Tuesday, November 24, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 254: Scott James

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:Scott James
Location:United Kingdom
Day Job:I work in marketing and have a degree in design, both of which come in handy when publishing games!
Designing:Two to five years.
Facebook:Minerva Tabletop Games
YouTube:Minerva Tabletop Games
Find my games at:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minervatabletop/swatch-the-abstract-game-of-art
Today's Interview is with:

Scott James
Interviewed on: 8/4/2020

For this week's interview we get to meet Scott James, founder of Minerva Tabletop Games and designer of the successfully Kickstarted Swatch! Be sure to check out this fun game of colors and read on to learn more about Scott and his current 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've always been more interested in the process than the result of our hobby. At first this meant building and converting miniatures instead of painting and playing, and then it led to designing board games instead of playing them! I've always been creative and this is a great output for many of the ideas I have.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My first 'proper' design, Swatch, was live on Kickstarter a short while ago. It's a colour creation game where players draft cards and manage resources to mix and create colour schemes. I've been working on it for 18 months now, amongst smaller designs I distribute for free.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Swatch will be my first published game under my design brand, Minerva Tabletop Games.

What is your day job?
I work in marketing and have a degree in design, both of which come in handy when publishing games!

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home with my fiancée or at my local board game cafe The Ludoquist. I run a playtesting meetup there and it's a fantastic community.

Who do you normally game with?
My fiancée Poppy, fellow designers, and a group of friends who play larger games like Game of Thrones and Kemet.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I'd open with something light and social like Coup or Love Letter and then aim to play a couple of light to medium weight games like Tiny Towns or Sagrada. If there's time at the end a quick game like Point Salad or Deep Sea Adventure is the perfect wind down.

And what snacks would you eat?
Despite having a sweet tooth, I prefer savoury snacks when gaming. Crisps and beer usually!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I don't usually play music if I'm hosting, I don't have a lot of music considered easy listening!

What’s your favorite FLGS?
The Ludoquist in South London. Excellent board game library and Nick has supported my game design from the beginning.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Currently Tiny Towns, a very challenging but satisfying game. I'm going to twist the question. slightly and say I really want to enjoy Splendor but find the experience quite flat, yet still keep playing! I've playtested a lot of bad prototypes, but my worst published gaming experience was playing Onirim co-op. Terrible rulebook.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Resource management or worker placement. Knowing there's a perfect solution is very comforting to me, even if I can't always find it!

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Hit Z Road or Age of Civilization, two of the few games I've bought and not yet played, but know I will love.

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, Card Games, Miniatures Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I used to, before I found better social games and realised how toxic that game was.

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 depends on the game. Swatch was designed mechanics first and the colour. Theme developed naturally, but other designs have been solutions to a type of game that I wanted to make.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No, but the Buttonshy 18 card contests have inspired a few designs of my own but never in time to submit them.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Peter McPherson for Tiny Towns, or Kyle Ferrin as artist for Leder Games

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually when I'm trying to sleep, having a shower or driving to work. Any time I'm trying to relax really!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
When there's not a pandemic I have fortnightly playtesting meetups as part of Playtest UK. I also iterate and playtest online using Tabletop Simulator, an invaluable tool currently!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I've been working alone for the past 18 months and it's been hard work. If Swatch is a success I'd like to work with a developer for future titles, but I am also working on a co-design which is very refreshing.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Balancing my time. I've been lucky this year as I've been furloughed for the months leading up to Swatch's launch, I would have struggled to work full time, move house, plan a wedding AND launch a game.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Fallout. My first design was a Fallout miniatures game before Modiphius announced their excellent (official) game, so I created my own post-apocalyptic universe. I'd like to revisit that world for a board game in the future.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Everyone struggles. No one breezes through funding or signing games time after time without a lot of hard work. Don't get complacent, you can always be improving something. And be wary of Imposter Syndrome, even if you have the strongest self confidence!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Join a community or if you can't find one, build one. Designers are excellent support groups and almost everyone is doing it for the love of the hobby. Give as much as you take.

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: Swatch: the colour creation game
Games that I'm playtesting are: An untitled game where players rescue bats and run a bat sanctuary! Card drafting, set collection and engine building.

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

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 for the space battles. Pepsi. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Urban Exploration, exploring and photographing abandoned buildings!

What is something you learned in the last week?
Your Kickstarter page doesn't have to be complete before creating a link for potential backers to subscribe! Could have been sharing it a lot earlier.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
If there's one man shouting and another man singing in a pitch some women would struggle to hit, I'll probably listen to it. Fantasy or historical/historical fiction. Sci-fi, comedy or psychological horror.

What was the last book you read?
A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Piano/keyboard, although I haven't learnt anything new in a while.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Leaving my life behind and moving to London to work for a company that was bought out a few months later, but that really was the chain of events that led me to here, so it worked out alright in the end.

Who is your idol?
Brian Blessed. He's the oldest man to reach the North Pole, has completed space training with the Russians, wrestled the Dalai Lama and punched a polar bear. He's 83!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
An empath like Peter Petrelli, Heroes.

Have any pets?
For the first time in my life, no. But we've just bought a house, so we'll have a furry friend soon enough!

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?
Roleplaying games require little to no materials and bring people together. Elitism in gaming can get yeeted into the sun.

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):
Poppy! It's safe to say I wouldn't be in the position I am now without her. She's been supportive of my dream to design games since we met and she provides me with sanity checks when I need it most. I love you!

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.

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