Tuesday, September 26, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 87: Carla Kopp

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:Carla Kopp
Email:contact@weirdgiraffegames.com
Location:Huntsville, AL
Day Job:Software Engineer
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:weirdgiraffegames.com
Blog:Weird Giraffe Games on The Indie Game Report
BGG:xocarla
Facebook:Weird Giraffe Games
Twitter:@weirdgiraffes
YouTube:Weird Giraffe Games
Instagram:@weirdgiraffegames/
Find my games at:Stellar Leap has a print and play here: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/230570/stellar-leap Super Hack Override can be bought here: superhackoverride.com
Today's Interview is with:

Carla Kopp
Interviewed on: 9/21/2017

Although she currently resides in Alabama, Carla Kopp is originally from Illinois, and even went to my alma mater, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! Last year she successfully funded and published Super Hack Override and right now she has her second game on Kickstarter. Stellar Leap! is already funded with about three weeks to go. To learn more about Carla and the other awesome projects she's working on, 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 went to a panel at Dragon Con about designing games, tried it out, and got hooked!

What game or games are you currently working on?
Stellar Leap, Observance, and Drapple

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Super Hack Override

What is your day job?
Software Engineer

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home or a friend's house is best, but I also have a game night at the local cupcake place, Sugar Belle, which is pretty awesome! Cupcakes, milkshakes, and games just go together.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and whoever shows up to my community game night! Usually these people end up being friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Something new! I have a stack of unplayed games and my favorite thing to do is to explore new games' mechanics.

And what snacks would you eat?
Unless it's cupcakes / cookies at Sugar Belle, we tend not to eat while playing. Less chance of hurting the games!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
If there is any music, it's typically some sort of video game music or something thematic, like Moana when we play anything Island themed.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
JC's House of Cards. It's close and has AMAZING chairs.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
The Great Dinosaur Rush is my current favorite game! Least favorite that I still enjoy is Cat Box. It works with 5 players and is fast and easy to teach, so I tend to play it when there's people that don't like heavier games. I'm not really sure about worst game... I tend to not play games I know I won't like, like party games. I get surprised every so often, but I can see how others might like those games.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Worker Placement is my favorite and I hate trick taking and take that games.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Near and Far! I haven't gotten it to the table yet, but I know I'll love it. Just gotta find the time and right people.

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

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 tend to get both at once!

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I haven't entered, but I plan on trying soon!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier is amazing; he makes great games and is also super nice!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually either when I'm in the shower, right before I go to sleep, or right after waking up. I have my phone for when I get ideas around sleep, but for the shower, I just have to hope I can remember the ideas until after I'm finished!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start by either playing it myself as multiple players or getting my husband, Nick, to play with me, then iterate to get all the obvious kinks out. Then I go to my friends and my local design group and iterate a ton more, usually over several months. Once the game gets to be better, then I start playtesting in the community and at conventions, to get people I don't know to tell me how they feel about it. After all that comes blind playtesting, which always lasts a lot longer than I think it will, but is super important and rewarding. Blind playtesting tends to convince me that I need to simplify all the things!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Mostly alone for the design process. Nick helps out with playtesting, brainstorming when I get stuck, and is good to bounce ideas off of. I'd love to have a co-designer at some point! I just haven't had the opportunity to do so at this point. I also HAVE to work with an artist for all the art as I'm terrible at that.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time! There's never enough for all the ideas I have, so I really have to focus and iterate on a game, instead of trying to prototype everything. A lot of my time also goes to the publishing related tasks which sometimes feel never-ending.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Ender's Game! It was one of my favorite books growing up and has a cool space theme. A few of the other IPs I would have chosen, like Star Wars or Star Trek, already have a few games dedicated to them and I'd prefer to be one of the first.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Ask for help! There's tons of people in the community that are willing to help you, if you're just willing to ask. I used to get so nervous asking for help and not wanting to bother people, but I'm in the process of getting over that an

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't give up! If you keep at it, you'll find the thing that can make your game really great, but that won't typically happen in a day or month. It takes time and lots of playtesting to make incredible games.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Super Hack Override
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Stellar Leap
Currently looking for a publisher I have: maybe Drapple
I'm planning to crowdfund: Observance, maybe Drapple
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Stellar Leap
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Observance and Drapple
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Tons! I got a folder of ideas. We'll see what makes it out of there.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
So many of them!

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?
I LOVE BOTH STAR TREK AND STAR WARS. They fill different niches and I can't have enough of either. So excited for the new Star Trek series and for all the Star Wars movies. Pepsi, DEFINITELY. Neither?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Software! I like to program and learn more about it, so I do that on the side. I even made my own website!

What is something you learned in the last week?
Asking people when they are planning to post their articles is super important! If you don't, they might post before the kickstarter and you can lose some potential backers. I'm going to be better about this next time!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Pop Punk! Science Fiction. Science Fiction and Super Heroes.

What was the last book you read?
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

Do you play any musical instruments?
I used to play Oboe and Cymbals in college.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm really passionate about my car. I drive a BMW Z4 and I love it so much. It was the first thing I bought after I got my first fulltime job and it just makes me happy to drive.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I followed a band on tour for two weeks and it was one of the best experiences! I got to hang out with them every night and see almost all of the midwest. It was definitely one of the more exciting vacations I've ever done.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I was playtesting Drapple and making a color wheel out of the cards to show the color gradient. While I was doing that, Tony (Bearded Rogue) and Jeremy (GameGeekNinja) were at the same table and were like "YES! You have to keep that!" and that's how we fixed the starting player disadvantage in Drapple.

Who is your idol?
I don't really have one, outside of Jamey Stegmaier. There's tons of people I'd like to be more like, but I wouldn't say idol.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go see what the future was like! I'd hope we'd have fixed a bunch of the problems of now, especially health related ones. I have quite a few health issues and if I could get a miracle pill that would be fantastic!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Definitely an introvert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Flash! He has all the time in the world!

Have any pets?
3 cats; Fluffins, Klaus, and Frozen Custard.

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'd think board games would survive, as you don't need power to play them!

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):
Tony Miller and Dan Letzring have been so helpful to me throughout my game design career! They always seem willing to help and give feedback, plus the feedback they give is always incredibly helpful! Jeremy Davis and Derek Maggs are also incredible! They've had my back since I've met them and they're just great people to know. All four of them are just fantastic people.

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

Feel free to reach out to me for anything! I love to talk about game design and I'd love to get to know you.




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?  Pleasse 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.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #29

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.
So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the fourth Friday of September, 2017:



HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Dice of Pirates
  • A few months ago I reviewed Dice of Crowns and loved the game. Dice of Pirates is the second in the series and adds some new twists the the mechanics already familiar from Dice of Crowns. The pirate theme looks fun and the new battling mechanic looks intriguing. If this is as much fun as Dice of Crowns, it'll be another winner!


Dice of Pirates is a fast-paced game of piracy for 2 to 6 players! The newest game in the award winning pocket tin dice series! The Winds of Fate are blowing, and fortune favors the bold. There is treasure out there waiting to be plundered, and coffers to be filled. It just takes a Captain with the will and strength to grab it. The seas are full of dangerous monsters and rival Pirate Captains, but this moment is yours not theirs. Your sails are full, your ships are ready, and your sword is sharp. Time to sail the seas, and make your name!




Trench
  • The European hit abstract strategy game is finally going to be available worldwide! Trench is an absolutely stunning looking abstract strategy game for two players, all about the trench warfare of World War I. Using some very interesting mechanics as pieces sit on and cross the trench line that diagonally divides the board, Trench brings a level of elegance and sophistication to the table. This is a game that looks just as great when it's not being played as it does in action.


Dawn of the Archmage
  • Back in May I reviewed a quick card game called Archmage: Origins by SolarFlare Games. This was the precursor to Dawn of the Archmage, a much larger miniatures game. The minis, artwork, and gameplay look really great in this second game set in the Archmage universe!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Protospiel Chicago 2017

Well, another Protospiel event has come and gone.  The second year of Protospiel Chicago was another huge success.  The event sold out by Saturday afternoon!  Nearly 100 designers and playtesters congregated on the Holiday Inn Express in Palatine, IL for three days of playing games in various states of development.  [UPDATE: In the comments below I got more detailed numbers.  There were 150 badges sold (plus some publisher, media, etc. that had complimentary badges)!  A few couldn't attend, but most did.  Over 150 people, and most attended for two or even three days!  What a great success!]

I love going to Protospiel events because the feedback I get in one or two plays of a game at a Protospiel is equal to the feedback from dozens of standard playtests.  Even for games I've been working on for years and think are pretty solid, I come away with ideas for changes and improvements.  It's also a wonderful place to playtest the games of a bunch of different designers, give some great feedback, and network with some great people.  I've met some really great friends at Protospiels over the years.

At this year's Protospiel Chicago I got 5 of my games played and played 10 other games, some of which were pretty good!  Here's a photo journal of the games I played and a little bit about each one, plus a few other fun photos.

Below I'll describe each game, list the designer and who I played with, the time spent both playing and discussing the game (to the best of my recollection), and also three ratings, from 1-5.  The first is how close to finished I felt the game was.  A 1 means it was a super early prototype and a 5 means it was very close to publication ready.  The second is how fun the game was in its current state.  A 1 means it needs a lot of work and wasn't really playable or much fun at all.  A 5 means I had a great time playing and would love to play again.  Finally, the third number is the potential the game has of becoming a really great game.  A 1 means I wasn't a huge fan of the game (luckily there weren't any of those) and a 5 means I thought the game was pretty awesome.

So a rating of 2-2-5 would mean that it was a pretty early prototype, wasn't a whole lot of fun yet, but had quite a bit of potential to be a pretty good game.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Middlin' by Randy Ekl
Title: Middlin'
By: Randy Ekl
Played with: Randy Ekl, Troy Pichelman, Jason Brooks, Brennan Aldridge, and Jeff Bantly
Time spent: 1:30
Prototype Rating: 3-4-4

The first game I played on Friday was Middlin' by Randy Ekl.  This is sort of a trick taking game with some interesting twists.  In Middlin' each player is dealt a hand of cards.  On their turn they can play, face-down one or two cards from their hand.  After everyone has played, cards are revealed each players' cards summed.  The highest and lowest players are out for the round and the other players can choose an action from one of their played cards to apply to their penguins on the game board.  Through careful selection of actions the penguins can huddle closer to the middle, gaining more points the closer to the middle they are.  But it's not always good to be in the middle.  Each time you are in the group to 'win' a trick you get a pebble.  At the end of the game pebbles are worth negative points, so you really want to balance taking actions with avoiding the pebbles.  This leads to some intense bluffing and deduction scenarios toward the end of the game.  I really enjoyed Middlin' and look forward to seeing it develop further.  The gameplay was solid, although it needed a bit of balancing and a few other tweaks.  This was a pretty early prototype copy, but had obviously been through a few iterations.

Worship / Warship by Jason Brooks

Worship / Warship by Jason Brooks
Title: Worship / Warship
By: Jason Brooks
Played with: Eric Engstrom, Brennan Aldridge, and Jeff Bantly
Time spent: 1:30
Prototype Rating: 2-2-4

Worship / Warship is a game in two halves about growing a religious following on your island and then eventually spreading off your island to conquer your neighbors.  It uses an interesting deck-building element as you convert the heathens on your island to be your followers.  You have two heathens to convert each round and they'll get added to your deck.  Any heathens you don't manage to convert escape to a central island where you'll get a second chance during the expansion phase.  Eventually you'll develop your nation to the point where you can start building warships and battling your opponents for control, which almost feels like a separate game.  This one was fun, but way too long.  We played for over an hour and were just starting to expand beyond our own islands.  So a lot needs to be done to speed things up.  Theres also some balancing needed as well as some tweaks to some cards to make the decisions in the game a little more interesting, however it does seem like there's potential for a decent game there, or maybe even two games!

Playmat for Pluto Attacks by Troy Pichelman of JTP Games.
I didn't play Pluto Attacks this time (I've played it at three other Protospiels), but Troy did show me the playmat he's ordered to sell with the game.  He also gave me a copy to review, so keep an eye out for that coming soon!

The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice by George Jaros

The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice by George Jaros

The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice by George Jaros

The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice by George Jaros
Title: The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice
By: George Jaros
Played with: Troy Pichelman, Natasha Chmura, John Brussolo
Time spent: 2:20

NOTE: The game started off at a decent pace, but the last half dragged.  The time flew though and we didn't realize how long it took.  Got some good ideas on how to speed things up though.

Minion Games was running a contest for people to create a dice game set in their Manhattan Project universe and allowing designers to pitch their entries at Protospiel Chicago on Saturday.  My entry was The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice, based on the original game.  I wanted to get it played at least once before presenting it to James Mathe and I'm glad I did.  I made a few minor changes to the game and printed out new rules and some adjusted cards after I got home late Friday night (actually early Saturday morning).

Friday afternoon at Protospiel Chicago.

Company of Thieves by Scott Starkey

Company of Thieves by Scott Starkey

Company of Thieves by Scott Starkey
Title: Company of Thieves
By: Scott Starkey
Played with: Peter Dast, Gary Dickson, and Dave Munger
Time spent: 1:15
Prototype Rating: 3-4-5

Company of Thieves is a really great competitive game that requires cooperating with your opponents  Even as a prototype this was a blast to play.  It's a game where each player is a burglar attempting to steal stuff from neighborhood houses (ok, so not the most moral of themes).  However, these houses are protected by all sorts of challenges that thieves may face.  Some are fairly standard, like traps and guards, but others are more fantastical and 'dungeon' themed.  They're fun and silly!  Each round has several steps, some of which are taken simultaneously and some individually.  Each round starts with players 'casing a joint'.  Choose one of the locations to visit.  If you visit a house you get to peek at the challenges there so you can better prepare.  If you visit the Guild you can collect additional 'resources' (they're more like skills - Fight, Tinker, and Sneak) that will be used to overcome challenges.  Next, each player chooses two more locations to visit that night.  These will be your attempts to actually burglarize the houses.  There's a chance that multiple players may go to the same house, and if they do they'll cooperate to try and defeat the challenges there.  Each challenge requires discarding specific skill cards to complete.  Defeating a challenge sometimes gives each player at the location a small bonus and if all challenges at a location are defeated they can plunder the treasure at that location.  They may gain Gold, Items, or wild cubes (maybe Treasure) and will also gain some Notoriety.  Items give cards that grant ongoing or one-time abilities and benefits, while Gold can be used to purchase more skill cards from the Guild.  At the end of the game players gain 1 point for each set of Gold, Item, and Notoriety cubes they have (with the wild cubes filling in gaps).

I found Company of Thieves to be a very fun mix of resource management, cooperation, bluffing, deduction, and competition.  Aside from some balancing and minor tweaks, this game is mechanically very solid and a ton of fun to play.  Table talk is allowed, although resources are all private, so depending on the players this can be a straightforward cooperative game or turn into a traitorous game of wheeling, dealing, bluffing, and deceit.  This was possibly the best game I played all weekend (aside from my own - I'm biased that way), although there was one other that was also pretty great.  I really hope everyone has a chance to play this one some day!  Great job Scott!

The Captain Dead: Episode 5 is by JT Smith
Title: The Captain Dead: Episode 5
By: JT Smith
Played with: Carl Klutzke, Eric Jome, Andrew Hansen
Time spent: 1:00
Prototype Rating: 1-2-4

This was by far the roughest prototype I played all weekend - just handwritten cards and pieces scrounged from other games and prototypes.  It's a very, very early version of what will eventually become the next game in the Captain is Dead series.  This one is a cooperative dungeon crawler style game about trying to escape an alien ship.  Right now it felt too much like the original Captain is Dead, but there is a ton of potential for cooperative puzzle solving on the alien ship and I can't wait to see where JT takes it!

Polter-Heist by George Jaros
Title: Polter-Heist
By: George Jaros
Played with: Carl Klutzke, Eric Jome, Andrew Hansen, Nate Jones
Time spent: 1:15

NOTE: As I kind of expected, the game is much better with the actions instead of roll & move, but the ghosts were quite a bit too powerful - players couldn't gather any items.  The game also still suffers from a lack of motivation and too much randomness.  The good thing is, even though the players ripped the game to shreds, I think I'll be able to pick up the pieces and come up with something much better, while still keeping the same theme and core ideas.  Polter-Heist 2.0 will be a major overhaul and I think will be much, much better.  They gave me a ton of great ideas to start working with!


Energy Empire Dice by Nate Jones
Title: Energy Empire Dice
By: Nate Jones
Played with: Nate Jones, Carl Klutzke, Eric Jome, Andrew Hansen
Time spent: 1:45
Prototype Rating: 2-2-3

My Manhattan Project dice game wasn't the only one at Protospiel Chicago.  I also got to play Nate Jones' take on Energy Empire.  In the game players manage money generated by their power plants to build more plants, generate power to enter new cities, and manage pollution caused by both power plants and disasters. I felt that this was a pretty good start, but needed some balancing and a bit more drive.  The game went on pretty long, too.  Tightening it up and having it end sooner would be a big plus.  As it was I felt like people's turns were very similar at the beginning, then started to differentiate, and by the end we were converging again.  The game should end toward the middle of that curve, before we all have a strong engine built up.  This will drive more strategic decisions earlier in the game and help drive it to a faster conclusion.  Still, it was good and has potential, I think.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Globalization by Dan Germain
Title: Globalization
By: Dan Germain
Played with: Rod Currie, Chris McGowan
Time spent: 1:30
Prototype Rating: 2-4-5

Along with Scott Starkey's Company of Thieves, I think Globalization was the best game I played all weekend.  This takes some mechanics from Ticket to Ride and blends them with an economic area control game.  Each card can be used for multiple purposes: either as set collection to gain control of areas, or for their economic abilities to produce, transport, or manufacture resources and goods.  Players can go for an economic victory or area control victory.  The game was pretty solid as is, but does have a few rough areas.  It only plays 2-3 players right now, so it needs to get gameplay up to 4 or even 5.  It also has some special bonus cards that were a bit overpowered because they came up repeatedly.  Making them one-time-use cards that are removed from the game after use will help drive early strategies without becoming over powerful in the end game.  A few of the economic tracks also need a bit of balancing, and maybe need to contribute to multiple potential end game conditions.  But overall the game was very solid, played quickly, and was both thought provoking and simple.  It's just a step up from Ticket to Ride in complexity, so it won't be hard to teach to others, but was deep enough that it'll appeal to even hard core gamers.  Keep an eye on this one, it could be a big hit!

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros
Title: 8 Seconds w/ Vegas Showdown expansion
By: George Jaros
Played with: Rod Currie, Chris McGowen, Dan Germain
Time spent: 1:00

NOTE: 8 Seconds with the Vegas Showdown betting element has been a real winner.  People really seem to enjoy the betting, even though it slows down the game quite a bit.  This is the first time I tested with the refined rules for what happens after a first-roll Clown Out for betting and, while it's working better and no one mentioned anything, after this play and the one shortly after, I've decided to tweak that rule just a bit more.  Other than that, this game went awesome, ending with the last roll of the last player to ride a 15 point bull and snag the win by 1 point!

JT Smith taking a break from gaming
while wearing my gaming hat!
I've had this hat (that my dad made for me)
since the Halloween I was in 4th grade!
At this point I took a break for a little while before presenting my The Manhattan Project: Loaded Dice to James Mathe from Minion Games.  That pitch went very well, with James actually taking more time than I was allotted to play for a while.  He actually took the prototype home with him to playtest some more!  Call me thrilled!

Tanuki in the Garden by George Jaros
Title: Tanuki in the Garden
By: George Jaros
Played with: Carl Klutzke, Nate Jones, Jason Glover
Time spent: 1:10

NOTE: I mentioned it at the start of play, but we completely forgot about dropping shiitake on the tile they're lost at when a Tanuki attacks.  So the game went longer than I'd like, ending after about an hour.  However I did get some good feedback and have a few ideas I'd like to try with the game.

Sea Dogs by Dave Fulton
Title: Sea Dogs
By: Dave Fulton
Played with: Dave Fulton, Andrew Stackhouse, Dennis Nowak, Dave Munger
Time spent: 1:10
Prototype Rating: 3-3-4

Sea Dogs is a fairly fast pick-up and deliver game by Dave Fulton, part of the team that brought Grifters to the world.  The game is about dogs sailing from island to island, collecting loot, and trading it for gold, treasure, and other things pirates love.  Along the way you can attack your fellow pirates to maybe gain some of what they have in their hand, with a kind of go-fish mechanic with betting and bluffing.  Mechanically the game worked pretty well, but it felt sluggish at times and super fast.  The combat seemed a little awkward, especially when you could bluff with money from the bank, but with a bit more work this could be quite a fun little family game.

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros

8 Seconds: Vegas Showdown by George Jaros
Title: 8 Seconds w/ Vegas Showdown expansion
By: George Jaros
Played with: Alex Yaeger, Julie Yaeger, Randy Ekl, Geoff ?
Time spent: 1:00

NOTE: Another good game of 8 Seconds with the betting.  I got some good feedback about being careful with the Golden Buckle point potentials as well as the player count (I'm going to list it as 1-6 players now).  It's playing in about 15 minutes per player, so even at 6 its probably going to be on the longer side for its weight.  It was also after this play that I decided the Clown Out bets had to change, even though still no one complained.  Overall a good playtest!

Saturday evening at Protospiel Chicago.
U.S.A.T. by Andrew Clark
Title: U.S.A.T.
By: Andrew Clark
Played with: Peter Dast, Carl Klutzke, Andrew Hansen
Time spent: 1:00
Prototype Rating: 2-2-5

U.S.A.T. is an attempt at combining a Euchre-like trick taking game with an area control and combat game.  If you recall, you might remember that I absolutely loved Radiant last year (which just funded in its third Kickstarter attempt), which was also a blend of trick-taking and area control.  Well, where Radiant's combat was very simple and determined by the winner of each trick, U.S.A.T. uses the tricks to power actions that maneuver and expand your armies on a map.  We didn't play long enough to complete a game, but it was enough to show that there's a great potential here.  A lot of the game will have to be reworked, particularly the trump and trick mechanics, but there's the spark of an awesome game here.

Get With the Program by Jordan Nardick
Title: Get With the Program
By: Jordan Nardick
Played with: Jordan Nardick, Rick Ward, Rob Huber, Anne Odom, Jeremy Weaver
Time spent: 1:15
Prototype Rating: 3-2-2

This is a social game where you don't know what team you are on.  At the start of the game you'll know the team of the player to your left, but no one else, including yourself.  Through a series of turns, players slowly gain knowledge, maybe.  Lying about what you know is just a part of the game.  In the first phase of each round players take turns exchanging information (whether true or not).  The next round each player gives two other players a team card for the team they think that person is on (or will be by the end of the game).  In the final round each player will roll a D3 die and then choose an action to be taken at the end of the round.  Higher dice can bump lower dice, so you might not get your action.  Ations included things like looking at another player's team card,  swapping two players' team cards, or requiring that you are told the truth in the next round.  Alternately you no place your die and gain one additional piece of information by looking at a team card given to another player so you know what team someone else thinks that player is on.  At the end of three rounds each player attempts to guess their own team.  Then scores are added up by seeing how many correct or incorrect guesses each player had.  The player with the most points wins for their team.

I must say that I really didn't care for this game,not because it didn't work, but because it only works if players lie.  If everyone tells the truth the game becomes just a cooperative game of deduction.  But as soon as players start lying all information becomes suspect and logic takes a backseat to emotion.  Everyone had fun with this, but I don't care if I never play again.  There will be some that will love this game, and with a bit of balancing of the actions that can be chosen, and some good, clear rules, I think this could find an audience, but unfortunately that won't include me.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Title: Monsters in the Darkness
By: Eric Pluff
Played with: Eric Jome, Brendan Riley, Eric Pluff
Time spent: 0:45
Prototype Rating: 2-1-2

We never actually even got a round into this game, and I'm still not sure what the goal of the game was.  It is a semi-cooperative game where players are trying to defeat the Darkness as a team (although teams aren't defined and seem more like casual alliances rather than teams) while also trying to overcome a personal obstacle, or character flaw.  Or you can go it alone and try to win by yourself, either by completing a goal on your own, going on the offensive and eliminating all other players, or turning to the dark side and joining the Darkness.  There was something about playing tiles to grow the land areas and somehow you could take actions to do stuff, too, but after over 30 minutes of the designer trying to explain the game we decided to give feedback on what we knew already, which included learning how to teach your game in 5 minutes or so, setting clear goals and expectations for the game, and getting rid of a player elimination, last-man-standing mechanic in a game that lasts over an hour.  There might be something of interest here, but honestly we didn't get far enough into the game to get any feel for the gameplay experience at all.

Title: Looiting MiniSkull Castle
By: George Jaros
Played with: Peter Dast, Natasha Chmura, George Jaros (yes, my dad!)
Time spent: 2:00

NOTE: This was the first time Looting MiniSkull Castle has hit the table in almost a year.  I had shelved it after Protospiel Madison, 2016 because I knew it needed something, but didn't get any great ideas back then.  I knew it needed to be faster and a bit smoother in areas, so wanted to get some new perspective on the game.  The game started out slow as I refreshed on some of the finer points of the rules, but then moved smoother, although still much slower than I really want.  I did get some great feedback though, and will be working on some changes to speed things up and make the game simpler in some areas.  Some of the rooms will be changing as well as many of the monsters.  I'm getting rid of the Minor Monster rooms and instead making those cubes that will get added to the rooms and must be defeated before gaining the room benefits.  I think the changes will make the game clearer and faster, which is what it needs!

Well, that's a wrap up of my experience at Protospiel Chicago, 2017.  I was there from 10am to 12am Friday, 10:30am to 11pm Saturday and 12:30pm to 4pm on Sunday.  I'm thrilled with all the great games I played, thankful for all the great feedback I got on my games, and disappointed that I didn't get to play all the games I wanted.  But I'd have needed several weeks of gaming to get to them all, so there's always the next Protospiel!

In all, I spent about 12 hours 40 minutes playing/discussing others' games and about 8 hours 45 minutes playing/discussing my own games, which means I have about 8 hours unaccounted for...  That must have been spent visiting and networking!  A huge thank you to Maxine and randy Ekl for organizing Protospiel Chicago, and I can't wait for next year!



Did you like this article?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, 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, September 19, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 86: Peter Cricchiola

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:Peter Cricchiola
Email:admin@Cstargames.com.au
Location:Sydney, Australia
Day Job:Backup software support for CommVault
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:www.cstargames.com
Facebook:CStar Games
Twitter:@cstargames
Instagram:@cstargames
Find my games at:Tabletopia
Today's Interview is with:

Peter Cricchiola
Interviewed on: 7/31/2017

Peter Cricchiola had Head Chef on Kickstarter last month, but unfortunately the campaign failed to gain the traction to fund the game. That's OK though, because he's working on getting more people familiar with Head Chef before he relaunches. Head Chef is a quick, light, action selection game that uses some unique mechanics. Peter has other games he's working on, too. Read on to learn more about Peter and what he's working 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?
The love of the hobby

What game or games are you currently working on?
Head Chef - Coming back to Kickstarter soon!

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet

What is your day job?
Backup software support for CommVault

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Home with family or out at a club with a group of friends

Who do you normally game with?
Family and boardgame groups (friends)

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depending on their skill, CamelUp for new gamers and a worker placement like Lords of Waterdeep for more skilled players.

And what snacks would you eat?
Normally gummies/lollies, stuff that doesn't crumble or leave your hands dirty.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
no

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games Empire

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite: Viticulture // Least Favorite: Innovation

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: Worker placement. Least: Bidding

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

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?
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?
Some games I think of a theme and what makes that theme unique and build the mechanics around it. Others start with a mechanic and change theme a few times.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Phil-Harding Walker, Fellow Aussie who seems to hit the mark a lot.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
By playing other games you get ideas on mechanics

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Print and play with me, myself, and I. Then to board game groups and protospiels.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
No one person can do it all. Especially art you have to have a certain skill to be a good artist.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Exposure, there are a lot of board/card games out there now.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Something Sci-Fi from the Metroid series would be awesome!

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You can't please everyone, so don't change your game too much based on feedback.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Design for fun, don't over complicate and don't be disheartened by bad feedback, draw from it and evolve your game.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Head Chef
I'm planning to crowdfund: Head Chef
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Royal, Loyals and the Underhanded

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

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, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Any Nintendo video game

What is something you learned in the last week?
Dogs use the underside of their tongue to drink!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Metal/Progressive Rock, Fantasy, Action

What was the last book you read?
David Eddings "The Elenium" series

Do you play any musical instruments?
No

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I used to run a Guild in World of Warcraft of over 200 people.

Who is your idol?
Shigeru Miyamoto

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go forward in time to see what the future holds!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Bit of both. When I'm out people know i'm there, but I do enjoy spending time at home.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Ironman, he has no special abilities, he is just rich, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor.

Have any pets?
A little Havanese pup called Bubu (Male)

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?
Dice, I think dice were the precursor to all boardgames, surely even dinosaurs used dice shaped rocks right? We could use less reality tv shows... please stop!

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):
Nicolas Cage, I'm sure he is reading!


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?  Pleasse 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.