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 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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