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Subject: Geek of the Week #637, Jonathan Ying, Fancymancer rss

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Teri Litorco
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Merry Christmas BGG! It was a lovely week for me and I'm so excited to pass the mantle of Geek of the Week to a game designer whose work I admire very much: Jonathan Ying (Fancymancer).

You may know him from his design work for prominent licenses and titles from Fantasy Flight Games, but he's a quick bio from him:
Quote:
I was one of the lead designers of Star Wars: Imperial Assault and I served as Lead Designer on the Game Of Thrones Trivia Game and DOOM The Board Game. I've also done development work on games such as Battlelore 2nd Edition, and Warhammer 40k Forbidden Stars.




Additionally, he's recently struck out on his own, designing and self-publishing a game called Bargain Quest.

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Jonathan at Origins earlier this year, and in doing so, got to know his fantastic portfolio of work as well as how he as a designer intentionally creates games that are accessible, inclusive and intended for gamers of all backgrounds, which is delightful.

For his two truths and a lie, have fun with this one, it stumped me:
Poll
Which is the lie:
Owns a complete Ken "Express" Tenma costume from Android Netrunner.
Has actually finished an entire D&D campaign.
Won the annual Click Clack Lumberjack tournament at the FFG Office Party.
      70 answers
Poll created by ThatTeriGirl


Enjoy your week, Jonathan!
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Congratulations Jonathan!
Have a wizard of a week!
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chadnorth wrote:
Congratulations Jonathan!
Have a wizard of a week!


Thank you! I'll be sure to check back as often as I can this week! Hope you're all having some lovely holidays!
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Matthew Miller
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Congratulations, Jonathan! Enjoy your week!

Here are my usual questions, beginning with a gaming question.

d10-1 Have you ever played any of the following games: Memoir '44, Shadows over Camelot, BANG!, High Noon Saloon, Sequence?

Now for some non-gaming questions.

Favorite?
d10-2 Kind of pie?
d10-3 Vegetable?
d10-4 Kind of Cookie?
d10-5 Flavor of Ice Cream?
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Congratulations on making Geek of the Week!

I have a few questions for you......
1 What is your opinion of war gaming?
2 Do you have a favorite war game; if so, what is it?
3 What are your opinions or memories of playing Risk?
4 What are your opinions or memories of playing Axis & Allies?
5 What game (that has no connection with your company) would you tell all gamers about that just has no publicity and that nobody knows about?
6 What game reminds you more of game design than game play?

I thank you for your time. thumbsup cool

-M_R
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Red Eyed Jack wrote:
Congratulations, Jonathan! Enjoy your week!

Here are my usual questions, beginning with a gaming question.

d10-1 Have you ever played any of the following games: Memoir '44, Shadows over Camelot, BANG!, High Noon Saloon, Sequence?


So, in order: Yes, Yes, Yes, No, and No.

I worked on Battlelore 2nd Edition so Memoir was definitely played a lot in development to see what the Command & Colors system can do.

BANG! is one of the first "hobby" games I ever picked up actually! I still like it though I think it's beginning to show it's age these days.

Red Eyed Jack wrote:
Now for some non-gaming questions.

Favorite?
d10-2 Kind of pie?
d10-3 Vegetable?
d10-4 Kind of Cookie?
d10-5 Flavor of Ice Cream?


When it comes to pie, I love me some Pumpkin Pie with plenty of whipped cream.

Vegetable-wise I'm really into broccoli lately. Particularly if it's been sauteed in garlic.

Ooh, cookie is a tough one. It's tough to beat the classic chocolate chips. Though I prefer them on the less-sweet side. Dark chocolate or semi-sweet chips.

When it comes to Ice Cream I love the simple pleasure of vanilla. Though I'm not picky!
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midnight_reaper wrote:
Congratulations on making Geek of the Week!

I have a few questions for you......
1 What is your opinion of war gaming?
2 Do you have a favorite war game; if so, what is it?
3 What are your opinions or memories of playing Risk?
4 What are your opinions or memories of playing Axis & Allies?
5 What game (that has no connection with your company) would you tell all gamers about that just has no publicity and that nobody knows about?
6 What game reminds you more of game design than game play?

I thank you for your time. thumbsup cool

-M_R


1 I don't have a strong opinion on War Gaming. It seems really fascinating but I'm still hesitant to jump down such a deep well. It's not a genre I get to play often as most of my peers and friends aren't that into it.

2 Well, does Memoir 44' count? I know it's on the lighter side but I'd probably go with that. It's certainly the one I've probably played the most!

3 I played Risk a few times as a kid before I knew anything and it's mostly a blur, but I do recall having a blast in Risk Legacy. The game kind of snowballed but it developed its own internal meta as secret alliances were formed between games and deals were struck. It fell apart before we finished all of the games but it was one hell of a ride!

4 In a somewhat embarrassing turn of events, I have actually NEVER played Axis & Allies!


5 Ooh, okay so I'm gonna plug two games here: First is BRAWL! A game I played a bunch in Highschool and somewhat recently rediscovered when it was reprinted via Kickstarter. It's a quick little real-time card game that I just love to pieces. I thought I was pretty good until I got to play against the designer and he completely and utterly annihilated me. I felt like the cocky novice in a kung fu movie getting schooled by the master!

The second game I'm really excited about lately is Shifty Eyed Spies which is distressingly Target Exclusive, but I'm a huge fan of the art and the gameplay. It's sort of a smaller and more friendly version of Dead Last

6 I'm not 100% sure what you mean by this question, but I assume you're asking what game I enjoy the design of more than I enjoy playing? I had a really interesting time withPhotosynthesis though honestly it's not something I had a lot of fun with. I think I may have found the strategy a little too opaque but from a structural perspective it's doing a lot of really fascinating and innovative stuff!



Cheers!

EDIT: Edited for readability. Still figuring out BGG formatting!
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Fancymancer wrote:
midnight_reaper wrote:
{snip}
6 What game reminds you more of game design than game play?

{snip}

6 I'm not 100% sure what you mean by this question, but I assume you're asking what game I enjoy the design of more than I enjoy playing? I had a really interesting time withPhotosynthesis though honestly it's not something I had a lot of fun with. I think I may have found the strategy a little too opaque but from a structural perspective it's doing a lot of really fascinating and innovative stuff!

Cheers!

I was thinking more along the lines of: when you play this game, you think more about the design or about the metagame around the game than you think about the game or about your play of the game itself. Not that there's anything wrong with your interpretation or your answer of your interpretation...

All the best, and Merry Christmas!

-M_R
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Jonathan Ying
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midnight_reaper wrote:

I was thinking more along the lines of: when you play this game, you think more about the design or about the metagame around the game than you think about the game or about your play of the game itself. Not that there's anything wrong with your interpretation or your answer of your interpretation...

All the best, and Merry Christmas!

-M_R


Ah! I think when I play I'm almost always considering the design and what the designer is trying to get me to do in pretty much any game.

I'm pretty critical of rulebook writing and it always pleases me when I find one that's written in a way that's tight and coherent. I do my best to enjoy games when I do play them and I try not to let my "designer thoughts" dilute the fun I might be having. It's certainly easier with simpler or more frenetic games of course!

If I were to pick a specific game that has me constantly thinking about the design choices it'd have to be Imperial Assault! I was one of the designers for the base game and a few expansions but it's always fascinating to see what the Dev team has cooked up over the years. Some I agree with, some I don't, and others I'm like "Oh man, I NEVER would have thought of that!"
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Congratulations, Jonathan, enjoy your week!
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Congratulations Jonathan. Have a great week!

What is your favorite spaceship? And why?

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Jocab wrote:
Congratulations Jonathan. Have a great week!

What is your favorite spaceship? And why?



Favorite Spaceship? Ooh, that's a tough one. It's certainly changed over the years. I'll give you a top 3.

- YT-2400 Corellian Freighter, AKA The Outrider from Star Wars. I loved this thing since I first saw it in Shadows of the Empire. It's just such a fun design that fits really well in the universe. It's the leaner, radder, younger cousin of the Millenium Falcon.

- Serenity from Firefly, judging by your flair I can see you might agree. It's a really great design and I love how much of a "home" it is. I really do love this ship. The fact that the most iconic location in the ship after the bridge is the kitchen really says a lot.

- The Normandy SR-2 from Mass Effect. I spent a lot of time playing Mass Effect and whenever I see this ship I immediately think "My ship." It's a fun design and I know its layout front to back. Plus it's got a cool complex history and really develops a lot of character over the course of the game.

Thanks for the question! Haha, it definitely made me think!
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Congratulations Jonathan!

My usual question: When did you play snowballs last time?
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Congrats Jonathan! Have a great week as GotW meeple
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Congrats Jonathan and enjoy your week!
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Geoffrey Burrell
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Congrats Jonathan! Have a fun week of gaming!

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ivan111 wrote:
Congratulations Jonathan!

My usual question: When did you play snowballs last time?


Ahh, I would say my last proper Snowball fight was back when I lived in Minnesota for FFG about two-ish years ago? I recently moved to San Diego and while the weather is lovely, surfing on the holidays is a little surreal.
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Congrats Jonathan!

What was the biggest screw-you moment you have had, in a game? Giving, receiving, self-inflicted, or some combination therein.

Is there a game that you love, but are terrible at?

If you could say one thing, in this world, that is true, what would it be?

If you had to live in either perpetual darkness, perpetual light, or perpetual gloom; which would you choose?

What is the most money you have frittered away, in the shortest amount of time?

If you had to participate in an eating competition, what would be your food of choice?

What would be your UFC/WWE fighter name?

How do you define “art”?

What was the best shower/bath you have ever had?

If money and access were no object, what would be the object on earth you would buy? Collectable or not.

Is there something you cannot resist buying, if you see it (of course board games, silly, what else?)?

What is a song that you can listen to over and over?

If you could only listen to one genre of music, forever, what genre would you choose?

Who is your favorite villain?

Is it weird to answer so many questions from on stranger on the internet?
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Biggest "Screw You" moment?
Haha, one that sticks out recently wasn't even against a player. We were playing Aeon's End and the AI monster has a particular card that basically turns off any spells that you currently have charging. Which is really bad and spoils any cool plans you've had cooking. Because he reshuffles his entire action deck each time, it is possible, though unlikely for him to cast it multiple times in a row, preventing you from getting any combos which are the meat of the game. I think it came up literally SEVEN times in a row. At first it was funny, then it was infuriating, then we all felt like we were going crazy. There was a lot of shouting at each other over who shuffled the deck etc. Good times.

Game that I love that I'm bad at
I'm SO BAD at Crossing but I love it so much.

Perpetual Light/Dark/Gloom
Probably light? Assuming there's shelter and I can close my eyes. I grew up in Los Angeles so I do enjoy the sun.

Most money frittered away in a short time
I uh... I have spent a genuinely embarrassing amount of money on the app game Fire Emblem Heroes. I think I'm better now but HOO BOY. Those Orbs got me.

Eating compettition food of choice?
Soup Dumplings from Din Tai Fung. If you've had them, you know what I mean. If you haven't I'm sorry I can't explain how damn good they are.

UFC/WWE Fighter Name
Jon "Cut Man" Ying

How do you define Art?
This is something I don't have very strong opinions on, (Similar questions like "What is a game" etc. aren't very interesting to me.) but I do like Scott McCloud's view. "Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn't grow out of either of our species' two basic instincts: survival and reproduction".

Best shower/bath?
I took a really great bath after spending a week camping at the Grand Canyon in 2004.

Money/access aside, what earthly object would you buy if you could?
A full sized, Heisei Era Godzilla suit.

Something you cannot resist buying?
I'm a sucker for art books. Particularly artist sketchbooks and collected works by artists whose style I love. Claire Hummel, Ashley Wood, Juanjo Guarnido, Alex Alice, etc. If there's one thing I've got more of than board games it's art books.

Song I can listen to over and over?
Ooh, it changes periodically. Though "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" from Hamilton springs to mind.

One Music Genre Forever?
Gotta be Ska. Though Classic Rock as a close second.

Favorite Villain
David Xanatos from Gargoyles

Is it weird to answer so many questions from on stranger on the internet?
Yes.

Fun questions thank you!
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Congrats Jonathan! Enjoy your week.
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Congratulations, Jonathan!!!
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Congratulations Jonathan!
 
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Congratulations! FFG is such a big company it's often easy to forget the designers who work for it, so I'm happy you are getting some attention. (Sorry you got Christmas week.) My questions:

1) The DOOM redesign involved much more radical changes than the switch from, say, Descent 1st to 2nd edition. Did you use the original version as a baseline when designing your version, or did you start more or less from scratch? Relatedly, how many elements from the new computer game (glory kills, etc.) directly inspired board game mechanisms, and how did you balance respect for the IP with the need to have a well-designed game?

2) Obviously, you can't talk about any of the super-secret projects currently in development at FFG. (Unless you can; in that case, consider this an open invitation to do so.) But as a general matter, what is FFG's philosophy when approaching new games for its IPs (whether licensed or company owned)? Does it tend to start with "We need a new Star Wars game" or "Here's a game we want to make--what universe should we place it in?"

3) What other game designers inspire your own work? Who do you think are the top designers in the industry not working for FFG?

4) In response to a previous answer you gave, what is your favorite Xanatos gambit from the show? What about from any media?

5) Finally, if you could steal one game from my collection, which one would you take? If I were coming to steal one game from your collection, which one would you fight hardest to keep me from taking?
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1. Thoughts on DOOM's Design
So essentially when we started work on the new DOOM Board Game and I was given the lead for it I was pretty excited. The first thing we did, of course, was to break out the old classic version of the game which was a really interesting endeavor since I had only ever played games that had Descended (badum-tish) from that original grid-based combat game.

There's some cool stuff from the original version but it was very heavily tied to the horror-aesthetics of Doom 3, which Id had told us they were moving away from thematically. Also as an industry we've learned a lot since the old days so more modern design sensibilities were also at play.

Very early on in talking to the designers of DOOM(2016) they emphasized the idea of "Push-forward combat" and the Glory Kill system. From there essentially every decision we made for the design was in pursuit of a high-octane and thrilling gameplay. Which is pretty hard in a tactical game. The choices were heavily streamlined, so for example, in Imperial Assault the first five minutes or so of each round started with all the hero players discussing who should go first and a lot of slow planning out what to do, whereas in DOOM it's just "flip the initiative card. GO."

It's always a juggling act trying to design for an IP, doubly so when you're also building off of a previous game as well. It took a lot of work and I'm pretty proud of how it came together. It's not perfect, by any means, but we did our best!

2. How does FFG approach new games for its IP's
I can't speak too much on this, and particularly since I am no longer an FFG employee, but for the most part it would vary a lot. Sometimes, we'd get a really cool license and think "What's the best game we could make with this feel?" other times it's "We have a really cool new idea, what's the best license fit?" or it could even be "Hm, we don't have a game that fits into [X demographic/marketing niche] what would be good for that?" We have a lot of internal meetings/discussions while making these sorts of decisions. The designers actually get a remarkable amount of control over the project direction compared to other industries, though sometimes we still must bow to certain limitations, be they from the license-holder or practical costs.

3. Other game designers that are inspiring and top Non-FFG designers
Ah! So many! Tim Fowers is absolutely one of my biggest inspirations, he was actually a mentor to me while I was making Bargain Quest. I also have an enormous number of games by Antoine Bauza and James Ernest both of whom exhibit staggering range when it comes to their designs. I'm currently reading Geoff Engelstein's new book and I am hugely impressed by the design thoughts of Mark Rosewater.

4. Favorite Xanatos Gambit
Can't beat the original: "Leader of the Pack" an entire episode of action and adventure as a misdirection so he can get his girlfriend out of prison? It blew my tiny mind as a kid. Outside of Gargoyles, The Princess Bride's Goblet Scene with Vizzini and the Man in Black is a work of art.

5. Game I would steal from you and Game you would have to pry from my cold dead fingers
Haha, I honestly really need that Pegasus Expansion for Battlestar Galactica! It was never in print when I wanted it! From my collection, I'd probably fight the hardest to hang onto my original Beta Edition of Imperial Assault. It's got this very sleek minimalist black box that just has the logo in the center, it's very tasteful.
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Congrats Jonathan! Some questions for you...

1. You've identified yourself as a ska fan. Favorite ska bands?

2. What would you consider to be your top 5-10 favorite movies? A trilogy or series can count as one choice.

3. Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?

4. Favorite book?

5. Play any musical instruments?

Thanks for your time!
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