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Interview to Kevin Lanzing. Flash Point: Fire Rescue.

Jaime "Jason Rider" Polo
S/C de Tenerife
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This author had a lot of succses in the last Essen convention, his game, Flash Point: Fire Rescue was a succsess in pre-order and only a few units were available in the event to buy.

For this reason we get in contact with him to make an interview about himself and his designs and now you can read it.

How do you start at the boardgames?
I got into Magic: The Gathering in middle school, and continued through high school, which had an after-school gaming club. One of my friends there was a "demo monkey" for Cheapass Games. From him I was introduced to the classics: Kill Doctor Lucky, Give Me the Brain!, and other games high on fun and low on production values. Cheapass Games' focus on gameplay and not bits inspired me to design my own games. How hard could it be?

Which was your first game that you get as a gift or you bought?
I'm pretty sure someone gave me Monopoly as a gift, just like every other kid
in the U.S.A. But the first game I bought for myself was Settlers of Catan, in 2004. At that time in my life "Euro" games were a new frontier. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

How much time do you use in a week for boardgames?
Designing games? 3-4 hours, maybe.
Playing games? The same. Sometimes I think all the time I spend designing games is cutting into my playing time. But I try to play as many new games as possible. Every new game was something to teach me. The great games inspire me to improve my craft, while the mediocre games serve as cautionary tales.

How much time do you spend to finish a game (idea, test...)?
In the first place, I don't think any game is ever really "finished". There are designs I worked on in 2002 that I'm still tempted to revisit and perfect. On the other hand, Flash Point came together in about a year. So it varies.

What can you tell us abour your first games?
My first games were exemplars of the "Cheapass Games" school of game design: cheap, fast, and easy to learn. Theme took a backseat to gameplay, rules were minimal, and play was fast. I still think this is a good way to go, especially for a new designer. In the past few years my designs have become more sophisticated and the theme more tightly integrated to the gameplay. But I've never abandoned my original goal: to design games that most everyone can play and enjoy.

What can you tell us about Flash Point: Fire Rescue?
It is a fully cooperative board game. And it is about firefighting. The players are firefighters at the scene of a structural fire. Containing the fire is important, as it will spread out of control and bring down the building if ignored. On the other hand, the goal of the game is not to extinguish the fire but to rescue the victims trapped inside. So there are two missions to coordinate (fire and rescue). How the team goes about doing this is up to the group, and without close coordination they will fail at both missions.

How did you get the idea to make the game?
Flash Point invites easy comparisons to Pandemic, and that is no accident. I discovered Pandemic in early 2010. It challenged what a game could be - cooperation could be the goal just as well as competition. Mechanics were taut, and the game "flowed" very well.As good as Pandemic was, if it were perfect I'd never have worked up the courage to design my own cooperative game. One of my pet peeves was a weak tie-in to theme. Curing diseases is an exciting and underrepresented theme, but Pandemic never made me feel like I was saving lives and curing diseases. Too many mechanics (like the set collection) felt entirely abstract. Likewise, I was never emotionally invested in my mission. Supposedly I'm saving the lives of millions (billions?), but the people are so far removed from the design that I never feel any satisfaction for a job well done. All
cooperative games at their heart are about "disaster control". With Flash Point I chose a disaster which is more local, personal, and relateable than a global pandemic: a house fire in a suburban neighborhood. The board is a house, and the goal is rescue. Only ten victims require rescue, but that makes each life more precious.

Can you tell us a bit more about the game?
Theme was a focus for me. All of the actions players can perform on their turn are based on modern firefighting techniques. Most people are not firefighters, but almost everyone knows something about firefighting. Firefighters are real-world heroes, and the job they do is well-represented (if not always represented well) in the popular media. So while there are many things a player could do on his turn, each action bears directly on the task of firefighting. That makes the rules easier to digest. In addition, the rules are divided into the Family Game and Advanced Game. The Family Game rules is less sophisticated but easier to jump into. Think of this as a "quick-start" or a tutorial.

Do you play your own games?
As often as I can! I'm something of a perfectionist, and the only way to perfect a game is to play it again and again and again, changing one element at a time. I've played Flash Point over a hundred times. Cooperative games are easy to playtest, because they can easily be played solitaire.

do you play online? If you do it, what games do you play online?
I used to play Diplomacy online while in in grad school. But otherwise, not really. The social aspects of board gaming is really the attraction for me. Playing games online just isn't the same.

Will be published in Spanish any of your games?
Currently Flash Point is available in Enlish, French, German, and Dutch. Spanish seems like an obvious next step. But I'm not aware of any plans at this time to publish Flash Point in Spanish.
If you're asking about my other games on The Game Crafter (TGC), probably not. Shipping costs outside of the USA are much too high to justify the effort.

If you could design a game in the history of games... which one
would be that one?

I've always been fascinated by "big-picture" games, with ambitious themes that tell a story. Examples are civilization-building
games like Through the Ages and evolution games like American Megafauna (although I regret I haven't played that one). I'd love to design a game in that vein. The challenge is that my own design style could be summarized: "less is more". Big themes are a challenge to streamline, and the results are seldom entirely satisfying. But 7 Wonders managed to tame the civ-building beast, so I suppose anything is possible.

Which other desingers do you admire?
You mean besides Antoine Bauza (7 Wonders) and Vlaada Chvatil (Through the Ages)? Although some gamers might be exasperated with his prodigous output and hit-or-miss record, I still count Reiner Knizia as an inspiration. His games exemplify "elegant simplicity", which is something I still strive to duplicate. I wish he took his themes more seriously, but you can't have everything.

Can you tell us your top 5 games?
It's always changing, but at the moment I'd say:
1. 7 Wonders (which I don't own, strangely enough)
2. The Resistance (a tremendous social experience)
3. Tigris and Euphrates (old, but still good)
4. Through the Ages (although it takes too long to play regularly)
5. Glory to Rome (intricate strategy in a short play time)

If you only could choose one game to play with 3 friends more,
what game will you chose?

Is this the standard "stranded on a desert island" question? If so, probably Tigris and Euphrates. It has a sort of timeless elegance about it that I wouldn't tire of quickly.

And to play alone?
There aren't many good solitaire games. Flash Point is pretty good for that, as is Pandemic.

What was the last game that you played and you get addicted?
I'm addicted to new game experiences, to such an extent that I could never become addicted to any particular game. I've played 7 Wonders twice now and greatly enjoyed it both times. I'm not sure it would hold up to repeated plays, however.

Any future proyect?
Always! Two games I'd like to focus on in the near future are Chimera Isle and Air Show: Circus of the Skies. The former is a silly family game where quirky animals struggle for dominance on a tropical island. The latter is a sort of mashup of RoboRally and Wings of War. Both games are sold through The Game Crafter ( www.thegamecrafter.com), just like Flash Point was before it was picked up by Indie Boards and cards.

Any advise for the new designers?
Play everything, especially the weird games you don't think you'll like. Inspiration comes easiest when you open yourself to new ideas.
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