Smoking Some Birds – A Conversation With… Chevee Dodd, the designer of Pull!


This time around I sit down with Chevee Dodd. Chevee is well know in the independent, small game publisher circles. He’s a game designer with several games available at The Game Crafter. He is a prolific Twitter-er. He’s one of the hosts of Something For Nothing, the super fantastic interview show that is for game designers by game designers. AND he has his first game on Kickstarter. It’s called Pull! and it’s pretty good.

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Tom: Ok, Chevee tell us about yourself in case some folks don’t know you.

Chevee: I’m from a small town in West Virginia. I spent four years in the Marine Corps but ultimately returned to stay. I have a wife of 11 years and two beautiful little girls. I’ve been designing games since 1997 but I took a long break after being jaded in the early 00s. I’ve spent the last 2 years seriously pursuing the hobby and blogging about it on my website cheveedodd.com.

Tom: What do you do to support your gaming habit?

Chevee:  I’m an IT Technician and Network Administrator for the West Virginia school system.  Prior to this, I was an automotive mechanic.

Tom: Pull! Is your newest game. I’ve played it and like it. Let’s talk about it a bit.

First, where did you get the idea?

Chevee: I was in a creative slump last fall and was desperate for inspiration. I wanted to design something small that was easy to print and play and economical to produce via print on demand services. In a fit of desperation, I asked my Twitter followers to help me come up with some ideas. One response stuck out and I couldn’t stop thinking about it:

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@reldnahcire Clay Pigeon Shooting w/ trick taking

Tom: Next, what is game play like?

Chevee: Though the game was initially a derivative of trick taking games, I hesitate to call it a trick taker. That name carries with it some expectations with it. Particularly, people have a difficult time with the lack of a trump suit or following suit. The game has become something of it’s own and less of a derivative of traditional games. It is intended to be a partnership style game but you can play with 2, 3, or 4 players as individuals as well.

Players aren’t competing for the lead in PULL!. Instead, there is a separate deck that drives play. This deck represents the clay targets. Each turn, two Targets are turned face up into the center of the table and these begin the two tricks for that round.

There are six suits in the game and each Target is one of the six. Players have hands made up of 10 cards that are dealt from the Shot deck. The cards in this deck are in rank from 1-8 in each of the 6 suits. Players will play two cards each round, one for each target. The first card played each round must match the suit of the target it is played on, if possible.

There is no bidding or trick-based scoring mechanism. Instead, each target is worth a number of points ranging from -5 to 10. Each target has a second score value that is scored if a team shoots a Double… which is when they take both Targets in a round. The highest card play wins the Target and scores the points for their team. There is no trump suit as traditionally defined, but a shot which matches the Target’s suit wins ties.

Tom: What parts did you have to take out that you liked?

 Chevee: Surprisingly, I never had to cut stuff. This game was very dry from the beginning and I kept having to add things to make it more interesting. The only thing that I changed that was against my preference was not dealing out the entire deck. Enough people suggested it that I just couldn’t ignore it anymore and… well… I’m warming up to it. 🙂

Tom: That’s certainly unusual in game design, the adding part. It’s good to hear that you are listening to us.

Chevee: I’d be a condescending jerk if I said I was in this only for the satisfaction, but truly, the community that has grown to support me is a huge reason that I continue to do what I do. I value each and every person that chooses to engage me and every opinion counts. Some day, when I’m accepting my major award, I’ll have a list of “thank yous” too long to read.

Tom: I hear that over and over – “the gaming community is so supportive of me.” I know that is so very true because I have experienced it first hand. And I think it is unique. I used to run in the comic book creators circle. I did a little bit of coloring and I have good friends who are still in the industry. (name drop – Jeff Parker) That community was supportive but not nearly so much as the gaming community. It’s different. The game creator is much more responsive and open to input from the community I think. Different medium I guess. It would be interesting to see a comic that was as responsive. I wonder what that would be like.

Chevee: I have basically zero experience with the independent comic book crowd but I do have experience with creative writing and I believe they are similar. Those creative endeavors are entirely personal. I can sit down, write a story, pencil and ink my own comic, and release it all with essentially zero outside input. While you could do that with a game, I doubt it would be well received. We need each other in the games industry. We need people to vet our ideas and test our games. Without the community to help test and tune, most of my games would be horrible experiences.

Tom: That’s the point. This community is dependent on each other. What kind of response did you get in playtesting? Any changes resulting from that?

Chevee: This may be one of my most tested games ever. Because of the simplicity of making the game and the light play, it’s very easy to print and play at home and get it to the table. I’ve had over twelve groups from all over the globe help. So many great changes have happened as a result. Specifically, the not dealing out the whole deck I mentioned earlier. Did I mention that I’m warming up to that change?

Tom: The Kickstarter campaign is about a week out from completion and you are at about 70% funded. That’s pretty good going into the last week. How has it been? Any thoughts so far?

Chevee: Well, it’s been a fun adventure. The campaign started strong thanks to all my friends and fans that jumped into the project early. The mid-campaign creep came on pretty hard though. I was really hopeful that I would fund early and coast through the slump, but it’s been a ton of work to attract backers to the project. I think we’ll have a strong finish and the campaign will fund. There’s a great little community built up around the game and all the backers have been awesome.

Tom: Other games – you’ve created some other games as well. First, talk about Scallywags. It’s probably your best know game so far.

Chevee: Scallywags is by far my most widely known game. It was picked up by a major retail publisher in 2011 and was published the next year. It is also one of those games that I wish I could go back and fix. I see so many issues with it now, but I designed it in 2008 or so and submitted it to them shortly after. It really didn’t have time to grow as a game before I turned to publishers. I’m much more cautious now about rushing things.

Tom: Now tell me about Bomb Squad. It sounds pretty neat.

Chevee: Man, Bomb Squad is one of my earliest designs and is also the game that I first spent true effort on making it attractive. It was co-designed with one of my longest friends in the early morning hours of GenCon Milwaukee. LIkely around 1999 or so. I would someday love to bring that one out in some capacity, but it’s up to him.

Game Salute has a game called Bomb Squad coming out this year. I thought it might be that.

I saw that. It looks interesting… but is entirely different from my game.

Tom: Now for Paper Route, Tuesday Night Tanks, and Leathernecks ‘43.

Chevee: All three of these games are available on thegamecrafter.com and coincidentally exist because of that site. I released Paper Route first, but I had been using The Game Crafter for about a year up to that point for my personal prototypes.

Paper Route was born from a discussion i had with Cyrus Kirby of Father Geek in which he said he wished someone would make a board game version of the classic arcade title Paperboy. So, I did it. It was a perfect candidate for release on The Game Crafter because I released the game under a creative commons license, so I put it up for sale there in conjunction with a free print and play release.

Tuesday Night Tanks was designed for a Game Crafter contest and also my desire to pack an awesome game into their then newly announced Small Pro box. It is a miniatures game at heart and would be very difficult to produce as a larger board game without awesome sculpted miniatures… which also makes it difficult to print and play. Finding a publisher that would work with that is difficult, so I decided to just release it myself.

 

  Similarly, Leathernecks ‘43 is a difficult pitch because it requires seven custom dice. The game was originally designed for my two daughters as Princess Fairy Rainbow Unicorn Dice. While not originally intended for The Game Crafter, it is also a difficult game to print and play. TGC doesn’t stock pretty pastel dice, however, so I needed a re-theme. Being an ex-Marine, I thought it would be fitting… and TGC had appropriately colored dice.

Tom: I think Princess Fairy Rainbow Unicorn Dice would be a big hit actually. Aimed right at the Brony crowd. 🙂

Chevee:  You aren’t the first to say that. Many people have begged for this game… in fact, I was just discussing the possibilities of it today….

Tom: Do tell.

Chevee:  Uhhh. Wait. Did I type that out? Hm. Uh.

I was doing a little daydreaming and thought about what it would take to produce a run of something with components… and I began talking with a friend about dice manufacturing. Strictly as an exercise. I currently have no actual plans. 🙂

Tom: There’s a new company that is doing inexpensive custom dice. It’s Custom Game Labs. They are on Twitter recently. They have a KS campaign going right now. Now a few general questions. First, what do you look for from a playtester?

Chevee:  Mostly a pulse. I like getting the largest variety of opinions as I possibly can. I especially enjoy testers that don’t like the type of game I’m showing them. Having fresh perspectives from all manner of gamers helps me see the game as a whole and not just what I intend it to be. With PULL!, for instance, I wanted to design a tight trick-taking game. After I took off my blinders and started looking at the feedback I was receiving, I realized that the game could be something different, and ultimately better, while still nodding to traditional trick-taking mechanics.

Tom: Daniel Solis just posted an article about listening to / interpreting feedback. You might want to check it out.

Chevee:  Oh, I have! I read Solis’ work most times. I’ve read dozens of articles like it and even written a few of my own… but, I’m human. Sometimes I get caught up in my ideals. It’s a fault. I can get so caught up in myself that I look at everything with blinders on. Most times, I actually listen. This game was different for some reason.

Tom: Do you start with a theme or a mechanic first?

Chevee:  This is one of those questions that every interviewer ever asks every designer ever… and I just don’t work that way. I start with inspiration. Sometimes that’s theme, sometimes that’s mechanics, sometimes that emotion. I try to not constrain myself early in the process. Sometimes this means that designs never get fully realized, and sometimes it means that I work on multiple derivatives simultaneously. It also means that I am mostly at the whim of my muse and sometimes (like last year) I simply don’t get much done.

Tom: You know I should stop asking because every designer ever gives the same answer. Both and neither.

Chevee:  Well, people are creative for different reasons. I’ve actually heard people answer this question differently. In fact, one of my early influences, James Ernest, was giving a talk at GenCon a few years back and I was shocked that his response was strictly theme first. James designs by deciding to tell a story and the game evolves from that. I was actually quite shocked by his answer because so many of his games are extremely light with very quirky themes that seem made up to fit the mechanics… but, in reality, it’s because he formed those mechanics around his quirky theme.

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Tom: Do you have a favorite mechanic?

Chevee:  Not really. I like trying lots of different things and don’t really return to one design element that I use frequently. Are cards a mechanic? I love shuffling a deck of cards…

Tom: Are you into deck building games? If so which one is your bee’s knees?

Chevee:  Absolutely. I love deckbuilding. My current favorite is DC Deckbuilder. Prior to DC it was Ascension but the streamlined DC wins out most times because of the ease of just diving in. I’m not so much of a fan of the new expansion though, so I might have a different answer after this year.

Tom: I hate deck building games…except DC. It is awesome. So streamlined as you said.

How do you get through design block?

Chevee:  When I get stuck I generally turn to my friends and peers and seek their advice. If we can’t come up with something together, I often just put it away for a while. I find that I do some of my best problem solving when I’m not actively focused on the problem. Sometimes, fixes come within hours, other times it’s been years later. I have a game being reviewed by Mayfair right now that I worked on for most of last year. That game is actually an answer to a design problem I had in 2000. Sometimes, walking away for 13 years can breed inspiration.

Tom: That’s an excellent answer and advice.

Chevee:  I think we all know it, we just ignore it and try to power through when we hit a problem. Everyone knows that the bathroom is the hub of creativity. How many epiphanies have we all had during a shower? Sometimes, we get so caught up in the problem that we can’t see the obvious solution.

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Tom: Do you have a favorite designer?

Chevee: Sid Sackson may be my favorite designer of all time. So many of his designs are elegant in their simplicity and I aspire to design games like that. For that same reason, Michael Schacht is my favorite active designer. Again, so many of his games are elegantly simple.

Tom: I think Sid is under-appreciated by modern gamers. It may be because his games are ‘old’ and not shiny. I like that Gryphon has brought back in print some of his games. I wish more were available. Michael Schacht is fantastic. Coloretto is such a clean game. And China is SO good. That is an elegant game.

Chevee:  Coloretto is the one game that I’ve played and just couldn’t get over myself. It’s about as simple of a game as possible. You make 2 decisions each turn and they will be some of the hardest decisions you’ve ever made.

Tom: I want to talk about another finger you are sticking into the gaming industry. You’ve started doing some graphic design for games now. How is that going?

Chevee:  So far it’s been almost entirely prototyping work for other independent designers and publishers. With the PULL! launch looming, I haven’t exactly had a ton of free time to promote myself. I’ve worked on a few mock-ups, some 3D renders, and I’ve done a fair bit of iconography, but I’m waiting until after the dust settles from PULL! to attack larger projects.

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The new Go Forth And Game logo designed by Chevee Dodd.

Tom: And designed a super awesome logo for a certain gaming blog. 🙂 Why don’t we debut it right NOW!

Chevee: Oh yeah. That too! I love doing logos.

Tom: Where can people find you?

Chevee: My blog at cheveedodd.com is the best place to find me in a controlled manner. I write frequently, but mostly only when I can form a condensed, cohesive thought. For a more raw, unchained view of what goes on in my head, Twitter would be the place to seek me out. I Tweet VERY frequently…. maybe too frequently sometimes… and I’m constantly engaging the community there in a sort of unfiltered mind dump. When I have an idea, I usually turn to my followers to help me quickly decide if I’m crazy or not. It can be chaotic at times.

Readers, you should head over to the Pull! Kickstarter and back soon. It’s a fun little game and very economical for only $16. You should also check out Chevee’s games on The Game Crafter. We didn’t talk about Something For Nothing, a podcast Chevee does with T.C. Petty III, Jason Slingerland and Rob Couch. It’s a podcast where they talk to other designers about all things gaming. It is one of the best and extremely beneficial to designers of all levels. Not only that by Chevee is a really nice guy and excellent game designer, who wears hats.

I’m Not Uptight, Not Unattractive, Turn Me Loose Tonight Cause I’m Radioactive…A Conversation With Meltdown Games


I’m happy to have Doug Levandowski from Meltdown Games on Go Forth this time. Meltdown’s darling game is Gothic Doctor and Doug is going to tell us about it.

Tom: Meltdown Games is Doug Levandowski & John McNeill. I have Doug with me today.  Introduce yourself Doug.

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This is Happy Doug.

Doug: I’m Doug, and I’m an English teacher by day, English teacher by night, and game designer when I can shoehorn some time in there to get it done.  I’m a New Jersey boy born and bred – but actual New Jersey, not the stuff you see on reality TV.

Tom: Meltdown is a fairly new company. What made you decide to jump into the pool?

Doug: It wasn’t really a choice so much as we had a game that we had a really strong vision for, and we wanted to make sure that it got out in exactly the way we wanted it.  And we figured, “How hard could it be, right?” That, uh, was a bit naive.  But still, it gives you ownership – in the literal and the metaphorical sense the whole way through.

With Gothic Doctor, we felt so strongly that we wanted to stay true to the literature and not, say, have Mr. Hyde be the absurd hulking brute he is in most contemporary depictions. He’s actually described as shorter than Jekyll in the text.  And we wanted to keep that connection strong.  Going over to a publisher, which we thought about a little bit, ultimately would mean that call isn’t ours to make in the end.

Tom: Who’s the brains of the pair?

Doug: That really depends which hemisphere you’re talking about. I’m more the words guy, and John’s more the physical design guy – though when we need to, we can hack it in the other’s world, too.  And I guess I’m the original idea guy who wants to rush on to the next thing, and John’s the guy who says, “Uhm, let’s maybe finish this first.”  So, not to be too arrogant here, but we’re both the brains.

Tom: How do you guys work? Where do the ideas come from?

Doug: Gothic Doctor came out of a dream about my dad, who’s a doctor in real life, asking me to get him pliers so he could take out Dracula’s teeth. I woke up and was like, “That’s a game.” It was the first one John and I have ever done, so that’s been a heck of a learning curve.  It’s also the only one that we’re working on together at this point.

But in terms of the ideas, I do a lot of the 24-hour contests on Board Game Geek. Every one, actually, since last May, when I did a game where the requirement was “scorpions”. So that lets me play a little bit in a confined timeframe, experiment with some mechanics that I might not use otherwise – and ones that are okay to just not turn out well given the time. Then, if there’s a kernel of an idea there, maybe I’ll try to run with it a little bit – but pretty much everything else is a side project to keep me mentally loose for Gothic Doctor – though there are a few other designs that I’ve been poking at that are more or less complete – or 80% to 90% done now.

Tom: Your first game is Gothic Doctor. Tell us about the game. How does the game work?

Doug: So, in Gothic Doctor, you’re playing a doctor in the least reputable medical clinic in Victorian England.  After an incident on the last full moon with a mad scientist, a couple werewolves, and a doctor who happened to be between them, there just so happens to be an opening for a new partner.  If you can earn the most money for the practice tonight, that’s you.

Mechanically, it’s a 2-4 player game that plays in between 20 minutes (with 2 experienced players) and an hour (with 4 new players). In the game, the goal is to use combinations of unique treatments from your hands to make sets that will treat patients – sort of like rummy in that respect. There are different levels of patients; some take 2 treatments, some 3, and some 4.  On top of that, you’re able to draw action cards that can either make it easier for you to treat, screw over your opponents, or affect gameplay in some other way that’ll help you.  There are also a few bonuses for treating the right combination of patients.  Every player gets 11 rounds to earn as many pounds as possible, and the winner is, of course, the doctor who made the most for the practice.

Tom: Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Gothic Down had an unsuccessful KS campaign. Talk about that experience and what you’ve learned from it.

Doug: So much. Right after it happened, we took a week, thought it all over, and put out a “Post-Mortem” about what we learned. Basically, we didn’t do enough marketing ahead of time, didn’t get the game to reviewers, and were just focused on the stuff that designers would be focused on: getting the game to where we wanted it to be. If anyone wants to check out more details about that, here’s a link: http://wp.me/p3qClI-6q. People have generally said it’s pretty helpful stuff, so who are we to argue, right?

After that, we took some time off to decide if we wanted to go through the stress of a Kickstarter project again and, after a summer of taking it easy, we decided, yeah, we do. We want to get this game out to the world. So we started thinking about what we can do in terms of marketing this time around.

And that part has come pretty easily.  I generally like people, so talking to new folks in the gaming community was one of the best parts of the first project and the stuff that went on after the fact.  Post-Kickstarter, I met Ivan and the other guys from 9 Kingdoms who were super supportive, Suzanne and Chris from Cardboard Edison who might be the nicest people in the gaming community and made two of the best three games I played last year, Charlie Ecenbarger from Sizzlemoth Games whom I respect like crazy as designer, and Jeff King, the podcasting genius responsible for all things All Us Geeks.  We’d talked to him before, during the campaign, but I’ve been working with him to answer this question in more detail over a series of monthly podcasts about the “Road to Relaunch” this summer. And the Zinslis asked if I would write about once a month for them on Cardboard Edison, which as far as I’m concerned is like the New York Times asking a reporter to write a column, so of course I was all about that!  And Dave Simpson from Gamers on Games who, it turns out, lives one town over from me… I mean, I could keep going name dropping the amazing people we’ve met and talked to and gotten advice from and had game days with – and that’s tempting, because I don’t want anyone to feel left out…but I don’t think everyone wants to read about all that.  The point is, I’ve been astounded by how amazing this community is.  We talked about this in the Post-Mortem, but every day I’m in the community, I’m stunned by how great and caring and generous and other positive adjectives people are.  And we’re so thrilled to be a part of that now!

Tom: You have a couple of other games also. Tell me about them.

Doug: Yeah – these are all side projects at this point, but some of them definitely have potential, we think.

The second-in-line one, so to speak, is Circus Divas, which is a really light dice rolling game where the fun is more the cursing at the dice than the strategy of it. And it’s very fast – just about 10 minutes.  Basically, you’re running a Depression-era circus and buying performers to make more money.  There’s a free PnP of that here: http://wp.me/p3qClI-7V

One that was kind of a one-off, quick one was a Werewolf variant that, actually, my wife had the idea for called Krampus.  Instead of villagers and werewolves and hangings, it’s kids and Krampusz (fun fact: turns out that’s the plural of the Austrian Christmas demon) and tattling to dad or mom.  I’m really happy with the extra roles we came up with for that one.  Rather than sticking to the traditional roles in Werewolf games, my wife and I started thinking about, “Okay… Christmas characters. Who needs to be in there?” and then figuring out what their special ability would be.  I think my favorite is…well, it’s a toss up. It’s either Frosty, who comes back again some day if he’s killed or Jesus, who wins if and only if he dies.  Another free PnP of that here: http://wp.me/p3qClI-7q

After the Kickstarter, as a thank you to the folks who backed us, we released a game that a friend and I made called Worst Day Ever, which is about getting your friends to help you remember an earlier day in the week so bad that you blocked it out.  That was just for our original backers, but I think it’s safe to say that at some point, the world will see that one again in some form or another.

And the other one is Inferno, Inc., which we did as a thank you to Twitter for helping us hit 666 followers.  Basically, you and your friends are a group of demons who have the responsibility of making Hell as awful as it can be for the likes of the woman who invented Barney the Dinosaur to that guy who cut you off and then drove under the speed limit.  And in keeping with Dante, we’ve got some literary figures in there, too.  People can get that one here: http://wp.me/p3qClI-8H

There are others that are in various stages of done-ness, but those are the ones that are in some kind of final-ish form right now.

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

Doug: Process. Heh. I mean, we don’t have anything really codified, but it’s probably a lot like most folks: we come up with an idea, think about it, refine it, draw it up on note cards or blank playing cards, test it with our immediate friends, make some black and white prototypes at Staples, playtest some more, get some art, finalize card layout, finalize the art, scrap some big part of the game and start over on that part, playtest some more, and then try to get it out to the world.

Though we’ve only gotten to the “get the art” stage with Gothic Doctor. Everything else is stuff we found online that’s free for us to use, like the art for Circus Divas. We just can’t sell it – though I’ve been talking with the artist for that one.

Some of them, like Krampus and Worst Day Ever are mostly just text, though, so those are more or less completed designs without the art. They’re not ready for Kickstarter or anything…but definitely for more playtesting and refinement.

Tom: Do you have a design philosophy? Do you have overarching design goals?

Doug: Absolutely.  We want to make games that are fun and intuitive. One of the best compliments we’ve gotten was when Herb from Game and a Curry said that by the third round, Gothic Doctor felt like a game he had played before because of how quickly and intuitively he picked it up. That’s huge to us.

And we’re big into the social aspect of gaming, so we think of our games mostly as being social experiences.  I’d say that Gothic Doctor is about as far from that as we’re likely to get for quite some time – and that has a lot of cross-talk if you’re getting into character.  But if you look at the other four I mentioned before, three of them are really all about telling a story with the other people you’re playing with and just laughing – or in the case of Worst Day Ever, ruining your friends’ days – which if you have the right friends is pretty much the same thing.

A general house rule for me is, “The person who has the most fun wins.” That’s not, of course, the case with Gothic Doctor…but, hey, it sure doesn’t hurt.

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

Doug: I’ve been into games for about three years now, so I’m not the authority here. But it’s definitely given people with great ideas and a willingness to market on their own a shot at getting their games to tables across the world.  And I’m definitely in the more-competition-the-better camp. I mean, in the past five years, how much better have games gotten, right? And then check how many of them are Kickstarters. And I’d wager that bigger companies know that they can’t keep putting out new versions of Monopoly and keep their market share where it was. Or maybe they can. I haven’t looked at any numbers about that lately, and people just keep buying Monopoly…

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

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Doug: I mean, there’s this one game called Gothic Doctor that’s pretty great…

But Cardboard Edison’s new game Cottage Industry is also one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s brilliant. I don’t understand how no one has snapped that one up yet and gotten it to Kickstarter ASAP.  I’ve played it three or four times, and they just keep making it better.  If we were publishing other people’s games at this point, they’d have gotten an offer from us three months ago.

Tom: I’ve played that and it’s going to be a very hot game. What are you currently playing the most?

Doug: Legendary. There’s so much variation in the the set up there, so many different strategies that can get mixed and matched. I’ve played that at least 15 times so far this year, and there’s no end in sight.  It’s amazing with or without the first expansion.  And when I feel like I’ve done that, it’ll be time to get the Fantastic Four expansion…

Tom: Favorite game played in 2013?

Doug: Legendary – though Cottage Industry is a close, close second. My guess is when Cottage Industry moves out of the rough-art-prototype stage it’ll take the number one spot.  But at this point, when my wife and I are watching TV, we’re probably playing Legendary, too.

Tom: What game surprised you and how?

Doug: Legendary surprised me in a great way.  John got it for me for my birthday back in February of last year and we played it once. We all sort of said, “Okay, so that’s like Dominion, then.” But we played it again said, “Huh…that was a little deeper than Dominion.” And by the third time, I was hooked.

Tom: I’m getting that idea that you like Legendary some.

Doug: So I love playing that game with new players and watching them say, “So, Dominion?” and thinking, “Just keep playing. You’ll see…”

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

Doug: Not sure. Until pretty recently, it was definitely going to be Circus Divas, but there’s another one that’s still in prototype stages that I’m really in love with. I’ve played it with really serious gamers like Ivan Turner [from Nine Kingdoms] and Dave Simpson [from Gamers on Games] and they’ve liked it. And I’ve played it with people who are very much non-gamers, and they’ve liked it, too. On top of that, it’s a very micro microgame, so there’s some appeal there, too, in terms of the ease of making it.

It’s tentatively called Greenlight, and it’s a mob-themed game where you’re trying to kill the other player’s Don. The short description is that if you can figure out that a card is in person’s hand, you can eliminate it from the game. Ivan called it a “deduct to destruct” game, and I like that.

So we’ll see. Something is next. That’s for sure.

Tom: You attended Dreamation earlier this year. How was it?

Doug: Amazing! The Double Exposure events are all amazing and so well-run. John couldn’t make it, but I took Gothic Doctor, got to hang out with the 9 Kingdoms guys, lose an ApocalypZe tournament to a delightfully vicious high school junior – and then play Gothic Doctor with her, eat some great Thai food, get an hour or two of sleep… Just all around a perfect gaming weekend! I can hardly wait for Dexcon in July!

Tom: Doug, Mr. Hyde. Very interesting. Expound a bit.

Doug: Yeah, I’ve re-read it since I put that blurb up. Twice, actually. I’m currently teaching it, which is a great experience.  But the issue with Jekyll isn’t what everyone thinks it is.  It isn’t that he has this horrible dark side.  It’s not a story about having to be careful of letting your dark side out.  It’s really about the opposite.  He invents the potion because he has this bad side in him – which is a side that everyone does – but he’s a

Mr. Hyde!

Mr. Hyde!

hypocrite.  He wants to be the perfect, serious person and not like the ladies quite so much, which he sees as a flaw.  So he makes this potion so that he can let his bad side out to play without it affecting his reputation, and then it gets bad.

The other interesting thing to me that I realized while I was re-reading last summer was that Hyde isn’t all bad.  He hates who he is and desperately wants to stay concealed from the world (hence his name).  Even Jekyll thinks he’s pure evil, but he’s the one who keeps drinking the potion that will change him back to Jekyll. And he’s the one that kills himself when he can’t become Jekyll again, after the corrupted powder runs out.  He’s way more complex than any depiction of him has ever shown him to be.  On top of that, we don’t have any narratives from Hyde talking about who he is or what motivates him – and we already know that Jekyll is a hypocrite (Stevenson himself says something about that in a letter to a dramatic critic). So of course he wants to make Hyde look bad and himself look good. I could go on for a few hours, but I’ll cut myself off here.

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

Doug: We were shocked that nobody had delved into Gothic literature the way we had – and I’m consistently shocked that there’s not a detective game about C. August Dupin, Poe’s master detective.  I guess Sherlock Holmes is so big, especially right now, that he’s just such a bigger selling point.

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

Doug: They can email us at info@meltdowngames.com, find us on Twitter at @meltdowngames, or check out the website at MeltdownGames.com. And they should definitely check out Gothic Doctor’s Facebook page and give us a like there to stay connected.

Tom: Any final words?

Doug: Thanks for the interview, and we hope everyone will keep an eye out for our Kickstarter the end of June or very start of July!

Tom: By the way Doug, we’ve heard from the Society for the Care and Handling of Moles. They want to talk to you about origami or something.

Doug: Man, that was a rough time in my life. Looks like I’m going to have to change my identity again.

HA! Thanks for being my guest on Go Forth Doug. I’m looking forward to playtesting  Gothic Doctor. It was a lot of fun to talk to you.