Tuesday, May 5, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 223: James J. Campbell

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:James J. Campbell
Location:Toronto, Canada
Day Job:Web offset printing press operator
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:James J Campbell
Facebook:I Will Never Grow Up Games
YouTube:I Will Never Grow Up 1
Other:IGA: https://indiegamealliance.com/members/member.php?id=1519 BGDF: https://www.bgdf.com/users/i-will-never-grow-gaming
Find my games at:Ask your local FLGS to order if they don't have them in stock, or through our website.
Today's Interview is with:

James J Campbell
Interviewed on: 3/7/2020

James Campbell designs games and then publishes them through his company, I Will Never Grow Up Games. His first published game, Into the Black: Boarding Party, is a semi-cooperative game about space pirates trying to board an enemy space craft and complete their objective, but each player may also have a secret objective. I played the game as an earlier prototype and it was later successful on Kickstarter. James has his second game, Feudal Endeavor, ready to hit Kickstarter this summer, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, so keep your eyes open for it!

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?
I had some ideas for games that I would love to play and just ran with that! After starting, I couldn't stop myself from designing more.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Development, graphic design and promotion of Feudal Endeavor (a 2-6 player simultaneous hidden bidding, economic engine game set in Imperial Russia, designed by Andrew Zimdahl, relaunching on Kickstarter in July 2020), design and testing of Conflict and Chaos: Vietnam 1965 (dudes on a map style Vietnam war game), Into the Black: Ongoing Missions (Campaign style Expansion for the previously published sci-fi dungeon crawling competitive/cooperative Into the Black: Boarding Party), Battle of France 1940 (Remake of a WW2 dudes on a map style wargame) and Heroes Call (deck building and resource management)

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Into the Black: Boarding Party plus its first two expansions, Epic Encounters and Increased Crew (self published through I Will Never Grow Up Games).

What is your day job?
Web offset printing press operator

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere I can, really. Typically I get to play games at home with family and friends or at friends homes, but I do love to get to local game conventions whenever possible as well. I have yet to manage to make it out to any of the nearby game cafes or game days at FLGSs.

Who do you normally game with?
Most of my gaming is done with my immediate family (My wife, adult children and their significant others) or a small group of hardcore gaming friends when we can manage to carve out the time to meet up all at once.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I will play just about anything that my friends are interested in but I'd really like to get a few games to the table more often such as Charterstone, Clank! In! Space!, Dead of Winter and Dinosaur Island (all among my top favorites currently).

And what snacks would you eat?
Potato chips and pizza are the usual go-to snacks around here.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Personally I dislike music or soundtracks playing as I find it overly distracting. There's usually already a fair bit going on so it just makes it hard to concentrate.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Shout out to Board Game Bliss! Great selection, great pricing, great service.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current Favorite: Clank! In! Space! Least Favorite but still enjoyable: Carcassonne Worst I've ever played: That's a toss up between Spin Monkeys and "We Didn't Playtest This At All" .. and it shows.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Worker Placement would be my favorite mechanism (based on my top games list). Social deduction I could do without.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Scythe. I love the game, and I'll play it solo once in a while but it just seems to be too daunting for most of those I play with most regularly (set up time, play time, choices to make).

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG 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?
It was fun for a while but I grew tired of the same-same-iness of it all .. I will play it once in a while if everyone else REALLY wants to though (which, thankfully, is rare).

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 all over the place on this. Most of the time I have a theme and general backstory come to mind with a very very vague idea of what kind of mechanisms would go well with it but every once in a while I just have a mechanism (or series of mechanisms) that I really want to put in to a game and I do what I can to make it work .. usually to no avail going that way around.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Nope, I haven't ever entered or considered entering a game design competition. They're typically time sensitive and I find I take an excruciatingly long time to design.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jon Gilmour and Jamey Stegmaier are the two game designers I look up to as inspirational and my game collection shows it!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Typically I come up with some of my best ideas either right before falling asleep or while I'm in the middle of a dull workday at my full time job. The two times that it is most difficult to get that inspiration down on paper fast!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'll play test a game solo for as long as it takes to get a playable version ready. After that I rope my family into testing it out with me and then my greater gaming group. When I can I'll then take that game to designer days at local FLGSs if I can and if possible to any small to mid-sized conventions I can make it to. Then I'll send it out to a few game groups to test blindly.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Most of my work is done alone. I like the solitude and problem solving involved. I'd happily work with a co-designer that has a concept I'm interested in and that I feel I could work well with. I've got a few artists I trust for illustration work and I'll always go to them first when I'm at those stages. Most of the early artwork is usually something I sketched up myself or grabbed from open source online sites.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting my designs (esp. finished designs) out to the public consciousness is tough!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd prefer to stay away from the popular IP's because of the issues (or more so the restrictions) typically involved with the licensing of them but if I were to, I think Westworld would make a fantastic setting for a game (or series of games)!

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Cut your designs down to a minimum viable product as soon as possible and only add back in what is 100% necessary (and only if it's not to 'fix' a problem). If you can learn to do this early on it becomes a lot easier to determine if your game actually has legs to stand on.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
If you're in a rut and can't seem to break through on a particular design, shelve it. Put it away, put it out of your mind for a time and work on something else. Some day down the road a solution will come to you when you least expect it.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Into the Black: Boarding Party, Into the Black: Epic Encounters, Into the Black: Increased Crew
Games that will soon be published are: Feudal Endeavor
I'm planning to crowdfund: Feudal Endeavor
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965 Battle of France 1940 TechMage Sci-Fantasy Role Playing Game
Games that I'm playtesting are: Witches Duel
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Heroes Call

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

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 is my first love, but Star Trek is pretty darned good. Coke, hands down (Pepsi will do in a pinch but I'd rather something else if that's the case). Betamax was superior!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I used to do some woodworking, but not so much any more.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Hard Rock (Disturbed, etc), Progressive Rock (Rush!), Classic Rock (Zeppelin, Pink Floyd). The entire Tolkien collection and Robert Rankin would fill my book shelf space for the most part. I love Sci-Fi and Superhero movies most (Star Wars, the Marvel movies, Watchmen) but a good comedy or really good fantasy can get me too.

What was the last book you read?
JRR Tolkien The Silmarillion, and I loved every bit of it.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Well, I mean, I played Trumpet in grades 7/8 and I TRIED to play guitar in High School .. but no, I don't really "play" any musical instruments.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
Despite seeming outwardly friendly and comfortable I deal with social anxiety .. I just mask it really, really well. I'm also REALLY bad with names, but I can remember someone's face even if I haven't seen them in years.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I'm an extroverted introvert .. make sense of that!

Have any pets?
Yes .. oh yes .. so many pets. Currently 4 cats, 1 dog (German Shepherd), a rabbit and a billion fish. Except for the fish, all rescues or former strays.

Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!

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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