A Conversation With…Nat Levan, part 1


In this long delayed episode I talk to game designer Nat Levan. You will know Nat from his games New Bedford, Rocky Road: Dice Cream, and Supertall. I hope you enjoy Part 1 and will return for Part 2 soon.

As always you can leave comments at goforthandgame@gmail.com or @tomgurg or @inquiry_meeple.

Thanks for listening.

You can find lots more interesting gaming content at The Inquisitive Meeple, our brother site.

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Our Conversation With…Galactic Raptor Games About Animal Kingdoms


Ryan and I chat with Carla Kopp and Dan Letzring of Galactic Raptor about their first game, Animal Kingdoms. Continue reading “Our Conversation With…Galactic Raptor Games About Animal Kingdoms”

Flying Solo – Impressions of Desolate, Knister, and Captive


It’s solo game time. In this episode Ryan and I are talking about some very good solo games. I have reviews for Van Ryder Games’ Captive and Desolate from Grey Gnome Games. Ryan gives us his thoughts on Knister, a neat roll and write.

Captive is one of VRG’s Graphic Novel Adventures books. These are fantastic solo games that A.J. Porfirio and I talked about in these games on the show – Part 1 and Part 2. You can pick up these games at the VRG website or your FLGS.

Desolate is a science fiction themed solo game from Jason Glover. We are hoping to have Jason on in 2019 to talk about it and his upcoming expansion of the game to multiple players. You can get Desolate at Grey Gnome Games, The Game Crafter, PNPArcade, or your FLGS.

Knister is a straight forward roll and write. It is harder to find than the other games but here are a few links – here and here.

 

As always you can leave comments at goforthandgame@gmail.com or @tomgurg or @inquiry_meeple.

Thanks for listening.

You can find lots more interesting gaming content at The Inquisitive Meeple, our brother site.

A Proud Member of The Indie Game Report Network

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Go Forth And Games’ $20 And Under Gift Guide 2018 -Part 1


In this episode Ryan and I talk about a bunch of games you can purchase for $20 and less. With the holidays upon us, any of these games would make fantastic presents for friends, co-workers, and family. They are excellent stocking stuffers or party gifts. You’ll find a list of the games we discussed below.

UNLESS STATED THESE ARE AMAZON PRICES

WITH PRIME OR ADD ON SHIPPING

OVER 40 Games here

Misc. Board Games

  1. Rocky Road A la mode $16
  2. NMBR 9 around $17
  3. Bubblee Pop around $13
  4. Great Heartland Hauling Co is $12 on amazon
  5. TICKET TO RIDE NY  – TARGET $20

Games to introduce to adults

  1. Ladder 29 ($18 on amazon)
  2. Diamonds ($18 on amazon)
  3. Medici the Card game (around $18)
  4. Arboretum Card game $20
  5. Flip City around $14
  6. Red7 Card game $13
  7. Codenames around $15
  8. Lost Cities ( $14 amazon)
  9. The Game $13 TARGET
  10. Wordsy $20 amazon
  11. Fox in the Forest (around 14)
  12. Oh My Goods ( $15)

Card Games for whole family

  1. For Sale (Travel Edition around $17)
  2. Game of Trains $12
  3. Sushi go around $11
  4. Sushi go party $19
  5. Best Treehouse Ever (18.90 amazon)
  6. Monster Crunch Breakfast Battle Game $20 at TARGET

We hope you enjoy the podcast and find this list helpful. Stay tuned for part 2.

As always you can leave comments at goforthandgame@gmail.com or @tomgurg.

Thanks for listening.

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Sipping Tea – A Conversation With…Deep Aqua Games


Here’s Chai in action. Beautiful art and components.

In this episode I’m talking to Dan and Connie Kazmaier of Deep Aqua Games. We discuss the history of Deep Aqua Games then focus on their new game, Chai. Chai sounds like a neat game with some interesting game play. I hope you enjoy this show.

Playtesters having fun with Chai.

As always you can contact me via Twitter at @tomgurg or email – goforthandgame@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

The Most Dangerous Games – Building Horror Into Board Games with Chris Kirkman


A little on the late side since October has passed but I like the topic so in this episode of The Most Dangerous Games I talk to Chris Kirkman, dicehateme himself. I thought Chris would be a great person to discuss horror themes in gaming. We talk about what makes a game scary, how do to get tension in a game, and mention some games that fit into this category. It was fun and I hope you enjoy it.

Chunkin’ Punkins – A Conversation With…Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback (and some guy named Kirkman) about Legends of Sleepy Hollow


This is a conversation that I had with this motley crew a year ago. I thought, with the spooky season, it would be cool to revisit it. The game was successfully Kickstarted and is in production. I’m really looking forward to this game. I hope you enjoy it.

The Controlling Idea – This is the idea that you are designing for a certain player experience. What are you trying to achieve for the player? What experience do you want them to have? sleepy4a

BEN – The experience is to bring the excitement of a campaign based adventure computer game to the tabletop. We really loved partying up with each other wearing headphones, chatting, and going on these epic adventures back in the day from the comfort of our basements. We thought how much more fun would it be to have a similar experience live action in person with your friends? You level up / build these characters over the course of the campaign and you grow to love them. Jeremiah will be YOUR Jeremiah by chapter 8. And likewise for Emily, Matthias, and Elijah.

Why Sleepy Hollow? What made you grab that idea?

BEN – Frankly it came from a couple years of me hawking public domain stories. I was super interested in designing to a popular intellectual property and at the time no-one was knocking on our door with Star Wars or Lord of the Rings etc. So my research led me to a couple candidates, and when I realized The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was wide open in tabletop gaming I absolutely could not believe it, so we moved quickly from there.

That’s a well that hasn’t been dipped into very much. There are some great properties out there just waiting.

CHRIS – And how. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some more great public domain entities from the literary world that make it into a Dice Hate Me Games title.sleepy7

Challenge accepted! This is a co-op game. Why?

BEN This game is a co-op because the online adventure games we played were co-op. Forming a party and going on the adventure together was the initial kernel for the game. It was never in doubt.

CHRIS – I can’t imagine it being competitive. Some people have feared that there would be a traitor element (knowing my gaming history), but Legends of Sleepy Hollow really is about four strangers banding together to face supernatural uncertainty. When you’re playing, we want you to feel like it’s one for all and all for one – and that truly comes through in the story.

Explain the action pool mechanic.

MATT:The action pool is based on all those awesome RPG/MMO skill bars that we all loved in video games. As you use your actions, they “clog” your special and awesome skills until you have used all of your actions and they refresh. BUT as you explore and adventure in Sleepy Hollow and encounter the local denizens, you can take on Fear that add to your action pool and slow down the refresh of your skills.

It’s a campaign based game. It sounds very much like an RPG. Talk about this.

MATT: It totally is! I grew up on PC RPG games and Ben and I played a ton of an sleepy5MMORPG called Guild Wars about 10ish years ago. That totally inspired the feel and flow of Sleepy Hollow.

CHRIS – I’m an old school roleplayer but I never got into World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. I understand the appeal, I just knew that if I dove in I would be lost and never be productive. That’s actually proven to be a nice dichotomy during development; Ben & Matt would come back and say “now here at the end of the Chapter you get like a super cloak and a magic ring” and I just see all this taking place in reality so I ground it a bit. Instead of bashing a Gobkin over the head with a shovel and 30 gold coins and a cloak pops out, we now have story arcs that explain the natural way that characters upgrade things.

Tell us about the characters.

BEN: Beyond the bios you can check out on the Kickstarter page, here is a little behind the scenes on how players will use / level up our heroes.

Jeremiah Pincke – Undertaker
Jeremiah is your friendly local shovel wielding badass. There’s a bunch of animated trees and pumpkin headed viney guys out there just begging for a shovel to the face, and Jeremiah is more than happy to oblige. Players may take Jeremiah in a couple different directions becoming more of the berserker style physical damage dealer or more of the deliberate tank / shield type of muscle. Jeremiah is crucial to keeping the party safe and directing enemy action.

Emily Van Winkle – Tanner
Emily starts out as a familiar type of ranged attacker with a bow and some nice damage dealing attacks from afar. She grew up the daughter of the local tanner though, and learned comfort in the woods from a very young age. So much to say that opportunities to develop on her stealth and familiarity in the wild will be aplenty.

Elijah Kappel – Dutch Reformed Minister
Elijah will keep players alive. And he will calm their fear. And he will rain down terror on the bad guys. Which one he does more of will depend on players play styles and how they choose to take the old Minister. Don’t sleep on the Minister as a playable character. He’s the leader and drives the action if you’re playing well.
sleepy8
Matthias Geroux – War Veteran
Matthias is awesome. Who doesn’t want to play as the double flintlock pistol slinging Revolutionary War vet? Instead of the normal caster trope from rpgs, what we have here is a multi dimensional ranged damage dealer who relies heavily, more so than anyone else, on the roll of the dice. Remember, those old pistols weren’t exactly super precise. Matthias will be given plenty of chances to increase his damage but also to become the battlefield general that the party needs. He can develop shouts and other abilities that affect the party and uplift the team. Or he can shoot more pumpkins in the face. Your call.

What are some “Wow!” moments from playtests that have stuck in your heads?

BEN: It’s funny, but any time a standup die roll goes the way to save the party you get a HUGE cheer. That never gets old. It could be a landed attack, a missed enemy swipe, a fortunate spawn roll, a perfect wild smash, we love dice and you just can’t beat that feeling.

CHRIS: There is almost always that kind of moment in a game. In our official playthrough for the Kickstarter campaign the game hinged on one die roll and we made it! It’s an awesome feeling.

Ben, Matt – This is a DHMG release. Your first one. How does that make you feel?

MATT: Weeeellllllll, there was as little thing called Monster Truck Mayhem so it has been a long road to Sleepy Hollow but we are super excited to work with Chris. He was one of the first people we met in the industry and became friends with.

Sorry, I forgot about MTM. I backed it and would love to see it come back. Chris?monster truck

CHRIS: I have the original Monster Truck Mayhem demo board hanging up in my office as a reminder of 1) sometimes failure happens, 2) learn from it and do your best to never let it happen again, and 3) one day we’re going to get this sucker on the market. One way or another you haven’t seen the last of these monster trucks.

That’s good to hear. I like the Fear mechanic in Legends. Talk about that.

BEN: I can’t remember exactly when we came up with it, but the motivation was in our desire to create the cool down for your special skills. Back to the video game on the tabletop, a huge part of those video games was managing your skill bar and when to use each skill. Skills have a cool down meaning you just can’t hit special skill after special skill with no thought. The action selection and refresh, combined with the fear gives players that planning around the special skills and the excitement of timing them well.

Talk about the art.

MATT: It’s good.

BEN: It’s stylistic but not too cartoony. I think the balance that Abigail Larson found is just perfect, and Colin Chan matched it on the environment tiles perfectly as well.sleepy9

CHRIS: I love Matt’s response. It’s such a Matt response. Jenn Closson (Greater Than Games’ Creative Director) spent a long time looking for the right artist to give us the look that she and I really wanted but that Matt & Ben would be happy with. When she found Abigail we knew it in an instance. We wanted a dark, fantastical look but with an appropriate age to it. She has nailed it, and Colin Chan (our tile artist) has done an amazing job of crafting the world according to Abigail’s style.

How much of the original story is in the game?

MATT: Legends of Sleepy Hollow takes place three days after the disappearance of Ichabod Crane. Four Tarry Town residents with strange ties to the supernatural venture into an ever-darkening Sleepy Hollow to uncover its mysteries.

Minis – why? Who designed the minis?

Ben: Minis because they are awesome. People expect them now in a campaign game like this and frankly I wanted to play with minis. I love these characters and the sculpts absolutely bring them to life. Francesco Orru blew my mind with these figures.sleepy11

CHRIS: Yes, I happened upon Francesco’s work because of an interview he did online. He has been an absolute joy to work with; super enthusiastic and incredibly receptive to feedback and art direction.

How much is Chris involved in the design? Will you be listed as a designer?

Chris is lead developer and story teller. He earned his money and then some.

BEN: Early on we kind of set the pacing that Matt and I would handle the design proper and Chris would write the story and build the world. That probably does make him a designer in the end, but that would mean sharing the massive designer profits with him so…….

CHRIS: Yeah, Ben & Matt deserve the design credit and that massive designer royalty. They don’t need my name crowding their’s on the box. I’m just happy to have had an awesome world to play around in and a great game to showcase a crazy cool story.

Can talk about stretch goals? Other than there will be some.

BEN: One of the major efforts will be to bake in more replayability with different difficulty levels. Going back and playing Chapters again with new wrinkles is the idea. Any potential over-funding would help us further develop these paths and be able to provide even more content. Also, there are some cool component upgrades that we’d love to hit in there as well.

Matt and Ben – what else can we expect from you in the near future?

BEN:Songbirds is a card game of ours coming out at Nuremberg Toy Fair early 2018, and we are super excited for our first German release. Other things you’ll probably see will be more mini expansions and events for Wasteland Express Delivery Service. Keep an eye out this fall for some really cool in store events there.

What’s it like working as a team?

BEN: Working with Chris is a dream. We’ve been friends a long time now and watching him dive into a world he’s passionate about is something to behold. It’s been a super team up for us. And then experiencing the expanded Greater Than Games team and seeing them at their best has been amazing. We are surrounded by ridiculously talented and genuinely great people on all fronts here.

CHRIS: I love these guys. I’ve said it before but I have been incredibly blessed to work with such awesome and supportive designers over the years. This has been a dream project – but it’s not over! Now that we’ve funded I have to actually finish production on the whole thing!

Will this be a Rooster or Dragon sized game?

BEN: If it’s up to me, Dragon baby! Print before Chris says NO!

CHRIS: You’d better believe this is a Dragon. Dice Hate Me Games’s very first Dragon. And I’m happy that it’s a Ridback joint.

What mechanic is still largely untapped, in your opinion?

BEN: On a larger scale, roll and write. It had a huge emergence in 2017, but then has quieted down, but I still think there is a ton of meat on the bone. I mean, role players aren’t scared of dice, pencil and paper and I’m just getting started. When you tell me I can just have players write down data in pencil, well I’m not stopping at Fleet The Dice Game. The mechanic is just too good and liberating.

That’s a good one. It has calmed down but there are some good ones being published – Harvest Dice for example.

Do you have a gaming pet peeve?

MATT: Forced social interaction. I am totally fine with social interaction, I do not like it when it’s forced.

CHRIS: Distracted gamers. I’ll take a pic, maybe Tweet out that we’re playing, but after that I’m typically off my phone. Put your dang phones down! Stop watching football on TV! You’re there to play a game and to enjoy your time with people, so make the most of it.

Is it font or typeface?

BEN: Chris is busy in the bowels of the Kickstarter campaign, so I’ll help out here……… font…

And yes, Legends Of Sleepy Hollow will come in a coffee can.

CHRIS: BEEEENNNNNN!!!! *shakes fists furiously*

Also, it’s typeface. And I won’t speak about the coffee can.

 

Chris in the bowels of anything. Thanks for that picture.  

Coffee can – Dang! But it is coming in a cool box.

Thanks guys. It was a ton of fun learning about Sleepy Hollow. I’m really looking forward to it.

Readers, you can learn more about Legends of Sleepy Hollow here. I looks like a really cool and fun game.sleepy3

I have an interview with Chris pending where we discuss how to make scary games. This is an interesting topic and Chris has some neat ideas about it. I hope you will join me for it.

You can leave a comment below. And you can contact me via goforthandgame.com or @tomgurg.

The Most Dangerous Games – A Conversation With…KeyMaster Games about Campy Creatures


In this Most Dangerous Games episode I talk to Jennifer Graham-Macht of KeyMaster Games about their game, Campy Creatures. This is a ghoulish trick taking game of deception and bluffing about mad scientists and their creatures capturing citizens for nefarious purposes. The game is getting a second edition and an expansion so wanted to get the lowdown on these and about KeyMaster Games.

 

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter page.

As always thank you for listening!

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The Most Dangerous Games – Ghosts Love Candy


Ghost Love Candy by Danny Devine  Published by Steve Jackson Games

Key words: charming, fun, gorgeous, depth, deceiving

I learned about Ghosts Love Candy when I interviewed Danny Devine, the game’s designer, for his other design, Mob Town. Danny talked about the theme and premise of the game and it sounded interesting. But I didn’t realize it was so close to being completed. The Mob Town kickstarter had barely ended when I was sent me a review copy of Ghosts. And I am very glad they did so.

Let’s start with the theme. Ghosts love candy. They really do. It’s just that they can never eat it. Because they are ghost and there are rules you know. Except on Halloween night. Then they can possess trick-or-treating kids and satisfy their sugary desire. Ghosts Love Candy is a hand management game at its core. Players have a hand of ghosts numbered 1 to 9. Each player also has a secret goal / scoring card. This card lists the types of candy in the game and the point value of that candy for that player. The most liked candy will score the most points at the end of the game and the least liked the least. And various in between. And the order of the list varies among the cards so that candy corn may be a high scorer for one player and a low scorer for another.  Back to the ghosts. Players use these ghosts to bid on turn order each round. The player that played the highest numbered ghost gets to choose first onto which kid they will place that ghost. Players place ghosts on the kids to get the the candy that kid has. Turn order continues in descending order until all players have placed their ghosts and taken their candy. Then the next round starts. There’s a twist. Each kid has a special power. Player take these special powers when they place a ghost on a kid. These powers may allow you to take candy from another player. Or shift the kids around in the line. Or keep a kid from getting scared. Yep, these ghosts can scare the kids. How you ask? As I mentioned the ghosts have a number. The kids have a number also – a threshold number. If a player places a ghost on a kid and the sum of the ghosts on that kid equals or exceeds the kid’s threshold number, the kid is scared. Scared kids are put into the stash of the player whose ghost scared the kid and count as (-2) points at the end of the game. Because you shouldn’t scare the kids of course. At the start of each round, one piece of candy (candy cards)is drawn from the candy deck and  is added to each kid. Kids that didn’t get ghosts placed on them in previous rounds will accumulate candy until some lucky ghost gobbles it up. The game continues until there is no more candy to draw from the candy deck. That sums up the game play of Ghosts Love Candy. The player with the most points wins.

First, a look at the components of the game. Ghosts is basically a card game. There are 6 sets of Ghost cards. Each set has pictured a unique, named ghost and these are numbered 1 to 9. Each set is also a different color.  There are Scoring (Love) cards that list the candy available in the game in differing order for each card. So on one card Gummie Bears will score 5 points, Peppermint 4, Licorice 3, etc.. These cards express the Ghosts’ ‘tastes’ in candy. There are Candy cards depicting the various types of candy available in the game – one type per card. And the Kid cards, each with a unique action. I’ll mention the art at this point. It’s wonderful. Danny has really nailed the whimsy of the theme with the kids and the ghosts. Each kid and ghost is unique and clearly rendered in a charming cartoon style. Charming. That’s the word. The art is richly colorful, distinct, and unique to this game. I’ll talk about the art a bit more later. That’s it for the components.

I need to talk about Kid Powers a minute. Each Kid has a unique power that allows players to manipulate the rules somewhat. Some powers affect that Kid. Some affect surrounding Kids. Others affect the Ghosts or the Candy on or around them. It is the effective use of these powers that is the real meat of Ghosts Love Candy. Being able to combo them. Moving Kids or Ghosts around to mess with the other players. Swiping candy, keeping Kids from getting sick, moving your sick Kids to someone else’s stash are all potential options. This can be a really wicked game.

 

Who will like Ghosts Love Candy?

-casual gamers: the game’s theme and art will draw them in while the ease of play will hold them.

-filler lovers: Ghosts is quick and will take up to 6.

-some gamers: Ghosts isn’t a deep strategy game but has enough to satisfy gamers who a quick fix

Who will not like Ghosts Love Candy?

-wargamers: if you want wargames you will not find it here

-hardcore eurogamers: there is not enough strategy here to keep real hardcore gamers interest

 

What Do I Think?

By now you know that I like this game. It is fun. It is quick. It makes an excellent filler because it has some strategy and ‘take that’. The art is super. ‘Charming’ was how I first described it. My gamer game group liked it also. My kids liked the game a lot. But they wanted to see more Kids come out. So they created a variant to do that. Here it is.

The Gurganus Kids variant:

Set up the appropriate number of Kids as usual. Play the first round normally. At the beginning of the next and subsequent turns, the last Kid in the row goes home and takes his candy with him. All the other Kids shift down one and a new Kid is drawn and placed in the first spot.This variant introduces some cool decisions. It is possible for the Kid that is leaving to collect a lot of candy before he leaves. Do you let him get to the end, hoping to gobble up a lot of candy at once. Or do you clean him out before? If you want to use his power you better do it fast because he is leaving soon. This variant adds some neat decisions.

Anyway, I recommend this game. It’s a must for Halloween gaming.

Ghosts Love Candy is published by Steve Jackson Games. THANK YOU!

 

 

 

 

A Conversation With…AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games, Part Two


The conversations with AJ continues as we discuss Graphic Novel Adventures and their future, a bit more about the popularity of solo gaming, and what Van Ryder Games has coming in the future.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave comments below or on Twitter – @tomgurg. Or record some audio and send it to goforthandgame@gmail.com. We will use it on a future show.

Thanks for listening.

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A Conversation With…Charlie Hoopes


This is an recent interview with Charlie Hoopes. It is a very interesting interview and Charlie has some unexpected things to say. He is candid and there are some cool ideas expressed that I hadn’t thought of. Enjoy.

Tom: Welcome Charlie. Tell us about your gaming self.

Charlie: Today, it is just my twitter handle. Originally, HoopCAT Games was the name for the publishing company my wife and I wanted to run. I started as that new and idealistic designer who thought he could be both designer and publisher.  We did manage to self-publish my very first title, a family game called Fill the Barn. While there were several excellent reviews, I quickly learned it takes so much more than a fun design and great reviews to succeed in a market overcrowded with strong games. While self-publishing your first game takes a lot of work, that one game can be your sole focus.  Self-publishing your second game (and beyond) becomes far more challenging. Your time is now split between designing new games while also handling the promotion,distribution, warehousing, sales, accounting etc. for the game(s) you’ve already released. I have seen a few self-publishers (e.g. Gil Hova) who can succeed at both – I admire their energy and ability.  I quickly realized my games would fare better if I stuck to the design and left the publishing to others far more experienced and skilled in the everything it takes to make a game successful both during and after publication.

Tom: I sensed that you had decided this but wasn’t sure. Recognizing your strengths and inexperiences and the mountains facing an endeavor is important. Being able to choose the right path in light of those is wisdom and discernment. Bravo! to you for that. Refocusing on what you love is awesome.

I’ve been following Firebreak for a while now. I’ve even played the PNP and it’s a good game. You’ve been very open with its development. And it seems you have good news on it. First, tell us about the game then the news.

Charlie: Firebreak is a cooperative wildfire control game for 1-5 players ages 10 and up that plays in under an hour. Every turn you and your team can do various things  to control or extinguish the flames such as dig firebreaks, fly a tanker plane, or pump water from a lake. But at the end of the turn, the wind direction may change, and then the flames spread with the wind to any space you have not protected. Make it two turns without any spreads and you win, but run out of blaze markers and you lose.

Firebreak!

Despite an enthusiastic loyal Unpub following, it took some time to find a publisher. Until Origins this past June. Not only did I find a publisher, I found a publisher who shares the same enthusiasm as the Unpub playtesters!  While they’ve given me permission to disclose the publisher, I’d rather wait and let them announce when they think the time is best. So I will give a hint to any who are interested. This publisher has quickly been gaining a reputation for excellent art with a 1940’s-1960’s feel on every title in their growing product line.

Tom: What was the most difficult part about designing Firebreak?

Charlie: With competitive games, the other players provide the challenge. With a cooperative game, that challenge must come from the game itself.  I found the most difficult part was adjusting the balance to make sure it was never too easy, never too hard, just right every time.

Tom: You have signed Land of Oz and Sweet Success. Congrats!!!! Tell us about each and who picked them up.

Charlie: Sweet Success is a bakery-themed path building game that will be published by Mayday Games. Players are placing ingredients to build paths between different destinations, and you are allowed to pick up ingredients placed by other players to complete your paths. Completing a path can also block players from building paths through a location for the rest of the game, so paths become longer and more windy as the game goes on.  Sweet Success started as an abstract that some Unpubbers may have playtested under its original name of Attatat.

 

Tom: I really like that mechanism. I can’t wait to see it in action. How did you come up with it?

Charlie: The original idea was players would be building temporary bridges between islands, and as soon as somebody drove a truck over a bridge to make a delivery, that bridge would become unsafe and unusable.  I quickly dropped the theme because it just wasn’t quite working, yet loved the mechanic of building temporary paths that other players could use and destroy. So the “Bridge Out” game very quickly morphed into an abstract – which made things easier because I didn’t have to explain thematically why something happened.  So when Mayday told me they would sign the game but it would need a theme, I had to reverse the whole process. Finding a theme where players would build paths was easy. Finding a theme to explain why players would then destroy those paths and also make points inaccessible – that was far more challenging. Daniel Peterson (Mayday’s lead developer) and I brainstormed and tried a few different things before the final theme of collecting ingredients along bakery delivery routes.

Lands of Oz is a suit maximization card game that will be published by Escape Velocity Games.  The wicked witches are both gone, and now you are trying to attract as many of the heroes to your corner of Oz by playing the most of their suit – i.e. collecting the most hearts will bring Tinman to your land, while collecting the most diplomas will attract Scarecrow.  Lands of Oz is easily the most child-friendly game I have made. While playtesting under an earlier theme as Lady of the Diamonds at Unpub5, there were children as young as 5 at my table who nailed this game. Yet still enjoyable by adults looking for a light quick game.

Tom:  glad to see someone designing for children. I think they are worth designing for and I need to remember this. Thank you for reminding me.

What is your favorite game / mechanism and why?

Charlie: I like them all, and try hard not to use the same primary mechanic twice from design to design.  One that I have not (yet) put into a design is worker placement. Most of the worker placement games I have played tend to be heavier euros.  I would love to design a lighter casual game (an hour or less) that features worker placement.

Tom: I have the same goal. I’m hoping the newest one I have just started working on will satisfy that itch.

Charlie: If you succeed, I will buy it.

Tom: What mechanism can you just not get to work like you want it to?

Charlie: My biggest problem has never been getting a mechanism to work. The randomly changing wind direction at the core of Firebreak has been there with little change since the first public playtest. Likewise, despite several theme changes from the original abstract Attatat to its final Mayday version of Sweet Success, the primary mechanism of path building where you can score and remove paths placed by another player  has been unchanged throughout that game’s development.

Where I sometimes struggle is fitting the right game around mechanisms that playtesters love. For example, with my unsigned prototype Miner Rings (a 2016 Cardboard Edison finalist as Planet Movers), play testers have always loved the moveable destinations, shared dice rolls, and limited fuel. My journey with this design has been finding the right game to fit around those core mechanics. It started as an exploration race, then a challenge to complete the most lucrative delivery contracts. The version that was a hit at Unpub8 is now a much more flexible pick-up-and–deliver with an area control feel going on that reminds me of World’s Fair.

Playtesting Miner Rings

Tom: How do you recover from disappointment, be it a bad playtest or a rejection from a publisher?

Charlie: Public play testing. For me, watching others enjoy while playing one of my prototypes is the best cure to a disappointment.  That is what gives me the encouragement to keep pressing forward with a design.

Tom: That is a great and unexpected answer! Thank you for reminding all of us that this is a very good way to get the negative out of your head.

What advice from a fellow game designer or playtester has been the most valuable?

Charlie: I hate to give a weak answer on this one, because over the years I have received SO MUCH GREAT advice from designers and publishers both, that I’m not sure there is just one or two or three I can pick out.  Ask me the advisors I find myself going back to, and I will name Ian Zang, Luke Peterschmidt, Randy Hoyt, and Daniel Peterson at the top of my valued advisor lists. Yet there are so many more beyond those four. The board game design community is extremely friendly. Public playtesting and conventions are not just about all important feedback on your prototype.  It is about ever widening your network of advisors.

Tom: This is a super fantastic point. That network is invaluable for testing, reviewing rules, but I think most importantly for encouragement.  

Charlie: I also have to give a shout out to my friend Jeff, who has given me over 200 playtests of Firebreak over the years. His playtests were extremely valuable in helping me to get the balance just right in that co-op.

Tom: How do you deal with design block?

Charlie: If I get stuck on one design, I will set it aside and work on another.

Tom: Yep. That seems to be how most of us deal with it. How do you define ‘replayability’ relating to games?

Charlie: I enjoy games that are never exactly the same from game to game, where there is always a new or different wrinkle.  I like games that have different boards every game, or give players different starting positions or different starting resources every game. To me, replayability increases when there is a slightly different challenge every game that must be overcome in order to win.

Tom: What game do you wish you had designed?

Wow. Playtesting with Matt Leacock!

Charlie: I have no answer to this. Pandemic and Gravwell are towards the top of my favorite game designs. Yet when I think of those games, I wouldn’t have wanted to design them, the names Matt Leacock and Corey Young belong on those boxes.  By the way, did I mention that Matt made time at Unpub8 to play and give feedback on Firebreak, and Corey made time at an Origins years ago to play and give feedback on a very early version of Planet Movers/Miner Rings? I am not sure if that was name dropping, hero worship, or some of both. But now that I’ve given a long rambling answer that doesn’t directly answer the question, let me go back and talk around the question a little more.  My dream would not be to have been the designer of either Pandemic or Gravwell. Rather, my dream is that some day Firebreak or Miner Rings would be played on enough tables to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pandemic or Gravwell.

 

Tom: Nice! I look forward to the day when I have Firebreak right next to Pandemic and can’t decide which one I want to play more. What is the biggest, most impactful lesson you have learned through all this?

Charlie: Well there is the first and most obvious rule of game design – Don’t quit your day job. Assuming you still want to pay the mortgage, pay your offsprings’ tuition bills, and continue to feed your family.

Seriously, my biggest lesson is persist.  We are designing for a market that is overflowing with a ton of fun solid games. If your game belongs in that marketplace, persist until you find the publisher that says yes.  I had publishers turn down Sweet Success, Lands of Oz, and Firebreak before I found the right publisher for each. I still haven’t found the publisher willing to say yes to Miner Rings – and the only way that I won’t is if I stop trying.

Tom: Here’s a follow-up: Why do you thing the market is overflowing and do you think we are headed for a down-turn?

Charlie: That’s two questions, I hope you will take two answers.  First – why is the market overflowing? My opinion is the computer age has greatly contributed to the board game renaissance and the abundance of designers, designs, and publishers. Let’s go back even further then we need to – back  to Lizzie Maggie (the original designer of the Landlord’s Game that later became Monopoly). I don’t care what you think of Monopoly as a game. Stop and think how would you go about designing a game without a computer and layman-accessible graphic design software, without a printer, and no internet for you to research publishers and  email a pitch to a publisher you’ve never met in another city, state, or country? If I had born many years earlier, it wouldn’t have mattered how many great game ideas had popped into my head, because the barrier to entry would have been too high. Without the computer age, a non-artistic, non-crafty, person with poor penmanship like me would be challenged to simply make a playable prototype.

Will there be a down-turn? My opinion is “no”, and the reason why also goes to another way in which the computer and information age enable the board game renaissance. If you go back in history, there were several industrial age booms (railroads, automobiles) where a new technological breakthrough attracted  more new companies than the market could support. The most successful survived, while the losers were bought out or simply folded.. Yet I don’t think that will be the fate of designers or publishers in the current board game boom. Why? Because the information age makes the required effort so low that you and I can have day jobs that pay our bills, and still have enough time to design games on evenings and weekends.  

How many small publishers have day jobs that feed them and their families?  How many self-publishers and small publishers would have enough start up capital to publish a game without Kickstarter?  The point for both the publisher and designer side is that IF you rely on board games as your sole source of income, then you MUST achieve a certain level of business success. Else you are squeezed out and change careers to one where you can support yourself. But if you can have a regular job and can do the designing or publishing on the side, you can have a much lower level of business success yet afford to remain in the industry.

Sorry, that was a long answer.  Can I suggest a future interview for Go Forth and Game? Your question of “are we headed for a down turn?” Both members of Dr. Wictz (Aaron & Austin) have day jobs as professional economists. I think Paul Owen might be also.  I would love to hear their thoughts on the question of a future board game down-turn!

Tom: Those are excellent points. And I had not thought of any of those. You really make a solid ‘argument’ for the continued upward growth of the industry. Cool. The interview thing is a great idea. Thanks. Do you have a game design philosophy?

Playtesting Firebreak.

Charlie: Play test early, play test often.  Try to test every idea you have or changes that others suggest, because often the reality of how an idea plays out on the table can be quite different than the theory in your head of how you thought it would work .

Tom: How do you know when a game just isn’t going to work in its current state? When do you put it on the shelf?

Charlie: The point for me is if I find myself reverting back to old ideas I had already tested rather than coming up with new solutions to test. If I reach the point where I have no new solutions to test, I would rather take a break and work on another design and not waste thought and effort going in circles. The only design where I have ever had to set it on the shelf for a long time is my unsigned Planet Movers/Miner Rings design. When Richard Launius was the VIP at one of the Unpubs, he talked about putting designs on the shelf and coming back to them later. Until then, I was not familiar with the idea. I tried it with Planet Movers, and several months later, it worked (and thus the evolution to Miner Rings).

Tom: How do you maintain the excitement?

Charlie: Although I can be both patient and persistent, my excitement ultimately will fizzle out. What keeps me going is seeing playtesters enjoy one of my prototypes. When others enjoy a game I design, that is what keeps me going to make it as great as it can possibly be. And to persist until I find a publisher who agrees.

Tom: That goes back to playtest often. Something that I do not do enough. I find my enthusiasm for a game fizzles as I’m sure all of us designers do. I’ll either switch to a new design or take a break for a week. Ideas percolate and when I come back usually something has dislodged. I can see how playtesting would jumpstart that. I really need to do that on a more regular basis.

What’s in the queue and new?

Charlie: Very little.  I am still trying to find publishers for my space-themed Miner Rings and food-themed Chef’s Choice.  But very little that is new. I had started a tile layer called Doggerland where you can lay both horizontally or vertically (i.e. on top of other tiles). Doggerland was the land bridge that connected the British Islands to mainland Europe 10,000 years ago, as Earth was coming out of the last ice age. As the ice age glaciers melted, sea levels rose, and Doggerland now lies under the  North Sea. In my prototype, the sea is rising faster than the tiles are laid, so the playing area keeps shrinking smaller and smaller. I thought I’d be further along with Doggerland by this point, but it turns out instead my development time this summer has been going to making and testing some Firebreak modifications that the publisher wants. Not a bad problem to have.

Tom: Pitch Tag: Pitch a game about Space and food.

Charlie: That’s easy!  Here’s my two games. Miner Rings is a pick-up-and deliver space game that is the evolution of a Cardboard Edison finalist that features movable destinations,  circular motion, and shared dice rolls. Chef’s Choice is a non-party game that plays up to 8 in 30 minutes or less where you hand out food samples to increase customer demand for the dishes on your mealtime menu. No one player can single-handedly dominate the outcome, so this game is really about watching what samples your competitors hand out and matching your menu to what your competitors are doing.

Oh wait, you said game.  Singular not plural. Let me try again.  How’s this? Protoplanets is a game set in an early solar system where you are trying to eat up the most hydrogen, water, iron, and silicates from the gas/dust disk surrounding a newly-ignited star. Eat the most to build the largest planet and you win.  Now that I’ve pitched it, are you expecting me to make it?

Tom: This is a really great story of your journey. THANK YOU for taking time and thought on this. It means a lot to me.

Charlie: Thank you. My pleasure.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed this very informative and fun interview. I want to thank Charlie again for opening up about his game design work and the struggles and successes he has had.

I would love to hear from you. Please tweet me @tomgurg or @goforthandgame. Email at goforthandgame@gmail.com.

A Proud Member of The Indie Game Report Network

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A Conversation With…AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games, Part One


In the fun episode of Go Forth And Game I talk to AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games. It’s been a good while since we spoke last to there is a lot to catch up on. Like Hostage Negotiator, The Big Score, and Detective:City of Angels. But the focus of the show is on VRG’s newest – Graphic Novel Adventures. These are Choose Your Own Adventure type solo games in a graphic novel format and they are fantastic! This is a good show. I know you will like it.

GNA-Collection.jpg

 

Comments are always welcome. Leave them at below or on Twitter – @tomgurg or goforthandgame@gmail.com.

Or record an audio file and send it to the above email address. We’ll use it in a future show.

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Is One Play Enough For A Good Review?


Ok, I’m opening up a big ole can of worms with this one.

Is one play enough for a good review?

Should a reviewer play a game more than once to do a review? Is a one play review really just an impression or is it adequate for a good review? What about previews? Every Kickstarter has to have at least three or four to be taken seriously. So are they legit ‘reviews’ since the game and components could change in production?

Games like Candyland or most Haba games (and there are scads I don’t know I’m sure) probably don’t need more than one play before I have enough info to do a review. But most of the games the majority of us play are quite a bit more complex than these games. To me a single play of the types of games we play the most is just an impression. I get an idea of the game but I don’t fully understand it yet.

For most games, a single play just doesn’t give me enough of a feel for the game. I’m kind of slow. I need several plays to understand a game. I don’t do reviews often.  I need to play a game a couple of times to feel like I have a handle on it enough to be able to review it.  That one reason I don’t do a ton of reviews. It takes me some time to do what I feel is a proper job.  For the most part when I agree to do a review, I play a minimum of three times so that I am comfortable giving an honest review. And if I have some negative things to say, I will pass it by the designer/publisher first to let them know so they are not surprised. If I don’t like a game that I review, I will let the designer/publisher know this and most likely will not post it. That said I do give the full story, with the things that just weren’t for me and the things that I enjoyed.

Here’s a real good question that’s floating out there in the gaming community – what about paid reviews? Can they be trusted? I don’t know how I feel about this one. Part of me says “Sure, as long as it’s an honest review.”. And I would hope that they are. Part of me wonders at the pressure there must be to give a game a good review if you are getting paid.  I just don’t really know where I stand on this one.  I’d very much like to hear from some of you who do reviews for dollars. Tell us your ideas.

And what makes up a good review anyway? We will address that one on an upcoming podcast! So stay tuned.

There are a lot of different opinions on this one, folks. Tweet with #goforthandgame or @tomgurg. Record a 2 minute reply. Email me at goforthandgame@gmail.com.  So let’s hear your voice! We will use it on a future podcast!!

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A Conversation With…Julio Nazario, Game Design Champion – Part 1


Julio E. Nazario

In this, part 1 of a two part interview, I’m talking with Iron Design Challenge winner AND just announced HABA contest winner Julio Nazario. Julio and I talk about how he got into gaming and game design. We also discuss the Asheville chapter of the Game Designers of North Carolina. Julio is a very humble guy and a brilliant game designer. As you will see. It is a fun show and I know you will enjoy it.

 

Filler Thriller and Wreck-a-Mecha


Tom and Ryan dive into the age of debate about filler games. What they are, what they aren’t, some excellent examples. Also Ryan reviews Wreck-a-Mecha by Black Table Games. It’s robot battling fun for everyone!

Some of our favorite fillers are No Thanks!, Coloretto, Bubblee Pop, For Sale, Best Treehouse Ever, Botswana, and Sushi Go.

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My 20 Favorite Monster Movies


I’ve been listening to Monster Kid Radio a lot lately. My old friend, Micah S. Harris, pointed me to it last month and I can’t get enough. If you didn’t know, I’m a huge classic monsters fan. I can remember ordering monster movie books from Scholastic in school (who remembers that?). I remember watching what was probably Creature Feature on Friday night. First a chapter of Flash Gordon then a monster movie. It was great. Later the movies moved to Saturday afternoons. Give me the classics and B-movies! In college I met Micah and discovered a whole bunch more – Plan 9, all the Santo movies, Superargo, even more B’s. We would talk about monster movies all the time. The VCR was your friend if you were a monster kid.

So Monster Kid Radio is a podcast that focuses on these movies. I’ve been listening every day now for a month.

Recently MKR asked listeners to send in their 20 favorite monster movies made in or before 1967. The latest show goes over this list. I missed sending mine in so I thought I would post it here.

20.The Trollenburg Terror

19.War of the Gargantuas

18.House of Wax (original)

17.Robot Monster

16.The Last Man On Earth (Vincent Price version)

15.The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

14.King Kong

13.The Thing From Another World

12.Godzilla

11.Village of The Damned

10.The Monster of Piedras Blancas

9.The Wolf Man

8.The Mummy (Karloff version)

7.The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

6.Freaks

5.Jason And The Argonauts

4.Dracula (Lugosi version)

3.The Mole People

2.Invasion of The Body Snatchers (original)

1.The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Image result for creature from the black lagoon

That’s my list. These are my favorite old monster movies. It was actually kind of hard to make this list. Mostly because I can’t remember all that I’ve seen. I’m sure I’ve left something off. There are no Hammer films here simply because I haven’t seen a lot of them or haven’t seen them as much or they were later than 1967. Kaiju are represented but several of my favorites are again outside the parameters. Most people will be pulling their hair out that I didn’t include the original Frankenstein in the top 20. It’s in the top 50 for sure but I like these better. It’s my top 20. What are yours? I’d love to hear from you. Send in your list or comment with them below. Try to convince me why Horror of Dracula or The Monster That Challenged The World should be on my list. @tomgurg, goforthandgame@gmail.com or leave a comment

P.S. So when I started writing this article, War of the Gargantuas has just begun on Comet TV. It has just gone off. Guess what is coming on – Jason And The Argonauts! It’s a good day.

Sitting At The Kids’ Table – A Conversation With…Helaina Cappel of Kids Table Board Games


This episode is with Kids Table Board Games president, Helaina Cappel. This is a super fun interview. Helaina and I talk about her vision for KTBG, what’s happening in the industry, and about their game, Wreck Raiders, which is on Kickstarter. Dive right in!

 

You can Tweet me – @tomgurg    Or send me an email – goforthandgame@gmail.com

Here’s the link for Kids Table Board Games

Go here to support Wreck Raiders on Kickstarter

Here’s the link for The Inquisitive Meeple

The Indie Game Report is here

Go Forth And Game is a proud member of The Indie Game Report Network

The Neverland Rescue Post-Campaign Debrief with Dan Letzring of Letiman Games


LETIMAN GAMES

This time I’m talking with Dan Letzring of Letiman Games about his most recently funded game, The Neverland Rescue. Dan discusses choices made before and during the campaign, lessons learned, and post-campaign production. We also have a tease about two new projects Dan is involved in. Dan is always a great guest and it’s a fun interview. I know you will enjoy it. Leave a comment below or tweet me – @tomgurg.

 

I want to remind everyone that Go Forth And Game is the official podcast of The Inquisitive Meeple. iMeeple is run by Ryan Sanders. We are partnering to bring you more quality game related content. Here’s some information about The Inquisitive Meeple.

About

What is The Inquisitive Meeple?

The Inquisitive Meeple has performed 250+ interviews since its 2014 inception. It originally started with the mission to get the story behind specific tabletop games via in-depth interviews. It has since expanded its mission over the years to include design advice, publisher, and artist interviews and articles. Along with the occasional preview/review thrown in. A geeklist of links for all the interviews can be found, by clicking here.

Who is The Inquisitive Meeple?

Born with cardboard in his veins and raised by wild meeples…. no… that’s not right…let’s start again. The Inquisitive Meeple is Ryan Sanders, a stay-at-home dad, father of 5 (what!?) and blessed to have a wife that loves playing board games as much as he does (and no she isn’t writing this). Those that have been interviewed by Ryan know that the “inquisitive” part, of his nom de plume, is very appropo. Though contrary to just about everyone’s belief (due to his logo, Meeps), he doesn’t wear hats. Rumor has it, that he originally wanted to call the blog, The Great North American Meeple. Ryan got into hobby gaming back in December 2004 when he received Lost Cities and Bohnanza for Christmas presents and he’s never been the same since.

You can find Ryan on Twitter @inquiry_meeple

 

 

Also I’m a proud member of The Indie Game Report Network. We are a collection of podcasts, videocasts, and blogs the bring you the latest in gaming goodness.

About The Indie Game Report (TIGR)

The Indie Game Report started in 2016, as a spin-off of The Inquisitive Meeple, when the old site went dormant. Fairway, who at the time was on staff at The Inquisitive Meeple, started TIGR. I soon followed and posted articles there as well (many of these articles can be found on this site now). The Inquisitive Meeple will continue to cross-post many of the articles with TIGR and is currently considered to be part of The Indie Game Report Network.

 

Two For Review – Days of Discovery and Boomerang


This time Ryan and I review a couple of games currently on Kickstarter. First, Ryan talks about Boomerang, a new game from Scott Almes and Grail Games. Then I talk about Matt Worden’s Days of Discovery. These are fun games and this is a fun show. We hope you like it. If you do let us know on Twitter @tomgurg and @inquiry_meeple OR leave a comment below.

Days of Discovery link

Boomerang link

 

 

Sketching with a LogicFairy – A Conversation With…Jacqui Davis


This show I’m talking with board game illustrator extraordinaire Jacqui Davis. Jacqui is a fantastic artist and has a large catalog of games that she has illustrated. It’s a great interview that I’m sure you will like.

 

You can contact Jacqui via Twitter – @LogicFairy.  You can see more of her work at jacquidavis.com.

If you have something to say or a question about this interview, please contact me at @goforthandgame or leave a comment below.

Discovering Dicey Gates – A Conversation With…Matt Worden of Matt Worden Games


Matt Worden is my guest this time on Go Forth And Game. I’m also joined by my new, periodic co-host Ryan Sanders, The Inquisitive Meeple. We all talk about Matt’s upcoming Kickstarter game, Days of Discovery. It is a neat game about voyaging to a new land west of Europe in the 1300’s. And it is not North America! We also discuss Matt’s games Dicey Curves and the award winning Jump Gate. Both of these games will be getting new editions this year. This is a really neat show that I’m sure you will enjoy.

If you do please leave a comment or tweet me. I’m @tomgurg on Twitter.

As always, thanks for listening.

 

 

Go Forth And Game is a proud member of The Indie Game Report.

The Indie Game Report is a collaborative review site co-founded by Mike Wokasch and Cassie Elle. We primarily feature  reviews and Kickstarter previews of tabletop games from smaller board game publishers.

Second Star To The Right And Straight On Til – A Conversation With…Scott Almes


Scott Almes is my guest this time. We focus on Scott’s latest game, The Neverland Rescue. It’s a new game from Letiman Games. As always Scott is a lot of fun. And check out the Kickstarter for The Neverland Rescue. It’s a cool game. I hope you enjoy.

 

neverland rescue1

Trick Up And Deliver – A Conversation With…Steven Aramini


Tricky Tides1

Steven Aramini joins me on this episode. We talk about his new game, Tricky Tides coming from Gold Seal Games. Steven has some interesting game design ideas and it was interesting talking to him. He also has another game hitting soon – Sprawlopolis coming from Button Shy Games.

 

Talking Junk – A Conversation With… Daniel Solis


Daniel and I talk about his latest games – Junk Orbit and Wonderland from Renegade Games. We also talk about his design philosophy, past games, and what he currently has in the lab. I hope you enjoy the show and as always you can contact me via Twitter – @tomgurg. I’d really like to hear from you.

junk orbitwonderland

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Talking to the Tyccoon: A Conversation With…Dan Yarrington from Game Salute


I have Dan Yarrington from Game Salute as my guest. Dan and I have a really good talk about Game Salute’s history and their newest venures – Starling Games, Sparkworks, and Flying Meeple. I learned a lot about what a game publisher thinks about when making a game. Different ideas about logistics, production, and Kickstarter. This was an extremely interesting interview for me. I hope you enjoy it also. You can find out more about these new game labels here – https://www.gamesalute.com/

If you have comments, questions, or feedback please get in touch via @tomgurg or goforthandgame@gmail.com or comment below.

You can also get this and my other shows on iTunes. I would appreciate some stars too.

Scoring Big Time – A Conversation With … Jason Mowery & Chase Williams About The Big Score


This show I’m talking to Chase Williams and Jason Mowery about their new game, The Big Score. It’s a heist game with a cool twist in that it has two acts. And there’s swiping things from an actual bank. The Big Score is currently on Kickstarter coming from Van Ryder Games.

 

Clipping The Hedges – A Conversation With…Danny Devine


In this episode of Go Forth And Game I’m talking to Danny Devine. You’ll remember Danny from his games Circle The Wagons and Ghosts Love Candy. This time we focus on his newest game Topiary. It’s an interesting show where we talk about Danny’s design philosophy, how he gets his ideas, and bushes. If you like the show, please a comment below. Enjoy.

Unbuttoning The Shy One – Part 2 of my conversation with Jason Tagmire


The show continues as Jason and I talk about Patreon, Boardgame of the Month Club, and Star Wars.  And don’t forget the contest. Listen for instructions on how to win Cunning Folk or Wild Cats, both from Button Shy Games. I hope you enjoy.

 

Unbuttoning His Lips – A Conversation With…Jason Tagmire of Button Shy Games, part 1


The Go Forth And Game Podcast is back! And for the resurrection episode I have Jason Tagmire as my guest. Jason is the head honcho and bottle washer at Button Shy Games. Button Shy is the premier microgame publisher and we talk a whole lot about how Jason got into that, what goes into making these games, and how The Last Jedi is so good. Have a listen.

And remember to visit the Button Shy Games website to participate in the contest mentioned in this episode.

Cunning Folk

If you have some feedback I would love to hear from you. Comment below to let me know what you think, complains, questions, anything you want to say.

The Big Answer


I’m relaunching The Big Question / The Big Answer feature on Go Forth And Game. In The Big Question / The Big Answer I ask designers and gamers a question related to gaming via Twitter, email, and other means. I then gather and compile the answers and will post them.

This time I asked my game designer acquaintances this question – Why Do You Design Games? What is your motivation?

I got some pretty good feedback from a number of nice designers. Here’s what they said.

-Odin Phong, a game blogger says “I do it because I like playing new games and it keeps my brain engaged.”

-Savage Yeti Games, creators of PatchWord, replied “It keeps my mind active and there’s something about making disparate ideas mesh together into a new whole.” https://www.savageyetigames.com/

-Rick Lorenzon, designer of Lords of Alchemy, says “I started designing because I wanted to create a heightened experience of anticipation, excitement, and memorable moments. I’m still doing it because it’s working!”

-Chris Chung, the designer of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival published by Foxtrot and Renegade Game and he’s the head of Flash Forward Games says “I love being able to express my creativity. It lets me stay connected with my friends through a shared dream of designing games and the thrill of seeing people around the world enjoy my game is an amazing feeling.” https://www.facebook.com/pg/FlashForwardGames

-Ben Pinchback, the co-designer of upcoming Legends of Sleepy Hollow from Dice Hate Me Games and numerous other games like Fleet and the new hottness – Wasteland Express Delivery Service, says “I need a creative outlet to keep me sane. For about 15 years that was music. But when kids came along I didn’t have the time or schedule flexibility for that anymore. Game design keeps my mind happy while I do things in life I gotta do – work, commuting, doing dishes, cleaning up pee, etc.” https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/58905/ben-pinchback

-Philip duBarry, who designed Revolution!, Black Orchestra, and many other games replied “Well, I’m not exactly sure. I just know I have to. The games come into my head and I am compelled to figure them out. Additionally, once I got my first game published, I figured I could do it again. At this point I’m aiming to make a really, truly good game. There’s a real joy in pursuing new game designs – can’t imagine not doing it.” https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/10230/philip-dubarry   http://www.phantasiogames.net/

-Michael Fox, who designed Keep Running, Pocket Universe, and the co-designer of Ace of Spies AND podcaster extraordinaire on The Little Metal Dog Show, answered “Ok, why do I make games? Firstly, to stop the churn of ideas in my head – I need to get the concepts out and on paper. From then it’s the joy of seeing one of those scraps form and coalesce into something workable, often combining with another idea that’s also been scribbled down somewhere else. It’s like building a pyramid, all those scraps are the base, and when they start combining they become the next level. Some of those ideas are good enough to keep working on and some of those eventually evolve into a beautiful, fully produced game. It’s a journey that is often stressful, but always fun (if not always enjoyable!).” https://littlemetaldog.com/

-Black Tom (@TheBlackTom) says “I don’t know. It just happens.”

-Matthew Kiehl, designer of The Land of Eyas, answered “Designing games is like a game itself, but I have the power to seek out new experiences and to tinker.” https://mdkiehl.wordpress.com/game-design-game-art/

-Paul Owen, designer of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles from BlueSquare Games, says “There’s something about games that makes me think there’s a ‘holy grail’ game experience that hasn’t been invented yet. Lots of games give us a glimpse into that experience. I want to help discover that El Dorado.” https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/51603/paul-owen

-Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games and designer of Conspriacy! and Bigfoot vs. Yeti explains “I design games because I find it extremely pleasing to see others enjoying my games. Doubly so when they are players new to gaming.” http://www.shootagaingames.com/

-Steve Segedy is the production editor/editor/day-to-day guy at Bully Pulpit Games (Fiasco, The Warren, The Skeletons, The Shab-al-Hiri Roach) says “That’s a big question! At this point I’m involved because I’ve found that the business of bringing games to life is kind of game design itself – working out usability issues with the text, thinking about product design, finding ways to reach the audiences who really appreciate and engage with a game. Those are exciting challenges to me. I’m also enjoying growing our business so that we can better help other people get involved, by both guiding and promoting other designers’ work and by hiring people to work on projects with us.” http://bullypulpitgames.com/

-Jason Morningstar is also from Bully Pulpit Games. He is the award winning designer of Fiasco, Durance, Carolina Death Crawl, Winterhorn, and many other rpgs. He says “I design games because I don’t have a choice. It’s something that’s been part of me since I was very young. I designed a game in first grade and have designed games ever since. It’s one way I interface with the world and puzzle out my own thoughts and feelings. On top of that creative compulsion, making games is a way to create meaningful experiences for friends and strangers, to share my views sometimes, and, selfishly, to make sure there are games in the world that precisely meet my needs.” http://bullypulpitgames.com/

Now to answer my own question. I need a creative outlet. As a kid it was drawing. I used to be pretty good. It turned to rpgs later. I was always the GM as I liked (and still do) creating the worlds and scenarios involved. I discovered indie rpgs and have a couple of Fiasco playsets published (I’m pretty proud of then and got paid. So I guess that makes me a professional.) Now, while I still tinker with some Fiasco playsets I focus mainly on board games. I have three games in prototype right now – Duck Blind, Tourist Traps, and Paparazzi. The first two will be going out for blind playtesting soon I hope. I have a ton more ideas in the queue. Back to the answer I like how Pinchback put it. ‘Game design keeps my mind happy.’ Being creative is part of me. I can’t not do something – paint, design games, work on rpgs. I always have something going. Additionally I was diagnosed with mild depression last year. My therapist told me that I needed to do several things that make me happy every day. Game design is one of those things.  Kind of like a Transformer, it’s therapy in disguise. So, game serves me in several ways. Mainly it helps keep me happy and let’s me make cool things.  I think that’s pretty important.

Not as many people responded as I had hoped this time but it was over the holidays. If you have your own ideas or would like to contribute to the conversation, please post a response below. Or tweet at me – @tomgurg. Or email – goforthandgame@gmail.com.

Thanks for taking the time to join me on Go Forth And Game.

 

Stealing Home with Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder… A Conversation About Bottom of the 9th


With baseball season cranking up I thought it would be cool to re-post my interview with Mike & Darrell about their awesome baseball game, Bottom Of The Ninth.

Enjoy.

 

This inning I’m joined by Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder, co-designers of the home run Bottom Of The Ninth.  We talk about the game, Unpub news, and what’s coming up for them both. Batter up!

bot9aTom: Let’s just dive right in. Bottom of the 9th. There’s an origin story there. Tell it.

Darrell: It all started with the KickStarter booth at PAX East 2014. They were giving away D6s that had a KickStarter K in place of the 6. I snagged 2 of them. Rolling them around throughout the day, I kept trying to think of a small game that could be played with them- being the Ks were on them the first thing I thought of was baseball (K means Strike out, 3 strikes, in Baseball). Mike Mullins was up at PAX with me, we were running the Unpub booth, and I told him of the idea I had- he and I then built the game and together we have made it evolve into what it is now. It really is a co-designed title and I’m damn proud of the work we put into it.

Tom: Talk about the game play some.

Mike: The gameplay is broken down into four phases, each designed to replicate some facet of the pitcher/batter duel. First is the Staredown, in which the batter tries to figure out where the pitcher is going to pitch in order to obtain bonus abilities. This is more than simply guessing high/low and inside/outside, because the batter is aware of the pitcher’s most powerful pitch, and the pitcher has to manage the fatigue track. Next, the pitcher rolls the dice to throw a pitch, using any abilities available to reroll or modify the result. The batter then does the same to try and either hit a ball in the strike zone, or lay off a bad pitch. Finally, if the batter does manage to make contact, there is a real-time Run phase, where both players roll a bot9fsingle die repeatedly to try and get a 5 or 6, either throwing the batter out or reaching base safely.

Tom: The Kickstarter was a smashing success. That is fantastic. What’s next for it?

Darrell: Well the KickStarter paved the way for the base game and the first 2 expansions. So now Mike and I will be diving back into Bottom of the 9th here shortly, to finish up a few more expansions we have in mind.

Tom: Tell me about your artist.

Mike: Darrell and I tell anyone who will listen that we thought of Adam the minute we realized we had a real game on our hands, and never considered another artist. I first noticed his work on Council of Verona, and he’s only improved from there, showing off an ability to capture different aesthetics that truly enhance the game. On top of that, the Coin Age KS video is my favorite one of all time – how could anyone not want to work with that guy?

Tom: Adam is the Scott Almes of game artists I think. He’s everywhere now. Which is fantastic cause he is so good.  Darrell, you are you still an employee of DHMG? With the merger, how has your role changed?

Darrell: Actually, I am an employee of Panda Game Manufacturing, I am their pre-press analyst. With DHMG I am doing some freelance work. Mainly helping with graphic design as well as DHMG inventory and product support. My main day-to-day job though is with Panda, looking over the design of great games to approve them for the factory to print. I love it.

Tom: You’re living the dream, man. Any cool games you’ve seen that you can talk about?bot9g

Darrell: I just completed prepress work for a game called New Salem (Overworld Games), I haven’t played it but the artwork and design are very well done, which of course makes me want to play it.

Tom: Mike, what’s your ‘day job’?

Mike: I’m a stay at home dad of two great kiddos. AJ is 7, and Hannah is 4. You can see both of them in Bottom of the 9th!

Tom: That is awesome and a difficult job but so important. Thanks for doing that. And you have fantastic gaming buddies built-in. Sweet!  Darrell, Update us on Compounded. What’s going on with the Geiger expansion? Anything else in the works?

Darrell: Geiger is at the printers still, and progressing VERY nicely. We expect it to be boarded on a boat very soon (if not already, depending on when this article is released). We expect it to be back in stores late summer. As for what is in the works, there are some BIG things in store for the future of Compounded… REALLY BIG. Some I can’t talk about yet, others (expansions, dice game) I can tease. Just like I did. 🙂

Tom: Ooo, I’m very intrigued. No chance of a leak?

Mike: Darrell won’t even tell me about this, so good luck getting anything out of him.

Tom: Do either you have any designs in the works?

Mike: I’m stepping back from design to man the development desk for a while. I have a few games from friends in the industry to work on.

Tom: That’s very cool. Let’s talk about Unpub a bit. Unpub 5 had a new, larger venue in a new city. That change seems to have helped as 5 was HUGE! (relatively speaking). Something like 92 designers and over 1000 playtesters. As THE Unpub guy Darrell, that must make you feel pretty good?unpub

Darrell: Unpub 5 was amazing- the bar keeps being raised by all of those that attend. Unpub 6 is already getting prepped and we are continously trying to find new ways to pull in the public and ensure everyone has a good time.

Tom: You had a good Unpub team too. Give them some press.

Darrell: Oh man, where to begin. Everyone helped make Unpub 5 what it was, from the designers, to the play testers, to the people who blew off their scheduled meetings/conventions to come take part in ours. Our staff was, again, the best so far!

Tom: Mike, what did you take to Unpub? How were your playtests?

Mike: I was staff at Unpub; my main job was to try to insulate Darrell from the limitless requests he got during the day (it didn’t work!). I did manage to get several tests of Bottom of the 9th in during Unpub After Dark.

Tom: Bravo to you sir! It’s been announced that Unpub 6 will be in Baltimore in April of 2016. I’m REALLY happy with the date change. But  why the date change?

Darrell: In one word, snow. The East coast always seems to be hammered by snow between January and early March, we wanted a move to avoid that. We wanted people to be able to walk from the convention center to their hotels and not be worried about frost bite. 🙂

Tom: I for one am very happy about that. Plus it will help avoid those pesky airline / weather issues. And people will be able to enjoy Baltimore more. Good decision.  You’re expanding the space too. That is awesome. I’m planning on attending, at least as a VIP playtester if not as a designer. What can I expect?

Darrell: One BIG happy family. Last year, due to the growth and demand from KickStarter we grew and had 2 separate rooms (total of ~8,000 sq. ft.). For Unpub 6 we now have 1 massive room (~13,000 sq. ft.) and we intend to have everyone together. We are closer to entrance (right in front) with Starbucks by the entrance. Just a BIG location upgrade- within the same confines of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Tom: That sounds fantastic. Having everything together is going to be great. You have Rob Daviau and Eric Lang as special guests. Sweet. Any other plans in the works?

Darrell: Yup! 🙂

Tom: Care to elaborate? Just a bit? Give me my first exclusive.

Darrell: One change is that we will have a separate space for panels on designer day, as well a separate gaming. So if you want to game, the panels won’t be distracting for you, and visa versa. We are also looking into having panels on Sunday of Unpub 6 for the public.

Tom: I’m really glad to hear both of these additions. The panels for the public is a stroke of genius. Must have been T.C.’s idea. HA!  What are some of your favorite games?

Mike:  So many! Some favorites to hit the table recently are Arkham Horror, Mage Knight (sprawling solo/co-ops), Lagoon (depth of decisions), Friday, and Biblios (lighter fare).bot9b

Darrell: Puerto Rico, Stone Age, Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, pretty much any puzzle and dexterity game. 🙂

Tom: What is the best piece of feedback you’ve received from a playtester?

Mike:  “What differentiates this from rolling dice and seeing who gets luckier?” – Jordan Martin, re: alpha Bottom of the 9th. He meant it quite literally about our hours-old game concept, but it serves as an important reminder to make sure the decisions players make in your game aren’t merely the trappings of a quality game.

Darrell: We showed the game to Richard Launius, and he liked it, but mentioned that the pitcher needs some restraint- otherwise it could be Ace pitches all the time. We agreed and Mike and I came up with the best inclusion to the game (in my opinion), the Fatigue Track.

Tom: What makes designing games so fun?

Mike: For me, it’s more than the act of creating something; I love the mental exercise. I have notebooks filled with design ideas, and sometimes I’ll pick one up and tinker with an existing idea. Other times something will occur to me and I’ll flip to a clean page and start sketching out an entirely new concept. Either way, “going into the tank” (as I’ve come to call it) is always satisfying, regardless of the design outcome.

Darrell: Playtesting. I love to play and see the reactions of players; good or bad, happy or sad- it’s the best and, arguably, one of the most important things to study when getting feedback.

Tom: Are you a ‘pare down’ or ‘add to’ designer?

Mike:  Luke Peterschmidt (Castle Dice, Epic PvP) described himself as the designer equivalent of a blacksmith. He takes a concept and bangs away at it via playtesting until it starts to take shape. I’m almost the complete opposite. I’ll turn something over and over in my head until I think I have it figured out before making even the most basic prototype. As a result, I’m probably in the “add to” camp. Incidentally, our different design methods is one of the reasons it has been so fun to work with Luke.

Darrell: Add to. TC gets on me for this- big time. I’ll add and add and then spend time to make my prototypes look pretty. Only to cut and cut and have to redo all the work. One day I’ll learn. One day.

Tom: What designers do you admire?

Mike:  Luke, for one. His experience in the industry is incredible, and yet he remains a humble and and gregarious guy who started Fun to 11  to making games he thinks are fun. I also love what Jason Tagmire does. He’s incredibly prolific, relishes taking chances in his designs, and as a result has created some truly unique games. FInally, I love Ignacy Trzewiczek’s vision of “Board Games That Tell Stories,” and the way it’s realized in his games. Voyage of the Beagle is way up there on my “jealous it wasn’t me” list.

Darrell: Richard Launius. The man is, literally, the nicest man on the planet. There is no ‘air’ about him, he is in this as he loves to play games. He’s super approachable and will never turn down a game invitation. His ideas are brilliant- he’s not the ‘King of Dice’ for nothing.bot9j

Tom: What was the most challenging part of designing?

Mike:  Knowing when to let something be. Maybe it’s because I started as a playtester, and graduated to a “developer,” but I constantly try to improve what’s in front of me. What’s important to realize is that at some point, changes you make might just be that, changes. You can absolutely be doing things that make a game different, not necessarily better or worse. At that point, it’s important to focus on your original goal and make the game you set out to make.

Darrell: What Mike said, that and admitting when Mike is right about something. Hurts so much. 🙂

Tom: What are some things that you have learned about playtesting?

Mike:  There are so many amazing articles about playtesting, I don’t know how much I could contribute! One thing I can absolutely say is that no matter how thorough and sure of your methodology you are, a fresh set of eyes is always welcome. Sometimes a new player will simply validate you, but other times you’ll be challenged.

Darrell: Time is hard to find- but thankfully making a game that we can play test in a cup holder of a car, on Skype, or over the phone has made Bottom of the 9th so much faster/easier to playtest than my previous designs.

Tom: What games have you admired or researched in order to understand game design better?

Mike:  I can’t point to particular games that I’ve researched. It’s through Unpub and seeking out designers playing each others’ games at conventions that I’ve been able to learn as much as I have.bot9g

Darrell: I’d say every designer/game that has been through the Unpub program. I may be too busy to participate with a design now, but i still try and take the time to walk around and see all the new ideas and faces every event Unpub has. I admire the play testers and designers for being brave and embracing their creativity.

Tom: What has been the hardest lesson for you to learn as a game designer?

Mike:  That I’m wrong once in a great while (I wish I was kidding!).  Arrogance can be a major problem for designers. It’s crucial to know when to stick to your guns and when to admit another idea outstrips yours.

Darrell: Can’t please everyone. You may really like your game, others may like you game, but you will ALWAYS have that play test where it feels like you’ve kicked everyone in the gut and stole their candy. Those are the most informative- but most painful truths to play testing/designing new games. That and the Game Designer’s Fight Clu- ummm, nevermind.

Tom: What is the least fun part of designing a game?

Mike: I love to analyze games with math, often to a point that’s more personal exploration than game development. For example, I researched stochastic matrices and Markov chains while testing Monster Truck Mayhem just to see if I should drive over the car crush or the mud pit. If it’s not obvious, that was MAJOR overkill. However, as much as I love the analytical aspect, the initial valuations seem so arbitrary to me, and as a result that stage of building a game is my least favorite (and the design aspect I struggle with the most).

Darrell: Overhauls. It’s rough when you need to cut and redo, then cut and redo. You have played the game more than anyone- and you know you need to ‘trim the fat’, but it’s still part of your work/time that is being left on the floor. It sucks- but you have to constantly remind yourself that the game will be all the better for it.

Tom: So Mike, with Monster Truck, it sounds like you are doing some of the development of it. True or just helping out?

Darrell: Just a bit. I played it at Unpub 4, along with a few other Ridback games. They’ve since sent me protos for a bunch of different games; I love working with those guys. For MTM I had some ideas for new obstacles, and wanted to test out a few of the things I saw as possible “broken” aspects. Specifically, I thought that some obstacles should statistically always be chosen over others. While it is true, the margins aren’t all that significant. When faced with a dice roll result that could carry you into either obstacle at a fork, the stress of a real-time decision-making pretty much obviates the math.

Tom: Anything else y’all want to talk about?

Darrell: Unpub 6, April 2016! Also, that Compounded: Geiger Expansion should be in stores late Summer 2015. Lastly, for those attending GenCon this year, we will be having the first annual Bottom of the 9th World Series with some pretty slick prizes! So you’ll want to look for that when GenCon event sign-up becomes available.

Tom: How can people contact you?

Mike:  I’m easiest to reach on Twitter @bluedevilduke

Darrell: And you can find me on Twitter as @getlouder and @theunpub

Tom: Final words?

Mike:  Thank you so much for the opportunity to have a chat with you and promote Bottom of the 9th. Oh, and Go Sox!

Darrell: Sorry for being a schmuck about finishing this, but thank you for your willingness and patience to do this.

No, Darrell. You are not a schmuck. Thank you both for hanging out with me and talking about games with me. It was a lot of fun. I hope to get to see you both soon.

Readers, please look for Bottom of the 9th later this year in your Friendly Local Game Store or at the Dice Hate Me Games web store. And please leave a comment below or tweet about this article.bot9c

Ant Quest – A Conversation With…Scott Almes, Part1


In this episode I chat with Scott Almes, the designer of the Tiny Epic series, Best Treehouse Ever, and a lot of other games. We talk about Scott’s newest games – Problem Picnic, Tiny Epic Quest, and Starfall. As well as some thoughts on game design. It is a fun interview and I hope you enjoy it.

problem-picnic

 

Tinkering Around – A Conversation With…Dan Letzring of Letiman Games


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Dan joins me for a second interview. We talk a lot about his game, Gageteers. There’s some discussion of Dino Dude Ranch, publishing with WinGo, and bees. It’s a fun interview that I hope you will enjoy. You can download it from iTunes (Go Forth And Game Podcast) or right here below. Please shoot me a tweet (@tomgurg) or email (goforthandgame@gmail.com) and tell me what you liked most.

The Controlling Idea – A Conversation With … Austin Smokowicz of Dr. Wictz Games


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In this episode I’m talking to Austin Smokowicz from Dr. Wictz Games. This episode is chocked full of game design philosophy and updates about what Austin and Aaron have going on. We discuss Cattle Car, Hoboken, Unpub, and Origins 2016. It’s a fun show. I hope you enjoy it.

Feel free to leave comments here or on Twitter – @tomgurg.

Thanks for listening.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/goforthandgame/Dr._wictz_juy_2016

With A Cherry On Top…A Conversation With Josh Mills


Joshua Mills

This episode I’m talking to up-and-coming game designer Josh Mills. We talk about Josh’s game, Rocky Road A La Mode, coming soon from Green Couch Games. We also discuss being part of a game design group, Unpub, and some of Josh’s in-progress games. And we are joined by my son, Zachary. It’s a really fun show.

If you enjoyed the show, why not leave a comment or a tweet telling me so. You can contact me at goforthandgame@gmail.com and @goforthandgame or @tomgurg. Thanks!!

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A Conversation With … Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games


It’s been a very long time coming but I finally sat down with my friend Chris Kirkman (@dicehateme) of Dice Hate Me and Greater Than Games. We talk about comics, Club Zen and Don’t Get Eated, and what Chris is working on these days. It’s a fun  so download it here or at iTunes. Oh, and leave me a good review if you don’t mind.

 Next up: Shoot Again Games