A Conversation with … Chris and Suzanne Zinsli of Cardboard Edison


Welcome back to Go Forth And Game. This time I’m interviewing Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, the folks from Cardboard Edison. We talk about Tessen, Van Ryder Games, and what’s going on at the CE HQ.

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Tom: What do you want to tell us about yourselves?

Suzanne: We are Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, though people online may know us as Cardboard Edison.

Chris: We design games under that name and run a tips blog for board and card game designers. Our first published design, Tessen, will be coming out soon.

Suzanne: And we live in New Jersey with our wonderful four-year-old daughter Lily, who is a budding gamer and designer herself.

Tom: I’m alway interested to hear what other gamers do for a living?  How do you support your gaming habit?

Suzanne: I am a stay-at-home Mom and love every second of it!

Chris: I’m a business journalist and an editor for an online publication covering the venture capital industry.

Tom: What was the gateway drug? What game got all this started?

Chris: To our friends and family, we’ve always been gamers. We were the couple playing Travel Scrabble and Tri-Ominoes at the laundromat and the coffeehouse around the corner. But we didn’t really discover modern strategy games until we came up with an idea for our own game, a word game called Skewphemisms. (Yes, we got into games through game design!) The first modern board game we fell in love with was Carcassonne.

Suzanne: It’s funny because Chris went to a local game shop for a game night, played it and bought a copy for us. He was not sure if I would like it, but after playing it once, I wanted to play it all the time. I became addicted, still a little addicted to it. Every time I play, I think of things I could have done differently and how drastically that would have changed the end game, which makes me immediately want to play it again.

Tom: You have several designs in the works. Talk a bit about them?

Chris: Our first game, Tessen, is about to be published by Van Ryder Games. It’s a real-time card game for two players based in feudal Japan. We’re also developing a word party game called Skewphemisms. That’s a big group game based on alliteration. And we’ve started working on our next big project.

Suzanne: We also have many other game ideas that we’re trying to find the time to develop.

Chris: So many games, so little time…

Tom: Tell us more about Tessen.

Chris: In the world of Tessen, the Shogun has grown tired of the constant bloodshed between the clans, so he has declared that all disputes will be settled by a “Tessen challenge.” The Tessen is the war fan that samurai use for attack and defense, and it’s the only weapon the Shogun would allow. The clans must gather eight mystical animals, with the clan that saves the most animals being declared the victor.

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Chris: Tessen will feel familiar to anyone who grew up playing games like Speed/Spit or Dutch Blitz. We wanted to make a game that captured the feel of those games but that offered more strategic decision-making. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by very casual gamers but still offers interesting decisions for gamerly gamers.

Suzanne: A.J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games is going to run a Kickstarter campaign for Tessen starting on Monday, July 29. Backers can get the game for just $12!

Tom: Do you have a favorite design element?

Chris: I love games that let you try to read the minds of the other players. If I can plan my moves in part based on what I think everyone else is going to do, that’s the sweet spot for me. Now that I think about it, that might be what connects some very different games that I love. Coloretto and The Resistance are on opposite ends of the gaming spectrum in many ways, but in both cases, a good player is rewarded for getting inside the heads of the other players.

Suzanne: One design element that really interests me is variable setup and modular boards, like Forbidden Island, Survive: Escape From Atlantis! and Salmon Run.

Tom: I played Forbidden Desert last night. You would probably like it. What inspires you?

Suzanne: Playing really good games, and especially playing works in progress by other designers.

Chris: I’ve found that nothing inspires new ideas like old ideas. Flipping through old design notebooks never fails to stir up some new ideas. I also like learning about unfamiliar subjects in bite-sized chunks. The site Mental Floss is great for that.

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Tom: Why are you designing games?

Suzanne: Chris and I are both very creative people. When we met in college twelve years ago we were both in the arts. I was studying creative writing and he was in media arts. Board games are a passion we both share, so the idea to create them together just grew organically. We are very different players and usually have totally opposite strategies, so in game design it really works because we get the chance to view it from different angles.

Tom: You’re pretty active on Twitter and in the design community. How helpful is that to you? Is the community important to you?

Chris: Wow, we can’t underestimate how important the design community has been to us. There are so many people out there who are willing to help by discussing game design or by playtesting. One reason we created the Cardboard Edison tips blog was to give back to other designers.

Suzanne: The community is just so open and friendly and welcoming. It’s made up of some really special people.

Tom: Your blog is a fantastic idea. As a fellow designer I really appreciate you do that. Theme or Mechanic. Which comes first for you?

Suzanne: Theme, I love getting totally immersed in the world of a game.

Chris: Theme seems to be the starting point for me most of the time, and my mind very quickly moves to figuring out matching mechanics. But even more importantly, I try to consider the player experience that will arise from the combination of theme and mechanics.

Tom: Ok, let’s talk about Unpub3. What games did you take?

Suzanne: We took two games: Skewphemisms and Tessen. Actually, I had to convince Chris to take Tessen. He was not sure if it was ready or not. We look up to a lot of the Unpub designers, so it was a little scary knowing they would playtest our games. I felt Tessen was ready and I told him that if it wasn’t, then this was the place we would find that out and then hopefully get some good feedback on how to fix it.

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Chris: Luckily, I listened to her!

Tom: Was it helpful? Did you get a lot of good feedback?

Suzanne: Oh my goodness, YES! It was great and the feedback was wonderful and very helpful!

Tom: Any major changes because of it?

Chris: One player suggested a new way to use the warrior cards that was so obvious and elegant that we made the change on the spot. We also shortened the number of rounds to keep the game moving along. Unpub turned out to be a MAJOR milestone for us. That’s where we met A.J. Porfirio from Van Ryder Games, and where he decided to pick up Tessen.

Tom: Standard GFG question: What are the aspects of a good player?

Chris: A good player can play to win but still have fun if they lose. It can be a tough line to walk. No one likes a sore loser, but at the same time, games often fall apart if players aren’t giving it their all.

Suzanne: I think a good player is someone who is willing to teach new players a game and remains patient as the new player learns. I’ve played with people who have taken the time to show me the game, and with people who have gotten impatient, and it’s uncomfortable to be a new player in that situation.

Tom: Is one play enough for a review?

Suzanne: After one play, I think you can know whether or not you like a game, but to really review it, you need multiple plays. Ideally, you’d play a game with different people, because games can play so differently depending on who you play with.

Chris: Games are designed to be played multiple times, for the most part. I used to review movies, and although repeat viewings would certainly lead to better movie reviews, they aren’t necessary the way repeat plays are required to really understand a game.

Tom: Microgames like Love Letter seem to be the hot new topic. Do you have one on the design board? What is your take on this? Fad or legit? Have you played any?

Suzanne: We’ve played a few, including Love Letter and some prototypes from designers we know. I like microgames, but they aren’t my favorite. I prefer longer, heavier games where you’re really invested in a strategy that plays out over multiple rounds.

Chris: I really respect a good microgame that’s simple and elegant and achieves a satisfying experience with very few components. I hope microgames aren’t a passing fad. The portability of microgames means they’re out in public more often, which could be a great thing for expanding the hobby. We’re developing a microgame of our own called White Rabbit. It’s a card game with just one card! Actually, that’s a slight stretch. There’s more than one card, but only one printed card. The rest are completely blank.

Tom: What’s your favorite unpublished game right now?

Suzanne: Wow, there are actually a bunch! A few that come to mind are Captains of Industry by Michael R. Keller, Hostage Negotiator by our publisher A.J. Porfirio, and Knot Dice by Matthew O’Malley.

Chris: We both also love Intrigue by Jay Treat. And there are a lot of other really cool designs in the works that we’ve been lucky enough to play. Too many to mention, so no disrespect to any that we left out!

Tom: I REALLY like Hostage Negotiator. That one is going to be a hit. I’ve played Intrigue and enjoyed it also. What are you currently playing the most?

Suzanne: The Cat in the Hat: What’s in the Cat’s Hat? Game with my four-year-old daughter, The Resistance: Avalon and Viticulture.

Chris: A couple of modern classics: Ra and Tikal. And our daughter has been enjoying Spot It! lately too.

Tom: I got to play Ra again last night. It is so elegant. What game surprised you and how?

Suzanne: Mancala because it is so simple and yet very strategic.

Chris: Oh man, Mancala kind of blew my mind with how much thinking you can do with such a simple concept. I’d also put Hanabi in that category. So good.

Tom: What is next for you? What else is in the queue?

Chris: We’ll be at Gen Con in a couple of weeks, and Van Ryder Games is running Tessen tournaments each day on the convention. We’ll be there to lend a hand, and because we’re excited to see a big group of people playing our game for the first time! We’ve also started working on a new design with the working title of Cottage Industry. It’s our most ambitious game yet. It’s a whimsical economics game set in a fairytale land that combines worker placement (or something close to it) with resource management, bluffing, bidding, map building and even some storytelling.

Tom: Oh, that sounds very interesting. If you need playtesters, we have a great group here in Durham. What are you currently reading?

Chris: I’ve been going back and forth reading chapters from two books on game design: Rules of Play by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, and Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton, Christopher Swain and Steven Hoffman.

Suzanne: The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey.

Tom: I’ve heard really good things about the Yancey book. I need to read that. What was the last good movie you saw?

Chris: As parents of a young child, getting out to the movies is a pretty rare event for us! But we’ve been catching up on the series Once Upon a Time through Netflix in recent weeks. It’s sort of like research for Cottage Industry, but really that’s just what we tell ourselves to justify the time not spent designing!

Suzanne: Lily and I did have a movie night while Chris was at Origins and we watched Monsters, Inc.

Tom: Monsters, Inc. is such a cool and original story. It’s a masterpiece.

Chris: We’ve also been watching the new season of Big Brother on CBS. I know, I know. But in all honesty, it’s a great show for game designers to watch. Seeing how social dynamics play out in the house is fascinating. And the producers will constantly change the rules on the contestants, which is horribly unfair, but watching the players adapt to new circumstances can give designers great insight into player psychology.

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Tom: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Suzanne: We love to meet new people to hang out with, play games, grab a drink, whatever. So if anyone is at a convention we’re at or if you’re in the New Jersey area, let us know!

Tom: How can people contact you?  Are there any links you would like folks to visit?

Chris: We’re on Twitter as @CardboardEdison, and we’re on Facebook. Our website and the tips blog is at www.cardboardedison.com. We also have a newsletter with updates about our game designs plus a monthly roundup of our favorite links from the tips blog. Here’s the newsletter signup form: eepurl.com/ymfWH

Suzanne: For information on Tessen, check out the Van Ryder Games website.

Tom: What is something that the general public would not know about you?

Chris: I’m fascinated by conspiracy theories. I don’t personally subscribe to most of them, but I love seeing how people connect the dots between seemingly unrelated events, and the logic they use to do it.

Suzanne: One of the best jobs that I ever had was managing a used bookstore in downtown Jersey City, N.J.

Chris: That bookstore was great.

Tom: Any final words?

Suzanne: Tom, we would like to thank you for interviewing us and for putting together such a great blog! And we also want to thank A.J. from Van Ryder. He has just been amazing to work with!

Chris: Absolutely. I think A.J. is spoiling us! He’s been such a pleasure to work with. He has really taken Tessen to the next level, and he has been so respectful of us as designers. And Tom, thanks again for inviting us here!

Tom: You guys are awesome. Thanks for being my guests.

Update: Z and I played Tessen at game night this week and really liked it. In fact he liked it so much he’s going to spend his own money for a copy.

You can back Tessen for only $12 right here.

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Thanks for joining us on Go Forth and Game. How about leaving a comment below?

The Burning Question


Here’s the newest Burning Question (formerly Question of the Month).

Is every game worthy of a second play? Game designers put in a lot of thought and sweat into creating a game. Shouldn’t we respect that and at least give their games another chance? Maybe it was the people you were playing with. Maybe you were having a bad night. Would one more play really be that bad?
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or shooting me an email.
Tom G

A Conversation with…Fred and David MacKenzie of Clever Mojo Games About Princes of The Dragon Throne – Part 1


The Land of Lo’en is vast. Its Kingdoms and Guilds are populated by Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Kobolds, Trolls, and of course, the Dragons. The Dragon King is dead now and you, as one of his many overlooked offspring, have decided that it’s time for a change.

Can you raise the funds to bribe the dragon clans to join your coup and the food to keep them? Can your strength convince the citizens of Lo’en to support your claim to the throne? Can your followers influence the diverse Kingdoms’ many Guilds and Clan Houses, and use their powerful resources to aid your cause?

Your siblings have dynastic plans of their own and the dead King’s influence, though weakening, must still be reckoned with. There will be many obstacles to surmount in your quest to claim the Dragon Throne.

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That’s your charge when you play The Princes of The Dragon Throne. Princes of the Drgaon Throne is the newest game from designers Fred and David MacKenzie and Clever Mojo Games. Princes is currently nearing the end of its Kickstarter. Fred and David joined me to talk about Princes and the other things going on at Clever Mojo.

Tom: Alright, let’s get this out of the way. You kickstarted PDT and then halted it. And you relaunched a modified version soon after. Tell us about what happened.

David: You know how peanut butter and chocolate taste better together? Well, it turns out that Euro-game mechanics and Ameri-trash minis didn’t mix well for us.  The Ameri-trashers got confused because there was a REAL game mixed in with their minis and the Euro-gamers thought the high price was due to minis instead of typical wooden bits. In the end, we owed more respect to the game than the minis. But damn, those were great minis!

Tom: It’s sad that you have settle for, as one person said  ‘a watered down version’.

Fred: It’s not as sad as it seems. From the beginning the plan was to start the project offering a basic version, and then use stretch goals to work our way up to custom meeples and then on to the minis. We didn’t get the final quote from the manufacturer until just a few days before launch, and it was much higher than we were expecting. At that point, the high cost of the game suggested simply starting the project at the best possible option.

David: There’s nothing watered down about PDT. Minis reinforced the theme, but the game is where the fun and challenge are…and that has not been changed AT ALL.

Tom: So it’s really kind of back to what you originally envisioned.

Those are good points and I have to say you have a fantastic attitude about this. Having played Princes I wouldn’t call it watered down at all.  Kudos to you both on that. And on the upside the game is available to more people I think.

Fred: That is the hope.

David: With the reduced price and the reduced primary funding goal, we are more confident than ever that PDT will get published and once people play and it finds a loyal following, I’m hoping there will be demand for an “upgrade pack” and we can bring back the minis.  We’ll see.

Tom: So, the game really hasn’t changed with regards to game play, just the bits. Is that correct?

Fred: Absolutely correct. And really, we’re only talking about the player tokens and King’s Guard tokens. All of the art work is still right there. To me, that is what immerses me into the theme more than the tokens do.

David: The minis were the most recent addition to PDT and they only replaced other bits to strengthen the theme. PDT is still PDT.

Tom: Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about how awesome PDT actually is. I’ve played it once and was very impressed.

Fred: At the start of the game players’ options are limited as they have few resources and their starting cards can only gather more resources. As players recruit more cards, using those resources, their options expand to being able to place supporters on the board. Gaining the support of the guild locals allows a player to control the guilds and receive unique bonuses, which increases their options as well. Also, when a player takes control of a guild one of the dragon lords in the dragon parliament will choose to join their cause in one of the clan houses. The dragon parliament is the game clock and when it is full the game is over.

David: Princes of the Dragon Throne uses deck building to drive the other elements of the game. As players add more cards to their deck they are also able to remove cards from it. The new cards they add allow the players to place their player tokens on the board, and the race for controlling the guilds is on. Each of the six citizen kingdoms includes one of each of the guilds. Players are trying to control the most guilds in each kingdom, as well as the most of each particular guild type throughout all the kingdoms. Effective placement of player pieces will decide who will be crowned the next king.

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Tom: There is some really good push and pull between picking up cards and placing your pieces.

Now PDT has been in development for several years. Let’s start at the beginning. How did the game come about? Where did the idea come from?

Fred: The game has always been about dragons. Firstly, because I love dragons, but also because I was inspired by a poem David wrote showing the life of a dragon from birth to death. That was my first concept, to create a game about the life and death of dragons.

Tom: Ok, I’ve seen this poem mentioned twice now. You’re going to have to fork it over. Give me a Go Forth exclusive.

Fred: Well it’s not an exclusive, but here it is.

MYTH

Time stands

Still for the egg

As it bakes in the sun.

Alone in the cove, it rests in

The sand.

Shaking

Then quivering,

Cracks form in the tough shell.

Rocking back and forth. Breaking. It

Opens.

The head

Emerges first.

A gaping mouth with sharp

Teeth. Its eyes blaze with wonder and

Hunger.

–==<<>>==–

Seconds

Pass. Wings unfurl.

Thin and wrinkled and wet,

But spread in the warmth of the sun

They dry.

Four feet

Crawl out pulling

The large red body forth

From the shell, unsteady at first.

Unsure.

As the

Tail, long and thin,

Clears the egg the head swings

Around and seeing the shell finds

A meal.

–==<<>>==–

Minutes

Pass. The egg

Which was his home

Is gone. The hatchling must

Find another, quickly before

Night falls.

A cave,

Deep, dark, and damp

Will suit his purpose well.

Inborn memories tell him this

Is home.

Hunger

Gnaws at him stillpic975664_md

And small animals in

The cave satisfy him for now.

He sleeps.

–==<<>>==–

Hours

Pass. The squeal of

A wild pig brings hunger.

He wakes and instinct takes over.

He hunts.

Stalking

Moving slowly,

Breathing softly, waiting

For the moment. Waiting. Waiting.

He leaps

He feeds

On blood oozing

Between his teeth. On meat

Sliding down into his belly.

He grows.

–==<<>>==–

Days pass.

When he is not

Eating he is sleeping.

The cycle seems empty, senseless,

Until…

Stepping

On a bramble

The young beast screams and wails.

Mixed with his pitiful cry is

Red flame.

Patience

And practice give

Him control of the fire

Burning within him and no prey

Is safe.

–==<<>>==–

Weeks pass

Brave and strong he

Exercises his wings.

Up and down, flex and reach. He feels

Ready.

On the

Bluff he stands poised

Muscles coiled and taught he

Waits for a warm updraft to fill

His wings.

Airborne!

He pumps his wings.

His muscles burn and scream.

He reaches altitude then he

Just soars.

–==<<>>==–

Months pass.

Fire and wing havepic975663_md

Brought him food, growth, and strength.

His cave is now too small to hold

His bulk.

From the

Clouds he spies a

Lonely castle on a

Windswept plain and decides to make

It his.

Flaming

Breath and ripping

Claws leave bodies scattered.

Triumphant, he settles into.

His lair.

–==<<>>==–

Seasons

Pass as he raids

Farms and cottages on

Wings of flame. Setting light to fields

And homes.

Feasting

On fat cattle.

Terrorizing town folk

Too scared to fight back, too full of

Despair.

Virgins

Are sacrificed

To appease him. Gold is

Brought to calm him. He is worshiped

And feared.

–==<<>>==–

Years pass

And his greed grows.

He hordes silver coins while

Gems and jewels catch his eye. Gold lines

His bed.

A brave

Knight rises up,

Determined to vanquish

Him. On a valiant charger

He comes.

Armor

And sword and horsepic975662_md

Are no match for flame and

Fangs. A skull is added to his

Treasure.

–==<<>>==–

Decades

Pass. One after

Another knights are slain

And his reputation becomes

Too great.

Feared by

All, none seek him.

Unchallenged, he grows old.

Forgotten by men, he becomes

A myth.

Until

A scent stirs him.

Instinct awakens him.

A new danger quickens his blood.

Trespass!

–==<<>>==–

Lifetimes

Pass in the blink

Of an eye as he takes

Wing. He has been earthbound for far

Too long.

The sky

Is his again.

Soaring among the clouds

He searches for the other one.

His foe.

There! There!

Ahead, above!

Diving out of the sun.317379_281424151992927_148335033_n

No time to counter this surprise

Attack.

–==<<>>==–

Time stands

Still at impact.

Scaled bodies grapple and

Writhe. Wings tangle and tear. Teeth bite.

Claws rend.

Wounded.

Bleeding. Fading.

He watches as the youth

Climbs skyward on shredded wings while

He falls

Falling,

He breathes his last.

Dying, his soul flies free

And he soars among the clouds once

Again


Tom: Wow! That’s a pretty cool poem. The visual imagery it evokes is fantastic. I can see how it was an inspiration.

Back to Princes. As we talked about its long incubation. How many iterations did the game go through?

Fred: Well, the original concept, in 2009, required 125 dice! Since this idea was before Quarriors I assumed there was no way a game could be made with so many dice. The next iteration, sticking with dragons (always!) but moving the theme in a different direction, was a type of set collection game where dragons were perched in the mountains surrounding a valley and picking off the unwary travelers. There was another set collection version that used a rock/paper/scissors (or in this case a fist/fangs/fury) mechanic with dragons battling each other for those travelers. Next there was a role selection game where each turn you chose what your dragon’s personality was going to be that round. Finally near the end of 2010 I played my first games of Dominion and Ascension and I was smitten with the deck building mechanic. The first attempt at designing a deck building

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game was closer to Ascension, with cards that could be purchased, and when they were purchased they were replaced by another card. But our cards, characters traveling through the kingdom, were on a type of conveyor belt and if they weren’t purchased they would eventually leave the game. These cards were typical of the deck building genre in that they had a lot of text on them that allowed for manipulating the standard system. However, we finally settled on a design that would add worker placement and area control to our current ideas for deck building and resource management. Even that game went through several iterations, but we remained true to making a game with all of those mechanics.

David: Every single one of those other versions of the game had fatal flaws at some point, necessitating the advancement to the next idea. But once we hit on the game play of the current game we knew we had something unique that really had a chance to become special.

Tom: Well, it really works well. I found the game had some real strategy and planning. That’s one of my hallmarks of a great game. Now to the art. It’s awesome. It’s really going to sell the game. Who is/are the artist(s)?

David: Our artist is Don Aguillo and he has done an amazing job for us. In January of 2011, when we thought our deckbuilding-only game was the one we were going with, I put ads on Craigslist and Deviant Art looking for artists. Several applied, in spite of our small budget.

Fred: Don contacted us pretty late in the process but as soon as I saw his portfolio I knew he was the guy I wanted. We’ve got over a hundred unique pieces of art in the game so it took a couple of years to complete. That turned out to be alright though since we took the game in a new direction and spent the next two years play testing the new design.

newdragons

Tom: Well it is fantastic. You really were fortunate to retain him.

I’ve played Princes once and I really liked it a lot. My oldest daughter dropped in on the game and did very well. And she’s not a gamer. So that says that the game is easy to pick up. Have you had similar experiences?

Fred: I was playing a four player game and the twelve-year-old son of one of the players was watching. When his dad had to leave to go to work his son took his place. He didn’t win, but he did quite well, and certainly knew what he was doing.

Tom: That’s a really good sign in my opinion.

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This thing is massive. How many actual components are in the game?

David: There are 560 total pieces. 216 player tokens, 72 king’s guard tokens, 4 score markers, 80 guild markers, 95 resource tokens, 157 cards (with the possibility for 8 more cards if we get enough funding), 4 player aids, 2 sorcery dice, a game board and a rule book.

Tom: My word! It may be the biggest game I’ve ever played. I really like how you’ve titled each section of the KS page. Who’s idea was that?

David: KS page-building is my job.  I try to get into the feel of a game and come up with headers and page graphics that flow from that. If you look over the catalog of Game Salute projects on KS, you’ll see that we have the same general format for all of them, so the headers are the place I can make each campaign it’s own unique creation.

Tom: This game has been extensively playtested. Can you name one significant thing that changed because of the playtesting?

Fred: Well, once we settled on the current system, play testing tended to change a lot of small ideas, not usually any significant ones.

Tom: You are offering up yourselves to supporters. By that I mean that you guys are available for interviews, conventions, etc.. Why? Anybody other than me and the Theology guys take you up on that?

David: We’ve had several email interview requests, including yours. We’re happy to be able to spark enough interest that bloggers like yourself, and gamers in general, want to know more about Princes of the Dragon Throne.

That’s the end of part one. Please a comment for me, David, or Fred.

Come on back for part two as Fred, David, and I talk about all the other cool things going on at Clever Mojo Games. Part two is posted below.

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A Conversation with…Fred and David MacKenzie of Clever Mojo Games, Part 2


Welcome back! Let’s continue our conversation with David and Fred.clever mojo logo

Tom: Let’s switch gears now and talk about some of your other games.

Alien Frontiers just went through a new addition with a successful KS campaign. What’s new in the new edition?

AF-retailbox

David: The most recent AF project on Kickstarter was to build a promo pack of 3 new Alien Tech cards. We were also allowing pre-orders for the 4th printing of Alien Frontiers. The project caught fire and soared up over $150,000. Every stretch goal grew and expanded that promo pack and we ended up with a total of 65 cards: 23 Alien Tech Cards, 9 Agenda Cards, 20 Reference Cards, 7 Outer Belt Cards, and an assortment of blank cards that you can use to make your own Alien Tech, Agendas, and Outer Belt Cards. Oh, the stretch goals also built three new Faction Packs and three new alternate dice.  It was really amazing!

Tom: Man, I missed the Faction Pack KS (didn’t have the base game yet). I need to get in on the Faction Pack action. Dan Patriss says the game jumps to a next level with them.

Alien Frontiers for iPad – how’s that doing?

David: AF:iPad is still chugging away. The programmer and Game Salute are working on a deal to update the app for Game Center but I do not have any details yet.

Tom: Talk about Swinging Jive Cat Voodoo Lounge. I’m really excited about this one. It looks so cool. I think the art and theme, the look of the game is so SWEET!05_GREEN CARDS

David: SJVL is still in art development. We’ve enlisted the services of Sergi Marcet, a VERY creative and sought-after game artist. He’s amazingly busy but he’s deep into the game and the art he’s doing looks GREAT!  SJVL will, hopefully, come to Kickstarter by the end of 2013 and will be a major release for us in 2014.

Tom: Can I get in on some playtesting for it?

David: I’ll bring it to GenCon and we can give it a go.

Tom: Dang! I’m not going to be at GenCon. We’ll work something out. What’s the status on Sailing Toward Osiris? I remember it was one that sounded like a fun one.

Fred: This is a fun game David designed, but with him becoming so involved in publishing it has left him little time to work on personal game design. This game is nearly ready for some serious play testing but it just needs a couple of tweaks first. I hope to help David finish this design soon after my current projects are complete.Button-STO-300x300

David: Ya, my work for CMG and GS has really overwhelmed me. I just don’t have the time to work on STO, so Fred’s offer to help out is a relief…and after the work he’s done designing PDT, I know that STO is in good hands!

Tom: Sign me up for playtesting on that one too. What else have you got in the works?

Fred: I have a press your luck dice game called Monsters and Maidens that is currently running on JumpStartCity.com. That is a new crowdfunding site. Our project went live on June 28th and you can find that at jumpstartcity.com/events/monsters-and-maidens or here – http://jsc.am/21. Please check it out.

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David: I see so many games at our play test sessions that are going to really make a splash in a year or two. Nick Sibicky’s King’s Forge is coming to Kickstarter in July, but he also has two new dice games in early play testing: Demon Daycare and A Little Rocket Science. Brian Knudson (Kittens in a Blender) has a new card game called Zoo Fu and you’ll see that on Kickstarter in a month or two. Ian Stedman has an alchemy-themed deck-builder called Magnum Opus coming to Kickstarter in July and, just like PDT, MO takes deck-building and twists it into an entirely new shape that will set it apart from any other previous game. I’m really excited about all of the games we’ll be working on in the next few months.

KingsForge_BoxTom: How about a quick update on Formula E? I’ll be playtesting Magnum Opus and King’s Forge soon I hope. Demon Daycare?! That sounds really cool. And the rocket science one tweaks my interest too. I need to contact those guys for interviews. That sparks another question. We’re seeing A LOT of new game designers entering into the industry. I can think of a couple of obvious reasons but I’d like to hear your thoughts on why this is the case.

DAVID: I’m glad to say Formula E is on the way to the printer. To your question, some of it is Kickstarter making it possible for people to access the public directly, without the need to impress some gatekeeper at Hasbro. Part of it is the community gamers build on sites like bgdf.com and boardgamegeek.com. But the biggest reason, in my opinion, is the nova-like shockwave that radiated from games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. People woke up and saw that games could be something other than Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit…and that sparked a lot of creativity.

FRED: It’s been said that there is a game design inside every gamer. I truly believe that. This is not a new phenomenon; David was redesigning Risk into Nuclear Risk in the 70’s or 80’s. But with kickstarter making it easier to produce a game and Board Game Geek making it easier to market a game, people are able to act on their dreams. And when they see so many success stories they are even more emboldened.

Tom: I agree with both of you. KS certainly makes it possible for small press publishers/designers to get their games produced. But I think you’ve both hit two critical things. First, Fred’s right. Most every gamer has a game inside trying to get out. It’s kind of natural. I know I’ve got four or five myself (see Duck Blind posts). The second one is a bit more subtle but you both mentioned it. It’s the community. I think the community we’ve built is very encouraging and supportive of new designers. This makes it ‘inviting’ if you will, to put yourself out there with a new game. Most people are willing to take a look at a new game and give feedback. The community is not discouraging or mean. As Fred said, people can chase their dream and get help doing it.

Ok, I’ve read your interview with the Theology of Games guys. It was very good. It brought up a couple of questions and a few comments. What’s it like working with your brother every single day of your life?;)

DAVID: It’s great working with Fred; he’s creative and thoughtful. We sometime butt heads over design issues, but he’s nearly always right, in the end.

Fred: I wouldn’t say I’m right so much as determined. I have a vision and I want to stick to it as close as possible. So that causes head-butts. But that’s just because it’s my game. When we’re working together on Sailing To Osiris you’ll be the boss.

Tom: David is a fellow Stefan Feld aficionado. Have you played any of the 4 releases for this year? What is your favorite Feld game?

Fred: This is news to me. I think it’s cool if it’s true. I love Stefan Feld’s games. I have played, and love, The Castles of Burgundy, Trajan, and Bruges. I also own The Speicherstadt but have not played it yet.

Tom: I picked that up from the Theology of Games interview. I’m glad to hear you’re a Feldan also. I really think Feld is the best eurogame designer in the industry right now. I have Notre Dame and Macao. You should play both. I’ve played and need to buy Trajan, In The Year of The Dragon, and The Speicherstadt. All are very good. I hear Bruges and Castles are excellent. I’ve not heard anything about Rialto or Amerigo yet. Bora Bora is supposed to be good.

DAVID: To be honest, I do not think I’ve ever played a Stefan Feld game, sorry.  Someone is feeding you bad intel.

Tom: I think my memory is the culprit. I obviously got you two confused. Fred, you like Finca though. It is an underappreciated game. We should play on Yucata.de sometime.

Fred: Okay, I just registered. I’m new, so I’m not familiar with how it all works though.

Tom: It’s turn based so you take your turn and it passes to the next etc. until it gets back to you. Speicherstadt is on Yucata too by the way. I’ll send you an invite in the next day or so.

Something happened between CMG and Game Salute last year. Not too many people may know a lot about it. Can you talk about that briefly?  How has it benefited each party?

David: Hmm, it’s been nearly a year, but I guess you mean “the buyout”. Last August I went to work full time for Game Salute as their primary project manager for new games. As part of that process, GS bought out cropped-gs_namethe stock and rights to all of the CMG titles and made CMG a production label for GS games. You’ll see a lot more games carrying the CMG logo in the future but you can be assured that they’ll all be approved by me before they get the CMG brand. I spent a lot of time building CMG into a name people could trust to bring them quality games and that will NEVER change.

Tom: Well, you did a great job. CMG is one of the ‘small press’ success stories in game publishing, along with Dice Hate Me Games and I would say Minion. I only see great things in your future. I’m confident I will be playing Clever Mojo Games’ games for a long time.

Last question, I’m stealing it from The Game’s The Thing. What is one interesting thing that the general gaming community would not know about you?

DAVID: I collect little penguin nick-nacks…but that seems more like trivia than an interesting biographical item.  Sorry.

Tom: No, that’s the kind of stuff I was talking about. So everyone should bring you a penguin of some sort when they visit you at cons.

Fred: I have been to every state in the Country except Rhode Island, Hawaii and Alaska. Visiting those three states is on my bucket list.

Tom: I’ve been to Alaska. It’s an awesome place. I recommend it first.

Well, I’m excited about Princes of The Dragon Throne. It’s a really fun game. I want to thank you both for joining me as my guests on Go Forth And Game. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you. You guys should pop down to Durham again. I hope to play some games with you soon.

And thank you for once again visiting Go Forth And Game. Please do yourselves a favor and back Princes of the Dragon Throne right here.

Come back soon for updates to Duck Blind and interviews with AJ Poriforo, the Cardboard Edison folks, and a couple of mystery guests. Feel free to leave a comment below.