Tuesday, June 20, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 75: Steven Aramini

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.

Name:Steven Aramini
Location:Reno, Nevada
Day Job:Creative Director for an ad agency.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:.) I have a solo word game available on The Game Crafter called “Flipside,” for all others I’d check with the publisher’s site. They could best tell you availability or release date of upcoming stuff.
Today's Interview is with:

Steven Aramini
Interviewed on: 6/14/2017

Steven Aramini is an up and coming designer that's been garnering a bit of attention lately. He's the designer of Yardmaster, has won a few contests, including a few Game Crafter contests and one hosted by ButtonShy Games, and now has a few games published, with more on the way. Right now he has Groves on Kickstarter, co-designed and published by Dan Letzring, who I interviewed just a couple of weeks ago. Read on to learn more about Steven and all the other projects he has in the works. You won't want to miss out on them!

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 love creating things and to me games feel like interactive art projects that make you think, have fun and play with others.
What game or games are you currently working on?
The game that I am working most on right now is “Groves” by Letiman Games, which is up on Kickstarter right now. It is a really fun bag-building, worker placement game that I’ve worked on with co-designer Dan Letzring. We’ve been busy updating stretch goals and fine tuning them, including a new 2-player variant and solo rules.
Have you designed any games that have been published?
What is your day job?
Creative Director for an ad agency.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
The local game shop has a huge gaming space that is great, and there’s also a gaming tavern that is fun, too.
Who do you normally game with?
I go to several meetups with different groups, but my “regulars” are Danny Devine and Paul Kluka, who incidentally were my co-designers for “Circle the Wagons,” a Button Shy Games title.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We always pick something different. The last time I hosted we played “Roll Player” and “Lords of Waterdeep.” Usually it’s one game that’s a little longer and one a little shorter.
And what snacks would you eat?
Pretzels and chips.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes at home, but no for meetups that are at public places. At home it ranges from classic rock to indie stuff to reggae, we’ll mix it up.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games Galore. The owner was really nice and helped me out when I was first trying to break into design and getting games signed. He gave me some good advice.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I am into Cottage Garden right now. It’s my newest game and I have been playing it a lot with my wife. I guess I’d say Machi Koro for a “least favorite that I still enjoy.” A lot of people really don’t seem to like it, but I’ve enjoyed it the couple of times I played it. As for worst, hmm, I do cringe if “Cards Against Humanity” is brought out. Too crass for me.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Worker placement is my favorite. Social deduction is my least favorite, mostly because I’m terrible at it!
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Porta Nigra, there’s a lot I really love about it and I’ve brought it to several game nights and it never gets played. Gotta get that one back to the table!
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Other: Miniature Games
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Card Games (I've yet to design a game with an actual board!)
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’ve done both. “Barker’s Row” is a game about carnival barkers, and I loved that theme so much so I built mechanics that supported that theme, whereas most of my other games started with mechanics.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes, I won the Ion Award at SaltCon, the Button Shy Wallet Contest and 2 Game Crafter contests, the Sprue (Minis) Challenge and the Trick Taker Challenge.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I’m a big fan of Ryan Laukat (Red Raven Games), as well as J Alex Kevern, Scott Almes, Wolfgang Kramer and Uwe Rosenberg.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I’m really inspired by nostalgia and art. The old vaudeville/carnival art posters inspired me to make “Barker’s Row” and my fascination with the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers have me making a solo bomb run game.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I begin with self plays, then branch out to my regular playtesting group, then branch out to my regular playing groups, then other members of the gaming community out there.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I love collaborating with others. Of my six games so far, four of them are co-designs.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Creating tension and tough decisions is always difficult. Making players feel like they are having fun while also anguishing over whether they are making the right move.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s one of my favorite films and just feels like it could make for a cool game experience, too.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Go to more conventions. I really want to branch out and attend conventions, which is a goal of mine going into the future.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Try to find others in your area who are into game design and sharing their prototypes. It’s so much more fun and productive to have a group you can feel comfortable sharing ideas in progress.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Yardmaster (Crash Games), Aramini Circus (Iello)
Games that will soon be published are: Barker’s Row (Overworld Games, successfully funded on Kickstarter and in production), Circle the Wagons (Button Shy, successfully funded on Kickstarter and in production)
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Groves (Letiman Games, funded and currently on Kicsktarter); Coin & Crown (Kickstarter launches June 27); Tricky tides (Gold Seal Games, Kickstarter launches late 2017)
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Bomber Boys (WWII bomb run solitaire dice game); Iceland (rescue your meeples from the land of fire and ice as a volcano erupts)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Manhattan Project Dice Game (Game Crafter contest entry) [GJJ Games] I’m also working on a design for this. Good luck!
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
None that I’m active with currently.

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. Neither, don’t drink soda. VHS!
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Camping, kayaking, traveling
What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned how to make my own lip balm and soap (with an assist from my wife)
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Reggae, Sci-Fi mostly for books and movies, but really any kind if it’s good
What was the last book you read?
“Thick as Thieves” by Peter Spiegelman
Do you play any musical instruments?
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I’m a Type One Diabetic.
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Burning Man was probably the craziest thing I’ve experienced, such a unique location, art, costumes, people, everything.
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
That’s a tough one. Maybe retheming “Groves?” Originally it was designed as a western theme but I had just done “Circle the Wagons” with the same theme, so we changed it to a fantasy theme with trees, Fae and Wraiths. It was a great pivot to something new, not sure if I’d call that an accident but that’s the best I’ve got!
Who is your idol?
My Dad.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go watch the Rat Pack play a show.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Neither. I like it right in the middle.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I like Green Arrow or Hawkeye, the idea of shooting arrows that do amazing things sounds like the most fun.
Have any pets?
Yes, 2 Cocker Spaniels and 2 Siamese Cats
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 want all of the gateway games to survive: Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Catan, Dominion, Stone Age, stuff like that. They are the foundation of our hobby.
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):
Big shout out to Dan Letzring, my co-designer of “Groves” and owner of Letiman Games, who is publishing the game. It’s been great to work with him and I think we’ve got a great game that I’m proud of!

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

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