A Conversation With…Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street Games


I’m happy to welcome Phil Kilcrease, the big cheese at 5th Street Games. 5th Street has produced great games such as My Happy Farm (a personal favorite), Farmageddon, Jungle Ascent, and the up-coming Smash Monster Rampage and Baldrick’s Tomb. They have another winner in Mob Town, currently on Kickstarter and fully funded.

5th street logoTom: So we haven’t talked in a bit. Catch us up on what’s happened and happening with Phil and 5th Street Games.
Phil: It has been awhile… 2013 saw two new projects from 5th Street: Baldrick’s Tomb and Smash Monster Rampage, both of which successfully funded.

Baldrick’s Tomb is a 30 minute roguelike dungeon crawl where players are scrambling to get as much treasure and get out before the dungeon collapses, and Smash Monster Rampage is a co-op kaiju defense game with players defending a 3D city from a kaiju trying to wreck the place.

baldrick'sBaldrick’s Tomb should be heading out to backers and stores mid-February, and Smash Monster Rampage should be heading to print by the end of February.

Aside from that, I’ve been working with designer Danny Devine to get Mob Town and Ghosts Love Candy ready for Kickstarter.

Tom: I played a prototype version of Mob Town and thought it was very good. It has a lot more depth than the theme would suggest. Tell us about the game. How does the game work?

MobTown_TitleCard_DannyDevinePhil: Right? That’s part of what drew me to the game, as well. Mob Town has players competing for control of towns generated with a nifty randomizer; as you set up the city, each new property will tell you where to place the next piece. It makes a unique layout every time.

Once the city is laid out, players draft cards similar to Ticket To Ride and use those cards to capture properties. Each property matches two card suits. For example, theaters can be captured by Foxes and Weasels. You can also steal properties away from others, but doing so raises the cost of the stolen property.

At the end of each round, you score the properties you control along with any bonuses you may have gotten. After three rounds, the highest score is the boss of Mob Town.

Tom: The art and humor for Mob Town are  great. Danny, the designer did the art, correct? What about the humor? Who’s idea was that?

Phil: That is all Danny. He’s a big fan of comedians like Mitch Hedberg and Jerry Seinfeld (hence Quadruple Tree and Vandelay Industries, among others). He’s also a ROCKIN’ artist. We will be bringin’ in the talented Derek Bacon to help with the Cities, as well.

Tom: What made you sign Mob Town? What made it stand out?

Phil: The solid core gameplay and the city building mechanic. The core mechanics evoke new play while still feeling familiar (making it easy to learn), and the city building mechanic is just brilliant. I’m willin’ to bet we’ll start seeing other designers use it.

Tom: The KS campaign for Mob Town is going well. The base game is $25 with a deluxe version containing three expansions running $35. As of this writing it is funded. That’s a pretty good deal. And I’ve played two of the expansions, Cities and Professionals, and they add A LOT of coolness to the game. They move it from a casual/filler game to a much more ‘gamerly’ game. I absolutely recommend to anyone interested in the game to kick in the extra $10 to get those.

You recently had a successful KS campaign with Smash Monster Rampage. Tell us about Smash Monster Rampage.  What’s its status? It has kind of been over shadowed by that other monster/kaiju game.  What are your feelings about that?

smash monster2Phil: Smash Monster Rampage was originally a Print N Play legend by Mike Swindall. It uses 3D buildings to form the city the monster smashes through, with each PnP copy taking up to four hours to make. The end result, though, was an AWESOME sight, and fun to play.

SMR is a cooperative game where the players work together to stop a Kaiju monster before too much of the city is destroyed or too many civilians perish. To win, you have to draw the Mission Accomplished card after successfully hitting the monster. Problem is, every other time you hit the monster, it gets to do something nasty to you depending on what card you draw. The monster may move more spaces, wreck extra buildings, and so forth.

The game is currently in pre-production. We’re waiting for art assets to finish on a couple monsters, a few roles, and some survivors. The monster standees are also being finalized by Mike Swindall (and they’re AMAZING). If things go smoothly, we expect to go to press by the end of February.

As for the dexterity game of Rampage, I don’t think overshadowing is quite right. That game was ready for Essen while the Kickstarter was running, and is a much different play style. I think they’ll share shelf space nicely once SMR is finished later this year.

Tom: I need to pick up a copy of it soon. My son would like it I’m pretty sure. Are you working on any game designs of your own?

Phil: I still dabble a bit; my days of a new game every week akin to the rockstar Daniel Solis are behind me, though. The three that actually stand a chance of seeing the light of day are:

Make Your Case, a 2 player courtroom game where you sway jurors to your side while questioning witnesses. The neat thing with this one is each card has three uses, even though there are only two elements on the card.

Tom: That sounds interesting. I like multi-use cards.

Phil: Each card has a number from 1 to 12 and a symbol. The numbers can be used to raise your bid to win a witness, or they can be paired with a symbol from another card to perform an action with the corresponding juror (…and 12 jurors total). If you have the most jurors in your favor at the end of the game you win the case.

Cthulhu Rising, a 2 player game pitting a team of investigators against Cthulhu. It evokes a sense of Twilight Struggle in about 20 minutes. One of the bits that’s cool (and still needing tuning) is as the investigators get closer to winning, Cthulhu gets stronger as he pulls out all the stops to not die. This was originally a fan game based on Homestuck’s 12 trolls fighting the Black King.

Tom: This one sounds really fun.  If you need some playtesters, my group has some Cthulhu nuts.

Phil: Well, thanks a bunch! I might take you up on that. It is quite fun and tense, but man is the balancing on it finicky.

The last one is a catapult game akin to Toss the Turtle as a deckbuilder, only instead of a turtle being shot out of a cannon, yer chickens trying to escape the farm. This one has the best chance of hittin’ the public, most likely.

Tom: Catapulting chickens. I can see that one hitting the mass market. Yeah.

Phil: : D Chickens are just inherently funny. They make silly noises, they’re cute, and you can stack them easily (if they’re in cages, anyway).

Tom: Do you have a favorite design element/mechanic? And which comes first for you Theme or Mechanic.

Phil: I tend to be drawn to multi-use cards (see Make Your Case & Cthulhu Rising above), and do best with designing two-player games, for some reason. As for theme / mechanic, it depends on the game.

The original version of Cthulhu Rising, Rex Duodecim Angelus, was made specifically to present the final battle of the trolls and the Black King, so the theme shaped the mechanics. With the catapult deckbuildier, it was the mechanics of iterative launching that drove the design.

Tom: Even more interested now. Playtesting. Everyone knows that it is essential for a successful game. How do you do it? Walk us through 5th Street’s process. (And can I get in on some of that?)

Phil: Playtest lots and lots and lots, and take GOOD notes of each playtest in terms of what changes worked from last time, and what ones didn’t. If it’s possible, try to keep each iteration of yer game to refer back to later (it’s necessary sometimes). Oh, and you think yer done playtesting? Playtest more, only now through stress-testing via extreme strategies and deliberate edge cases. Shake the hell out of the rules.

Tom: Excellent advice and it will go into The Big Answer to my latest The Big Question.

Phil: As for gettin’ in on it, gettin’ me to publish a game of yours is the easiest way. : D. I do tend to have time to at least give rulesets a shakedown, though.

Tom: I’m working on it, man. I’ll send you some rules soon.

Putting your publisher hat on for a minute. How many submissions do you receive each month? What should a designer do if they want to submit a game to 5th Street?

Phil: I get one every month or so. Up until recently, I actively pursued my design targets personally. If yer wantin’ to submit a game to 5th Street for review, it should play in 45 minutes or less, have an interesting take mechanically in the game, be fun to play, and either have a whimsical theme or be rethemeable to something lighthearted. Take a look at our catalog to get an idea in that regard.

Tom: What’s the production process like? Talk to me a bit about the production process.

Phil: Production for 5th Street is handled entirely by Quality Playing Card. In terms of layout, though, I tend to do the rulebook and box back layouts.

Tom: They do a very good job. I’ve heard good things about them. Let’s talk a little bit about advertising and marketing. What do you do to get your game out there, under people’s eyes?

Phil: We use Board Game Geek, Facebook, Twitter, and Project Wonderful while a project is running. Before launch, we build a Prefundia site to give people a sneak peek at what’s comin’.

Tom: Any publishing horror stories? Any publishing miracles or raves?

Phil: The big one for 5th Street is both a horror story and a rave. When printing Farmageddon, we decided on a linen finish on the cards (crosshatched finish instead of completely smooth). It was the first time I had used linen with QPC, so when the proofs came and the cards were curved, I thought it was just part of the production process for QPC using the linen finish specifically (I had gotten curved cards before in other games by other companies and thought nothing of it).

Turns out the shrinkwrap machine was set to 54 cards instead of 69. o_O The copies were already sent out to backers, but with QPC’s help, we’ll be able to get 15-card bonus packs to the original backers of Farmageddon as an extra thanks for helpin’ us get to press the first time and as a makeup for the production error.

Tom: I remember that. I also remember that you handled it very professionally and well. Bravo.

Do you have a design philosophy?Do you have overarching design goals? For example, Daniel Solis has a goal of not having real violence in his games.

Phil: I do, actually. 5th Street’s tagline is ‘where everyone’s a gamer’, and I mean it. We focus on quick-playing, easy-to-learn games for gamers and non-gamers alike. Insodoing, 5th Street aims to be filler games for gamers, and intro games for people new to the hobby.

In addition, we aim for diversity in our artwork, as well. In Baldrick’s Tomb, male & female are equally represented, and are of different ethnicities. We’re doing the same thing with the role cards in Smash Monster Rampage and the upcoming Farmageddon expansion, Livestocked and Loaded.

Tom: Those are admirable goals. And positioning yourself as not just a gamer’s publisher is smart. So far from what I’ve seen you’re accomplishing it.

Lewis Pulsipher, over on his blog – , stated that “We’re obviously moving towards simpler and shorter games.” Would you agree or disagree with this? Why?

Phil: Ehhh, I don’t know about that. There will always be a market for the two-plus hour hardcore Euro of trading and negotiation or the gnarly Americana space opera. The most common board games on the game store shelf are still roughly an hour and have a fair bit of complexity compared to say, Ticket To Ride.

That said, it’s easier to introduce someone to the hobby with a shorter and easier game. I think any shift that is being perceived is likely due to the hobby growing and newer gamers flocking to the easier games first.

Tom: Kickstarter – we’re several years in now. How is it hurting and helping gaming?

Phil: Helping, no question. If you have a solid product, your barrier to entry into the industry is as low as a completed Kickstarter campaign. After that, it’s up to you to get it into distribution (however you choose to do that).

In regard to Kickstarter ‘stealing customers’ from game stores that would have bought it when it hit the shelf, that’s the wrong attitude to have. If a campaign has even 2000 backers, that’s 2000 people *worldwide*. If one of those backers is in your game store community, reach out to that person as a store owner about doing a demo of the game with them. There are always more customers for a game.

Tom: I totally agree. You have to have a solid game. KS is potentially a gold mine. Witness Tiny Epic Kingdoms. If your game is not so solid, KS is a curse that will follow you. Regarding impact on FLGS, I can see KS as a boon, a bane, and a non-entity. For gamers, KS may get them into a FLGS chasing a designer or publisher or if they decide to go exclusively KS, the store lost that $$. I don’t see this happening. Non-entity – most gamers are going to buy at both places. And KS doesn’t really hit non-gamers so the FLGS has an advantage there.

What’s your favorite unpublished game right now or maybe who is your favorite game designer at the moment?

Phil: I’d say Chevee Dodd’s Pull! is my favorite unpublished game, but trick-takers are tough to get into the general market. As for favorite designer… don’t know that I have one at the moment.

pullTom: Just downloaded the PnP yesterday. Printing it tomorrow. I’m excited to get it to the table.

What are you currently playing the most?

Phil: Mice & Mystics, Ghosts Love Candy playtests (our next Kickstarter), Love Letter, and Napoleon’s Triumph.

Tom: I so need a copy of Mice & Mystics. That is second on my buy list right now after Manhattan Project. Ghosts sounds really fun.

I’m not a Love Letter fan. It’s ok but overhyped in my opinion.

Don’t know the last one.

Phil: Manhattan Project is a solid one. As for Napoleon’s Triumph, it’s a war game about the Battle of Austerlitz, among Napoleon’s most decisive victories in the Napoleonic Wars. Really cool mechanics for it, too.

Tom: Favorite game played in 2013?

Phil: Smash Up and its expansions. Fun, infinitely expandable concept.

Tom: Oh, yeah. That’s a fun game. What game surprised you and how?

Phil: Forbidden Desert in how surprisingly difficult it can be. It’s VERY fun, but the first game or two ended up with our teeth getting kicked in.

forbiddenTom: I totally agree with you there. Super fun but surprisingly hard. It’s got that “Oh, we have to play that again.” thing.

Do you see any trends in the gaming industry that you would like to bring up? Microgames? More POD? Anything?

Phil: Mmm… how about a prediction. We should start seeing more legacy games (games that change as you play them forever akin to Risk Legacy) now that the initial playtesting phase of the idea is about done from Risk Legacy introducing the concept.

Tom: Yep, I think you’re onto something there. Seafall’s coming from Daviau and Plaid Hat. I hear people talking about the legacy idea a lot. I should work on that.

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

Phil: We have a few:

Ghosts Love Candy, also by Danny Devine, will be hittin’ Kickstarter in the summer. It’s a 2-6 player game where players are ghosts possessing trick-or-treaters to eat their candy. Super quick, REALLY fun, and the art is going to be ADORABLE.unnamed

Farmageddon’s first expansion, Livestocked and Loaded, will be coming out later this year. It introduces animals you can feed for in-game benefits and potential points at the end of the game. The animals add a bit of long-term strategy to the game without being too heavy.

Tom: What was the last good movie you saw? And the last bad movie?

Phil: Last good movie… prolly Pacific Rim. As for the last bad movie, that would definitely be Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. GUH.

Tom: Is there a particular historical period or subject you feel is underrepresented in game themes?

Phil: Historical isn’t really my forte, unfortunately. More games like Campaign Manager 2008 would be cool. Possibly the Arab Spring?

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

Phil: Folks can contact me at: phil at 5thstreetgames dot com

You should totally check out Mob Town, running on Kickstarter until March 9 2014. Free worldwide shipping, yo!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/5thstreetgames/mob-town

Tom: Any final words?

Phil: First, thanks for the interview, Tom.

Second: careful, Icarus…

Tom: It was awesome talking to you again Phil. I’m very excited for Mob Town. I appreciate you allowing me to preview it. It is an amazing game and I think it’s going to be a breakout hit for you. It’s the first game on my Best of 2014 list for sure.

And you, dear readers, should go back Mob Town before the campaign ends. You should also got to the 5th Street Games website and buy Jungle Ascent or Farmageddon or pre-order Smash Monster Rampage.

And leave a comment below. Let me know what you think.

my happy farm jungle ascent

A Conversation with…Danny Devine, the designer of Mob Town


Today on Go Forth And Game I sit down (so to speak) with Danny Devine, the designer of Mob Town, a fantastic game from 5th Street Games.  Danny’s a fun guy and we had an entertaining conversation. I hope you enjoy it.

mob1

Tom: Ok Danny, usually you get asked about your gamer history. Let’s do something a little different. Can you talk about one, single standout gaming moment you’ve had? Something that just sticks in your mind.

Danny: Shortly after getting the Resistance Avalon, my gaming group and I became hooked on it. It pretty much makes an appearance at every meeting now. If you have played it before, you know how tough it is to trust your friends the next time you play. In one particular game my friend Mike and I were the traitors, we not only lost hard-core, but we were totally off on guessing which of them was Merlin. It was bad. After their laughter subsided we shuffled the cards and played again. The second game, Mike and I were the traitors, again! 2 games in a row, same traitors? Unheard of, it just doesn’t happen (ok, statistically I’m aware it happens, let me tell the story!). It was fate, we had to win. I made a bold move and threw Mike under the bus, claiming to have heard him giggle when the traitors were revealed to each other (he really did giggle so it was easy). This team of do gooders was so focused on Mike that I blended right in with them, it was the best bluffing I have ever done in my life. Final round came up, I was first picked as defiantly trustworthy (the fools!) and proudly failed the mission shocking the good guys and claiming sweet, sweet vengeance. Of course my friends don’t trust me anymore, but I would say it was worth it! Wouldn’t you?

Tom: That’s a good story. The Resistance is a fun game that I stink at. I can never determine who is bluffing. I haven’t played the Avalon version but I hear it’s the best.

Danny: I have only played a PNP version of the original so I don’t think its a fair comparison. Regardless, I fully vouch for Avalon.

Tom: I played a prototype version of Mob Town and thought it was pretty good. It has a lot more depth than the theme would suggest. Tell us about the game. How does the game work?

Danny: Mob Town is an area control game for 2-4 players that plays in about 40 minutes. Players compete to earn the most points by taking over properties like Hotels, Factories and Theaters on a board that is dynamically built every MobTownCardArt_3ddevine_DannyDevineround using a deck of cards and a unique map building mechanic. Players gather cards like Rats, Snakes, Foxes, Weasels and Sharks which allow them to take specific properties. For example, Restaurants can be taken over by Sharks and/or Rats. Play continues until the Law cards is drawn (this is shuffled into the bottom 10 cards of the main deck) when that shows up the round is over! Add up points you earned from properties you control and any hidden agendas you completed. Build a new town and start over, after 3 rounds the player with the most points is the winner.

Tom: The mapping/building of the town each round is fantastic. So much replayability there. The game works so well with a broad range of ages. We’ve had gamers from 11 to 50 so far. All success. It is so fun that I requested PNP copies of the expansions (as you know) so that we could try them. They add SO much to the game that gamers are going to love.

Danny: Thanks Tom, glad to hear you are enjoying the expansion as well, we had a lot of fun trying to figure out ways to shake up the base game and create more variety.

Tom: The art for Mob Town is great. And look the artist is you! Do you have a formal art background? Are there any other arty things you have done that we can see/might know?

Print

Danny: Thank you! Art is my main passion, and it has always gone hand in hand with game design. One of the first “games” I remember “making” when I was a kid, was hiding action figures in my backyard, having my sister and neighborhood friends go find them, whichever toy they found first, I would draw a picture of it for them
(if any publishers are interested in this gem, please email me and we can talk). Graphic Design and Illustration are my career and has always been a main focus for me. Currently I work at a large gaming company where I do artwork for Slot Machines, I’m really good at drawing 7s, Bars and Cherries! As far as where to see more of my art goes I have a website and a DeviantArt page but they tend to pretty outdated, I really need to find time to post more. Most of the stuff I work on these days is for games I’m designing or for freelance clients. I’m just now getting in to the board game scene, so hopefully you will see more of my art showing up in other games soon 🙂

Tom: I really think you’re on the cusp of getting a lot of game work, Danny. The humor in the game is fantastic too.

Danny: Thanks, so far I have done some work for Sizzlemoth Games and Rob Couch from the Building the Game Podcast. Right now its all Mob Town and Ghosts Love Candy, so it may be a bit before I am available, but it never hurts to ask 🙂

Tom: Do you have a favorite design element/mechanic? And which comes first for you Theme or Mechanic.

Danny: At some point I am going to design a game without cards or set collection, but those are my go to for designing and will probably be a part of the majority of my games. Theme or Mechanic, the question to end all questions. I’m going to be a complete pain and say…both. I have designed games from both foundations and they both work well for me. Mob Town was definitely started with mechanics and rapidly developed a theme through early testing. Other games like Ghosts Love Candy (Kickstarter in June from 5th Street Games) a game based around Halloween, was Theme first allowing the mechanics to flow from what I wanted player to do.

Tom: I agree. It depends on the game. I have a couple in the works that started as mechanics and I have a couple where the theme came first. Your point of designing from both foundations is spot on. If you are able to marry the theme and the mechanics the game is so much better for it.

I would love to get in on some playtesting for Ghosts by the way.

Danny: I am hoping to post a new PnP in the next couple of months, and would love to shoot it your way as soon as its ready. If you want more info and a look at an older PnP you can check out my design thread for the game on BGG. As soon as I get a foothold on the art for Mob Town, I plan on posting info as it comes in on that thread for GLC.

Tom: Playtesting. Everyone knows that it is essential for a successful game. How do you do it? Walk us through your process. (And can I get in on some of that?)

Danny: I start with a lot of self playtesting, I play the game simulating multiple players to the best of my ability as much as possible to work out the really obvious kinks. After that, I put a little bit of polish into some simple artwork before taking it to other players. I find that even a basic level of art helps players really get into a prototype.

Tom: Absolutely. Daniel Solis and Grant Rodiek have some advice about prototypes and art all new game designers should check out.

Danny: Definitely, people should check out both of their Blogs (Daniel Solis, Grant Rodiek) and if you are on Twitter, they are a must follow.

The next step is something not everyone has, and I am truly blessed to be apart of. I have an AMAZING group of friends at work that not only love playing board games at lunch and during our monthly game night, but are completely willing to test and help me develop my games during that time. Mob Town and Ghosts Love Candy would not have happened without them and their willingness to be honest and extremely helpful with ideas. Among that group I have players that love confrontation, players that avoid it, players that quietly gather points, and players that develop unexpected strategies. So many personality types in one game really help you to see strengths and weaknesses in places you didn’t know existed.

I have only been seriously designing and playing board games for about a year and a half now so I am still working on growing my network of designer friends and playtesters.

Tom: That’s an awesome resource. You are right that having many different player types/personalities to throw a game at is extremely helpful. And a group that will tell it like it is. We are both blessed by that.

Do you have a design philosophy?Do you have overarching design goals?For example, Daniel Solis has a goal of not having real violence in his games.ResourceDeck_0016_Weasel_0001_Weasel2.jpg

Danny: I design games that I would want to play and base it around themes I think it would be fun to do the art for. I also prefer to play games that are under an hour and a generally easy to play and teach, so I strive for that in my designs as well.

Tom: That’s a very standard answer it seems. And I think probably the best one. I appreciate your striving for game play under an hour and I think it will do well for you.  And thank you for that nice segue to the next question…

Lewis Pulsipher, over on his blog  stated that “We’re obviously moving towards simpler and shorter games.” Would you agree or disagree with this? Why? BTW, you should follow his blog. Fantastic gaming advice.

Danny: It certainly seems that way. I think it has to do with the fact that the gaming hobby is finding a new audience that didn’t exist 5 years ago. We live in a time where everything is now! Watching TV with commercials is crazy talk now, and something my 2 year son will never understand. Having a quick game that sets up easily, is easy to teach and play with new people before they lose interest and grab their phones is a huge draw. Gamers have way more options now to teach non gamers, and I think most would agree that straight out the gate you have a better shot of Love Letter or Coloretto sticking with a non gamer than Agricola or Power Grid. From a marketing standpoint, smaller games tend to be cheaper to produce, cheaper to buy and easier to find a wider audience for.

Tom: Your point about the new audience is a valid one I believe.  I think also that more gamers are reaching out to non-gamers and are using just the type of games that you mentioned.  I’ve set up a couple of game nights at my church and I always bring out No Thanks  and The Great Heartland Hauling Company.  Daniel keeps a copy of Sushi Go in his back pocket I think. He loves that game.

Today’s hectic pace tends to slip into boardgaming too. We want to get as much gaming goodness into our game time as possible. Shorter games allow that.

And certainly the marketing/sales/production aspect has to play into this.

Kickstarter – we’re several years in now. Is it hurting or helping gaming?

Danny: I have heard pros and cons from both sides, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. Kickstarter has opened the door to so many designers and publishers that otherwise would likely never succeed on their own. It allows people with a unique game idea a real chance at making their dream come true. It’s also increased the hobby as a whole. I think its safe to say that Kickstarter has helped create more gamers by simply helping to spread the awareness that there are so many options out there. The hobby goes well beyond the game aisle at Wal-Mart and more and more people are learning this through various means, Kickstarter being one of them. The main issue of Kickstarter would be the quality factor, I can think of 2 games off-hand that I backed and was disappointed in, but I can think of others I am truly thrilled to own and to have gotten in on the ground floor of (Flashpoint: Fire Rescue & Council of Verona!). Take time to look into what you’re backing read reviews and maybe try the PnP.

Kickstarter and The Game Crafter are the 2 sites that made me get serious about game design, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Tom: So you’re saying a successful KS should have a PnP?

Danny: You can definitely succeed without one, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Offering a PnP is like giving out a free sample at the grocery store, if you’re afraid to share a piece of your product, how will people know if it’s for them or not? Most people are not going to take the time to assemble a full PnP, but giving them the option or at the very least a solid look at your game shows you believe in it enough to let them try it out right now. If people like what they see, they will likely want a fully produced version of the game or at the very least spread the word about it to others. If people don’t like the game, I would rather them discover that sooner than later. Not every game is for everyone, and thats ok.

Tom: What’s your favorite unpublished game right now or maybe who is your favorite game designer at the moment?

Danny: Probably, Flipped by Grant Rodiek. I only got to try it once so far, but I have been reading updates when he makes them. I think it has some clever spins on worker placement and a unique theme that just screams Euro, flipping properties for profit!

Tom: I’ve seen Grant posting some about Flipped. I need to check into that.

Danny: My favorite Designer, thats a tough one. Probably Matt Leacock simply due to the fact that man has Co-Op games down to a science, I have enjoyed every game I’ve played of his so far and whenever I attempt a Co-Op game I’ll say to myself “Nope, not as fun as Pandemic, this need work.”

Tom: What are you currently playing the most?

Danny: Marvel Legendary mostly due to the fact that I am currently in a Solo Marvel Legendary League on BGG. People sign up, everyone is given identical random scenarios each week and we compete for high score.

I also received The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game recently and am really enjoying it so far.

Tom: I want to try PACG out. Some friends like it so I think I will too.

Danny: It’s a solid game, because of the way the adventures are set up though, ending a round does leave you with an empty feeling and you instantly want more!

Tom: Favorite game played in 2013?

Danny: %100 Love Letter, that game is amazing and the game to beat when designing a microgame.

Tom: I’m really in the minority on this one. I didn’t care for Love Letter. It’s ok but the adoration laddled on it is not really warranted I don’t think. (let the flames begin). I think it is hyped so much because it was the first ‘microgame’ that worked well and was picked up by a major company.

Everyone forgets that Cheapass has been making microgames for years. Granted, some of them aren’t super great. But most are solid games. We need to send James Ernest and Co. some thanks.

Danny: Fair enough, fair enough, like I said before, not every game is for everyone. Tom,  I respect your opinion, even when its wrong 🙂

Tom: What game surprised you and how?trains

Danny: Trains by AEG. The theme sounded so boring. The game board looks boring? Why is this forest called a mountain? What cards do I get to start with? Normal trains, really? Three turns into my first game and it suddenly hit me, I am having so much fun! This game is so fluid and fast-moving I cannot believe this is what came out of that box! If it wasn’t for how much I have played Love Letter, this game would be best of 2013. Didn’t see it coming.

Tom: I need to play this. Again, friends are saying good things about it.

Danny: Warning! Trains will add so much dust to your Dominion box…

Tom: Once again my minority badge comes out. I HATE Dominion. Never owned. Never will.

Do you see any trends in the gaming industry that you would like to bring up? Microgames? More POD? Anything?

Danny: Microgames definitely feel like a trend right now, I’m pretty sure thats going to dominate Kickstarter this year.

I would love to say POD is going to pick up, because I love the Game Crafter and I think they do great work, but it has some flaws holding it back. It’s still pretty expensive to get games from them, they are making it better all the time, but it’s not quite at a mass market level. The site is filled to the brim with really amateur looking games that make it really hard for the good ones to rise to the top, again they are trying to improve that, but the fact that anyone can sell a game there is definitely a double-edged sword.

Tom: I agree with all you said here. Microgames are a fad but will be a long fad. I really agree with you about The Game Crafter. One of the things that is great about them, anyone can ‘publish’ here, is also one of the things holding them back. There are a lot of amateurish looking games on the site. But there are a lot of really good games too. It’s just trying to figure out which ones they are is the problem.

Danny: The Dice Tower recently announced an affiliate that will be reviewing Game Crafter games pretty soon, that might help give the good ones a boost. Fingers crossed!

Tom: Excellent and needed. Wish I had thought of it.

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

Danny: In June, 5th Street will be running a Kickstarter for my second game “Ghosts Love Candy”. It’s a 2-6 player game that runs about 20 minutes. Players are Ghosts with specific candy cravings and they frantically compete with each other to satisfy their sweet tooth by taking candy from unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. Really light-hearted and family friendly while having enough meat to satisfy the gamers out there as well.

Tom: What was the last good movie you saw? And the last bad movie?

Danny: I tell you, with a 2-year-old and limited free time, I don’t get many movies in these days.

Tom: I remember those days.

Danny:The last good one I watched was probably Pacific Rim, I realize the plot and character work are razor-thin, but it’s about giant Robots fighting Monsters! How can it get any better?

Tom: Oh, I need to see this.

Danny: The last bad one was on purpose, meaning we knew it was bad and wanted to watch it because of this. Watch this scene, if you don’t want to see the rest of that masterpiece then you probably have better things to do with your time than I do. I love a bad movie so much!

Tom: Is there a particular historical period or subject you feel is underrepresented in game themes?

Danny: Man, it feels like it’s all been covered at this point. I’m going to go with Dinosaurs, there aretriassic not enough awesome games about Dinosaurs. I wonder if Jurassic Park will just let me use their license, can I get Spielberg’s email address from you?

Tom: You’re right. We need more dinosaurs. Have you played Triassic Terror. I heard good things about it. How can people contact you?  Are there any links you would like folks to visit?

Danny: You can follow me on Twitter @3ddevine or email me at danny@3ddevine.com

Tom: Any final words?

Danny: Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview, and thank you to anyone that took the time to read it. Please check out the Kickstarter for Mob Town, its running now through March 9th. Thanks again Tom 🙂

Tom: Thank you for being my guest. Mob Town is an awesome game. I look forward to see and playing more from you.

You, dear readers, should go right now and back Mob Town. The cartoony exterior hides a devious heart. I’ve played Mob Town about 12 times in the last two weeks. It is that good.  It is a FANTASTIC game that anyone can play and everybody but the most hardcore grognard will like. It’s funded so you’re not risking anything AND you will get what is going to be near the top of many Best of 2014 lists in December.

MT Fox

A Game You Can’t Refuse – A Review of Mob Town


A couple of weeks ago I got home from work and noticed two packages on the doorstep. I thought ‘Sweet, my Belfort expansion is here. And something from Amazon.’ While the Amazon package was a birthday present for my dad that they sent to the wrong address, the second package was a real surprise. It was a preview copy of Mob Town.

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I had seen Phil of 5th Street tweet some pictures of the game and knew of it. But I didn’t expect to receive a copy. And I really didn’t know that I would like it so much.

So there’s the spoiler. Here is a quick synopsis.   Mob Town was designed by Danny Devine and is to be published by 5th Street Games. In Mob Town, you play a mob boss trying to gain control of a town. You use your ‘buttons’ or minions to take over businesses in the town based on some hidden agendas that you have selected. Points are scored based on the popularity or importance number of the property. You play over three rounds. The Boss of bosses is the player with the most points at the end.

Now for the details. As I mentioned Mob Town is a card game about taking over towns. So at its core an area control/majority game. You want to take over as many businesses as possible to score the most points. But you also want to fulfill your two agendas to get extra points. Oh, and there are those other bosses. They’re trying to take over the same businesses. And they can take your businesses right out from under you. You have to fight for your  territory. How do you take over businesses and fight to get them back? By using your minions.

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Each minion card shows a picture of one of the kinds of minions – snakes, foxes, sharks, weasels, and rats. Minion cards also have a number, one, two, or three telling how many of that type of minion the card represents. So a shark card with a two on it would mean its value is two sharks. You use combinations of minion cards to take over the businesses.

Let me talk about the businesses first. There are five types of businesses – restaurants, theaters, hotels, game rooms, and factories. Each business card has a value on it. This is the number of minions needed to take control of that business. As I mentioned above, the icons tell which type of minion must be used to take over that business.  One last thing on the card is an arrow. This arrow is the heart of Mob Town’s unique town creation mechanic. I’ll get to this in a moment. Each player starts out with three randomly dealt minion cards. Five more are dealt out to the side of the town to form the Line-up and the rest form a draw deck. The Line-up cards are available for trade during the game. Oh, I forgot one card type, Cash. These cards can be traded in for any three of the Line-up or they can be used as a wild. It can stand in for any one minion. There is one last card in this deck – The Law. The Law card is shuffled into last ten cards of the minion draw deck. When The Law shows up the round is over.

Building the town is a simple matter of laying out the business cards. The cool, interesting part of this is how you lay out the cards. As I said, each business card has an arrow on it. The arrows point in one of four directions – left, right, up, down. You lay down the first card. The arrow tells you where to lay the next card. The arrow on that card tells where to place the next and so on. Once you have your town laid out, you place three businesses to the side. These are called the Open Lot area. These are available during the game.

The next card type I’ll talk about are the agendas. The agendas are goals for you to obtain each round. They are bonus points describing some condition related to the properties you control at the end of the round. Examples are ‘Most Connected Properties’, ‘You control the most hotels.’. You choose two of the agendas for the round. If you complete these at the end of the round, you earn 3 points for each completed.

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Each player gets a number of claim tokens in their player color. These are used to mark businesses that you have taken over.

There is one more important type of component. This is the briefcase full of money token. These are used to purchase businesses from the Open Lot area. These businesses can then be placed anywhere along the edge of the town.

Lastly the game comes with a score track, some scoring markers, player tokens, and four player assist cards.

Let’s talk about how the game is played. After you shuffle the property cards, you place the indicated number, based on the number of players, out to form the town, following the arrows mechanic described above. Next you place the Open Lot cards. You shuffle the minions deck, deal out three cards to each player. Then you lay out five of these for The Line-up. Shuffle The Law into the last ten cards of this deck and place the deck to the side of The Line-up.

Each player chooses two agendas. You are ready to play. Play consists of a player choosing one of six Actions. These actions are:

– Draw two cards from the draw deck.

– Trade one of the minions in your hand for all of one type in The Line-up

– Cash in a Cash card for any three cards in The Line-up

– Switch Agendas – You can switch one agenda for another.

– Open Lot – You can spend one briefcase to take one of the Open Lot businesses and place it. You may then take it over if you have the appropriate minions to do so.

– Take Over – To take over a business, you discard the number of cards matching the two suits on the property card in any combination equal to the value on the property card. If you do so, you place one of your claim tokens on the property card. If you want to take over a business/property that another player has already claimed, you have to pay one extra card for each token on the card. If you do so, place one of your tokens on the top of the stack on the card. As the game progresses you’ll want to take over another property. This property must be orthogonally adjacent to one you control. If not you must discard a card for every property you have to ‘pass through’ to get to it from one of your properties. This is the connection cost. If those cards happen to be controlled by another player you pay that connection cost to them.

Play continues with each player taking one action per turn until…The Law shows up. When a player draws The Law, the round ends and scoring happens. You score the face value of the properties you control plus 2 points for each unused briefcase plus any agendas you reached.

You then shuffle all the cards with their respective types and rebuild the town, Open Lot, The Line-up, and the draw deck with The Law in place. You play through another two rounds and then score a final time. The player with the most points is the Capo.

What Do I Think About Mob Town

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You already know what I think. I really like this game. It’s the best of both worlds. It is accessible to non-gamer and easy to learn. Yet, though it is light, it has strategy that will satisfy

gamers. I’m very impressed with the unique town building mechanic. It is so simple you’ll think ‘Why didn’t I think of that?”. It is elegant in its simplicity. It adds replayability and variety. It also

adds difficulty and strategy as the arrangement of the town itself plays into a player’s decisions. A town with a single card connecting two town nodes offers a tempting control point.  But if it is only a value one then it may not be worth the trouble. The take-over mechanic is easy to understand and adds some ‘take that’ to spice the game up. The resulting player interaction can be very entertaining. The briefcases give additional options for scoring and afford last minute surges. The Cash cards enable players to profit for the changes that occur during the game.

The physical parts of the game are excellent. First, the art is fun and fantastic. The cool thing and slightly unusual thing is the artist is also the game’s designer. Yup, Danny did the art too. That’s his regular day job, artist. The animal are nice and cartoony and will appeal to a wide audience. Danny’s infused some humor into the game too by naming the building with insider references and fun names like The Motel Hotel Inn and one theater showing a 5th Street Games Film starring The Smashing Monster in’ The Sound of Rampage; and Coming Soon: Ghosts Love Candy. I appreciate adding fun to a game. There’s some fun things in the minion cards too like the weasel with the baseball bat and the shark with the pool cue. Nice references Danny.

The theme of the game comes through very well. Taking over towns, fighting over properties, and running to another town when The Law shows up. That’s how I would imagine mob life to be. So the game’s not just about some cool mechanics. Bravo Danny.

The game is currently halfway through its Kickstarter campaign and only about $800 away from funding. The base game pledge level is only $25. For $35 you get the base game plus the City Limits expansion. I’ve play PnP’s of two of the three expansions included in City Limits, Professionals and Cities. These expansions add special player powers and other game variations. I really enjoyed both these expansions and think they are well worth the extra $10. There are a few other pledge levels.  One will get you an early Game Crafter produced copy of the game while your regular production copy is made. One will get you personalize tokens. And there are two levels for multiple copies of the game.

Comments from my kids: “I liked how you build the town.” “I like how you can take over other people’s businesses.”

I’ve played Mob Town with my kids and with some of my gamer friends. It’s a hit with both. Mob Town is a solid, well designed casual game that will please most anyone. I recommend it.

You can support Mob Town right here. Go do it now. Once you’ve done that go over to the 5th Street Games site and check out all their cool games. I would like to thank Phil for providing a review copy of the game.

Mob Town is on Kickstarter


I just wanted to make a quick mention of a fantastic game that is currently on Kickstater. It’s Mob Town by Danny Devine and published by 5th Street Games. Phil at 5th Street sent me a prototype to try out and I have to say it’s a very good game. Mob Town is super fun and deserves your support. Here’s a little bit about it.

Head over here to back a really good game.
A full review is in the works.

MT Fox