Tuesday, November 30, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 309: Christopher Wiley

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:Christopher Wiley
Location:Massachusetts, USA
Day Job:I am a woodworker/carpenter.
Designing:Over ten years!
Facebook:Ringstrue Games
Today's Interview is with:

Christopher Wiley
Interviewed on: 11/19/2021

Christopher Wiley of Ringstrue Games is a woodworker and game designer that's been creating games and more for over ten years now! Be sure to check out https://www.ringstrue.com to see some of his great woodwork and then check out his page on The Game Crafter to see some of his games at https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/ringstrue-games. Read on to learn more about Christopher and his other projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
Way back in Jr. High School we would create these pencil and paper versions of arcade games. They gave us something to do during indoor recess, and were a lot of fun. Soon after that I found Dungeons & Dragons, and jumped right into creating my own dungeons, over learning the included module. I liked feeling like I got to create the story I wanted to tell, along with the players' participation. I even sent off a monster idea to TRS, receiving a very kind rejection letter signed (stamped?) by Gary Gygax. In high school we played a lot of RPGs, and I created one for the Transformers, which was a favorite cartoon at the time. I think it only got played once, but it worked. All these avenues were to create the things I wanted to play that either didn’t exist, or I didn’t know about. That continues to be the genesis for most of my designs now. There was a long break between those early projects and getting back into the hobby. In 2011 I bought a copy of Mansions of Madness and got some friends together to play. I had been getting deep into reading Lovecraft at the time, and was excited to play. We all enjoyed the experience, but it just didn’t feel like a Lovecraft story or narrative to me. I just felt I could design a better game experience for myself. So I started designing Dark Places. My board game homage to Lovecraft’s writing and mythos. It worked for me. Gave me more of the feel I was wanting in a game experience. Provided the narrative, and told the story I wanted it to tell. I wasn’t as concerned about other players, but when I got it in front of other people they enjoyed playing it as well. It felt like a success, and got me hungry for more experiences like that one. Going forward that has been the first question for each design. What game do I want to play?

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a few projects, but have been focused on a series of small solo/co-op games. The series is called Antares. It tells the story of the events surrounding the merchant vessel, Antares, as it returns to Earth from the Alpha-Centauri system. In chapter one (Antares) the crew has taken a hostile alien life form on board, and must evacuate the ship. Much like the movie Alien. The seven crew members must complete 3 tasks, collect O2 bottles and spacesuits, and reach the escape craft to safely leave the ship. All the printed components are 2.5 inch square cards. The map of the ship is modular, which adds a good amount of variety, and helps to increase or decrease the difficulty. Each crew member card is double sided with different special abilities or starting conditions, and variable start locations.The alien is run by a very simple AI deck. The crew cannot kill the alien, only chase it off with flamethrowers. If a crew member encounters the alien with no protection, they are killed and removed from the game. If any crew members reach the escape craft and launch it, you win.

The second chapter, Antares: Breach, is set 80 years later and tells the story of the Dry Dock Facility Hermes, which orbits the planet Saturn. The Hermes brings the Antares into dry dock unaware of the alien, which has reproduced and infested the vessel. Once the airlock is breached, the aliens flood the facility. Instead of the single alien as in the first chapter, there are a possible four on the map at any time. Again there is a modular map, and all printed components are on 2.5 inch square cards. The game play is similar to the first chapter. The crew has tasks to complete, and needs to survive and reach the escape craft. The crew is a mix of military and civilian personnel. Civilians are the crew that must perform the tasks, while the military crew have weapons that can kill, and remove aliens fro the ship for a round. Their ammo is limited though, and can be reloaded in the Armory, but must be managed carefully. There are also sentry weapons that may be used to cover the corridors of the ship.

The third chapter, Antares: Planetfall, takes place a few months after Breach, after the Antares has crash landed on Earth. It tells the story of three marine fire teams sent to search the crash site and surrounding area. The modular map is a larger grid of cards which lays out the landscape including the wreck of the Antares, several structures around the site, placement locations for Sensor Arrays to monitor the wreck, open terrain, and three staging areas where the fire teams may take refuge, and reload their weapons. Planetfall has more of a push-your-luck feel to it. the entire landscape is potentially hostile. After each action by a fire team an engagement card is drawn. If there is an alien attack, the fire team, or teams, effected must spend ammo equal to the strength of the attack, or lose marines. The engagement deck may also reveal egg caches that must be burned, or survivors that need to be escorted back to one of the staging areas. If the fire teams can recon all the structures, place the four Sensor Arrays, burn nine egg caches, and rescue nine survivors you win. The difficulty can be adjusted by the size of the map, the placement of the Staging Areas, and by removing or adding alien cards to the engagement deck.

Antares is currently for sale on The Game Crafter. I hope to have Breach up there soon as well. Planetfall is in beta testing now.


Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have self published seven games through The Game Crafter.

What is your day job?
I am a woodworker/carpenter.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I enjoy playing games anywhere. Home is great. I very much enjoy demoing my own games at conventions.

Who do you normally game with?
I have been doing a lot of solo gaming, but enjoy playing with family and friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Probably something short and light to start off, then break out a slightly heavier, more thematic title.

And what snacks would you eat?
I'm gluten free so we'd need something to fit that for me. Fruit, nuts, corn chips, but I would be happy to provide guests with other options.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually, but if so, something ambient that fits the mood of the game.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
The closest one to me is a place called Battlegrounds. They host a designer meeting once a month.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I really like Witch of Salem, great take on Lovecraft horror. King of Tokyo, I just always lose. I'm not sure I have a single "worst game". I'm not really drawn to euro-games in general, but will give anything a try.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I have been enjoying designing encounter/AI decks for my current designs. I'm not a huge fan of worker placement. Often I feel there are too many options, and it can slow me down.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Dungeon Degenerates. Really awesome looking RPGish board game.

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

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I usually pick a theme, and then brainstorm a mechanism that will fit it. I usually try to find a mechanism that will help to inform the narrative of the game play.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No I have not.

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

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Inspiration come from all over the place. I will often just come up with an idea for something I'd want to play. Sometimes it's after playing a game, or watching a review/play through for one. Occasionally it's out of the blue. My inspiration for my game Wetworks hit one night, and in two weeks or so I had a full prototype for play testing.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I do a lot of play testing on my own. I have a good number of solo/co-op games so it is easy to play test most of those. I do play test competitive prototypes on my own. I just try and deal with each turn by doing the best possible play for that seat at the table. Sort of push away anything I know about the other "players'" situations. There are two or three designs that are proving to be tough to play test that way. For those I do get friends or family to help out.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have pretty much done it on my own for the duration of my time as a game designer. I am not opposed to working with other designers. Since this is just a hobby, though, the amount of time I get to dedicate to it doesn't really allow for being on a timeline with other designers I guess. I have to fit it in in bits throughout the week.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
My biggest challenge is getting my games out in front of players. It's a hobby, and it takes up a good amount of time just doing the designing and initial play testing. To really get them out in front of people you need to get to the game nights, and conventions. I have done a few small, local conventions. I have really enjoyed the time spent at those, and my games have been well received. I've been able to sell a few copies at any of the ones I’ve attended. Even the cost of admission for those can add up though. Seeing as I make a very small amount on selling anything, there is nothing much going back into the coffers. I'm not really looking to do a Kickstarter, or a large print run on my own. So I try to be content with the situation as it is.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I have a prototype for a dice game that I would love to theme with Warhammer 40K Space Hulk IP. You can get licensing permission, but it's a big step financially.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Don't plan on making much money, just be prepared to do it for the love of it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I have always designed from the heart. Found what inspires me as an individual and explored that. In most cases it has created experiences that have appealed to other players. So, I guess don't make the game you think you're supposed to make, make the game you want to make.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Antares: escape the doomed ship as you are stalked by the alien, Key of Solomon: matching pentacles to collect coins, Dark Trickery: co-op trick taking game set in the Lovecraft mythos, Dungeon2(squared): a color matching, co-op, simultaneous play, dungeon crawl, Maze of the Minotaur: thrown into the maze you must compete to find the stairs to freedom and victory, Carrion Call: a two player, card driven battle game where the score is measured by the birds of carrion flocking above the battlefield, Blood of a King: match axes and shields in this two player, quick playing game of war, Krampus: a holiday twist on old maid, and a set of Rune Cards: viking fortune telling ritual. Granted these are all self published. There is more information on all of these at www.ringstrue.com.
Games that will soon be published are: Antares: Breach, Antares: Planetfall, Langskip: a solo play mint-tin game about vikings returning home across the dangerous sea. Others I haven't decided on yet. ;^)~
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Could be.

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

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Trek Wars, water, and I'm from the VHS / Betamax generation, but you really can't beat digital/streaming.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play guitar, dabble in electronic music, writing, and play disc golf.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned how to self publish a book on Amazon direct publishing.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Metal all the way. I am on book 15(?) of the Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy novels. Movie is a tie between Galaxy Quest and Big Trouble in Little China.

What was the last book you read?
One of my own. I needed to proofread it.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes, Guitar.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have a Masters in Fine Art.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
In college I jumped down a flight of stairs and made all but the last one. My ankle is still a mess.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I don't know. Most of my recent accidents have eded in blood and stitches.

Who is your idol or hero?
I haven't really had one.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Move through time.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Mostly an introvert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be and why?
That sounds like a lot of responsibility.

Have any pets?
4 Cats (Clay, Rocket, Luna, ad Winston) and a Dog (Miles).

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?
The answer could be Us, for both. Depends on the day.

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):

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

Be kind. Life's a game. Don't take it too seriously.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment