A Conversation With…Superstar Game Designer Scott Almes


Scott Almes is THE hottest game designer right now. Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games is probably his biggest so far. But he has been designing for several years. He’s responsible for Martian Dice and Kings of Air and Steam from Tasty Minstrel Games. And he has about a dozen games coming out this year. So I wanted to talk to him about his designs and how they come about.

scott almes 2

Tom: Ok, Scott tell us about yourself in case some folks don’t know you. What do you do to support your gaming habit?

Scott: By day, I’m a product engineer for a railroad company.  I focus on product development and manufacturing, and have recently submitted a patent through my work there.  I’ve always loved to see how things work – and design things myself – and I’m fortunate enough to have a day job that I really enjoy.

Tom: You’re the first railroad man I’ve had on Go Forth. And a patent owner too. Very Cool. You are like a superstar designer right now. You have, what, 56 games being published this year?

Scott: Haha, it certainly feels like that many.  I think this years kickstarters will total up to 9, at least at the moment.  This year I’ve had Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Bigfoot.  Of Mice and Lemmings is currently on Kickstarter.  And, in the very near future, you’ll see Harbour with Tasty Minstrel Games, Tiny Epic Defenders with Gamelyn Games, and Loop Inc with Gryphon Games.  Later on will be a couple that haven’t been announced yet, but hopefully will soon.

Tom: I think you are giving Daniel Solis a run for his money. I’m excited about these so let’s talk about them. Of Mice & Lemmings is your newest game. Let’s talk about it a bit. First, where did you get the idea?

Scott: It was actually one of my few games that didn’t start with a theme first.  I wanted to design a game for my friends and family, specifically for when we gathered in large groups and didn’t want to split up.  My family has always enjoyed card games – Oh Hell and The Great Dalumuti being favorites.  My friends have gotten a big kick out of hidden role games.  I love both genres, and I wanted to make a mash-up of the two.  So, the game started with that nugget of an idea.  Later on, when I decided I needed a theme, I just happened to be stumbled upon an internet list entitled something like ‘Lies Disney Told me’.  One of the items was that lemmings, in fact, do not jump off cliffs.  I’d heard this before, but as I was rereading it the idea struck me as an interesting theme for a game.  As it turns out, there are games with lemmings in them, and in the gaming world lemmings most certainly do jump off cliffs, but they are all very different than mine.  The mice just seemed like a natural enemy for lemmings, although nature doesn’t support that either.  Plus, the title ‘Mice & Lemmings’ – and later ‘Of Mice & Lemmings’ – is really catchy.

OML3Tom: It is catchy. The art is fantastic and will appeal to a big audience. I’m hoping to get a review copy from Michael. The interview we did recently was so much like we were actually talking, having a conversation face to face. He is such a great guy. It’s very easy to talk to him. I’m looking forward to doing more with him and Little Metal Dog and Sprocket Games. On to more OM&L. Next, what is game play like?

Scott: This is my take on creating a classic pub game.  You have crafty card play and a little bluff.  In the game, each player is given a secret role (either a Mouse or a Lemming) and a hand of numbered bridge cards.  Each round, players will play one card onto the bridge.  The mice want the bridge to have a high total, saying the bridge is safe and they can cross the river to the cheese factory.  The lemmings want a low total, making the bridge unsafe so it’ll collapse into the river.  The tricky part comes when, in every round, one player must reveal their rodent card.  When they do this, it means they are running across the bridge and may not play a bridge card.  Mice get points for getting across the river, and lemmings get points for falling into the water.  And, since you don’t get to play a bridge card, you are at the mercy of the other players.  You’ll need to have a good bet on who is a mouse or a lemming, or you could be putting your faith in the wrong players.  At the end of a hand, players also get points depend on how their team did.  For instance, if there were more splashes than cheeses, the lemmings get an additional point.  So, there is both individual and team scoring.

OML1Tom: The game sounds great. I know certain gamers in my group will eat it up. They love deduction and social gaming. What parts did you have to take out that you liked?

Scott: Special one-time powers that you could use to affect the bridge.  The game, which feels so much like a classic pub game, felt weird with those in.  A pub game has to be taught in two minutes and very streamlined.  So, special building rules were eliminated.

Tom: What kind of response did you get in play-testing? Any changes resulting from that?

Scott: The game tested surprisingly well from the beginning.  The rules didn’t change too much over the course of the game, but the card balance did.  Getting the right number spread on the cards that made sense and didn’t make the math unbearable was difficult.  Too much math wasn’t fun, but too little made it seem like a kids game.  This is a game for casual play.

Tom: I can see that. I’m working through that with University Labs right now. I’m pretty sure I have way too many cards in the game. But play-testing will weed that out. Why Sprocket Games?sprocket1

Scott: I’ve been a long time listener of the Little Metal Dog Show – in fact, I’ve worked with some publishers specifically because I’ve heard them on the show.  So, when Michael Fox started a publishing company I took notice.  What really sold me, however, was the art for Fox & Chicken.  It had the same style and sense of humor I was hoping for Of Mice & Lemmings, so I sent it over to him.  Luckily, he loved it, and the game is looking as fantastic as I hoped.

Tom: Let’s talk about Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Gamelyn Games is the publisher and the Kickstarter campaign blew the doors off. How did you come up with a micro-4X game? Talk man.

Scott: This was a personal challenge.  I love the micro game revolution that’s going on.  Although, truthfully, it’s settling into a focus on small box games, which I’m very excited about.  I like to travel a lot, and being able to throw a couple games in my carry on is a great thing.  I can’t bring Power Grid easily on a weekend flight, but I can bring Jaipur and Hive Pocket.  So, with the rise of Love Letter, Coup, and Council of Verona, I wanted to make my own mark in the new revolution.  So, then the challenge game.  What is the biggest genre there is?  In my mind, it’s 4X games.  They take 8+ hours to play, two hours to learn, and require more table space than a king’s banquet table.  So, I thought, if I could TEK1condense that experience into something small and compact, I could hit an audience that doesn’t normally get to enjoy 4X games.  I, personally, am in that audience, too.  I, unfortunately, don’t really have the time, although I want to play more of them.  I find the sandbox feel of 4X games very satisfying.

Tom: How does that huge campaign make you feel?

Scott: It’s extremely humbling, actually.  When a Kickstarter takes off like that, it’s because of the community.  Michael Coe had a plan to get the community involved right off the bat.  He sent out a print and play version, as well as a bunch of copies he made himself.  The community feedback was fantastic, and when we launched the campaign they were already there.  It was that initial community support through doing the print and play and writing reviews off of my artistically-deficit prototype that started us off so strong.  Even with a small game, taking the time to print and play a game is a big endeavor.  So, I’m flattered that people took the time to do so, and I hope they are as pleased as I am with the final product.  They really helped make it happen.  Well, them and Michael Coe’s tireless efforts on the game.  He was truly a dream publisher to work with on this project.

Tom: Michael does a fantastic job reaching out and building community. He fully devotes to every project. It’s a fun and well designed game. The 4X comes through well. I’m excited to get my copy and introducing it to friends. You have some other games too. Bigfoot is one. Speak about it some.

Scott: Bigfoot  just completed kickstarter funding about a month ago.  It’s two player, asymmetric deduction game. BigfootAlmes One player is a Cryptozoologist who is trying to find and trap Bigfoot in his lair.  The other player plays Bigfoot, who is trying to avoid capture through the game.  It’s central mechanic is a ‘I divide and you choose’ mechanic.  The Cryptozoologist lays out two rows of traps, and the Bigfoot must choose which one to trigger, giving the CZ clues.  It takes about 15 minutes to play, and is only a deck of cards and a few tokens.  Another great game for travel.

Tom: It sounds fun. I’m actually working on a cryptid game myself. I really need to work on it some more. Harbour is coming from Tasty Minstrel Games. I’ve played it and it’s fun. Give us the rundown. The art in Harbour is great. Who’s the artist?

Scott: I’m glad you liked it!  Harbour is another small box design of mine.  In many ways, it’s a love letter to Uwe Rosenberg’s design style.  The game itself takes place in a seaside town, much like Le Havre, except it’s filled with comical fantasy creatures.  Players will build buildings, send workers out to collect resources, and manipulate the market in order to gain an edge.  It’s very much a traditional euro, but will scratch that itch with a small footprint and short game length.  Plus, it plays very well with two players, which I always like.  The art is being done by Rob Lundy, who is doing such an unbelievably fantastic job.  Seriously, people could hate this game and still buy it for the art.  I’m so happy he’s working on this project, because he’s really bring the world of Harbour to life just as I imagined it.

Harbour - Quarry

One of the ‘building’ cards from Harbour

Tom: I’m glad to hear it plays solo too. TMG did Kings of Air And Steam too. I played a very early version of it and honestly didn’t care for it too much. But I understand it has changed A LOT since then. I’d like to know some more about the current version.

Scott: Ah, no worries, you can’t please everybody 😉 KoA&S was the first design I submitted to TMG – and my first design accepted for publication – and it was, admittedly, a little rough before Seth Jaffee helped develop the crap out of it.  We changed a lot, while keeping the overall concept of the game the same.  We simplified the route planning deck, added special characters, and revamped the whole economy.  For me, it was a great learning experience, and going through the exercise of truly developing a game has helped every game that has come afterwards.  Plus, Kings of Air and Steam is significantly better for it.  We also have an expansion coming out in the future, called World’s Fair.

Tom: Seth is great. I hope I’m able to work with him some day. I want to play the final version. I liked the theme and the route planning if I remember correctly. I need to find someone who has it. You have one more from TMG – Martian Dice. I’d call this a microgame myself. It’s a very good one too. I own it and take it on vacation often because it’s small. I have some pictures somewhere of us playing at Disney World somewhere. How did it come about?

Scott: In push your luck games, you are commonly fighting against getting a certain bad result.  In Zombie Dice you want to avoid shotguns.  In Incan Gold you want to avoid hazards.  But, for Martian Dice, I thought ‘what if you could fight back?’.  That was the initial concept of the game, back when it was called Cave Dice.  In that version, you had to fight off animals in order to collect fruit and berries.  I liked the dynamic of having to balance defending yourself with collecting points.

Tom: It’s a really good game and now that you bring it up ‘yeah, fighting back. Cool.’.  Talk about Artificers some.

Scott: Ah, Artificers.  I submitted that for a nestorgames contest when they released their nestortile sets.  This was well before Kings of Air and Steam.  I don’t even know if nestortiles are still around, but the game was kind of neat.  Certainly rough around the edges, though.  I don’t know if anybody other than me actually played it, which could be for the best.  I’m hoping to reuse the central bidding mechanic in another game down the line.  Something bigger and more modern.

Tom: I like auctions/bidding. That’s the central mechanic for my game Duck Blind. I LOVE No Thanks! and For Sale. Oh and Ra. Work that sucker up man! Can you talk about Tiny Epic Defenders?

Scott: Definitely!  Tiny Epic Defenders is the next game in the Tiny Epic Series.  It’s not a sequel to TEK, but it does exist in the same universe.  In TED, players must work together in order to defeat an Epic Foe.  It uses an action point selection mechanic that will be familiar to cooperative game players, but the most unique aspect is the turn order deck.  Each turn, a card from the Turn Order Deck is flipped over to reveal who will get to take their turn.  It could be an enemy, it could be a player.  So, you know what’s in the deck, but you don’t quite know the order.  Plus, after the deck is depleted, more enemies are added in – ramping up the difficulty.  For those players who like cooperative games, or those looking for a good introduction, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy.  Plus, it plays good solo!

Tom: THAT sounds really neat. I like the mechanic That tension ramp is cool. Can I get in on some testing/reviewing of TED? What else do you have in the queue?king AS

Scott: We can definitely get you on board for reviewing TED!  As far as other games, I can’t talk about everything, but here’s what I can talk about…  Harbour, with Tasty Minstrel Games, is up next on Kickstarter this May.  June will bring Tiny Epic Defenders, with Gamelyn Games.  Loop Inc., my time travel game with Gryphon Games, will be summertime… I think.  And, later on this year we’ll hopefully be kickstarting the expansion for Kings of Air and Steam, called World’s Fair.  I also have a project with Greenbrier Games and another with 8th Summit Games, and I think people will really enjoy both of them.  I can’t say too much about them quite yet, but I will say that they are on completely different ends of the game design spectrum.  Plus, next year, I’m sure you will see more Tiny Epic games…

Tom: Hey, yeah. Talk about Loop, Inc. I like time travel stuff.

Scott: In Loop Inc., the players all work for a time travel agency, called – well – Loop Incorporated.  Each player is working to earn the most money by sending customers on trips back in time.  Things get tricky when, at the end of the first day, all the players go back in time to retry the same day to earn more money.  This time they have two characters and two ships.  However, you must still perform the same actions you did the first day, or else you’ll cause a rip in the time space continuum.  Things get even more complicated when your two characters go back in time a second time, letting players run a third day with three characters, three ships, and a mess of actions that have to sort out.  The game feels like a time travel game, because the complexity folds over itself at the end of each round, making it quirky brain burner by the end of the game.  I’m very proud of how it turned out, and I’m hoping it will do well in the market. A time travel game is a niche that hasn’t been properly filled yet.

Tom: Oh man. That sounds REALLY cool! I agree that there are not enough time travel themed games. I do happen to know of another one in development though. So you may be onto something. Now a few general questions. First, what do you look for from a playtester?

Scott: I just want them to be honest.  I want to know if: A) They had fun, and B) If they felt like they had the ability to win.  Those are the two main goals for a game.  The rest is just nuts and bolts.

Tom: Good advice. I’ll add those into The Big Answer if you don’t mind. Do you start with a theme or a mechanic first?

Scott: More often than not, theme.  But, I’ve had a few games start with mechanics first.  Of Mice and Lemmings is a good example of mechanics first.

Tom: Do you have a favorite mechanic?

Scott: I like so many different styles that I can’t mention just one, so I’ll confess to three: Route planning, hidden roles, and unique market mechanics (like the power grid market).

Tom: How do you get through design block?martian dice1

Scott: I move onto another design.  Normally, I have different designs at different stages.  So, while one game might need an ingenious fix for a broken mechanic, some other game might just need a rules edit.  So, if I’m stuck, I just switch projects for a while and then come back to the first one.

Tom: I do the same. Move on to something else. Take a break. Play some games. Do you have a favorite designer?

Scott: Friedemann Friese.  He has an eclectic catalog, and I think that shows some serious talent.  Second place would be Uwe Rosenburg, both because of Bohnanza and Le Havre are among my favorite games.

Tom: I have never play a Friese game. I can’t believe that but it is true. I’m looking to pick up Friday very soon. I like Uwe’s games a lot but haven’t played Le Havre yet. I’m very interested in playing Caverna. Oh and Glass Road. I hear very good things about it. And Wurfel Bohnanza. Where can people find you?

Scott: I’m on twitter (@Scott_Almes) if you want to know what I’m up to.  If you have any questions about my games, feel free to send me a message there, or on boardgamegeek (scottbalmes).  I’m on both constantly.  I also have a blog, which I need to pay attention to more, at scottalmes.wordpress.com.  I’ll be updating that a lot more frequently in the near future.

Tom: Yeah folks. Scott’s all over Twitter most of the time.

Scott: And, of course, Of Mice and Lemmings is up on Kickstarter now and can use your support.  Sprocket Games is getting the game locally sources, and is promising a very quick delivery schedule.  I’d love if you’d check it out!

Tom: Yep, you folks should back this one right here. It’s fun, unique, and from a great bunch of gamers. I want to thank Scott very much for joining me. I look forward to seeing all your games that are on the way. It was awesome talking to you Scott. Come back any time.  Readers, let Scott know what you think. Leave a comment below.

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Go Support This Game!

 

Will You Be A Big Shot, A Dinger, Or A Car Whacker – A Review of Yardmaster


yardmaster 1Yardmaster

Published by Crash Games

Designed by Steven Aramini

Art by Dan Thompson

 

Crash Games’ latest, Yardmaster, is a card game in which you are working in a freight yard trying to load your train first.

My initial impression upon opening the box was ‘neat’. It’s a card game. The cards are well done with a nice linen finish. The art is very minimalistic but sufficient. The color scheme is somewhat muted though. The iconography is clear and self-explanatory. The deck is divided into several card types: cargo – livestock, timber, oil, coal each in a different color, railcards – colors and type to match its cargo (each railcar also has a purchase/victory point value), 4 engine cards, and bonus cards. The game also comes with 4 exchange tokens and one Yardmaster token.

As this was a prototype, the rules are on a single sheet of paper, front and back. The rules are well written and clearly understood with good examples and illustrations.yardmaster5

Setting up the game is easy and quick. The rules do a good job of laying set up out.

Yardmaster plays easily. On a turn you may take two of three actions. You may draw two cards from the cargo deck. You may buy one railcar from the arrival yard. Or you may swap their current exchange token for another. Let’s look at each of these actions.

First, draw cargo cards. You can draw two per turn. The cargo cards are used to purchase railcars to add to a player’s train. And railcars equal points so you want to buy them.yardmaster3

The next action you can take is purchase a railcar. As I said you have to do this to get victory points. Each railcar has a cargo type and a number on it. You need that number of the matching cargo type to purchase the card. Railcars are placed behind your engine, this is called loading the car, in a line to make up your train. But there is a special restriction to this placement. The railcar must match the color or value of the preceding car. If you are not able to place the railcar when purchased it goes into your sorting yard. It will wait there until you are able to load it. Should it be able to be loaded on a subsequent turn you may do so as a free action.

The final action you may take is to swap your exchange token for another. There is an exchange tokyardmaster 2en of each cargo type and these tokens enable you to exchange two cargo cards of any type for one of your choosing. Each player receives one of these tokens during set up.

While I’m talking about tokens I’ll mention the Yardmaster token. When you have the Yardmaster token you get an additional action. Once used the token is passed to the right and that player becomes the Yardmaster.

Let me talk about the Bonus cards now. These are part of the cargo deck and may be drawn as cargo cards. Bonus cards give you special abilities. These actions are ‘draw three cargo cards, ‘pay one less’’, ‘steal one cargo card’, and ‘sweep the yard’.  Additionally these cards may be played as a free action.

Play continues until the point goal is reached. There are different point goals depending on the number of players.

And that’s Yardmaster.

What Do I Think Of Yardmaster?

As a light, casual card game Yardmaster hits the mark. It is easy to explain with well written rules and easy set up. The game has enough there to make a good, average filler for gamers. The game is tight and plays as expected. It is accessible to a wide audience. The components are well done. Crash Games has a good, solid entry into the family games market.

Who Will Yardmaster Appeal To?

This is very much a light, family targeted game. It is not heavy nor thinky. It does have some weight and a few decisions like when to play a bonus card or purchase a certain cargo card but the decisions are not hard ones. This is a game you can play while having a conversation or in a pub.

yardmaster6As for gamers, Yardmaster is not too much different from many of other card games out. It works well as a filler but that’s about it. But as a filler it does its job well. It is a very well crafted game and once everyone knows how to play, it plays quickly – easily in 15 minutes. And is quite enjoyable.

Suggestions From Me

I only have a couple of small suggestions for Yardmaster. First, decrease the point goals a bit. They are a little too high in my opinion. This can lead to overly long games.

Second, add a second layer of complexity or a variant with more depth. I’d like to see more bonus cards. Either more of the same or some different ones that add some increased player interaction.

I’d add some iconography to the bonus cards to make them language independent.

Final Thoughts

We liked Yardmaster. My family picked it up quickly and enjoyed the game play. The game is smooth and  well designed. I believe Crash Games has a solid game on its hands that has a large audience appeal. So pick up a copy and see if you can be the big yard hog.cg_logo

 

Yardmaster was a recent 2014 Ion Award winner in the ‘light games’ category. Crash Games will launch Yardmaster on Kickstarter later this year. You can get more information about Yardmaster on the Crash Games site here and on the BGG page.

I would like to thank Patrick Nickell of Crash Games for providing a review copy of the game.

A Fantastic Conversation With…Awesome Michael Fox of The Little Metal Dog Show and Sprocket Games


I’m honored to have Michael Fox on Go Forth this time. Michael is an extraordinary interviewer and the mind behind The Little Metal Dog Show. This is an excellent gaming podcast and you should all listen to it. Michale is also one half of Sprocket Games who publish Fox & Chicken, Keep Running, and FrogFlip. We talk about a lot of interesting things not just the show. Enjoy.

Tom: Hi Michael. I’m extremely pleased and excited to have you as a guest on Go Forth And Game. WooHoo!

Michael: Cheers dude! I feel a bit odd being on the answering side, but I’ll do my best to entertain!

Tom: First, give a really quick rundown of your gamer credentials.

Michael: Well… I’ve been playing stuff for years, of course. I’d probably say my first memorable experience was getting a copy of MB’s HeroQuest which showed me that gaming didn’t just have to be about extended Monopoly sessions. Now I had the chance to explore a dank dungeon, looking for treasure and beating up monsters (which for a short-sighted fat kid is always an appealing thing). I’d spend hours on it, playing by my own screwed up solo rules that I’d made because I didn’t really live near any of my school friends. After that I dabbled a bit in Games Workshop stuff, again building adventures in Advanced HeroQuest, messing around with cars in Dark Future, putting together Blood Bowl squads – never really got into the whole painting and hanging around the stores things though. I think I liked my own company too much…

Of course, music and girls got in the way when I went to University, but I got back into games around 2005-2006 when a little game store opened in a nearby town. After wandering by for a few days I finally went in to check out the range of stuff that was on offer and how much the hobby had progressed, then walked out with a copy of Ticket To Ride about twenty minutes later. Never looked back since!

Tom: Ticket is one of my favorites. Let’s start off talking about your latest Sprocket Games game, Of Mice & Lemmings.

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Michael: Sure! It’s currently on Kickstarter, plays between five and eight people, and is just the right mix of bluffing, deduction and barefaced lies that I like. That’s why we’re putting it out 😉

Tom: I’ve watched the KS video and the game sounds sweet. A 5+ player secret role/deduction game! Nice. Tell me more.

Michael: Well, the idea is that these mice are living on the side of a riverbank, then one day a cheese factory opens on the opposite side. Naturally, they’re delighted, so decide to work together in order to build bridges so they can cross the river – and they pressgang a bunch of local lemmings into helping them. Of course, the lemmings think that they’re essentially building diving platforms, so don’t want these bridges to be entirely up to code.OML1

Gameplay wise, you’re looking at playing numbered cards over the course of a round in order to hit a certain target that depends on how many people are playing – so in an eight player game, you’d need to hit 35 or more. Once per round, one player alone MUST reveal what side they’re on, and doing it at the right time is the key to winning the game. Mice must try to cross the river, lemmings have to try to leap into the water, but there’s a second thing to consider: as well as being out for yourself, you’re also working as part of a team and need to try to force your opponents into NOT doing what they should.

As always, I’ve explained a game terribly. It’s way better than how I’ve described it. WAY better.

Tom: No, actually it sounds fun. It sounds a lot deeper than I would have thought.  The combination of a co-op aspect in addition to being out for yourself is really cool. The whole social aspect will punch some of my group squarely in the face. They will love that. This one is by super hot game designer Scott Almes, right? He has like 40 games coming out or on Kickstarter this month. How did you wrangle OM&L into the Sprocket fold?

sprocket1Michael: Actually it was all Scott! He came to us having seen the artwork on our other games. I put a shout out on Twitter asking if anyone had any games that they thought might fit into our line and Scott got in touch. He sent us over a copy of the game which we played to death, but we had a couple of things in the pipeline that we needed to get sorted out first.

Scott’s a fantastic designer and we’re delighted that he’s come on board with some relative noobs like us. I mean, Tiny Epic Kingdoms just got about a million backers on Kickstarter, I’m still amazed that we’re doing Of Mice And Lemmings.

Tom: Having a Scott Almes game in the Sprocket line is awesome. And I’ll have Scott on Go Forth very soon. Now let’s talk some about Sprocket in general. Who’s involved? What other games are in the catalog? What else is coming up?

Michael: It’s me and my wife Steph. That’s it. We have our day jobs and then do the Sprocket Games stuff outside of that. She’s responsible for the art and graphical layout (which I’m utterly incompetent at). I’m responsible for pretty much everything else. Whether it’s working with the designers, packing and collating all the copies of the games, even traipsing them down to the post office to send out, that’s me.

Man, I wish I could get an intern. One day! Reach for the stars!

Tom: If I lived over there you would have one. The art for OML is really cute. It will appeal to a wide audience. Sprocket has published FrogFlip, Keep Running!, and Fox & Chicken so far. Fox & Chicken has been picked up by

Michael: We’ve got a few things planned after OMAL, of course. First up, I can happily announce that we’re going to be doing a new version of Tony Boydell’s fantastic (and silly) game, Bloody Legacy (or, in its native German, Das Blutige Erbe). The game’s been out of print since the dawn of bloody1time and Tony asked us at Essen 2013 if we’d be up for doing a new reprint. Who are we to say no?! Tony’s great, and not just because he designed Snowdonia.

 

Tom: That’s fantastic news. And I get an exclusive! I’ve heard lots of good things about Snowdonia. And spurred by your mention am at the Bloody Legacy site on BGG. It looks pretty fun.

Michael: I have a couple of designs that are either good to go or still in development. Once’s a space game called Pocket Universe that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, and I think that it’s finally perfect. Another is a hot-air balloon racing game that’s got an interesting card mechanism. Oh, and there’s also a dungeon delving game that comes with more dice than you can possibly carry.

Tom: I like space themed games and interesting mechanisms. You have a relatively new game industry job also. Would you like to talk about that?

Michael: Sure! I work for Game Salute, the US company who help get a lot of Kickstarter games to market, either publishing them ourselves or helping other companies do so. We also distribute a LOT more, so the fingers of Game Salute are actually in a lot more gamey pies than folks may realise. My role is… well, lots of stuff. I handle media elements, organising review copies for folks, corresponding with backers on campaigns and afterwards to make sure that stuff is going OK. Also, with me being in the UK, I’ve recently been up working with our new partners over at Spiral Galaxy who’ll be handling our British and European distribution. There’s a lot of work to do every day, but we’re striving to build up our reputation and I know we’re getting there.

Tom: You’ve done a fantastic job at it so far. I’ve seen how you have handled some of the ‘complaining’ about Game Salute. You were gracious, courteous, and still got your message across well. You’ve been very responsive to questions and inquiries. I’ve seen more frequent info about GS games lately also.

Michael: Pffft. A lot of it’s common sense. We’re changing the way we do a few things and it seems to be working!

Tom: Well, as my wife would say, common sense is very uncommon these days.  I’d like to talk about The Little Metal Dog Show. First, it’s awesome.  I think you are hands down the best interviewer in the gaming realm. You put your guests at ease quickly and you ask fantastic questions. You are very responsive and thoughtful also. You’re my interview hero.  What’s your secret?

Michael: There’s no secret at all, but thank you for being so kind about it. Really, I just like talking to people about the stuff they’re passionate about. It doesn’t matter if they’re designers, artists, publishers, whatever – if they love what they do, then that shines through when they come on the show. Even after doing over seventy-five episodes, I still feel like a complete newbie every time I put a new one out. I’m really self-critical and want everything to be the best it can be, but often I just have to say “that’s enough” and put the shows out. One piece of advice I’d definitely give though – don’t write a script of questions. Let things flow naturally, it’ll make for something that’s much more comfortable for the listener.

Tom: Got it. If I ever get to audio let the conversation flow. Don’t write a script. I’ll start right now………

That’s kind of what I try to do here. Make the best ‘conversation’ possible. It can be difficult considering we aren’t actually talking in real time. But I think it works ok. Any special guests coming up?

Michael: Man, every guest is special! You can’t ask that! You’re more than welcome to come on any time though, if you reckon you’re special enough!

Tom: Well, shucks. I ain’t nuttin’ special. But I would like to ‘visit’ at some point when I earn my wings. 🙂 How about answering … The Big Question: “How can I be a better playtester?”

Michael: Honesty, dude if something is working poorly, let the designer know. On the same token, if something works really well, you should talk about that too. Play the game you’ve been entrusted with in as many iterations as you can – if it goes from two to four, play it with different sized groups, as often something can get missed if you’re just playing in one set-up. Oh, and ask questions. A good designer will happily clarify anything that you may ask. Just make sure you read the rules first!

Tom: The ‘many iterations’ idea is great. That often gets missed and I don’t think that anyone has  mentioned that yet. Speaking of playtesting, if you need a playtester/reviewer for any other games….

Michael: You’re on the list, man! Let’s get OMAL funded and you can have the first review copy, OK?

Tom: Cool. I’d love a copy. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Michael: Just thank you for the chance to talk! I mean, I don’t need an excuse most of the time, but it’s great to have the opportunity to discuss the game as well as all the odd stuff I do. And seriously, come on the show some time!

Tom: Well, if you think I would be an interesting guest I’m game for it. Let’s plan that.

OML2

It was so fantastic talking to Michael. I think he THE best interviewer in the game industry. You really should listen to The Little Metal Dog Show. And you need to support Of Mice & Lemmings. It looks like a very fun game. As I said I’ll have the designer Scott Almes on in the next few weeks. Join me then. In the meantime leave some words below.

A Quick Chat with Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games


I wanted to talk to Jamey briefly in the last days of the Tuscany Kickstarter campaign. The game is well overfunded and you’ll see from the interview that there is a ton of stuff included.

Jamey: Hi Tom, thanks so much for having me back on your blog! Stonemaier Games is doing well thanks to the success of Viticulture, our first game, then Euphoria, and now Tuscany, the expansion pack to Viticulture. We’re based in St. Louis.

Tom: Talk about Tuscany.

Jamey: What is it? Tuscany is a pack of 12 different expansions to Viticulture that extend certain elements of the original game (more visitor cards, for example) and expand the game in a variety of ways (4-season game board, special worker meeples, Formaggio and Arboriculture expansions, etc). 12 is a lot of expansions, so we’ve structured the game to unlock over time–you start with no expansions, and the winner of that game choose the next expansion to unlock and permanently add to the game.

Tom: Tweleve expansions! That’s amazing. I like the aspect that they unlock. Kind of a “legacy” idea. It’s cool that you set them up like that.

Jamey: What’s in there? The 12 expansions are as follows: mamas and papas (asymmetric starting resources), advanced visitor cards (better versions of the original cards so there never is an untimely draw), property tiles (sell unused fields for money), patronage cards (secret goals), special worker meeples (workers with different abilities), extended board (4 full worker-placement seasons), structures (build permanent additions to your vineyard), new visitors (all-new visitor cards), Formaggio (cheese), Arboriculture (trees), Mafia (deduction/chase social game), and Automa (solo expansion).

Tom: All of those sound very cool. I enjoy asymmetry in a game so the Mamas and Papas is for me. I’m interested in seeing what the cheese expansion is about. And the Mafia expansion. That one sounds quite intriguing.

Jamey: How long has it been baking? The idea for Tuscany has been “baking” ever since I sent Viticulture to the printer. At the time I really didn’t know how Viticulture would sell on the open market, so I wasn’t sure if I should pursue those ideas, so it really wasn’t until last June that I really started designing the expansions. They changed quite a bit over time, and I’m really pleased with the final product.

Tom: I know you did a TON of playtesting for Tuscany. I did a very small bit myself. You say the game changed a bit over time. How is the Kickstarter going?

Jamey: Really well–we’ve been very fortunate to have amazing backer participation from over 3,400 backers, and while I write this, we have just over $346,000 raised with a few days to go.

Tom: That is really awesome. That’s a lot of overfunding. Euphoria is another big hit for you all. Talk about it some.

Jamey: We sold 5,700 copies of Euphoria through the Kickstarter campaign last spring, and we made an additional 3,300 copies for retail. We’re almost sold out of those copies. For the most part, people seem to have a lot of fun with the game, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about the art and components.

Tom: What else do you have up your sleeve? What’s in the game queue for SG?

Jamey: Up next for us is actually our first non-game product, a Kickstarter campaign for realistic resource tokens similar to those found in the KS version of Euphoria. We hope to launch in June. After that it’ll be a while before we release another game. I’ve been working on a game for a while now, but it still has a ways to go. And we’re definitely open to publishing a game from outside designers–we’re specifically looking for a large-group social game and a cooperative game, either of which would ideally be set in the world of Euphoria.

Tom: People say micorgames are the new hotness but I think larger social games may be it. I’m terrible at deduction games but a co-op in Euphoria is neat. You post A LOT about Kickstarter about running a campaign and are a sought-after ‘mentor’ with regards to running one successfully. First, thanks! Now, why are you doing that?

Jamey: Honestly, I do it because it feels like the right thing to do. I am the happiest when I get to help other people. I can’t help everyone one-on-one because it’s very time consuming, and only one person benefits, but the blog entries are now read by thousands of people. I’m still learning a lot about Kickstarter, so I love sharing that knowledge (mistakes, successes, observations, etc) with others in a way that they might find helpful.

Tom: How’s Alan doing? When are we going to hear from him?

Jamey: Alan continues to really exist, for real! I think he even chimed in on Kickstarter the first day. Social media really just isn’t his forte, which is unfortunate, because he’s a great guy. He’s staying busy with his day job and his family. He and I are actually helping out a local game shop at the St. Louis ComicCon this weekend, so I will confirm tomorrow that Alan is still actually a person (some people have wondered if he’s real–he’s in the project video!).

Tom: I hope I’m able to meet you both one day. If I’m ever in St. Louis I’ll give you a call for sure.

Jamey: What’s new with you? What’s your favorite game of 2014 so far?

Tom: Game wise I’m prepping Duck Blind and University Labs for a local Unpub Mini in May. I of course have several other designs in the hopper.

My favorite game of 2014 so far is MobTown by 5th Street Games. It’s officially not out yet but I playtested and reviewed it and it’s fantastic. I’ve played it with my family and with my game group. It’s a super game that will please everyone. Phil has a real hit on his hands. Russian Railroads is very good also. And a couple of the Dice Hate Me Games card games in the Rabbit line are sweet. Especially Isle of Trains by Keltner and Jaffee.

Otherwise things are great. I’m especially blessed and am very grateful.

I appreciate Jamey stopping by to chat a bit. Tuscany is in its last hours. I encourage you to support it here.

Strike it rich in Pay Dirt


I just wanted to post a quick point to Crash Games’ Pay Dirt. Pay Dirt is designed by Tory Niemann of Alien Frontiers fame. In Pay Dirt players are gold miners hoping to hit the Mother Lode. You and your crew have to get the golden rock out of the ground efficiently before the ground freezes or you’re out in the cold.

The game looks great and has some very good press. AND Crash Games is offering a MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. That’s right. Straight from Crash Games – “If you are not happy with Pay Dirt for any reason whatsoever within 1 month of receiving it you can return it to Crash Games for a full refund of your pledge amount no questions asked.”  That’s an amazing offer.  Crash Games is a quality outfit delivering fantastic games like Paradise Fallen and Council of Verona. So you know that Pay Dirt will be top notch.

 

Pay Dirt’s board

The game is about 77% funded. You only have six days to get in on this deal. You should support Pay Dirt right here.

Five Years of Tasty Minstrel Games – A Conversation With Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee


I’m very pleased to welcome Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee from Tasty Minstrel Games today. TMG is five years old this year and I wanted to look back a bit with the guys who are at the helm. It’s a fun and informative interview that I think you will like.

tmg1

Tom: First, Congratulations! Five years – amazing. TMG has a great reputation for quality games and great customer service.

Seth: Thanks for the kind words!

Michael: TMG is filled with folks that are, at their core, gamers.  We know how disappointing it is to get excited about a game and have it fall flat or be missing pieces.

Tom: Where/How did you two meet?

Seth: Michael mentioned this on a podcast recently… I was in 6th grade with his older brother Jacob. Jacob and I became friends based largely on the fact that I had just gotten a Nintendo and the game Contra. Jacob had 22 games, but not Contra, so I would trade my game for 3 of his for a week or two, then a different 3 games or so… etc. At that time Michael was 5 years old. Once he grew up, it turned out his interests and mine were pretty similar, starting with the time he taught me Magic: the Gathering.

TMG logo

 

Michael: Yep, I was basically too young to remember very well, so I believe Seth’s account of it.

Tom: That’s a neat story. Whose idea was TMG?

Seth: Michael has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and at some point he became interested in the idea of starting his own publishing company. So the idea for TMG was his. The “Tasty Minstrel Games” title came from some random conversation – while bouncing from topic to topic we somehow landed on Monty Python and The Holy Grail, the part where they ate Sir Robin’s minstrels (and there was much rejoicing). Then someone – I’m going to go ahead and say it was me – suggested jokingly that the game company could be called “Tasty Minstrel,” and it stuck!

Michael:  I think that Seth does not provide himself enough credit.  I saw him making or developing great games and not being able to get published.  I always wanted to be involved in the creation of games, so I thought “why not?”.  And that stuck!

Tom: How did TMG start?

M:  As a thought in my mind.  This thought: “I love games.  I am smart.  I should publish games”.  Then it is a matter of when.  My wife and I found out we would be having our first child, so I decided to go for the stability of working with my father as a financial adviser over borrowing money to start a game company.  Fast forward 3 years from then and the company I worked for got bought out, and the buyer paid all of the financial advisers to not leave.

So, I used a portion of that money to start TMG and publish our first games.  The thought at the time was, “what is the worst that could happen?”  And the answer was lose some of that unexpected windfall cash.

Tom: Lucky for us! Why did you do it?

Michael:  I love games.  I wish there were more games that I would be able to enjoy with my kids.  I wanted to do everything associated with games, and I figured that there could be decent-to-good money in game publishing if done right.

Tom: When did you know TMG had made it?

Michael: I don’t think that TMG has made it yet.  We spent the first 5 years building a foundation consisting of a fan base, a track record, production skills, development skills, built up financial capital/inventory, and connections in the industry.

We are at the beginning as far as I am concerned.  I will consider that we have made it once TMG has enough of a back catalog of hits to be able to pay for myself and all of the necessary employees to run TMG and be confident that we will always be able to cover the next payroll.

Tom: An excellent answer. Speaking of the TMG catalog, would you run it down for the readers who may not know it?

Seth: According to BGG, the TMG lineup includes:

TMG ORIGINALS
Belfort
Belfort: Guild Promo Pack #1
Belfort: The Expansion Expansion
Bomb Squad (upcoming)dungeon roll 2
Burgoo (upcoming)
Captains of Industry (upcoming)
City Hall (upcoming)
Coin Age (upcoming)
Dungeon Roll
Dungeon Roll: Hero Booster Number 1
Dungeon Roll: Winter promo (upcoming)
Eminent Domain
Eminent Domain: Bonus Planets
Eminent Domain: Elusive/Exclusive Victory promo
Eminent Domain: Escalation
Eminent Domain: Escalation Promo Pack
For The Win
For The Win: 3-4 Player Expansionbomb squad
Ground Floor
Ground Floor: Overfunding Achievements
Harbour (upcoming)
Homesteaders
Jab: Realtime Boxing
Kings of Air and Steam
Kings of Air and Steam: World Fair (upcoming)
Martian Dice
Scoville (upcoming)
Skyline
Templar Intrigue (upcoming)
Terra Prime
This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 2-4 Of Us (upcoming)rialto
Train of Thought

TMG IMPORTS
Alba Longa
Il Vecchio
Noblemen
Rialto
Village
Village: Customer Expansion
Village Inn

iOS
For The Win
Seth Jaffee’s Brain Freeze

Tom: Wow! That’s a lot of games. Eleven of which are upcoming. Impressive. And there are some VERY good games in there. Homesteaders is an extremely underrated game in my opinion. So tight. So many critical decisions. The auction. So good. My kids’ favorite by the way. Belfort is another favorite of ours. I really like Rialto, JAB, EmDo, and Martian Dice. Ground Floor is a brain burner ( I have an interview with David Short in the works.)

belfort
You were one of the early adopters of KS and made it work for you so very well. How did you know it would be such a game changer?

Seth: Good question… I’m not sure anyone can say that they really knew it would be a game changer. I originally became aware of Kickstarter in 2010, when a board game project called Inevitable (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dystopianholdings/inevitable-dystopian-tabletop-gaming) was running. That project earned about $9k, and I thought “hey, this is a neat way to fund production of games.” I told Michael about it, but he didn’t seem too interested at first.

Right about that same time, another board game funded on Kickstarter called Alien Frontiers (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clevermojogames/alien-frontiers-retro-future-sci-fi-board-game?ref=live), with even more impressive numbers – twice as many backers and almost twice as much funding. Again I suggested that Michel look into it for TMG.

At some point Michael did look into it – and he actually did an impressive amount of research into the Kickstarter website and other (non-game) Kickstarter projects, and determined that it could work for TMG as well.

My card game Eminent Domain was the first TMG Kickstarter project (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/627547359/eminent-domain-the-next-evolution-of-deck-building?ref=live), which managed to rustle up three times as many backers and almost three times as much funding as Alien Frontiers! By today’s standards that project might not be very impressive, but at the time there really wasn’t much in the way of precedent. We felt really good about the outcome!

emdo
Michael:  I think that Seth has said plenty about this.  We did not know that it would be a game changer though at the time…  The reason we did it was to make Eminent Domain earlier than we would have been able to otherwise.

Of course, it is a game changer for us, because it allows us to do more.  Significantly more.

Tom: Inevitable? I’m not familiar with it. I’ll have to do some research. Alien Frontiers was indeed the watershed game that caught everyone’s attention. EmDo was not far behind though. It was very successful.
From what I’ve gathered from all the interviews I’ve done since EmDo/Alien Frontiers, KS is a definite plus to the industry. As you said, there are many good games that we would not have without it.

What games have you designed that just didn’t cut it?

Seth: As all game designers do, I have a whole list of game ideas and designs at different stages of development – some I’m actively working on, some I’d like to get back to one day, and some on the cutting room floor.

My biggest disappointment though is a game by a friend from the Board Game Designers Forum (David Brain) called All For One (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/20941). It’s a medium weight euro style pickup and deliver game about the Three Musketeers which I got involved with way back in 2003. I worked on David’s design with him for quite some time, through several versions, to a point where I really thought it was as good as many of the published games out there. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck finding a publisher, and so the game just sat there on the shelf for long periods of time. At this point I still like the game, but I think it feels a little old-fashioned, and I think it could use an overhaul.

Michael:  Basically all of the games I have designed or thought I should design over the years are not going to ever be good enough for TMG to release as a big game.  I do not have the tolerance for the meticulous testing required to get games to that point.

Thankfully, with micro games, games are more likely to just work or not.  So this allows me a space in which I can try to design games.  Still, I lose interest in the perfection process too quickly.

Tom: Yes. TMG is now becoming the king of the micros what with Coin Age, Burgoo, and TTABEFT2-4OU. Any games that got away?coin age

Michael:  Yes, one and it is very sad.  But this happened recently and I don’t know who picked it up yet so I won’t say what game it is.

Seth: I’m not sure which title Mike is referring to, but I have a different one from a couple of years ago. I heard about a game called The Manhattan Project (http://bgg.cc/boardgame/63628/the-manhattan-project) online and liked the sound of it. I contacted the designer to ask if he wanted to submit the game to TMG… he said it wasn’t ready. Six or eight months later that designer attended a Protospiel event where James Matthe was in attendance, and James signed the game on the spot for Minion Games. I’m just glad somebody published the game, because I enjoy it very much!

Tom: That’s one of my favorite games! Such a good design. I’m sad for you that it escaped.

Seth: I’m not sad. I sometimes have to remind myself that unless it’s the next Trivial Pursuit (and in this industry, nothing’s likely to be the next Trivial Pursuit), it’s really not a big deal if another publisher ends up publishing a game we would have liked to publish.

Tom: Right. Good for the designer and that publisher and for us because we will get to see it in print.  Who do you desperately want to work with?

Michael:  I don’t know.  Most of these folks probably wouldn’t really be in the game industry.

Seth: I’m not sure I’d say I “desperately” want to work with anyone, but ever since I met Antoine Bauza at a convention in Los Angeles I thought it would be fun to work with him on some game design.

Tom: Favorite game personally so far.

Seth: My favorite TMG game so far has got to be Eminent Domain… obviously 🙂 But not counting that one, I have a real soft spot for two of our older, less appreciated games: Jab (http://www.geekdo.com/boardgame/62853/jab-realtime-boxing), and Train of Thought (http://www.geekdo.com/boardgame/56835/train-of-thought).

emdo2
My favorite NON-TMG game is probably one of Glory to Rome, Brass, Puerto Rico, or In the Year of the Dragon.

Michael:  Eminent Domain.  Easily, it is my favorite game by a long shot.  I have probably played it 150-180 times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Seth has played it 400+ times.  It hasn’t gotten old.  Ever.

Tom: Jab is a great design but can be hard to get a handle on. It’s very unique. I love In The Year of The Dragon and Puerto Rico. Such well designed games and fun. GtR is pretty good but I need more plays. Haven’t played Brass. Yet.

Best experience so far?

Seth: For me the best experience was walking into the hotel for BGG.con 2010 to find 4 tables of people playing print and play copies of Eminent Domain, before I even got there. The game wasn’t even out yet, the Kickstarter project was in progress, and people had not only made PnP copies of the game, but brought them to the convention and taught the game to a room full of people!

Tom: Wow! That must have felt awesome. It’s because EmDo is a fantastic game. I hope to have a similar experience one day.

Michael:  There isn’t any best experience that sticks out in my mind, too many to choose from.  I always like hearing about parents playing games with their kids and EVERYBODY enjoying it.

Tom: Well, be happy because I have those experiences all the time with my kids. EmDo is on the short list for the year once my son’s reading skills are up to it. It’s hard to play when he needs me to read his cards for him.

Worst?

Seth and Michael: Traveling to the warehouse in Atlanta to try and fix manufacturing errors that should not have occurred. That was so disheartening.

Tom: Best lesson learned?

Seth: I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons as we’ve gone, and we’ve got a lot more to lessons ahead of us. One of the biggest for me was to not get so focused on something small that it distorts or distracts from the bigger picture.

Michael:  To not be so big picture that you ignore details.  Ok, that was prompted by Seth’s answer.  I think the best lesson that I have learned or relearned would be to stick with it and one that I learned in my first week working with my father.  People don’t want to hear excuses about how something got messed up, they just want to know that you are fixing it, what you are doing to fix it, and when it is fixed.

martian dice
Tom: Expansions – what’s your take on expansions?

Seth: While I am constantly interested in the new hotness coming out each year, I am not the type of gamer who likes to play each game only once and then move on. I prefer to play a game several times, enough to get the feeling I’m getting better at the game, mastering it. If I had my way, I’d play each game until I was bored with it!

Tom: I totally agree. One play is not enough. Usually.

Seth: It’s rare I get the chance to do so, but for the games that do see that much play, I like to see expansions released. I especially like expansions that add to the game experience without changing it too much – I don’t really want the expansion to be a whole different game, but I like to have new and refreshing options. It’s nice when an expansion can add a 5th player and some new components and dynamics, and best when it can do so without adding too many new rules.

By way of example, I feel like Eminent Domain: Escalation (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/136313/eminent-domain-escalation) is a well made expansion, and so far from what I’ve been reading on the internet I think we did a pretty good job with it.

Michael:  How I feel about expansions is very cynical.  I feel that there are too many expansions and that too many of those are fixing a problem in the base game that should have been caught before publishing.  I want TMG to be publishing full, complete, and balanced games.

It is often hard to expand something that is already finished.  So, the expansion really needs to add something and increase the depth of game play.  See Eminent Domain: Escalation and Belfort: The Expansion Expansion.

That is the gamer side of my publisher brain.  The financial side of my publisher brain sees the potential dollar signs.  I am glad my gamer side of the brain is more dominant.  Which means you are unlikely to see expansions from TMG that are full of air and short on gameplay.

Tom: I’m in the ‘only if the expansion adds significantly to the game’ gang. I agree that a game should be release complete and not need an expansion to fix something known. It’s kind of shady feeling and seems like a money grab. I’m glad to hear that TMG is not into that.

What’s on tap for 2014?

Seth: Michael’s already announced that after a brief hiatus, TMG will be bringing a couple new games to Kickstarter: Harbour (http://bgg.cc/boardgame/155969/harbour), by Scott Almes with art by Rob Lundy, and Bomb Squad (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/142267/bomb-squad), by Dan Keltner and David Short with art by the same people who illustrated Flash Point Fire Rescue.

scoville

Later in the year we should have Scoville (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/145659/scoville), by Ed Marriott ready which recently funded on Kickstarter, as well as a whole host of microgames (Coin Age, Templar Intrigue, Burgoo, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 2-4 Of Us, and Dungeon Roll: Winter Promo Pack). We might have a one or two other things in store as well!

Michael: And we have other projects to deliver like City Hall and Captains of Industry.  Not to mention more micro games and other projects that I am very excited about!

Tom: I’m excited to get to play Harbour. I got the PnP and have printed it. Just need to get it to the table. It looks great. Scott Almes is one of the hot designers right now. You have history with him. He did Martian Dice, which is a really fun, one of the first ‘micros’ in a sense.

I heard TONS of great buzz about Scoville. All the local gamers are raving about it. Bomb Squad sounds like a blast. (sorry I had to do it)  I don’t remember Templar Intrigue. Can you talk just a bit about it?

Michael: Like Werewolf, Templar Intrigue is a game of hidden information, partial information, deduction, deception, and accusations. Unlike Werewolf, Templar Intrigue does not require a moderator, has no player elimination, and plays VERY fast.

In Templar Intrigue there are two teams, those loyal to France (and thus the King) and those loyal to the Templars, which start with asymmetric information. And of course, you might not know who is on your team…

templar

 

The game is played quickly over a series of hands with the first player(s) that win 3 times being the winners of the game. There is some information that is public and perfect information in addition to hidden information and information that is revealed over the course of the hand.
For example, everybody knows who the King of France is, because, well, he is the King of France!  Additionally, all of the players know who is a Knight Templar and who is a Monk. But of course, not all of the Knights are loyal to the Templars, and not all of the monks are loyal to Philip.

Tom: That sounds really fun. I like the Templar legends. And it’s a micro-game? Deduction games are the rage at the moment it seems. So micro and deduction – sounds like a hit to me. Fallout from Coup I guess.
Seth, didn’t you have a Templar game at one point?

Seth: I have a design on the back burner about the Knights Templar. It’s a rondel game with a Mancala mechanism, kinda like Trajan. In fact, it was inspired by my incorrect assumption of how Trajan’s rondel mechanism would work! Maybe one day I’ll finish it…

Tom: That’s the one I remember. I’d really like to see that one at some point. I really like that subject matter.

What does TMG look like 5 years from now?

Seth: If I could see 5 years into the future, then I’d be doing some investing right now. 🙂

Michael:  Seth takes the easy way out here.  The answer is that I don’t know, but I have some ideas and they all excite me.  But I mostly want to concentrate in the moment (all zen like) so that we can get to some of these awesome potential futures.

Seth: I will be heading to some conventions in the upcoming months. I don’t know when this interview will go live, so some of these cons may have already happened… if your readers are going to be at any of these then I hope they’ll come say “hi” and play a game with me!

MidSouthCon in Memphis, March 21-23
SaltCON in Salt Lake City, March 28-30
KublaCon in Burlingame (by San Jose), May 23-26
and of course Gen Con, August 14-17

Tom: Unfortunately I’m not able to make it to any of those. If y’all are on the East Coast swing by Durham. It’s a gamer/designer haven.

 

tmg2

 

I want to thank Michael and Seth for taking time to talk to me. I hope all of you readers out there enjoyed this interview. If you did leave me a comment.
I have several interviews in the works that I think you will like – Patrick Nickell of Crash Games, Doug Levandowski of Meltdown Games, Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games, and a couple of others. Come on back now ya hear!