The Solo Interviews: Celebrating the 2021 Solitaire Print and Play Contest

Welcome to the Solo Interviews, providing a platform for the designers, artists, YouTubers, and creatives of BGG’s 2021 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. We’ll dive into their gaming interests, their new games, and lessons learnt from designing games.

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Interview with Ronan Stafford, designer of Audrey vs the Poisoned Dreams

Today’s interview is with Ronan Stafford, whose entry Audrey vs the Poisoned Dreams sees you take on the role of the guardian on a dream forest, which is being overrun by a poison turning dreams into nightmares. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


In the interests of full transparency – the designer of this game and author of the blog are the same person. And talking about yourself in the third person is definitely weird…

This is the last interview for the 2021 Solitaire PNP Contest - 39 interviews running over 33,000 words! I hope you've all found these interviews interesting and inspiring you to try new games. It has been a blast reading about everyone's gaming histories, game suggestions and the stories behind the development of their games. Best of luck to all the contestants, both for the contest itself and future evolutions of their games.



Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
As kids we had educational games (Travel the World and Explore! being ones I remember). Then a lot of Articulate! at university. Eventually I had a house mate who played board games and I went to a board games evening with him, where I discovered Euro games. Agricola is the one that got me hooked! Which is a strange one given how complicated the game is, but I loved the theme and how deep the decision making was.

I’ve since then been lucky to have a circle of close friends who are as much into boardgaming as I am, and with a variety of tastes. We also happen to have two board game cafes within easy reach. So this has helped expose me to lots of games with different themes, mechanics and play styles, which has really broadened by horizons!

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
My criteria are any game that involves players on every turn (so you’re never just sat disengaged from the game), are easy to learn (5 minutes to explain the rules, everything clearly spelled out from the start) and are visually beautiful. Of the games I’ve played, Dixit, Sushi Go and Tsuro are perfect.

I’d then transition players on to my three current favourite games: Azul, Parks, and Wingspan. They’re all beautiful works of art, combining fun mechanics with deep gameplay.

At this stage I'd maybe also introduce some Co-op games like Pandemic and Castle Panic - though I think these games very much depend on who's playing and being very careful that experienced players don't quarterback the whole game.

How did you start designing games?
Shut Up and Sit Down were the ones that got me into solitaire games, when they did a special series on solo PNP games in 2020. After watching their videos, I went diving into the BGG Solitaire Contest archives, and found so many interesting and beautifully crafted games.

This coincided with COVID lockdowns where I live. One day I was just doodling in a notepad about the probabilities of cards appearing on a bell curve (e.g. low probability of high value cards, high probability of low value cards) – not the most exciting of tasks, but it was keeping my mind entertained. Eventually I turned this into a prototype game, which over time and with the help of feedback from friends evolved (a lot) into my first design, REMember, which I entered into the 2020 BGG Solitaire PNP Contest.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
You play as Audrey the tapir, the guardian of a Dream Forest where poison is starting to appear, which turns dreams into nightmares. You move around the map, investigating the dream trees, which often triggers nightmare encounters. You have allies who help you move around the map and combat nightmares. Over the course of multiple chapters you pick up clues which eventually reveal the Poisoner, who you fight in the final chapter for ultimate control over the Dream Forest.

I’ve tried to design a game with lots of storytelling – there’s six chapters, each with introductions and conclusions, legacy elements to the game which evolve gameplay alongside the story, and interludes which are a mini-roleplaying game, where you enter the dream of a character of your creation and make choices based on the cards you’ve played in the previous chapter.

So while there’s a lot going on (Dungeon/map crawling! Combat! Legacy! Role-playing!), it’s all tied together by a single story which you’re partly creating as you play. And mechanics wise all the key decisions are made using a hand of cards from a standard 52 card deck, which I feel enables the game to have plenty of choice while keeping the mechanics easy to learn and quick to build.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
The legacy elements of the game have been fun to design, from tiles you glue on to the map to cards with elements you cross out to enable new abilities, for both your allies and your enemies.

I’m surprised legacy elements aren’t more common in free PNP games. It’s a fun way of keeping your players engaged with your game, encouraging multiple plays by appealing to their creative side, and making each play through unique for a particular player – by the end of Chapter 6, you will have a unique map which is different to any other players.

I also know people who struggle with the legacy elements of expensive boardgames – it feels strange to spend so much money on something you’re going to draw on or tear up, when we spend so much time and effort keeping board games pristine through things like card sleeves. But this barrier isn’t there for PNP, as printing is relatively cheap (compared to the cost of a high end board game).

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Story telling has been the main challenge. Whilst it’s been difficult to get some of the game mechanics right, the story is my selling point for this game and end goal for what I wanted to accomplish.

This challenge has come in two parts. First there’s the progression of the narrative itself – you want to keep pushing the story forward in interesting ways, providing a hook at the end of each chapter and interlude to encourage players to keep on playing. But there’s also instances where I wrote myself into a corner and struggled to find a satisfying conclusion to what I’d built up.

This challenge of keeping the story interesting also applies to the mechanics of the game. Each chapter introduces new mechanics, new maps, and new challenges to overcome, which all need to feel fresh, interesting, and in step with the story itself. So you have the constant need to one-up the previous chapter with something different and fun, but without adding “bad” complexity into the game.

Hopefully I’ve succeeded in getting both these elements to come together into a gaming story that builds tension over time and then comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
For me, this contest has had some great “small size” games, with few (often 18) cards and minimal components. Tacmento has been an early favourite of mine and is a great example of a game that had some great building blocks at the beginning and has evolved into an amazing project. I love Wine Cellar for packing a lot of fun into so few cards and easy to learn mechanics. And I think the story of The Rent and how it’s been applied into a game is tremendous. Finally, I love the puzzle that Storks provides. All these games showcase an amazing amount of creativity packed into small packages that are incredibly easy to print, set-up and play.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments

No question – just a very BIG thank you to everyone who’s taken part in the blog through interviews and comments, and everyone in the contest as a whole for making this such an enjoyable, record-breaking year!





Editor's note: to hear more from Ronan, head over to AD's Board Games channel on YouTube, where Ronan talked extensively about his experience of designing Audrey vs the Poisoned Dreams, the importance of rulebooks, and designing games themed around dreams.

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Thu Nov 4, 2021 10:17 am
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Interview with Christopher Waite, designer of Bogbrook Dungeon

Today’s interview is with Christopher Waite, whose entry Bogbrook Dungeon is a solitaire worker placement game with a smattering of tableau building, some polyomino fun and a generous dollop of dungeon delving. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
My journey into board games began about 10 years ago when I discovered Carcassonne (although I can't quite remember how I stumbled upon it). It was a bit of a revelation because up until that point my experience with board games had been limited to games of Monopoly, Cluedo, and card games from my childhood. I began researching some more and was quickly taken aback by how many modern board games existed and the wide range of mechanics and themes.

I remember initially splurging heavily and playing numerous games. Games like Dominion, Libertalia, Lords of Waterdeep (which had just come out at the time), and Castles of Burgundy amongst others.

Over the years I’ve played and enjoyed many games with my wife as well as groups of friends. About 3-4 years ago my interests had changed and I ended up selling a large portion of my collection to make space. In the past few years I've begun building up my collection again and, in particular, solitaire gaming (although I always try to ensure that my game's play well at 2 and, ideally 5, players as these are the group's I get together most frequently). I still have a fondness for many of those original games such as Lords of Waterdeep and especially Castles of Burgundy which is probably still my #1 game.

I've had some really enjoyable solitaire experiences recently with Gloomhaven, Auztralia, Expedition to Newdale, and others. I love that many games now come with a solo mode as it means that I'm guaranteed to get the game to the table. I have less free time now than I used to so I'm beginning to recognise that I value games with a 1 hour-ish play time which does unfortunately sometimes sit counter to my love of complex games

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
Love Letter is an easy recommendation for me because it's so quick and easy to play. It's a great pub game and it's relatively inexpensive.

The recent Exit games are also a lot of fun and I’ve had lots of success with introducing them to new gamers. They really show some of the inventiveness of modern games.

I still recommend Dominion because I think it's simple to learn and a really enjoyable, expansive and varied deck builder. Waterdeep and Castles of Burgundy are also games I recommend.

Waterdeep is a clean and straightforward worker placement game but also very relaxing to play. Castles of Burgundy is great for couples despite its ugly appearance. It's also a super chilled but fun experience in a relatively inexpensive box.

How did you start designing games?
This is my first time designing a board game. I've designed video games independently in the past and there is plenty of overlap in terms of game design theory. I've also always enjoyed game Jams and this contest has given me the drive to create a first attempt at something playable. I hope it's the beginning of more to come.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
Bogbrook Dungeon mixes a few different concepts. At its core, you are placing workers on buildings in order to gain resources (and sometimes to do other things). You can increase the actions available to your workers by purchasing new buildings.

You are also using these resources to delve into dungeons comprised of various traps, monsters, events, and rewards. A key mechanism here is the use of polyominoes to resolve grids of icons on the cards. This adds a nice puzzle element requiring you to cover the correct icons with the polyominoes you have available with more being unlocked as you explore the dungeons.

The pressure in the game comes from Bogbrook Dungeon itself. This is being built throughout the game using a separate deck of cards (acting as a turn counter). Once all of cards are added to the dungeon, you must face it.

Facing Bogbrook Dungeon is like the 2nd Act of the game. It uses the same gameplay mechanisms as the rest of the game, but the cards are more difficult, introduce a few new concepts, and are unique to Bogbrook Dungeon.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
Worker placement is crucial to the game. I very much set out to design a game that utilises my favourite aspect of Lords of Waterdeep - the ability to add more worker placement spaces throughout the game.

I really enjoy that ability for your decision space to increase throughout the game, offering new ways for you to interact. This is especially true when you are able to immediately take advantage of a new worker placement space that you have just bought/unlocked.

In Bogbrook Dugeon there are 10 buildings (worker placement spaces) with only 3 available to you at the start of the game. The other 7 can be purchased during the game. You have total control of which ones you build which means that each game can play out in a different way.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Aside from trying to find enough spare time to work on the game, the most challenging aspect for me has been the rulebook. Whilst it can be easy to explain something to someone face-to-face, translating gameplay mechanics into a set of written rules has been very challenging and has involved several rewrites. I think that my current rulebook is pretty good - or at least I hope it is.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
Interplanetary caught my eye for two reasons. 1, I really like the space theme, and 2, I like the complexity. Having tried the game, it has a lot of really interesting choices giving you lots of freedom to approach the game however you wish. Now I just need to find some more time to play it

I was also really drawn to a game called Tilting at Windmills. It has charming artwork and I think the name is great. It’s the first in-hand games I've played and it’s a really interesting concept. Lots to be said for the limited amount of space that it requires and the reasonably speedy play time. I also got oh my goods! vibes from the resource collection.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
Ben Morayta - how do you find time to run the contest AND enter it?!
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Mon Nov 1, 2021 10:46 pm
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Interview with To Van Audenhove, designer of Blade: Sisterhood

Today’s interview is with To Van Audenhove, whose entry Blade: Sisterhood sees you take on the role of an assassin in 18th century Paris, with an in-hand game testing your ability to carefully navigate the streets and rooftops, avoiding guards or neutralizing them from the back. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
When I was very young my family didn't play a lot of boardgames, because we thought boardgame = Monopoly. We were very wrong haha. When a FLGS opened in our little city (as I like to call it) we decided to try Pandemic, and I've been hooked since!

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
I think the "Forbidden" series of tile games by Matt Leacock (Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky) are really good, simple but engaging games for people new to the hobby. And Claim and Herrlof could be good introductions to trick taking games, both of these are games I still enjoy playing with people who prefer lighter games.

How did you start designing games?
I can't really remember how, but I somehow stumbled upon a PnP game. And from there on I found out about the contests and the incredible amount of great free games.

For about half a year I was really into printing and trying out PnP games, mostly solo ones. And at that time I really looked up to those people, because I didn't think I would be able to design a game as good as theirs.

In the end I couldn't resist trying to make a few games myself. And while those first 5-10 games where pretty bad I had fun making them and eventually I felt confident enough in both my game design skills and my graphic design skills to enter a contest. That was last year's 54 card contest, where I entered Overkill: Reborn (formerly I Am Assassin).

I still didn't really love how the game had turned out, but I learned a lot from the feedback I got. After that I started being able to make games I was actually proud of. First Decimation: You or Them (2021 1-card contest), and now Blade: Sisterhood. And that's pretty much it, my game design journey up to this point. To be continued for sure!

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
Well for one it's an in-hand game that doesn't require you to remember a lot of stuff, except the rules of course. It was one of my design goals to differentiate it from many of the other in-hand games like Joe Klipfel's where you need to remember 2-4 stats while playing (no offense, Joe, I love your games!).

Secondly, I managed to make a pretty unique theme. I think it should please a relatively niche audience who doesn't get many similar games.

Lastly, not to brag but I think the art turned out very well. I think it does the job of immersing the player in the game's theme and world.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
I'll say that I wanted to make a game with the open world freerunning feel of the Assassin's Creed videogames. I wanted to bring that into a card-game. And also, like I said above, an in-hand game that is easy to play and not too mentally taxing on the upkeep side.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
My playtesters can confirm that it took a little while to get all of the card to "work". In one of the versions there where about 7 cards (out of 17) that weren't playable. I'm happy to say that, with thanks to my amazing playtesters, all of the cards work properly now!

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
What a difficult question... I'm gonna have to name a couple here:
Behind the Iron - is really well made and fun. I hope it continues to grow and get better. it's great as-is, but it also has a lot of potential.
18Write - is another simple but well polished and fun game. I look forward to exploring everything it has to offer.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments

To Idafen Santana (@tamarawa), designer of HandQuest: your game is based on Palm Island, so what are all the things you feel where missing and your game provides? In other words; what inspired you to greatly modify Palm Island?
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Sat Oct 30, 2021 8:54 pm
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Interview with Clint Ghosn, designer of Dice Drop

Today’s interview is with Clint Ghosn, whose entry Dice Drop tests your pattern making skills as you roll dice, strategically place them with power ups, and drop them onto the grid to score the most points. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
I got into board games back in 2016 when one of my friends decided to celebrate her birthday in a board game cafe. The same week, I bought Spyfall and played it with my family. I then realized it's a great way to bond with them, so I bought more and down the rabbit hole I go.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
The usual casual games such as Exploding Kittens because it proved to be effective, especially fast games with high table interaction. In addition to this, I also usually recommend different games by mechanisms; Avalon, Clank, Ticket to Ride, Stone Age, Catan. Then if I see they like the hobby, I will introduce them to big interesting games like Scythe, Blood Rage, etc.

How did you start designing games?
I've always wanted to make games because I grew up playing videogames. So when I got into the hobby whenever I play a new game, my brain starts working like how it could be rethemed, how this could be implemented in another way. But I never really designed games publicly, only variants, rethemes, and houserules. This is the first time I designed a game for public consumption.

If you've participated in this contest before, what do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first entered?
I have never participated before but now I wish I'd known that the community is very kind and welcoming and that I should have started joining years ago.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
If you are a fan of Tetris and puzzle games then Dice Drop is worth a try. In Dice Drop you will use dice and powerups to form different shapes that are worth varying points. Build combos to score more and get the highest score possible.

What makes the game interesting experience-wise is the satisfaction of doing the chain score combos as it gives you more points if you score multiple shapes in a single turn. Mechanics-wise the game uses the rubber-band effect; the more dice of the same color you have in the grid, the less chance of it being drawn from the bag. So it's a balance of building a combo for a big gain, and scoring every turn for a stable gain. Do all of this to be the number one in the high-score leaderboard.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
I think my pick would be the Drop rule. The Drop rule is to move the dice to the bottom-most empty space of a column in the grid. So in this way it will seem like the dice follows "laws of physics" or "gravity" in 2d environment. Lack of 2D physics game in the board game market (based on my experience, not research) made me want to have this in the game.

Main inspirations are Tetris (videogame), Puzzle Pirates mini-games (videogame), Potion Explosion (board game, Mobile puzzle games like Candy Crush (app).

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Balancing the scores. I wanted it to be like in the video game and I want it to be unlimited but that is not ideal in board games so I had to make the scoring simpler, as also suggested by the good people in the community.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
Deckula because of its simplicity in mechanics but well-executed combo mechanics somewhat similar to Fantasy Realms but very different as well. Also the art is fantastic and well-timed this upcoming Halloween.

Glitch Pixel because of the implementation of the multi-use cards. It is amazing how one card can function as the objective, the player card, and the AI behavior card as well.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
Chris K (Glitch Pixel) In terms of balancing the cards with regards to it being multi-use (as objective, as player card, as enemy behavior). Is it just trusting the game's system to work smoothly in random environment or there is a math behind it?
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Fri Oct 29, 2021 10:29 pm
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Interview with Roman, designer of Claw Crane Champ

Today’s interview is with Roman , whose entry Claw Crane Champ challenges your ability to rise through the ranks of a Claw Crane gang by becoming the best player in the arcades. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
I played a little pen and paper RPGs as a teenager, a little Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Risk. Then my focus shifted more towards computer games. I only opened up the wonderful world of board games for myself a few years ago. Since then I have enjoyed playing medium to complex games that are very thematic. For a year now I have also enjoyed playing solo games such as Mage Knight, Spirit Island, Robinson Crusoe, Nemos War.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
I would recommend something very thematic and maybe surprising. Something with the shortest possible rules but high fun factor. Colt Express was very well received on my rounds with newbies because there were very unusual mechanics that they did not know before. But it can also be cooperative games in which the newbies are guided. Legends of Andor, for example, are very easy to get started with. Or unusual games that show the potential of the medium. Dixit is a wonderful creative game that also convinces people who don't necessarily want to mine and use any resources or kill monsters.

How did you start designing games?
I have been working professionally as a graphic designer for a number of years. But it never appealed to me to want to design any computer games or anything like that. It didn't seem tangible to me either. It wasn't until I got deeper into the board game world two years ago and dealt intensively with game mechanics that I realized that the creative process behind game development is very similar to my workflow as a graphic designer. I can fall back on my experiences and yet have a lot of new fields that I can learn. That really appeals to me!

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
Claw Crane Champ is a dice (and worker) placement game with unique »reverse polynomial« mechanic. You gradually uncover plushy tiles and clear them from your tableau, place them on the gang cards, improve your skills and ensure a recurring flow of coins. It is a game that is visually pleasing, but also remains a challenge in terms of play. You get great satisfaction in pulling plushies out of the machine and pondering which gang member you give which plushies so that there is enough for the final boss.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
Sounds strange, but I've never liked claw machines. It always seemed very dodgy to me and I always wondered who uses the machines and whether someone really masters the machines enough to be able to pull something out without any problems. Because I've never been able to pull anything out ;-). During my YouTube »research« I came across a fascinating arcade subculture with cosplay and otaku influences. In Japan, for example, there are huge halls full of different claw machines and whole groups of arcade gangs make a pilgrimage there. There are a lot of people who are very familiar with individual claw machines and even know some tricks that only work with one or the other machine. The skill cards in my game such as Tsunami, Avalanche, Tornado are based on specific techniques that certain arcade specialists have explained in the YouTube videos. I was very enthusiastic about this wonderful shrill subculture and wanted to create a claw machine game in which you can draw a lot of plushies. A game where it just rains plushies! The game has very fun mechanics that transform the frustrating role model into a positive gaming experience.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Claw Crane Champ is a very tactile game with different components - quite ambitious for PnP. It's a game where you do a lot with your hands. Roll the dice, take tiles, clear the tableau, take and slide cards, place tokens. In a solo game, it is important to me that a game flow develops in which many processes are carried out with the hands and not just with the head, and so the game mechanics are automated and shifted to the subconscious. It was a challenge to transfer the feel of a bigger game into the PnP format. I had to think a lot about and try out how many cards, tokens etc. you really need. How much does one piece of paper fit? What can you do without? I think I managed to achieve a good balance in placing the game on as little paper as possible and still maintaining a certain opulence.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
In this year's competition I saw a lot of great unique ideas ... I find the paper folding at StrongWalls very charming and appropriate ... I like the simple elegance of Storks ... I think the name Deckula is great (best name in the competition!)

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments

I would be interested in whether the creator of Deckula had the name or the theme first?
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Wed Oct 27, 2021 12:42 pm
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Interview with Jinhee Han, designer of Dieson Crusoe

Today’s interview is with Jinhee Han, whose entry Dieson Crusoe maroons you on a dangerous island – can you use your dice to escape the island? Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
I first encountered board games when I was a child. But the real start of my board game life was six years ago. I found people to play with me from the Korea board game community, wrote game reviews on my blog, and now I'm on YouTube.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
If you want to have fun with many people (more than 5), Mahe, Las Vegas, Show Manager and Codenames. If few people (3~4), The Mind, The River, and Abracada...What?

How did you start designing games?
Having experienced hundreds of games for 6 years, I wanted to make a game with elements that I liked. But it was only at the idea level and one or two prototypes. In order to continue making the game, I now meet regularly with my friends (Heewon Kang) to discuss and test about our games.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
If you like the Robinson Crusoe theme, if you like strategic dice games, try to overcome the difficult situations this game has to offer.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
The dice rondel system is the heart of my game. It started with the idea that the value of the dice determines the effect as well as the type of action.

I didn't want a game that was decided by luck. So I made a game that gives you options to overcome luck. You have to be very careful in the order in which you use 3 dice. Not only does the dice determine the action, but it also determines the environment (weather and raid) of the next round.

You have to catch both bunnies: achieving long-term goals and surviving today. You will not survive if you think only about efficiency, you will not survive, and if you think only of your survival today, you will not win.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Writing the rules was the most difficult. Setting the rules of a game is very different from writing them down in a document that others can read and understand.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
I haven't played many games, but my favorite game is Old Town Road. Beautiful illustrations, simple components, and quick settings. I enjoyed thinking about which cards should be used in what order.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments

To the designer who create 'Old Town Road'. How did you build your early prototypes? What ideas did you test with your first prototype?
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Sat Oct 23, 2021 1:50 pm
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Interview with Alex Canon, designer of Defective

Today’s interview is with Alex Cannon, whose entry Defective is an open-world investigation adventure game, set in a world where the boundary between human and machine is beyond blurred. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
When I was growing up we always had games around the place, my dad was into board games and RPGs and my mum was into card games. Growing up as a nerd in the UK you kind of have to dabble with Warhammer, so I bought a few figures and haphazardly painted them, but actually the thing that really engaged me was reading the handbooks and trying to come up with some weird and wacky theoretical armies.

After a brief hiatus in my late teens I re-discovered board games while on a road trip with friends. We picked up Catan on the first night, and spent a long wet weekend drinking and exploring this new-to-us way to play together. I went fully down the rabbit-hole from there, and soon discovered my favourite games are all to do with puzzle, deduction, mystery and co-operation.

I started making my own games a few years later, and soon jumped into the BGG contests as a way to engage in the designer community. The Solo PnP, 9-card and Mint Tin contest all presented restrictions that challenged me to push myself. I pitched a couple of games at UKGE and had a bit of success with the ELL deck design contest last year. My aim (like many others) is to get a game published, but actually what matters more is that I'm enjoying the process of creation.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
My favourite games to suggest to people are ones that feel familiar, but have a slight twist. An easy way to expand someone's opinion on "what is possible in games." I often show people High Society, Just One and Hanabi.

How did you start designing games?
I was messing around on my lunch breaks at work, we had some note cards lying around. I decided to make a wild west standoff pistol duel, it was a bit like rock-paper-scissors but with ammo. It was terrible! I tried to play it with a friend but it ended in a stalemate - completely broken. I hope I have learned a few things since then.

If you've participated in this contest before, what do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first entered?
I wish I'd known how open and friendly the contest is. It always attracts a fantastic group of people, the quality of the community is excellent. I wouldn't have been so worried about getting started if I knew how helpful and kind people would be about my nascent early designs.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
Defective is a narrative puzzle-detective game, set in a sci-fi future where technology has been integrated into humanity. You play as an agent sent on a mission by your clandestine organization to discover the origin of a defective android. There are clues to find, people to interrogate and puzzles to solve. Throughout the game your choices open up more leads and options, and you have to navigate what the best path to investigate is, as you only have so many actions.

My goal for the game was to create an immersive experience, craft a compelling story and provide the player with a challenging mystery to solve. If you like puzzles, mysteries and escape room games I feel like this could provide an entertaining evening.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
This game really depends on thematic puzzles. I wanted to create a world where it makes sense that these challenges would be presented to you like this, to keep the story as immersive as possible. I love immersive narrative games and wanted to craft an experience around this.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Time management has been difficult this time around. The amount of writing and planning narrative choices gave me a lot more work than I really had time for during this contest. I think it's really important in a contest to identify the scope of your game, there's only a few months to make something, and it's easy to bite off more than you can chew.

It is my regret that I haven't been able to give back more into the community throughout the competition, it's my favourite part.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
I'm looking forward to trying Debugging by Janine Viglietti and mle_ - I love the look of the components and enjoy the light-hearted approach to the theme!

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
My question is for Syutarou Nagaoka (snaga2019) - What is your favourite burger?
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Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:24 pm
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Interview with Greg Love, designer of HORIZON 1

Today’s interview is with Greg Love, whose entry HORIZON 1 places you in charge of a new settlement on the planet Cerberus, providing a science fiction settlement-building game of strategy, resource management, and above all, growth and survival. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
I have always been interested in gaming, both board gaming and video gaming. However, my interest in games really took off in 2007, when I started playing a bit of RISK with friends, and things just sort of took off from there. Naturally, I started to look into other games, and once I discovered BGG, well, it was like a whole world of possibilities opened up.

I started to explore many kinds of games, but had a particular interest in war games, and games with a sci-fi theme, particularly the latter, as I’m a huge SF fan. If you want to see the games I’ve made to date, you can click here.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
Start with the classics: a bit of RISK is a good place to start. RISK seems to cop a lot of flak, for being ‘too simple’ and ‘not realistic’, which I accept, but it is a great game to start with and lots of fun to play with friends. RISK 2210AD is a great game! Of course, I would also recommend The Settlers of Catan, which is a kind of ‘gateway game’, and a Euro classic.

How did you start designing games?
Many years ago I had an idea for a game based on an espionage / cold war theme.
The key idea was that each player controlled a number of spies that they could send in to enemy territory to “challenge” enemy spies. If the challenge succeeded, you could extract Intel from the enemy spy. The Intel was actually alpha-numeric coordinates which specified where on the game board your opponent had hidden their “secrets”, e.g., B-8 means that your opponent had hidden one secret on row B, column 8 on the game map / board. By collecting this kind of Intel, over time you can build up a set of possible locations where you can search for enemy secrets. If you located a secret by searching the correct location, you could steal that enemy secret. The first player to steal all 3 enemy secrets won the game.

It was a very simple game, and I never really fully developed it, but, I’m now working on a much more sophisticated espionage / war game, which I hope to release next year. So, I guess the lesson here is that you can develop many games over your life, and maybe abandon many of them for various reasons, but, those games can sometimes inspire you to develop other games that are truly exceptional!

My other passion in life is playing and making video games. Shameless self-promotion; you can see and download for free the video games that I have made here.

If you've participated in this contest before, what do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first entered?
I think the main thing that I wish I had known when I first started was to devote a lot time to developing and playtesting a game on a regular and sustained basis. In other words, to FOCUS on working on just one game, and resist the temptation to start other projects, no matter how exciting they are. This takes self-discipline, something I usually struggle with, because if I have a brain storm about a new idea or project, I tend to get distracted by it, and shelve what I should be working on to work on the ‘new thing’.

I deal with this now by keeping a “get back to it later” notebook, where I jot down new ideas so they are not forgotten and don’t distract me. When you have finished your current project, you can open up your notebook, and start developing any of your previously noted ideas.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
The blurb for Horizon 1 on the BGG page states: Horizon 1 is a solitaire science fiction settlement-building game of strategy, resource management, and above all, growth and survival.

What makes this game interesting, for me at least, is the science-fiction theme of establishing the first human settlement on an alien planet. There are obvious references here to current real-life scientific work in developing the means to get humans to Mars safely, and ultimately, to establish a human settlement (I avoided the word ‘colony’ for its negative connotations).

It raises some interesting questions, such as: can humans survive and evolve on a hostile planet? What challenges need to be overcome? What role does technology play? How do people live, work, eat, and play? How do we deal with ecological concerns, such as population growth, resources and pollution? Horizon 1 is all about these sorts of issues, and that is what I think makes it interesting, in my opinion.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
Energy management is a central mechanic in the game.
Some buildings (termed ‘modules’ in the game), such as solar farms and geothermal energy plants, generate energy. Other modules, such as mines and refineries, consume energy. Ensuring that you have a surplus of energy (i.e., energy supply > energy demand) is essential to keeping your settlement functioning, and avoiding having to “power down” (switch off) modules to literally “keep the lights on”. I wanted to design a game with this theme in it, because I think that energy management is a fundamental problem to address in any kind of off-world human settlement.

How do you safely and reliably generate energy while minimising pollution? How do you consume that energy?

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
I think that developing the technology cards was the most challenging aspect of the game. I had to answer some fundamental questions to do this, such as; what role does tech play in a human settlement? What are the major fields of tech to include in the game? How are they researched? How do I balance the ‘power’ (usefulness) of each tech?

Initially, I had 4 fields to choose from in researching technologies: Agricultural, Engineering, Medical, and Military. I decided to drop the Military techs (used to fight alien attacks), as it presented too many problems, and just keep the Agricultural, Engineering, and Medical research areas / domains.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
I think that Interplanetary by Elias Heydrich looks the most interesting to me, because….space! Behind The Iron by Kyle Jarratt also looks great. I love the cold war theme. Good to see another Aussie besides myself in the contest, too.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
I don’t have any particular questions for other designers, but wish ALL of them the best of luck!
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Mon Oct 18, 2021 8:52 am
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Interview with Arthur Wohlwill, designer of Guitar Solo

Today’s interview is with Arthur Wohlwill, whose entry Guitar Solo challenges your ability to put the best band together, finding the best path through the cards to mix values and suits, and using either the game’s cards or a standard 52 card deck. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
I was raised on Scrabble and played many games like Avalon Hill 3M games when I was a teen. But I kind of dropped them until my 40's when a friend ran a game night.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
Kingdomino, Sunset Over Water, Parks. They are fairly simple and the objectives make sense in that you can imagine yourself doing these things.

How did you start designing games?
I did a little when I was a kid. They were abstract strategy games. When I got back into gaming later, I found a few others that were interested in our local game night so I designed with them.

If you've participated in this contest before, what do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first entered?
PNP players consider making games a craft. One of the video reviewers liked my game, but she did not like the fact that it was in B+W and that the backs were blanks, Also, I needed to make the scoring simpler.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
It is short, relatively simple and you can play it with a deck of cards. People like music. They seem to like the challenge of figuring out the best path to take.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
The basic mechanic is that on your turn you can go as far as you want, but each step costs you time and time is limited. I like spatial puzzles and I like game in which you start with a limited resource and need to optimize what you do with that resource.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
Finding scoring conditions which were not too easy, nor too difficult.

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
Tacmento and Rolling Apartments have the spatial challenges I enjoy. There were a lot of others that were close.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
Janine Viglietti: Between Rolling Apartments and Village Builder, which was your favorite and why?
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Fri Oct 15, 2021 8:40 am
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Interview with Elias Heydrich, designer of Interplanetary

Today’s interview is with Elias Heydrich, whose entry Interplanetary puts you in charge of the space program of astronaut squirrels, building probes, spacecraft and research stations to discover the final frontier. Enjoy the interview, and please head over to their WIP thread to check out the game and show them some love.


Could you talk about your gaming history? How did you get into board games?
As a child in the Kindergarten, never stopped since. My usual wishes for Christmas included the Spiel des Jahres for about a decade, so I had quite the collection before I was 15. At that time, my friends and I started to do board game nights (including the actual night) and when I was 20, my gaming horizon expanded into the international, getting exposed to ameritrash and other styles.

A friend who's never played board games before asks you for advice on what to play. What starter games do you suggest to help them love the hobby?
Hanabi, The Crew, Elfenland Andor, The Lord of the Rings, Dominion.

How did you start designing games?
Actually, pretty much as a child too, coming up with (terrible) card games and the whatnot. However, I have only started to re-embrace boardgame design in recent years, the decades before that were video game design only. I was very active in the modding scene for various video games (including Warcraft III and Freespace 2) and since I am a software engineer by trade, development of interactive things is second nature.

Tell us about your game: why should we play it? What makes it interesting?
It is a complicated and demanding puzzle while still respecting the player's time investment. This is an evening-filling game, taking 1.5h to 2.5h, and that is very important to the theme. You are in charge of an entire planet's space program and your goal is to lead everybody to the stars, that is not achieved in 20 minutes. If you are interested in an "epic" game with very few random elements and are not afraid of a little barrier of entry, this is the game for you.

Also, the entire game is driven by you! No turns, no AI opponent, no random event deck, no automata upkeep. Space travel is challenging enough as it is.

Pick a theme or mechanic that's crucial to your game. What made you want to design a game with this in it?
Rocket Fuel Management, although the reason behind that is super-simple: It comes with the theme, since that is an absolutely essential thing in space exploration. The concept of the rocket equation is not usually not featured in board games but no pseudo-realistic approach to space travel is complete without it.

Oversimplifying things: The bigger your rocket, the harder it is too move.

What have you found most challenging when designing this game?
The sheer size and scale of the undertaking, including its balancing... It is incredibly hard to find the sweet spot, especially since you want to reward immersive tactics (like sending probes to other worlds) while preventing the emergence of a dominant strategy. Since the game is long, iteration cycles are longer and feedback is sparser.

And, then there is the elephant in the room: While I have been very upfront and open about the weight-class this game resides in, explaining a game of this complexity to another person is still one hell of a barrier-of-entry. The rulebook is pretty much 30 pages, which already scares a large portion of the audience away. Still, this is my most successful contest-game thus far, considering the metrics available. So I probably managed to overcome this challenge at least for a small part of the potential audience....

Other than your own, which game in this year’s contest is most interesting to you, and why?
Defective - A Future Dystopia Crime Game sounds great. I have a particular fascination with detective games ever since Cluedo (a deeply flawed game). By that I mean an experience in which one has to make actual logical reasoning. I have not played it yet and but surely will once I got the time.

Ask a question for another designer of your choice in this contest. We'll try to get that designer to reply in the comments
'All Is Bomb' by Blaž Gracar: What the hell is up with that title?



Editor's note: to hear more from Elias, head over to AD's Board Games channel on YouTube, where Elias talked extensively about his experience of designing Interplanetary, love for designer diaries, and design approach.

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Wed Oct 13, 2021 8:47 am
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