Tuesday, December 8, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 256: Jørgen Brunborg-Næss

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:Jørgen Brunborg-Næss
Day Job:I work in online marketing and analytics.
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Jorgen Brunborg-Naess
Find my games at:The Green Box of Games is available in retail here and there, or can be ordered from me at www.greenboxofgames.com. Colour MY Kritters is on Tabletopia: https://tabletopia.com/games/colour-my-kritters
Today's Interview is with:

Jørgen Brunborg-Næss
Interviewed on: 11/29/2020

This week we get to meet the designer of The Green Box of Games, a very flexible game system, Jørgen Brunborg-Næss. Jørgen has a number of other upcoming titles, including Colour MY Kritters, an adorable looking deck-builder for kids that will be on Kickstarter today! Read on to learn more about Jørgen and his other projects.

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 have a strong creative urge that needs an outlet, and I guess I just started by thinking “what if…” when playing games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Most intensely right now I am working on Colour MY Kritters, launching on Kickstarter on Dec 8th. In addition I am always working on 3-5 different prototypes that may or may not become something more.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I published the Green Box of Games game system in 2017. It’s a standardized set of components - including tiles, cards and wooden cubes - that you can use to play lots of different games. There are currently more than 100 different variants published on the wiki, most created by the community.

What is your day job?
I work in online marketing and analytics.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?

Who do you normally game with?
My three kids (aged 8-13) are my primary gaming group these days, but when the world returns to normal I hope to once again invite a regular group of friends, and to participate in various gaming meetups.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Often some classics like Dominion and 7 Wonders, and I recently acquired Architects of the West Kingdom that I will probably bring out at first chance when the social distancing comes to an end.

And what snacks would you eat?
I’m partial to nuts. They don’t take up much space on the table, usually don’t create a lot of mess, and they provide good energy for longer sessions.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Norway doesn’t have that many, but Outland in Oslo is a solid one.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
It’s always difficult to choose a favourite. Maybe Azul: Summer Pavilion. Least favourite is even more difficult, but I have played a lot of lousy children’s games over the past decade :-D

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I really enjoy dice drafting. If it’s done well it can provide a thrilling unpredictability while still maintaining balance. On the other end there’s roll-and-move...

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
There is a warm place in my heart for Avalon Hill’s Advanced Civilization, but the 10 hour play time is hard to find room for.

[GJJ Games] I hear you there! I’d love to get this to the table again someday, but I don’t know when I’ll ever have 10 hours to spare again, especially 10 hours that I don’t want to fill with 10 other games!

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card 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?
Theme usually comes last, and mechanics usually first. Sometimes I start with an experience that I want to create, like “exploration”, and sometimes I get my hands on some interesting components and think “what game can I create with these?”

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I’ve entered several on the BoardGameGeek forums, but most notably I was awarded silver (and a cash prize) in the Korea Board Games Contest of 2018 for the game “Morf”.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I really admire Reiner Knizia, for sheer productivity, for his often simplistic but ingenious designs, and some really solid titles.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Inspiration can strike at any time, but I need some space and peace of mind for daydreaming to start processing the ideas that come up.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
The first and important phase is fleshing out the ideas and running simulated playtests in my mind. I like to construct the rule systems and explore possibilities in my head, and that is really the part of game design that I enjoy the most. Which I guess is why I have so many ideas and so few finished games. The next phase is to create a rough prototype, with pencil and paper and my secret stash of components, to start testing the mechanics solo. If the idea has merit, I will then try to bring it to a table of playtesters, and usually my kids are first in line.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I usually work alone, but I think I would enjoy working with a team of people with different skills on a larger release.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Following through. Since I enjoy the initial idea phase so much, I will usually jump to the next one instead of getting into the more tedious hard work of refining and playtesting.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Probably something within Tolkien’s universe.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You can do it! You can create, and you can publish!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Focus on the fun! You’re likely not going to make a lot of money or achieve other life goals through game design, so make sure you are having fun doing what you do. Also: in your designs, figure out what makes the game fun and enjoyable and keep that in the center.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Green Box of Games, Knights of the Diamond Table (On thegamecrafter.com)
Games that will soon be published are: Alarm, a cooperative children's game coming out on Vennerød Forlag.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Colour MY Kritters
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Morf, Gladiator’s Gambit, Feuds on a Map, Knights of the Diamond Table, Secret Crypt, Into the Troll’s lair. See www.tictacsmile.com for more info on these.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to admit to ;-)

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Loads! Most active on the Board Game Design Lab Community Facebook 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! Neither! VHS!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Family and work takes up the most of my time, but when I get the chance I enjoy hiking in the Norwegian mountains, rock climbing and sailing.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Creating pan-and-zoom effects on still photos in iMovie on my Mac!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like any kind of music I can dance to. For books and movies I have to say fantasy adventures.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading a very amusing Swedish book called “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes, the clarinet!

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I love karaoke :-)

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I remember this one time, I poured milk into my breakfast bowl before adding cereal…! Seriously, this might make me a dull person, but I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that qualifies as crazy.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Talking to a random fellow student during a fire drill in college, who would many years later introduce me to the woman who would become my wife.

Who is your idol?
Don’t believe I have one. I try to not set my standards by other people's achievements, though I usually fail...

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Changing the past always seems kind of risky, so I think I would head to the future. Go 50 years in to come back with the true story of climate change, and go 500 years in to see if we have survived and colonized other planets.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert. I may come off as an extrovert in certain situations, like at work or when I have another clearly defined role I am comfortable in, but playing at extroversion always costs me a lot of energy.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I think Batman is really cool!

Have any pets?
A cat called Tiger, although he looks more like a lion. And we have 4 hens in the garden!

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 hope a lot of the great board games from this century survive, and I hope pay-to-win games on smartphones will get wiped.

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):
One who’s probably not going to read it because she’s not really into board games: My wife! Her combination of grit and compassion continues to amaze me <3

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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