Tuesday, March 6, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 110: Jim Brown (a.k.a. Layman Kingsford)

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:Jim Brown (a.k.a. Layman Kingsford)
Location:Denver, Colorado USA
Day Job:Game Designer & Ballroom Dancer & Musician
Designing:Five to ten years.
Find my games at:The Game Crafter, Cheeky Dingo website
Today's Interview is with:

Jim Brown (a.k.a. Layman Kingsford)
Interviewed on: 2/10/2018

Next week Jim Brown launches his latest Kickstarter for a game called RANKaree. He already has a few published games to his name, including the official ElfQuest Adventure Game. Jim also runs Cheeky Dingo Entertainment, so be sure to check out his site for more interesting games. Read on to learn more about Jim and his other projects.

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 used to own a game store/coffeeshop and when I was out from under that commitment, I started putting my creativity towards making games, not just teaching/selling them.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Living Starship Legacy BoardGame (and the interconnected Living Empires)

Have you designed any games that have been published?
ElfQuest® Adventure Game, HouseBoy, Drag Show, Dog Walker

What is your day job?
Game Designer & Ballroom Dancer & Musician

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home with friends

Who do you normally game with?
Several different groups of friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Generally cooperative games (Eldritch Horror, Battlestar Galactica, Dead of Winter, Mysterium)

And what snacks would you eat?
Usually we have a gourmet dinner (one of our group is something of a chef)

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes. Usually something thematically and/or tonally appropriate to the game we're playing.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Enchanted Grounds (I used to own it)

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Charterstone or Near and Far are my current faves. Least fave....hmmmm....I still enjoy Arkham Horror a lot, though Eldritch Horror is a much better-designed game. Worst game? You mean besides Monopoly? Probably Risk, though Risk Legacy is pretty solid.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
That's hard because I tend to like the mechanics of whatever game I'm currently playing. Deck-Building is at the top of the list and the card-crafting of Mystic Vale is fun. Least favorite probably is card-drafting (an element I ignore in Near and Far).

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
That doesn't happen often because I play enough games that most of them get cycled through with some regularity. Heavier-weight games for 4 or fewer players tend to get the short-shrift in my circles since our groups are either too big or not interested in heftier games. Star Trek Frontiers is one I'd like to play more often.

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

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?
For me, it is most often theme first then dig around and see what mechanics best work to express it.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not really, though Jamey Stegmaier did a tremendous job with Charterstone and is wonderfully open about the process.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Either in that time between sleep and awake or when I'm out walking the dog.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
With my friends and at conventions and at a monthly play testing event here in Denver at Board Game Republic.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I do both. I find working with a team makes the product better in the end as there is a wealth of perspective and ideas to pull from. Sadly, much of what I end up doing is designing on my own and pulling in others at various stages.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting games play tested sufficiently and generating attention/marketing.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Already did (ElfQuest) but I would love to be able to dive into games based on the Malayan book series' by Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Can't think of anything on that. I have spent most of my life pursuing creative endeavors, so I feel most of those hard-knock lessons I learned from publishing (stories) and performing (dance, acting, music) and from running conventions/events.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't let yourself feel defeated. Know that your failures will far outnumber your successes, but make sure you learn something from each of those failures so you avoid repeating them in the future.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: ElfQuest® Adventure Game, HouseBoy the Board Game, Dog Walker, Drag Show the Contentious Drinking Game.
Games that will soon be published are: Rankaree (A casual Living Starship Card Game) and 7 Sign Circle (a casual deck-building/legacy game for Living Empires)
I'm planning to crowdfund: Rankaree (early March)
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: 7 Sign Circle
Games that I'm playtesting are: Living Starship
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Living Empires

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Facebook: Tabletop Game Publisher's Guild, Board Game Reviewers & Media, Tabletop Publisher Announcements, Kickstarter Board Games, Megagame Makers

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 ALL THE WAY!! No to soda, period. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Ballroom Dance, music, acting, video production, emcee, fitness (though these are all side jobs I currently maintain as well). Drinking....like beer. And tequila. And whiskey. And...well, you get the idea.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Spinal surgery, when done right, takes someone from being crippled in bed to going shopping at Costco, dining out for lunch and walking upright in less than 24 hours.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm a sucker for pop music (Spice Girls). My favorite books, by far, are the Malayan books by the aforementioned Erikson and Esselmont. They have ruined me for most other fantasy. Movies - I like the big tent-pole superhero films.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading Brandon Sanderson's "Oathbringer".

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yep. Trombone (and pretty much all brass instruments) and piano. One of my degrees is in music.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm a US Ballroom Champion.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Ordered a Cheeseburger at Burger King, but asked them to hold the cheese. They got baffled so I ordered a Big Mac. They kicked me out.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Well, pooping my pants has never worked out well. But taking a part-time job at Borders Books (back in 2001) led me to conceiving and opening Enchanted Grounds.

Who is your idol?
P!nk. She has evolved into one of the most amazing and inspirational artist/performers.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Start designing games earlier in life.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Way EXTROverted.

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

Have any pets?
Used to have a Heeler/Collie mix named Remy. A cartoon version of him is the logo for my game design company.

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?
Hopefully cooperative games survive and hopefully intolerance is obliterated.

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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