Tuesday, January 28, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 208: Mallory Shepherd

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:Mallory Shepherd
Location:Dallas, TX
Day Job:I have a consulting company for marketing and project management. Clever Fox Consultants. I help people complete their projects on time and on budget and also do marketing for their products! And manage crowdfunding campaigns/product photography, etc.
Designing:Less than six months.
Find my games at:Nowhere yet!
Today's Interview is with:

Mallory Shepherd
Interviewed on: 8/20/2019

This week's interview is with Dallas designer, Mallory Shepherd. Mallory has been a part of the board game industry for a while now, doing project management, marketing, and helping with crowdfunding through her company, Clever Fox Consultants. Recently she's turned to the design side of board games and I'm excited to see what kinds of games she creates! Read on to learn more about Mallory and her projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Less than six months.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I’ve been involved in the industry as a playtester and with marketing/project management for several years, and I finally made the jump over into designing. I made the jump because there were games with themes I wanted to play that didn’t exist. And I was honestly inspired a lot by Elizabeth Hargrave.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Currently unnamed game involving libraries.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet, but I’ve done playtesting and marketing on a lot of published games! Most recently Unmatched and Lanterns Dice.

What is your day job?
I have a consulting company for marketing and project management. Clever Fox Consultants. I help people complete their projects on time and on budget and also do marketing for their products! And manage crowdfunding campaigns/product photography, etc.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I love all types, but party games and games with mostly luck are my least favorite. I equally love Ameritrash and Euro games.

Who do you normally game with?
I have a game group and then a few friends that we play a lot of two player modes on.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Whatever one of us just got fulfilled off of Kickstarter. I just got the expansion for Inis so maybe that.

And what snacks would you eat?
I’m lucky, my friend usually makes something in her air fryer or bakes things for us. When I’m hosting we usually have delivery of some kind and chips/some kind of dry snack around the games. And cheese. Always cheese.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Sometimes we play mood music based on the theme of the game.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Madness Comics and Games

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite: I’m on a Champions of Midgard kick because I’m excited to get my Kickstarter copy of Reavers. Least: Smash Up. It’s on my shelf and I don’t want to get rid of it, but it doesn’t make it to the table at all anymore. Worst: Do prototypes count? Hmmm a published game I really didn’t care for is a Fantastic Beasts Dice game. It’s basically co-op Yahtzee and there just wasn’t any substance to it.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: this one is hard. I like a lot of different mechanics. But if I had to pick, I’d say deck building. I really love deck builders and the thrill you get when you can get that perfect turn off. Least: PLAYER ELIMINATION. I hate it and it needs to go.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I tend to get a lot of games to the table, but I haven’t played Dead of Winter for a long time because it’s hard to get people to commit to a game that takes a bit more to teach and play.

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, RPG 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 theme first person and let the mechanics evolve from there into what feels natural and makes sense for the theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Haven’t entered one yet!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I’m sure he’s a lot of people’s but Jamey Stegmaier. He puts a lot of thought into his games and takes risks and I admire him for that.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
From all over. First, I pick themes that I love and am passionate about. You have to be if you are going to be researching things about it. I get a lot of inspiration while I’m doing research on the theme too. A lot of mechanics make sense from learning about the theme. Another place I get inspiration from is playing a lot of games. I mean A LOT of games. Of all different types. And third, I listen. I listen to my game group when we are playing a game and someone says “man I wish I could do this in this game.” And I also get a lot of inspiration from playtesting other people’s games. You have those “aha!” moments when you see a mechanic and realize if you tweaked it a bit it would work really well in your game.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I’m part of a design group and we playtest for each other. I also get my friends involved. Then after that I ask my friends to find friends and so on.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Killing your baby. I think that’s the hardest thing for any designer to do. Apart from that, it’s knowing when your game is ready to be pitched or to go on Kickstarter. There is always a “I could make this better” and knowing when to stop can be hard for me.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Harry Potter. I’m a giant Potterhead.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Just do it. Just get out there and start making one. There are no bad ideas at the start. I sat on the sidelines for so long testing games and wishing I knew how to make one before I realized they don’t have any more idea what they are doing than I do in the beginning. I’d have started designing a long time ago if someone had told me to just start making a notecard prototype with all your weird ideas and it’s fine if it’s bad. That’s where we all start.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Pick themes/mechanics you care about and wish existed. You will spend a lot of time with them. It’s also better to start making a simple prototype right off the bat than trying to plan it all out on paper first.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Library Game

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Dallas Design Group

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, Dr Pepper, and I had to google what a Betamax was.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
There are other hobbies? JK, I really enjoy reading and listening to podcasts. And geeking out over fandoms. I also like photography.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I’m teaching myself how to edit video so a lot of video things.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I don’t have a favorite type of music, but I love sci-fi/fantasy/post apocalyptic books and movies.

What was the last book you read?
Tiny But Mighty. It’s a book written by a kitten advocate and rescuer. She’s really reminded me that even one person doing small things can make a difference.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No, I wish I did but don’t have the time to practice.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I don’t like ketchup, mustard, or mayo.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I touched a Monet painting in Paris. The actual painting. Pretty sure you can get arrested for that.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I kind of accidentally adopted my cat. She was just supposed to stay for the weekend and it’s been two and a half years now. She’s my constant companion and is pretty awesome.

Who is your idol?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s done so much for equality in the United States and didn’t let anything stop her in a time it was unheard of for a woman to be a lawyer.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I’d treat it more like a time turner and do over certain little mistakes. And maybe go to the future. I’d be tempted to go to the past but be terrified of the butterfly effect. I’d love to solve some historical mysteries though!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Ambivert. It’s a thing, look it up!

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Captain Marvel. She’s strong, has a lot of powers, and can fly through outer space! How cool is that?

Have any pets?
An awesome cat. Her name is Kat.

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’d hope for Star Realms to survive. Imagine an Ice Age people playing a game with spaceships. I’d be okay if Cards Against Humanity was never played again. (Sorry, not sorry.)

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):
Lindsey Rosenthal, for getting me into the design group I’m part of. They really pushed me to start making my ideas into reality.

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

Be kind to people.


I really like cheese.

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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