Tuesday, June 5, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 123: Alexandre Uboldi

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:Alexandre Uboldi
Location:New York City
Day Job:Research Analyst for HGTV
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:Gladius Card Game
Facebook:Alexandre Uboldi
Find my games at:Check out our facebook page, if you're in New York, we can meet up at a board game event.
Today's Interview is with:

Alexandre Uboldi
Interviewed on: 2/8/2018

This week we get to hear from Alex Uboldi, a designer out of New York City. Alex has been designing games for a few years and is hoping to have something published very soon. He and his girlfriend are also instrumental in organizing several designer meetups in New York. So if you're in the area and looking for fellow designers to playtest some games with, look them up!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I was inspired by Stone Librande at a tribeca games event to just start designing games, and I've been building prototypes ever since.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My partner and I are currently working on designing out card game Gladius about being a Roman Senator rigging the Gladiatorial games to make money.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet!

What is your day job?
Research Analyst for HGTV

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I go to board game meet-ups along with hosting board game meet-ups in our apartments lounge.

Who do you normally game with?
My partner and our various playgroups.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on the number of friends and their level of experience. If they are newer to board games like many of our friends are we will play something like sushi go! or Secret hitler. With other groups, Lords of Vegas and Risk Legacy are our go too. Recently we've been really excited to play our newly acquired games from Kickstarter, Bargain Quest and Rising Sun.

And what snacks would you eat?
Salami, crackers, and Cheese with some nice wine. But you have to have wipes as not to dirty cards or board game pieces.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Definitely! Always thematic to the game. The Hobbit Board game is really an epic experience with the film soundtrack providing a background track.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We really love the Brooklyn Strategist, they create a friendly environment that is welcoming to all players. The interior is really nice and there is a lot of space even on the crowded nights.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is bargain quest. It puts a really unique spin on a drafting games that uses flavor to teach players how the mechanics interact. My least favorite game that I still play is Catan. Its a great game, well designed, but I've played it so much that I'm just not really interested whenever I play. The worst game I've ever played is Machi Koro. It really just doesn't feel like I have any agency.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite game mechanic is the time mechanic in Thebes. (Basically the player in the back of the order always goes, and each action takes a certain amount of moves, so you could take a short move and get to go again because you're in the back of the order). Tokaido has a similar mechanic, but I like the idea that players can take big movies, but if they move too far ahead then players behind them might get multiple moves. My least favorite mechanics are anything that requires referencing a table. I'm a big fan of elegant designs and to me referencing a table for prices or damage just breaks the flow of game play and is ultimately unfun.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I really enjoy the Game of Thrones board game. It is a really interesting grand strategy game that does a good job of converting the wars in the books into a board game. It just takes a long time to play a requires a lot of thought each turn for each action.

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I'm a big proponent of using themes to teach players the mechanics of the game. So my process typically starts with a theme that is conveyed through the mechanics. Often times I do come up with good mechanics, but I don't really develop from there unless I have a theme that I feel captures the mechanic.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes, we won the Metatopia IDGN scholarship to show off our game.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Mark Rosewater and Stone Librande are my idols. I've listened to all 500 of Mark's podcast drive to work and that pretty much is my foundation lesson on game design.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Typically I make games that I think my girlfriend would enjoy (otherwise it would be hard to playtest them). I think a lot about what topics board games don't typically cover, and try to fill niches. I don't ever want to make a game that similar to others with a new coat of paint. I was to make games that feel unique both in gameplay and in presentation.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
It used to be my girlfriend and I, but recently she has coordinated the NYC playtest group to meet at our building so that's us and a rotating group of about 10 designers who playtest each others prototypes. We also go to Unpub events at cons to show off our game.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
For our current game, my girlfriend and I designed it, and we work with an artist in Hong Kong. I like working in a team because it is tremendously helpful to have a second set of eyes on your design and someone to bounce your ideas off of.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
My biggest challenge is just being confident in my design ability. Sometimes you play the same game hundreds of times and you aren't sure if it is fun or not anymore. Just always have to push forward and accept the compliments along with the criticisms.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would love to design board game starring the facebook cat Pusheen. Our apartment is a huge fan of Pusheen and she has a lot or robust characters and settings to work with.

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

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
My advice would be to understand the perspective of feedback. Sometimes your games aren't for everyone. Other game designers really look to pick apart designs. They will even pick apart good well established games, so you can't take it too much to heart. Regular players are really good at telling you how they feel, but not so good at tell you why that is, so you have to dig deeper. Just understand who you are testing with, and what you want to get out of testing with them.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Malthus, is a game that we are looking sell to a publisher.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Gladius we are looking to have on Kickstarter later this year around October.
Games that I'm playtesting are: Cavaliers and Roundheads is a card game that's looking to incorporate drafting elements to a game of war.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Stellar Nursery is a game about exploring space and harvesting stars.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Chinese New Year themed game

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 probably has the better moments, but as a whole it has to be Star Wars. Coke all the way, but Pepsi is fine too. VHS, who even uses Betamax?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I love reading about history. I find scholarly debates on historical figures to be deeply fascinating. History really isn't just a collect of events and dates, its filled with fascinating narratives and characters that have a lot to teach. I also play video games to unwind.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that lobsters living forever is apocryphal, they can actually die after aging for a while.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
My favorite type of music is a mix of indie folk. Typically by artist that look like they've been living out of their cars for weeks. My favorite types of books are all over the place. Recently I've been enjoying books on poker strategy. My favorite types of movies are movies that typically have really interesting out of the box themes. For example, Arrival had this really cool theme of language being something that influences how you think and that's not something I've ever thought of. Films that make you think and either look at the film or the world in a different context.

What was the last book you read?
Eleanor and Park

Do you play any musical instruments?
I used to play the trumpet and the piano.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm half chinese and half french, my parents met in Las Vegas and that is where I was born and raised.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
For the video game Mass Effect 3, as a promotion they launched copies of the game into space with trackers and if you found them you could get a copy like 2 weeks before the game was actually set to release. One of the places they were launching from was Las Vegas. So me and a couple of friends drove out into the deserts of Arizona to try and find it. It was a crazy night, but we ending up getting a copy. It was pretty wild.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
One time I was playing poker in Quebec, and the cards are based off the french names so instead of Q for queen it is D for dame. For some reason I thought I had a King in my hand, but it was really a queen. The flop was King, King, 4, so I thought I had a 3 of a kind, but really I had nothing. I played like I had this great hand, but really I had a nothing. Everyone ended up folding and I won a bunch of money.

Who is your idol?
Carl Sagan is a wonderful human, and his ideals and views on the future are truly inspiring to me.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would go to the far future to see what becomes of mankind.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Definitely an introvert.

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

Have any pets?

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 really hope Magic: The Gathering makes it through. It just has so many great mechanics and it is the foundation behind so many other games that I'm confident we would be able to rebuild just based off of it. I also like the idea that if we lost the rules, clusters of communities would have different interpretations of how to play. I would like to say sports should be wipe out, but really I want a lot of the toxicity surrounding sports to be wiped away. Everyone should just be able to enjoy what they want, and no fans should get hate from other fans for liking a different team. No one should riot and destroy property after a team wins or loses. Just enjoy the sport and the display of skill and don't be so destructive with it.

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):
Thanks to my loving girlfriend Victoria, she is the best game development and life partner anyone could ask for.

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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