Thursday, February 18, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 267: Alfie Dennen

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 and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!

Name:Alfie Dennen
Day Job:I look after the digital product side of a startup which focuses on coaching product leaders. It's great, designing products is much like designing games - it's all about the end user at the end of the day.
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Evil Corp
Facebook:Evil Corp Games
YouTube:Evil Corp: The Boardgame
Find my games at:
Today's Interview is with:

Alfie Dennen
Interviewed on: 2/10/2021

We have another week with two interviews! Today we get to meet Alfie Dennen, part of the team that brings you Evil Corp: The Boardgame. As both a game and social commentary, Evil Corp aims to be a title to make you think while you have fun. Read on to learn more about Alfie, Evil Corp, and his other 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?
Having designed video games in the past and being driven by specific themes, I discovered along with my design partner Allix, that the tabletop format would be the best way to create the game we most wanted to make: Evil Corp

What game or games are you currently working on?
Right now we are working on an expansion to Evil Corp for cooperative play, as well as scoping our next project, also a tabletop game.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes, only Evil Corp: The Boardgame right now, hopefully from what we learned we will get to market even faster with the next game!

What is your day job?
I look after the digital product side of a startup which focuses on coaching product leaders. It's great, designing products is much like designing games - it's all about the end user at the end of the day.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
The pub! Not been possible for a while considering lockdown, man I can't wait :)

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and family, and playtesters! There's nothing I enjoy more than watching and observing how people interact with a game I'm designing, you learn so much from the smallest things.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I love thematic games, so I would probably pull out War on Terror and see where that took us. Most friends want to play my game so I'd have to resist the urge to do that hahaha.

And what snacks would you eat?
All of them. With a focus on the beer and pretzels side of the necessary snack food (and beverage) groups.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
No, maybe background music. We actually created an entire original soundtrack for Evil Corp. It was for a short film we made based on the universe. I'm lucky enough to know some really talented filmmakers so we created something together which stands alone as a really sweet piece of film, plus the soundtrack genuinely elevates it. People can check that out here:

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Wow it's been such a sad time this last year. One friend's game store closed (they had cocktails and craft ales!) and we haven't been allowed to congregate. I live close by to Draughts which is also a craft ale gaming bar, and has really nailed the mix of mood and access to games, coupled with a genuinely welcoming atmosphere.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favourite is Sub Terra - there's a lot of depth and replayability, and the Inside the Box team really nailed the theme and feel.

Least favourite that I still enjoy would be Monopoly. With Evil Corp we intentionally went out to take the piss out of Monopoly - it's a game that let's kids cheat and be congratulated for doing so by parents, it's the *worst* piece of cultural memetics ever made, but damn it can be fun to win.

Worst game I ever played? Gentlepeople don't tell :)

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favourite mechanic is take-that coupled with co-op play. The dynamics that build around that combo are so much fun (for me). My least favourite is probably worker placement - I like the mechanic in a video game context, but for me the tabletop experience doesn't work well and I find it too grind-ey.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Actually it's War on Terror again - people who've played it know it can go long, and they have to be in it for the long haul. But it comes with an evil balaclava so I can generally convince people eventually by saying they can wear it :)

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

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?
Absolutely. The theme is the parent, the mechanics it's children. I've never been so in love with a given mechanic that I want to build around that. Perhaps for more experienced game designers this is a great way to work, but it doesn't make sense to my brain.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
With Evil Corp I have entered it into some non game related design competitions this year, because the design and art are extremely unusual in boardgames. We come from product and design backgrounds as creators, and as an art object it is pretty unusual and very beautiful. More on our approach to that here: But no, have never entered a game design competition.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I think Jamey Stegmaier shares a lot of the values and philosophy that Allix and I do. On paper, his philosophy of game design is very close to those I follow in my day job creating digital products. He's incredibly generous in sharing his thinking, and has spent the time to articulate that well, which makes him a hero in my book.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I don't know about you, but I tend to have ideas which over months or even years tend to stick around. When an idea can't be shaken from your mind after a few months, take it seriously and give it some attention - otherwise it will haunt you forever!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Principally we recruit people within my city, London, and then organise playtest evenings where we supply snacks and drinks. As a team, Allix and I watch games being played and take very careful note of what people did, why they did them, what dynamics emerge on the table and what people are left with after they've played. We then use a rapid prototyping approach to taking that insight and turning them into new cards/experiences and ensure that those get into a playtest pipeline quickly.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Always a team. When you work with other people they bring so many different points of views and insights to the design and content creation process that they cannot help but make the game better because of their involvement.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
To be honest, it's the difficulty of actually getting a game into people's hands. As an indie designer/developer you have the same expectations from your customers as a massive publisher, and meeting the high bar set that comes from massive budgets is a big challenge. You really have to know a lot about a lot, not just the making of great games.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
It would be the Iain M Banks Culture series of books. For me, the most beautifully realised Utopic vision of the future of humanity, and so incredibly coherent.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Get someone else to publish it :)

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
There are two games happening when you set out to design a game. The game that people have when they play your game, and the game of designing the game. If you find that you *love* the game of making the game, then, when things get tough, just remember that.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Evil Corp
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Perhaps for our next game
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Can't comment - let's just say it's another Dark Satire about reality :)

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Oh gosh loads, specifically a group of London based designers is where I tend to hang out mostly

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 - I am so mainstream aaaaarrgghhhh

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I am an animator, mostly creating Machinima within the Fallout 76 Universe. I am also a skateboarder and surfer - two things I deeply miss and can't wait to do once lockdown is over :)

What is something you learned in the last week?
How to create and run a warehousing and fulfilment centre from my apartment :) Due to Brexit, our fulfilment partner could not take on UK and EU fulfilment so I've had to do that myself inbetween the day job. My upstairs is a warehouse now hahaha

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I love podcasts, mostly science and psychology, and that's taken a lot of time I would have otherwise have spent listening to music. If you, the reader, haven't yet read an Iain M Banks Culture novel and you love sci fi, go do it!

What was the last book you read?
Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar and Piano - as I've gotten older I've found I've had to focus in on just a few hobbies so I can improve.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I was once pretty famous, globally. I was an anti-terrorism activist and if you'd been watching Good Morning America between 2005 and 2007 you'd probably recognise me :)

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Decided to make and publish a board game ;)

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Making a board game :) (see what I did there?)

Who is your idol?
So many heroes... Having just finished Barack Obama's presidential memoir I would say him if pressed. Operating under intense pressure and conflicting agendas, he stayed true to his ideals of humanitarianism, always.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would go meet Newton, Einstein, Feynman, and show them that their theories were all on point!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Both - I love people but need a lot of re-charge time.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Doctor Strange :) I was raised on a diet of early Marvel comics and Dr. Strange has all of the mad stuff going on.

Have any pets?
Just one, my passive aggressive cat Muni - if anyone in London has puppies we want one!

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?
Dice games! (lots of bones hahaha)

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):
Just to my partners in design, Allix Harrison D'Arcy and Michal Ozorowski - incredible creators that I owe so much to.

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


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:

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