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?


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.


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.

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