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Interview to Martin Wallace

Jaime "Jason Rider" Polo
S/C de Tenerife
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Today we have the oportunity to make an interview to Martin Wallace, one of the most famous designers. He took a lot of time to answer all our questions. I would like to thanks him for this and I hope that you like the interview

* How do you start at the boardgames?

I used to play games as a child. For a while I worked at Games Workshop, which introduced me to a range of different games, from wargames to role playing. I only started thinking about designing games later, in my thirties. It took me a few years to design something that was worth publishing, which was the game Lords of Creation, in 1993.

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

The first proper wargame that I purchased was SPI's Starforce, when I was 14. Not the simplest game to start with, but it did teach me about vectors.

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

I work full time as a game designer, so I do some work every day.

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

I have lots of time to think, research and design. The biggest shortage is play testing time, as other people are involved. I try to test at least once a week. Game conventions are good for getting lots of testing done.

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

I always start with a theme. I have never been able to just invent a mechanic.

* What can you tell us abour your first games?

The very first games were awful and deserved to be thrown in the bin. The first decent game I designed was Lords of Creation. However, once you have designed one decent game you then have to do it again, and again, and again. This is not always easy.

* What can you tell us about Brass? How did you get the idea to make the game? Can you tell us a bit more about the game?

A friend suggested doing an economic game as a break from wargames (like Byzantium and Perikles). As I live in Manchester and studied economic history I thought it would be good to do something based on the industrial revolution. The game took a long time to develop as it was difficult to balance the economic elements. I have to say that I have been surprised by how popular it is.

* Do you play your own games?

Not very often. Once a game is released there is no real reason for me to play it. Most of my gaming time is spent playtesting.

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

No. You cannot play test a game online, so it would be a waste of my time.

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

Yes, but I cannot say more.

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

If you are asking which game would I have liked to have designed then I would probably say Civilization by Francis Tresham. For its time it was an excellent design, and obviously highly influential.

* Which other desingers do you admire?

That's a difficult one. There are a number of designers that I see at shows who are very kind and friendly, such as Wolfgang Kramer, Klaus Teuber, and Christophe Boelinger. I like some of their work, but everything. I think Six Nimmt is very clever, and some of the expansions to Settlers of Catan are good fun.

* Any future proyect?

Yes, lots, but cannot say too much now. What I can say is that I am working on a multi-player game based on A Few Acres of Snow.

* 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 market is overcrowded with new games, many of which are not really worthy to be published. I think it makes life difficult for the medium sized companies who are competing in the specialist games market. The one-man companies will come and go, but they do not have the same overheads as the larger companies, so do not need to make a profit. People do not have enough time to play all of these new games. I am surprised that some companies have not already collapsed.

* How do you decide to make your own publish company?

It was a matter of economics. I make more money publishing my own game then selling it to another company. It also gives me more control on what type of game I can put out and when it is released.

* What do you fell having so many games in the top 100 of the BGG?

It's nice, but it does not make you any extra money!

* Any advise for the new designers?

Persistence. If you really want to be a designer then keep at it and do not be put off by short term failures.

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

I do not have a good enough imagination to work out what question I have not been asked but would like to answer.

Now some questions with a short answer:

* Game of 2011

To be honest I have not played enough games to give a proper opinion. I liked the ideas in Seven Wonders. I thought K2 was a nice change from the normal game.

* The best art in a game of 2011

Same as above, FFG do some nice artwork.

* Game with the craziest theme that you have played

A friend bought a game about donkey poo. That was silly.

* Game with the newest mechanic that you have played

Probably Seven Wonders.

* Can you tell us your top 5 games?

In no particular order,

Breakout Normandy
A House Divided
Puerto Rica

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

Probably Agricola.

* And to play alone?

Don't like solitaire games.

* Select a game for only 2 players

Breakout Normandy

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

I do not get addicted to games.

Questions from our followers:

* Why do you design games? For work, to make money, because you like it, for vocation?

It's a great way to make a living. You succeed or fail on your own merits. And it's nice to have an idea and then see an end product.

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

Not sure I understand the question. The only thing I can do reasonably well is design games, so I will continue as long as I can.

* When you design a game, you make it because you have the idea of a good theme, a novel mechanism or for pleasure?

Usually a good theme.

* What do you value for your games? That people likes them or that the game fill you?

A game should always be enjoyable for other players, otherwise it has failed.

Questions from our experts:

* We are talking a lot to "A few acres of snow" is a design flaw by allowing a winning strategy (I have the game and have not found this strategy or any other fault, I think that is a great game) what do you think of this?

Yes, it is flawed. It is not something that can be fixed absolutely. The best way forward is to keep changing the rules, with scenarios, to present new challenges.

* I have played Liberté, Brass, Automobile, Struggle of Empires, Tinners' Trail, most recently A few acres of snow, when I tested Discworld: Ankh-Morpork I thought: does not look like his style? I had fun but it doesn't looks like a game of you. How you decided to make a game so different from the others?

Ankh Morpork marks a new direction for Treefrog. I want to do more games based on literary sources. After a while you run out of historical themes worth doing. The game was designed to appeal to non-gamers, people who like the books but are not necessarily into playing board games. That is why it is not like my other games. However, I think it is
important that a designer can design in different styles. Ankh Morpork may not be a great game for somebody who plays a lot of games but compared to a lot of the games that are based on licenses I would like to think it is better than average.

* Do you enjoy more the mathematical base or the historical research when creating a game and what comes first in the game design?

The historical research. I'm not a mathematician.

* You are quite famous for euro games like Brass or Liberté, but you have been related to certain America style games like Runebound that have been a success on their own. What are the differences for you between the styles?

Runebound came about because somebody asked me to design a fantasy game. I liked the challenge and am pleased with the way it turned out. However, Runebound only worked because FFG added the content, I just designed the base system. I prefer doing more historical based games where I design the system and provide the content.
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