Tuesday, June 26, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 126: Caleb Segura

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:Caleb Segura
Email:csegu@live.com
Location:Irving Texas
Day Job:Applications Engineer and Sales
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:ndclub
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/cal.segura
Find my games at:I am at all BGGs and am working on tabletop simulator
Today's Interview is with:

Caleb Segura
Interviewed on: 2/15/2018

Today we hear from Texas designer Caleb Segura, a pretty prolific designer that's working on getting his first game published soon with Erasmus Fox. Hopefully we'll see a whole bunch of games from him in the near future, but in the meantime, read on to learn a bit more about Caleb and his current 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?
My favorite video game of all time was shut down by EA and unplayable (Battleforge) I waited for a long time for any other RTS to have the same feel without any luck. After a while I decided to make my own game to replace it and made a physical prototype before coding. I realized that the physical form worked well enough and the ease of making the prototype had me making several other games in the next few months for games I wanted to play but didn't exist yet.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My main game is "Master of Disaster" that is currently working with a publisher to develop it further. Competitive asymmetric twist on area control. Each element, air, water, fire, and earth are in a race to destroy as much of the city as they can using natural disasters. Elements can also play off of others to create hybrid elements - for example air/water hurricane or fire/earth volcano.

The second one most fully developed has the working title of "For the Kingdom", an attempt to make a fast dungeon crawler that feels like a condensed RPG. My thought was "how do you make a simultaneous action RPG without people cheating?" Well cheating and bluffing is a main mechanic.

In an effort to make a very light combat game with virtually no player limit I have "Keep the Change". The points in the game are actual pennies and nickels and the object of the game is to have the most money at the end of the game. Players manage cards that they play on their neighbors in the circle while the circle gets smaller and smaller.

"Legacy of Terra" was the first game that I created to model the RTS I was missing in my life. The core idea is that it is simultaneous action with zero luck and asymmetric factions that change as the game goes on.

I currently have 8 other working concepts that I am not ready to present to the public.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No, though I am in the waiting phases, "Master of Disaster" will be.

What is your day job?
Applications Engineer and Sales

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At my own house. Always happy to cook for people and the space is always available.

Who do you normally game with?
Non-Board Gamers I am attempting to convert honestly.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I most prefer games with combat but I enjoy any game with meaningful decisions.

And what snacks would you eat?
I usually prefer to cook a meal instead of munch on crumbly snacks.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
If the game is really thematic like Star Wars Rebellion I enjoy it, otherwise I enjoy it but could live without it.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I know this is a terrible answer for local establishments but Coolstuffinc, Miniature Market, and Ebay get all of my business.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
"Kemet" (with Ta Seti Expansion) has long edged out as my top game.

Least favorite that I still enjoy is a hard one... maybe "Codenames"? A design that screams, why didn't I think of that? Very elegant, my friends love it, I enjoy it, I have just played it far too many times.

Worst published game I have ever tried is "Betrayal on the House on the Hill". I had friends raving about how great it is but it honestly made me angry the longer I played it. The core draw of the game, the storylines, can be completely skipped or changed and the game would still play exactly the same. The only thing left is a highly luck based core that is not what I am looking for.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Probably simultaneous actions or real time. This is such a hard mechanic to design around and it makes for much faster games.

Least favorite is anytime you roll the dice where it does not match the theme. Roll to move or some combat dice where the combat is entirely out of your hands and highly variable.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
"Mechs Vs Minions" doesn't have a recurring group enough to get far enough in the missions. As many combat games as I enjoy, I do not play them as much as I would like to.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Video 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?
Not my type of game but I enjoy it and hard to argue when your friends are drinking and eat it up.

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?
90% of the time it is theme first before mechanics. More specifically, what game feeling do I want to play that to the best of my knowledge doesn't exist yet?

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Master of Disaster had the highest average rating at Tabletop Artisan's Workshop in Plano and won best in show.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Uwe Rosenberg has a blend of uniqueness and elegance to his games that I find very impressive.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Complaining on forums about how video games need to be more balanced or suggesting changes to have better design. After a while I decided to just make what I want.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
This has been by far my largest bottleneck. I lure people on the weekends with free meals but they are almost always non-board gamers. I try to get groups at game conventions as often as I can but I only have been able to go to 2 or 3 per year. I have a weekly design group meetup that I attend but the attendance varies a lot.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have yet to work together as a team but am more than open to it. Honestly I feel like a team would speed up my bottlenecks far better than my current state.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting enough play testers.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I am saddened by the lack of Clone Wars games considering how many Star Wars games there are of the original trilogy and how rich the combat units are in the CW. I have been toying with the idea of a game like rebellion where there are 3 republic players against 1 separatist player. One of the republic players is the traitor Palpatine and his goal is to not let the separatists overwhelm the republic, but to kill all but 2 or 3 Jedi.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Don't print anything until the game is solid. (at least 10 playtests where obvious changes are not needed)

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Once you have an idea get a working model on notecards with pencil as fast as possible. I have seen too many people ask if their ideas are good. No one can answer that effectively and playing it is where you really see if the idea is worth pursuing.

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: Master of Disaster with Erasmus Fox
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Keep the Change and For the Kingdom
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Keep the Change and For the Kingdom
Games that I'm playtesting are: Legacy of Terra
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: At least 9 more concepts
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: About 3 concepts

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Dallas Designer Group, Tabletop Artisans Workshop, Tabletop Simulator Playtesters

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 with Trek close behind. I am that boring guy that doesn't drink soda and don't know much of a difference between the two. Betamax because it was superior in most ways and I like going against the grain of society.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Working out and video games

What is something you learned in the last week?
Regarding games? I have started getting into tabletop simulator for easier playtesting the last 2 weeks.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Rock and Classical. Dune. Lord of the Rings Return of the King

What was the last book you read?
Bottom-Line Selling (hard to recommend)

Do you play any musical instruments?
Played trombone for 7 years.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
My wife grew up thinking nerd and geek culture equated with unsocial/low society. I was a nerd in disguise most of my life and have since been acclimating her more and more to this wonderful world.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Caught a 10 ft alligator with a rope.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Any time you hit rock bottom and are able to get through it is a big growing opportunity and helps you not take things for granted.

Who is your idol?
Bill Waterson or Bill Gates, sadly I am hard pressed to think of more Bills.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go into future. I think that though we can always do better, the world has never been as good as it is now and is constantly improving.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Really depends on the situation. Extrovert for work, introvert for personal life I suppose.

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

Have any pets?
2 small dogs

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 think chess is so documented that it would probably endure. Soccer is such a basic concept that I would also assume would come back mostly in the same form.

For what I wish to be wiped out - Electronic Arts.

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):
Snugglepuff

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

You need no degree or experience to start making your own games. The best way to get better at design is to keep doing 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?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Eye on Kickstarter #46

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 2018 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 June, 2018:



HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Hidden Panda
  • Hidden Panda is a family friendly social deduction game designed and published by the same person as one of my favorite deduction games, Dracula's Feast. Hidden Panda includes some unique and interesting mechanics


From the designer of Dracula's Feast, Hidden Panda is the world's cutest social deduction game. Each turn, players must try to hand baby pandas to their team: Bandits are trying to give them to other Bandits, while Pandas are trying to get them to the Panda team without giving their role away. Watch the other players closely, and trust no-one! (Except Grandma. You can probably trust Grandma.)




Solomon Kane
  • Here's another mini heavy game that looks really awesome. Solomon Kane is one of Robert E. Howard's first character creations and the first that became popular. He also created Conan and started the genre of "sword and sorcery". I'm not super familiar with the Solomon Kane stories, but after learning about the campaign, Solomon Kane is definitely a character I need to learn more about.


Solar City
  • This is a tile-laying, city building game that looks like it has some interesting, unique mechanics. Plus the theme and story behind the game seems very interesting.


Solarius Mission
  • This campaign is for the second edition of Solarius Mission. I missed the first campaign, and am really interested in this 3x game. Some of my friends/family aren't super into conflict, so having a 3x game that focuses on eXpand, eXplore, and eXploit while leaving out the eXterminate is great.


When Cutie Met Patootie
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • When Cutie Met Patootie was on my last list as well, but in the past two weeks the campaign was cancelled, reorganized, repriced, and relaunched. When Cutie Met Patootie is a game designed by Daniel Zayas, a fellow media creator. Daniel also runs a Kickstarter consulting company where he helps others run successful campaigns. A number of people from the board gaming community were involved in the project, especially doing voiceovers for the animations.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 125: Gabriel Cohn

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:Gabriel Cohn
Location:Santa Cruz, CA
Day Job:Teacher. Currently: 7th Grade History
Designing:Five to ten years.
BGG:gabrielcohn or the Exodus Fleet page
Find my games at:Amazon, CoolStuff, Miniature Market, etc.
Today's Interview is with:

Gabriel Cohn
Interviewed on: 2/11/2018

Today's interview is with Gabriel Cohn, who just had his first game published last year. Exodus Fleet was published by Tasty Minstrel Games and has gotten pretty good reviews. He's working on a slew of other games that will hopefully be published soon, too. So keep your eye out for some great new titles coming from Gabriel in the future!

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?
After moving to North Carolina, I found myself with more time and fewer friends than I'd had before, so I figured out that working out the issues of game design was a way to keep "playing" games even by myself. The loneliness didn't last long, but the desire to keep designing stuck.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Lots are on the shelf in a half-done state. Mostly I'm working on getting Orbital Architects and Divine Intervention out the door as both have agreements to get them published.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Exodus Fleet (Tasty Minstrel Games, 2017).

What is your day job?
Teacher. Currently: 7th Grade History

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere. Home, friends' place, restaurant, cafe, convention, etc. Doesn't matter.

Who do you normally game with?
Lots with my wife. I also have a regular group (usually about 10 people) that meets Monday nights at a pizza place, and I often get together with those folks at other times too.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Anything, really. But I lean towards mid-heavy euros. Agricola, Tzolk'in, Puerto Rico, Amun Re, Orleans, etc. are some of my favorites. But, I also love some other things: Can't Stop, Diamant, Robo Rally, etc. can be great with the right crowd.

And what snacks would you eat?
Depends. Often nothing. But I do have a soft spot for salt and pepper potato chips. Also, anything with sugar. Really. Anything.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
At my house, yes. But most of my friends don't have it. Either way is fine as long as it's not too loud. I have reasonably eclectic tastes. Some of my current (and long time) favorite groups: Living Colour, Stars, Cub Country, NewOrder, Bomba Estereo, Arcade Fire, Mary Lou Lord, Rage Against the Machine, The English Beat, etc. If I have time to think about it, I try to aim for more mellow stuff when playing games. Rage Against the Machine is just too intense when you're doing the math of Terraforming Mars at the same time...

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Not super-stoked about the options in Santa Cruz. There are great ones elsewhere in the Bay Area: Games of Berkeley, Game Kastle, etc. I miss Parker, Banner, Kent, and Wayne from when I lived in North Carolina. Nice space. Good people.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Agricola was the one that really got me hooked and is still my "favorite." But I'd probably play Tzolk'in over that given the choice. Or a handful of others. I still have a soft spot for Robo Rally despite it being long and silly--but I really only would play it with my closest friends, not just anyone. Worst game ever: I don't know. But there is one I designed that literally was only played once. I was quite happy with the first playtest, but my wife ripped it to shreds. She might call that one the worst ever...

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm agnostic. I do like a lot of worker placement games, but not because I think the mechanism is amazing, but just b/c they work nicely. I like any game that keeps players interested throughout the game. Whatever mechanism works for your game is the right one.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Homesteaders. No one ever wants to play it. Most of them have never tried it. But some scare easily at the idea of auctions and others just don't want to learn something new. (That said, it's not my favorite or anything--just one I like that I have trouble getting people to play.)

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
Only if it's the only option. And only with friends, not random strangers.

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? It can happen either way. For a long time it was theme first every time, as I built several games loosely in the same universe. But, sometimes I have a mechanism idea and I let it roll around in my head until I figure out a theme to match. And once I have both, they organically work on each other to alter the overall game.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Nope.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Nope. Lots I like.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Best time: backpacking trips. Days of walking with nothing to do but say "wow" over and over (b/c the Sierras are freakin' beautiful!). Lots of time to work out mechanisms in my head. If I'm lucky, I have a scrap of paper and a pencil in my map bag to write ideas down on before going to sleep.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
By myself first. Then with my wife. Then with friends. Then at Protospiel. Then lots more. It's an iterative process. And for any game I'm serious about, hundreds of playtests--lots with the same group repeatedly and lots with random strangers.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Mostly alone, but I have some friends who are very insightful.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding the time. My job keeps me busy.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Not interested. I like to come up with my own worlds.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I feel like there's plenty of good advice out there. I read it all and continue to do so. So, no regrets here.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Read. Get on the relevant facebook groups (Card and Board Game Designers) and bulletin-board style sites (BGG, etc.). Ask questions. Go to Protospiel events. Listen to other designers. Playtest a ton.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Exodus Fleet
Games that will soon be published are: Orbital Architects, Divine Intervention
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Fives
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Orbital Architects, Divine Intervention
Games that I'm playtesting are: Children of Frankenstein, The Underminister
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Crash Landing, some others with no names.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Several. They don't have names.

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

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, but more passion for Star Wars.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Backpacking, Rock Climbing (mostly in the gym), Social Justice Activism

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that Rosa Parks was involved a campaign around sexual assault against African American women for several years before she became famous for helping launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Already answered about music. Books: SciFi/Fantasy, tending towards the higher brow stuff, but not exclusively. Movies: SciFi/SuperHeroes/etc.--I'm a big fan of the current run of Marvel movies and loving the new Star Wars ones too.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading: Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky

Do you play any musical instruments?
I tried. I failed.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I don't run the games club at my school. Someone else does. They play all the games I love. But I'm too busy with the other stuff I do with students: Feminist Coalition, Diversity Club, Gay Straight Alliance, etc.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I got arrested protesting at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Come to think of it, that wasn't crazy at all. And, everyone admits I shouldn't have been arrested. That's why the city of New York paid me a big settlement. All in all, the most well-paid 44 hours of work I've ever done.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Wait, that's what I just answered on the previous question. (Though, someday I hope the answer to this is the day I mispronounced Carcassonne as "Carcass Zone" launching my zombie/Carcassonne crossover idea. Still in development.)

Who is your idol?
I don't know. Howard Zinn is pretty cool. For today, let's say him.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Lots. Too much to say. I love history. I want to see everything.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert. Absolutely. My wife is an introvert--thus I play a lot of 2pl games.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I'm flexible. But I find the more speedy/agile ones more interesting than the brawny. And Superman is downright boring.

Have any pets?
2 cats. Earthquake and Tephra. They're the best.

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?
Honestly, I love board games, but I'm much more worried about other ideas that will or won't survive.

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):
No one in particular. The people who've helped me along the way know who they are. Thanks to them.

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?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 124: Ryan Johnson

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:Ryan Johnson
Email:rjohnson@guildofblades.com
Location:Clawson, MI USA
Day Job:My day job is a split between running GOB Retail Games and Comics, a game retail store owned by myself and wife and in running the Guild of Blades Publishing Group, the publishing company I have been running with my partner Bruce since the mid 90s.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:gobretail.com & guildofblades.com
Facebook:Ryan Johnson
Find my games at:guildofblades.com and in select game stores.
Today's Interview is with:

Ryan Johnson
Interviewed on: 2/11/2018

Ryan Johnson is a man of many hats. Not only does he design games (mostly historical wargames), he also runs Guild of Blades Publishing Group (along with Bruce Dowrie) and GOB Retail and Comics, the largest game store in Michigan! He's been in the industry for over 20 years and has a number of game designs to his credit, plus a bunch of other designers' games that he's published through Guild of Blades Publishing Group. Read on to hear what he has to say about designing and publishing games.

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 started designing games as a young teen. Mostly because I wanted to make improvements to or larger versions, with alterations of games I was already enjoying.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects. A multi-layer kingdom building deck building games, the 4th edition to Grunt Fantasy Miniature Battles, the Empires and Armadas box set for the Dark Realms Epic Adventure RPG and revisions to our World War I series of strategy board games in prep for big new edition of those games.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. Been publishing games for 24 years now. I think between core games expansions and accessories, our company has published over 250 SKUs.

What is your day job?
My day job is a split between running GOB Retail Games and Comics, a game retail store owned by myself and wife and in running the Guild of Blades Publishing Group, the publishing company I have been running with my partner Bruce since the mid 90s.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Depends on the kind of game it is. For role-playing games, nothing beats the comforts of the living room. But for card games, miniatures or larger format board games, I would prefer the gaming space at my store.

Who do you normally game with?
My close gaming group includes the same close group friends that I have been gaming with for the last 25 years. My business partner Bruce and some of our friends from way back. But it really depends on the game to be played. Some games you want to be able to play with new people, with different approaches and methods, to keep the experience as board as you can get.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
While I've personally tried my hand at gaming every major brand the industry has today, these days is exceptionally rare we get to play anything but our own games, as there is always something in the works that needs some additional play testing.

And what snacks would you eat?
Can anyone seriously game without pizza?

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
No not really. To me gaming is an opportunity to have fun playing game and to get together with old friends and just enjoying the Bsing. For me, music just becomes a distraction from those two things.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Well, being the owner of the FLGS, I am pretty sure my opinion will be somewhat biased here. My wife and I own GOB Retail: Games and Comics, Michigan's largest game and comic store. Always wanted to own a game store, but of course, it takes resources to start one correctly, and back when I began publishing, those are resources i didn't have. Not that it's easy to bootstrap a publishing operation, but a publishing gig run part time can kind of survive, but retail needs to be open constantly just to survive, so just can't provide the same flexibility.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My all time favorite game is a war game called A World in Flames (5th ed). Its long out of print, but was one of the greatest of its kind. It's only problem is, it takes so long to play a game (roughly 8-10 game sessions), I haven't had the chance to play in the last 15 years. For a strategy game I enjoy a lot that I can play in a session or two, our own The War to End All Wars scratches that itch. For RPGing, I love being the Realm Master in the Dark Realms. Though I have certainly played more than my share of D&D back in the day as well. And got lost down the tournament rabbit hole in Magic for a number of years.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
This is such a tough question. So many game types. Difficult to stack up the game mechanics from one game category to another. One game mechanic that I will call eloquent is the way they handled trench warfare in Axis & Allies World War I, in that they reduced the slow pace of trench warfare and simplified it by allowing only a single round of combat.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
A World in Flames

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video 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?
Theme first. I know the kind of game I want to arrive at, then seek the mechanics that will give it to me.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Nope

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not really.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I think it's best to simply play lots and lots of games. You see what works, what works but only in a limited capacity, what you feel didn't work, etc. You can then shape your own game's play experience around those. Mechanics are just math or some process to get the player engaged into the experience.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Depends on the game and its stage of life. Games that have been around a while with very stable core mechanics, our own play group is often enough to hammer things out. New games, with new mechanics, we'll test internally first, then turn lose among several outside play groups. We have a couple groups in other states that will give us playtest feedback in exchange for copies when the games release. I will also sometimes round up a group of players at our store looking for additional independent feedback.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like to work alone on initial design concept stages. But am thankful for the feedback once its shown to others and start highlighting obvious defects that it seems should have been obvious to me. It's so easy for us to get blinders towards these defects. We need others to point them out.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
I find myself designing cards games for the first time in my career. RPGs design around math and concepts. Board games around the board and strategy games around the map, miniature games around the miniatures. But card games, to design them eloquently, means working with a finite number of cards that all have to achieve a lot. It's definitely a new design challenge.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would love to work with Robotech. To be able to expand upon that universe.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
When I was first getting into game publishing there used to be a trade organization named the Game Publishers Association (GPA). I joined that group and learned a wealth from veteran publishers like Chris Clark and others. The one thing I wished I had learned earlier is that you have to do you game, your way. Trying to conform to "industry norms" will typically do more harm than good. When a game is working well enough, people will adapt to it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
As a publisher that publishes our own designs, the one thing we have learned is to create the finished package vision we see for the product. Have an idea what its final form will look like and how you would go about producing that form and its approximately costs. Nothing is worse than having a great game and absolutely no functional way to print and producing it would just be too costly or impractical. One of my best design sits unpublished after 22 years because there is no practical way to publish it. Maybe someday as an online computer game....but the paper option is out.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Currently our print line has remained fairly stagnant for the last 5 years. Back in 2001 we ventured off the traditional path of game printing and attempted to bring as much of the production in house as possible. We focused on micro print runs of 50 to a few hundred copies at a time because that was what was most fiscally sound. We owned our own B&M printers, cutters, binders, laminators, etc. In 2008 when my wife and I began our retail store, we were half games retail, half print on demand services. Ever since then we have been on the quest to evolve a viable print on demand line for board and card games. So much of our own publications are in a holding pattern today, waiting for the POD operation to relaunch with that newest evolution in quality and process. 6 years ago the bottleneck in that process was a lack of a suitable card die cutting system. We began to develop our own, and this year, at long last, we hope to see it completed. In the interim years we developed a good means to do the 2 piece set ups boxes affordably. Most of our product lines are awaiting new editions or packaging upgrades when the new POD line goes live.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: We don't currently use any crowdfunding platforms.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: One big evolution we plan to make to our Empires of History line if strategy games is to evolve them from using a type of wargame counters to using little plastic game pieces instead. It’s a challenging leap, due to the scale of the games and the number of plastics. For instance, The War to End All Wars, will take 9 plastic runners each with 119 little figures on it, so 1071 plastic figures per game. That means larger molds and bigger plastic runs to get prices down to a sane level. So the plastics will have a larger run, while the rest of the game will actually be done in smaller runs via POD.
Games that I'm playtesting are: I have a card game in the works, tentatively just titled the Kingdoms Deck Building Game. Its part of that challenge of card game design I have been facing. In it you build a kingdom, using cards both to tile the play scape and build villages, towns, cities, castles, and military and all the infrastructure to support it all. That is a lot to ask 54 cards to do. So the game mechanic allows for "sub decks"...additional decks with a specialization that only unlock when you have specific assets already in play.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: A space strategy game where the galactic empires square off. Looking to provide two modes of play. One is where the fleets battle off against each other using our Empires of History dice combat mechanic (similar-ish to Axis & Allies), but where you can play the game in campaign mode in conjunction with the new Empires and Armadas miniatures game. So every time a battle would happen in the strategy game, players would grab their ships in the miniatures game and play a table top miniatures battle to see what survives.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes. Many. Though mostly I just read and try and stay abreast of industry changes and trends.

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?
It’s hard to beat lightsaber duels. But on the "space" part, I have to get with Trek. Diet Pepsi for me actually....I am not allowed to have the sweet stuff. I am actually old enough to remember betamax, it was better quality. But of course, there were almost no movies made in that format, so that kinda sucked.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I'm a workaholic. It kind of goes with the self employed thing. But I am a history nut, hence, the historical games. So my family and I travel every year, getting to see some new and interest place in the world and some old historical sites. I enjoy fantasy fiction. Movies

What is something you learned in the last week?
That in spite of the new tax law simplifying a few things, it's still massively and unnecessarily more complex than it needs to be.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Favorite music is old 80 early 90s industry, but make sure to splash in some early Metallica. Favorite book series is the Black Company by Glenn Cook. Favorite movie Matrix Reloaded.

What was the last book you read?
Just recently began reading the Black Company series anew. This will be, I think, my 5th time through. Been about 6 years since my last pass through.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope. Not a musically inclined bone in my body.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Went through 3 unique days of hell during bootcamp. They were trying to drum me out. You see, I've been a habitual smartass. They threw every form of physical punishment the system had at me. And the end of those three days, that night I was standing in the barracks, about half dead, and my commander asked "Johnson, you have fun the last few days". I gave him the best "I'm about to murder you" stare I could muster and said "Oh, yes, sir, can I do it all again?". At that moment, I am pretty sure they thought I was psycho. One thing's for sure, I didn't have a single extra push up left in me, much less 8 hours of rifle jacks on the blacktop in 90 degrees San Diego heat.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
So many people might say they would go off Hitler before his rise, but the butterfly effects from that could end up horrendous. I would use it to go explore periods in history, answer some many of the unanswered mysteries.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
More extro than intro, but I think I fall pretty squarely in the middle on this one.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman. Because I like the brains and the bank account.

Have any pets?
None currently

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?
Role Playing. Its social and can survive with just the rules, assuming the survivors would have a hard time keeping cards or game board safe in the aftermath.

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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Monday, June 11, 2018

Press Release - Hidden Panda by Jellybean Games

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Jellybean Games announces Hidden Panda card game
The “world’s cutest social deduction game” brings stunning art  and a family-friendly theme to the hidden roles game genre.

Coral Springs, FL; Jun 11th, 2018. 
The world’s cutest social deduction game has arrived on Kickstarter today, with Jellybean Games launching the campaign for Hidden Panda, a hidden roles game for 5-8 players of all ages.
“I love social deduction games, but they always have such dark themes.” said the designer, Peter C. Hayward. “Dystopian governments, witch hunts, the criminal underworld… I wanted to make a game that you could play with your kids, or anyone who enjoys a more upbeat theme. There’s no werewolves or murder in this game; it’s about collecting baby pandas, and Grandma handing out tea.”

From the designer of ​Dracula’s Feast ​and​ The Lady and the Tiger​, ​with stunning art provided by Kelly Jo (Scuttle!, Ninjitsu​​), the bright colors and light-hearted theme breathe fresh air into the typically-gloomy genre.

“We told Kelly we wanted to break records in cute. As soon as she got to work, we knew we’d made the right choice. My favorite piece of art in the game is the ‘5 baby pandas’ token, which shows them lolling about in a panda cuddle puddle. It’s impossible not to fall in love with it.”

As with all Jellybean Games, the rules are straightforward and easy to learn. Everyone is randomly given a role: If you’re a Panda, Keeper, or Grandma, you’re on the Panda Team. If you’re a Bandit, you’re on the Bandit Team. Only some players on the Panda team know who’s on their team, while each Bandit only knows their own role.

Grandma plays face-up for the entire game; her role is to try to get baby pandas to her fellow teammates without giving their roles away.
This unique addition to social deduction makes it perfect for family play - the Grandma role can be given to an adult to help guide younger players.

On their turn, each player hands out 3 baby pandas to other players. Then, they give one other player a piece of bamboo. When a player has 3 pieces of bamboo in front of them, everyone votes on whether or not they should be netted. Netted players have their baby pandas taken away.

If all the Pandas are ever netted, the Bandit team immediately wins. Otherwise, once everyone has taken two turns, the team with the most baby pandas wins!

The game contains 8 role cards, 45 baby panda tokens, 16 bamboo tokens, 6 net tokens, and 1 cup of tea token. Kickstarter backers will get a free, exclusive set of wooden baby panda tokens. 

A free print-and-play version of the game is available on the publisher’s website, jellybean.games


About Jellybean Games
Jellybean Games publishes gorgeous games suitable for all ages. With their strong focus on stunning and evocative art, they’ve found success with gamers young and old. Their string of hits include Scuttle!, the pirate game for all ages; Dracula’s Feast, which offers a fresh take on social deduction games; The Lady and the Tiger, a collection of five microgames based on the classic short story; Village Pillage, the simultaneous-action game with a unique turnip economy; and Ninjitsu!, the standalone ninja-based sequel to Scuttle! 

Jellybean Games have been sold in over forty countries worldwide.




Media contact: 
Peter C. Hayward - peter@beard.blue

More images available at http://www.hiddenpandagame.com  


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Friday, June 8, 2018

Eye on Kickstarter #45

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 2018 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 second Friday of June, 2018:



HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Knot Dice Squared
  • I received a set of Knot Dice to review a while back, and that review should be getting posted soon. Life has been busy and there are a ton of games and puzzles included with Knot Dice, so it's taken a while to play a good selection of them. I can tell you, however, that the dice are absolutely gorgeous, the games are fun, and the puzzles are challenging. Knot Dice Squared adds dice with new sides so you can make a bunch more patterns. It also includes more games and puzzles. If you like the original Knot Dice, or aren't familiar with them, but think you might, I highly recommend picking up a set. You'll love them!


An expansion and reprint for Knot Dice - Celtic knot games, puzzles, and art on large, beautiful dice.

26 more knot dice in three new designs for you to combine with the original for more inspiration. Create larger and more intricate Celtic knots while playing with these amazing dice! Add some new twists to your knot dice games...Include more friends...Design larger beautiful patterns...Play through an entirely new set of puzzles...Have more fun with Knot Dice Squared.

Knot Dice are big beautiful dice, a forest green pearlized acrylic with indented silver lines. The designs are continuous around the entire die. They don't have numbers on the sides, but placing them side-by-side forms amazing Celtic knot patterns. Some enjoy just making designs, but they also can be used to play a large number of games and puzzles. The original Knot Dice set includes 18 awesome dice and rules to 12 games and 7 types of puzzles, with dozens of individual puzzles. There are cooperative games, competitive games, speed games, puzzle games, storytelling games...





Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Pestilence
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • If I had unlimited budget for Kickstarter games there are still a ton of games that I would pass on backing, even some that have caught my interest. But one game just wows me every time I see it. I just wish it was in the budget, but $100+ for the entire set is too much for me, and I'd have to be a completionist with this. I'm talking about Heroes of Land, Air & Sea. I oggled over it's awesome minis, cool cardboard constructs, and interesting gameplay for quite a while, and now Gamelyn Games is printing another expansion. In Pestilence we get some new factions, plus a floating island, sunken island, and tons more. This looks incredible.


18Lilliput
  • I've never played an 18xx game before, but I've heard a lot of great things about the genre of train games. I've also heard that they're long and pretty complex. That doesn't bother me, but it does make the games difficult to get to the table. 18Lilliput aims to change that, and get a fast playing 18xx game to the table at a regular game night. That, combined with the GUlliver's Travels theme, really has me intrigued.


Goblivion
  • Goblivion is a solo or two player coop, tower defense style game that borrows a lot of elements from Friday, one of my favorite solo games. This adds a lot more interactions and decisions though, and it looks like a ton of fun.


Fantastic Factories
  • Fantastic Factories looks like a great, light engine building game that uses dice placement in some pretty interesting ways. It seems to me to be what Machi Koro could have been.


When Cutie Met Patootie
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • When Cutie Met Patootie is quite the interesting campaign. It's a game designed by Daniel Zayas, a fellow media creator. Daniel also runs a Kickstarter consulting company where he helps others run successful campaigns. So it's interesting to me that his campaign for his personal game has gone against quite a bit of his usual advice. The game itself looks somewhat interesting, particularly as a solo game, the narrative aspect is mildly interesting, and a number of people from the board gaming community were involved in the project, but I'm mainly interested in the actual campaign and how it does.