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Interview with Seth Van Orden - Designer of Stockpile

Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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Today I will be talking with Seth Van Orden, a designer who has created a new game company called Nauvoo Games with Brett Sobol to publish their first design, Stockpile. The game is currently on Kickstarter and includes a very affordable Print and Play option. Seth was kind enough to talk about the game, his personal history with Print and Play, and the reasons they decided to make a Print and Play version available in their Kickstarter campaign.

Image Credit: Brett Sobol

Chris Hansen: Tell me a little about Stockpile.

Seth Van Orden: Stockpile is an economic board game that combines the traditional stockholding strategy of buy low, sell high with several additional mechanics to create a fast-paced, engaging and interactive experience.

In Stockpile, players act as stock market investors at the end of the 20th century hoping to strike it rich, and the investor with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. Stockpile centers around the idea that nobody knows everything about the stock market, but everyone does know something. In the game, this philosophy manifests in two ways – insider information and the stockpile.

First, players are given insider information each round. This information dictates how a stock’s value will change at the end of the round. By privately learning if a stock is going to move up or down, each player has a chance to act ahead of the market by buying or selling at the right time.

Second, players purchase their stocks by bidding on piles of cards called stockpiles. These stockpiles will contain a mixture of face-up and face-down cards placed by other players in the game. In this way, nobody will know all of the cards in the stockpiles. Not all cards are good either. Trading fees can poison the piles by making players pay more than they bid. By putting stocks and other cards up for auction, Stockpile catalyzes player interaction, especially when potential profits from insider information are on the line.

Both of these mechanics are combined with some stock market elements to make players consider multiple factors when selling a stock. Do you hold onto a stock in hopes of catching a lucrative stock split or do sell now to avoid the potential company bankruptcy? Can you hold onto your stock until the end of the game to become the majority shareholder, or do you need the liquidity of cash now for future bidding? Do you risk it all by investing heavily into one company, or do you mitigate your risk by diversifying your portfolio?

In the end, everyone knows something about the stock market, so it all comes down to strategy execution. Will you be able to navigate the movements of the stock market with certainty? Or will your investments go under from poor predictions?

CH: What genre is the game?

SVO: Stockpile is an Economic game by theme, but most people who play it, agree that it doesn't feel like your typical economic game. It's probably similar to the relationship between 7 Wonders and your typical civilization games. It stream lines some of the best parts of economic games. I guess you could also classify it as a medium to light weight Euro.

CH: How long have you been working on Stockpile (Designing, Playtesting, Artwork, Etc)?

SVO: Only about 9 months. It's been a relatively short time period since this is are first game. Once we found out we had a hit on our hands, we went all in.

CH: The rulebook is released under a Creative Commons license. Are you hopeful that other designers will use Stockpile to inspire new games?

SVO: I believe it already has. There is a on Kickstarter right now, that I believe was partially inspired by Stockpile. The designer created it shortly after playing Stockpile. Now I'm not claiming he stole my game because I don't think he did. Nor do I have the right to the mechanics that I created, since they were inspired by other great mechanics. Our games are definitely different games and they both bring good things to the table, but they both share very similar central mechanic.

CH: Why did you decided to offer a Print and Play version for publication?

SVO: There are several reasons. Our goal as Nauvoo Games isn't to make as much as possible. In the end we want to share our games with as many people as possible. Before the Kickstarter we decided to give away copies of the print and play with almost finished art for free to all those who were willing to try the game. This was useful for more than one reason. It built good will and trust that the game was of a high caliber. We were able to get a lot more ratings on BGG by those who played it. We were able to get a lot more feedback on the art and rules from people who weren't being taught by us. This helped us make Stockpile a even better game. Even when the Kickstarter went live we still want to make the PnP available to all. We understand some live in places where it's very expensive to ship games. We want them to enjoy the game too. We offer a basic PnP for free on the Kickstarter page, and a full art version for only 1$.

CH: Have you built a PnP copy of the game yourself?

SVO: Yes, you have to for play testing and demoing purposes. I've made well over 12 version for myself, and I've made at least 5 copies for others.

CH: In addition to the files offered in the campaign, will players need to provide other other components such as Dice, tokens, or money?

SVO: We will offer files to print your own money, but I'm guessing most will use other options. You will need one token for each player and one for stock and one to keep track of the rounds and first player. You can use almost anything for these, people often use colored dice as player tokens.

CH: How large is the game? How many sheets of components will a player need to print to build the PnP version?

SVO: There are around 100 cards. 5 small player boards and 1 medium sized board.
PNP Version of the game. Image Credit: spike spike

CH: How long do you anticipate it will take players to build a copy of Stockpile from the PNP files?

SVO: Well it will depend on the person, but I could make myself a copy in around 2 hours or less.

CH: Do you feel the free PNP version increased sales/interest in the Kickstarter Campaign?

SVO: For sure, but not directly. I doubt we will really get much money out of the print and play pledge level since we made it so cheap, but we've gotten a lot of success because of the rating and reviews from those who have made it and played it. We believe it has been well worth the effort. Especially for first time publishers like ourselves.

CH: Will players be able to purchase PNP files after the Kickstarter campaign is complete?

SVO: That's good question. We haven't really talked about it, but I'm sure we would be willing if someone just talked to us about it.

CH: Do you worry about the PNP negatively affecting the game? Such as being traded illegally instead of people buying the game?

SVO: Do I think someone might do it? Yes. Am I worried about it? No. Even if someone did, I don't think there "business" would take away from ours.

CH: What's your history with PNP games in general?

SVO: I don't have a big background with PNP games. I really didn't know it existed until I started designing games. I've really only done PNP for the purpose of play testing my games or another player's game. I've got to say though, after getting involved with the PNP community on BGG, I think that has to be one of the best communities to be a part of. Everyone is extremely nice, supportive, and creative.

CH: How did you first discover PNP games?

SVO: Outside of play testing, the first contact I really had with it, was when we went looking for people to play test our game on BGG. This was a great decision.

CH: What's your favorite PNP game?

SVO: Stockpile

CH: Will Nauvoo Games be releasing future games in a PNP format?

SVO: YES! As of right now I plan running all of our games by the PNP play community on BGG. It's a great way to improve your game. I would recommend to other designers/publishers that your game be at an almost final state before sharing it with them. I can only image it would have the reverse effect if you shared a broken game with awful art and wasted their time.

***

I'd like to thank Seth for taking the time to do this interview with me. Stockpile is currently available on Kickstarter for $39 for the published game or $1 for the full art Print and Play version. The Kickstarter campaign ends November 20, 2014.
Stockpile on Kickstarter

That is all for now! Stay tuned for future Interviews, PNP Highlight, PNP Construction Tips, and of course PNP News.

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