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Interview to Henrik & Åse Berg.

Jaime "Jason Rider" Polo
S/C de Tenerife
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I wanted to ask some questions to the designers of one of my fist games that I played. that games was Rattus and introduce me into the modern board games.

Now you can read the interview with their designers, Henrik & Åse Berg.

How do you start at the boardgames?
There are at least three ways that we start developing a board game:
1. We read or hear about a theme and start from there.
2. We have a good mechanism that we want to use in a game.
3. We get inspired by a game we just played.

Which was your first game that you get as a gift or you bought?
We think the first game we bought was Risk. But it was after buying The Settlers of Catan that our board game interest really took off.

How much time do you use in a week for boardgames?
Some weeks we don't play games or work on board game ideas at all, while at other times it can be 2-3 hours every night.

How much time do you spend to finish a game (idea, test...)?
That varies quite much, but usually we work on a game for a few months, before sending it to a publisher. Later, if the game is accepted for publishing, we get more work to do again, the final smoothing and balancing of the game can take a lot of time (usually this is more work than the initial design).

Did you get firs the mechanics or the themes when you design?
Usually we start with a theme, but there have been occasions when we have designed a game that we are not quite happy with, but were some of the core mechanics work nicely. Then we sometimes try to reuse these mechanics in another game, usually with another setting.

What can you tell us abour your first games?
Our first published game was Oregon (at Hans im Glück in 2007). Actually, this was the first game we ever designed... We had some ideas, made a simple prototype, and thought the game worked quite well. So we thought, why not try to send it to a publisher, just for fun? So we sent it to Hans im Glück, because we think they publish a lot of very good games, and we were really surprised when it turned out they actually wanted to publish our game!

What can you tell us about Rattus? How do you get this theme to make a game?
Rattus is about surviving the plague in the 1300. You place your cubes on the map and hope that most of them survive to the end of the game. The core mechanism is the use of the class cards, they give some benefits to the players but it also increase the risk of beeing killed by the plague. Every turn you can pick a new class card, from one other player or from supply. You can have multiple class cards. You have lots of different combos, especially if you have the expansions as well.

How did you get the idea to make the game?
Henrik read a book about the black death, and we decided we wanted to try to make a game out of this theme. We started with just a map over Europe and some small paper bits, and worked from there

Can you tell us a bit more about the game?
Rattus is absolutely a game with much luck. But the black death was also a game of luck in some way. Some says that the theme is a bit dark and dramatic for families. But we think its more fun than dramatic actually. For more advanced players it will be a nice warm up for a game night because you can play a game in 30 min. The strategy lies mostly in the class cards, to make good combinations.

Why do you have made two differents expansions and did not added to your first realease?
When we made Rattus, we actually had only four role cards. (The Knight, the Peasent, the Merchant and the Monk). The publisher wanted more roles, so we made the Witch and the King. We desided to publish the game with 6 role cards, so that the game coud be cheaper and easier to get into for new players. After some time the publisher wanted new role cards for an expansion, we were shocked because the game was not yet released, and we believed that we could not be able to squeeze out more role cards. But we managed to make twelve new cards, this made the first expansion. Since the game was first released at Nürnberg 2010, the expansion released at Essen 2010 would give the Rattus game new attension. The release of The second expansion, Africanus, this year helps keeping the Rattus game warm. To add all the expansions in the same box would make the game to expensive and maybe to heavy to get into for unexperienced players. We wanted to reach the familiy market with Rattus, and maybe the more expirienced gamers with the expansions.

Do you play your own games?
Not so often, but it happens. We play the games with familiy and friends, but only if they ask first.

Do you play online? If you do it, what games do you play online?
We do play online at www.yucata.de, http://boiteajeux.net and http://www.boardgaming-online.com. At the moment we mostly play Agricola and Oregon. Henrik plays Through the ages.

Will have an App of any of your games? (Android or iPad)
There is an app for Rattus, but this is an app that randomly selects for you with which cards you're going to play
Rattus. You can find it here https://market.android.com/details?id=whitegoblingames.rattu...

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

Which other desingers do you admire?
We like the games of Stefan Feld.

Can you tell us your top 5 games?
At the moment, top 5 is:
Ticket to ride
Puerto Rico
Ten days in ....

If you only could choose one game to play with 3 friends more, what game will you chose?
That's not easy to decide... Maybe Puerto Rico?

And to play alone?
Hm, we don't usually play games alone, except sometimes for early prototype-testing.

Select a game for only 2 players
Revolver (White Goblin Games)

What was the last game that you played and you get addicted?
As mentioned above, we recently started to play Agricola online, and that's quite addicting.

Any future proyect?
Yes, we have a few games to be published in the near future. More Rattus stuff will come next Essen, and we are also working on other ideas that will probably be ready in 2012 or 2013.

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?
To us, it looks like the market is expanding steadily. 15 years ago, hardly anyone (except perhaps for a few hard-core gamers) knew about any other board games than Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and a handful of other titles. Then came The Settlers and many other high-quality games, at first mostly from Germany, but in the last few years also from lots of other countries. We think this has opened the eyes of many potential customers, so that the market for innovative and exciting board games is now much larger, and probably capable of growing even further.

What do you think about the project Kick Started? Will you use this to publish a game?
We haven't considered this option yet.

Any advise for the new designers?
Our best advise is that if you believe in your game idea, don't give it up, even if you're not able to get through to a publisher at first. Some of our games have been rejected by lots of different publishers before finally being accepted and published. It all depends on the profile of the publisher, and of course the personal taste and preferences of the editors who consider your game idea.

What question have you never done and would like to answer?
Q: What is your favourite of your own designed games?
A: That game has not yet been released, will be on the market in a couple of years. Wait and see.

Now some questions with a short answer:
Game of 2011: Walnut Grove
The best art in a game of 2011: Fortuna
Game with the craziest theme that you have played: Ursuppe
Game with the newest mechanic that you have played: The price rondell in Ora Et Labora

Questions from our followers:
Why do you design games? For work, to make money, because you like it, for vocation?
We design games because its fun and exciting!

After design this game, do you think to continue designing games or it is not worth to do it (economic/motivation)?
We will continue of course, as long as the game ideas keep coming.

When you design a game, you make it because you have the idea of a good theme, a novel mechanism or for pleasure?
This may vary, with Rattus we wanted to make a game with this black death theme, and then the mechanics came to us afterwards.

What do you value for your games? That people likes them or that the game fill you?
Both. Often the games that you feel is perfect, the people dont like - and opposite. Its satisfying when you have made a game that is perfect in every way, but its also fun when the players love a game that you were not completely satisfied with.
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