Thieves of the Airways – A Conversation with Philip du Barry

I’m talking to Philip du Barry again. Philip has a new project on Kickstarter called Skyway Robbery. It’s getting good preliminary buzz and I wanted to let Philip tell us about it.

skyway1Tom: Hi again Philip. It’s only been a few weeks since we talked last about Fidelitas. Congratulations on its roaring success!

I wanted to bring you back on to talk about your newest game, Skyway Robbery. Give us the lowdown on it.

Philip: Skyway Robbery was inspired by classic heist movies like Ocean’s 11 and set in a sprawling, fantastical steampunk world. Players need to hire the best combination of gang members with the best equipment to steal the loot in the game’s far-flung locations. They arrive at these locations on a giant airship cruise liner and can even enlist the help of the airship’s employees. Players can also execute smaller side jobs, bust gang members out of the brig, and beat up local thugs—all in an effort to establish the most revered/feared criminal reputation.

Tom: Talk about the game play.

Philip: Players carry out these various actions using three of their seven action cards each turn. The three cards are selected secretly and revealed in order. They can even call the police on other players who plan to carry out illegal actions later in the turn. Success comes from combining gang members with the right skills to get past the right defenses and work well with your other gang members and equipment. There are really neat combos in the game, so you need to put together a winning strategy before someone else does. The game ends when the last object (of five) is stolen or when the airship completes its voyage.

Tom: I really like that action selection mechanic. Everyone has some idea about your choices but nothing solid. And the timing of the selections is critical too. Very cool. So if you are a combo king, this game is aimed right at you. I can think of a certain Geek Allstar that will probably rock at this game. I like the heist vibe. It takes real skill to pull that theme off well in a board game. Congrats. It has a steampunk theme, which I like. How did you settle on that?

Philip: Originally, the game was set in modern times. It was called Bank Job. Basically, you spent the whole game robbing this one bank over and over again. We decided that a steampunk theme would add a lot of flavor and let us tell a more expansive story. Now players will visit five (of ten) unique locations each game. It also helped us create some fantastic art!

skyway2Tom: I personally am glad you changed the theme. Steampunk is much more interesting and lends to better stories. The addition of the locations was a nice fix. The art is awesome. There are eight different artists but you can’t tell. That’s a great job on the art direction. Why eight and how did you find them all? I’ll link over to their portfolios at the bottom of the interview.

Philip: We started the project with about two main artists (Jacqui Davis and Kelly McClellan) with Dann May directing the art. However, this project was huge—so many elements needed to be created. So Dann started folding in new artists as we went along, coaching each one in how to stick to the style. Some were hired for just the last phase of illustration—to help us hit our target for getting the game finished.

Tom: Well, Dann did an excellent job. You can’t tell there are so many artists. I don’t have a copy yet so I haven’t had a chance to play Skyway Robbery. But there is a good bit of positive talk on the net so far. How do you so about getting the early buzz?

Philip: One thing we did was to put together several advance prototypes of the game with the full art. These were expensive and time-consuming to assemble. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time doing podcasts in the evenings. Other than that, we’ve been revealing small pieces of the art for the last few months. I also had my copy for Origins and GenCon this year. Lots of people stood around watching these demos.

Tom: Phantasio Games is publishing SR. Tell us about Phantasio Games.

Philip: Phantasio Games is my design studio—a place for me to develop games and talk about them with my blog (www.phantasiogames.net). However, Game Salute is doing the heavy-lifting in the background. They are letting me take the lead and be the face of the project but are guiding the nuts and bolts of the publishing process, as well as managing the financials.

skyway4Tom: The Kickstarter page looks fantastic. Very themey. Who did all that?

Philip: Thanks! Again, Game Salute put together the KS page.

Tom: There are only 2 pledge levels – Retail and Deluxe . Why only two?

Philip: We wanted this to be a simple, back-to-basics campaign. We aren’t even doing stretch goals! The game comes “pre-stretched” with ivory-core cards, super-thick cardboard and everything else top-of-the-line. Nothing was held back—you get all the game material right from the start. The only option is if you want to upgrade to the deluxe version featuring lots of cool wooden pieces for the game. The big advantage of all this, besides the simplicity of it, is that this game will be delivered on time. We have eliminated the #1 reason projects get delayed—extra stuff added on in the heat of the moment without proper consideration. We have considered everything in our box already—it’s ready for the printer!

Tom: That is fantastic! Did you make it to GenCon?

Philip: Yes, I did! Normally, I only make for one day, but this year I got to come for three days—it was great! I got to do lots more demos and meet lots more nice people.

Tom: What have you been playing lately?

Philip: My one game purchase from GenCon (one!) was, oddly enough, City of Iron by Ryan Lauket. It’s really neat—we’ve been having a great time with it. I’ve also been getting my kids hooked on Settlers of Catan lately. We also played Dominion again the other day for the first time in about a year. What an amazing game—still!

skyway3Tom: Any good movies seen lately?

Philip: I did see Guardians of the Galaxy with my wife. It was fun, but we’re getting to the point where we can pretty much figure out where the plot is going. It’s harder for the blockbuster movies to surprise us. Probably all the Masterpiece Theater . . . It was still fun, though.

Tom: Yeah, Guardians was a lot of fun. The surprise thing is very true. My wife saw the non-Bucky reveal of Winter Soldier after the first 20 minutes. You just finished up the KS for Fidelitas. It went very well. After Skyway, what’s next for you?

Philip: As crazy as it seems, I’m doing yet ANOTHER Kickstarter sometime in October. This will be for Spirits of the Rice Paddy with APE Games. It’s my first big (semi-heavy) eurogame with a 90-120 minute play time for 2-4 players (there may possibly be a solo variant included as well). In this game players are rice farmers trying to grow the most rice over seven rounds. The spirit world will be available to help them do this (based on Balinese mythology). The mechanics of the game include: card drafting (twice during the game), worker allocation, rice paddy construction, a labor and animal market, and a unique water-flow system that must be carefully managed. Water must be present to plant and grow your rice; it must be absent to pull weeds, get rid of pests, fertilize, and harvest your rice.

riceThe game also features oxen and ducks (I nearly lost my ducks, but they are back now!) as well as standard meeples. In the base game, the animals will be on either side of a cardboard chip, so you can use an animal as either one each turn. However, a pack of ox and duck meeples will be available with a variant that allows their use (players will be able to exchange oxen and ducks for free each round).

Tom: Oh, yeah. I’ve been interested in this one since you mentioned it in the last interview. I can’t wait to play it. How can people keep up with you?

Philip: I write the occasional blog post at www.phantasiogames.net and can be found on Twitter @pdubarry. Thanks for the great questions!

Tom: Thanks for the great answers.

Here, as promised, are the links for the artists on Skyway Robbery.

The amazing Jacqui Davis

The fantastic Kelly McClellan

The delightful Denae Wilkowski

The super Luis Felipe Peredo Noguez

The incomparable Eoghan Cowan

The exceptional Heather Gross

The marvelous Daniel Bodinof

The unbelievable Dann May

Readers, you can find Skyway Robbery here. I encourage you to support it. There are only a few days left so hurry. Philip makes really fun games and we want him to continue to do so.

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