Tuesday, November 9, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 307: Nathan Woll

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:Nathan Woll
Location:Toledo, OH, USA
Day Job:I recently quit my main job to take on some part-time jobs that would allow me to focus more on game design. I work three part-time jobs right now - food delivery, market research interviewer, and school transportation driver.
Designing:Over ten years!
Facebook:Nathan Woll - I am very active in most game design groups
Find my games at:BGG
Today's Interview is with:

Nathan Woll
Interviewed on: 10/29/2021

This week we get to meet Nathan Woll, designer of the recently crowdfunded Treasure Cats and the upcoming Free Radicals. He's a prolific designer with a number of other titles in development, so keep your eye out for more titles from him in the future! Read on to learn more about Nathan and his 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?
Well I've been designing puzzles since I was in highschool. Designing tabletop games are a natural extension for anyone who likes playing them and likes designing puzzles.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Galactic Election - a deck-deconstruction game in which you strategically allocate your anthropomorphic animal advisors to win the most votes to become supreme leader of the galaxy

Space Dealers of the Vortex - Guide a small trade ship through space trying to make the most money while juggling your constantly rotating crew

Pet Races - a communist-mechanic game in which you try to be the first player to race your pets to the finish line. Winner of the AEG communist-mechanic design contest

Stellar Sneak vs Galactic Gumshoe - an 18 card 2-player bluffing game. One player, as the Stellar Sneak, must steal 7 of the 8 special items before the Galactic Gumshoe can mount enough evidence to put them away for good.

Those 4 are all pitch-ready, and in fact, have been pitched to publishers. Additionally, I have 5-10 more games that are in various stages from playtested twice to pitched and needing a full overhaul.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Treasure Cats just finished a successful Kickstarter and can be ordered at this website soon http://www.glassshoegames.com/treasure-cats.html#/ (still finalizing kickstarter stuff) This is a small box social bluffing card game (30 cards) that plays 3-12 players in about 30 minutes. The large player capacity is the big hook for this small game.

Free Radicals (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/324894/free-radicals) comes out in February by WizKids and can be pre-ordered on many baord game sites. This is a highly assymetric euro-style game with 10 factions to choose from. Each faction has a unique mechanism for generating resources and taking actions including tile placement, mancala, tetraminoe, action programming, and more.

What is your day job?
I recently quit my main job to take on some part-time jobs that would allow me to focus more on game design. I work three part-time jobs right now - food delivery, market research interviewer, and school transportation driver.

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

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation: Deluxe version is my absolute favorite game of all time. I love playing as either side and the deluxe version adds enough variety to make this game I can play easily over 100 times.

I can't figure out how I would determine my least favorite game that I still enjoy. I tried checking my BGG ratings. There's a few 5's that I would play just about anytime I was asked but that's because I play variants but I rate the RAW (rules as written).

Worst game I've ever played would be a kids game or a prototype probably. In fact, the first play of one of my own designs would maybe even qualify. But worst published game for adults was 60 Seconds to Save the World. The rules setup for the first scenario we attempted had a very small chance to be in such a way that the game would be impossible to play. The first time I played, we tried that setup and got the result that made the game impossible to play. So that sucked.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Least favorite is definitely push-your-luck, I hate randomness in games that influence the outcome. My favorite mechanic is asymmetric player powers I guess, though I like a wide range of mechanics.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Kamisado. It's a brilliant combinatorial abstract. Unfortunately, I have no one to play such games with. All of the GIPF project would be in this category as well, I really enjoy these 2-player combinatorial abstracts but I don't have anyone to play them with now that my son has gown up and does not live at home.

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

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 almost always begin with a hook, which is generally a mechanic. I've ran into too much trouble trying to pitch a game with no hook, so I've found it's best to start with that. I find starting with a mechanic lets me focus on designing a good game without worrying about whether or not the mechanics make thematic sense.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes. I won the AEG communist-mechanic design competition with my game Pet Races.

Do you have a current favorite game designer?
myself, then probably Knizia - 4 of his games are in my top 25: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation: Deluxe version, Taj Mahal, Tigris and Euphrates, and Samurai.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
no particular place or time

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Weekly design group meetups

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I prefer alone, but I have several co-designs.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
rules writing. I hate writing rules and it's always the last thing I do. I generally wait until the game is signed or I absolutely have to write them before I do so.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would enjoy designing a game used in a fantasy novel. Any of them would be good (such as how Tak was designed based on Rothfuss's books)

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Your game isn't done until your playtesters are begging to play the prototype over published games

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Try to design multiple games at once. By working on multiple games you can give your mind time to come up with solutions to one problem while doing work on other designs.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Treasure Cats
Games that will soon be published are: Free Radicals - comes out in February, check out the video on the BGG page: https://boardgamegeek.com/video/293900/free-radicals/behind-board-free-radicals-sneak-peek
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Galactic Election, Pet Races, Space Dealers of the Vortex, Stellar Sneak vs. Galactic Gumshoe
I'm planning to crowdfund: A two-player Wizards game in which you begin with a hand of spells but may cast each spell only once (no name officially decided yet)
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Cats with Backpacks
Games that I'm playtesting are: Hero's Saga - an epic adventure game with multiple phases that guides players through the full life of an adventurer

Guardians of the Way - a One vs Many game of managing resources and deck-crafting

Trick or Treat - family game with majority scoring and simple drafting

Dice Mages - asymmetric game in which each player has a mage with a different die - D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20.

3 Unnamed games (normally the last thing I do is come up with a name) - one is about pulling characters from books to fight monsters in a library; one is a clever card game with unicorns, one is a non-TCG game that models TCGs

Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Dragon Hoard - a reverse worker placement game

Dolmen of Druids - a twist on mancala mechanism

And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: too many

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
yeah most Facebook groups, also NW OH Game Designers

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, Pepsi, ?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
basketball - playing, coaching, watching

What is something you learned in the last week?
the importance of Twitter to board game design

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
not a music guy. I love reading, mostly fantasy stuff with genre-crossing. I'll watch the marvel movies but I don't watch much tv or movies

What was the last book you read?
The Pirate's Scourge by Chris A Jackson

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have two children a 19-yr old son and an 18-month old son

Who is your idol or hero?
my dad

What would you do if you had a time machine?
talk to my dad

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be and why?
Batman - because he's rich

Have any pets?

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):
Shout out to designer Jon Gilmour for all of his expertise and help assisting me in the journey to the game designer I am today

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

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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