Tuesday, December 11, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 150: Mark Grubich

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 Grubich
Location:Germantown, Wisconsin, USA
Day Job:Quality Control Technician.
Designing:Over ten years!
Facebook:Look me up there by my name, I have a Don Knotts profile picture.
Twitter:By name, look for a picture of a cat in a chair.
Find my games at:Local meetups only currently.
Today's Interview is with:

Mark Grubich
Interviewed on: 6/21/2018

Mark is a designer that also goes to Protospiel events in Milwaukee and Madison, however we've never had the fortune to play a game together. Hopefully we'll cross paths at another Protospiel soon!

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?
Growing up I was always a fan of games, especially the more complex war games and what we now call designer games. I always had an active imagination so it was a good meeting of my love of games and daydreaming things.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Forgotten World is my focus right now; an asymmetrical multi-faction skirmish game based on a world gone mad. I have a few ideas I've been batting around and need to playtest Stellar Artifact again as well. Stellar Artifact is a more strategic game with slightly asymmetrical factions trying to prove to a Dyson sphere left behind by long dead aliens that they are worthy of its secrets.

Have you designed any games that have been published?

What is your day job?
Quality Control Technician.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Public meetups and friend's houses. Back in Michigan we had a club that rented space just to play games that I spent a lot of time with but so far while being back here it's usually at a friend's house or the local meetups at hobby shops and the nearby college.

Who do you normally game with?
West Bend Board Game Club and the local Protospiel meetup in Franklin.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Cthulhu Wars, Star Fleet Battles, Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Frutti De Mare, and so many others. I'm certain there are games I've not yet played that I'd enjoy. It's always interesting to see what other people bring to play.

And what snacks would you eat?
Pretzels are a good choice as they aren't greasy! Never want to damage another person's games.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Generally no. When I do have music it's a mix of my favorites; Death Metal and Classical music.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Back in Michigan it was Nostalgia Ink; a comic/game store. Here it's Games Universe in Franklin where the local design group meets monthly.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current Favorite: Cthulhu Wars. Least Favorite I still enjoy: Rising Sun. Worst ever played: Cults Across America.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Modular Board (hence why Forgotten World has it) is my favorite. My least favorite is generally player elimination barring a 2 player game that ends at such or in games that lend well to it like multiplayer Magic: The Gathering.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Star Fleet Battles

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Played once with old school friends. Not a favorite but more enjoyable than I expected.

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?
Kind of a mix. I try to come up with a theme and then make mechanics around that theme but often I find that I go back and tweak both based on what I did to the other.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Sandy Petersen for longevity and some great games. I also like Eric Lang for his obvious enthusiasm.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Daydreaming a lot for one. Old video games like Defender and Super Mario World also inspire my ideas.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I generally start with a simple test with just me playing multiple sides to find any glaring problems before subjecting other people to my designs. I then take them to the local meet ups for feedback and to test balance issues. I often then test it again by myself to see if the changes are working and then repeat this system. Forgotten World has gone through many iterations with this method.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I work alone mostly but with lots of feedback from the other designers and testers at the local Protospiel meetings.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Knowing when to stop adding things. I like a lot of variety so tend to add a lot of things before the game has been tested enough and it can make it more difficult to balance and fix not so obvious problems with the design.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Doctor Who.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
How much paper and printer ink you will end up using.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
When you hit a creative brick wall or don't think you fix a balance issue without scrapping everything, take a break and come back to it later. Either work on another project or just do something else until you've had some time away from the conundrum bothering you.

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: One possibly. I've been told by many testers now that Forgotten World is good and to seek publishing but I have no idea how to go about that or which company(ies) to approach with it.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Forgotten World is in this step, and possible publishing as seen above.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Stellar Artifact fits this category. It's only been tested once and changed based on feedback but it's been over a year since its last test.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to count!

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

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, Coke, and VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Computer games, used to build models and launch model rockets but been years. Also an avid Doctor Who fan and almost caught up on the new show, was a classic fan for years.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That getting a wisdom tooth pulled at 48 is a nightmare.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Death Metal. H.P. Lovecraft and Terry Pratchett books. Kelly's Heroes, Spaced Invaders, and Pixar animated movies.

What was the last book you read?
"Eternal Doctrine" by Tommi Salminen. The 2nd book he wrote based on the fantastic Star Control 2 PC game.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played the trombone when I was younger but it's been over 25 years.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
The reveal that I like extremely heavy metal music usually surprises people based on my appearance I've found.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Tried to run up the clock tower at college. That was crazy and luckily, unsuccessful quite early in the attempt.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Can't think of any offhand.

Who is your idol?
Teddy Roosevelt.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Witness so many historical events to see how many are reported inaccurately and then go forward to see what the future is like.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
She Hulk.

Have any pets?
Yes my cat Karl (named after the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).

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'm sure that basic games (like Chess and Checkers) will survive in some form or another along with card games. I'd love to see Doctor Who episodes survive and be super popular as well. For games I really want to survive this calamity; Star Fleet Battles, Cthulhu Wars, World in Flames, and Vast.

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):
Eric Lang! Your obvious love of designing is great to see!

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

When going to a meeting with other designers remember that they have designs they need tested too and even if a game isn't to your taste; i.e. you love Amerithrash and not a fan of Euros and someone brings a Euro, try to take it for what it is, another designer trying to bring creativity to life. Even when I haven't liked a prototype I find the experience valuable and the ideas we all discuss can help you with your own designs.


Cheese is awesome.

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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