Tuesday, October 27, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 250: Arne Kaehler

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:Arne Kaehler
Day Job:I am a blogger for the biggest chess software company in the world.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:on the tabletop simulator and soon for real.
Today's Interview is with:

Arne Kaehler
Interviewed on: 7/18/2020

Wow, interview number 250! It's been an amazing run and wonderful experience to interview over 250 designers (I also have a few quick interviews that I've done, so check them out). This week's interview is with Arne Kaehler, who has been designing games since he was a small child, but has been focusing the last few years on Zurubang. Keep an eye out for it coming to Kickstarter some time next year and read on to learn more about Arne and his 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?
At the age of 5 to 6 years, I figured out that designing games is even more fun than playing them. This never changed.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Since 2016 I am working on nothing else than one game, called Zurubang.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No, Zurubang will be my first one.

What is your day job?
I am a blogger for the biggest chess software company in the world.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Due to the coronavirus, the tabletop simulator meanwhile has more than 816 hours of play time. I am part of a board game club in Malta, called W.A.R.S and we meet up at home or in a cafe.

Who do you normally game with?
Members of the Maltese board game club, since all of them love to play games. Besides that, anybody who wants to play and I can also get people to play with me, who normally don't like board games.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
That completely depends on the friends. I played with a group of friends Axis & Allies for 5 nights in a row. Then again with 20-30 people some party games. In the last 4 years I try to play Zurubang with anybody crossing my path.

And what snacks would you eat?
A cappuccino with oat milk goes hand in hand with meeting at a coffee place. Snacks are surprisingly little while playing. I guess I don't like to smear fat, salt or spices on the games while playing?

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Chill Hop it is. I use it mostly for working, but since every audience likes it, I play it all the time.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I like allgames4you from Germany. There are a few board game stores in Malta only, which don't always have the games I would like to play.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
It sounds a bit cheesy, but besides the best board game in the world "chess" I really love to play my own game Zurubang as often as possible, which is a very, very good sign. I enjoy so many games and the variety of different topics, that it is hard to choose a favourite. For some reason I stuck to Quadropolis a lot recently.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love strategy, turn-based, tactics, bluffing and building games.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Kings & Things is not considered the best game ever made, but I love it to bits and after 15 years of not being able to play it, I bought two copies and managed to play it last year!

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, Card Games, RPG Games, Other 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?
Vice Versa. I luckily have this gift of never ending ideas. It is also a curse, because once you start a new game idea, another one comes across and takes over. It required all my power to stick with ONE game at last.

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

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I really like Gabe Barrett and his podcast "The Board Game Design lab".

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I love this question. It is a complete chaos and no structure or ritual on how to get inspiration. Sometimes I just start dreaming. Other times it happens out of nowhere. Often while playing a game. It is completely random.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I think I have done a bad job with the playtesting and would like to work on it in the future. I played my game with hundreds of different people, mostly friends but also sometimes completely random strangers who I barely know. The Bad part is, that I was part of the game 95% of the times, which is very counterproductive. How will I ever know if the game can stand on its own feet, if I ain't there? Just in the last year I changed this a bit with good results, but I should have started this many years earlier.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like to work alone for now, because it is very enjoyable.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Stopping. I have worked on my card game for more than 4 years. I always wanted to make it better and better. I was unhappy with some mechanics and the balance and adjusted the game around 16-20 times! I playtested it over 1000 times. That is probably pretty unique and cool in one way, but I could have made 50 games in this time already, which is a pity. You might just have to stop adjusting at one point.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would make a card game, consisting of over 100 thousand cards from all computer game characters ever made. It would be set up as a quartet style trading card game. Only problem would be the time making it.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Sticking to ONE game was finally having me start Zurubang in the first place. I made hundreds of different game designs prior, and they are all unfinished, most of them 1%, trying to find a cool name.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I think one of the important lessons is to stick to your own stuff and be open to every advice. Like this, you make plenty of mistakes and can adjust them, leading to a better outcome. Once that step has been taken, you don't need to listen to every advice and can be more specific. Basically how the world works.

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: Zurubang
Currently looking for a publisher I have: No, I want this baby to be my own, no matter what.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Maybe next year
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: The game is ready to 99.4% and needs the very last tweaks.

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

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, sparkling water and VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Chess, Beach volleyball, self-development, YouTube, meeting friends, audiobooks, watching movies

What is something you learned in the last week?
Go to the gym more often, to get a better core, to not bruise your ribs playing beach volleyball...it hurts

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Jazzy sad chords combined with rolling beats, Mark Manson & Seth Godin, an endless list of movies

What was the last book you read?
Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey

Do you play any musical instruments?
None sadly, but I like to sing

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am Vegan, German, live in Malta, was in the pick-up artist business, have 3 cats, a perfect wife, worked in an Online Casino for 6 years, started my career as an actor and consider myself very blessed, being one of the happiest people on this planet.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I don't personally think it is crazy, but people in general say it is, when I tell them. I left my beautiful apartment in Hamburg Germany, my fantastic job and beautiful girlfriend to move to Malta, a tiny European Island below Sicily. I wanted this, so it was a natural process for me. I guess it is considered crazy, because I had it all and went for the change? In the end, it was probably the best decision I ever made in my life.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
After 6 years in the online casino business, which I morally wasn't aligned with, the company told me, this January it might be a good idea to leave. I was in a little shock for a couple of hours, but relieved and happy right after. They were very fair to me and in the end, they gave me a little slap on the butt to get back to my own path again, which happened.

Who is your idol?
Mark Manson and Seth Godin are my heroes.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would probably use it. I mean...this can become a beautiful hobby. Time-travelling!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
both, as everybody else.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I think I would pass. superheroes rarely design board games, which I would prefer to spend my time.

Have any pets?
3 cats, part of the family. We are obsessed with them, and they give us joy and love every single day.

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?
Chess will survive, which is good enough. If the asteroid could destroy really terrible music? Is that possible?

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):
Thank you to everybody who played Zurubang with me, and helped me with the game. Thank you to my wife who always believes in anything I do, thank you for my lovely parents, which are amazing! Thank you to all my friends, they are great. Thank you for the world, humans, animals and life, because I have this weird condition, that I really appreciate all of this and love it. And thank you, George Jaros, for having this beautiful project of yours here, helping people to be seen and heard! This takes a lot of effort and you are doing something great. Cheers

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

Thank you


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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