I’m glad to have Dan from Letiman Games on the ‘show’ today. Letiman Games has one published game, PhD and one on the way, Dino Dude Ranch. We talk about both and some more stuff. Here we go…
Tom: Hi Dan, thanks for being my guest on Go Forth.
Dan: Hey Tom, Thank YOU for doing this with me, I am very excited and look forward to it.
Tom: Online, you are located at http://letimangames.com
Dan: That’s correct!
Tom: First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Dan: I live in Rochester, NY with my wife and daughters. I have been designing games for a few years but only really got into it seriously about 2 years ago. These past few years have been an amazing learning process and I look forward working hard to develop my skills more each and every day.
Tom: Now talk about your games. Let’s start with PhD.
Dan: This started as a joke. Many people share very similar stories of what a nightmare going to grad school can be regardless of the field the degree is in. I thought it would be fun to joke about the situation in the form of a card game. Although it was targeted to a very narrow audience, it is what got me to seriously consider designing games.
Tom: That’s a neat story. I went through that myself many years ago.
Tom: I have an M.S. in Molecular Biology. I need to make a game from this somehow. PhD. successfully funded in February of 2014. What’s going on with it?
Dan: Very cool, my degree was in Biophysics but my research was mostly Molecular Biology focused. Have you seen the games being put out by Got Genius Games: Linkage and Peptide? Those are probably right down your alley! In regard to Ph. D. The Game, I continue to sell copies regularly but it is more in a casual sense. I have not seriously pursued the widespread distribution of the game as of yet because I am focusing more on games that reach a broader audience.
Tom: I’ve seen neither of those games nor have I heard of Got Genius Games. I need to check those out. What was your research topic?
Dan: You do need to check them out, the games deal with transcription and translation! My research (not that anyone cares!) was focused on how synonymous codons could have effects on translation even though they are resulting in the same polypeptide sequence. Check me out on PubMed!
Tom: Ph.D. is currently available at The Game C rafter correct? (In fact it’s right here.)
Dan: That is correct, as well as on Amazon. Print on Demand has been fantastic for Ph. D. The Game thus far, but I would like to move away from that format with Dino Dude Ranch.
Tom: So talk about Dino Dude Ranch, your next game. Describe it for us.
Dan: Dino Dude Ranch is a Set Collection/Resource Management game designed for Ages 8+. My goal in mind was a fun family game that was a 20-30 minute casual game night filler.
Dan: The main idea of the game is that players roll dice to collect resources (meat, fish, and leaves) that are in turn used to capture dinosaurs to place on their ranches. Cards can be purchased as well using any combination of two resources and they make purchasing easier or add a light take that mechanism to attack other players. All players have hidden bonuses that are revealed in the end in order to gain additional scoring and whoever has the most points/most valuable ranch wins!
Tom: Cool. We play a lot of ‘family’ games at my house so I’m pretty interested in DDR. When will you launch it on Kickstarter?
Dan: That is great! I think it is extremely important for families to sit around the table and interact face to face. What are some of your favorite games to play with your family? Dino Dude Ranch launches Feb 25th!
Tom: Right now Takenoko and The Little Prince are the hot games. We like Ticket To Ride, Viva Java: The Dice Game, DC Deck Building. And Mob Town probably got played the most in 2014. That is such a good, good game. What are the pledge levels?
Dan: A $1 reward level, $34 for the complete game with all stretch goals, and a reward tier to design your own custom Dino Dude Rancher with a name and look of your choosing to go on a Player Board.
Tom:I hear custom rewards can be a nightmare. Why are you putting that on yourself?
Dan: I decided to do it for a couple of reasons. First, I did them in my first campaign and they came out really well. The artist for Ph. D. The Game also does caricatures, so he nailed the custom images perfectly for the Custom Lab Member Cards. Second, I know it is a reward that I would want myself so I am willing to put in the extra work to make it happen. I have been planning how to move forward with it so that it is easier when I get to that stage. Lastly, it just seemed to make sense for this game. I was back and forth between a special edition of the game or the custom rancher and logistically it just worked out better to move forward with the custom rancher. Thanks for your concern though!
Tom: What are some of your stretch goals?
Dan: Almost all of the stretch goals include upgrading components: Custom engraved dice, a component tray for the box, cardstock upgrade, components to increase from 2-4p up to 2-5p. One of my favorites is upgrading the food tokens from 1.5mm chipboard to custom cut wooden tokens. The resources are handled a lot and I think the tokens will be a nice touch. I also have some other ideas in the works, but you will just have to wait and see what comes up! I’m also working on adding an additional dinosaur with a new buying mechanic.
Tom: Food meeples? That would be cool. I like the art of the game. It’s very family friendly and quirky. Who’s the artist?
Dan: Yeah well in my first printed prototype the food was made out of cardstock so handling them was a complete nightmare and I decided that if the pricing was reasonable, I would upgrade to wooden tokens. Hopefully we hit that stretch goal. The art of the game is done by Jesse Labbe. He does some amazing work in graphic novels and has one board game that he not only did the artwork for but he designed as well called Cross Hares (published by 1A Games). We spoke on the phone and he had sketches ready for me that were so in sync with what I was looking for that I decided that I absolutely had to work with him. The ranchers that are pictured are not by him and I look forward to working with him to redesign the ranchers in his style.
Tom: What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?
Dan: Do not rush it! It is very easy to want to get the game out of the gates as quickly as possible and launch it on Kickstarter or sell it online as soon as possible. Wait. Get it play-tested and refined. Do your research both on the design end and the business end. If you are planning a Kickstarter, plan it many months in advance, do your research, talk to people who can help and TAKE YOUR TIME.
Tom: That’s very good advice. It is easy for your passion for a design to cause you to rush it or bring it out half baked. The business end of the process is very intimidating to me. I have no desire at all to deal with that. Why did you decide to start a game company?
Dan: I actually enjoy the business and marketing end of it all. I think part of my motivation was that I really felt like it was something I could do and I wanted to give it a try. It has been working out so far and I hope to develop, get better at what I do, and watch the company grow!
Tom: Cool. What is the best part of owning a game company?
Dan: I can spend all of my free time doing game related activities. Play-testing, research (a.k.a. playing games all night long), and game design. I love it all!
Tom: Living the dream. If you need a play-tester, I know an experienced one who has a great set of gamer friends. :> Any plans to publish games from other designers?
Dan: I would love to! My goal has been to publish a few titles of my own first in order to establish myself and then move into publishing others’ games as well.
Tom: That’s good to hear because I’m working on these games…..;). What is your current favorite game mechanic?
Dan: If you’re serious and Dino Dude Ranch does well enough, we can talk! I guess if I had to pick a favorite mechanic right now, I would have to say deck/pool building. My wife and I have been playing a lot of Dominion and King’s Forge lately.
Tom: I play-tested King’s Forge. It’s pretty good. Just different enough. What’s in the queue after Dino Dude Ranch?
Dan: I have a few games I have been working on and I have been talking with another designer about a possible collaboration. Not a whole lot has progressed yet though because I have been pouring all of my energy into Dino Dude Ranch right now and sidelining everything else. My current project deserves my entire devotion until it gets completed.
Tom: But of course. But not even a teaser? How can people contact you?
Dan: Nothing is at the stage that I am excited enough about to talk about it but you will be the first person that I contact when it’s ready! I can be contacted on twitter (@LetimanGames), facebook (Letiman Games), and by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tom: Any final words?
Dan: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to talk games with you! If you or any readers have questions about Dino Dude Ranch or even just want to talk, please feel free to contact me! I love talking games.
Readers, please check out Dan’s games at the links above. Keep watch for Dino Dude Ranch on Kickstarter. And leave me some feedback on this or other interviews below.
Thanks for reading!