Tuesday, February 16, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 266: Mads Fløe

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:Mads Fløe
Day Job:I work at a board game café, doing just about everything you can imagine, besides serving, cleaning or book keeping. I make sure the games are in good shape, I choose which new games are added and which go on the "for sale" shelves, I make graphic designs such as the menus, posters etc. and I manage the social feeds, help with marketing and events etc.
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Mads Floe
Facebook:Mads Floe
Today's Interview is with:

Mads Fløe
Interviewed on: 1/2/2021

This week we get to meet designer Mads Fløe, who has designed a bunch of games, a few of which have been published or signed! His latest titles should be coming out this year and next from AEG, White Goblin Games, Black Box Adventures, and Crafty Games, so keep your eye out for those! Read on to learn more about Mads and his current 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 played Arkham Horror about ten years ago, learning it from scratch to play as a 2-player game with my significant other. We were both only familiar with games as "nerdy" as Catan at the time. Needless to say, it was a complete failure, and I thought "if this is supposed to be one of the best board games (according to BGG at the time), then I think I can do better". Very naive, of course, but I started designing my own games right after that, even sleeping with a notepad next to my bed, as I would often wake up with new ideas in the morning - or in the middle of the night :)

What game or games are you currently working on?
Phew.. That's a long list! The most notable ones must be Shaky Town (being released by AEG in 2022, which is now going though final development with the AEG team and my co-designer, Kåre Torndahl Kjær.

Another game I'm wrapping up is a flip and write legacy style game, which incidentally should have been released in 2020, where it would have fallen right between the Spiel des Jahres nominated My City and the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominated Cartographers. It got pushed due to Covid-19. I'm hoping it will release in 2021.

Another game I signed some time ago, but got pushed due to Covid-19, is a card based game called Moving Day, in which players do their best to fill up different vehicles with goods from homes during moving day. It's based on a real life event in Montreal, in which most people in the city actually move on the same day of the year, July 1st. Yes, it's a true story! The numbers for 2004: "Approximately 120,000 households moved on or around July 1st". Sounds crazy right? But at the same time, imagine the community coming together, using all sorts of vehicles and every member of the family, neighbours, friends etc. helping as best they can. It's that exact situation you have to deal with in my game :) It's being released in 2019 by Black Box Adventures.

I also had a game in limbo with an interested publisher in 2019 - for a full year - which didn't result in a signed contract in the end. But I'm confident I will find another publisher for it in 2021. There's already interest :)

Besides those I have a whole bunch of games in the making - it's too soon to tell which ones will go all the way to publishing.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. My first released game is Ka Pai, a roll and write game, published by White Goblin Games. Four expansions have been released for it so far as well.

What is your day job?
I work at a board game café, doing just about everything you can imagine, besides serving, cleaning or book keeping. I make sure the games are in good shape, I choose which new games are added and which go on the "for sale" shelves, I make graphic designs such as the menus, posters etc. and I manage the social feeds, help with marketing and events etc.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
No preference really, but I'd rather not play games at conventions like Essen with too many people around making noise.

Who do you normally game with?
My significant other, and sometimes our son (he's 5 years old) at home. Other than that, I frequent many different groups - as many as I can.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I would suggest something suitable to the guests, based on how deep they are already down the rabbit hole :) I'm happy to play just about anything. The most important thing is matching the right game for the right group.

And what snacks would you eat?
I tend to buy and serve ALL the snacks :) Sweet, savoury --- you name it.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I've only done this with Gloomhaven, matching it with music from melodice.org

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I went straight from buying some of my first "nerdy" games at a FLGS, to shopping online, to trading them. I've never really used FLGS much since, but I've used Facebook a lot to find other gamers to arrange game nights with. So I've never really used FLGS much.

However, I actually used to run a sort of FLGS, as my significant other and I ran an online board game shop out of our city apartment for about a year - I even used my bike to personally deliver games in our local area. To me, that is probably the FLGS that I've had the closest bond with throughout my gaming "career".

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite: Is always the new game I haven't played yet. Least favorite I still enjoy: I can't think of anything Worst game I ever played: Probably still Arkham Horror, but based on the dissonance in game weight vs. my inexperience with board games at the time (I'm sure it wouldn't be that bad if I played it today).

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I generally like games with great flow and shorter turns. So anything that supports that, I'm a fan of. Likewise, anything that will make players go too deep into analysis paralysis, disrupt the game flow, or just take too long - that's a big turn off for me. I need action :)

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Since becoming a parent five years ago, I'd say any game that is 90+ minutes long.

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, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I'd rather play (or suggest) something else :)

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 do both. And it often seems when a design is stuck, it can become unstuck by focusing on the one of these two parameters I've been working with the least.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered a handful I think, and I've had games become finalists/nominated for prizes, but haven't won any. All but one of the games I've entered into competitions (that was accepted) I've later gotten signed with publishers though.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
It's not an easy task getting to a point where you can live off designing board games. But I have several other danish designers in my network who have accomplished this: Jeppe Norsker, Asger Harding Granderud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen and Kasper Lapp - they all inspire me and lead by example of what I dream to accomplish.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I often have "highs" in creativity after being around a lot of people - which on the other hand drains me a lot. It's the "in between" moments, where all the impressions are digested that something pops up. It's very often right before I fall asleep at night.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
2019 gave me the opportunity to learn Tabletop Simulator, which has become an invaluable tool. It's so easy to update files and try new things to faster iterate on prototypes, especially in the early stages. So I do that a lot. Other games require physical attention or simply can't be replicated in TTS. I think maybe I've become more aware of what is unique in that physical sense because of that.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Game design is teamwork no. matter. what. You need feedback from people, and we could just as well call them co-designers, because someone who can add 5% to a game that is 95% can make 100% difference (not just 5%) between that game never becoming published or becoming published with huge success.

So I inherently believe most games are co-designs in one form or another, and I find that to be a core strength of the entire hobby. We rely on each other, which in turn creates comradery and builds relationships.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Organizing and purging old prototypes. Deciding when to strip them for pieces - or worse: Regretting doing so later.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Hmm.. not sure. Maybe South Park or Rick and Morty? Or maybe a game with an app that was narrated by David Attenborough (not an IP I guess, but that was what came to mind).

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I was told. I just never really listened or realized the importance of the advice given. I thought for a long time that a game just had to be a good game to make the cut. But no - it needs to be marketable, it needs to focus on the audience, it needs to stand out to that audience, and it needs to attract them with a great hook (and "this is a great game" is not a hook).

I was not in doubt the first time I achieved this, only flabbergasted that I didn't fully understand until then, just how big a difference this makes.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
It really depends on the motivation and goals of the designer. It could be anything from "you do you" to "read this book on how other designers got their games published".

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Ka Pai (+expansions)
Games that will soon be published are: (no official title yet) - White Goblin Games (2021)
Moving Day - Black Box Adventures (2021)
Shaky Town - AEG (2022)
Ancient Architects - Crafty Games (2022)

Currently looking for a publisher I have: Mudita, co-designed with Allan Kirkeby 30-60 minutes - Lords of Waterdeep complexity A dice placement game, in which each player controls 4 dice/workers, each of whom open up shop at a market at the beginning of each round. However, they cannot keep their shop open and do actions at the same time - so a worker must close down it's own shop, in order to perform an action in one of the other shops that are still open. This creates a great little puzzle reach round, where players need to figure out the order in which they take their actions.

Happytat 15-20 minutes - Love letter complexity. A domino style game, in which players draft tiles each round. There's one tile more than the number of players each round, so after everyone has drafted a tile, the starting player of the round will take the leftover tile and add it to a scoring stack. Players then win the scoring stacks at the end of the game by having the most connected of the specific animal types in their own play area (aka. Happytats).

And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: It's yet to be tested for the first time, but I do have one game in this stage that I'm very excited about (in theory).

It's sort of a social deduction game, in which humans have to prove that they are humans in front of machines. So sort of a reverse Imitation Game / Turing test, but in which players don't realise until the final phase if they are machines or not.

It's super simple, yet (if it works) might blow some minds.

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?
I'll go with Sci-Fi in general (and choose Interstellar, Contact and The Abyss if I must) I'd much rather drink something not caffeinated. A home made, organic fruit smoothie perhaps :) When was the era of Betamax? I only remember VHS from my childhood. But if this is more of a philosophical question, I'm always rooting for the underdog :)

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
None worth mentioning I guess.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert mostly. I can behave very extrovertly, but it comes with a cost of extended "pauses" afterwards.

Have any pets?
A very beloved cat.

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?

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

Don't worry. Be happy :)

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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1 comment:

  1. From a man who only find truth valuable if it sells, I find it very hard to believe that "greed" would be something Mads Fløe would like to get rid of.