Interview #2 with Chris Handy in our Pack O Interview Series. This time we look at the first game in the Pack O Game series, HUE. It is a 2-5 player game, in which players will "secretly choose 3 colors and build the largest color sections in this fast-playing, tile-laying strategy game. Players build an area of color sections together. In the end, the winner is the player who chose the most valuable 3 colors."
Note by The Inquisitive Meeple:Unlike most our interviews, in this one we will jump straight in to talking about about the game. This is something we plan to do with all the Pack O Interview series outside of the first interview. The first interview in this series, was the introduction interview (found here) with designer, Chris Handy, where we not only talked about the overall Pack O Game series, but got to know Chris a little as well.
Chris: HUE is a tile laying game of strategy with a hidden "stock" type scoring mechanic. Players begin the game with several cards and play 1 per turn in the playing area. Throughout the game, players will add to the large area of stripes and squares to either cooperate with other players to build up certain color areas, or block and cut areas that they choose not to score. At the end of the game, the playing area of cards will determine the value of each of the 5 colors. Each player will keep a single card in their hand to use as the combination of 3 colors to score. The middle color on the card will be worth twice the amount.
In our first interview, you shared with us most of the story behind HUE and how it spawned the Pack O Game series. So instead of asking back-story of the game, let me ask – what made you want to create a game like HUE? Did anything inspire you to try to make an abstract area building game?
Chris: I'm drawn to simple, elegant, yet deep strategy games. I liked the idea of having 3 colors on a single tile/card and being able to lay them over others in order to connect, while also allowing for some blocking. The idea of having such a tiny game that played very quickly and was very portable, was a driving force.
What made you decide to use a stock-market system for end game scoring, scoring only the 3 colors on your last card in your hand (which you don’t play to the table)?
Chris: Initially, I played around with wood pieces that were placed on top of color areas. But, it seemed unoriginal and I challenged myself to remove everything but the cards, and somehow create a way to score. It was also important to me that the game had some long term strategy, so that players could plan out a few turns in advance, and even decide from the start of the game, which score card they would use for end game scoring.
Why did you decide to add a single poison card for each player, was that in the original design? If not, what made you decide to add it in?
Chris: Poison cards were an idea I had pretty early on, to give the game more depth. It's very controlled, the way they are dealt to each player.
There are two types of cards in the game: square boxes and rectangle stripes. Why did you decide to do both instead of say, just squares?
Chris: I had never seen striped cards in a tile laying game before, and I thought about adding them while I was creating the solid square cards. I think they bring more interesting decisions to the game, and the two types of cards are valuable, but in different ways.
What makes HUE unique from other games out there that use the same type of mechanics?
Chris: I think several things set it apart, aside from it's obvious compact size and short playing time. First, each player will only take 5 turns (or 4 turns in a 5 player game). The stripes together with the solid square cards, create some interesting choices for this kind of game. The gradual selection of the final score card is my favorite aspect of the game. And finally, the single Skull card that's dealt to each player adds some risk and offense/defense balance that's necessary for replay value.
HUE is an abstract strategy game, though it is not a perfect information one. What are some of your favorite abstract strategy games to play?
Chris: There's a negative feeling that perfect information abstracts can sometimes produce. When you make a mistake early, you can become frustrated that you won't be able to recover from it. A little hidden information takes some of that edge off, and allows for exciting play until the end, while allowing all players to feel like they can win until end game scoring. I do like the GIPF series, but they're not for everyone. I appreciate that HUE can accommodate up 5 players.
What would you say is the number one mistake you see newbie’s make when playing HUE?
Chris: I sometimes see a Skull card being played in a casual way that doesn't maximize its potential. Also, new players aren't great at reading what other players are interested in.
How does the 2-player game differ in rules or overall feel compared to 4 or 5-player game?
Chris: The playing area is bigger at the end of a 4-5 player game, which also means bigger scores. The only set-up rule change for the range of players is that for 5 player games, each player is dealt one less card.
Some of the cards of HUE. US Quarter used for scale.
Originally the game was called RBG, what made you decide to change it to HUE?
Chris: RGB, as a title, was a little lazy at the time. Also, there are more colors than RED, GREEN and BLUE. I felt like HUE was a better name because it had 5 different shades of color.
What was the best piece of feedback from a playtester you received when you were still prototyping the game?
Chris: I had one of my main play testers suggest the cards have white lines to separate the colors, rather than black lines. I think the design looks much better and elegant with white lines. So, it was a design suggestion that I found most valuable.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Chris: It was great to print out the cards for the first time and get a sense of the strategy in placing the striped cards next to the solid square cards.
As a game designer, what would you say was the most interesting part of designing HUE?
Chris: It was interesting trying to create a game with just 30 cards and figure out a way to score and have long term strategy with cards only.
What would you say was the most challenging part of designing it?
Chris: Balancing the colors and making each card unique, while keeping the game balanced, was a challenge.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed this game?
Chris: I love that it's simple, elegant, and has a ton of replay value. I think all the aspects and unique mechanics came together seamlessly.
A slight follow up to that question, as the series designer of the Pack O Game games –what, in your mind, does HUE bring to the overall series? Also, what would you say makes it stand out over the other games?
Chris: HUE brings several aspects to the series: Abstract strategy, tile-laying mechanics, gradual hidden goal selection, and the ability to play up to 5 players.
Finish this sentence in 12 words or less. HUE is ________.
Chris: HUE is colorful, abstract strategy, tile-laying game with high replay value.
Now in a few more words – could you tell us what you think HUE would add to our game collections out there (outside of its travel-able size)?
Chris: I think the 2 mechanics that add to my game collection are: Gradual hidden goal selection/refinement and the striped tile cards, coupled with the solid square cards. The 1 inch by 3 inch cards have allowed for game play that I've not seen before as well.
Thanks Chris. Stay tuned for our next game in the Pack O Interview series (TKO) coming soon.
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