Small Ocean, Big Wave Designer Interviews.

This blog will serve as the home for all the unpublished designer interviews. I am aiming (even in my dad-of-two-young-maniacs-full-time-worker-game-designer life) to post one interview a week, and occasionally intersperse them with Spotlight interviews, which may cover interviewees that got published, ran a successful Kickstarter etc. When a new interview is posted, I will post link in my "Unpublished designer? Good! I want to interview you. Read why..." thread, and as separate thread on the Design Forum, as well as on my various social media accounts. I really want this be a success; to get eyes on designers that really do have a lot to say and to bolster the sense of community on BGG. After you read an interview, please take the time to subscribe give a thumbs up and even just a short reply. These interviews mean a lot to the designers and who knows, it may be you who wants people to read your interview one day. :) Cheers, Paul Bedford (Designer on a Map)

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Interview 5: Peter Seiler. Game: Top Tale.

Paul Bedford
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(Preface: Followers of this blog may have noticed a delay between the previous interview and this one. To put it simply (and mildly), life got super busy, and looks to remain as such for the foreseeable future. That surge has resulted in me having to pull back from one interview a week to one a fortnight. But, enough about me, we’re here to talk to Peter Seiler of YubNub Games...)

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Like so many game designers out there, Peter was struck by the idea for his game while shovelling horse poo.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Wait! What?!

*double checks info*

Yep, seems that’s correct. But let us rewind a little from that fateful day...


Peter Seiler likes a challenge. He grew up in the mountains of Northern California (whether he was raised by human parents or a pack of wolves, he didn't clarify), he served 5 years in the Marine Corps and did two tours of Iraq (respect!), he holds a BS in Computer Engineering and designs Z Desktop Workstations (Pete, you’re making me feel very lazy here, mate!) and now he is in the midst of his most gruelling challenge yet… the dreaded Kickstarter (https://tinyurl.com/y2tk23u2) for his game, Top Tale (https://tinyurl.com/y6yqmy2u)

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Ok Peter, let’s answer the burning question for our dear readers… the game-design-horse-poo connection. How does that work? Should all us designers grab a shovel and go stand behind a horse?
My wife trains wild American mustangs (no, not the cars), and we end up with a lot of horse manure that needs to be moved. My wife broke her back four years ago, and despite making a nearly full recovery, cleaning stalls really aggravates her back (plausible excuse at least). I happen to have a back injury from my Marine Corps service, but mine hurts less. So I get to clean stalls. Honestly it provides a great opportunity to think. I’ve invented many things for HP during such thinking sessions, but one day the concept hit me for a card game, and it seemed so good (I was literally giddy with excitement) that I started developing the game. After playing it a few times, and seeing the impact it has on people, I committed to bring it to market and have never looked back.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


You currently have a Kickstarter campaign running for Top Tale. Give us a pitch that will have us begging to throw money at you…
Top Tale: The O.G. Volume 1, is the first game in a family-friendly card game series, where players tell stories relating to topic cards, then vote on the top tale. The game is designed for ages 10+, 2-10 players, and it takes less than two minutes for anyone to learn. You can play as long as you want, but a solid game typically lasts 30-60 minutes. While playing Top Tale, you are guaranteed to get to know your fellow human, and in many cases you’ll develop a deeper respect and understanding for them. For only $20 USD, you can get your copy on Kickstarter until November 21, 2020. Act now to get free US shipping, or discounted international shipping. With any luck, you’ll be able to tell your friends that you helped Top Tale happen, before it became a classic card game series.

What other games do you most enjoy? Did any of them influence the design of Top Tale?
I grew up playing games like Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble, and those types of games will always be special to me. In college I played lots of Catch Phrase, Cards Against Humanity, and Apples to Apples, so I think that’s where I got most of the “party game” influence that led to Top Tale. I wanted to keep it super simple, and focus on the outcome, rather than the game play itself. It’s not your typical game in that respect, and although there is typically a winner, rarely do players end up caring much about winning. It’s more about getting to know each other in a safe environment, and on an equal playing field. Since I started developing Top Tale, I’ve done a lot of “research” and have played all sorts of amazing games, both published and unpublished. The Top Tale series may be how Yub Nub Games (www.yubnubgames.com) gets its start, but a whole new world of game mechanics and styles has been shown to me, and I like them!

I like the tone behind Top Tale. I was noticing a trend of darker, sarcastic games. Top Tale, while mildly competitive, also seeks to build a bond between players. What inspired your game’s lighter direction?
Top Tale started out being called “Top That!”, and it was less about sharing stories, and more about topping other peoples’ responses to topics. The game evolved, and after some narrowly-avoided trademark infringements, the game name settled on “Top Tale”, and the focus became sharing experiences. As I mentioned, the outcome of the game is almost more important than the gameplay itself. I noticed in the countless play test sessions, that the topics where stories were told, and experiences were shared, are the most impactful. I’ve heard the full spectrum of stories, where the result may be laughing so much your face hurts, or shedding tears of both joy and sadness. After moments like those, people truly do bond. They become inspired by the courage of others to open up, and for the sake of the game, they open up themselves. That is why Top Tale evolved into what it is.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


How did you go about playtesting Top Tale, especially in these Covid-stricken times?
I’ve been play testing Top Tale for nearly three years now, so luckily I had plenty of game tests at conventions, at Protospiel’s, at local breweries, and with friends and family. The game is honestly best played in person, but it can be played virtually. Since COVID, I’ve played it over Zoom, on Tabletopia, on Tabletop Simulator, and using the Top Tale Mobile App on Android. All work well, to varying degrees, but it works best when you can see and hear the emotions behind the stories. I’ve still had some pretty deep games with coworkers over Zoom, so even in these times where it’s hard to play games, Top Tale is truly one still works when social distancing.

What did playtesting highlight to you about the game? How did you overcome/enhance the game as a result?
Playtesting helped me identify the types of card topics that lead to a great game session. It’s rough when you start out with a few heavy topics in the first few cards, so I’ve attempted to balance the topics to favor the light-hearted topics versus deeper topics. The split is likely somewhere around 70% light and 30% dark. It’s a yin and yang thing where you really need both types of cards, but you need to avoid scaring away players at the same time. I have also narrowed down the first volume from over 450 topic candidates, down to the best 150 (or whatever the final count of cards is after stretch goals). I want “The Original Game Volume 1” to stand the test of time, but at the same time, there are still going to be plenty of great topics for additional volumes and expansions.

This is your second attempt at a Kickstarter for Top Tale. What are you doing differently this time to improve your chances to get across the line?
It’s tough launching a game on Kickstarter. Especially your first game… Especially a party game without miniatures or eye-catching artwork. I didn’t expect it would be easy, and for this first game, I grounded my expectations after the first campaign. My first campaign hit over $6k, and I already covered pretty much all the bases with paid previews/reviews, manufactured copies to show, a high-quality commercial, and all the other “necessities”. Honestly for the relaunch, I didn’t change a ton. I lowered my funding goal to what I hit on the first campaign, and I simplified shipping to offer free US shipping. I polished a bunch of other stuff, and added cards to the base game to add more value, but there’s not much else I could change. It is more about marketing, and promoting as much as possible. I’m doing that more, and I’m already at 90% funded being eight days in.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Peter, we thank you for taking the time to do a Small Ocean, Big Wave interview, and I wish you all the very best with your Kickstarter and any future game designs.
Thank you for helping spread the word! I am truly grateful for any and all such opportunities, and I’ve never been in such a warm and welcoming industry as the board game industry! Thank you Paul, and thank you readers!

Now, dear reader, is the time for you to please support this blog by subscribing, throwing us a thumbs up and short) reply. Let us know you're out there and supporting indie creators!

Follow (and support) Peter here:
Kickstarter: https://tinyurl.com/y2tk23u2
Website: www.yubnubgames.com
BGG Page for Top Tale: https://tinyurl.com/y6yqmy2u
***

If you are an unpublished designer who would like to be interviewed, please either respond to the original post (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500668/unpublished-designe...) or geekmail me directly. I don't bite!

And if you feel you want to show your dedicated interviewer some love, you can follow me here:
BGG: Paul Bedford (@DesignerOnaMap)
Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/329574091?ref=bggforums
Board game (Hunted By A God):
Facebook: www.facebook.com/huntedbyagod
Instagram: www.instagram.com/hunted.by.a.god/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hunted_a
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Fri Nov 6, 2020 7:31 pm
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Interview 4: Ian Walton. Game: Ukiyo & Take the Kingdom.

Paul Bedford
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Victoria
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From gallery of DesignerOnaMap
From gallery of DesignerOnaMap

Ian Walton and I are in a race... the first to a nervous breakdown wins!

You see, we are both dads, work full time, design games and while I run these interviews, he writes a blog. May the best man collapse!

Before either of us keels over, I thought it best to get the interview done. Ian has many interesting things to say (his blog is certainly worth a read), he is set to launch a Kickstarter in early November (so give him a follow), and he is (virtually) attending Spiel.digital (https://spiel.digital/en). Please put your hands together (until you need one to scroll down, that is) for Ian Walton!

What was your favourite card game growing up? Do you think it influenced your taste in the games you play now… or even the design of Ukiyo (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/316085/ukiyo) or Take the Kingdom (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/232656/take-kingdom) ?
Well I was much more into Fighting Fantasy and D&D growing up, they just seemed so much more absorbing than the mainstream games that were always advertised on TV. But I think I was probably in my twenties before I came across any kind of ‘custom’ card games. What I love about card games is that you can play them anywhere, and I’ve long felt that we need more quality games that you can just pull out of your pocket when you’ve got a spare 20 minutes while you’re waiting for the train, waiting for the pizza to arrive, or whatever.

Pitch us! Why would we open our hearts (and wallets) for Ukiyo and Take the Kingdom?
Okay, here goes – Ukiyo is a puzzly card game that can be played solo or multiplayer. It’s about building a unique tableau of Japanese symbols, to achieve the goal on the last card in your hand, and trying to achieve your goal while working out what your opponents might be trying to achieve. Each player has a different set of goals but everyone’s working from the same tableau of cards and symbols. It’s quick, portable and really easy to learn – but with almost infinite card combinations, it’s different every time you play.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Take The Kingdom is a medieval-themed card game in which you build and defend your Fortress and Kingdom, while attacking the kingdoms around you with siege weapons and trying to influence your fate and everyone else’s. The last kingdom standing is the winner – it’s a relatively light battle game that’s great for families and ‘gateway’ gamers.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


And they’re both very reasonably priced, so you hardly need to open the wallet at all…

What kind of playtesting did you do for both games? Did the pandemic hinder their progress with regards to game design, playtesting or release/Kickstarting?
I feel bad saying it, but I’ve probably managed to get more done as a result of the change in working - I’ve been working from home more so the commute’s gone, and obviously the social life’s gone too, so in spite of the homeschooling and everything else, I’ve been able to get more design time in. Plus, the family are constantly under my feet so I can easily rope them into playtesting.

The helpful thing about Ukiyo being small and solo-playable was that I could get in hundreds of tests before starting blind playtesting, so it was quite well developed before it ever left my house – but of course, real playtesters still immediately found things that could be improved, which is the whole point.

What was a main weakness in both games that arose during playtesting? How did you overcome them?
Well in general, my own biggest weakness when it comes to playtesting is feeling defensive when people tell me something’s wrong. I know you have to put yourself out there, listen and learn, and try not to cry over Discord as that’s really bad form. I think with Ukiyo, some people struggled to get their heads around a game that only takes a couple of minutes to play – the idea is that you play multiple rounds, but I think those used to heavier games thought there should be more to it. Both these games are firmly and deliberately at the light end of the scale.

For TTK, the initial problem was working out who it was for – when I was first working on the game, I thought it was a heavier, more ‘serious’ game than it actually was. The more people played it, the more it was apparent that this was really for families, or as a game night filler in between bigger games.

Ukiyo’s artwork is beautiful. Finding the perfect artist can be difficult. How did you come across yours?
So the credit for the Ukiyo artwork goes to Janette Ramos at Imaginaires, who I found via these very forums – Janette has posted some of her wonderful work in the Board Game Art & Graphic Design group. I really liked the look of what she’d done and I approached her off the back of that.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Working with illustrators might just be my favourite part of game design, as it’s the bit where your ideas really come to life. You have to take a bit of a chance, because you never quite know how someone else will interpret the brief you give them, but every time I’ve worked with an illustrator, I’ve been blown away by what they’ve come up with. I think the key is to be clear about what you want (and don’t want), but try and leave them as much room as possible to show off their skills and express themselves. I’m always amazed at how a good artist can seem to reach inside your head and produce what you were imagining, even when you’ve not been able to explain it very well!

What is it that you tried to make different from similar games already published? Were you at all deterred from creating your game by the presence of others of a similar theme?
It’s funny you ask about the theme – a couple of weeks ago I was almost completely derailed when I saw the wonderful game Philosophia: Floating World on Kickstarter (Ukiyo means Floating World). It’s a far more sophisticated and advanced game than mine, and in gameplay terms there are no similarities at all, but presentationally there was a similar style, and they’d even used the same font as me for the word ‘Ukiyo’. I reached out to the designers, Joe and Maddie Adams, and explained that I was planning to release Ukiyo and what it was, and they were lovely about it. Our games are completely different and, honestly, theirs is just a thing of beauty.

I don’t think the presence of other games with a similar theme should ever be a show-stopper, as long as you’re clear what’s different about yours. In the case of both these games, the themes (Japanese art and medieval siege) will be familiar to regular gamers, but I’m aiming for something that’s much more instantly accessible and suitable for a gateway gamer. Basically, if the grandparents are reaching for Ukiyo and TTK at Christmas instead of Monopoly and Articulate, I’ll be happy!

Ultimately, if you’ve been influenced by other games then give credit where it’s due, but I think we’re lucky to be in an industry that’s much more collaborative than litigious. I love how you can get in touch with just about any game designer, publisher or artist, even the ‘stars’, and actually get a useful, helpful reply. Can you imagine that happening in the music or film industries?

In the past you ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter, but are now gearing up to run not one but two more over the next year or so. They say failure is a great teacher (which I can attest to), so what have you learnt to give your games a better chance this time around?
I think one of the great things about crowdfunding is that you can learn by doing, and if you fail, it won’t cost you your house. But it still hurts to fail, and it’s a huge amount of work, especially if you feel like you’re back where you started. But with hindsight, in the six years I’ve been designing games, I don’t think anything I’ve done has been wasted – I’ve learnt from every mistake, and even if you shelve a game altogether it’s still there if you want to come back to it in future with a fresh pair of eyes. Quite a few of my earlier games have provided ‘spare parts’ for later games, where I’ve able to make better use of a theme, a mechanic or a ruleset.

Kickstarter itself has moved on a lot in the last few years - everyone knows you have to bring a crowd to a crowdfund, and great art is essential now in a way it wouldn’t always have been a few years ago. But I think the elephant in the room on first-time Kickstarter campaigns is – is your game actually good enough? I’ve been able to take a much more critical look at not just that failed game but everything I do, and there’s always something else you can improve. Which is why it’s so important to take your time and not rush to an arbitrary deadline. First time out, I rushed a game that still had plenty of room for improvement and it bombed. And everyone says it, but you can never have too many playtests!

You have been good enough to blog about the missteps you made during your KS so maybe we can avoid them. Having read them, I can assure prospective Kickstarters that they are worth their time. Things such as this reinforce my belief that interviewing unpublished designers is vital:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2065861/lessons-failed-kick...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2066922/lessons-failed-kick...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2067957/lessons-failed-kick...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2069152/lessons-failed-kick...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2070866/lessons-failed-kick...

How important is theme in your designs? Does it take precedence over gameplay, or did you strive for balance?
It depends on the game, but I think in general it’s the theme that’s going to capture your imagination, particularly in a more complex game. You can appreciate gameplay and interesting mechanics, but if you want people to go to sleep at night with a head full of your game, the theme and art are really important. Some of the big narrative-driven games like Tainted Grail and 7th Continent have got this in spades – they’re creating a world, not a game.

This is even more the case with kids – mine don’t care if they’re card drafting, tableau-building, area controlling or whatever, they want to battle a kingdom, conquer a planet, climb a mountain or escape the dungeon! And the games they keep coming back to are the ones where they can immerse themselves. For my kids, that means Pandemic and Pokemon will grab them much more effectively than, say, Quirkle or Azul (great games though they are). Having said all that, a simpler game doesn’t need a deep theme, it just needs to be fun.

I see you have a TTS (TableTop Simulator) (https://tinyurl.com/yxop6fv3) version of Ukiyo as well as a free print and play (https://tinyurl.com/y55zv3ax). How has that helped with both the design and promotion of your game?
It’s been a bit of a life-saver, to be honest. Playing in person is the best thing, but I think for the next year virtual platforms are the only realistic way to get playtesting done (or playing games at all for that matter), and it means you can get some virtual games going whenever suits your schedule. Plus it’s quicker and cheaper than getting prototypes printed, which seems to take longer and longer.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


I found getting games onto TTS to be a really steep learning curve; It was really interesting reading Dave Beck’s interview and seeing that he has skills in 3D modelling and video game design – that will have been a huge help in getting virtual models set up. I’ve not got that background so I found it hard, but it’s worth persevering – once you’ve done it, it’s up there for anyone in the world to play and that’s a fantastic opportunity for any designer. But I’m definitely looking forward to getting back around a real table with real people, whenever that turns out to be.

Why board game design? Why not RPG’s? Video games?
Yep, I like all of those. In the past I was super-addicted to strategic video games like Championship Manager and Civilization, proper life-stealers where you sit down for a quick round and then realise it’s seven in the morning and your legs have seized up. Although I just don’t have the time for those any more. I’ve dabbled with writing and I loved creating content for RPGs when I was younger.

But in terms of designing, I think board game design just felt accessible, and I love playing games so it’s nice to give it a go myself. My first proper idea was a board game, and the ideas seem to keep on coming. It makes no sense that cardboard and plastic should be more engaging than a totally immersive virtual world on screen, but generally I’d rather get a board game out than fire up the console. Plus I wouldn’t know where to start with designing a video game, although I’m completely in awe of those that can.

I had a read of several entries on your blog (https://www.walnutgames.co.uk/). Really insightful and useful info on there; it certainly deserves more eyes on it. How long have you been blogging? In what ways has it helped with game design, building a community etc?
Thanks. I’ve only been blogging regularly for a few months, but I do find it quite therapeutic to put thoughts down on paper/screen, and it’s helpful to read back over your own journey and lessons you’ve learned sometimes, because you can easily make the same mistake twice as time passes and you forget, or your perspective changes. I also feel a bit of an obligation to write my experiences down if I’ve made mistakes (or even if I’m just a bit rubbish at something). I’d feel really bad if someone made a huge error that I’d made already, because I hadn’t made my catalogue of errors available for all to laugh and point at...

I’m not sure how much it’s helped in community-building, and it might be too early to say, but I’ll carry on posting observations whenever I think there’s something worth saying. There’s certainly enough blog giants out there that have got thousands hanging off their words.

I’m nearly 50, work full time in a physical job, have two maniac children under 7, running these interviews and am trying to design a huge "dudes on a map" game. What I'm getting at is, Ian... I'm not getting enough time to drink beer and play video games. In return for interviewing you, will you please finish the design and run the Kickstarter for my game?
Well maybe – depends if it’s any good! But you can definitely have all the free consultancy you can eat, based on my limited experience so far. As it happens I can tick most of those boxes myself (apart from running the interviews) – life is super-busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s great to be busy and better that than bored. And personally, if I’m doing stuff I like, I don’t mind being tired. There comes a point where the kids actually help – not so much with the beer drinking (mine are all about single malt), but my kids are definitely interested in game design and they love testing my creations and coming up with their own.

I think it’s worth remembering that very few game designers are doing this for a living – far more are juggling jobs and lives and are taking a hobby they love and hoping to make it into something more. But pretty much everything in the boardgame industry is learnable – and for the things you don’t have the time or inclination to learn, there’s hundreds of highly skilled people you can collaborate with that do have those skills.

And this is where collaboration becomes so important – I see hundreds of people trying to design games and then trying to do everything that goes with it, but I see far fewer people who can do all the KS campaign stuff, the marketing, the crowd-building and all that, and who are just looking for designers to collaborate with. There are certainly companies who will do that for a pile of cash, but I don’t see so many examples of the collaborative, skilled hobbyist when it comes to running crowdfunding. And if that’s you, o reader, I think you may find hundreds of potential willing partners within this community just waiting to work with you.

But do stick with it, Paul – this is a great thing you’re doing and I already look forward to seeing your weekly interviews. Plus you can sleep when you’re dead.

Thanks, mate! Will do. Happy to do my part in getting eyes on works by up-and coming-designers such as yourself.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap
From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Follow (and support) Ian Walton here:
Website: https://www.walnutgames.co.uk/
BGG Page (Ukiyo): https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/316085/ukiyo
BGG Page (Take the Kingdom): https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/232656/take-kingdom
***

If you are an unpublished designer who would like to be interviewed, please either respond to the original post (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500668/unpublished-designe...) or geekmail me directly. I don't bite!

And if you feel you want to show your interviewer some love, you can follow me here:
BGG: Paul Bedford (@DesignerOnaMap)
Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/329574091?ref=bggforums
Board game (Hunted By A God):
Facebook: www.facebook.com/huntedbyagod
Instagram: www.instagram.com/hunted.by.a.god/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hunted_a
BGG Blog (aside from this one... and I really should update it): https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/9783/hunting-god-developing-u.
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Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:45 pm
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Interview 3: Aaron Griffin. Game: Card Bard.

Paul Bedford
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Before Aaron co-created his card game Card Bard he was a bard who liked to... play... cards…

Hmm. Hang on. Let me start again.

Aaron is an interesting kind of game designer. He spent three years as a travelling musician. Then literally co-created a game in which you play the part of a travelling musician… in this case a Bard who weaves spellbinding songs for fame and fortune.

For something a little different, I asked Aaron to sing his answers to me, which means you have to sing his answers as you read them. Really loudly. On a bus.

Aaron, thy game is currently on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keyan/card-bard?ref=bgg...). Weave us a tune that will lull us into merrily casting some coin into thine hat…


The Bard is a character I never played in Dungeons and Dragons. I was always the mindless axe-swinger (I’d slay all the monsters, but the Bard would get all the loving… I could never figure that out). Did that D&D Class inspire Card Bard, or was the theme more a result of your musical adventures?
I’m the same. I always played the Barbarian in Hero Quest, or the basic human knight in D&D. Keyan introduced me to the Bard character, and I insistently resonated with the personality! I feel like the Bard is always second fiddle to the warrior or the wizard, but nothing is cooler than a magical musical storyteller!

What’s your favourite mechanic in Card Bard?
What I love about Card Bard and what I think makes it different from all the other card games out there is the song mechanic. Song cards score you fame - the winning mechanic in the game, but they also have powerful effects when you complete the song. To complete the song, you need to play composition cards that match the amount on the song. I feel like the mechanic is straightforward to learn for casual gamers, but if you’re a veteran card game player, you can create some crazy combos with the 207 included cards.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Your co-creator, Keyan, is also the artist for Card Bard. That is a stroke of luck indeed (and his work is beautiful and well suited to the theme). Tell us a little of your collaboration and the genesis of Card Bard’s initial creation...
Keyan and I’s meeting was a life synchronicity. We both started at the same company at the same time and worked on a lot of projects together since he is a graphic designer and animator and I am a video editor. We also oddly had the same interest, we both are huge fans of animator Pendleton Ward, board games, and entrepreneurship. Keyan loves ttrpgs and pitched me Card Bard since I am a huge fan of card games. I instantly fell in love with the idea of the hero being the musician and we got started the next day! Keyan started on the themes and art direction of the game while I worked on pulling the best mechanics from all the card games I’ve played over the past 21 years! We have a giant excel sheet that houses all of the cards and we just throw our card ideas out there and we review each other's work! Luckily we both are like-minded but have our own strengths to bring to the table!

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Playtesting is always scary and fun… but mainly scary. What kind of playtesting did you do for Card Bard? Was there a weakness that took you by surprise? How did you overcome it?
Playtesting is definitely scary! We worked with some professional Magic the Gathering players as well as reaching out to our community to give us feedback through an extensive questionnaire. What we found out was that we thought we were balancing every card but in reality, we were creating roadblocks for the player and making the game less fun. Keyan created a great equation that broke apart the mechanic of each card and it’s cost, if it scored above a 0 it is considered “fun.” Therefore cards that score higher cost more to play, this really helped us speed up the card creation process!

Your game appears very thematic. Does theme take precedence over mechanics, or did you strive for balance?
They kind of go hand and hand but I believe that we strive for balance with each card first. We actually wrote down thematic names for each card before we worked on the mechanics. The names really helped write the mechanics so that’s where the theme shines more than the mechanics. Once we balanced the cards and narrowed down what we wanted in the core set we went back to the theme and started to build characters around the cards. It’s not shown yet but with the final version of Card Bard, we are going to include flavor text that will help immersion for players who would like to include Card Bard into their D&D campaigns.

Kickstarter can quake the heart of even the most seasoned performer. Was there any last minute details you nearly missed?
For the past two years, we lived by Jamey Stegmaier’s A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide so it helped us not make as many mistakes as we would have! We nearly almost forgot to proofread our Kickstarter before we launched. It would have been a disaster and very amateurish looking with all the mistakes we had!

Card Bard game seems like it would adapt easily to a digital version, such as TableTop Simulator etc. Do you have one - or plan to have one - released?
We do have a Table Top Simulator version of our preview copy for free! I encourage everyone to download it and let us know what they think! We want Card Bard to be a community-driven game and will improve upon it until we print!

Do you have any other game designs up that well-tailored sleeve?
We do! We have roughly 100 cards that didn’t make the core set of Card Bard so we would love to fine-tune those and offer an expansion! We also have a dice and deck drafting game that has some worker placement themes that we are conceptualizing now but we are focused on putting all of the energy into Card Bard and getting it out the door to our backers as soon as possible!

Now, dear reader, is the time for you to please support Aaron & Kayen and this blog by subscribing, throwing us a thumbs up and (even a short) reply. Let us know you're out there and supporting indie creators!

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Follow (and support) Aaron here:
Kickstarter: https://keyn.gr/iff/kickstarter
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cardbardgame
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CardBardGame
BGG Page: Card Bard (link)
Website: https://cardbardgame.com
***

If you are an unpublished designer who would like to be interviewed, please either respond to the original post (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500668/unpublished-designe...) or geekmail me directly. I don't bite!

And if you feel you want to show your interviewer some love, you can follow me here:
BGG: Paul Bedford (@DesignerOnaMap)
Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/329574091?ref=bggforums
Board game (Hunted By A God):
Facebook: www.facebook.com/huntedbyagod
Instagram: www.instagram.com/hunted.by.a.god/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hunted_a
BGG Blog (aside from this one... and I really should update it): https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/9783/hunting-god-developing-u..
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Sat Oct 10, 2020 11:53 pm
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Interview 2: William Angus. Game: 30 Seconds To Live.

Paul Bedford
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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Microbadge: Indie Game AllianceMicrobadge: Member of the BGDL CommunityMicrobadge: Level 01 BGG posterMicrobadge: So Very Wrong About Games fanMicrobadge: Board Game Barrage podcast fan
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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Interviewer Note:
I want Small Ocean, Big Wave Designer Interviews to be a success for the designers, the BGG & Reddit gaming communities and gaming overall. You can help that by subscribing, giving a thumbs up and even a short reply to give the blog a bump.

***

About William:
Approach William Angus with care.

Actually, it might be safer to observe him from a distance. No, he doesn’t usually look that frazzled, wild-eyed and dangerous. He’s only like that because he has just embarked on that most terrifying quests… Kickstarter! (Let’s all send out our silent hopes that there is enough coffee in the whole of the USA to get him through this thing.)

Which game is he Kickstarting? 30 Seconds to Live, a 1-2 player competitive zombie card game (https://tinyurl.com/y59p8qwv). Please take the time to check it out, and throw it even just a supporting pledge to nudge the ol’ algorithms.

Aside from 30 Seconds to Live, William has produced another game under the Kitten Kaiju Banner(www.kittenkaijugames.com) in Kitten Round Up, which he aims to launch if his current Kickstarter doesn’t lead him to madness. I hope to do a follow up interview when that time comes.

But now, without further ado, please give it up for... William Angus!

G’day William. Thanks for taking part in the Small Ocean Big Wave Designer Interviews. Let’s begin with some questions that may have started you along the path to you where you are now:

What was your favourite childhood game? Do you think it influenced your taste in the games you play now… or even the design of 30 Seconds to Live?

Well if we include high school as part of being a child, then I would have to say Axis & Allies. I played it countless times against my closest friend in high school and college. I also played Magic (The Gathering) like crazy in the early 90s in college. My “childhood” was full of your standard family games like Monopoly, Payday, Sorry and the like.

What is your favourite game of all time? Yes, I’m making you choose one. What appeals to you about it? Did it influence any aspect of 30 Seconds to Live’s design?
I actually can’t say I have a favorite because I enjoy so many different types of games and I enjoy learning new games. Thematically I suppose Terraforming Mars is my most recent favorite but I haven’t had much chance to play much due to **waves hands all around** this.

What influenced the design of the my game? My inspiration strangely enough was to do the opposite of what every other zombie game was doing. Let me be clear: I enjoy big box miniature games like Zombies!!!, Dead of Winter and the like. So I am not knocking them AT ALL. But I realized that there is a middle ground for zombie games that was not being covered very well. Most games tend to be either inexpensive and overly simple or costly and complicated. I wanted a game that was moderately priced and yet still gave a highly thematic, intense experience, and so I went and built the game that I wanted to play. Let me repeat: I enjoy those games immensely, there is absolutely a place in the market for them.

Ok, now the important bit: Tell us about your game, 30 Seconds to Live. What influenced the theme? Is there a pervasive mechanic (or does it have several)? What’s its demographic? How long does it take to play? What ages would it appeal to?
Ah now we get to the meat and potatoes of the matter. It's for ages 14+, it plays 1-2 players and is about 30m long. Its demographic is anyone who loves zombies or real time games, I think the theme was most influenced by The Walking Dead.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Most zombie games feel like a whole season of TWD with missions, rescue ops, fetch quests, salvage missions, human elements, but I wanted the season finale. I wanted the chaos of the last 15m when all hell has broken loose, and the hero/heroine are facing an army of the undead and all seems lost. That’s the feeling I wanted to recreate. It has numerous mechanics include Action points, race, and several others but the biggest mechanic is the timer. There's 3 phases to your turn and 90% of it occurs in the middle, the Action Phase, and that phase is timed. If you don’t finish that phase in 30 seconds, your turn is up regardless of if you had other things planned. So you can’t spend forever debating what to do. Think about it: If you really were up against a horde of zombies, they would not wait and hang back patiently while you debated your next move, they would just move in for the kill and the same applies here. You think and act quick or you die.

Playtesters tell me it’s a totally different game with the timer vs without. I should add that you don’t use the timer the first or second time you play so you can grasp the rules and mechanics, and if you really just can’t function with it you can play without it, but you’re losing what I feel is a key component of the game if you do.

I note with interest that you make a particular point of ensuring your 30 Seconds to Live is inclusive. Tell us more about that…
As I was designing the game I wanted the characters to be the everyman/woman, not superheroes but average folk. I wanted a diverse group of people. The core game has 6 characters, 3 women, 2 men and 1 transgender man. They are of varying ages and ethnicities and not one bit of this has any in game impact but I think it makes a real difference to the person playing the game to see someone they identify with, someone who looks like them.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


I was demoing a game at a Microsoft event in NYC for children. This young black girl comes up, probably ten years old. She's there with her sister and her Aunt. She sees the character Aaliyah (a POC MMA fighter) and says “That looks like mommy”. She then commented that the older white guy Lenny looked like me. Which is true I suppose. She gravitated towards a character she identified with and I think she will connect more with the game as a result.

If Kickstarter could talk, what pitch would 30 Seconds to Live spruik at potential backers?
The pitch would be that if you want to feel the chaos, drama and intensity of the end of the season finale of TWD then you need to play this game. You don’t just play it, you experience it. It’s unlike any zombie game you’ve played before.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


On a scale of 1 to “I’m wearing a nappy!”, how scary do you rate undertaking a Kickstarter?
I would give two answers: For preparing a KS its pretty intense. You don’t know what you don’t know and there is so much involved from marketing to interacting with followers to building an audience to the actual prep of the game itself. Running a KS is a complete rollercoaster, one step below wearing adult diapers.

You simply can’t prepare yourself for the amount of work there is those first 48 hours, between promoting, interacting with backers, making changes to the pledges or the page, finding out that a graphic has been missing from the page for the first four hours it went live…. It’s overwhelming.

What kind of playtesting did you do for 30 Seconds to Live? Was it affected by the pandemic?
The game began around December 2018 and I was at Unpub 8 weeks later trialing it. I attended several conventions and just set up at an open table and put up a sign that said “Playtesters wanted” I also attended design events like Metatopia and I developed some outstanding friendships with other developers. Like many designers I don’t feel I did enough blind playtesting along the way.

I had hoped to launch in Spring 2020 and attended Pax East as my last major event. A week after it ended in mid-March, I was wearing a mask to go to the grocery stores and soon every single con was being cancelled. I held off six months to see what would happen with Covid-19 and spent that time further refining it but without the benefit of playtesting.

Luckily the entire design community flocked to Tabletop Simulator which is a decent alternative to playtesting in person but it just isn’t the same thing. I had planned an expansion to be released with the core game but a lack of real playtesting put the kibosh on that and it will be released maybe in 2021 (assuming I am successful with this Kickstarter of course).

What was/is the biggest challenge with 30 Seconds to Live 's design? What differed between your process with it and Kitten Round Up’s?
Kitten Round Up was originally a lark, a game meant strictly for family and friends because we are all Cat people. They suggested I try to take it further and I had no idea what I was doing.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


I hit a creative roadblock and that is when I came up with the idea for 30STL. KRU was more similar to the family games of my youth so I had a frame of reference, but 30STL was something entirely new for me. I sought out advice and feedback from the various Facebook groups (shoutout to Gabe Barett and the Board Game Design Lab) and eventually formed a design group in NJ because I wanted a place where designers could meet and collaborate and there really wasn’t one (that I knew of).

What is it that you tried to make different from similar games already published? Were you at all deterred from creating your game by their presence?
I’m very much a person that if something needs to be done or if I want something that doesn’t exist, I go and I do it/make it. There was no NJ dev Group so I built one (we’re up to around 80 members) I wanted to play a specific zombie game, so I built one. I didn’t feel deterred because I was a noob who didn’t know any better. As fior being different from the rest of the pack I hope that piques backer interest. I think zombie fatigue is a thing, but by being different I hope to be able to lure people into giving it a try.

Do theme or mechanics take precedence 30 Seconds to Live, or did you strive for balance?
Theme, theme, theme. Everything is theme. I knew I wanted it to evoke a feeling and so everything is designed to that end. That’s not to say the Mechanics are not important. They are, but the mechanics exist to reinforce the theme and not for their own sake. The timer helps propel thew action forward quickly. Action Points control how much you can do, race is the alley, your path to freedom or doom, etc.

What are your thoughts on keeping with the trending game mechanisms of the day?
Worrying about what’s popular is unimportant to me. I'm gonna do my own thing.

What are your thoughts on the rise of digital gaming, such as Table Top Simulator and the like?
I think Covid has brought about a huge change in digital everything. I just celebrated 30 years working for a major communications company. They were talking about work from home when I joined and it wasn’t until Covid-19 that they did it. In 48 hours no less.

I’ll be WFH until at least January 2021 and probably longer because they’re realizing that there are new ways to do things and TTS and Tabletopia have made people reassess playtesting and game development possibilities. Will they replace regular face-to-face playtesting? Lord I hope not! But it does give access to thousands, tens of thousands of people to test my game that there was literally no way to access in the past. That’s a resource I won’t give up even when life returns to “normal”.

Beyond having your project produced via Kickstarter, what is it about game design that keeps you interested?
I like the challenge. Creative people don’t decide when they’re creative, they don’t turn it or turn it off. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. Part of the challenge is can it be done? Maybe it can be done but not enough people will care so it isn’t viable as a product. That’s ok. I made a thing and I proved it could work. And I’m happy with that.

If licensed after your Kickstarter, how much of 30 Seconds to Live are you comfortable seeing changed by the licensor/publisher?
Oof, that’s a tough one. I don’t think I could answer that if I wasn’t in the situation. I think I’d be comfortable with some changes but wholesale changes (like changing the theme), then what’s the point? It isn’t the same game if you reskin it, and I would have zero interest in that.

Quick! Sneak in one last plug for your Kickstarter!
30 Seconds to Live is a chance to experience the drama and intensity of the zombie experience in a totally different way from what you’ve experienced before.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Check out the Kickstarter (https://tinyurl.com/y59p8qwv page), it lays out the story and mechanics and there's even a game trailer, yes that’s right, a trailer that tells the backstory of the zombie outbreak and how you found yourself at the back of a dead end alley surrounded by brain hungry zombies!

William, thank you again for taking time out from your Kickstarter to talk to us. We all wish you the greatest of success!

Please follow William here:
Kickstarter: https://tinyurl.com/y59p8qwv
Website: www.30secondstolive.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/30secondstolive
BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/286198/30-seconds-live
Instagram: www.instagram.com/kittenkaijugames
Twitter: www.twitter.com/kittenkaijagame (singular)
Tabletop Simulator Mod: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=20620...

***

If you are an unpublished designer and would like who would like to be interviewed, please either respond to the original post (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500668/unpublished-designe...) or geekmail me directly. I don't bite (unless you ask... )

Now, dear reader, is the time for you to please support William and this blog by subscribing, throwing us a thumbs up and (even a short) reply so we get the eyes we need.

And if you feel you want to show your interviewer some love, you can follow me on any or all of the following places:
BGG: Paul Bedford (@DesignerOnaMap)
Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/329574091?ref=bggforums
Boardgame (Hunted By A God):
Facebook: www.facebook.com/huntedbyagod
Instagram: www.instagram.com/hunted.by.a.god/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hunted_a
BGG Blog (aside from this one... and I really should update it): https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/9783/hunting-god-developing-u..
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Fri Oct 2, 2020 11:16 pm
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The first interview! :) Dave Beck. Game: Distilled.

Paul Bedford
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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Microbadge: Indie Game AllianceMicrobadge: Member of the BGDL CommunityMicrobadge: Level 01 BGG posterMicrobadge: So Very Wrong About Games fanMicrobadge: Board Game Barrage podcast fan
From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Your Friendly Neighbourhood Interviewer Notes:
1. I want this little endevour to be a success for the designers, the BGG community and gaming overall. You can help that by please giving a thumbs up and even a short reply to give the blog a bump.

2. Dave was the first person to respond to my “Unpublished designer? Good! I want to interview you. Read why…” thread and kick all this off! However, as an Aussie, I was deeply offended that he likes scotch more than beer. But, I overcame my shock and decided I would allow the interview to go ahead...

3. Huge thanks to Eric Vannoy for help with determining the questions to be used in the interviews!

About Dave:
Dave is a practicing game designer living in Wisconsin. He is the designer of the award-winning indie video game Tombeaux (https://www.tombeauxgame.com) , released on Steam in 2018. He is also the recipient of the 2010 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge Award, given by the National Science Foundation. His artwork has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Sculpture Magazine, National Geographic, the journal Science, and the book GameScenes: Art in the Age of Videogames.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Dave currently works at the University of Wisconsin-Stout as the Director and Associate Dean of the School of Art & Design. He is also the founding Director of the Game Design-Art Program at Stout.

Dave's latest game in development is called Distilled (https://distilledgame.com/). He created this while living in the UK (Scotland) last year, after touring many distilleries and sampling many drams of whisky, and has been working hard on it since last October of 2019.

Distilled is his first board game design, which he is hoping to bring to Kickstarter in mid-2021. He’s a big gamer and loves a good single malt scotch whisky.

First up, Dave, tell us about Distilled…
Distilled is a highly thematic strategy card game about crafting spirits in a distillery, with resource management and push-your-luck elements. In the game, you have inherited a distillery, and are hoping to someday achieve the title of master distiller through purchasing goods, building up your distillery, and creating the world’s most renowned spirits.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Players use cards to purchase new ingredients and invest in upgrades to your distillery, all while eventually distilling the spirit and sending it to the warehouse. Once in the warehouse, age your spirit to enhance its flavor and bottle it to sell it for major profits!

Achieve the title of Master Distiller by having the most victory points at the end of the game. Points are obtained by distilling and selling spirits.

What do you think are the strongest points of your game, Distilled?
Theme, theme, and more theme. As someone who studied fine art and ancient history in university, I have always had a fascination with telling stories and creating authentic experiences supported by a rich, visual aesthetic. Like a ride at Walt Disney World or a life-size diorama at a natural history museum, I aim to create something that is both memorable and enjoyable for the player.

I teach game design at a university in Wisconsin and had the opportunity to take a sabbatical for my research in the Fall of 2019. I spent six months in Scotland, right outside Edinburgh, and fell in love with the landscape, culture, and of course, the whisky Distilled was actually created during a sleepless night where the idea of a game about distilling whisky came to me in a sort of fever dream (perhaps after a few drams of single malt!). I was up all night, scribbling down the overall concept for the game, and it has not strayed that far from its original vision since.

The other strong point to my game is the art. I am working with a good friend and colleague of mine, Erik Evensen on all the art (illustration and graphic design) in the game. Erik is an acclaimed illustrator, comic book artist, and graphic designer, and I could not be more thrilled about how his work is beginning to breathe life into the game for players to enjoy.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


What stage is Distilled at?
As noted earlier, it was first conceived in early October of 2019. I did a lot of initial design and development through the end of 2019 and revisited it heavily again this past summer. With a Kickstarter planned for mid-2021, I am confident that it is 75-85% complete in gameplay but has a long way to go with the art and graphic design (which is exciting to watch unfold!).

What kind of playtesting did you do for Distilled? Was it affected by the pandemic?
To date, Distilled has been play tested almost 100 times. In addition to asking post-playtest questions and sending surveys, I record every point, every alcoholic spirit made, and other pertinent data on a master spreadsheet that I have, which has helped me to fine-tune and balance the game. I began with simple paper printouts, testing all four player spots by myself, in Scotland. When I felt it was ready for others (i.e.: it wasn’t completely broken!), I invited friends and family to test it extensively in both Scotland and back here in the states. In January, I attended Protospiel MN and received amazing feedback and met a bunch of great people in the process.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Then the pandemic hit. I was at a loss as to what to do, with the feeling like the creative wind went completely out of my game design sails. But I realized that I simply had to roll-up my shirt sleeves and embrace the change, even if I hated the idea of playing games on a computer. I worked hard to get my game on to Tabletop Simulator (with the help of my friend, N/A), and have now play tested it about 60 times in that environment. With things like “TTS Tax” (games take longer, no matter what, on Tabletop Simulator) and software interface user experience issues being new factors to consider, I believe that this actually has helped my game improve, to find efficiencies in the game’s flow and overall experience.

So while I haven’t actually play tested my game with a physical prototype since March (sob!), I feel that the majority of sessions being focused in a virtual environment might have helped to flesh out problems that I didn’t fully realized, pre-pandemic. With that said, I am really looking forward to getting Distilled back to an actual table, so that people can gather around the game to enjoy it together, hopefully through an upcoming Print and Play and blind playtesting opportunities!

What was/is the biggest challenge with Distilled's design? What differed between your process with Distilled and Tombeaux?
This is a great question. As someone who has a background in fine art – where you are making something often for yourself, with your own voice – this game’s design and development has been eye-opening and extremely beneficial to me. To design something, whether that be a board game or a car or a logo, is usually for someone else to consume, enjoy, and use. That is the beauty of design, that you are helping others to learn to appreciate something new, while also making sure to listen to those stakeholders about what works and what does not. That has been a wonderful challenge in Distilled’s development, to be able to listen to the players as they tell me about what they enjoyed – and what they did not – in the gameplay experience. Then, for me to have that opportunity to revise things based on their feedback, is extremely special. I actually talked about that, and how it contributed to the game’s biggest change (i.e.: challenge!) to date, in a series of blog posts on the website. (https://distilledgame.com/i-know-what-you-playtested-last-su...)

This is very different than how I approached my indie art video game, Tombeaux. While both attempt to stay as authentic as possible in their design and experience, Tombeaux was my passion project. Aside from posting it on Steam and asking for a few dollars (that were donated to support the river of which it is based on), it was something I wanted to create as a statement and piece of digital art. Because of this, I did much less playtesting for that game, as it was more of an interactive film or statement than an experience for which I would expect people to pay a decent amount of money to own and continuously return to with friends and family.

What is it that you tried to make different from similar games already published? Were you at all deterred from creating your game by the presence of others of a similar theme?
To my knowledge, Distilled will be the first of its kind in the thematic realm of “distilled spirits” (also known as hard liquor or hard alcohol). As one can imagine, games about alcohol tend to lean into two camps: either it encourages the act of drinking as part of the game (i.e. drinking games), or it tries to simulate the idea of what it would be like to work and create that type of alcohol. Distilled is definitely the latter, and focuses more on the “science and art” behind distilling, than anything else. Other games in this vicinity could include the winemaking game, Viticulture by Jamey Stegmaier or the beer making game, Brew Crafters by Ben Rosset. These are both worker-placement games about running a winery and brewery, respectively. While Distilled shares the broader theme of “alcohol” with these two games, that is where the comparisons really stop, both thematically and mechanically, due to Distilled focusing on a very different process of creating alcohol, which includes higher alcohol spirits like whisky, vodka, and baijiu, to name a few (there will be around 20 total spirits to make in the final game!).

With that said, I absolutely love the games I previously mentioned, and want to acknowledge that they have both inspired me to make the game that Distilled is turning out to be! With Distilled being a card-based game with drafting and push-your-luck elements, I am excited about the potential it has to join these great games as another “adult beverage themed game”!

How important is theme in your Distilled? Does it take precedence over gameplay?
You probably know what I am going to say for this one. Theme is crazy-super important to me, but – and I learned this from Tombeaux, which had little-to-no gameplay – gameplay really is just as important for a truly challenging and engaging experience. Without one or the other, I really believe that the game can begin to deflate, regarding the user’s interaction with the product. The theme ties players in on an emotional and aesthetic level, but the mechanics of the gameplay allow them to return to the experience time and time again, with new and different challenges. In fact, I have tried – whenever possible – to have the theme of Distilled directly connected to the gameplay.

For instance, one of the key mechanics of the game is when the player distills a spirit. They must gather their cards – consisting of yeast, water, and other sugar-based organic ingredients (like grains, fruits, and botanicals) – and shuffle them up and add some “alcohol” cards. This represents the fermentation process of the yeast eating the sugars and turning it into alcohol, which happens in real-life as well. Then, the player pushes their luck by blindly pulling the top and the bottom card from this stack, and loses them (which could negatively affect your recipe and thus, your score)! When a distillery is creating alcohol through the distillation process, one never wants to keep the first or last part of the liquor that comes out of the still, as it is toxic, so they “cut” this part that is known as the head and the tail. We ask the players to do this as well, as part of a main mechanic and process in the game. That is just one example of the authentic, thematic approach I have tried to take to the mechanics design in Distilled.

What are your thoughts on keeping with the trending game mechanisms of the day?
I think it is important to stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to unique game mechanisms. While some games will have specific mechanics that appear to be unique just for that game, it is more often than not that the mechanism a game incorporates is actually a unique spin or tweak to something already found in another game. And this is okay! Just as with any sort of art, the ability to reference, recontextualize, and pay homage to the great masters that have come before you should be expected and encouraged, especially for a newer designer. For instance, while some say Dominion was the “first deck building game”, there have been many to follow it – and improve upon it – which does nothing but lift the industry up further, while still respecting that original idea.

I have tried to do this with some elements of Distilled, as some mechanics attempt to be new and fresh, while others are revisions and mashups of previous successful games. I have a short draft at the beginning of the game, much like games such as 7 Wonders and Sushi Go. When distilling alcohol, there are push-your-luck and set-collection elements in the game as well, such as what is found in games like Quacks of Quedlinburg and San Juan, respectively. The game’s distillery player mat and market has tableau and engine-building influences from games such as Tapestry, Taverns of Tiefenthal, and Thunderstone Quest (oddly all starting with the letter “T”?!). I’m proud to call these games inspirations for Distilled, and hope that someday my game can do the same for others!

What are your thoughts on the rise of digital gaming? Table Top Simulator and the like?
I have a love-hate relationship with this one. For my job, I spend most of my day on a screen, so the opportunity to gather around a table with friends and get away from technology has been one of the most important elements as to why I’m drawn to board games. I love the tactile, crunchy challenge of trying to get that last resource before the price skyrockets, or the competitive rush of grabbing the final spot on the map before another player brings in their mini that is five times larger than my tiny meeple. The visual design of the board, cards, and components helps me to feel like a kid again, excited about the idea of playing with objects and creating your own world with your friends, even just for a few hours. I was one of those folks who was against digital gaming, as I could not imagine why that would ever be attractive to people, when “the real thing” was just waiting to be played with on the shelf directly behind me.

From gallery of DesignerOnaMap


Then (you guessed it) the pandemic hit. I knew I had to act fast and embrace the digital platform. We moved our Star Wars Imperial Assault campaign fully onto Tabletop Simulator, and my weekly gaming group meets to play different things in that space as well. I felt naturally drawn to Tabletop Simulator, due to my 3D modeling and video game design background, and knew I could implement a lot more of what I wanted to do in that program, over Tabletopia (with that said, I plan to put a version on Tabletopia sometime in early 2021, as I appreciate the open and free nature of that web-based platform). Distilled has been subscribed to by about 500 people via the Steam Workshop, and I am able to playtest it once or twice a week if I am lucky. I would have never been able to do that – or reach that many and those kinds of people around the world with this game – if I had not made the transition to an online, virtual space. So, when I step back and think about that, I really can see the positive elements that the platform has in bringing people together from around the world – to gather at one common (virtual) table.

Beyond having your project mass produced someday, what is it about game design that keeps you interested?
I work all day – and also happen to be in grad school for my doctorate – but when I get a few spare hours to “relax”, I go straight to working on Distilled. It really is a stress-reliever for me, with a wonderful combination between weaving my artistic passion with my interest in puzzles and designs. I am also a bit of a perfectionist, so the feedback I receive to potentially improve the game drives me forward to test out those new theories and ideas in hopes of creating an even better experience for the players in the future.

If mass produced (eg.: picked up after your Kickstarter), how much of Distilled are you comfortable seeing changed by the licensor/publisher?
That is a good question that I have never really thought about. I think that since so much of Distilled has so much theme woven into it, as well as Erik’s artwork, I find it crazy to think that a publisher would be interested in the game (even now!). I have numerous ideas of potential expansions to the game, so I’m guessing that instead of seeking any sort of publishing deal after the Kickstarter, I’ll instead get started on exciting new expansions for the fans to incorporate down the line into their base game!

Tell us about your projected 2021 Kickstarter...
I am really excited, but really nervous about the Kickstarter experience. I’ve been participating in Gabe Barrett’s amazing designer community on Facebook, watching Jay Cormier’s video series, and reading a lot of Jamey Stegmaier’s blog posts, but still find myself very overwhelmed with the process!

I am planning to launch sometime in Summer of 2021 and will likely have a retail/base version and a deluxe version with upgraded components. I’m excited to connect with some content creators, so that they can help me spread the word of Distilled through video, podcast, and written previews. I have been working hard to develop a core version of the game, but also playtesting advanced modules that will add more complexity to the game if players choose to add it. There will likely be 20 different spirits players can choose from in the final version (only 5-7 are used in each game), and I’m aiming for the game to highlight traditions and cultures of alcohol from around the world, to demonstrate the global impression that the spirit has had on different regions.

The best way to stay up to date and be notified is by joining our mailing list, which you can do by visiting https://www.distilledgame.com/. This will also unlock the free Print and Play version for you to receive as a thank-you gift for signing up once it is released later this year.

Will you beg forgiveness from me for the fact you prefer scotch to beer?
That is no problem at all! I am a big beer fan too. In fact, it sounds like you and I need to enjoy a Scotch Ale together, combining best of both worlds. Cheers!

Dave, thank you again for being my First Responder and for taking time out of your obviously busy life to talk to us about your amazing endeavours. We'll be revisiting Dave around the time of his Kickstarter launch.

If you are unpublished designer who would like to be interviewed, please either respond to the original post (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500668/unpublished-designe...) or geekmail me directly. I don't bite!

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Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:45 pm
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