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 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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