The minds behind Three Kingdoms Redux and Race for the Chinese Zodiac were kind enough to answer some questions for Cardboard Fire. I became familiar with Three Kingdoms Redux when it was a finalist for Heavy Cardboard's Golden Elephant award. The design team reveals they also have some new stuff in the works.
1. I really like Three Kingdoms Redux. Was that your first game? How long did it take to develop?
Yes, Three Kingdoms Redux was our first board game design. It took us roughly 4.5 years from idea conception all the way to publication. If you are referring just to completing the game design without the artwork and manufacturing, then it is roughly 3.5 years. There is some overlap in various processes, e.g. we were still in the last bits of playtesting when artwork started.
2. Both of your games have Ray Toh as the artist. How did you come to work with him?
We embarked on a lengthy search for suitable artists from Singapore when looking for a suitable artist for our first game design. We narrowed down to a short list of possibilities and then approached them. Some turned us down, while others sent us samples, which style we did not feel was suitable for our first game. We eventually found Ray Toh.
More details can be found in the following two geeklist items:
3. Each board game usually presents its own challenges to develop. Did you find one of your games to be more difficult than the other?
You are certainly right in saying that each board game presents its own challenges. When starting out on the second game design, we were half-expecting to have an easier time with it, since we had aimed for a shorter and lighter game and already had the experience of the first game design. This expectation was not met and it took us a long time to come up with a refreshing idea for the main game mechanic for the second game.
For Three Kingdoms Redux, the main challenge was balancing every single card (general and state enhancement). We sort of settled on the main game mechanics quite early on in the entire process and most of the time was spent on balancing the cards.
For Race for the Chinese Zodiac, the main challenge was coming up with a new idea for the main game mechanic. That took us more than a year. Once we had that, the rest of the playtesting went reasonably smoothly, as we were mainly trying to balance the various animal signs' special abilities.
4. Do you have any games you are working on now?
We are very slow game designers. This is due largely to our day jobs. Nonetheless, we are indeed working on two ideas now. One of them has entered very early stage playtesting but we are still not sure if the main game mechanic for it will be able to stand on its own. The other idea is still at early stage idea conception, so there is nothing much concrete for this yet.
5. What is your favorite comment or review you have heard about one of your games?
While we are appreciative of the effort put in by board game reviewers for the board game reviews of our two game designs, written or videoed, we are most grateful to those that did so after multiple plays of our games.
Reviews after multiple plays are more likely to touch on the subtle naunces in the designs and we get quite excited when a particular reviewer points it out or discusses them. Examples include, for Three Kingdoms Redux, the difficulty of gauging the “pace” of stationing generals to border locations and the different possible “uses” of the alliance action space, and for Race for the Chinese Zodiac, the potential benefit of intentionally outbidding an opponent for an action space with lesser reward instead of going for the more obvious action space with greater reward.
You may also want to point your readers to our geeklists, which describes in greater detail our design experiences:
It is always interesting to me when designers write about their experiences in getting their games made. I'm looking forward to their new games getting published and reading the articles linked in their entirety. Thanks for reading, and feel free to subscribe and/or leave a comment. Happy gaming!
Interviews with designers, artists, and other prominent members of the board game community.
Archive for Gary Sweatt
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28 Dec 2020
Ken Hill of Rio Grande Games was kind enough to take some time out during the holiday schedule to answer some questions for Cardboard Fire. He says there are a couple of games coming up that sound pretty exciting, so if you're looking for anything new, give them a look.
1. How did you get into board gaming?
I always enjoyed playing games as a child. When I was about 13, I had a friend who introduced me to the old The Avalon Hill Game Co titles like Blitzkrieg and 1776: The Game of the American Revolutionary War. From there, I started playing D&D (this was in the ’70s before D&D was a big thing) and met more gamers. It has been my main hobby ever since.
2. How did you become involved with Rio Grande?
I knew Jay Tummelson (the founder of Rio Grande) from his days at Mayfair Games. When he showed up with his first Rio Grande games in the demo rooms at Origins in the late ’90s, I asked him if he wanted some help to teach his games. He said “sure,” and I spent the entire convention teaching people his games. I became his main demo person at Origins and later started at Gencon. It just grew organically from there. It began as just Jay and I. We now have a staff of over 30 people who organize and run the demo rooms at Gencon, Origins, and BGG.Con.
During that time, I would help listen to game pitches at conventions and did some development work on a few games. About three years ago, I was ready to move on from my corporate job. So, I asked Jay if he wanted help with product management and development. He agreed, and I’ve been doing this now for more than two years. This past year, I've been doing more on the marketing side as well.
3. About what upcoming release are you most excited about?
We have so much great stuff in the pipeline. We just finished work on a deck-builder with an economic element that I think will be great. There is another big space game coming in 2021 that has been in development for about four years. There are several smaller games too.
4. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
Frankly, my favorite game right now is Beyond the Sun. I worked with the designer on it for several months before we finalized things, and I never get tired of playing it. I rarely get a chance to play the finished games once they come out because my testers are usually sick of them, but they will play BtS anytime I ask.
For designers, I am a big fan of Simone Luciani. He does some great stuff and Lorenzo il Magnifico is a top 10 game for me. I am always excited to play anything that Vladimír Suchý designs (and not just because we are one of their partners at Delicious Games.) I would include other designers on my must-buy list: Thomas Lehmann, Steffen Benndorf, Rüdiger Dorn, and Dirk Henn. And, the genius of Karl-Heinz Schmiel and Vlaada Chvátil can not be overstated.
5. Once a designer and artist are finished with a game, how long until it hits the shelf?
It depends on how you measure it. A game is “finished” when the rules and all of the elements are complete. We submit the work to the factory, and there is an approval process to go through. Once that is complete, the production date is fixed, and you must wait.
Production lead times are getting longer and longer. Two years ago, when I started, it would be about 3-4 weeks. Now, it is 3-6 months, depending on the printer.
You didn’t ask this, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. By far, the most difficult part of any game production is the rule book. We spend weeks working on the rules to even a simple game. For a complex game, this can take months. It is not a fun process, but it is critical. If you pick up a game and it has a good set of rules, it didn't happen by accident. It came from a lot of hard work.
Special thanks to Mr. Hill for the information. I am glad he added in the bit about the rulebooks, as that is certainly interesting. I am unfamiliar with a couple of the designers he mentioned, so now I need to check out their stuff. Please be sure to comment and check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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13 Dec 2020
Game designer Thiago Boaventura was kind enough to answer some questions for Cardboard Fire. Fortunately for us gamers, he has more projects in the works!
1. Do you have any new games you are developing?
Yes! I have a couple games that might be coming out in the next few years, co-authored with a friend. One of them, we signed the contract in 2018 and we expected it to be released this year, but the pandemic postponed our plans to next year, probably. It's about extraterrestrials. I can't give away too many details, but I can guarantee it is a game with an unusual style of strategy. The second one, we are currently finishing up some final details, after three years of developing - and, by the way, we are looking for partners (it could be you reading this, publisher, get in touch lol). It is a medium-heavy management game that takes place behind the spotlights of Hollywood (the film industry)
2. The Capitals is a fantastic game. Will it ever be reprinted?
Thanks, I appreciate it! I really like it until this day. If it were up to me, it would already have been reprinted, but, for contractual reasons, I believe that I'll have to keep these plans in mind until after 2023.
3. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
Sure! I can name a few games like Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, Agricola, Orléans, Great Western Trail, Grand Austria Hotel, Imperial, El Grande... I prefer strategy games, as you may have noticed! I don't have a favorite designer though.
4. The Capitals was a fairly heavy game (2013 Golden Elephant finalist) compared to Meeple Heist, which is lighter. Was one harder to design than the other?
I didn't feel much of a difference between the two. Meeple Heist, though lighter, was a project developed in co-authorship, which creates a certain difficulty in reconciling design decisions. Also, because it is extremely different from other games on the market, the lack of references made it necessary to burn enough brain cells rounding out the mechanics.
5. Talk more about the Meeple Heist. How was the launch?
It was a little troubled and restricted to Brazil. It was planned to be released by a company, but it was shut down, which delayed the process. There was also a controversial marketing campaign, which many considered to be in bad taste. Despite this, a great Brazilian company eventually bought the rights and released it. Now the contract is almost up and we are thinking about what to do. I have some ideas that I would like to put into practice, but I don't know when it will be possible.
6. Do you come up with the theme or the mechanisms first for the game? Are there any themes you would like to cover, but have not yet?
A theme would usually appear alongside an idea for the main mechanics. In “The Capitals”, for example, I knew I wanted to create something in a "Sim City"-style, each player building their own city. And that there should be a draft, tile placement, and special powers in different buildings.
And yes, I would love to design a game about time travel or a lawyer-themed one, but I haven't thought it through yet. Being a designer is a very complex process and I engage in several other professional activities at the same time. So, everything happens slowly (but it does happen in the end!).
Thank you very much, Mr. Boaventura! I love The Capitals (and am playing it today), but now I need to hunt down a copy of Meeple Heist to try. Please feel free to comment and check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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08 Dec 2020
Mark K. Swanson's first venture into board game design was a mammoth called Feudum. He has since designed and released several expansions and promos for it. He took some time to provide some insights in an interview for us.
1. Feudum is a beast of a game. How long did it take to develop?
Feudum took around 5 years to develop. This includes designing, prototyping, and playtesting. The playtesting alone took a year because I collected lots of data to help balance the game, allow for multiple paths to victory and reduce the chances of the masses “breaking” it after release. Even when the game was ready, I did not launch it on Kickstarter until I had built a reasonable amount of community on BGG and social media channels. As a new designer, I had to work a little harder to build up my brand and make board game influencers aware of what I was doing.
2. What is the next project you're doing? Developing another game? More Feudum expansions?
I am hard at work on a worker placement game! And, I’m far enough along that I’ve engaged my same artist, Justin Schultz! I can’t reveal too much, but I will say that the game takes place in the late 1800s in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. So, in that’s sense it’s a departure from fantasy… but, it will still feature the same character whimsey. Like Feudum it will feature resource management, and a working, cyclical economy and variable player roles and powers.
3. How did you get into board gaming?
Well, I grew up on Fantasy Adventure novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, David Eddings, Piers Anthony… so I’ve always loved scifi, fantasy adventure and Medieval worlds—where anything could happen! And I’ve always loved board games …but it wasn’t until the late 90s when I discovered Eurostyle games! I immediately fell in love with titles like Puerto Rico, Tigris & Euphrates, Power Grid, El Grande, Taj Mahal, Ra—many, many games. And I got hooked!
4. Do you have any favorite designers or games?
Games are like novels in a way. The more you play them, the more you are drawn to specific game authors and particular kinds of mechanics! I found myself gravitating to games by Reiner Knizia, Martin Wallace, and Uwe Rosenberg….and particular game mechanics like Area Control or Action Programming and worker placement.
5. What is your favorite thing anyone has said about Feudum?
The Secret Cabal said, “This game gets me jumping out of my pants.” That was probably the most humorous thing said. The Undead Viking’s said the game was “Absolutely Fantastic,” and said many wonderful things in his review, which was summarized here:
And then there was this really fun review on Board Game Geek: “A rare and rigorously raving review in which I deliciously describe a dollop of devilish details and boisterously broad brush strokes about a board game whose magnanimous moments and mechanics merit my wonderfully well-informed and winsomely witty words"
6. What upcoming game are you most excited to play?
Praga Caput Regni intrigues me. Whistle Mountain looks fun. Nusfjord too. I’m just now getting around to playing A Feast for Odin, so I still have some catching up to do, haha. I think it’s important to dive into the classics too. For me, replay value is important, and some games really stand the test of time. The games that come to mind are Russian Railroads, Goa, Village, Terra Mystica, Caverna: The Cave Farmers, Puerto Rico, Caylus, El Grande. RA, and The Voyages of Marco Polo to name a few.
Well, hopefully Feudum stands the test of time as well. Thanks again for taking the time to interview. I will definitely keep an eye out for your new worker placement game.
Please feel free to comment and/or check out any of the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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05 Dec 2020
Kai Jensen has been around board games for a long time. She has been involved in the development and design of several games, including Dominant Species, which is one of my all-time favorites. She was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for Cardboard Fire about her experiences and development of her gaming projects.
1. You have been a developer for a lot of games. How did you get into that?
My late husband, Chad Jensen, was a game designer from about the age of eleven (although he didn't get published until much later). When we started dating, he found out that I love writing and proofreading, and enjoy collaborating on projects. He already knew I loved board gaming as that was how we met - at a weekend mini-convention at my house when a friend of mine brought him along for the day.
It was a natural fit for us to work as a team so I learned from him what was required of a developer as he had been doing his own development work on his designs for some time. That freed up his time to move on to the next project, so it was a very efficient way for us to work.
Shortly before Chad got sick, I also transitioned into rules writing. I had the benefit of his teaching and input on several projects for other designers as I learned that craft. I continue to do rules writing for other designers these days and it makes me feel connected to him still. He had great skill at it and I try to live up to that standard.
2. You designed King's Critters. Where did you get the idea for that? Did you come up with the theme or mechanisms first?
King's Critters came out of a homework assignment from Chad. On my first development project, I kept asking if we could "just make a little change" to some things to tighten up the game play. Chad challenged me to create a game, keeping it simple, so I would see the cascade effect of one "little change".
I thought of the theme first. I went with a game for little kids, thinking that I would have to keep it simple that way. So I thought of what I liked at that age and went with crazy fantasy animals, a kingdom in need, a quest, and a dragon.
The ideas flowed from there. Once I had the dragon, I knew she had taken the critters to her lair and that gave me the game board. Then I had to let our heroes move around and that gave me the cards. Something had to alert the dragon that her cave was being raided and the two-sided cards came from that and so on until all the basic parts where there.
Once I had all the basics in place, it was a matter of balancing play so neither the heroes nor the dragon were too strong - allowing a tension in the game play. That's where the "cascade of changes" lesson was learned. You change one little thing and it affects three other things that now need to be altered. Those three changes affect another eight things and, the next thing you know, you have drastically altered the whole game.
Doing the design work on my simple kiddie game gave me a new level of insight into the development job. It was well worth the homework and the kids (and adults) in our family have loved that game ever since.
3. Do you want to create another game? Do you have any ideas floating around?
I would like to try another game design eventually. I have had a few ideas over the years but never took the time to flesh anything out beyond scribbling down some basic notes.
I always gave priority to Chad's projects and I truly loved working with him on his games. Watching him go through the process and trying to follow where his mind went was always tough and lots of fun. That guy was wicked smart! We would run what he called "thought experiments" as he was pulling mechanics together for game. He would describe the game situation he was struggling with, give me a framework of how the mechanic might work, then we would mentally push the pieces around and see what happened and what fell apart. The experiments were mentally challenging and we would both offer up dozens and dozens of ideas that didn't work, trying to find the key to the one that would. I learned not to fear failure by working through that process as some failures can lead to the success you seek.
Wow - that was a long-winded way of saying "Yes, and I have some ideas that I haven't gotten to yet because..." LOL
I am also still involved in the final development work on Chad's last game designs. I wrote the examples for Dominant Species: Marine which would normally have fallen to him. I wrapped up final art approval on that for him as well, although he did get to see the early art that came in. And there are a few other designs that were in progress that I would like to finish up and have published if I can get them completed.
4. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
Besides Chad and his work? Of course! After that, in no particular order: Martin Wallace, Uwe Rosenberg, Dirk Henn, John H. Butterfield, Stefan Feld, Mark Herman, Mark Simonitch, Salvatore Vasta, Steve Kosakowski, Richard Garfield, Joel Toppen, Rick Young, Paul Dennen... the list goes on and on.
I love Euros, wargames, card-driven games, Magic: The Gathering... I am kind of all over the place.
5. Will you be hitting any conventions once they start again?
Definitely! My favorites, year after year, are ConSimWorld Expo and the GMT West weekends. We used to attend PacifiCon, ConQuest... I am drawing a blank on other names... but the West Coast conventions that fall on the long holiday weekends were always fun and I would love to get back to those, too.
6. Two of the games you helped develop, Urban Sprawl and Welcome to Centerville, have recently been added to my collection. Which of those do you like best? I’ll play that one first.
Oooh, tough call! I think Chad was starting to hit his stride with his designs and every game was an improvement over what he had done before. So, for that reason, I would say Welcome to Centerville.
Quick story about Urban Sprawl: We had finished Urban Sprawl and Dominant Species about the same time and GMT had to decide which one to put on pre-order first. Chad and I, along with the principles from GMT, spent a long weekend going back and forth between the two as we were all in love with both and felt they were equally strong. We eventually decided on Dominant Species and Urban Sprawl has always felt to me like it was pushed out of the limelight somehow.
When you get around to playing Urban Sprawl, I hope you give it some love!
It was definitely cool to here Kai's stories about learning the cascade effect in designing and how Dominant Species and Urban Sprawl were so closely linked. Thank you all for reading and please feel free to comment and check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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05 Nov 2020
It would be very difficult for me to try to narrow my favorite games down to a top five, but I can guarantee that if I did, Krzysztof Matusik's Craftsmen would be on it. Mr. Matusik was kind enough to spend some time answering questions for Cardboard Fire, even though he has several projects in the works.
1. When you design a game, do you usually think of a theme first, or do you come up with the mechanisms and add the them after?
A: To be honest I don’t know. There is no particular rule for that. Sometimes I want to make game about something and sometimes I have some mechanic idea I want to put in life.
2. Craftsmen is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favorite games ever. What is your favorite game that you have designed?
A: I like Craftsmen a lot and I it has special place in my collection. But I have two of my games that I like the most: Black & White and Cargotrain. But I’m afraid that after release of Age of Trains it will be my favorite.
3. Age of Trains is scheduled for release next year. What other projects do you have in the works?
A: I’m usually working on few projects simultaneously. Right now there are four titles on the design table: Age of Trains – heavy train game you knoe something about it, Urban Madness – city building with clever option to adjust the complexity of the game to your needs, it can be just family game or brain burner, Ar’andia – it’s hard to classify this game It’s about creating the land and populate it with workers and delivering goods to the towns, and Lord Malum – cooperative fantasy adventure game.
And still I’m trying to work on Craftsmen 2ed.
4. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
A: Of course I have. I love to play in all sorts of games. But I have my favorite 5: (in alphabetical order) Bora Bora, Caylus, Hansa, Seasons, and Steam. And my favorite designer is Michael Schacht. The elegance of his mechanics are outstanding.
5. What is your favorite thing a fan has ever told you about a game of yours?
A: I play a lot with other players during convensions and fairs. I like to hear what people are thinking about my games. Very often I’m playing without reveal my personality. When players don’t know I’m the author they are more honest And the favorite thing I heard from the player was: “I think in the future somebody will say about our game: It’s classic Matusik. You know like Bora Bora it’s classic Feld” It was very nice to hear.
I have several closing thoughts on this one. First, very clever to play games with people and not tell them you are the designer. Secondly, cool to hear there may be a second edition of Craftsmen happening. Lastly, I am going to have to check out Age of Trains when it hits the shelves.
Please be sure to comment and/or check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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14 Oct 2020
Stephen Baker has loads of games to his credit and was kind enough to answer some questions for Cardboard Fire. He covers his career in gaming and even drops in another reason to be excited about the upcoming HeroQuest release.
1. How did you first get into board games? Also, how did you get into designing them?
As a young boy I always loved games, history and toy soldiers. My friends and I would play loosely structured stand’em up knock’em down type games. However, I painted my soldiers and this rough play would chip the paint, so I made up some very simple rules. These covered how you would move, what range different weapons had and how combat was resolved. This was all very, very simple. My dad then saw a book at the library called, “The Wargame” by Charles Grant. He brought it home, as he thought I would be interested. That book changed everything. It was 1973 and I was nine years old.
Grant’s book was one of the classic wargaming publications of the late 60’s early 70’s. Along with other works such as Donald Featherstone’s, “War Games’. These books opened my eyes to tabletop battles. They inspired me to collect armies and build the terrain that created the battlefields over which they would fight. The authors would often describe the historical realities around troop organization, troop movements, tactics and weaponry. They then walked through their thought process for how this would all be adapted based on ground scale, troop ratios and game time to create the simple rules. What fascinated me was how something could be interpreted into a spectacular experience that was in some way a simulation of real events. I began designing my own games. I would design games based on anything that interested me and anything for which I had cool pieces.
My interest then brought me to some of the early The Avalon Hill Game Co games. One of my first was 1776: The Game of the American Revolutionary War. Again, I was fascinated by how an entire conflict was modelled into a game. The game captured some of the key military challenges faced by both sides. I still have that game, along with all the status notes from games that my friends and I could not finish in one session. We would write down where everything was and then pick the game up another day. I loved those games but always felt they lacked the visual appeal and grandeur of tabletop games.
2. Do you have any favorite designers or games?
Yes, many. With regards to favorite games it depends on the play scenario. There are games I love to play with my family, games I like to play in a mixed crowd and then there are those games I like to play with other gamers or wargamers. However, that being said one game I always enjoy for its simplicity and tactile quality is Napoléon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815. This was originally published by Avalon Hill and is now available by Columbia Games. What I like about it is how it captures at a very high level the essence of army maneuvering. How you have to think through the routes of march. How your troop compositions are unknown to your enemy. There is plenty of opportunity for bluff, delaying actions and probing all while trying to make sure you have the best strategic advantage once the main battle is joined. As to favorite designers, I am a big fan of Richard Borg. He is a man after my own heart, and I love his games for their ease of play and visual appeal. His Game: Commands & Colors range and Memoir '44 are always go-to favorites.
3. When you are working on a game, do you usually pick a theme first and design a game around it, or start with the mechanisms and then find a theme that fits the game?
It depends. As a professional designer I am often presented with the theme by my client. Sometimes I will also be given a mechanism around which a game needs to be developed. Generally, though I start with two questions, “Who am I designing for?” and “What experience am I trying to deliver?” While I have designed abstract games, I am much more comfortable when there is a narrative involved. A narrative always helps to focus the design. Narratives create certain player expectations, and this helps me understand the experience they seek.
4. How did HeroQuest being reprinted come about? Are there any changes between the upcoming release and the original?
While I can’t comment in-depth on the relaunch, I do think the design team did a great job giving the game a more contemporary refresh while still staying true to the classic elements fans know and love. As far as my involvement, Hasbro did approach me to write a bonus Quest Book for one of the stretch goals, which I enjoyed very much. It was recently unlocked when the HasLab campaign reached $2M and is called Prophecy of Telor.
5. Do you ever go to any board game conventions such as Origins or GenCon?
The work I was doing during my last few years at Hasbro was more focused on the operational side of the business. There was no need for me to go to conventions. When I was part of the games team, I would attend these regularly. Having started my own business in September of 2019 I did go to Essen last October. It was great to be there again after a gap of several years, it has always been one of my favorite
6. What do you do when you aren't playing or designing games?
I like to challenge myself with creative learning. I read on game design, modelling, illustration, and creative thinking. I am always looking to grow my creative skills as this allows me to be more effective when developing and prototyping games. Whatever I do I am always only one-step away from another idea.
If you're excited for the HeroQuest reprint, feel free to drop a comment. Also, please check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews! Cheers.
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02 Oct 2020
Alex Cheng is the brains behind Giga-Robo!. His Kickstarter hit a plethora of roadblocks. Some felt like they were out of a bad sitcom, but he should be commended for the communication in his campaign. After playing the game, I can say the wait was worth it.
1. Giga-Robo! was a test of perseverance. You hit a lot of bumps, but that Kickstarter had the best communication of any I’ve witnessed. What was the biggest headache along the way?
Thank you so much! I'm always happy to hear that the transparency was appreciated.
Oy vey, there's such a rich bounty of headaches to choose from. The entire road from pre-production, to manufacturing, to logistics, to fulfillment has been bumpy-defined. That said, I feel that the biggest one (or at least the most recent one) was getting everything into the hands of Amazon for US fulfillment. After waiting so long to finally get the stock, multiple pallets mysteriously went missing after being confirmed as received and shipped by the logistics company. Then once Amazon received the partial shipment, they lost or damaged multiple pallets more. This took most of this year to resolve, with both entities finger-pointing, denying culpability, admitting culpability, and then refusing to fully reimburse. And then Amazon started independently selling games they damaged, lying that they were "Used", so there's that as well.
2. What is your next project? Another expansion or a new game?
There are 2 projects being developed simultaneously that are an expansion and a new game. The first is Giga-Robo Vs. Giga-Kaiju, which is being planned as a standalone expansion that will introduce massive Kaiju characters into Giga-Robo. The kaiju play very differently than the pilot + robot combinations currently in Giga-Robo but their mechanics are still 100% justified by their theme, including an incentive to destroy the city you're dueling in. The other is a grimdark miniature skirmish game called Grave Trigger, that's a collaboration between myself and fellow independent designer William Lewis Cox. It's a really exciting project. There's no dice or need for tape measures, and it plays unlike any other skirmish game currently on the market.
3. How did you get into designing board games?
I got into game design to create the game I always wanted to play. I adore the Super Robot genre, and before designing Giga-Robo I didn't see any iteration of the genre in either tabletop games or video games that had what I considered to be ludonarrative harmony. There were plenty of enjoyable games that took inspiration from the genre, or used licensed characters from it, but they were always stretched across designs that didn't embrace what made it unique. So I created a list of essential Super Robot design goals, with the aim of allowing the recreation of virtually anything that could be seen in a Super Robot anime. I began studying what I felt worked and didn't work from other available games, and started Giga-Robo.
4. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
My favorite games are ones that allow personalization and a sense of ownership, which has naturally drawn me towards CCGs, miniature games, and RPGs. Magic: The Gathering (especially Commander), Infinity, and Arena Rex are favorites of mine. As for RPGs, recently I've been especially enjoying Mothership and the beta for Kieron Gillen's DIE. I tend to flow between my fandom of board games, but the original Heroquest showed me what board games could be when I was a kid, and will always hold a special place in my heart.
5. I am sure you have gotten lots of great feedback. Does anything stand out as the coolest thing a fan has said about your game?
A fan reached out to me and told me that playing Giga-Robo with their son during quarantine had brought them closer together. Playing the game had eased their anxiety about the state of the world, and it had truly helped during such a bleak time. I'm not going to mince words—the journey to bring Giga to the world has been emotionally brutal. But receiving that feedback made everything feel like it was worth it.
6. What yet-to-be-released game are you most excited about?
I have no idea what the gameplay will be like, but the VOTOMS-esque miniatures and nostalgia-drenched art for Eisenfront have me very excited for its potential. I'm also eagerly awaiting the release, and impending mecha campaign play, of Ash Barker's Gamma Wolves: A Game of Post-Apocalyptic Mecha Warfare. So I guess after years of fighting to bring a colorful, over-the-top Super Robot game to the world, I'm most excited to play in the dark and gritty Real Robot genre?
Very cool story in response to question five. I will be excited to check out Alex's next projects. For those of you that were in on the Kickstarter, what do you think felt like the biggest hurdle as a reader? Amazon selling the games is nuts. I would love to know if there was any legal recourse for that.
Please check out Cardboard Fire's other interviews and feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!
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27 Sep 2020
Brigette Indelicato has over a dozen credits on BGG with more on the way. Here she tells us about her work and her take on conventions. You can check out more of her work at www.brigetteidesign.com.
1. How did you get started doing artwork? How about for board games specifically?
I've been interested in art since childhood, but got particularly excited about graphic design after taking some design classes in high school. I love the creative problem solving aspect of it, and figuring out the most effective visual solution. I decided to major in Graphic Design and got my degree from a small art college in Philadelphia and have been here since. I've held a myriad of graphic design positions since graduating: at a wedding invitation studio, a science museum, a financial services company, and now as an independent business owner / designer / art director.
After getting into playing board games about 7 years ago, some friends and I were inspired to create our own storytelling card game, called Game: The Plot Thickens. I really enjoyed creating all the graphic design for the game – logo, packaging, cards, web graphics – and it occurred to me that anyone publishing games would be in need of graphic design services. I made some great connections and industry friends through working on our game, and took on more and more game-related freelance jobs through that growing network. Eventually I grew my client list enough that I could quit my graphic design day job, and took the leap into freelance life about a year and a half ago. I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to work in a field that I feel personally invested in, and have this much fun with!
2. Do you have a favorite game for which you've done the art? My favorite in your catalog is War Chest. I've played it so many times that I lost count long ago.
War Chest is definitely the game I've worked on that gets to my table most often! It has such great replayability, and always feels fresh with different units to try. It was one of my favorites to work on as well - Alderac Entertainment Group is a great publisher to work with and I was able to be a part of the development of the style and visual approach from the beginning. I also enjoyed playing a prototype of Dice Miner several times before working on the graphic design for it, I'm excited to get my copy and be able to play it again.
3. What other projects do you have coming up?
I am working on the graphic design for Votes for Women from Fort Circle Games, which just funded on Kickstarter and has been a really neat project to be a part of. I'm excited to continue developing the final graphics for it - the style is a modern take on the iconic printed material, posters, and button designs of the era.
4. Were you already a Star Trek fan before working on Star Trek: Galactic Enterprises?
Yes! I was thrilled and nervous for the opportunity to work on a Star Trek game, and especially excited about the Deep Space 9 theme since that series is one of my favorites. While I was graphic designing the tiny gold-plated latinum punchboard tokens I definitely had a "I really get to do this for my job?" kind of moment.
5. Have you been to any board game conventions? If we see you at one, what are we likely to catch you playing?
I love going to conventions. I'm very much an extrovert, so getting to connect with so many people in the industry and see what everyone is working on is always very inspiring and energizing for me. (I am sorely missing that during pandemic times, for sure.) In recent years I've been going to Gen Con, Pax Unplugged, and UnPub each year, but I hope to get to Origins and SHUX eventually as well. I love puzzle / logic type games like Tiny Towns, Sagrada, Meeple Party, and more recently Calico, so you'd probably find me trying out anything new in that category I might come across.
Thanks so much to Brigette for taking the time to answer these! Do you have any favorite games Brigette has done? Say so in the comments. Also, please check out the other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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18 Sep 2020
Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro from What's Your Game? gave some great responses to Cardboard Fire's questions. He has had his hand in designing some great games, such as Panamax and Nippon.
1. Several games you've designed or co-designed have been nominated for, or won, awards. Can you tell when you're in the design process that you have a potential hit on your hands, or is it always a surprise?
Great question, I would be lying if I said it's always a surprise, it is not. We work very hard to create something good, original, and after years of development when it is finally published we are confident to have a good product. That said, I tend to panic after initial reviews, the day before Essen is a nightmare and I'm constantly doubting myself... So the confident professional me is not surprised, the (dominant) kid in the first day of school me is always astonished when someone likes or honors my work. Makes sense?
2. When you are designing games, do you usually start with a theme and build a game around it, or do you start to put mechanisms together and theme the game later?
Theme first, I love the research process, the story/history gives you so many clues, directions and even mechanics. Even if the final game has nothing to do with what you started with, the original kick, the motivation and structure always originates from the theme and original research process.
3. One of your award-winners, Madeira, has a collector's edition coming out (Madeira Collector's Edition). What can you say about it? I am very much looking forward to getting it.
Not much, all the production process stopped with the pandemic, it should have been delivered by now for backers to enjoy... We are working very hard to have it ready (with no corners cut) as soon as possible.
The game brings a set of brand new expansions that were a blast to develop, the components and extras were thought not only to be premium, but to add to the game experience, so I hope everyone enjoys the "new" Madeira.
4. There is a lot of buzz about Brasil. I know it has been pushed back a bit, but can you talk about the big box line for What's Your Game? What is in store for Brasil and future games in the line?
Brasil and other projects we had in the making suffered delays as backlash of the pandemic. We are still aiming to go back to them and finish the late development. The concept behind the game is quite different, but the game style/height is very similar to our games published by What's Your Game. The research process was super interesting, we got a lot of ideas and ended up with after a long development with a pretty massive prototype. Looking forward to go back to it, is one of those projects I just loved since the beginning.
5. Do you have any favorite games or designers?
I do, Martin Wallace, Mac Gerdts and Michael Schacht... designers and friends. As for games I do love Brass: Lancashire and Imperial.
Mr. Sentieiro's tastes definitely have a lot of similarities with my own. Imperial is a favorite of mine and I play lots of Martin Wallace games. The pandemic delay is a bummer, but I am even more excited for the new Madeira after hearing this.
Please feel free to comment and check out our other Cardboard Fire interviews. Cheers!
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