A Conversation With…Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street Games

This time on Go Forth And Game I’m talking to Phil Kilcrease, head honcho at 5th Street Games.  5th Street Games publishes several games – The Crow And The Pitcher, Castle Dash, and Kickstarter darling, Farmageddon.

Tom:  Welcome Phil.  Talk about 5th Street Games a little bit. How did it come about?
PK:  I’ve always wanted to run a game company since middle school. The idea of helping people have fun has always been really appealing. What cemented 5th Street Games coming into existence was an Entrepreneurship class with Rob Wuebker and participation in the Foundry business incubator. The philosophy of those programs is “Why wait? Start experimenting now!”, so I launched with Castle Dash in a VHS cassette box to save on cost. Then, I learned of Kickstarter…
Tom: Tell us about your games.

PK: It all started with Castle Dash. It’s a soldier placement combat game where you place soldiers to attack other players or to gain Armory cards for bonuses in battle. When you successfully attack and break into another player’s castle, you can steal a treasure or rescue a soldier for more options. First to steal three treasures wins the Castle Dash.

Crow and the Pitcher had been my favorite trick-taking game for a long time before I picked it up. Players work together to fill a Pitcher card by playing Stone cards that add up to the Pitcher’s value with the highest card matching the lead suit taking the trick. Stone cards are worth one to three points each. If the Pitcher value isn’t matched, though, the lowest card matching the lead suit takes the trick AND the Pitcher card (which is -5 points). After each player has dealt a hand, the highest score wins the game.

Farmageddon is a hand management game with a dash of Take That. Players are planting crops into one of the three communal fields in hopes of getting enough fertilizer onto the crop to harvest it for cold, hard cash. There’s also a set of action cards players draw from that give defensive options (such as harvesting a crop more easily) and offensive options (such as stealing a crop). Once the crop deck is empty, the farmer with the most cash from harvested crops comes out on top.

My Happy Farm is our first import and is currently on Kickstarter. Players each have a farm full of sad animals they are trying to make happy by feeding the animals their favorite meals.  Whenever an animal is fed, it doesn’t get fatter; it gets …longer. The more an animal is fed, the longer and happier it becomes. By the end of the game, the player with the happiest animals is the winner.

Jungle Ascent is our most recent acquisition. Players are racing to the top of Mount Frab to claim the Ultimate Prize by building a path of bridges, ladders, and conveyor belts to the top while throwing hazards like fireballs and bombs at their opponents. The first player to reach the top claims the Ultimate prize as her own and is the winner.

Tom:  I’m excited about My Happy Farm.  I remember Dice Hate Me liking Castle Dash a lot.  And both Jungle Ascent and Castle Dash look fun. Farmageddon had a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign. I’m sorry I missed out on it. What do you think made it so successful?

PK: The artwork was a big part of the appeal; Brett Bean and Erin Fusco both did an amazing job evoking such character in each piece. Communication with our backers was also quite important. Grant and I did our best to answer questions quickly while also asking for feedback from time to time. Lastly, I’d say there was a latent demand for the game. It was one of Game Crafter’s best-selling games for a while, and quite a few people knew about it already.

The set up for My Happy Farm.

Tom:  Let’s talk about you’re latest effort, My Happy Farm. Tell me how 5th Street got its hands on it.

PK:  My friend Alf Seegert introduced it to me at the SaltCON game convention. Halfway through the game, I knew it would be a great fit for 5th Street’s line. Alf put me in contact with its publisher, IGAMES from Ukraine, and we set up a localization agreement.

Tom:  How do you prototype? How extensive?

PK:  I print & play; first through black & white, then color as the game improves and has longer periods between iterations. Bit-wise, I pull cubes and such from the collection I’ve built over the years.
Tom:  What ‘baby’ have you had to throw out?

PK: Two in particular: a real-time space civ, and a real-time lumberjack game where you would get to flick down the trees. The space civ was determined to be too niche for the cost, and the lumberjack game ultimately didn’t have enough going on.
Tom:  Theme or mechanics first?

PK:  Depends on the project. Unique mechanics are always great, but theme can really make a difference in the development of a game.
Tom:  Balance in a game – how do you get it?

PK:  Playtesting. LOTS of playtesting. Think you’re done? Wrong. Keep playtesting. Although, some games don’t need balance to be fun. Bang and Shadow Hunters are both good examples. They both have characters that are stupid powerful, but each game is short enough that it doesn’t matter too much.
Tom:  How do you know when to stop designing? How much is too much?

PK:  You can typically tell when a game is done enough; right game length, desired interactions, that sort of thing. When you’re to the point that you’re just changing things to see what sticks, it’s a good chance the game is finished.
Tom:  What are your two best pieces of advice for aspiring game designers?

PK:  Play lots of games. It’s good to know what’s been made, and you may be inspired by a particular mechanic.  Playtest your games in a variety of ways. Start with conventional strategies until the game feels solid, then start going crazier. Try where everyone is playing an extreme strategy at the edge of your rules. Or with one player doggedly going after an alternate victory condition. Stress test. That’s where wonky rules breakdowns tend to occur.

Tom:  What are your current top 5 games?

PK:  In no particular order:
Race for the Galaxy
Super Showdown
Neuroshima Hex
Twilight Struggle
Pocket Battles
Tom:  Man, I want to play Super Showdown.  I missed the Kickstarter.  Friends played Twilight Struggle at game night on Tuesday and it looked like a lot of cool.  So Phil, what’s next for 5th Street Games?

PK:  We should start having our games appear in FLGSs by mid-summer, so that’s exciting, I’d say. We also have Jungle Ascent to launch later this year and we’re attending Gen Con. It should be a fun rest of the year.

Well, it sounds like 5th Street Games is really starting to take off.  Like I said, I’m very excited about My Happy Farm and can’t wait for my copy to arrive.  It’s been awesome getting to know more about you and 5th Street.

Photos courtesy of 5th Street Games and Dice Hate Me.

Some Kickstarters of Note

This is just a quick post to let you know about some Kickstarter projects that I think are worth your backing.

First, Tooth & Nail: Factions by Small Box Games.  Anyone who is a regular will know how much I like Small Box.  John Clowdus makes fun, interesting games filled with thinky fun.  Tooth & Nail has 7 more days and is 83% to goal.  How about helping John make another great game?

Next is My Happy Farm from 5th Street Games.  Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street will be my next guest on A Conversation With….  My Happy Farm is a little over 50% to goal with 10 days left.  I’ve played My Happy Farm and it’s deceptively strategic.  Don’t let the art or theme fool you.  This one is a light gamer’s game.

The next one is Ace Detective by Richard Launius.  Richard is the designer of Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, and Defenders of the Realm.  Ace Detective is right up my pulp alley.  With art from the classic pulp magazine Black Mask and story game elements, I think I will really like this one.

Lastly is Race To Adventure from Evil Hat Games.  Evil Hat is mostly known for role playing games like Don’t Rest Your Head, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, and Spirit of The Century.  Race To Adventure is their first board game.  It is set in the Spirit of the Century universe and is dripping with pulpy goodness.  It has 34 days to go and is 40% to goal so far.

I recommend any of these games.  If you can support one or two.  More if you are able.

Until next time, go forth and game.


A Conversation with…Todd Rowland of Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

This time Todd Rowland of Alderac Entertainment Group is my guest on Go Forth And Game.  Todd is the Senior Brand Manager for AEG and he and I talk about his gaming and what AEG has going on.

Tom: Todd, thanks for being my guest on Go Forth And Game.  How did you get into gaming?

TR: Long ago I was primarily a CCG player, though I did get into role-playing games thanks to Mike Webb and the gang back at Gamemasters, which was our local game store when I lived in Memphis. After several years I found myself at Gen Con, handing my resume to John Zinser, which brings me to your next question…

Tom: How did you got involved with AEG?

TR: I was a big L5R player, very involved in the community, playtest for the CCG, etc. After a while I did get my resume to John, who after several months contacted me and offered me the chance to manage the Warlord CCG, which AEG published at the time. Luckily my wife was supportive of a move across the country and I went for it. That was about eight years ago.

 Tom: So Todd, you’re the Senior Brand Manager for Alderac Entertainment Group. What does a Senior Brand Manager do?

TR: Well, Senior Brand Manager is mostly an honorary I suppose, due to the fact I’m the one who’s been at AEG the longest in this position! Essentially for us a Brand Manager is a product manager who also oversees marketing and various other aspects of the product. We define our various projects, such as determining the theme, components, style, etc. We coordinate with the designers, playtest, artists, and graphic designers. I try to assemble the best talent I can to make the product as good as it can be. So really if a product turns out to be good, its more the talents of those working on it, I just brought them all together!

I was also made the Director of Marketing for AEG, so I’m in charge of making sure all the proper messages for our games get out to the public. I help the other brand managers craft their messages, advertisements, etc. I do a lot of graphics work for booth displays, ads, etc.

 Tom: So you’re the guy who keeps things rolling. AEG has quite a few board and card games. Run them down for me.

TR: Ok, we have:


Legend of the Five Rings, which is our main project. It’s the second longest running CCG on the market. L5R is known for its immersive story and incredibly involved community. Players impact the story not only in tournaments, but also through their involvement in the online community, charity, and other means.

Thunderstone was our first deckbuilding game, and has been a great success for the company. Thunderstone Advance has taken the game to a new level and we’re extremely happy with the reception it has had among gamers.


Nightfall was our chance to do something new in deckbuilding and introduce real direct competition and player interaction. Our background in CCGs made us want to make a game that was more aggressive. Nightfall is also our first iOS game release with Playdek, and it has been a big hit.


Ninja was our first board game set in the L5R universe, a slice-of-life game showing a single night in a Lion castle, as a Scorpion Clan ninja attempts to infiltrate. If you like hidden movement games this is a great one.

The Legend of the Five Rings line also is in its 4th Edition of its role-playing game, and it too has been a big hit for us, we can barely keep the core book in stock. If you want a roleplaying game that challenges your conventions, this is one for you. It’s not all about killing ogres and taking swords, its about serving your lords honorably, and living by a strict cultural code at the same time as being a deadly warrior.

We also have a lot of games in our back catalog, including Straw, Abandon Ship, Monkey Lab, The World’s Largest Dungeon, 7th Sea, and more.

 Tom: I’ve played Nightfall and enjoyed it. I found the chaining mechanic really intriguing. I need to play it some more. Thunderstone is fun though I haven’t played Advanced yet. I need to find someone who has it so I can try it out. That’s an impressive list. Other than L5R, what has been AEG’s biggest hit?

TR: At the moment, Thunderstone has been our biggest game hit behind L5R. We were extremely pleased with how the gaming community took to crushing monsters more efficiently than their opponents! We have big plans for the Thunderstone Advance line. Interestingly a lot of older AEG fans may recognize that some Thunderstone art came from our previous CGG “Warlord.” What is funny is that at the time, Warlord was our biggest other game, rivaling the sales of L5R for a time.

 Tom: It kind of was your breakout game with regards to board/card games. How did you catch it?

A Thunderstone Shard

TR: We knew that we wanted to get into deckbuilding. It was a natural fit for us given our history with CCGs. It’s just the kind of game that appeals to us. We decided we wanted a deckbuilding game with a very strong theme, where you felt like you were really accomplishing something in fighting the monsters. We contacted Mike Elliot, talked with him about our goals, and soon enough Thunderstone came along.

Tom: How does Thunderstone: Advance change the base game?

TR: If anything it greatly streamlines the rules of the game, while bringing in some fresh new additions that can get people into the game much faster. We find that a lot of games spend time building up to the action, and people seem to prefer getting right into it. We made a similar change to L5R a few years ago, essentially removing an entire turn of build up to get to the action. It was one of the most well liked changes in the game’s history.

 Tom: AEG has some pretty interesting games on the way. First let’s talk about Smash-Up. AEG’s been posting art from the cards and it looks really fun. Tell me about it.

TR: Smash Up is one that we are really excited to bring to the market. We’ve had a blast developing the game with designer Paul Peterson. The design he brought was simple yet very engaging, with a ton of replay value. It was a blast coming up with the groups for the game, getting cool art for them, and as you’ll see soon we had a great time even writing the rulebook. Smash Up is not a deckbuilding game, but rather you take two decks at the start of the game, shuffle them together, and play. We’re calling it shufflebuilding. You play the game smashing bases with your minions, and the first to 15 points wins. Each faction brings its own mechanical focus, such as Pirates being most movement, Zombies for recursion, and Dinosaurs (with lasers) being massive power minions. Combine them into various decks that play in completely different ways.

Tom: Dinosaurs with lasers – how can you not love that? It looks and sounds like a whole lot of fun and I can’t wait to play it. I’m very interested in the three games you’ve announced in the City of Tempest series. Go over those please.

TR: Tempest is a shared-world game line, featuring various designers who tell the story of this dangerous city through their games. Courtier is the “first” in the series, being a prologue of sorts that tells how the royalty fell from power and the Senate took over. Designed by Philip duBarry, the game involves influencing various court members to complete petitions. Complete the most before the Queen is arrested and you win.

Next up is Mercante, which shows the rising merchant class. Ships come into and out of the harbor, while the various merchant houses fight to buy and sell the goods onboard, fulfilling contracts to win senatorial support for their merchant houses. At the end of the game, the player with the most value of favors owed to him by the Senate wins. Mercante is designed by Jeff Tidball.

The third in the initial releases is Dominare by jim pinto. Dominare moves the camera out to the overall city, and the various conspiracies that are forming to gain control of the city. By amassing a group of agents from all walks of life (politics, commoners, merchants, church, etc.) you can spread the most influence among the city and dominate Tempest.

More games in the Tempest world will follow in 2013.

Tom: They sound like AEG’s foray into the euro arena. I’m really interested in all three of those. Any scoops for me?

TR: Probably the most interesting thing we’re working on right now is a system that will let various designers, both known and up-and-coming, submit their game concepts to Tempest and continue the story of the world, as well as of course having their games published in this high-profile line. So if you have a game you’ve been working on with your friends, keep an eye on our Tempest web site for information on how you can submit it for consideration in Tempest.

Tom: Wow! That sounds really awesome.  So, fledgling game designers, get your games polished and check out the AEG website for more information on Tempest submissions.

Thank you Todd for taking time to be my guest on Go Forth And Game.    I’m excited to learn about Smash Up and the Tempest games and learning about AEG and the new games you are bringing to us soon.

Thanks for joining me for another interview, readers.  Keep checking.  There are more interviews on the way as well as a peek into The Laboratory.

Go Forth And Game,


This Week In Games 04jun12

Here’s the gaming news for the week of 04Jun12.

It was a sparse week in gaming for me.  I only played Ascension on the Ipad with GamerChris.  Z and I also played most of a game of Settlers of Catan.  But he got bored with it.  It’s just too long for his attention span.  He won by the way with Longest Road pushing him ahead by 2 points.  That’s it for playing games.

Game News

From BGG –

– Cranio Creations released more info on 1969.  It’s a game about the space race in the 1960’s.  I like the theme and am pretty interested in this.

-Ghenos Games – Fishing seems to be the new theme of the moment as Ghenos announces Swordfish, a game about catching and delivering fish.  The board is beautiful so I’m keeping my eyes on it.

-Dice Hate Me Games – DHMG casts their line in the lake with Take The Bait.  This fishing game is themed around a fishing tournament and sounds like a trophy catch to me.  I’m hoping to playtest this one very soon.  DHMG also released more info on Compounded, their newest fish in the creel from Darryl Louder.

-Stratus Games – DICEafari is nearing release.  I kickstarted this really interesting game so I’m looking forward to seeing it arrive on the doorstep.

-GamerChris’s latest post “Games My Ipod Ruined” is a neat post talking about iOS board games that are getting more play now than their non-virtual originals.  This is very true for me with Ascension:Chronicle of The Godslayer.  I like the game in person and nothing replaces the experience of being across the table from your opponent.  But the app is very excellent at teaching the game.  The speed really is fantastic.  I’m looking forward to the Summoner Wars app.

-Hans im Gluck announced that Z-Man/Filosofia is their new partner in North America.

-Speaking of America, FFG released Fortress America this week.  I missed the first version of this game so I’m pretty excited to try this one out.

-The biggest news of the week for me came from Days of Wonder.  They are releasing a HUGE expansion for Memoir ’44.  It’s called the Equipment Pack and contains a slew of new figures/minis.  I mentioned this last week but they have pictures now.





From GameSalute –

-There are several interesting interviews on GameSalute: Tahiti and Ground Floor by Undead Viking, Terra Prime by InD20, Dice Hate Me reviews Ground Floor

-Goblin Army launched Monolith, a worker placement game that appears to be about megaliths.

-Days of Wonder releases Small World: Realms.  I’m on the fence with Small World.  Z loves it but I’m not that enamored with it.  Realms may change that.  This expansion adds modular boards and scenarios.  I’m interested to see what the scenarios do.

-Queen Games released Maharani and Escape: The Curse of The Temple.  I almost kickstarted Escape because is seems like one that would go over well with the family.  Maharani sounds a bit like Fresco, which I like, but adds a rondel, a mechanic that I enjoy.   Both sound pretty interesting and Queen usually does a fantastic job on a game.

-Privateer Press announced Level 7.  This one sounds really cool.  Players are trapped in Level 7, the ‘hall of nightmares’ and must escape the complex to survive.  The press says it is a story driven game so it’s right up my alley with that and theme.  Really looking forward to this one.

From The Blogosphere:

Daniel Solis just keeps cranking them out.  He posted a new haunted house game, announced Dr. Remedy Grove Presents – a game brand that will be environmentally friendly and themed, and a cool non-game thing – an excellent idea for business cards. Oh, and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple won the Vanguard Award at Origins.  That’s pretty special.

-Bully Pulpit Games released the June playset for Fiasco, Home Invasion by Jason Morningstar.

-Play Hive Like A Champion is a new book by Randy Ingersoll.  I am a Hive nut so you should check this out.  And play some Hive.

-On The Opinionated Gamers, Dale Yu provides a detailed recap of Origins 2012 with lots of pictures.

That’s about all.

Go Forth And Game,


This Week In Games – 28may12

This Week In Games

This is the inaugural post for This Week In Games. In it I will recount what games I played in the past week as well as cover any gaming news that I thought was neat.

What I Played:

So as far as gaming goes I missed game night at Hypermind so the play list is kind of short. Z and I got a quick game of Omen: A Reign of War in. Omen is a card based battle game from Small Box Games. It has beautiful art and plays smoothly. I’ll get a full review on it as soon as I get a couple of more plays in.

Liv and I played a couple of Gamewright games. We traded wins on Zeus On The Loose and then she beat me twice at Castle Keep. Both of these games are great for families. Zeus is good for kids because it reenforces addition skills and quick thinking. Castle Keep is good for pattern recognition. And they are just fun quick games.

Liv and I also got a game of Hemloch in. Hemloch is another Small Box Games game. Can you tell I really like Small Box? This is another card game with a bit of a board game mixed in and has a dark fantasy theme. I enjoyed it. And will get a review in soon.

Cool Game News:

From BGG:

Queen Games – reprints of Arena: Roma II, a Lancaster expansion -The New Laws, and the Alhambra Family Box featuring the base game and expansion – The Vizier’s Favor plus Granada. I’m a Stefan Feld fan boy so I’m glad to see Arena coming back. Lancaster was one of my favorite new games of 2011 so an expansion is cool. I like Alhambra and the family box is a good compromise between just the base game and the Big Box.

Cubicle 7 – Cubicle 7 mostly does rpg’s. But they just announced that they will be doing a Dr. Who card game designed by…Martin Wallace! I’m sold. And Z will love it.

Z-Man – Goa is finally coming back. I’m very glad because this is a great game. It is a definite buy.

From Game Salute:

    • Days of Wonder just announced a new expansion pack for Memoir ’44. The Equipment Pack will have tons of new stuff – figures and vehicles from different countries, new cards, and new rules. Another must added to the huge Memoir ’44 want list.
    • Z-Man – Alcatraz: The Scapegoat is on the way. This co-op with a twist sounds like a lot of fun.
    • AEG – AEG has released the Thunderstone base game as a free print and play. All cards are updated to work with Thunderstone: Advance, the upgraded version of the game. Thunderstone: Advance streamlines the game and gets you to the dungeons faster. It sounds like AEG has big plans for this game with expansion ‘modules’ being released on a regular basis. I have an interview with AEG Senior Brand Manager Todd Rowland that should drop this week.
    • WizKids – The Lord of The Rings: Nazgul is on the way. This one is a co-op where you play the Nazgul and must complete missions before the One Ring is destroyed. It’s co-op with a competitive twist and sounds intriguing.

From Google Reader (blog watch):

    • my friend Daniel Solis has some cool ideas porting the Risk: Legacy of changing the game as it progresses to other games. My favorite is Scrabble: Legacy – Keep a Legacy document in the game box. (This can simply be the game board, the inside of the game box or a proper sheet of paper.) At the end of each game, each player writes one of the words currently in play. Any words on this list are worth half points in any future game.Winner’s Privilege: Add a DL, DW, TL, or TW to any empty space on the board. A single row or column can only have up to three of each
    • I Waste The Buddha With A Crossbow – interesting article on the Indiana Jones RPG.
    • Friend of Go Forth And Game Seth Jaffee has some updates to some of his current in progress designs and an announcement that he is contributing to the book Why I Design. Check them via the link.
    • The Opinionated Gamers have some interesting reviews of Talat, Upon A Salty Sea, and Ora & Labora.
    • Board Game Reviews by Josh reviews Nemo’s War by Victory Point Games and Kingdom of Solomon by Minion Games. Both are games I want to check out.
    • Father Geek – Cyrus posts his webcomic, Senor Tex-Mex!. It’s fun and brought back memories of El Espectro, the comic Micah Harris and I did for The East Carolinian back in college. Maybe I’ll post some of those soon.
    • Little Metal Dog – posts a review of Legend of The Lost Dutchman by Crash Games.
    • Speaking of Lost Dutchman, Dice Hate Me also posted a review. I played this with Chris and enjoyed it. It needs some polish but is a solid game. It is currently on Kickstarter.
    • Speaking of Dice Hate Me, Chris and Cherilyn are at Origins (or rather have just returned from Origins when this posts) and should have their report up soon. Meanwhile recent posts include: a Ground Floor from Tasty Minstrel review ( I played that one with him too.), a review of My Happy Farm from 5th Street Games (We played that too.), an announcement that DHM Games has signed Compounded, a game by Darrell Louder.
    • GamerChris – a session report including Catacombs, Walnut Grove, and Lords of Waterdeep, a picture of the week, and…his first podcast, Exploring Games with GamerChris, Congrats to Chris for jumping into the pool.
    • Kickstarter roundup: Ground Floor by Tasty Minstrel Games, The Legend of The Lost Dutchman by Crash Games, Deadlands Noir by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Ace of Spies by Sprocket Games, Tsuro of the Seas, Tammany Hall by Pandasaurus Games, Tahiti by Minion Games, Hoplomachus-The Lost Cities by Josh & Adam Carlson











That’s all the news for this week. Join me next week for some more. Until then leave a comment and check out some of the sites and games that I mentioned.

Go Forth and Game,


All Photos are copyright by their various authors/publishers.