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Interview with Todd Sanders

Chris Hansen
United States
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
Welcome back to the PNP News! Today I'll be interviewing Todd Sanders. Todd is very well known in the PNP community for designing classic games like the Shadows Upon Lassadar Series, the Aether Captains Series, Odin Quest, and Bibliogamo. He's also well know for doing redesigns of older games, such as Hammer of Thor, Citadel of Blood, and Barbarian Prince. (His complete list of designs and redesigns is available on his design geeklist.)

Todd is an active participant in the Design Contest Community and his designs have won the grand prize in the Solitaire, Two-Player, and 18 Card Contests. He also is very generous with his time and helps new users get into game design and will even occasionally volunteer his services as a graphic designer to help someone else's game stand out.

Todd and I talked about his history as a PNP player and designer. We also discuss a subject I've wanted to discuss in this blog for some time - how to promote your PNP games. I had a terrific time doing this interview and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

todd sanders
United States
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The interview is in audio format and can be downloaded at the link below. It is almost two hours long but I think the discussion is very interesting and I hope you'll enjoy it.
PNP News Interview with Todd Sanders

I'm not going to transcribe the whole thing, but I would like to highlight a few things from our discussion of how to promote PNP games. (Don't worry, we don't only talk about design contests. If you're not interested in that subject, there should be plenty of the conversation that you'll still enjoy.)

1 Todd maintains a design thread where he discusses his games and artwork. This allows people a behind the scenes look at his design process.
Todd Sanders: Current Projects
This is a brilliant way to help players get engaged with your work. I have hosted six design contests and I've seen a tendency from some designers to not reveal anything about a game until it is complete. This doesn't give people time to get excited about a game, especially if it released close to a contest deadline. By posting his ideas and his progress, Todd has been able to get help when he needed it and get a large group of players ready to print his games as soon as they're available.

2 He's not afraid to show his progress on a game (and sometimes his mistakes). If you go back and read Todd's design thread, you'll find several posts where he is teaching himself vector artwork. His early efforts weren't always the best, but he shared them regardless. Through feedback from others and a lot of practice, he's become much better and has produced beautiful original artwork. His openness about his learning process inspired me to do the same and share my artistic ideas and drafts on my design thread for Yeomen. I found that people responded very well to the work, even though I was a little embarrassed to share my very amateurish efforts. More importantly, I think that engaging with players from the beginning and showing them my progress helped bring in more playtesters than I might have had otherwise.

Some of Todd's recent artwork for Odin Quest. Image credit: Chris Hansen

3 We also discussed the importance of engaging with other designers, especially when participating in a design contest. One of the best ways to get noticed in a contest is by leaving feedback for others. Most people are very willing to return the favor. Todd has always been an incredibly active playtester and has generated a lot of goodwill from that. If you take the time to play other people's games, you'll find that your games get a lot more attention too.

4 You need to be excited about your game! Take a look through the older posts on this blog and count the number of times the phrase "Image credit: Chris Hansen (composite image from game files)" appears. Typically, when you see this next to an image, it means the game had no images available so I put an picture together using screenshots of the PDF file. I don't mind doing that, but I'd rather share images of the actual game being enjoyed! It always surprises me how many games are released with no images, no session reports, and no comments at all from the designer. You cannot release a game and expect people to come seek it out on their own. A PNP game with no images or posts gives the impression that the designer isn't excited about their game. And if that's the case, why would a player get excited about it? Take the time to photograph your game, write session reports, and post updates about it! Your enthusiasm will rub off on other players.

5 Promote you game! Obviously, no one wants to be a spammer and post about your game where it doesn't belong, but there are many avenues available to help designers get the word out about their game. Every design contest has a discussion thread where designers are encouraged to share updates about their game and even ask for playtesting help. There are also blogs (such as this one) and podcasts that will interview designers and help bring new eyes to their games. For example, Morten Monrad Pedersen maintains a very popular blog where he will interview designers who have created a solitaire game for a design contest.

As part of this post, I'll be reviewing a few of Todd's games. I haven't finished writing all the reviews yet, but I will keep this list updated as they are completed.
Achieving Balance - A Review of Shadows Upon Lassadar
Books for Sale! A Review of Bibliogamo.
The Draugr - Coming Soon
Diatomica - Coming Soon
Odin Quest - Coming Soon
Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden Game - Coming Soon

That's all for now. Thank you for reading and thanks as always for your thumbs and geekgold tips to the post.

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