Tuesday, June 1, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 283: Christopher Pinyan

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:Christopher Pinyan
Location:Randolph, NJ, USA
Day Job:Manufacturing Manager at a photonic components and test equipment company.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:www.crispygamesco.com, Sword in Stone, Highlander
Today's Interview is with:

Christopher Pinyan
Interviewed on: 1/12/2021

Today I'm happy to introduce you to Christopher Pinyan, the designer and publisher of Clear the Decks. Successfully funded and delivered in 2019, Crispy Games is working on expansions for Clear the Decks as well as other games! Read on to learn more about Christopher 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?
Love tabletop games + Went to a convention devoted to playtesting and thought - I could do that. It was also a point in my life where I was questioning how creative I was and took it up as a challenge. Turns out I am plenty creative and the whole process from design to accepting feedback, traveling around, and meeting people was a great period of personal growth.

What game or games are you currently working on?
A Pirate Themed expansion to my cooperative age of sail ship combat game Clear the Decks!

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Clear the Decks! was funded on Kickstarter and shipped the summer of 2019

What is your day job?
Manufacturing Manager at a photonic components and test equipment company.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
My favorite spot is my parents’ home in Pennsylvania (in most years) over the Christmas to New Year's day week. My parents, 7 brothers and sisters, and nearly a dozen grandkids all converge for eating and playing games. Back at home, it is at Highlander Games in Boonton, Thursday nights for open games - I met a lot of great people and played several games I would not have.

Who do you normally game with?
In 2020 - it’s been the Mrs and my two teenagers. Normally it’s Carcassonne 3-4 days a week during lunch at work. We have a family around the corner that we play with and I also discovered Board Games Online - so that could be anybody anywhere.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I have been collecting Age of Sail and Pirate Games lately - I got Plunder - A Pirate's Life for Christmas and since that is up to 6 I would try it. 7 Wonders is fun and I have also done full games of Mysterium. Currently I do need some final testing of the Pirate Hunter expansion cards so I supply the grog and vittles for my testers.

And what snacks would you eat?
If I say Combos that might get a groan... I did serve hard tack (ship's biscuit) once beacause I had made it to see what it was like (good for hammering nails as it turns out). I did make official "grog" (rum, lime juice, water and sugar). Lately we are hooked on mini tacos and spanokopita from Costco.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
When playtesting I was running Master and Commander movie or soundtrack - though I guess I need to get the Pirates of the Carribbean now too. Otherwise I put on some 70/80's channel in the background.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Highlander Games in Boonton NJ. Free open game nights, lots of space, nice selection. The past owner Scott gave me some great feedback when I was first testing out Clear the Decks!. Some of it was intentional and other was unintentional - the comments that get you thinking or you might even take differently from what they meant, but when you put it into action makes the game better. I thanked him in my rulebook. He also introduced me to the artist I am using for my latest set of cards.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite Plunder - A Pirates life. It has ships to which you add crew, cannons, sails; attack islands and other players' ships; etc. Day in day out it is Carcassonne - easy to learn, tough to master, multiple ways to win, possible for a comeback, and lots of expansions to mix together. 5 Crowns is a card game that we still play often - I think it is pretty luck-based (too luck-based to really enjoy), but damn it feels good when your luck is good. Worst game - hmm, coincidentally I think Pandemic - lost twice very quickly - so I never went back. At least it is cooperative. My least favorite games are the social mechanic - all talking, lying, arguing - I see enough of that in the world to not need to have it in my playtime.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Is puzzle or set making a mechanic? I like 7 wonders and Duel - coming up with the right combinations of parts to benefit later in the game.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Black Sails - yes another pirate game - but you also control a merchant and a naval ship - it’s a big board, you really need 4 +/- 0 players for it to be good. 4 is the max and with less, there is too much space for you to avoid the other players. More mainstream is 7 Wonders, the family groans whenever I suggest it. I would play Smallworld more often but I don’t have it and brothers are too far away to casually get together for it.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures 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?
I had a general mechanic and a fantasy theme (dragons, knights, wizards, etc) - but the theme felt overused and I got into Age of Sail - then the mechanic evolved into something that made physical sense and it all came together. I had another game about dogs stealing food - that was pretty much a simultaneous thing where I had a specific mechanic in mind for the theme to be relevant.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Clear the Decks! was a finalist for the Tabletop award as part of BIT awards in New York City. The game was also accepted into Connecticut and Boston Independent Game Festivals.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Sadly I havent gotten deep enough into the industry to follow anyone. Matt Fantastic is always fun to be around and has been a help in terms of design feedback, encouragement, and contacts

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Clear the Decks! got a lot of its content from the reading I did (fiction and non-fiction). The Master and Commander movie is what really got the (cannon) ball rolling. I think when reading, you can interpret an action or story the way you want, and even bend it to your liking, to fit into your game. Visits to the USS Consitution in Boston and the HMS Surprise (Rose) in San Diego - being on actual ships - that was also great.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Lots of solitaire play throughs - then once with the wife (that was a tense night) - then family and friends - having three tables running in the house at once as I go back and forth to check rules, clarify cards, take notes and pass out food and drinks. Then it was off to local stores and cons - lather, rinse, repeat.....

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
The mechanics, rules, general layout was all me. My first artist Santiago Reinoso was a good sounding board for the graphical layout of the cards - what should be where - helped me realize just how nice things can look. Gwen from Runaway Parade Games (Firetower) did the rulebook.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The challenges evolved over time. At first it was getting myself out to events and chatting up strangers, then it was taking criticism, then knowing when to stop development and say it was done.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'll step away from my current genre. That is tough - movies, TV, books - I read a lot of Clive Cussler's books - he wrote Raise the Titanic and Sahara (along with dozens of other stories all with science/nautical/historical themes - like a nautical James Bond.) Maybe there is a game or game series in there somewhere. On a more fun level - Gru and Minions - that would be fun.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Figure out how much you think you will spend, then double it. Honestly, I did save myself a lot of time and money by going to Metatopia in Morristown NJ a few times - it is for game testing but also has lots of seminars by designers, artists, accountants, and also excellent playtesters. I learned a lot hearing about other people's mistakes.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
For me personally - having a theme that you are passionate about made it fun to work on, talk about, play 1000 times and gave everyone around me gift ideas for birthdays and holidays. Have a thick skin - people giving feedback are trying to help, even if you don't like what they say - but you also don't have to use everything you hear.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Clear the Decks!
Games that will soon be published are: Pirate Hunter expansion to Clear the Decks! (50 new cards, plus some added mechanics). The Full Sail expansion should be late 2021 or early 2022.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: I started creating the page for Pirate Hunter, plan to launch soon.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Nothing. I tried it once with a game and the waiting was a real killjoy. If I had three or four games in process and could work on one while waiting on others it might be OK. Or if I had a inside contact that could answer quickly.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Pirate Hunter expansion - there are fees but the exposure is worth it.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Full Sail expansion - I'll pick it back up as soon as the Pirate Hunter cards are inked.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Bacon Bandits - You are all animals (Dog, Cat, Racoon, Bear cub, maybe a couple of others) - running around a neighborhood and stealing bacon (or other foods) from different locations, dodging cars on the street, avoiding animal control. Play other cards to try and get the other players captured

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

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 Trek, Diet Coke, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Woodworking (built a pergola, benches), Gardening (extensive collection of Irises, misc other flowers and I try vegetables each year to mixed success)

What is something you learned in the last week?
Been studying for the Project Management Professional exam (a lot of that would have helped when I was working on getting the game printed).

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music is eclectic, 80's pop but really going back to 70's now. Books - Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler - The Master and Commander series, Horatio Hornblower - and Napoleonic / age of sail non-fiction. Really like the Marvel series of movies - mixing in the superhero stuff with comedic - Thor: Ragnorak is an easy re-watch. Princess Bride is probably the one I could always get drawn into. The medieval, dungeon, and dragon stuff just doesn’t have enough quality stuff to watch.

What was the last book you read?
Sadly the PMBOK (trust me its not a page turner) - but non-educational it was Much Ado about Lewrie by Dewey Lambdin - an age of sail series with a new book about every year. Takes the main character from midshipman to now 40+ year old.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Violin but not since high school.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I do all the Christmas cookie baking for us. We give out several bags each year. My mom made lots of kinds and I do like to bake.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I was in New York City on a fraternity pledge scavenger hunt. The brothers put some general goofy stuff on there but one of the things was a toilet. We didn’t find one, but we did find a big rectangular urinal on the curb so we picked it up and carried it with us for the rest of the evening, walking around the streets of NYC, then the Subway, then PATH back to Hoboken and put it in the ledge masters loft.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
We had my little daughter in a shopping cart, she was standing in the front and we stopped - she fell forward and did a full forward flip and landed on her feet. After that she had to sit in the seat.

Who is your idol?
Has to be my dad - He provided for all 8 of us without graduating college. Found a niche (construction writing) and rose through the ranks to editor. 6 years of being a cubmaster and too many other great things to list.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go to see Dinosaurs

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert but I play an extrovert at game cons and doing demos.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Might as well be superman.

Have any pets?

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?
Ping pong survive, I could pass on mushrooms - yuk.

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):
i\In the table top industry - Scott from Highlander, thanks for the encouragement and ideas.

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

Follow your dreams - even if you don’t publish - get it down on paper and cardboard.

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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