Tuesday, November 27, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 148: Mark Swanson

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:Mark Swanson
Location:Columbia, Missouri, USA
Day Job:Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism
Designing:Five to ten years.
Find my games at:Retail stores worldwide + BGG + online stores + www.oddbirdgames.com under "shop"
Today's Interview is with:

Mark Swanson
Interviewed on: 9/9/2018

This week's interview is with Mark Swanson, the designer of the amazing game Feudum (look for a review from GJJ Games coming soon). Feudum is a highly complex and intricate game with gorgeous artwork and absolutely amazing components, so I can't wait to see what Mark brings us next. Read on to learn more about Mark and get a hint about his next project.

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 wanted the game I imagined playing to exist. So I created it.

What game or games are you currently working on?
A worker placement game

Have you designed any games that have been published?

What is your day job?
Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In a house or at my Friendly Local Game Store

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and strangers!

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Root, Goa, Terra Mystica, Feudum, Caverna, Le Havre, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Caylus, El Grande, Suburbia, Ra, Tzolk'in, Love Letter

And what snacks would you eat?
Cool Ranch Doritos

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Valhalla's Gate and Magelings

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite is Root.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Tzolk'in Gears, Rolling dice purely for luck

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Traders of Genoa

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

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 am first inspired by a theme, then ponder unique mechanics that integrate with the theme, and then I weave in a narrative to ensure cohesion

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Feudum was nominated for the game of the year by the Vin d’jeu team

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Uwe Rosenberg

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
While driving. I tend to record things on a voice recorder.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
With friends first. Then eventually blind playtesters.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Alone. In the case of a recent solo variant, I worked with a solo variant developer.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding uninterrupted time.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I think games should have their own stories and serve as their own intellectual property. I think more games should give way to books and films verses the other way around.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Do not overlook the importance of the rulebook. It is the foundation for making the game accessible to the masses.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Immerse yourself in playing lots of games with varying mechanics. Only in this way will you open up the neural pathways in your brain. Reverse engineer the games you play. Be mindful of unique mechanics. Try to develop your own mechanic and do not just rely on recycling existing mechanics.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Feudum, Feudum: Windmills & Catapults, Feudum, Seals & Sirens, Feudum: Alter Ego, Feudum: Squirrels & Conifers, Feudum: The Queen's Army
Games that will soon be published are: A future worker placement game
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Two expired campaigns: Feudum and Feudum: The Queen's Army
Currently looking for a publisher I have: I am my own publisher
I'm planning to crowdfund: A future worker placement game
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: A future worker placement game
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A future worker placement game

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Facebook Groups: BoardGameGeek, Board Game Spotlight, Board Game Reviewers & Media, Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice, Tabletop Game Publisher's Guild, The Boardgame Group, Board Game Revolution Community

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, Coke, Neither

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Soccer, Movies, Netflix (Ozark, Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, etc.), Adventure Time

What is something you learned in the last week?
That programming AI for some tabletop games is more difficult than programming AI for chess.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Alternative, Fantasy Adventure, Sci Fi

What was the last book you read?
On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

Do you play any musical instruments?
Drums, Guitar

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I write poetry

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I was recruited by the FBI but turned the opportunity down

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
None. Awesome things occur via deliberate thoughts and actions.

Who is your idol?

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would go back to correct my own mistakes and a few made by others.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

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

Have any pets?
My daughters own cats and I pretend they are mine.

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 the game Love Letter survives (I play it with my daughters). I hope that greed, envy and pride are destroyed by the asteroid.

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):
Hey Ellie, Rosalind and Penny!

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

Cats Rule.

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.

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