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 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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