games is fascinating, creepy, and exciting. I can't wait to see more games set in this universe.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 44: Will Lentz

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:Will Lentz
Email:contact@gamenomicon.com
Location:Springfield, MO, USA
Day Job:Appraisal Review Coordinator at a bank.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:gamenomicon.com
Blog:gamenomicon.com
BGG:Gamenomicon
Facebook:Gamenomicon/
Twitter:@the_gamenomicon/
YouTube:gamenomicon
Other:Podcast - http://pca.st/gamenomicon
Find my games at:
Today's Interview is with:

Will Lentz
Interviewed on: 8/29/2016

Will Lentz is the founder of Gamenomicon, a company dedicated to bringing his game designs to light. He also hosts a podcast called The White Book, about the Game of Thrones card game. He currently has plans to launch at least two games on Kickstarter this year, so keep your eyes open for those. Read on to learn more about Will, Gamenomicon, and the games 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?
Well, I had spent a great deal of time playing card games competitively, and had been invited to playtest on occasion. It turns out that if you get that peek behind the curtain and get to see some of the iterative process, that it can frequently spark a drive to be in charge of doing that yourself. And so it was with me.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Currently working on a couple of games with plans to publish next year. One codenamed "Project Throne" at the moment and another with a full title "A Very Important Date."

Plus at least half a dozen others that don't have that firm of a timeline yet.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet. But planning to in early 2017.

What is your day job?
Appraisal Review Coordinator at a bank.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At a local store.

Who do you normally game with?
Longtime friends, but at tournaments I love meeting new people.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
D&D, Sentinels of the Multiverse, AGOT LCG, LotR LCG

And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not really. We usually talk too much to realize that there was music anyway.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
MetaGames Unlimited

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
A Game of Thrones LCG- Favorite, Not sure how to answer the second, and worst - that is hard to pick. Maybe The Game?

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love the "cardboard AI" of solo games. It's fascinating. Least favorite is easily dice rolling.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Twilight Imperium

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?
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?
I'm generally a theme first kind of guy. Theme is usually what gets someone to pick a game up off the shelf the first time. If you can't get them to do that, the best mechanics in the world won't save you.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Eric Lang

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Ha, generally in my down time during work, or while jogging, or showering. Any of those times where you can let your mind drift.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'll grab some local buddies that have been longtime gaming friends of mine. Just looking to branch out now.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I think being part of a team really helps iron things out easier. Plus, excitement is contagious.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting the first game out the door. That's a huge inertia hurdle!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Star Wars

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Just do it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Play as many other games as you can. Exposing yourself to more ideas only helps your own.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: "Project Throne" & A Very Important Date
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Not until early 2017
I'm planning to crowdfund: "Project Throne" & A Very Important Date in early 2017
Games that I'm playtesting are: "Project Throne" & A Very Important Date in early 2017
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: "Project Empire," Dug, and a few others without names yet.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A pair without names yet.

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

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, Coke, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Jogging, reading voraciously

What is something you learned in the last week?
Trademarks are very complicated

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Rock and alt-rock, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, All sorts!

What was the last book you read?
The Fifth Heart

Do you play any musical instruments?
No

Who is your idol?
Teddy Roosevelt

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Everything

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

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

Have any pets?
1 cat

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 we keep Dominion, and increasingly, I hope we lose Donald Trump.

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

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 43: Aric Jack

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:Aric Jack
Email:mozupro@yahoo.com
Location:Tucson AZ
Day Job:Lab manager for a Defense contractor
Designing:Five to ten years.
Facebook:Mozuproductions
Twitter:@Mozupro1
YouTube:Mozu Productions
Instagram:@mozupro
Find my games at:Local Tucson Cons: Rincon, Tucson ComicCon, and a few times a year at Tucons Unpub mini events and sometimes in store at our favorite LGS, Amazing Discoveries.
Today's Interview is with:

Aric Jack
Interviewed on: 8/29/2016

Aric Jack is part of the Mozu Productions team, a group of board game enthusiasts and designers that work to promote not only their own game designs, but other awesome games as well. Aric does reviews, convention coverage, game demos, and more. Keep an eye out for some Mozu Productions games, like AXIOM, hopefully coming to a game store near you sometime soon!

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?
Someone told me I couldn't

What game or games are you currently working on?
Several with my design partners at Mozu Productions, multiple medium weight card games, a Steampunk dice drafting worker placement game, a Steampunk asset control game, A sci fi space exploitation game.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet, got close twice though

What is your day job?
Lab manager for a Defense contractor

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Home, LGS, Conventions

Who do you normally game with?
A few close friends and design partners

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Abyss, Lanterns the Harvest Festival, DC Deck builder,

And what snacks would you eat?
Chips and dip

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
70's and 80's rock or 90's grunge

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Amazing Discoveries

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite: Abyss, Least fav: One Night Werewolf, Worst: Puerto Rico

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Fav, tile placement Least: Social deduction

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Frag or Lords of Waterdeep

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures 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?
No

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?
Both, but normally theme first

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered yes, won, no... Kubla Con, 2002 I think

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Random lightning in a bottle moments, brainstorming with design partners or friends

How do you go about playtesting your games?
In house testing first, partners only, then bring in random friends. Then ship to an outside test group/local unpubs

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Part of a team, co-designers

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Trying to create something that feels truly original and groundbreaking

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Battletech

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It's never enough, the ideas, good and bad, will never stop coming.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Read this The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian Tinsman

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: none, I won't touch crowdfunding at this time, we aren't known well enough and I don't want to run a company, I want to design games.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: One, Axiom, Sci-Fantasy trick taker
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: 2, Gears and Gauges, Sector Raid,
Games that I'm playtesting are: 3
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: 3

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
I follow some, but I'm not a member

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, Pepsi, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Photography, Mt Biking, binge watching Netflix

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Grunge, 90's country, 70's rock / Sci Fi / any genre, as long as it's good, which most comedies aren't since the 80's

What was the last book you read?
The Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman

Do you play any musical instruments?
no

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm a HUGE softy when it comes to dogs

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Got stuck head first in a hole in a cave

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Lost while walking the foothills of Mt Etna, at night, while it was erupting

Who is your idol?
John Campea, Collider Movie Talk

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back and buy a bunch of Alpha and Beta Magic the Gathering boxes and singles and hold them until now.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
a mix of both, more extrovert though

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Nightcrawler from the X-Men

Have any pets?
6 dogs, 4 Pugs, 4,8,13,15 a Puggle 7 and a Shepherd lab mix, 4

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?
Survive: Abyss, Lanterns, Axiom Wiped out: Cards Against Humanity

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):
Ben Affleck, "You were the bomb in Phantoms yo!"

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

I'd like to thank my design partners, Jamie Lewis and Mike McGinnis also in Tucson for joining me in this. Also Michael Girard for pushing me to get off my butt and submit games!




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.