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 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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