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Subject: Geek of the Week #316 - Jim Krohn rss

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Marc Q
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Hey there Geekeers and Geeketes! It has fallen upon my shoulders to pick the next fabulous recipient of the Geek of the Week title.

While I considered the hundreds... nay, thousands of worthy Geeks that deserve this title, I thought about the people who have had the biggest impact on my time here on BGG. The friendly forum folk who dispense valuable advice and tactical knowledge, the uploaders and crafters who make visual representations of the games...

But I kept coming back to the core of the games themselves... and of course, the developers. During my short tenure on The Geek, one developer in particular has stood above all others, constantly asking for feedback on his brand new game, Space Empires: 4X. Any thread on his game's forum would receive Jim's personal touch, even if it was a quick "Yep, everything they've said is right!". He's been extremely open to feedback, utterly approachable... and I figured this would be a great chance for people to know him a bit better! So, without further adieu:

Jim Krohn
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Jim Krohn wrote:


I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and I settled in nearby Rochester with my wife after college. I have a degree in electrical engineering, but I spent most of my career working for Xerox in remanufacturing. I enjoyed that a lot and Xerox sent me for my masters in management and I enjoyed being a manager even more.

All through that time I had been working with the teens in my church. To make a long story short, I felt the call of God, earned a diploma in pastoral theology, and left my first career. Now I am an assistant pastor in my church. I get to run youth group, camps, teach in our Christian school, and other pastoral work.

The gaming part of this is that I also get to do things like run a family game night at my church. I bought the microbadge "Game Evangelist" because I do a lot of that. I spread the love of games all the time. I think it is sad that parents and children will often share the same house, but not really share their lives. Games are not a cure all for that, but are a good tool.

I first played SPI's War of the Ring in 1979 and that hooked me on wargames. I branched out to eurogames as they came out and I regularly play both. I have three teens in the home now and we all love games. Five player games tend to dominate our collection as they allow the whole family to play.

Outside of games, I love both football and hockey - both playing and watching. Go Bills and Sabres! I was in a men's hockey league until I tore my ACL a couple years ago (not while playing).

I also design games. I would sum up my design philosophy as constantly looking for ways of doing the same thing better or easier. In the case of wargames, I want to have my realism/simulation value, but I want it to be simple. Simply adding rules, in my opinion, is lazy designing. It is obviously unavoidable at times, but I would rather try to come up with a simple system than to keep adding rules.

Space Empires: 4X is my first design and it hit the street this last August. It is an empire building space game that focuses on technology and conflict. Band of Brothers, a squad level game which deals with the 101st Airborne in WW2, should be released around November. It is pretty realistic, but only has a 6 page rule book for the basic game and plays fast and fun. I have many other designs that are in the queue, both euro and wargames.


Now, for the devious Two Truths and a Lie! Strike, with the speed of the angry turtle and the strength of a rabid waterbuffalo!

Poll
Two Truths and a Lie:
Because of where I was born and who I knew, I was invited to an NFL training camp. I turned it down because I knew I had no chance to make the team and it would have stopped me from starting my job
My wife was scheduled to go on a business trip to Europe, but left her job before the trip. The plane that she was supposed to be on crashed and there were no survivors
I led the pastor of my church to Christ
      119 answers
Poll created by Marx09


Alright, here are a few questions to get ya started off, Jim!

1. You mention a love of 5 player games (so that your entire family can join in). Which are your favourite games of this size?

2. Your fantastic game, Space Empires: 4X, seems to have received a lot of community feedback during its development. What was one thing that BGG helped you either change or realize during the development of SE:4X?

3. Tell us your favourite experience being a pastor! Is it a much different job than you expected?

4. Tell us about your original desire to take the leap from just playing games to making your own? Is there any particular designer or game(s) that contributes to your inspiration?

5. Lastly, what surprised you the most about the process of designing Space Empires: 4X? Anything you'd give as advice to future game designers?
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Congratulations Jim!

1) Orange juice or grape?
2) Mango or strawberry?
3) Iron Man or Iceman?
4) Dessert or desert?
5) Iced beverage or room temp?
6) Keyboard: ergonomic or flat?
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Lance
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Awesome choice!

Jim - thank you for Space Empires 4X - working on the review this weekend as I type this!

My standard questions...

1. If you could play any one game with any one person, or persons, living or dead, who and what would it be?

2. Same question, but with fictional people.

Enjoy your week!
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Jim F
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Very good choice. Congratulations from one Jim to another.
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Jeon Yang-seop
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Double Congrats!

1. Geek of the Week!

2. Your game sold out!
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Steve
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Congratulations Jim!
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Sim Guy
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I am impressed by the quality of successor that the outgoing GotW displays, week to week. I'm not sure if it's because of the consistently discerning nature of the past Top Geek, or a reflection of the quality of people that reach such lofty heights, or just plain dumb luck. Sooner or later one of you is bound to select someone that the rest of us will respond to with a collective WTF?

For now it looks as though that day is in the future, and I applaud Marc's choice.

CONGRATULATIONS Jim. A pint has been guzzled in your honor.

It's not often that we get a designer on the block, and I would not be surprised to learn that you were the first man of the cloth to bear the GotW title. Somehow I think you may be quizzed more closely than most.

I'll get my Qs in early:

Is Space Empires: 4X really your first design, or is it just the first one you've been able to market commercially?

Any wargames at your family game nights?

Do you find any difficulty resolving wargames and your theological calling?

Any theologically themed games coalescing in your creative consciousness?

Which sorts of games do you prefer to play? Are they the games you actually find yourself playing?

What's your favorite part of designing a game?
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Jim Krohn
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It's an honor to be chosen. Thanks, Marc! It caught me very much by surprise.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Quote:
1. You mention a love of 5 player games (so that your entire family can join in). Which are your favourite games of this size?


I have many. AoE3 is maybe my favorite 5 player. I love the decision making and paths of victory. I haven't played the game in awhile because I am waiting for the expansion. whistle

Quote:
2. Your fantastic game, Space Empires: 4X, seems to have received a lot of community feedback during its development. What was one thing that BGG helped you either change or realize during the development of SE:4X?


The BGG part of the feedback happened mostly post development - or at least at the tail end. This is mainly because we did not release the rules until late in the cycle. Undoubtedly, the biggest impact was found in rules clarity. Based on the questions asked here we were able to constantly upgrade the rules until we have reached the point now that the questions have slowed to a trickle despite the fact that more and more people have the game.

Two things that were specific to Space Empires:

1. The desire for a shorter multi-player scenario. There were lots of two player scenarios that spanned short and long games, but I was surprised on how popular the multi-player was. The non-team multi-player scenarios I had in the game were all at the high end of the playing time. The feedback led to us releasing an official short game scenario for multi-player.

2. That Racial Advantages did not need to be perfectly balanced as long as they were ballpark right. I needed to stop obsessing about chasing something impossible and instead have fun with them. It made it a lot easier to include them in the proposed expansion.

Quote:
3. Tell us your favourite experience being a pastor! Is it a much different job than you expected?


I have many, but best was to be able to be involved in our Christian school and teach all three of my teens on a daily basis. Being able to run a youth group that included my teens would be part of that also.

Funny story - I am an assistant pastor (obviously), but I have had opportunities to be senior pastor. My kids tend to treat those opportunities as traumatic possibilities. I am the odd duck in that I am getting older (44), but have no plans to become a senior pastor. In our house we refer to leaving the youth pastorate to become a senior pastor as "going to the dark side."

Quote:
4. Tell us about your original desire to take the leap from just playing games to making your own? Is there any particular designer or game(s) that contributes to your inspiration?


It was less of a leap and more of a process. Space Empires was first conceived in the early 1990s because it was a game that I wanted to play. The part about making it a design that would actually get sent into a company came years later.

Put another way, I never intended to be a game designer, it just sort of happened.

Quote:
5. Lastly, what surprised you the most about the process of designing Space Empires: 4X? Anything you'd give as advice to future game designers?


The length and the amount of rejection. Space Empires was rejected by three other companies before being accepted by GMT. Not all of that was bad rejection, either, as it led to the design being improved and made better. Then it was kicked back to me by GMT - they liked it, but had some suggestions. This led to more changes. This was all before it even got to the development process at GMT where more stuff happened.

Advice to future designers:

1. Only design if you love designing games as much as you love playing them. Unless everything just falls into place, it will be a long and difficult process to get your game published. If you design for any other reason besides it being something you love to do, you probably won't get to the end of that process or you will be miserable as you travel that process.

2. Seek out criticism of your design. Don't give it only to people who like the design. Get some feedback from gamers who have issues with it. A mantra I repeated to myself often was that it is better to hear criticism before the game is released than after.

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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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frumpish wrote:
Congratulations Jim!

1) Orange juice or grape?
2) Mango or strawberry?
3) Iron Man or Iceman?
4) Dessert or desert?
5) Iced beverage or room temp?
6) Keyboard: ergonomic or flat?


Grape

Strawberry

Spiderman - not on your choice list, but he was always my favorite growing up. He would do right and would be misunderstood for it, he had real life problems, his best friend hated spiderman (his calling), there were times he had to walk alone, with great power came great responsibility, etc. Not to get Freudian, but with that as my favorite super hero, is it any wonder I became a pastor?

The one involving ice cream and not dying of thirst.

Iced or piping hot, not the kind that I want to spew out of my mouth (bad theological joke). thumbsdown A real "groaner" for those in the know.

Whatever comes with the computer - right now it is flat.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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UndeadViking wrote:
Awesome choice!

1. If you could play any one game with any one person, or persons, living or dead, who and what would it be?

2. Same question, but with fictional people.


1. Would it be too sappy to say any game with my whole family? More to your point, I would have LOVED to play Band of Brothers with Dick Winters and get his impression of my game and just spend time with him.

2. Chess with Colonel Jack O'Neill.

I'm looking forward to your review, Lance!
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Jeff G
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Congrats Jim!!!
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Ahhh....my misspent youth...
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SimGuy wrote:
I am impressed by the quality of successor that the outgoing GotW displays, week to week. I'm not sure if it's because of the consistently discerning nature of the past Top Geek, or a reflection of the quality of people that reach such lofty heights, or just plain dumb luck. Sooner or later one of you is bound to select someone that the rest of us will respond to with a collective ***?


My bets on sooner.

SimGuy wrote:
It's not often that we get a designer on the block, and I would not be surprised to learn that you were the first man of the cloth to bear the GotW title. Somehow I think you may be quizzed more closely than most.


Bring it...

Up front let me say that we (Baptists) don't make much of a distinction between "clergy" and "laity". We also don't wear the "man of the cloth" thing on our "sleeves", as it were. There is a pun in their somewhere.

SimGuy wrote:
Is Space Empires: 4X really your first design, or is it just the first one you've been able to market commercially?


It was my first and was the one that started me designing others.

SimGuy wrote:
Any wargames at your family game nights?


Minimal. I was busting sod and spreading games to people that had never played anything outside of Life and Monopoly (that is just no way to live). Any early adopters I had needed to be playing intro friendly multi-player games with the new people for the most part.

It's growing, however, and we are beginning to see some - Hammer of the Scots, Forlorn Hope, Axis and Allies, and other lighter wargame fair.

SimGuy wrote:
Any theologically themed games coalescing in your creative consciousness?


I dabbled with a game that I called "Church - a Game for this Age" (I know, I am just soooo clever with the name thing) but it was a stinky design. Honestly, though, I don't really have a desire to make a theology game.

I have a game that I am working on called Solomon's Temple, but that isn't really a theology game. It is a eurogame in which you are scoring points for building part of Solomon's Temple. It could be very easily about building a castle or some such thing, but I wanted to pick something different. Tom Vassal is always calling for different themes and I am kind of in agreement with him on that.

SimGuy wrote:
Which sorts of games do you prefer to play?


Elegant designs with streamlined rules and tough strategic decisions. Games that give you a good bang for your buck in terms of enjoyment for the amount of effort you have to put in.

SimGuy wrote:
Are they the games you actually find yourself playing?


Whenever I can!

SimGuy wrote:
What's your favorite part of designing a game?


The "aha!" moment. When I have been stewing on part of a game design, the game is stuck, I am trying to figure out a better way of doing something, etc. and then the answer begins to come to me - in the car, in the shower - and I spend the next little while refining the idea and running with it.
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Jim Krohn
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Quote:
Do you find any difficulty resolving wargames and your theological calling?


Whoops...missed this one.

Short answer - no.

Long theological answer (skip if you don't want the theology)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
God created 3 institutions to help us in the current problem filled world we live in. Those 3 institutions are the home, government, and the church.

One of the "jobs" of government is to maintain order and protect its citizens. Because of our fallen nature, there will always be bad men doing bad things. That is why you will always need police officers. In the same vein, you will always have bad men banding together as a group so you will always need government to organize and resist those efforts. This all leads to wars.

Obviously, you can have very bad governments like you can have very bad men, but that doesn't mean that "good" men/governments should not defend themselves and others.

I understand that there are Christians that would disagree with me on that. I respect their opinion, but I think the mistake that they make is confusing Jesus' instructions for how to live your personal, private life, with the Bible's instructions for government. The Bible does teach you to turn the other cheek. That is for your personal life. You should not hold grudges, etc. At the same time the Bible also says that government beareth not the the sword in vain, that government is not a terror to good works, but the evil, etc.

Applying the commands out of context leads to problems. Taking government instructions and applying it to individuals leads to vigilantly justice - which is wrong. Applying instructions for individuals to governments leads to extreme pacificism - which is also wrong.

All of this has to be balanced by solid Christian principles. I want the United States government to be mostly pacificistic. War should be a last resort. We should take no pleasure in killing, etc. Balance is the key and that is tragically lacking both within Christianity and without.

Within that theological position I find a lot of wiggle room for wargames.

We live in a world cursed by sin. God died on the cross for our sin. That solves the sin problem for eternity, but God very practically gave us some instructions for restraining sin in the current world we live in - this includes government and war.
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Pete Belli
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An outstanding GotW selection!

Congratulations.

The hobby needs quality board games with religious themes. The majority of the existing games are... uninspired.

You have the talent.

How about a modified "4X" game about spreading the Gospel... Urban missions in the late 19th and early 20th century? China during the same period? Modern outreach to the metropolitan homeless? Colonial era European missionary work in the New World? TV evangelists? Getting the message out on the internet in the digital age?

Anyway, this was a great choice.
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Congrats Jim, have a great week. And very well done on 4X.
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Mike K
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Cool, my wife's from Rochester. (Or at least, when I met her, she was.)

Is Millennium still around?
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Tom
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Nice choice! Probably already been asked but...

What's your next game?

Name four themes you think are under-explored in boardgames today?
What four mechanics are your favorite?
Do you favor chrome in a game release over price or quality and lower price over chrome (I think I know the answer but I figured I would ask).

Congrats again and enjoy the week!
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M. S.
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Is Jim the first game designer to be nominated GW? Congrats all the same.
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Chris B
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Great choice! Congratulations Jim! Enjoy your week!
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Warren Smith
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I'm glad you're geek of the week and now I'll be looking forward to learning more about your games!
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Pete
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The grace of Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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Congratulations to Jim!
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Jim Krohn
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Coyotek4 wrote:
Is Millennium still around?


Yep. It is in the same plaza, but in a different store in the plaza.
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Jim Krohn
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Pete, some interesting ideas.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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johnnyspys wrote:
Nice choice! Probably already been asked but...

What's your next game?

Name four themes you think are under-explored in boardgames today?
What four mechanics are your favorite?
Do you favor chrome in a game release over price or quality and lower price over chrome (I think I know the answer but I figured I would ask).

Congrats again and enjoy the week!


Band of Brothers is coming out in November.

I thought space conquest and expansion games were underrepresented but others obviously felt the same way as there has been an explosion of them of late.

I like the worker placement mechanic as you are making just one small decision that may have long lasting consequences. When done right, it makes for an interesting blend of tactical (what's best at the moment?, what unexpected opportunities are available to me at the moment?) and strategic (what fits into my long term strategy?) decisions.

Quality over lower price.
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