Tuesday, November 13, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 146: Jeff Black

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:Jeff Black
Location:Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Day Job:I am an educator.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Webpage:Little J Games
Blog:Newest Monkeys
Facebook:Jeff Black
Find my games at:I have one PnP available on BGG (Rainbow Snake). I will have more to share soon.
Today's Interview is with:

Jeff Black
Interviewed on: 6/16/2018

Today we get to meet Jeff Black, a Boston area designer that has a ton of projects in the works. Not only is he designing games, a few which are currently being looked at for publication, but he's also currently judging a game design contest. Jeff is also a musician and educator, so read on to learn more about Jeff and his current 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I made my first 'modern' design in 2013 though I had made a few games and an unpublished AD&D module before that.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am working on designs for two contests which are currently running. One is an 18 Card game with some added components for Jellybean Games and the other is from HABA where they send you a box of components and ask that you make a game using at least 3 of them. Both have been fun challenges and I think they are coming along nicely.

I've been working on a roll and write game since September and it might be seeing publication too. I am also a judge in the Board Game Workshop Design Contest that is currently ongoing. It has been an amazing experience. I also have a few more games that are developed, ready and waiting for the right chance to come along.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No but one of my designs won a contest through Deep Water Games earlier this year, so we'll see where that one goes in the future.

What is your day job?
I am an educator.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?

Who do you normally game with?
My family.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Lately the answer would be either Forbidden Desert or Flash Point Fire Rescue but that answer changes pretty often.

And what snacks would you eat?
If it was tonight...Quesadillas!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes. We try to pick something that is thematic to what we are playing at the moment. We do make exceptions though.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Battleground Games (the one in Norton, Massachusetts).

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite...can I mention three? Forbidden Desert, Blood of an Englishman, and Colt Express have all been doing it for me lately.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm fascinated by Programmed Movement. I have a more than a few designs that use this mechanic.. Hidden Movement is also pretty cool and something I have only dabbled with a little bit. My least favorite? Roll and Move seems too obvious, so I'll say Bluffing...mostly because I have a lousy poker face!

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

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
Based on what I have heard it sounds like it's not quite the right fit for my group but I reserve judgement until I have tried it out for myself.

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?
It depends on how the inspiration happens to strike. I do the best when they both develop hand-in-hand! If I had to pick just one I'd go with theme first but I have certainly done both.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes. I won a publisher's contest earlier this year and I was a finalist in the Panjam 48 Hour Contest just a couple of weeks ago.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Steven Aramini has been a big inspiration. He makes some great games! Danny Devine is great... I recently played Topiary and loved it! I'm very much looking forward to Sprawlopolis which was made by these two along with Paul Kluka...another talented designer!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
My family would probably tell you that it happens at the most random of times and places. It often starts when I'm just being silly and goofing around about some idea that sounds really odd at first. I once came up with a mechanic in a dream.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I have a small but loyal group that I test with. I owe them a huge debt! I'm trying to get more involved with some of the gaming groups in my area too.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have done both and I enjoy both a great deal. I am still developing my digital art skills so artists and graphic designers are of the most help when I'm trying to get a game into a prototype form.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Art and graphic design which can be presented appealingly online.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I want to publish a terrific 'Battle of the Bands' game I made a few years ago but it would be so much more fun if I could use the likenesses of about 84 famous rock stars. Alternatively, is 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' by the Charlie Daniels Band an IP?

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Dude you're never gonna be a rock star!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Design early and often. Design whatever you can whenever you can. And most importantly; allow yourself to design bad games. Paul McCartney once said something to the effect that the reason he and John Lennon came up with so many good songs was that they had first come up with so many bad ones. Keep designing and the games will come.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: None yet but I have one under development with a publisher.
Games that will soon be published are: I'm not sure that I'm at liberty to say.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: I have a myriad of games that fit this category.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: I have about 6-12 games at this stage. There is one called ' Dances with Wolves' (not based on the IP) that I think is an artist away from hitting the table.
Games that I'm playtesting are: Depending on how you define terms some of those 6-12 could fit in this category. Plus a bunch more.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: In total I have in the neighborhood of a hundred games that are in some form of development. These are all games that include at the least a theme, a mechanic, and a win condition. Beyond that, they are truly a 'Gamut of Games'! Some are very close and others are not.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: I keep a file full of index cards with these on them.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Foxboro Strategy Board Game Night, Southern Mass Game Designers, and many more.

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 and a Coke please! I owned a Beta, so Betamax!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play guitar and write songs.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That is a great question. I learned a lot about how black holes work in terms of gravitation as objects approach them. I don't think I can give it a brief synopsis though.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
The answers here would change as often as my favorite game, but here goes... Music: Profoundly Heavy Metal , Surf, and Punk. Books: Beat Literature, Arthur Rimbaud Movies: The Three Amigos, Spinal Tap, and Twister.

What was the last book you read?
A book about the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire which occurred on the same day in Wisconsin and was even more deadly.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes I play the guitar.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am not related to Jack Black.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
A few years back when I was more impulsive I kind of accidentally sneaked in to a U2 concert with a bunch of huge dudes that I didn't know, then got surrounded by a group of burly security guards.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
It turned out that the huge dudes I didn't know all played pro football for the New England Patriots and we all got escorted to the front row at center stage.

[GJJ Games] Wow! Those are awesome answers to both of those questions!

Who is your idol?
The Buddha.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Leave it alone. Things are good the way they are!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert if I have to pick, but I do well on a stage.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I going with The Black Panther!

Have any pets?
Yes. Two cats who dislike one another.

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?
Play will exist as long as humans do. I think ball-and-stick games (like baseball) and dexterity games would survive. Maybe we could see avarice wiped out of the human consciousness forever.

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):
A shout out to my family and my game group. Love you guys! And a special shout out to Scott Nicholson whose famous 'Board Games with Scott' videos allowed me to rediscover a childhood love. I would not be doing this right now without them.

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

Discover the fun!

Thanks for the chance to talk about my games. I'm psyched to be able to share them.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment