Tuesday, August 20, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 185: Mason Crawford

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:Mason Crawford
Email:Mason@Blackoutgames.us
Location:South Dakota, USA
Day Job:Just game design, at the moment.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:Blackoutgames.us
BGG:Mason Crawford
Facebook:Mason Crawford
Find my games at:On our website, Blackoutgames.us
Today's Interview is with:

Mason Crawford
Interviewed on: 1/12/2019

Today's interview is with Mason Crawford, of Blackout Games. He has several published designs to his credit, including a number of RPGs. Lockwood's Asylum was successfully Kickstarted in 2017 and delivered last year and Mason has other board game projects that will be hitting Kickstarter soon. So read on to learn more about Mason and the other projects he's working on.

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?
I played a lot of RPGs growing up, usually as the GM, so going from creating my own campaign worlds to my own games was just sort of the next step.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a monster training RPG. I've always loved the Pokemon and Monster Hunter video games, so putting my spin on the genre and creating a world that revolves around using these monsters like prize fighters in televised tournaments has proved to be really interesting.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes! Lockwood's Asylum, the Madhouse RPG, the 2nd edition of Through the Breach, and a whole lot of work on Malifaux 2E and 3E.

What is your day job?
Just game design, at the moment.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At the moment, either at home or at a friend's house.

Who do you normally game with?
My girlfriend and a few close friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
At the moment, we're working our way through a Kingdom Death campaign, but we've also been playing Nemesis and some Warhammer 40K.

And what snacks would you eat?
It varies, so let's say... Mike and Ikes.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Sometimes we'll put on some thematic music in the background; sci-fi background music for nemesis, Final Fantasy boss music for DnD fights, etc.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Probably Giga-Bytes down in Marietta, GA.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite would be... probably Robo Rally. Least favorite that I still enjoy, I'd say Super Dungeon Explore, due to Kickstarter woes. Worst game... probably Monopoly, Sorry, Candyland, or any of those old-school games.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't really have a favorite mechanic, or rather, it changes a bunch. Currently, probably the way that monsters are spawned in Deep Madness. Least favorite... probably lightweight social games like Werewolf.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Chaos in the Old World can be a bit of a hard sell when people aren't looking to cut each others' throats for a few hours.

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

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

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 think I do both at around the same time? Usually I'll see a neat mechanic and have an idea for a theme that would fit it and go from there. It's rare that I sit down and say "I'm going to make an X game" or "I need a theme to make X make sense."

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered a few recently, but they haven't yet hit the judging point, so fingers crossed!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not really.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I do a lot of good work while driving. South Dakota is pretty flat, so road trips usually amount to "drive straight for X hours," which gives you time to think about stuff and mull it over.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Give the game to playtesters, listen to their feedback, and adjust accordingly. That doesn't always mean do what playtesters suggest, however; in my experience, playtesters are great at finding problems and bad at fixing them. You often have to look at a perceived problem and decide if that's what's actually causing the issue. Complaints about Thing A and Thing B not being good enough might just mean that Thing C is too good and is overshadowing the other options, even if the playtesters think it's fine.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I prefer to design alone and then bounce ideas off other designers whenever I want some outside opinions. One designer can really put their mark on a game, but once you start adding other people into the mix, I think the really great personal touches get watered down or removed entirely, leaving you with something generic. I'd prefer to make interesting and quirky sleeper hits that stand out as original than something boring that will sell decently well and then get pushed to the back of the game shelf and forgotten.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Design costs. Decent art is expensive. @__@

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
At the moment, I'd love to work on a Bloodborne RPG or a Silent Hill board game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish that someone would have shoved me into the industry a decade earlier. It was always a hobby and an interest, but I never really thought that I could do it myself until I was in my 30s.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
If you want to make a game, just sit down and do it. Write some rules out on index cards, draw a board on construction paper, and order some blank dice from Amazon. Half of the work is just starting it. As the flip side to that point, don't be afraid to push a game that's not working onto the back burner. Every game designer I know (myself included) has abandoned more games than they've seen to completion, because not every idea is going to work out. Hold onto your files, though, because you'll often come up with ideas that you can cannibalize for use in future games later on down the road. When you hit the playtesting phase, try to test with people who aren't your friends and family, because more often than not, they're not going to give you the hard feedback that you need.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Lockwood's Asylum, a survival horror deck-building game where players build not only their decks, but also the decks of their opponents. It's super fun and really presses the boundary of deck-building games.

Madhouse, which is the Lockwood's Asylum RPG we created as a stretch goal during the Lockwood's Asylum Kickstarter. It's a survival horror RPG where the players take on the roles of patients who have been committed to the Lakeshore Asylum, which is dark and monster-infested. We promised 50 pages and ended up with 130-some, so we clearly had fun writing it!

Plus, I did a bunch of work on Wyrd Miniatures' Through the Breach and Malifaux games, as well as designing the units for their The Other Side game.

Games that will soon be published are: At the moment, our projects are all slated for crowdfunding.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Nothing at the moment!
Currently looking for a publisher I have: My company is a publisher!
I'm planning to crowdfund: We're planning to crowdfund our monster training RPG, once that gets a bit further along in development.
Games that I'm playtesting are: In addition to our monster-training RPG, I've also got a dragon-fleeing, loot-gathering board game that I've been kicking around for a year or two. It's undergone lots of revisions and has been steadily moving toward a finished state. It's sort of the "second project" that I go back to when I want a break from working on other stuff, which is great, as it gives me time to look at previously implemented changes with a fresh eye.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: I have some rough plans for a social deduction game, but I've been trying to get a bit more mechanics into it than your typical Werewolf game. I'm not a huge fan of the social deduction genre, so it's been interesting trying to design a game of that type while still making it something that I'm personally interested in. We'll see if it pans out!

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

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, as it feels like a more lived-in world, though my opinion has fallen quite a bit since the first trilogy. I just can't buy the Star Trek utopian society, and the Klingon makeup change remains weird for me. Coke has Sprite, which is my soda of choice (caffeine-free!). VHS, just because I'm too young for Betamax. :P

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video games! I like painting miniatures and run a few online PBP games, plus the standard watch movies/listen to music stuff that most people do.

What is something you learned in the last week?
My dog understands at least half of the economic system (in that he keeps trying to give us rawhide chews in exchange for... something?)

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like alt rock, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books, and horror movies.

What was the last book you read?
Servants of the Machine God, a 40K book.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I am painfully tone-deaf. ;__;

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
Most of my professional background is in customer service, specifically hotel work.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Car jousting in the winter. Two cars, windows rolled down, drive past each other while the passengers hang out the window and try to lob snowballs over the roof of their car and at the driver of the other car.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Nothing comes to mind!

Who is your idol?
I don't really have idols. Clearly, my ego is just too large. :P

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Lottery numbers.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
SuperHERO? Uh, let's see... well, Superman, I guess? Dude's basically indestructible and all-powerful, so...

Have any pets?
One dog, and a cat that also lives with me.

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 think that we're probably well and dead by that point. Hopefully they'll have a few RPGs to help them pass the time until extinction.

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

I hope that you'll check out our games and find one that you like!

EXTRA ---

I like peacocks!




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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 184: Ian Bach

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:Ian Bach
Location:Broomfield, Colorado
Day Job:Family physician
Designing:Five to ten years.
Webpage:Merlin’s Beast Hunt - WizKids
BGG:Ian Sebastian Bach
Facebook:Ian Bach
Find my games at:Game Crafter, BGG, WizKids
Today's Interview is with:

Ian Bach
Interviewed on: 7/19/2019

This week's interview is with Ian Bach, a designer with his first published game coming out very soon! Merlin's Beast Hunt should be available in retail from WizKids sometime this month. It's his first of hopefully many published games, so keep an eye out for it in your FLGS. To learn more about Ian and the other projects he's working on, keep reading!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
When 7 Wonders came out, I was an instant fan! While it is a great game, I thought I could do better and initially started with 2 player designed expansions. After that, I decided that a complete redesign was an even better solution. Ultimately, this led to Centuries, a card drafting, resource gathering, tableaux building game with a Renaissance theme which I self published.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am working on 4 card games (Bouquets, Trailblazers, 2 un-named games), a genealogy game called Bloodlines, a cat and mouse game called Cops & Robbers and a game called Photographic Safari.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes, Merlin's Beast Hunt is being published by WizKids and is due out September or October 2019. This card and dice game introduces a novel mechanic called card dice combos that uses dice and cards to build fences and capture magical beasts.

What is your day job?
Family physician

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home and friends' houses.

Who do you normally game with?
Family, friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Brass Birmingham, Museum, 7 Wonders, Orleans, Tzolkin, Feast for Odin, Caverna, Pandemic (Legacy Seasons 1 and 2 if I could somehow replay them), Great Western Trail, Viticulture, Scythe), bridge/spades/cribbage

And what snacks would you eat?
Sandwiches, nachos, chili

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes, 80s rock

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Wizard's Chest

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Feast for Odin, poker, Candyland

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Set collection, Pick up and deliver

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Dominion

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?
Yes

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 have done both. Merlin's Beast Hunt was born as an actual dream where I saw the card/dice combo as a mechanic. I spent the day theming it as a dinosaur capture game and then re-themed it as Merlin's Beast Hunt with WizKids. On the other hand, I love Back to the Future and would love to invent a time travel game (haven't yet obtained permission for the IP or the mechanics to pull it off).

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes, annually ( x 3 years) I have entered the B Con game design contest. With Merlin's Beast Hunt, I was the 2017 winner.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Mike Fitzgerald, Uwe Rosenberg, Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock (for game design) & Alan Moon & Reiner Knizia (for financial success) & Richard Garfield (for both)

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Sleep, card rides, doing unrelated activities

How do you go about playtesting your games?
With the first prototype, I play test it to work out the obvious problems. With the next prototype, I guilt my family into playing it. On the third (and later) prototypes, local play test groups, friends, anyone I can convince. Every play tester has given me useful feedback that most times has made for a better game.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Most of my games are largely solo designs but with the input I get from friends, family and fellow game designers, it would be disingenuous to say that I every solely design a game. 4 of us had a blast co-designing a game called 2149 Space Prospectors, a game that deserves to be published at some point.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding enough time away from my day job to work on designs.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Back to the Future. The theme is awesome! Figuring out a mechanic(s) to handle the time travel would be really cool.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish someone would have told me how hard it is to publish a game (at least a really good one) but at the same time, how wonderfully satisfying it is when you finally break through and publish the first one.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Playtest! Playtest! Playtest! And when you think have playtested enough, you probably still need 20% more playtests!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Centuries (self-published)
Games that will soon be published are: Merlin's Beast Hunt (due in 8/2019 with WizKids)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Bloodlines, Trailblazer, Bouquets, Photographic Safari
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Bloodlines, Photographic Safari, Trailblazer
Games that I'm playtesting are: 2 unnamed card games
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: 1 unnamed worker placement game

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Colorado Game Designer's Guild, Prototopia

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?
Both. Both. Neither.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Rock climbing, hiking, wilderness medicine, cooking, canyoneering,

What is something you learned in the last week?
That pharmaceutical companies flooded the market with 78 billion pills of opioids during the peak of the opioid epidemic. That Exxon created the first hybrid car in the 1970s.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
60s, 70s & 80s rock, classic New Orleans jazz, classical, some folk

What was the last book you read?
Deadly Cure, Silence of the Lambs (re-read) & Characteristics of Games (I read multiple books simultaneously)

Do you play any musical instruments?
Piano (poorly)

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have moved 37 times in 45 years.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I rafted the Grand Canyon in a 16 foot raft.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Dr. Strange for the powers, Captain America for the body & the Hulk for the personality

Have any pets?
30,003 (1 newfoundland (180 lbs), 1 cat, 1 horse and 30,000 bees)

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):
Zev Shlasinger (WizKids) for being an incredible guy to work with when designing my first published game, Mike Fitzgerald for helping me as a fledgling designer and being a great friend, Scott DeMers for giving me the best advice for a great elevator pitch and Sean Brown of Mr. B Games for having the wisdom to turn down Merlin's Beast Hunt (though I'd still love to publish a game with him in the future).


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.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Gen Con 2019 Wrap-Up

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So last week was Gen Con, the biggest board gaming convention in the USA (and maybe the world depending on how you figure size).  Only Essen Spiel in Germany can compare.  Gen Con is kind of like Disney World.  You can't really imagine what it's like until you experience it, and it's impossible to experience it all in the time that you're there.  For five days (or more), downtown Indianapolis is turned into a 24 hours-a-day gaming Mecca.  The Indiana Convention Center is the hub of the activities, but for about a half mile in all directions there are hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, and more, all with people packed in doing various activities related to gaming, or sometimes not.  Indianapolis also has a number of bike paths, walking paths, museums, parks, and other activities to partake in, too.  And a bit further outside downtown there are more recreational opportunities, too.  There's no way you can possibly see and do everything there is to do and it's an experience you'll never forget.

Keith and Claire Matejka, our fearless leaders for the weekend!
For my part, I spent most of the five days between the convention center and the adjacent Marriott hotel complex.  I was part of the awesome Thunderworks Crew, so I spent part of each day running game demos or manning the booth for Thunderworks Games.  I ran eight games of the new Lockup: A Roll Player Tale and one game of Roll Player.  I also helped show off those, Monsters & Minions, Dual Powers, Roll Player Adventures, and the convention hit Cartographers at the demo tables and at the booth.  I also helped out with the booth setup and takedown, as well as spent some time helping out at the booth during open convention hall hours.  In exchange I got an exhibitor badge and got to share a hotel room that was attached to the convention hall via a long skywalk and then navigating hallways through two connected hotels.  It was great to have everything attached and not have to rely on someone else's car for transportation this year.

During the day, when I wasn't running demos, I was either pitching games or walking the exhibition hall passing out business cards and sell sheets.  I had four pitch meetings scheduled, however one had to be canceled and I was already busy during the only available time slot for rescheduling.  From those, two publishers took home three of my games to try out, so I'm pretty happy with how those went!  I dropped off a ton of business cards, promoting my People Behind the Meeples designer interviews, reviews, Kickstarter previews, and everything else I do on this blog, and a handful of sell sheets (mostly my sell sheet of sell sheets, which I got several compliments on).
The weather was beautiful all weekend for those that ventured outside!
This year my evenings were mostly open.  Last year I had two publisher speed dating events and a hotel offsite, so I didn't have the opportunity to participate in any of the afterhours events.  This year there was only one publisher speed dating event on Thursday, so my other evenings were free.

Heading to Indy with Stephan Esser.
Wednesday, was spent mostly driving to Indy and then setting up the Thunderworks Games booth.  Stephan Esser picked me up in Rochelle on his way down from Madison and we spent the next 4 hours getting to know each other.  After setting up the Thunderworks booth we all went to dinner at Buca Di Beppo, my first time there.  The food was great, although a bit difficult to coordinate since everything was served family style.  Afterwards Keith Matejka (the owner of Thunderworks Games, designer of Roll Player and other games, and a great friend) and I headed over to the Claddagh, where we caught the tail end of a media/publisher/designer meetup.  I got a quick peek at the new Mint Cooperative from Five24 Labs (I thought I took a picture, but can't find it), and it looks pretty cool.  After that I went back to the hotel and met up with Stephan to play a game of Lockup since I had to demo it the next day and hadn't played in almost a year.  By the time we were done it was about 1am local time (midnight for us), so I headed back to my room to get some sleep.  My roommates, Luis and Lucas (the graphic designer and artist for most Thunderworks games, and both from Brazil, though currently living elsewhere) were already asleep, so I quietly got to bed, excited for Thursday.
Entering the ICC.
It's pretty empty on Wednesday.
It took a while, but eventually we found where to
pick up badges.
Badges acquired, now off to set up the
Thunderworks booth in the exhibition hall!
We had a ton of inventory to unload and hide in a
tiny 10x10 booth.
Dinner at Boca di Beppo.
Wrapping up the night with a game of Lockup!
The entrance to the ICC, where some of the fun is!
Thursday morning I got to the exhibition hall about 30 minutes before it opened to the public and was ushered right in with my exhibitor badge.  The exhibition hall is really cool in the morning when the aisles aren't packed with people.  I only had a while to walk the floor before my first pitch meeting at 10am.  That pitch didn't go too well and the publisher decided they weren't interested in either game I showed them.  Then I had another hour and a half to walk around before my noon pitch.  So I went to the First Exposure Playtest Hall and met a few friends.  I chatted with Tavis from The Game Crafter, got a selfie taken with Daniel Zayas of Longpack Games, and saw Jason Brooks of Brookspun Games demoing his game Legacies (on Kickstarter this fall) and Rob Huber and Brendan Riley of Rattlebox Games demoing several of their titles.  I also picked up several designer packs from some of the manufacturers there.  I'm planning on writing up a review of all the designer packs (or manufacturer's sample packs) that I picked up, plus a few I have from previous events.  Finally it was time for my noon pitch, where I showed four games to someone who represented three publishers.  That went over very well and he took home two of my games to play!  By then it was almost time to start my demos, so I headed over to the demo hall and set up Lockup and had a snack and a bit of relaxation.
Our demos were technically in Hall A, although our tables said Hall B.

The Thursday demos of Lockup went great.  They were supposed to be full , with five players each, but ended up having a few empty seats.  The first game was three players and the second was four.  Everyone loved the game, and the other Thunderworks titles being demoed were getting great receptions, too (Roll Player with various combinations of the base game, Monsters & Minions, and Fiends & Familiars, Dual Powers, Cartographers, and the upcoming Roll Player Adventures).  The demos wrapped up just as the exhibition hall was closing to the public, so it was back to the Thunderworks booth to help reset for the next day.  Then I set out for the Slippery Noodle Inn for the Publisher Speed Dating event organized by the Indie Game Alliance.  Unfortunately this event wasn't as well attended as last year.  There were 28 designer slots for two 2-hour sessions, about the same as last year.  We beat out about 130 other applicants, so these were pretty good games and I'm honored to be among them.  Unfortunately for the first session there were only four publishers in attendance.  Last year there were about 20.  However, out of the four publishers I saw, two were interested in Beard Snacks and one was also interested in 8 Seconds (they had looked at it last year, but were interested in checking out the changes I made).  Both said they'd reach out after recovering from the convention, so I'm hoping to hear from them soon.  Even though the event wasn't as great as last year, I did have fun chatting with a few Protospiel friends (Randy Ekl and Scott Starkey), so the evening wasn't a complete bust.  Afterward I went to another impromptu designer/publisher meetup, but without any publishers.  I had fun playing a few games with a few other designers (Randy and Maxine Ekl, Royce Banuelos, Molly Zeff, Matthew Duahn, and Alex and Bobo Wolf).  That was fun, but since I hadn't eaten anything but a few snacks since dinner the night before, I headed out after a while to find the rest of the Thunderworks crew playing games in a ballroom at the JW Marriott along with several hundred other gamers.  I ordered a pizza at 11:50pm and it wasn't delivered until 1:20am.  I scarfed it down and then headed to bed around 1:45.  It was a long, but awesome day, and I was excited for the rest of the weekend.
The Demo Hall was packed all weekend long!
Deep Sea Adventure always makes for a good time.
Hanging out at Publisher Speed Dating
with Randy Ekl and Scott Starkey
GWAR!!!
Friday started out pretty much the same.  It started with a quick stroll through the exhibition hall and then a pitch meeting at 11am.  That went well, with the publisher taking home one of my games to test out!  Then I headed back to the hotel to have leftover cold pizza for lunch, but at least I ate lunch.  Around 1:30 I headed back to the demo hall for my Lockup demos, which again went great.  During one of the games I looked over and saw some guys that I thought might be cosplaying rock band GWAR, but one of the players said it was actually the band!  So I excused myself and got a picture with Beefcake the Mighty and JiZMak da Gusha (with SawBorg Destructo in the background).  Bucket list item, checked.  GWAR was there to promote their new game, GWAR vs Time, which is currently on Kickstarter.
Lockup demo going strong!
You can see a few of the other Thunderworks demos
in the background.
GWAR vs. Time deck-building game!
The board and some cards from the new GWAR game.
The second demo of Lockup was a super close game!
Tim Virnig was a big proponent of the selfie stick!
After returning to the Thunderworks booth and prepping it for Saturday, the entire Thunderworks crew (all 14 of us) went to Rockbottom Brewery for an awesome dinner.  After leaving there we headed back to the JW Marriott ballroom for more games.  I creamed everyone at Everdell and then we played a four player game of my 8 Seconds, using the speed variant, which everyone really enjoyed.  I also ran into Jeremy Davis (the Game Geek Ninja) who just finished up a Kickstarter for his Bag of Spiders game system as well as Mike and Brent from Elf Creek Games who have a Kickstarter for Honey Buzz launching soon.  Then it was time to head back to the hotel for some sleep.


Each of these wonderful people played a big role
in the success of the week for Thunderworks Games!
  
I won my first ever game of Everdell,
68-59-57-50!
The speed variant of 8 Seconds was a hit!
It took 15 minutes and ended in a tie!
These awesome people didn't intend on playing Roll Player,
but they obliged and really enjoyed it!
Saturday was more of the same, except I ran a demo of Roll Player at 10am.  Unfortunately no one showed up for it, despite it being a sold out demo (I heard that there was a hotel fire near the airport, so that may have contributed).  Fortunately I was able to find four people in the demo hall that were looking for a game to play, so we had a full game anyway!  Afterward I had about an hour and a half to wander the exhibition hall before my Lockup demos.  I spent quite a while at the Devir Games booth checking out a few of their titles and visiting with Nicole Brady of SAHM Reviews.  I picked up a copy of the upcoming La Viña and also got a preview of Paris, and The Color Monster.  All three look really awesome!
The Color Monster is an adorable cooperative
game for ages 4+ where kids learn about colors,
emotions, teamwork, logic, and memory!
La Viña is all about collecting grapes from the
vineyards so that you can sell them to the
winemakers for points.  I received a
review copy, so look for that soon!
Paris is a great looking puzzle game.  It's for
two players and plays in about a half hour.
Tile drafting, special actions, and a strong puzzle
 aspect make Paris look really interesting.
Paris features some gorgeous artwork on the
postcards in the game.
My buddy Tony (back left) got the first player token in Lockup
because it's supposed to go to the biggest troublemaker! 😆
My Saturday Lockup demos went well.  Each of them had one no-show, but the open seat was filled by someone else, so I had two full, five-player games.  In one game the open seat was taken by my friend Tony, from my local game group, so it was great to chat and trash talk with a friend for a while.  After the demos were over and the booth was prepared for Sunday I went to mass at the St. John the Evangelist church across the street from the convention center.  This is an absolutely gorgeous church and I recommend popping your head in for a look, even if you're not Catholic.  After church I called my friend Tony and we headed out for dinner.  We ended up at O'Reilly's Pub at The Game Crafter's Community Social.  I got to introduce Tony to some of my game design friends as well as Tavis and JT from The Game Crafter.  Tony is just starting out on the game design journey, so the opportunity to mingle with real game designers (and have dinner with Randy and Maxine Ekl) was an awesome experience for him.  He was beaming all the way back to the hotel afterwards!  We also chatted with Ben Moy, Eric Engstrom, the Hylands, and more for a while in the evening before heading back the the JW Marriott ballroom again for a few games with the Thunderworks Crew again.  After we all split I went back to my hotel and looked for a quiet place to call home.  Everywhere was filled with rambunctious gamers, so I ended up in the hotel's exercise room, which was silent and empty!  Exhausted, I went back to the room to get some sleep.
A full five-player game of Lockup! The Gnolls sent their entire crew to the Library!

Technically, I both won and lost this game!  A father and son
had to leave a little early, so I played the last round for
both of them.  One of them won and the other lost!
St. John the Evangelist church across the street from the convention
center is an absolutely gorgeous church.  Mass was
given by a priest that was in town for games!
The Game Crafter Community Social was a great opportunity to visit with some good friends, old and new! 
Thanks for the great evening!
Gamers everywhere!  Except the hotel gym!
I finally got a chance to join a game of Lockup!
Sunday was an early morning.  We had to be checked out before we left for the convention center since we didn't have the room that night.  That meant getting up at 6:30 and meeting to load up the car at 7:15 since Stephan wanted breakfast before heading to the convention center.  The other mornings I preferred the extra sleep to breakfast, but on Sunday I joined a few of the guys for breakfast at a great little diner.  We got to see Tom Vasel walk by, and Eric Lang popped in for a bite.  Then it was off to the convention hall.  I had a Lockup demo at 10am that only had two show up, so I got to play (and lose) along with Nathan, one of the other Thunderworks crew guys (he won).  Then I had two hours to explore the exhibition hall again.  I made the most of those two hours, meeting a ton of publishers, talking about designer interviews, and picking up a few more review games.  Smirk and Dagger were very generous and I now have Before There Were Stars, Wooly Whammoth, and Shobu to review for them.  I also swung by the Golden Bell Studios booth to see if there was anything happening after all the online drama, but their booth was unoccupied.  Everything was covered in sheets and someone at a neighboring booth said the GBS people were only at their booth occasionally.  They came late, left early, and just weren't around much.  No big drama, but weird that an expensive booth like theirs wouldn't be occupied.

This is what the Golden Bell Studios booth looked
like well after the hall opened on Sunday.
With gorgeous artwork and interesting mechanics,
Nouvelle France should be a huge hit
when it comes to Kickstarter soon!
On Sunday I also finally had a little more time to check out some upcoming games that look pretty interesting.  I think the one that caught my attention most is Nouvelle France from Jackbro Games.  It's an intriguing Euro style game that has a very puzzly element to it with three-dimensional blocks (like Tetris blocks) that have to be placed in specific ways to score points.  Different heights will score different points as snow piles up and surrounds buildings.  It looks really cool and should be hitting Kickstarter in September.  I also saw Colab, a really cool looking game coming to Kickstarter next year from John Mietling and Portal Dragon GamesVadoran Gardens (available now) and Isle of Cats (Kickstarter recently finished) from City of Games also looked great.  Derek and Lizzy Funkhouser from The Boardgame Spotlight were there being social and also promoting their new game, The Walking Dead: Something to Fear from Skybound Games.  Also, across the aisle from the Thunderworks booth was Red Raven Games and their demos of Sleeping Gods, which looks incredible and is on Kickstarter right now (see more about it in my Eye on Kickstarter post).  Feudum from Odd Bird Games was also on display across the aisle and that looked as gorgeous as ever - I'm still trying to find time to learn and play it for a review.
Nouvelle France has some awesome table presence.
The Isle of Cats looked very interesting.  If you
backed the Kickstarter you have a great game to
look forward to!
Vadoran Gardens looked simple, but fascinating.
Colab is coming up from Portal Dragon
and looks incredible!
Within minutes of the convention closing to the public,
the exhibition hall looks like a completely different
world.  The booths are taken down, remaining
inventory boxed up, and the aisle carpets rolled up.
I spent the last hour of the convention demoing games at the Thunderworks booth.  It was a very successful convention for Thunderworks Games.  We sold out of Cartographers and sold a ton of the other games, too: Lockup, Dual Powers, Roll Player, RP: Monsters and Minions, Bullfrogs, and even Blend Off.  Playmats, metal coins, and promo items were also big sellers.  Teardown on Sunday was pretty quick and we were out of there in about an hour.  Then came the ride home.  There were four of us in the car for the ride home (one of the guys had to leave early because his wife got sick, so we had extras in our car).  We had a blast riding home, sending silly pictures back and forth, being happy we survived our brief pit stop at Midwest Gas Station and Lucky's Diner in Remington, IN and our detour through Hobart, IN.  We saw some amazing skies and then stopped for dinner at Portillo's (a rare treat for the Wisconsin guys).  Before long I was home and ready to hug my family and crash.

Cleaning up at the ICC.
Gen Con 2019 is over!  Time to start planning 2020!
A beautiful sky over Indiana corn fields.
The sunset was fabulous as we got closer to home.
My road trip crew for the return home!
See how happy I was!
Lots of these types of pictures got
sent back and forth.

I look forward to demoing TWG games again!
It was an amazing whirlwind for five days, and it took me this full week to recover, but it was an absolute blast.  I'm very happy that we had the convenience of a nearby hotel and that almost all of the Thunderworks crew was in the same complex so that we could hang out and play games in the evenings.  That's part of the experience I didn't really get last year.  It was amazing to walk through the hotels at all hours of the night and see room after room of people playing games.  At night it was mostly open gaming (although there were scheduled events going on even late at night).  During the day all those rooms were filled with various events, like RPG sessions, talks, and more.  Everywhere you looked, and plenty I didn't have a chance to see (like the Lucas Oil Stadium or dozens of other hotels and restaurants) were filled with gamers and special events.  It's unlike anything you'll ever experience anywhere else in the world.  If you're into gaming Gen Con is something you have to experience for yourself, even just once.  The cosplay, oversized versions of games, huge tables filled with miniature cities and terrains, and tables upon tables upon tables as far as you can imagine, are really something special.  I'm already looking forward to next year and hope it works out for me to attend again.

So until then, thanks to Keith and Claire of Thunderworks Games, thanks to the entire Thunderworks Crew, thanks to The Game Crafter for a great time Saturday night, and thanks to everyone else I saw that helped make the week a very memorable one.  And to those that I missed, we'll cross paths soon!

Lockup: A Roll Player Tale demos at Gen Con.
Dual Powers demos at Gen Con.
Roll Player Adventures demos at Gen Con. (Look for it next spring!)
Roll Player demos at Gen Con. 
(We were also demoing Monsters & Minions and Fiends & Familiars.)
Cartographers demos at Gen Con.
More Lockup demos at Gen Con.


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