A Conversation with…Louis Perrochon, the designer and publisher of Startup Fever


This time on Go Forth And Game I’m joined by Louis Perrochon the designer of Startup Fever. Startup Fever was recently published through Kickstarter and I thought it would be cool to talk to Louis about his game and how he designed it.

Tom: Louis, tell us about yourself.
Louis:
In the terminology of Startup Fever, I am a nerd, living in Silicon Valley for about 15 years now.

Tom: What’s your gamer pedigree? What got you started in gaming?
Louis:
As a kid, I played some classic two people boardgames, and one Swiss card game called “Jass”. It’s basically the national game of Switzerland. There are even competitions on TV.
http://www.sendungen.sf.tv/samschtig-jass/Nachrichten/Uebersicht
Then I didn’t play much of anything for years. Until about 10 years ago I came across Settlers of Catan, a game that I still love and play.

Tom: ‘Jass’ looks interesting. I need to check it out some more. Ok, so now for Startup Fever.  How did it come about?
Louis:
A few things happened in parallel. I was basically watching how some people frequently changed jobs from Startup to Startup, and how much money changed hand on these so I was thinking of a way to model this. At the same time, Mob Ties was funded on Kickstarter and I was just fascinated by the combination of Kickstarter and niche board games. Mob Ties is a fantastic game, starting with the art, the mechanics, and the theme. But I think the chances of a publisher picking it up and leaving it unchanged would have been small.

Tom: What about it changed from initial concept to final product?
Louis:
Initially, I just played around with revenue generation and hiring/vesting/poaching. Once the basic mechanic was solid, I added a bunch of other stuff to it, but most of this was removed over time, as it was just too complex. It’s still a more complex game than I originally envisioned.

Startup Fever bits and all

Tom: Why did you choose to Kickstart Startup Fever?
Louis:
Kickstarter provides two main things: Funding and a market test. Because of the funding, the designer can take on some risk with a game. You get the “director’s cut” of the game, instead of the mass-market version. In Startup Fever, you get tin cans to store your wooden pieces.
The second thing Kickstarter gives you is a first sanity check if what you plan to do is actually worth-while. Once you have hundreds of backers, you will be a lot more certain you are doing something worth doing.

Tom: How do you go about designing a game?  What comes first, mechanic(s) or theme?
Louis:
In my case, the theme inspired the basic mechanic. This was the time where Facebook was rumored to pay millions of dollars to Google employees. That’s the key mechanic of the game. You hire an employee, and this other player comes along and pays 6 times what you just paid, and your employee is gone. The rest of the theme, Suits, and Nerds, and Big Suits and Big Nerds only came a bit later. The art work came only at the end.

Tom: While we are on game design, what is the hardest part of designing a game
Louis:
Simplifying the rules…. A reality-inspired game is so much simpler than reality, and you have to cut and cut and cut. I removed a lot of stuff, but I eventually gave in and increased manual size to 12 pages, because on 8 pages, the font was so small…. And I sneaked some of the cut-out stuff back in as an extension, that I gave to the Kickstarter backers.

Tom: Playtesting seems to be a mixed bag.  While absolutely necessary, it can be slow and difficult. What is the hardest part of playtesting a game?
Louis: Absolutely necessary, IMHO. Over and over again, and blind testing is also important. I had one blind test where people played for 5 hours because they were stuck in a hole. I was amazed they didn’t give up! This lead to a small rule change, relatively late in the development

Tom: What’s the coolest part of being a game designer/company owner?
Louis:
The coolest part is the BGG game designer badge.  If you self-publish you can keep full control over every aspect of the game. My game is a about startups, so doing my own startup to publish it is an interesting meta-experience. But you spend a lot of time doing company stuff instead of playing board games. I have a day job, so dealing with say California Sales Tax comes right out of my nights and week-end time…

A game in progress

Tom: What is next for you?  Tell us about your current projects.
Louis:
Right now, I try to spend some time on all the other things I missed for a year. And I have half a dozen of games, some of them other Kickstarter projects, unplayed: Dark Horse, Quebec, Eclipse.

Tom: Who’s work in the industry do you admire the most?
Louis:
I admire all the small, independent, hard-working people who create amazing board game experiences. Some of them are designers, but not all of them. Look at Dan Yarrington from Game Salute who is trying a different distribution model with his preferred stores. I partner with him largely for that reason. Also the folks over at the Geek. They built this amazing resource. I interacted with Chad Krizan, and it often felt like I am the only one. And of course Gary Simpson, who created beautiful art for a game called “Startup Fever”.

Tom: What is your current favorite  game?
Louis:
The other night, we played Dark Horse last night and I desperately want to play again. It’s a mixture of Settlers (towns, cities, road/rails) and Alien Frontiers (roll dice and place them), both of which are high on the play next list.

Tom: Do you have any game designs in development?

Louis: Not right now, but the other night I had another idea. I don’t have much time right now, but this could work.

Tom: Talk briefly about your artist.

Louis: Gary Simpson – https://plus.google.com/115253927511928365244/posts

The amazing thing is that we never met in person. Gary Simpson is an avid player and a great artist and he has worked on a few other games. I liked his work, and I liked his experience with other games, and I have not been disappointed. I love the art of Startup Fever. Gary deserves all the credit for such a beautiful game.

Tom: Startup Fever has some great bits.  I particularly like the tins for the cubes.  I know Panda Manufacturing did your production.  Talk briefly about Panda.  I am hoping to get an interview with them this year.  Did you have any problems with production?

Tins and cubes


Louis:
It took a lot longer than thought, but it was entirely delays in getting the final files to Panda. Once Panda had the files, things moved very smoothly and on schedule. I cannot say enough good things about Panda. Panda has been fantastic and the quality of their work is outstanding. They are players themselves, and they know what matters. At this point, I am disappointed when I open a new game and the quality of the component is less than what I am used from Panda. I can only recommend them.

Tom: How can people order/get a copy of Startup Fever?

Louis: www.startupfever.com has the link.

Tom: Any other links you want people to check out?

Louis: Please go and support new games, that will not be made without your pledge:
http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/board%20&%20card%20games?ref=sidebar

Thank you for being my guest Louis.  It was a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us.

And thank you, dear readers, for spending time at Go Forth And Game.  Please leave a comment and come back soon.

tomg

Two Interesting Kickstarter Thoughts: Tasty Minstrel’s “Becoming Kickstarter Rockstar” and GamerChris’s Thoughts


Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games has put together a video with his thoughts about how to have a successful Kickstarter campaign. To me the most important idea he discusses is building a community for your publication. You can see this in most of the highly successful campaigns – D-Day Dice, Alien Frontiers and the Factions expansion, and the amazing campaign of Double Fine’s Adventure!. Each built an exciting community around their product that feed off itself and was viral, bringing in even more backers. They created that sense of ‘I need to be a part of this.’ and ‘I don’t want to be left out.’. This desire to be a part of something cool is sometimes a very strong motivator.
Michael also talks about the importance of the video. This is the hook and is essential to getting those on the border and looky-loos interested in your project. You can see Michael’s talk below.

GamerChris also has some interesting thoughts about Kickstarter from the viewpoint of a backer. He also talks about the band wagon syndrome and how strong it is. You can read his post here. Chris gives an overview of what Kickstarter does. He discusses the risk involved with Kickstarter both for the publisher and the backer. One point that he goes into is the mystery of the product, that the backer really is going on faith that he will get a good product. This is a really important point. This is a very valid point. With Kickstarter backers are ‘buying’ something basically sight unseen. In many cases it’s the two things that Michael mentions, that community around a product and the video, that allay that fear or apprehension. Chris has some more ideas about Kickstarter that you should check out.

Under The Microscope – JAB: Real Time Boxing


Under The Microscope this time – JAB: Real Time Boxing from Tasty Minstrel Games
Here’s another long-lost review.  This time it’s JAB: Real Time Boxing.  And wow was it a surprise!

Abstract

 JAB: Real Time Boxing is a boxing simulation game in which players take their turns simultaneously, hence the ‘real time’ part of the title. It requires strategy, dexterity, and excellent hand/eye coordination to be the last boxer standing.

Materials & Methods
Components
JAB is a card game with just a few extras. It has 50 punch cards – 25 black edged and 25 white edged. They depict punches – upper cuts, crosses, hooks, haymakers, and jabs. Each card has a value and are in different colors.  There are 9 combo cards showing different combination punches. And there

Punches!

are 5 counter punch cards. Then there is a boxer for each player represented by three cards – a head plus right and left arms and shoulders. There are 10 health/round win tokens used to keep track of your boxer’s health and mark when a player wins a round. There is a Ding! tile and a Clinch!/Knockout! tile.
All of the components are top quality as you would expect from Tasty Minstrel. The tiles and tokens are made of heavy, thick cardboard. And the cards are heavy enough to withstand a lot of handling.
The graphic design and art are spectacular. All the colors are bright and vibrant. The art is top-notch.  There is a rules book that is both clearly written and graphically interesting.

Game Play

Setting up the Game:  Each player chooses one of the boxers and one of the sets of punch cards.  The boxer cards are arranged as shown below.

The Setup

Each player shuffled his punch cards and splits the deck in two.  The two stacks are placed face down on each side of the head.  The Combo cards are shuffled and placed in the middle of the play area.  The Ding! and Cinch! tiles are placed to the side and each player takes 5 of the health tokens.

Starting A Round:  A round starts with the players flipping over their punch decks.  They flip the left deck with their left hands and the right deck with their right hands.  And that is how punches are delivered.  The top cards of the punch card decks are played from the left hand deck with the left hand and from the right deck with the right hand.  They are played onto the opponent’s boxer’s body cards.  That’s how punches are thrown.  There are no turns.  Players place punch cards as fast or as slow as they want.  As punches are thrown, piles of punch cards will build up on the body parts.

More Punches!

Punches:  During the rounds players have the opportunity to score additional points by recognizing Combos.  Combos happen when the top cards on your opponent’s body cards match the current Combo card.  When a player recognizes this they can take the Combo card and yells “Combo”.

Players can block punches, thrown counter-punches, stagger and knockout their opponent.  Knockouts happen when a player has no Health tokens left and their opponent staggers them.  The opponent flips the Clinch! token and yells ‘Knockout’.  When a player is in danger of a knockout, they can call ‘Clinch!’, take the Clinch! card, and take two Health tokens from their opponent.  Then play continues.

Ending A Round:  Players continue playing punch cards until they both run out of punch cards.  This ends the round.  A player may end a round early by calling “Ding!” and taking the Ding! token.

Ding!

Scoring:  Each round is scored separately.  Players cover one of their boxer’s head or body piles with their hand.  The opponent takes one of the other two piles.  This one is used for scoring.  The player removes all the block cards (These are your opponent’s cards.)  They then remove the highest value card from the pile for each block card.  Then they sum the values of all the remaining cards and subtracts any penalties to get a total.  This total is that player’s Punch Score for that round.  The winning player takes one of their opponent’s health tokens and flips it to its ‘Round Win’ side to mark the won round.  Game play continues until one player has 3 Round Win tokens.

Discussion

I was sucker punched by JAB: Real Time Boxing.  I’m not a boxing fan so I wasn’t that excited about the game.  But I thought “TMG hasn’t let me down yet.  I’ll give it a try.” And I’m very glad I did.  This is a unique game.  I’ve never played anything like it.  It is a dexterity game.  It is a pattern recognition game.  And oddly it’s a strategy game.

The first time I played it, we played it fast; slapping cards down like we were punching each others’ lights out.  It was fun and very energetic.  We didn’t score many combos or work the blocks or counter-punches.  It was just go, go, go. Fun and chaotic.

One of the boxers

The second game was different.  We slowed down and watched for the combos and other scoring opportunities.  It was fun and more thinky.  The combos, counter-punches, and blocking really add another level to the game. It became a game of ‘the sweet science’.  It really was like being in the ring.  We carefully ‘placed’ our punches rather than just ‘striking out’.  It was like we were dancing around each other waiting to see who would make a mistake.  And when we would see an opening we would strike.

I wasn’t expecting much to excite me from this game.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The two modes of play, the chaos of flinging fists and the careful deliberation of the slower game.  This is a gem of a game.  Go buy a copy as soon as possible.

Microscope Rating: 4.5 out of 5 microscopes

JAB: Real Time Boxing was designed by Gavan Brown who did the graphic design as well.  It was published by Tasty Minstrel Games who provided a review copy.

The End of An Era


Pulp Gamer Out of Character exited the podosphere this past week with episode 200. Pulp Gamer was/is one of the first gaming podcasts I discovered way back when it was just one show and there was no network. Over the years it has changed and grown, developing one of the first gaming podcast networks, splitting into more specialized shows.
Pulp Gamer is responsible for Go Forth And Game in part. Don encouraged me to start a blog for posting my feedback and thoughts. And through Go Forth I’ve developed some good friendships and made my mark, though small, on the gaming community.
I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve listened to. I’ve made some friends and had a lot of fun.
Not to fear though. The crew is not going away. They are just changing format to video. So we will be able to find them on YouTube. And there will be new, more focused shows.
So THANKS Pulpsters!