Tuesday, June 30, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 231: Seth Cooper

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:Seth Cooper
Email:support@blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Location:Chicago, IL USA
Day Job:Project Manager
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Blog:www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
BGG:Blueprint Gaming Concepts
Facebook:Blueprint Gaming Concepts/
Twitter:@concepts_gaming
YouTube:BlueprintGamingConcepts
Instagram:@blueprintgamingconcepts/
Other:
Find my games at:FLGS Locator on www.blueprintgamingconcepts.com
Today's Interview is with:

Seth Cooper
Interviewed on: 5/5/2020

In this week's intervew we get to meet another game designer that is fairly local to me. Seth Cooper is from Chicago and has run a successful Kickstarter for his first published game, a game about some dark Chicago history and lore: Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle. If you're interested in some darker historical stories and games, be sure to check it out. And read on to learn more about Seth and his projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I have been an avid board game player for years and have thought of some new ideas and themes to pursue.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle

Have you designed any games that have been published?
This is our first self-published game and is supported by 1800 backers from Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter late pledges.

What is your day job?
Project Manager

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Like to host

Who do you normally game with?
Friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Wingspan, Terraforming Mars, Watergate, Smash Up, Scythe, Azul Stained Glass

And what snacks would you eat?
Veggie Trays, Brownies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes, 80s and 90s

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Dice Dojo

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Wingspan; Puerto Rico; King of Tokyo (due to the rulebook and event card language)

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Connections; Player Elimination

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Steampunk Rally

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?
No

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?
Come up with the mechanics first and then add the theme

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
In the middle of night, true eureka style!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Design the game with playtesting approaches in mind, playtest with friends, playtest with game designers, then blind playtests

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

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Building the right team

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Back to the Future

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Find an artistic friend!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
You really have to become a swiss army knife of as many trades as possible if you want to self-publish (game design, playtesting, manufacturing, fulfillment, marketing, rulebook editing, IT, etc.)

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: 2
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: 1

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

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; VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Beach and Indoor Volleyball

What is something you learned in the last week?
Steampunk Rally has a sequel being Kickstarted!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
80s/90s; Devil in the White City; MCU

What was the last book you read?
Teammate

Do you play any musical instruments?
No

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
DJ'd for 15 years

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Jumped off a tall waterfall in Hawaii without checking the bottom of the pool to make sure it was deep enough

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Car accident

Who is your idol?
I don't idol that many people. :)

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Travel to the future to understand how awesome or bad the future may be...

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

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

Have any pets?
Nope

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?
True humanity kindness; disease and guns


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

Did you like this interview?  Please 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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

People Behind the Meeples- Episode 230: Ivan Alexiev

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:Ivan Alexiev
Email:admin@playerlair.net
Location:Sofia, Bulgaria
Day Job:I am a double bassist, who works mostly in the evenings, so still not really a day job.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:playerlair.net
Blog:http://playerlair.net/designers-blog/
BGG:ThePlayerLair
Facebook:@playerlair/
YouTube:PlayerLair
Find my games at:Games, my blog, my brother's artwork and assets can all be found on playerlair.net
Today's Interview is with:

Ivan Alexiev
Interviewed on: 5/4/2020

This week we get to meet Bulgarian designer, Ivan Alexiev. Ivan works with his brother, Vesselin, designing tabletop games, a passion they've shared for many years, but just recently became serious about it. Their first game, Satchel: A Journey Unknown, is available as a free print and play and it recently won a prize in Edo's Stay at Home design contest. To learn more about Ivan, read on, and be sure to check out Satchel: A Journey Unknown!

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?
I got back into the hobby through Scythe. My brother and I played a lot of board games as kids (Axis and Allies, Risk, Stratego, etc.) and even then made attempts at design. We drifted away from the hobby as we got older and had to focus more on our education and careers. In 2017 I decided to get my brother Game of Thrones (the card game) as a birthday present as I knew he loved Game of Thrones and playing board games was something we used to do together. Getting each other games became something of a tradition and we slowly began getting together to play them. It wasn't until I received Scythe as a birthday present that our sessions became weekly and it didn't take long to get talking about our earlier attempts at designing games. So, we started anew (as our first game which we designed some 10 years ago was lost in time) and began designing our first finished game Cosmic: The Iliad.

What game or games are you currently working on?
We recently released Satchel: A Journey Unknown as a solo print and play to keep people playing while distancing. We are currently working on expanding the Satchel universe so it will feature a co-op mode, choices which have narrative impact, new characters, a plethora of new bad guys to defeat and more scenarios and places to interact with.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes, Satchel: A Journey Unknown is web-published and free to download from http://playerlair.net/satchel-a-journey-unknown/

What is your day job?
I am a double bassist, who works mostly in the evenings, so still not really a day job.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
There is a board game cafe I frequent called the Three Trolls. Like most board game communities I've been part of, they are some of the most positive and welcoming people I know. I don't mind playing at home either, but I do like the social aspect of playing games. I also love showing my prototypes to new people, so I can get some fresh feedback and ideas.

Who do you normally game with?
I usually game with my brother and our significant others. I'm also part of a board game club which gets together once a week in a board game cafe.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on the amount of people. If we were 5 or 6 people I'd love to play Dune, 2-4 perhaps Architects of the West Kingdom or Scythe with the Rise of Fenris expansion. If nobody shows up then Mage Knight!

And what snacks would you eat?
I'm not a snacker, if we were to eat it would be either prior to the games or after.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Board games paired with the right music can completely amplify the experience. When playing a fantasy game we usually go with Heroes Orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VzzCBQb9IY), oh the sentimentality that music brings.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Well, my local one is Fantasmagoria, shout out to them for having deliveries during quarantine! I couldn't pick a favorite as they're all such great places full of adventure and mystery.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite would be Mage Knight (only because I got it last week and have been drooling over it since December when I first played it). I wouldn't call any game the worst, just because I know the time and effort that goes into the game. Also, if you look for the good parts of a game, you'll most likely find many. Even in the least enjoyable games, I've found some very cool mechanics and things which make it worth it, even if I wouldn't play it again.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I really like mechanics which feature some sort of artificial intelligence- like the epidemic mechanic in Pandemic. You know exactly what cards are on top of that deck and it fits in so well thematically, having the cities which are affected from the earliest get worse progressively. The world in Pandemic really seems alive to me because of the way the diseases work.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Pandemic Legacy... I started it over a year ago and we're still on month 3. I want to finish it so much, but we'll have to change players around as some of the initial group decided it wasn't a game they enjoy.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

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?
It's a mixture of both, usually theme suggests mechanics and mechanics suggest theme. That being said, when it comes down to a choice between the two I usually choose in favor of theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered several. The first competition we entered was the Sofia Board Game Weekend prototype contest, where despite not winning a prize, we saw how our game compares with other games and at the same time the competition was something we could work towards, so it inevitably helped us become better designers. Later, that same game got 2nd prize in a national competition(Sofia Game Night) and an award from another small competition. I think competitions are a great way to become a better designer, even if it's just because of the deadline you have to meet. Currently our game Satchel: A Journey Unknown is also competing in Gaming with Edo's "Stuck at Home" design contest.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Well, I can't help but admire Vlaada Chvatil's diversity when it comes to games. He's been able to make some great games in many different scales.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I'm not superstitious, but I do feel like the best ideas come when I've worked for a very long time on a project and just stop working on it for a bit. For some reason that's when I get those eureka moments in the middle of the night. I try my best to avoid relying on that method though, because that might let me slip into not doing much. The problem is, a lot of times I've had those eureka moments just a day or two after submitting a game to a contest or publishing it somewhere... that's when I really wish I had a time machine. But hey, that's what expansions are for, right?

How do you go about playtesting your games?
The first couple of prototypes I playtest with my brother. Usually those prototypes involve very little fun and I don't want to subject other people to a game which doesn't yet work. When we do find the fun in our game, we begin taking the prototype to town in board game cafes to get feedback from friendly local board gamers. When we feel good about how the game does in most playthroughs, we find blind testers to see if our rulebook can bring the same experience that we can when we're at the table helping out. I only recently found out about Tabletop Simulator and during quarantine we're taking the exact same steps but in the simulator. We found several groups of playtesters as well as blind playtesters (those are really hard to find in the real world) and I can't believe how much this software has made our lives easier.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I prefer working in a team, and for the past two years I think my brother Vesselin and I have made a really good one. We can really push each other to do better and can divide up the work. He does artwork, graphic design and a bit of game design, while I focus almost completely on mechanics and narrative.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
What I find most challenging is turning off that little voice in my head when I play a great game which says "Oh man, I wish I designed that". I can't help but feel a bit of jealousy when I play a game I truly love. It's so awesome when a designer can make people love his game as much as he does. I wish we could all experience that feeling one day.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Isaac Asimov's Foundation would really be a dream come true. I also have a few ideas of how to make Satchel be in The Witcher universe, if anyone knows how to make either of those happen... please tell me!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't get discouraged when your game isn't fun. Don't get discouraged when you see better games. Keep working on your game and keep loving it and I believe you'll find out what it needs.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Satchel: A Journey Unknown
I'm planning to crowdfund: Cosmic: The Iliad, Satchel

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes, Board Game Design Lab, Board Game Revolution, BG41, and a bunch more

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, Water, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Playing music, hiking and sitting in cafes watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll (I hope you get that reference).

What is something you learned in the last week?
I keep learning how amazing the board game community is, since our release of Satchel: A Journey Unknown last week we've had over 1000 downloads and so many positive comments and feedback.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm stuck in the 60's when it comes to music, books I like sci-fi, fantasy and philosophy. I'm a big fan of Taika Waititi's movies.

What was the last book you read?
The Witcher

Do you play any musical instruments?
Double bass, bass guitar, guitar, piano

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Becoming a game designer, haha

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Both at different times... Like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

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

Yeah, I want to invite people to share their ideas and creativity. Don't be afraid to reach out and tell us about your games and what you think we can improve in our games or even just to say hi. If there's something you want to see in our games or assets or anything we do, tell us about it. The more people join in, the cooler our projects become.




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?  Please 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.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!
Vitals:
Title: The Whatnot Cabinet
Designed by: Steve Finn
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Year Published: 2021
MSRP: $??
1-4p | 20-30 min | 8+
Kickstarter Link: The Whatnot Cabinet
Kickstarter Price: $39

Disclaimer: This review is for a prototype version of the game.  Art and components may not be final and are subject to change.

Introduction:
Back in 2017 I was fortunate enough to review A game called Herbaceous by the board game design supergroup of Steve Finn on design, Eduardo Baraf on development and publishing, Beth Sobel on art, and Keith Matejka on solo gameplay.  I absolutely loved the game. And since then have been equally impressed with their other games: Herbaceous Sprouts and Sunset Over Water.  All three games are excellent, relaxing filler games that play in about 30 minutes.  When I heard about The Whatnot Cabinet by the same dynamite team, I was very excited.  I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Whatnot Cabinet while it is still on Kickstarter, but let's see if it holds up to this team's other games.

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Fast, simple gameplay.
  • Good player interaction.
  • Puzzly moments.
  • Fun solo play.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • The Fascination Pack mini-expansion adds more variety.
  • The game plays great at all player counts I've tried, I look forward to trying at the other player counts.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Turns can sometimes feel a bit limiting when bad luck won't get you the tiles you need.
  • There are limited ways to mitigate bad luck.
  • Ran out of tiles in a two-player game.
Final Thoughts:
I really like The Whatnot Cabinet, however, I do feel it had one flaw.  My biggest concern was with the amount of luck in the game and an inability to mitigate it occasionally.  It is pretty easy to get yourself in a situation where one tile is the difference between a bunch of points or none and if that tile doesn't come up when you can get it, you're out of luck.  There are several ways that tiles in the "ouutdoors" (the publicly available tiles in the game) can be cleared and replaced, which is fine for when you are digging for that desired tile, but when someone else does that and dumps your tile before you ever have a chance to acquire it, that can be frustrating.  Additionally, at the end of every round the "outdoors" is refreshed, so tiles can be discarded before you ever have an opportunity to acquire them.

I'd love to see a way to get discarded tiles back, or at the very least, only have the "outdoors" refill every round instead of getting wiped completely.

On a somewhat related note,  we used the actions to refresh the "outdoors" so often in one two-player game that we ran out of tiles before the end of the game.  I'm not sure if that's a common occurrence, but maybe returning discarded tiles to the bag each round could help with both of these issues.

Overall though,  I really liked The Whatnot Cabinet.  It fits in perfectly with the other relaxing themes this team has released.  The puzzle the game presents is engrossing, the artwork is gorgeous, and the game plays a lot faster than you expect.  I especially liked the solo game.  It plays fast, presents an interesting challenge, and is quick and simple to set up and take down, all attributes I look for in solo games.  Steve Finn, Eduardo Baraf, Beth Sobel, and Keith Matejka have knocked out of the park again with this design.

The Whatnot Cabinet earns a Bloom from me.  It's a perfect addition to this team's game catalog.  If you enjoy any of those other games, or any of Steve Finn's other games, then you'll love The Whatnot Cabinet.  Check it out now, on Kickstarter, for only the next week!

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 

Pictures:
















Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, 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.


GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Leaving the Everything Board Games Review Network

GJJ Games and 16 other reviewers formerly affiliated with Everything Board Games have put out a statement.


This decision was not made lightly.  I approached the owner of EBG directly, asking for his side of the story and he only gave me vague semi-answers so that's what sealed my decision to leave with the others.

Everything Board Games was a wonderful, open community for many years, and I hope that it remains so.  The answer I got from EBG reflects that, however the issue of silencing reviewers in a private forum was not addressed.  This is the response I received:  "Everything Board Games is committed to bringing Board Games and People together to have fun. We're keeping out anything non-board games such as religion, politics and hot topic issues out of EBG."  

Please make your own decision on whether to support EBG or not, but it is time for me to officially leave, even though I have not been an active reviewer for the group for over 2 years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 229: Rebecca Horovitz

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:Rebecca Horovitz
Email:annapurnaboardgame@gmail.com
Location:USA
Day Job:This. This is my day job. I am an entrepreneur hoping to make my way into the industry as my full time job.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:annapurnaboardgame.com
BGG:https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/240322/annapurna
Facebook:Annapurnaboardgame
Twitter:@annapurnagame
YouTube:>Annapurna Board Game
Instagram:@Annapurnaboardgame
Find my games at:Kickstarter on the way, otherwise, it's in the Steam workshop for Tabletop Simulator.
Today's Interview is with:

Rebecca Horovitz
Interviewed on: 5/3/2020

This week I'm happy to introduce you to Rebecca Horovitz, a true all-around artist. She creates art in many different mediums, including board games! Annapurna: Leave No Trace Behind is her first game that she'll have on Kickstarter soon. Read on to learn more about Rebecca and her projects.

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?
I want to go into video game design as well and this seemed a place to show off my design skills. I fell in love with designing boardgames and plan to keep making them, even if I work on video games as well.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Annapurna: Leave no Trace Behind and a new game that involves moving parts and concentric circles.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Annapurna is my first game, but we are almost there. We hope to have the kickstarter this year.

What is your day job?
This. This is my day job. I am an entrepreneur hoping to make my way into the industry as my full time job.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I like at home or at a game shop.

Who do you normally game with?
My roomates.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Fury of Dracula, Mansions of Madness, or D&D.

And what snacks would you eat?
Almost anything.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Whatever music fits the game, unless there is a lot of thinking or discussion.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
It unfortunately closed last year.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I don't remember the bad games, I delete them from my memory. I love playing the Firefly RPG, D&D and horror games like Mansions of Madness and Betrayal at House on the Hill.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I'm not a fan of games or mechanics fully dictated by chance. A roll of the dice is one thing, but when the big end of the game is determined by it, it can feel cheap to me.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I bought Cthulhu Wars years ago and still have yet to play it. I played it once and fell in love.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Video Games, Other Games?

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

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?
Varies. One I tried to make one game and it turned into something else. Another I came up with a mechanic I wanted to try, a few times I thought of places in the market that need to be filled, or problems. For instance the lack of games that are friendly to those with audio or visual impairments is a problem I wish to tackle with a future game.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Not yet.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Two. Curt Covert of Smirk and Dagger and Christoper Badell of Greater Than Games

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
While playtesting or playing other games. Or talking to people.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First by myself, then with friends, then at local stores or cafes, then at colleges and conventions. Sometimes I will test a specific mechanic, or look for opinions on art. Other times I will throw out the whole game and look at reactions. During, I take notes on what I had to explain or what reactions people had. At the end I will usually give out surveys.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I always am open to working with others. My dream is to collaborate on designs or offer assistance to other designers.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Rules. Writing rules and getting people to understand them. The second, and just as difficult, is getting noticed.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I honestly don't know. I'd have to have a design that fit the IP before I decided. I don't want to make a game and then throw an IP on it, I'd want to have a game that fits with the IP. Although I'd Love to work for Wizards of the Coast.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You don't need to print your design and have it look pretty out the get go. Use paper and slap on some sticky notes.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Re-re-re-read your rules. Have other people re-re-re-read your rules. Then have a stranger read your rules. I can't tell you how many times I changed things, not because the mechanics didn't work, but because the way they worked was difficult to explain. That said, don't change the full game to fit the rules, two or three people out of twenty not understanding is going to happen. People hate reading rules, so make sure they are easy to read and reference. When in doubt ask yourself if a child could understand or misconstrue it, because someone Will misconstrue it if it's possible. And look for typos over and over.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Annapurna
Games that I'm playtesting are: Spinning board game
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Spinning race game. A modular board RPG/adventure game.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Underwater in the pool game. Game for the auditory and visually impaired. Movie Design Memory Game.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yeah, there are quite a few. Some are me, some are my page.

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?
Make it so number one.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I have too many. I paint in oils. I draw and write. I'm a rockhound and tumble the stones I find. I enjoy carving, and making jewelry and wire wrapping. I'm learning how to draw on my tablet and trying to get better at realism in my art. Oh, and photography.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Tabletop Simulator has a limit to the level of detail in imported models, and how to lower the level of detail in Blender so you can import said models.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like rock and metal with a slight blues or country twang, lots of music in minor keys or major keys with power chords. I'm currently watching How To Get Away With Murder, very good show. I love books, but haven't read many of late, been busy working on my own art.

What was the last book you read?
Re-reading Dracula.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I work in almost every medium when it comes to art, except thread. I can't sew or use a sewing machine at All.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Jumped from a second story onto a bean bag. I missed, but rolled out of it. My butt was super sore.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I was spray painting some cabinets with stencils and the spray paint got underneath the stencil. It left an awesome mark. I ended up spray painting the cabinets putting textured paper on the wet paint to pull it off and leave reverse stencils on them. It looks awesome.

Who is your idol?
My Dad. He worked extraordinarily hard and built his own business from the ground up.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Travel to numerous points in the past and draw stuff. Maybe get lessons from a painter, but probably not until I knew how stepping out would mess with causality.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert. I love people, but being around them makes me nervous and tired.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Dr. Strange. Magic yo. Immortality. Teleporting. Infinite beer.

Have any pets?
Two kitties. Athena and Artemis.

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?
Anything simple and transportable with dice or anything with records online. What will be popular? RPG's for escapism, anything with betting because gambling is a way to make money and an escape, and anything that causes laughter. I hope single use plastics and the way the current economy works gets thrown out, to that end I hope every copy of Monopoly gets destroyed.

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):
All the people going out on the daily to keep our world running while this virus is controlling our lives. Thank you.

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

Annapurna is on Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator and we will be at VGC Con.

The sun sets past the horizon, and I see the light fade into a promise of opportunity.




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?  Please 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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Codenames Duet by Czech Games Edition

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Codenames Duet by Czech Games Edition
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!
Vitals:
Title: Diet Codenames Duet
Designed by: Vlada Chvatil, Scot Eaton
Publisher: Czech Games Edition 
Year Published: 2017
MSRP: $20
2-4p | 15-30 min | 11+

Introduction:
I really enjoy the original Codenames, but it's often difficult to get the game to the table, at least with my game group.  We generally gravitate toward more strategic games.  However, there are plenty of times at home when my wife and I would like to play something, but with three rambunctious boys in the house short games are the easiest for my wife and I to get to the table.  When I heard that my friend Scot was working on a two-player variant of  Codenames, one of my wife's favorite games, I was intrigued.  When I heard that the folks at Czech Games Edition were going to publish his version I was excited.   It's been available for a few years now, but I'm thrilled to finally be able to share my review of Codenames Duet with you.

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Keeps the feel of the original game, but with only 2 players.
  • The new tiles are just as high quality as the original game.
  • If you're familiar with the base game you'll be playing this one in no time - there are only a few differences.  If you're new to Codenames it's still an easy learn.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • Can be played with more than 2 players.
  • Can be played with different versions of Codenames.
  • "Missions" change the game up to keep things interesting.  
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Like the original, it can be challenging playing with kids who may not have as much worldly experience to make connections between multiple words. 
Final Thoughts:
When I have the itch to play Codenames, now I can pull out Codenames Duet and my wife and I can get a game knocked out in just 15 minutes!  You still have the same experience of wracking your brain to figure out the perfect clue to string together multiple words, then the exhilaration when your partner guesses them all, or the frustration when they make a connection you didn't think about, and it all works with just two players.

I found the distribution of spies, bystanders, and assassins to be ingenious.  Each player sees a different side of an identifier card that identifies nine spies and three assassins, however between both players there will be 15 spies to connect with.  That means there are three spies that we have in common.  And of the three assassins that I know of, one is an assassin, one a spy, and one a bystander for your partner.  This makes it so you can't quite use your own identifier card to figure out what your partner sees.  That gives the game a slightly different twist from the original, but still keeps the same tension.

Overall, I was very impressed with Codenames Duet.  It stays true to the original while still providing a unique experience.  I really like the missions that present you with additional challenges and variations of play to keep the game interesting.  I also really love that you can mix this version with any of the other versions of Codenames.  If you enjoy Codenames, but want to play with just two players, or if you like two-player games, then Codenames Duet is just the game for you!  Codenames Duet is definitely a Bloom game that would be a great addition to anyone's collection. 

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 


Pictures:









Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, 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.


GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 228: Tony Vasinda

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:Tony Vasinda
Email: Tony@Plusoneexp.com
Location:Philly PA
Day Job:I am a beard balm magnate and community builder who does missionary work in my community.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:TonyVasinda.com or BeardRPG.com
Facebook:PlusOneExp
Twitter:@PlusOneExp or@TonyVasinda
Instagram:@PlusOneExp or @Tony_Vasinda
Find my games at:PlusOneExp.com
Today's Interview is with:

Tony Vasinda
Interviewed on: 5/19/2020

This week's interview is with Tony Vasinda, someone I knew for something other than gaming first. Beard balm! A couple of years ago my wife convinced me to try using a beard balm on my beard and she bought me a sampler of various balms from Tony's Catholic Balm company and I loved it! (I've since tried a few other companies' balms. and Tony's are tied for my top two companies.) Last year I noticed a new RPG on Kickstarter all about beards and I was surprised to see it was by the same guy I buy beard balm from! Since then I've gotten to know Tony as a game designer as well. in April, Tony organized a 48 hour game design jam where two teams of designers had 48 hours to design a game. My team designed a semi cooperative press your luck game about aliens capturing dinosaurs! It was quite fun to design a game as part of a team and to meet a group of designer, so thanks tony for organizing that! Read on to learn more about Tony and his myriad of awesome, uplifting projects.

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?
I love them. I was also designing a lot of social games, challenges, and play experiences for outdoor education experiences and many of them were basically scaled tabletop games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
We are finishing up Beards & Beyond and looking at our next game "Cascade".

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Just Beards & Beyond which is self-published.


What is your day job?
I am a beard balm magnate and community builder who does missionary work in my community.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Yes. Afternoon into evening with long play sessions and breaks for meals and drinks.

Who do you normally game with?
My family (4 teenage kids) right now, but typically with groups of local friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Start with a few quick tactical games while we wait for the late comers. I adore Smash Up, Shobu, and others for this. Then start with a large scale social deduction game like Two Rooms and a Boom or The Resistance. Then break people into groups based on interest and experience. Assuming by a few friends you mean 12ish.

And what snacks would you eat?
What people bring. I typically make some homemade pizzas or flatbreads and then add homemade pickles and salsa to the mix. I'll grab some corn chips and kettle chips from the store. Good local beers with some soft drinks.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not typically. For RPGs we might toss an ambiance track on though.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Hands down Around the Table in Lynnwood WA and Madness Comics in Plano TX. I have a great local comic shop called JD Hero Complex locally that I am just getting to know. The owner is a great artist who did some work for Beards & Beyond.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Dialect is probably my current favorite. I think about it all the time. I'll still happily break out munchkin after decades of playing it, and it having run it's course for personal enjoyment. Worst game ever... it was a zombie game with horribly written rules. Can't remember the name, but also I loathe candy land.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I am currently obsessed with card/tile flipping and I don't know why. Outside of storytelling I love blind bidding mechanics. I don't have a least favorite... but like to avoid high luck elements.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Never played it. Deeply want to. The Great Space Race.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games.

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Card Games, RPG Games, Other Games.

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
It was fun the first time.

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.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Nope.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I think Phillip Reed (CEO of SJ Games) is prolific and makes amazing RPG supplements for his personal projects. I love playing games with designers, but I don't really get attached to them.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Jokes. I make a joke and a game comes out-sometimes. 75% of my current designs start with, Wouldn't it be funny if we...

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Most of the time it's actually just writing up the rules and sending them to friends who are smart players to get their input and feedback. Then prototyping, then playtesting personally. Then doing a creator jam, then going to my local FLGS and sharing it.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
With a team, but not a set one.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Myself.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish game designers had had more opportunities for community a long time ago, but I made my first game at 19, so I am good.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Your mechanics and materials are not the point. Playing is the point. A game can be pretty, ugly, simple, complex, lite, deep, whatever, but it has to be played to be a game. Don't make a game that will sit in a box. Make a game that will be played.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Beards & Beyond
Games that will soon be published are: Cascade, Forts, BrandStanding
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Cascade
I'm planning to crowdfund: Forts, BrandStanding
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: BrandStanding
Games that I'm playtesting are: Cascade
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Forts
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: BrandStanding

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Soooooo Many. Shout outs to BGDL, Tabletop Backer Party, BoardGame Spotlight, and my own folks in Beards of Tabletop.

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!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Talk radio. Yes (fiction, business, theology, creativity). Josie and The Pussy Cats and The Forbidden Planet.

What was the last book you read?
I read a crap ton of lit RPG and I just finished The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Do you play any musical instruments?
Kazoo at a way more "in to it" level than you would expect.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
...hmmm. It really depends on the people.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I just quit a steady paying job, moved my family across the country, and started a new missionary project.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Hopefully the above, but I made beard balm a few years ago that went viral in it's niche and has funneled around a million dollars into philanthropic work.

Who is your idol?
I don't really have one. People are people. Some of my heroes are St Augustin, Plato, Allen Ginsburg, this guy named Mike Bishop in Memphis (he's not anyone that anyone would ever have heard of). Just a great guy.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go Forward 100 years. Interact with no one. Just see what life is like.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extroverted Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
The Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

Have any pets?
A dog.

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?
Wait... Isn't that happening right now? Community Storytelling.

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):
Ryan Boh, Chris Pesagian, Mark Guiney, Michael Marchand. You know what you did.

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

If you are looking for a solid Beard Balm, Lotion Bar, or Lip Balm and want the proceeds to support the indie game community head to PlusOneBalms.com.

[GJJ Games] I can attest to the awesomeness of Tony's beard balm. The scents are awesome and it really does a great job of keeping my scraggly beard in check. Plus, your purchase goes to help some pretty great causes.





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?  Please 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.