A Conversation with… Chris Cieslik of Asmadi Games

This time I’m joined by Chris Cieslik of Asmadi Games.   Asmadi has been around a while with We Didn’t Play Test This At All and Win, Lose, Or Banana but really came to the attention of the gaming world with Innovation, a civilization building card game designed by Carl Chudyk .  It was released last year and made a big splash.

Tom: Tell us a bit about yourself and how Asmadi Games came about.

Chris: I’ve actually wanted to be a game designer since I was very young. In

elementary school myself and friends would draw up simple roll and

move board games. Thankfully, I evolved past that! The original

concept for Asmadi Games back in 1999 was actually to be a video game

development company. My main tabletop background at that point was in

CCGs, I hadn’t encountered the world of Eurogames at all — the most

complicated board game I’d come across was Axis + Allies. I was at

Origins for a SW:CCG tournament when I came across the room for Looney

Labs. The people I met there and specifically seeing the Icehouse

system really spurred my interest again in board games. A few years

later, and a lot of board games played, Asmadi Games was officially

born as a company. Our early focus was on silly, light games, but

we’re starting to evolve into more deep fare, such as Innovation.

Tom: You discovered Euro’s about the same time I did. And was blown away by them. While not necessarily a euro, Innovation is getting a lot of press and a second printing. I haven’t had the chance to play it yet but it sounds fun. Tell us about it and your other projects.

Chris: Innovation is a card-based civilization building game. It builds off

of simple mechanics which allow you to play, draw, and use cards to

build up technology, and draws its complexity from the cards’ unique

powers and combinations you accumulate. The cards range in time

period from the stone age up through modern times, and each represents

a different idea or technology — an innovation. The design is by

Carl Chudyk, known best so far for Glory to Rome, and I worked with

him to develop it into the buzz-worthy game it is today!

We have a number of other games in playtesting and development. One

of our biggest focuses right now is on a group of games in what we’re

calling the 36 Dice system. The 36 Dice system is a set of games that

each use a subset of six colors of six d6’s each. So six red, blue,

green, purple, white, and black dice. The goal with 36 Dice is to use

dice in new and inventive ways. Macao and Claustrophobia are a couple

examples of recent games that’ve used dice in a very interesting way.

This is the sort of thing we want to do. The first two titles of the

36 Dice line will be Sixis, which has been in semi-release for two

years now, and Circle of Mana, a cooperative game in which you summon

creatures to help defend against an oncoming horde of monsters.

Tom: The 36 Dice system sounds very interesting. That is a lot of dice. Macao is one of my favorites and I think you are onto something with the dice mechanics. Thinking outside of the box. The first two games sound like fun. I’ll be interested in playing them (or playtesting them) and seeing what all the dice are about.

What is the hardest part of designing a game?

Chris: The hardest part of designing a game is knowing that some of the neat

things you design will eventually not belong. Being able to prune a

really cool idea that doesn’t fit is probably the most important and

difficult thing a game designer has to do.

Tom: Boy are you right. I’m working on a couple of rpg’s right now and have had to ‘kill my baby’ and ditch a couple of mechanics that I really liked. But you can always save them for another game perhaps. What is the hardest part of playtesting a game?

Chris: Listening. Realizing that a playtester isn’t wrong for not having

fun, not understanding, or not playing correctly is a difficult thing.

After all, you know exactly why you designed it that way, why can’t

they understand..! It’s a lesson every designer has to learn, and

learn early. Listen to every thing your playtesters say. They are

all important, and while you don’t have to hack your game to pieces

because one guy doesn’t like it, you should figure out why he doesn’t.

Tom: Are you a member of GAMA? If so how valuable has it been to you?

I was a member of GAMA for a year. It provided me with exactly zero

value, and so I am no longer a GAMA member. I’ve also been a member

of the GPA (Game Publisher’s Association) for a few years, and it’s

helped me tremendously. I definitely recommend it to new and starting

companies and designers. The mailing list is a great place to discuss

ideas and have feedback from some very experienced people!

Tom: How active are you in dealing with retailers?

Chris: Since I’m the entire company, I do a lot of dealing with retailers!

We do sell through ACD, and perhaps soon Alliance, but we sell direct

to many stores. I try and support the FLGS concept as best I can,

because it’s the best way to support and grow our industry.

Thanks for the interview Chris.   It was fun to talk to you.  Your path to Asmadi is interesting.

Asmadi has announced an expansion for Innovation for 2011.  You can find Innovation and the rest of Asmadi’s games at http://asmadigames.com/.