Tuesday, October 1, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 191: Leisel Volski

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:Leisel Volski
Location:Monroe, Ohio.
Day Job:I'm the general manager at my family's pizzeria. Anthony works as an IT Analyst.
Designing:Two to five years.
Today's Interview is with:

Leisel Volski
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

This week we get to meet Leisel Volski who designs games with her husband Anthony. Together they are working on several games, including Heroes of Bithaven, a card game with some pretty cool pixel art. Read on to learn more about Leisel!

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?
Once upon a time, someone facetiously told my husband, Anthony, that he couldn't make a game. You don't tell that boy that he can't do something.

What game or games are you currently working on?
We're working on Heroes of Bithaven, a sort of gateway card game that should entice new gamers but still keep seasoned players interested. Imagine, you've been dropped into a fantasy themed 16 bit game world. Forget the boss monsters- the world is oversaturated with heroes and you need to defeat your rival heroes for a chance at ultimate fame and glory. It's a lot of hand management and variable player powers, and never plays the same twice. This is your ideal start of the night game... loser buys pizza for the winner. No, really. I wrote that one in.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Just working on Heroes right now; we're actively seeking a publisher.

What is your day job?
I'm the general manager at my family's pizzeria. Anthony works as an IT Analyst.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
We don't exactly have friends, so we just play at home.

Who do you normally game with?
Anthony and I play together all the time. Sometimes we can blackmail our roommates into playing a game here and there.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We would subject them to our game if they haven't played it yet. Then probably Sushi Go Party and Pandemic: RoS. Those are the big favorites right now.

And what snacks would you eat?
The kind that don't make a mess at the table! Chips and salsa, pretzel bread and beer cheese, that sort of thing.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually. We have a friend who's a little like Towelie from South Park. He just kind of wanders off.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We recently got burned at the FLGS during a playtest, so they deserve no mention. Looking for another place nearby-ish.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Loving Pandemic: RoS right now. Least favorite right now is Gloomhaven, sorry. I always have to be the one setting up and tearing down. And reading and implementing the rules. It presses all of my anxiety buttons. Worst game, 100 percent, has to be Harbour. Just felt like some of the cards were difficult to understand due to the design, and a lot of issues we had weren't addressed in the rules. Couldn't even figure it out online. Love the premise, but just couldn't get into it at all.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Personally I find deck building really enjoyable, and set collection. There's probably something cooler sounding that I just can't think of right now. Least favorite... anything where you pick the funniest or most effed up thing to say, and people vote for the best or worst or whatever. We all know each other too well for those kinds of games to be enjoyable.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Hero Realms and Coup. I play very honestly, yet somehow that makes ME the bastard. No one will play with me!

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 Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes, only to see what Anthony's grandma might come up with.

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, then mechanics. It feels easier to direct the game in that way.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Nope. Thinking about entering one this fall, though.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Best not. If I did, I think I'd fangirl myself to death if we ever managed to hit up a con.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Anthony and I bounce ideas off each other. Or he'll get a vision or whatever in a dream and wake me up, whisper-screaming about cultists.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First we attempt to play together, then we rope our roommates in as test subjects. Though most of the rules end up existing because Anthony Broke The Game (TM). We attended a local meet up which was nice, but the location of the meetings closed and people in the group keep picking locations that are super far away.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Volskis 4 Lyfe! No, but really, I have to do all this with Anthony. We work well together, and I love him to death. I'd have no motivation without him. We have an artist as well, hired through Fiverr.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Everyone and their brother makes games now; it can be hard to stand out. And Anthony and I are very... reclusive? I think that's the best word for it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Oh God, I wouldn't even know. Something really offensive with Deadpool?

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That you don't need art. That it's harder to ship a design to a publisher if you already have polished art. We're learning that the hard way, but it hasn't put people off thus far.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Network. Be a people person, or at least fake it reasonably well.

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: Heroes of Bithaven
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Heroes of Bithaven
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Heroes of Bithaven
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A couple more card games. Reskins of classics.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yep, several of those. They all kind of blend together, really.

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, but he prefers Mountain Dew. VHS or Betamax? Pfft! Get a Plex server, son. Burn all your movies, TV shows, anime to the server. That's some next level stuff right there.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Building and maintaining the Plex server, for one. We play a lot of video games, too. 3D printing little odds and ends.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Don't trust everyone who says they'll review your game. Lost a good amount of money to printing and shipping and they disappeared off the face of the earth.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Electro swing, rock, metal, industrial, steampunk... Books... he devours audiobooks of light novels out of Japan. I read young adult stuff, a little fantasy, Stephen King, Ellen Hopkins. Good stuff. We consume anime moreso than movies.

What was the last book you read?
Thunderhead, second book in the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I grew up playing piano. He can strum a guitar. There's an ocarina in the house somewhere.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm a secret cripple. That's putting it a bit harsh, maybe, but I'm missing the middle joints in the last 3 fingers on each hand. The bones in my feet are a horror show.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Uh... Anthony got kidnapped once? This was before we met. I used to have a geeky food blog. I made food based on video games and anime.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Meeting Anthony? We met through a (former) friend. Anthony was essentially babysitting this friend who one day decided that drugs might be an interesting thing to try. Idiot. We sat him down, made dinner for like 6 people together at midnight or something, and the rest is history.

Who is your idol?
Don't really have one? Idol worship just seems unhealthy.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Send a message to our past selves: Trust no one but each other. Also if I could stop myself from getting fat, that'd be great.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
We're recluses! It's the more advanced form of introverts!

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

Have any pets?
One dog. A 6 year old rescue mix named Luna. She could be my service dog if she didn't hate cars.

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?
Thats... extremely specific? Honestly I'd hope it kind of all burns, so that the next era or whatever has no preconceived notions of what should or should not be. Maybe some things would end up being better? I don't know. I hope Kanye West is under the asteroid. Anyone who is proud of not reading... ugh.

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):
Um... hi dad! (He'll read this, because I'll show him)

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

Nah. I can't deal with this nonsense without prompts.

I'm hungry. Someone order me a pizza. Or sushi burrito.

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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