A Conversation With…Darrell Louder, the designer of Compounded

This time I’m talking to Darrell Louder. Darrell’s the designer of Compounded, a new game coming from Dice Hate Me Games.

Tom: Alright Darrell, tell us about yourself.
Darrell: I’m a 33 (soon to be 34, on Valentine’s Day to be specific) year-old crazy person. Married with a beautiful wife, Lesley, and the greatest 2 year-old kid in the world, Ethan. Born and raised in Dover, Delaware where I still reside. I’ll allow you a few minutes to look for Delaware on a US map; hint, we are under New Jersey. 

Tom: It’s going to be a couple of years before you’re the next Knizia. Everyone else has a day job.  What do you do to fuel your gaming habit?
Darrell: I currently work for GameSalute as their webmaster & a member of their graphic design team- so from when I wake up to when I go to bed, I’m constantly working on game related media. So it’s nice to constantly be surrounded by that, and with people who understand your gaming passion. I also volunteer free-time to my friend John Moller in running the Unpub program he started. John and I have been friends for over 20 years, so it’s great to work with him on something that we feel improves the gaming environment for everyone.When I’m not working, my wife is usually always poking me for a game before we retire to bed; usually Stone Age, Maya, or St. Petersburg.

Tom: You’re a busy rascal. I have an interview with John pending.  There’s a bit of crossover with this one. GameSalute is great. Top notch outfit runs by outstanding people.What game got all this started?
Darrell: Magic the Gathering, actually. I’ve played that blasted game since the Dark came out, and only quit it last year. I remember hanging with friends, and they were playing Catan. I scoffed at them, never trying it myself, and instead kept playing Magic with whoever wanted to kick my butt at the time. Then one day, I sat down and tried Catan. Then Knizia’s Lord of the Rings is what REALLY got me hungry for more board games. So Magic, then Catan, then LotR. Man… now I want to play Lord of the Rings.

Tom: I own it but haven’t played it yet. So recommend it?
Darrell: Oh yes! The game was my first forray into co-op games, and it is a nail bitter. Probably the best Knizia game ever designed. From the theme to the gameplay it’s a through and through fantastic game!

Compounded. I’ve heard a story about how it came to be. But you should tell us all about it.  Where did it come from? What is it about?  How do you play?
Compounded came about as charity, believe it or not. I had zero interest in entering the game design industry. My friend, John Moller, was always making games that our group would play from time to time- but I don’t think anyone ever thought of ‘publication’. So, John wanted to do something for the board gaming world and came up with the idea of Unpub, an unpublished games festival. As a graphic designer, and director of marketing I did everything I could to help him get the first Unpub off the ground; however, as the date loomed closer I was worried about a lack of designers coming- so I decided (within 4 days of the event) to make a game to enter. If it flopped, it flopped- I was doing it only to help John.

So I kicked around an idea of being an alchemist and you’re putting together indregients to make potions. I shared this with my wife, a High School teacher, and she asked “why?”. It took me back. Usually she is all gung-ho for my ideas and encourages me to jump on them… this was odd. She then continued, “Why do potions? Won’t that be white noise? You should do the periodic table of elements and build REAL compounds!” That was it. As soon as she said it, I couldn’t turn back. I’m very much a man of science and that idea stole my heart. So that day, while at work, I sketched out Compounded. The original game was just a bag of reused Agricola pieces and compounds printed on 4×6 cards. It was ugly, simple, but it was the spark of something good. The fact that I had a full game in 4 days seemed to take everyone at Unpub by surprise. Their feedback & encouragement helped me continue to massage it and work on it. Really, it is everything Unpub stands for.

Tom: So your wife is actually responsible for Compounded. She’s a bright lady. Tell her thank you from all us gamers.
Darrell: I read your response to her, she smiled and said “That was nice, thank you.” Thanks for scoring me a few brownie points. 🙂

Dice Hate Me Games is publishing Compounded.  I remember when Chris and Cherilyn first started talking about it.  That sparkle was in their eyes and I knew that they wanted it.  How did they actually catch it?
Actually, Chris & Cherilyn caught it by accident- sort of. I only knew Chris & Cherilyn via Twitter. John knew them after meeting them at Origins. So John went down to visit with them and help T.C. Petty III shoot his KickStarter video for VivaJava. John & T.C. had both played Compounded, and liked it. So I asked John if he would mind taking the latest version of it down to get thoughts and feedback from Chris & Cherilyn. I can honestly say that it was NOT my intention to get it in front of them for possible publication, I didn’t think it was there yet. I just wanted feedback from a different, third party, source. Turns out, Cherilyn liked it, alot. She was the driving force behind DiceHateMeGames picking it up. So what turned out as an innocent search for help, turned into an amazing (and surprising) new dream being fulfilled.

Did anything change from initial concept to final product?
Oh man, did it ever! Originally all the compounds had abilities & victory points. The idea was you’d sacrifice your points to do things to screw over your opponents. That version was just too harsh though. So then I introduced the social aspect of trading, then a player tableau… and it just went on from there. The original elements in the game were even different. The nice thing is, those elements/compounds are still stored for possible future expansions. Dice Hate Me Games and I are actually planning (and working on) an included expansion with Compounded that will add a REALLY cool twist on the social game.

It’s puppies, right? Almost everything is better with puppies. I can see the Kickstarter now. ‘At the $1000 Sr. Chemist level, Darrell will bring you a puppy. To your house. For you to keep.’
Yep, you got it (not really)! I will (not) be bringing puppies door to door to every backer. I will (not) be hand pairing a breed with each kick starter supported based on their pledge level. 🙂

Tom: I’ve played Compounded at the last Gameathonapocalooazfestacon and it is a very good game.  When can we expect to get it in our hands?
Darrell: Well, Compounded will launch on KickStarter on January 18, 2013 at 12:01am. It ties in with the launch of Unpub 3 (January 19 & 20) as Compounded really is the product of the first Unpub. So it’s this kind of cool circle to see it go from birth to publication all around the Unpub program. We are then aiming to have the first public release at Origins. That, of course, depends on the printer, customs, etc. It is something we are eyeing though.

Tom: Maybe I’ll be there. That would be cool.
Darrell: If you come to Origins, let me know. I’ll reserve a chair at the game table for ya! With everything else Dice Hate Me

Games has brought, and knowing what’s to come… there is no shortage of original, awesome games coming from them!

Tom: What are the aspects of a good player?
Darrell: To be blunt, not being a #@$&. Nothing is worse than playing a game where an opponent just ‘shuts down’ and just mopes through the remainder of a game. Or an opponent that argues rules, because he/she weren’t paying attention during the explanation.

Tom: I’ve been guilty of that first one. Did it during Extra Life this year. Of course it was 3 a.m. and we were unwise to attempt 1960: The Making of The President …
Darrell: Time is guilty of making a #@%& of everyone. Therefore time is the biggest dick of them all? 🙂

Tom: We’ve had zombies, pirates, city building, deck building. What’s the next hot theme in board games?
Darrell: Hybrids. Games have been so cut and dry on one style of mechanic, “oh it’s a worker placement.” and “this is a deck builder”. I think you’ll start seeing games that are going to be difficult to classify by giving it a single label mechanic. Salmon Run, by Jess Catron, is a great example of this. Sure it has a deck building element to it- but it’s a racing game. So I can’t call it a deck builder as I feel it’s insulting to the great game that it is.

Tom: That’s an interesting idea.  I can see it and it builds out of the previous Question of The Month about new mechanisms. What are you currently playing the most?
Darrell: Wow, that would be a toss up between Stone Age or St. Petersburg. Either way, my wife is schooling me both.

Tom: What game surprised you and how?
Darrell: This year, FLEET. I loathe bidding/betting games, but damn it if that game isn’t all sorts of rock star awesome. If you haven’t played it yet, you really are missing out on one of the best games of 2012. A brilliant game by Ben Pinchback & Matt Riddle.

Tom: I’ve played Fleet and it is a good game.What is next for you?  What else is in the que?  What’s next for Darrel Louder?
Darrell: What’s next in the queue? Well, I’m working on my next game with T.C. Petty III, the designer of VivaJava. It was a game idea we birthed as a joke, but after a game design retreat we found a solid game. It’s currently called “Pirates of the Carbon Copy”. It’s a game of being pirate accountants. Seriously. You have a ship and you are plundering islands for goods, but the royal navy is about so you need to ensure you get/make receipts for the goods aboard your vessel because there is always an audit just around the corner. The goal is to ‘race’ to the end of the shipping route before the tax deadline. It has worker placement, rondels, trading, racing, blind tableaus, and more. It sounds strange, I know, but man is it fun. So we’ll be premiering that at Unpub 3.

Tom: Pirates” sounds a lot like that Monty Python short. That could be an interesting game.

Darrell: That was brought up during our ‘brainstorming’. Actually the idea came about (jokingly, as I stated) while playing a prototype to a pirate game. This prototype had so many numbers to keep track of, we joked that we were pirate accounts, sailing the seas to H&R Rock. It just avalanched from there. It’s very much a ‘you had to be there’ story.

Tom: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Darrell: Unpub 3, you and your readers should go! It’s amazing to play a print and play copy of a game, and then see it picked up later- knowing you had your hand in helping that game designer fulfill a dream is just- there are no words. All feedback is unpubinvaluable, and that is the point of Unpub, to play unpublished games to give feedback to make it the next best thing!

Tom: John’s whole interview is about Unpub so be sure to come back for that.How can people contact you?  Are there any links you would like folks to visit?
Darrell: I’m on twitter, religiously, at @getlouder
I’m also on BGG under getlouder (I love geekmail)

Tom: So every BGGer should send him some. Preferably with GG attached.
Darrell: For more information on Compounded visit: http://www.dicehatemegames.com
For more information on Unpub3 visit: http://www.unpub.net


Thanks again Darrell. That was a ton of fun.

One thought on “A Conversation With…Darrell Louder, the designer of Compounded

  1. Compounded I didn’t get to play these last three games, but everyone seemed to have a great time with them. I can vouch for event co-organizer, Darrell Louder’s upcoming Dice Hate Me game, Compounded. It’s solid. Absolutely solid.

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