Jamey Stegmaier Interview – Part 3


Here we are again. This is Part 3 of my awesome interview with Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games. As a reminder, this interview was conducted in early 2015. I ‘lost’ it over the year and am just now getting to it again. So you will see some outdated material. But the interview is SOOO good I had to post it. I hope you enjoy it.

Jamey: I like that you mentioned this. Indeed, it takes a ton of work. Looking back, I’m not sure how I possibly ran Kickstarter campaigns before this was my full-time job. I have a much greater sense of appreciation and respect for creators who run a campaign (not to mention design and develop a game) while still maintaining steady employment and family obligations.

Tom: They are indeed our heroes. Talk about your open letter. I want to know more about that.

Jamey: It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and taking notes on. The goal of my blog is to make Kickstarter a better place for creators and backers, and 99% of my content is directed towards creators. I often challenge creators in what I hope is a healthy, constructive way, and I’d like to offer a similarly healthy challenge to backers as well.

Tom: Ok, I just read the blog post about customer service. It is spot on and something I’ve always thought should be taught in business school.

Jamey: Absolutely! I wish I had been taught that in business school.

Tom: You mentioned a book you are writing. What about that?

Jamey: I have a book about Kickstarter (my story, lessons, and a number of stories from other creators) being published by Berrett-Koehler in fall ‘15. I’ve actually been getting reviews back from the official beta readers provided by the publisher this week, so the next step is to revise the manuscript. I’m really excited about offering something tangible people can hold and earmark as they figure out their path to Kickstarter success.

Tom: That’s pretty cool. While it will help more than game producers using Kickstarter, it is something real that you are offering back. That is one of the things I like about you most. You really support our community. Let’s talk about the gaming community a bit. How do you see it? What are some of the best aspects of it in your opinion?

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Jamey: Yes, I’m hoping the book will reach well beyond creators in the tabletop game category (that’s currently my main audience). And thank you! It feels like the right thing to do. You’ve said similar things in this interview regarding the motivation for why you write. What do you think it is about the board game industry that makes us want to lift each other up instead of push each other down?

It’s a little hard to talk about the “industry” in blanket terms, because there are so many niches within the niche. My primary experience is with three of those niches: Kickstarter backers, BGG participants, and convention attendees.

My favorite thing about Kickstarter backers is that they’re willing to put their trust in someone to make something that doesn’t technically exist yet in final form. It takes a lot of guts to spend $50 on something you won’t get for at least 6 months.

My favorite thing about BGG participants is the wealth of knowledge there. I check BGG at least 5-6 times a day to answer questions about my games, but 75% of the time someone has already chimed in to answer.

My favorite thing about convention attendees is how incredibly welcoming they are. I love that people warmly invite you to play games with them at Geekway to the West (I’ve heard it’s the same at BGG.con), and I love that gamers welcome people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, nd costumes at Gen Con.

Am I missing a key niche? If so, what’s your favorite thing about it?

Tom: I think most everybody will fall into one of those for the most part.

Jamey: Well, Tom, this interview has led right up to the holiday season, so it’s probably a good time to wrap things up. It’s your blog, so why don’t you have the last word–perhaps you could share your favorite moment in gaming from 2014. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

Tom: Yep, it’s been a long but extremely enjoyable and fruitful interview. We covered a lot of topics and I liked the ‘back and forth’ conversation very much. I appreciate you asking questions back to me. It turned into ‘the interviewer becomes the interviewee’ at some points. I enjoyed that enormously.

Last words, THANK YOU Jamey very much for taking time from your very busy schedule. I know you were shipping massive amounts of Kickstarter materials during the days of the interview. Your time is greatly appreciated and it just goes to show that you are one of the nicest guys in our gaming community.

Everyone, keep your eyes out for Between Two Cities and Scythe. They are  fantastic.

Jamey’s eBook about blogging – https://app.box.com/shared/0p2y5hhppv

Well, that’s it. The longest yet best post I have done so far. Thanks for sticking with it to the end. I have to thank Jamey so much. He is such a great guy and an excellent guest. It makes my “job” at Go Forth very easy and fun. Thank you Jamey.

And once again thank you readers. Stay tuned for some interesting changes to Go Forth And Game in 2016.

Jamey Stegmaier Interviews Me – Part 2


Thanks for coming back for Part 2. It will be worth it. I had forgotten how interesting I sound (and Jamey to of course). I hope you enjoy.

Tom: Rhythm. That’s the key. I need a rhythm. And a goal. I need something to shoot for. You have inspired me Mr. Stegmaier!

Jamey: As for the advice, other than what I wrote above, I have a formatting suggestion for bloggers: Write the blog in a way that is easy for people to read. That is, use very short paragraphs, short sentences, and lots of lists and images. Breaking down content into smaller chunks makes it much easier for people to read.

Tom: I like that advice a lot. I tend to run on and on. I will definitely work on this. Starting with this interview. ( I would like to request some pictures now.)

Jamey: Do you have any tactical suggestions like that for fellow bloggers? What’s your favorite gaming-related blog to read and what makes you keep returning to it (both in terms of content and format)?

Tom: Two pop up immediately – Cardboard Edison and Hyperbole Games. Cardboard Edison compiles info from hundreds of gaming sites every day or so. It makes it easy to find real gems. And the folks who run it are awesome. They have a Patreon fund raising campaign going that everyone should check out.

Grant Rodiek of Hyperbole Games is such a prolific blogger about games. And he really delves into gaming why’s, how’s, and many aspects of game design. Every designer and gamer interested in design should visit Hyperbole Games regularly.

Format? I agree with you on the short and sweet points. People will not spend time on a blog unless you get to the point. The K.I.S.S. philosophy works well. AND we will probably have to break this interview into three or four parts if I am serious about starting to live by that. Give the people what they want – quick, useful, pretty. Or at least grab them, draw them in with that.

Tactical suggestions? Take the high ground. On first glance that sounds like a joke and facecious but it’s not. Set high standards for yourself and live by them. Don’t get caught up in the latest BGG or Twitter fire fight, unless you REALLY care about the topic and are contributing something positive / solutional to the situation. Don’t pick fights. Don’t get too emotional. Take a breath. Then respond if you feel it is necessary. There have been some recent scuffles that I almost jumped into because they struck emotional nerves.

Jamey: I really, really like what you’ve shared here about taking the high ground (in a humble way). I actually just wrote an article about customer service, so this idea fits perfectly with that. It’s often our instinct to get defensive, but if you treat people with respect and create a dialogue with them, you might find that you have a really loyal reader at your back from then on. And for the people who just like to pick fights, if you don’t fight back, they’ll quickly move on.

Tom: The biggest fight I know of  at the moment is on Kickstarter – why do backers or potential backers now feel that a game HAS to have finished art when the project is in the campaign? A few months ago, prototype are was fine. Why the change? Do you understand what Kickstarter is about? I don’t get them. It was very apparent in a recent campaign and possibly affected the outcome of that project. I don’t get them. Oh, man. I was starting to rant.

Jamey: That’s really interesting. I think it might be because some people associate a game without finished art with an unfinished game in terms of mechanisms and testing. It’s often a fallacy, but the association is there. Also, some backers may have been burned by projects that needed “just a little more art,” and 2 years later they still don’t have the game.

However, I think it’s a good point to remind backers of–one of the biggest up-front costs for a tabletop game is the art, so if you’re raising money for the game, the art probably isn’t complete. I think the key is feature a few beautiful, evocative pieces that represent the overall art in the game, and have a specific schedule in place for the rest of the art to be complete if you successfully fund.

I’m actually working on an “open letter to backers”. Other than the art rant, what’s one thing you’d like to remind backers of (or something they could be better or more understanding of), and what’s one piece of positive backer behavior you’d like to reinforce so it continues?

Tom: I’ll tackle the second question first. Backer behaviour to reinforce?

Jamey: Yep! What’s one thing you’d like backers to continue doing?

Tom: Other than continue backing? Talking up the projects they are backing. Continue the verbal support. Keep up the word of mouth marketing that Kickstarter projects depend on. Without that many I’m sure many projects would not fund.

Jamey: I think that’s a great point. If a backer feels strongly about a project, it’s great if they go out and share it. Sometimes people are hesitant to blast a message out on social media, so as a creator I encourage backers once or twice during a project to share the project with 1-2 people who they think might really like it.

Tom: As to something backers could be more understanding about I believe people should really understand how much work creating a game takes. There are lots of game campaigns and that probably gives an impression that it is easy to create a game and run a KS campaign. I know from interviews and because I have a good friend who has run quite a few campaigns that it is hard work. It takes a huge amount of time and there are so many things that pop up and are under the radar. So I wish backers would really take this in.

 

Stay tuned for the grand finale of this super duper interview.

A Conversation With…Jamey Stegmaier In Which The Interviewer Becomes The Interviewee, Part 1


This is Part 1 of a three part interview with Jamey. I thought I had posted the full trilogy a good while back but it seems I was mistaken. As such there are some very out-dated content included. BUT it is such a fantastic conversation that it is begging to see press. So I’m remedying the mistake. Here is the first of three. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

I am extremely happy to have Jamey Stegmaier as my guest once again. Jamey is always a fun and interesting guest and this time was not exception. Except he stepped it up and flipped the tables on me. He started asking the questions. And it was really fun. It turned out to be the stonemaier1best interview so far. We talk about Stonemaier’s two newest games, Between Two Cities and Scythe. I have an interview in the queue with Jamey and the two designers of Between Two Cities. We talk a lot about Scythe and even more about the gaming community. It’s a sweet interview and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tom: So Jamey, Stonemaier has two games in the works, Between Two Cities by Ben Rossett and Matthew O’Malley and Scythe based on the art of Jakub Rozalski. First tell us about Between Two Cities. What about this game grabbed you?

Jamey: Hey Tom, it’s great to chat with you again. Thanks for asking about Between Two Cities, a game by Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley that I playbt2c1ed for the first time at Gen Con. Two things stood out about the game: One, I loved the partnership mechanism (each player works with the player on their left to build a city and the player on their right to build another city). It gave me the feeling of camaraderie of a cooperative game, but the feeling of victory in a competitive game, as there’s only one winner. Two, I played a lot of demos at Gen Con, as did my friends/ambassadors, and even though we saw some very clever designs, Between Two Cities was by far the most fun.

Tom: I’m working on one of those actually. Players are research professors at a university. They have to share their grad students,  knowledge and experience with the other research labs to complete their projects. The more they collaborate, the more points they can earn. But collaborations come to an end at some point. Work in progress.

I’ve heard of some co-petitive games but can’t think of them right now. Actually Cutthroat Caverns is one. You work together to get to kill the monsters fighting to get the killing blow but making sure you are the lone survivor at the end. And Legendary, the Marvel Deck Building Game is co-petitive. It’s pretty good too.

Jamey: Awesome! I like the sound of that game–it’s that type of collaboration that devolves into competition that really interests. I haven’t played Cutthroat Caverns, but I’m familiar with the mechanisms, and that’s a good example.

Can you tell me a little more about your game? What’s the most clever connection between theme and mechanisms that it currently has?

Tom: It’s called University Labs and I’m trying to mimic what actually happens in a university setting. There’s knowledge sharing. In addition to your specialties, your lab has a pool of knowledge in grad students and post docs to help you complete your inventions. You know about nanotechnology and Dr. Bumpkin needs some help in that area. If you are willing to help him, he’ll score you some points when he completes his project. Dr. Smedly is a expert in optics and your current project requires some optics work. If he will accept your help on it, he’ll score a few points for his “Principal Investigator” (the player who owns him) when you complete that project. The game’s aesthetic is late ‘50’s / ‘60’s atomic age with the project / inventions like Robo-Nanny and Undersea Tunneling Machine. I’m hoping to be able to use actual art from the time. Mechanically, there some trick taking and hand management. It’s still young.

Jamey: Very cool! It sounds like a really unique Euro game.

Tom:  I’m hoping so. Like you I saw Jakub’s art on Kotaku. I like it. It is fresh and unusual yet familiar. I am really impressed with it. Scythe is the first game from this world. Talk some about it.1920_scythe_finall_27-1024x547

How is the design process on this game different, if it is?

Jamey: I’m glad you like it! I was entranced by it the first time I saw his work posted on Kotaku. “Familiar” is the perfect word–even though you and I know that mechs didn’t stomp across Europe in the 1920s, Jakub’s depiction of them makes you think they might just have existed. I love the idea of alternate histories, as you can pull from the feelings and tropes of the real world, but you have the freedom to change anything you want as long as it still feels like it could have happened that way.

The design process for this game is very different, because we’re working with a world that is just starting to come to life. Every few days Jakub sends me some new ideas and new art to help flesh out that world, and I then reply with how the world will impact the mechanisms. I mean that in a broad sense, as this is very much a game created around a world, not a world created around a hodgepodge of mechanisms. Like, the other day we were talking about the map, how a map of Europe is way too zoomed out to encapsulate the human element of the game. These are people you’re commanding, specific individuals, not generic tokens worth 10 or 20 troop units. So we were talking about how the map could accommodate that zoom level.player_mat_Russia-1024x312

I wrote that Scythe is “Agricola meets Kemet”. Have you played those two games? Does that pitch make you excited? Worried? What aspects of those games would you like to see mashed together, and which elements would you like to leave behind?

Tom: Actually I’ve not played either of those. Yet. I’ve played Caverna which is supposed to be like Agricola. I liked it a lot. So I will assume that I will like Scythe. I will say that the alternate history aspect really grabs me. I like that sort of thing a lot. Keeping it familiar yet strange. Just out of kilter. That will be a challenge. I’m very intrigued as to how you will make the bits ‘specific individuals’, zoomed down. How that will work.

Jamey: “Familiar yet strange” is what we’re aiming for. Jakub is currently working on how each of the factions will represent that idea–he has a great imagination, and paired with his artistic skills, it’s a killer combo.

As for how we’ll make the specific characters, the closest comparison is jakub1Dead of Winter. You manage several characters, and they’re represented by cardboard standees on the board. The difference here is that you control a lot of characters, so the two key stats for each character will be on the cardboard standee, not just on their corresponding card. We’re going to have to find the right balance between too much information and too little. Some of your characters will likely go into “autopilot” mode–like, you’ll have a villager on a field, and every round he’ll produce 1 food automatically. He’ll still be unique in that you can activate him to do something special, but if you want to just focus on a few of your characters, it won’t be hard to do so.

Tom: I’ve played Dead of Winter. I can see what you’re going for. It sounds really interesting. Characters with special powers is almost always a good thing.

Jamey: Do you have any games in your collection where you control multiple characters? Sometimes games do it in subtle ways, like deckbuilding and handbuilding games where you have a lot of characters, but you only see 5 or so of them each turn to not overwhelm you with choices.

Tom: DC Deckbuilding does that a bit. Sentinels of the Multiverse is a decent example of a co-op that does that. There are a couple more I’m sure. Wargames could be in the list if you count individual units as ‘characters’. Guildhall does this to some extent.

Jamey, what games do you have or have played that do this?

Jamey: Dead of Winter comes to mind, as does Tuscany’s special worker expansion. Libertalia gives you different characters to work with, though you typically only play each character once. You essentially control different characters in any worker-placement game, though they’re usually indistinguishable from one another.

Tom: You are known as a Kickstarter guru. You’ve given and continue to give lots of good advice and experience about KS. What is the best advice you have received regarding Kickstarter?

Jamey: The best advice I’ve received is to not compare my projects to other projects. I remember when Viticulture was originally on Kickstarter, at it was slowly working towards its funding goal when a game called Mars Needs Mechanics launched. It jumped to $10,000 raised in just over a day, and I felt myself comparing my project to it. It made me minimize my own hard work, and I started finding reasons to pick at the Mars campaign as part of my jealousy. But then someone (I think it was an entrepreneurial blog I was reading at the time) reminded me that nothing good comes from comparing yourself or your business to others. You can learn from others, but comparing the two is never healthy or productive. I’ve taken that to heart ever since.

Tom: Excellent advice.

Jamey: What’s the best advice you’ve received about blogging?euphoria1

Tom: Find your niche. Mine is interviews particularly targeted to smaller publishers and designers. The other Tom (Vasel) will get the Bruno Cathalas and Martin Wallaces. I’ll do the Grant Rodieks, Danny Devines, and Phil Kilcreases. I want to shine a light on the lesser know guys. I do reviews also but am really slow because I want to play each game at least three times to get a true feel for it. That takes a lot of time. I have done some other content but interviews are what I enjoy the most. I’m hoping to jump to audio at some point. You are an avid blogger. Where do you get content? Where do you find time to actually write, edit, produce content? What advice would you give about blogging?

Jamey: “Find your niche.” That’s awesome. If I can add to that, I would say that finding the niche is a journey. Don’t try to find it before you start blogging. You can attempt to write about certain topics, but give the blog room to breathe and develop over time. If you pigeonhole yourself, you may find over time that you’re not really as excited about that topic as you thought you’d be, and you’ll end up not writing. I try to write about things I’m excited about, and that method has sustained my personal blog for over 8 years.

Tom: I started out Go Forth And Game on a suggestion from the Pulp Gamer guys. I used to write in comments to the podcast. Some of them were quite long so they said I should just start a blog to comment. It start out as that. A place for me to give feedback on podcasts. I stated to do reviews, ‘what I’m playing’, movie reviews, general geek stuff with a gaming bent. I found that I enjoyed talking to designers and finding out about new games and design things. So I totally agree with you on the evolving as you go idea.

Jamey: I think it’s great that you focus on some of the less-famous people out there (who will hopefully be very famous someday!). And that’s neat that you hope to add audio someday.

Tom: I am the voice for the unknown. I REALLY want to give the small guys (because I’m one of them) a place where they can talk about their games, design ideas, anything. And I keep saying ‘small guys’. By that I mean the publishers and designers that just haven’t hit it yet or only have one or two designs published. I want to focus on them. Not that I won’t have those who are successful and growing, like you, as guests too. By bring the part-time publisher, the hobby designer to the fore, I feel like I’m really contributing something to the community.

Jamey: For me, it’s not so much about finding time, it’s about getting in a rhythm and sticking with it. I write on my personal blog 5 nights a week, and on my Kickstarter blog 2 days a week (down from 3 days, which was getting to be too much since I was also writing a Kickstarter book). Getting in that rhythm has really helped me produce content consistently.

Well, that is Part 1. As I said this is a very long but really, really great interview. I don’t exactly know how I’m going to break this up, where the natural breaks are, but it is at least three parts. Jamey was very gracious, patient, and excited to talk to me again. He started asking me questions and it turned into a real conversation. I have to say – this is the best interview I’ve had. And I will model all subsequent ones after this.

Readers, there’s more of this fantastic interview with Jamey on the way. Join me in a few days for Part 2.