Month: April 2014

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.