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Interview with Dave Chalker.

Jaime "Jason Rider" Polo
S/C de Tenerife
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Mayday Games made the 2nd edition of his game Get Bit!. One game that I heard about it thanks to my blog's friends who went to Essen this year. This game liked them and bring back to Spain, and for that reason I wanted to talk about this game and his new projects and now you can read it. Hope you like it.

How do you start at the boardgames?

My family was very gamer-friendly, with my dad being a science fiction author and my mom a science fiction fan, we had plenty of games in the house growing up.

Which was your first game that you get as a gift or you bought?

One of the first ones I remember is Marvel Super Heroes Game

How much time do you use in a week for boardgames?

I attend a weekly game night with my friends at Looney Labs, which tends to be about 4-5 hours, and then roughly every other weekend I assemble some kind of boardgaming.

How much time do you spend to finish a game (idea, test...)?

Finish is a very relative term Often, the time it takes is spread out over months or even years, since the testing only happens about once a week, if that.

Did you get firs the mechanics or the themes when you design?

I've used both actually- Get Bit! was designed because a friend brought me back a shark figure from his honeymoon and told me to design a game around it. I think any way you start is a good one, since they all have to converge by the time you have a good game anyway.

What can you tell us abour your first games? (The long Islans Project)

My first game was actually an article for Pyramid magazine called "Card: The Game" that used cards from any game to play a wacky storytelling game. When I was in high school, I designed my own CCG based on... high school. Long Island Project was one of the first I published through Robot Martini, being a retheme of a game I had floating around for a while, where I wanted to design a bidding game that didn't use money for the bids.

What can you tell us about Get Bit!?

As I mentioned earlier, Get Bit! came from a shark piece, and a hand-management mechanic I always like (can't use the same card again until they're all used.) The game evolved over 1-2 years, the biggest breakthrough being when I decided to stop using bite tokens and started using LEGO people whose limbs you could actually remove. That was the biggest push towards making the game feel finished with a unique hook.

It was originally published in a small run of about 500, and Mayday Games picked it back up this year to bring it to a wider audience. It took a long time to find someone else who could make the pieces!

The Mayday edition fixes some problems from the first run, as well as including an actual shark figure with the game for the first time instead of me handing them out as promos. Additionally, thanks to its success on Kickstarter, we were able to put out the Sharkspansion, an expansion I designed while on a cruise that allows someone to play the shark, and changes the game in interesting ways.

How do you get in contact with Mayday Games to this 2nd edition?

Mayday Games approached me 1-2 years ago about securing the rights, which involved boring legal negotiation stuff. Mayday had seen the game being played, and also had seen Tom Vasel's review of it, and was also confident that they could make the pieces, which other publishers I had approached were not so sure about.

This last Essen, it seems that your game liked to the Spanish colleagues, where many brought him to Spain, what do you think of this?

I think it's great! I've been looking through the "played this month" stats on Boardgamegeek and marveling at how international the game is, especially after it had spent a few years being difficult to buy. As a "semi-professional" still I'm still getting used to having a game played throughout the world, and it's a good feeling.

Do you play your own games?

I will sometimes be at parties with non-gamer friends and they'll ask to play my games, so I end up playing them when that happens. I also do convention demos sometimes. And of course I play my games that are still being designed with playtesters. Most weeks, though, I do not.

Do you play online? If you do it, what games do you play online?

I've been playing the heck out of the Ascension app for the iPad with other people. I don't do a lot of online gaming though.

Will have an App of any of your games? (Android or iPad)

I hope so! There's definitely been talks about it. My funny idea is to use the title "Sharks with Chums" as a takeoff of "Words with Friends" so that you can play a game of Get Bit! with other people online, and curse them out when they tie with you.

Will be published in Spanish any of your games?

I hope so too. Get Bit! only has text in the rules which makes it easier to bring to other languages than my native English. Later games may be harder.

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

Probably Werewolf. Brilliant, and simple enough that it feels like anyone could have invented it, but only one person did.

Which other desingers do you admire?

Kory Heath, inventor of Zendo, Uptown, and other games, was one of the people who first taught me how to really design games. Andy Looney is consistently creative who has very strong visions behind his games. Reiner Knizia understands more about what makes interesting mechanisms than almost anyone else.

Can you tell us your top 5 games?

Werewolf, Magic: The Gathering, Texas Hold 'Em Poker, Dominion, and Loopin' Louie. A pretty eclectic mix.

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

Probably Magic: The Gathering since that's a game that consistently evolves with near infinite-replayability.

And to play alone?

Probably something like Tetris.

Select a game for only 2 players

Either Magic, or heads up Poker.

What was the last game that you played and you get addicted?

7 Wonders, especially with the Leaders expansion. Before that it was Dominion. Both do a great job of ensuring every game is different.

Any future proyect?

I've been working on a lot of things on the roleplaying game side of gaming freelance. Some of my work has appeared (and more will appear) on the Dungeons & Dragons website, and I also worked on the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game that will be coming out in February. I have a board game that I'm hoping to get into good shape by April that I think is a pretty neat twist on cooperative games that is also a puzzle game.

Nowadays there are a lot of new companies, more and more games, what do you think about this... the market can handle with all this new games or will collapse?

I think the effect of all the games is that the well-marketed ones really come to the forefront, which can make it difficult to find more hidden gems, especially if you don't follow all the board game news closely. There's always going to be more games than we can play, I just hope that too many cool games don't get lost in the shuffle.

At the same time, I hope that this encourages publishers to do their research and spend more time making the games the best they can be.

What do you think about the project Kick Started? Will you use this to publish a game?

Get Bit! had a Kickstarter run by Mayday Games. Most likely, I'll have a Kickstarter of my own one day. I'm glad that Kickstarter is there for games that I know have an audience but might be too niche to be picked up by a bigger publisher. I myself have supported something like 20 Kickstarters, so I'm definitely a fan.

Any advise for the new designers?

Talk to designers you admire. Seek them out at conventions, online, etc. They might not be able to answer your questions (and DON'T send them your game rules without asking first!) but fellow designers are your best resource by far.

What question have you never done and would like to answer?

What's your favorite dungeon crawl? The one I haven't designed yet

Now some questions with a short answer:
Game of 2011

Risk: Legacy, and I say that as someone who doesn't like playing Risk.

The best art in a game of 2011

I dig the design of Panic Station a lot.

Questions from our followers:
Why do you design games? For work, to make money, because you like it, for vocation?

I knew that very few people make a living at game design, so that's never been a primary motivation. Mostly I design games because my brain won't let me stop.

After design this game, do you think to continue designing games or it is not worth to do it (economic/motivation)?

There's been setbacks and hard times for sure but I'm definitely not stopping designing games any time soon.
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