Tuesday, July 13, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 289: James Henderson

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:James Henderson
Location:US, Maryland
Day Job:IT professional and real estate investor.
Designing:One to two years.
BGG:Coming soon
Twitter:(I need a social media marketer)
Instagram:Coming soon
Other:How did I not know about BGDF ?
Find my games at:Coming to Kickstarter and on Table Top Simulator
Today's Interview is with:

James Henderson
Interviewed on: 5/20/2021

Today we get to meet designer James Henderson. He's been a gamer for a number of years, but just recently turned his knack at coming up with modifications to existing games into a passion for designing his own games. Through BattleHaven.net Games he's working on a number of cool titles that he hopes to have published soon. To learn more about James and his projects, read on!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I have done a number of modifications to various games which have had a lot of local accolades. I did submit a game change to the TCG Wildstorm back when it was out, and received a letter from the designer thanking me and was told they would publish the mod. Only recently did I take on the challenge of developing a complete game from scratch. I find this work more rewarding since I’m not constrained by a rule set that is already developed.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on Masterminds – Heist Society. A game for 2-5 players who take on the role of Masterminds for a heist team that the player recruits. It combines drafting with a strategic style of press-your-luck of objective completion. Go slow to guarantee a perfect heist or go fast & loose hoping the dice don’t fail your team. The prototypes are out being playtested while I work on the graphic design elements.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet, this will be my first. Technically I did work for Mythic Ent. in quest design.

What is your day job?
IT professional and real estate investor.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Mostly with friends in person, but I do enjoy the average pickup game. Covid has shifted the fun to virtual only for the past year, but shots are getting arms, so hopefully we can be out and about soon.

Who do you normally game with?
Various groups of friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Other than Masterminds - Heist Society – LOL, We tend to lean toward medium weight games that we can play multiple times, but we have gone thru Gloomhaven, Warhammer Quest and the like.

And what snacks would you eat?
Haribo gummies, Coke (not Pepsi, there is a difference), and a veggie tray. Someone brought veggies once and it was so popular that it became a staple, go figure…

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
YES – Usually, we try to match the genre of the game we are playing. The girls tend to make the play lists and we keep the volume low-but-audible (2-3).

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games and Stuff (7385 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd, Glen Burnie, MD 21061) Shameless plug to help them weather the Covid storm.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current Favs that are not mine: Roll Player, Archaia, and Betrayal at House on the Hill Least Fav that still play: Fortune and Glory (big issue with the rules) Worst game ever played: Sin City !! Played it twice thinking we had done something wrong.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
A well done multi-mechanic. By that I mean when a designer can mix two or more mechanics into a game preferably with some randomizer. Least favorite would be singular mechanic games. The exception to both these is pure luck games (like Zombie dice or Farkle). -These are party fun games that anyone can play.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Bootleggers and/or Deadman’s Draw.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Own it all, but we moved on to Trial by Trolley :)

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?
So far, I’m more of a theme first and build in mechanics that feel right. Though I am toying around with a couple mechanic combos that I would need a theme for.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No. Though I guess I should try at some point…?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No real idols, but I respect Richard Garfield (Magic the gathering and Vampire the Eternal Struggle), along with Rick Priestly and Alessio Cavatore (Warhammer 40k). All have had products that have evolved and sold for decades.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I have an idea book that I keep with me most of the time. Basically a sketch book. I recommend this to ALL designers. When you have an idea, jot down everything that comes to mind. You can then go back and check your book if you get stuck on a rule or need inspiration for a mechanic or its implementation. Also, you may have a project so good that you want to return to it. (This is not my original idea. I got it off another famous designer and its great)

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Usually in person or at meet up game nights, but I'm jumping to TTS and Tabletopia as soon as the art design is more complete.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I would love a team, but its been solo so far. I really want to be able to afford an artist for any future projects as it takes me forever to get done. Marketing is the other area that I would love to have a dedicated person for.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Marketing, marketing and marketing. There is no easy way to just do it unless you have a lot of cash to throw around and my last name is not Musk. (Maybe I’m not looking in the right locations though?)

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
John Wick or Marvel. (WIP ;)

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
To do it! I got into Kickstarters late. I had friends that would get 20-30 per year and I would just play, #Wonderlust As for design specifically, I wish I had known about where to find good prototyping services earlier.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Three things: One - playtest your game more. If you think you have done it enough – you haven’t, do more. Two – learn the various software apps of the industry. Basic knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have been a wallet saver for edits and design. Three – BGDL (Board Game Design Labs) on Facebook has been a game-changer (intended). There you can find a helpful group of designers that are actively trying to pull each other up and make designers successful. Ask and you will get answers.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: None yet
Games that will soon be published are: Coming soon.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Coming soon.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Coming soon.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Masterminds - Heist Society
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Masterminds - Heist Society - for graphic design.
Games that I'm playtesting are: Masterminds - Heist Society
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Hollywood Agent card game. A superhero RPG.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A superhero RPG. Writing an RPG is going to take a while. Skills, stats and main combat system are done(90%). The powers writing is the real work, but I'm 150+ pages in so far...

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 Community, Art & Graphic Design for Tabletop Games, Tabletop Marketing Collaborative

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 (more individualistic), Coke never Pepsi -there is a difference, umm VHS?...or Blu-ray..yeah Blu-ray.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Singing and drawing... until Football season starts..!

What is something you learned in the last week?
That Fulfillment by Amazon has a higher price tag than first advertised.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music - Almost anything

What was the last book you read?
Board Game Design Advice from the Best in the World -by Gabe Barrett

Do you play any musical instruments?
Trumpet and Piano - poorly, but I used to sing semi-pro

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm working on my sport pilot's license.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I once repelled out of a 3rd story window using bedsheets to surprise a girl. (Does not recommend)

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Playstation (One), I bought the mod chip thinking I could install it. (To play all those import games) After a terrible soldering job, I had to un-do and redo it about four times to get it right. I knew I wanted to do something technical after that. Ended up doing over 50 consoles that year as a side business.

Who is your idol?
My parents, they are still out there making moves.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Besides the lottery numbers, tell myself to floss a bit more.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Yes - my Myers Briggs test always sits on the middle

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Falcon from the MCU

Have any pets?
Cat named Oreo.

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 would hope that my copy of Horizon Zero Dawn KS would have arrived by that point -HA. As for what would be wiped out; in addition to the last three films of the Star Wars main series, I would hope that all -isms would be wiped out as well (racism, sexism, etc.) If there is one thing that gaming and designing has taught me is that humans are stronger and better together.

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):
To my fiancé for putting up with me during this craziness. :)

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

Keep designing, and remember a 'knock-down' is just a 'setup for a comeback' !

Best kept secret ... Reviewer list (Only share with the cool kids) http://www.jamesmathe.com/o-reviewer-reviewer-wherefore-art-thou/?fbclid=IwAR0fT1jIBWLVPA4PCFZseaXwzK4KDyc88Cb_eluWhgRa8PK7D3NudtAGoE0

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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