Chilling And Grilling – A Conversation With…Darrell Louder, Unpub’s Main Man

I’m joined by Darrell Louder. Darrell is the director of The Unpub Network, a published game designer, and a big wig at Panda Manufacturing.

Hi Darrell. It’s great to have you back as my guest on Go Forth And Game.

Great to be back. Have to say, missed you at our previous Unpub. You are becoming more and more of a ghost for gaming conventions. Get your priorities in line! 🙂

Man, I so wanted to go to Unpub 7. I’m going to try really hard to make 8 but I can’t promise. What’s new with you?

Well I’m writing this laid up after having a badly torn miniscus repaired. So this interview will be brought to you by Oxycodone. So when it gets published I’ll get to read it all for the first time. Ha.

Seriously, new with me is a loaded question now adays. I got a promotion with my job at Panda Game Manufacturing, I’m now the Marketing Manager of the company. Been busy working on our upcoming presences at GenCon and Essen (which i’ll finally be going to this year). I have 3 new titles coming out in August, Fate of the Elder Gods, Fate of the Elder Gods: Beasts from Beyond, and Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse Expansion. On top of all of that, i’m working on a brand new web series that Chris Kirkman/Dice Hate Me is producing entitled Meat the Meeples. It’ll be a cooking/board game show of sorts. Teaching you how to grill/smoke/cook and interviewing a guest from the game community and chat while playing a game of their choice. Not a review show- more of an interview and food show. Trying to bring something new to the table (pun intended). Lastly, working on Unpub 8 of course.

Congrats on the promotion! That’s pretty cool. Get well swiftly! I saw your pics of the incision. It’s not gross as some people said. Meat The Meeples is a fantastic idea! I will watch that. And cook something too!

I want to focus on UnPub for most of the interview but let’s talk about your games first. You’re a designer of several games. Remind us of them.

Sure thing! My games that are out (or to be released in August) are, in order: Compounded, Compounded: Geiger Expansion, Bottom of the 9th, Bottom of the 9th: Big League Support, Bottom of the 9th: Sentinels of the 9th, Fate of the Elder Gods, Fate of the Elder Gods: Beasts from Beyond, and Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse Expansion

Bottom of the Ninth is a pretty well respected 2 player game. Any more work in the ballpark coming? 7th inning stretch?

I think after Clubhouse comes out, Mike and I are going to take a break for a bit from the ballpark. Clubhouse brings out SO many new players and new combos with the equipment cards that I may take players awhile to play through them all. So we want to let them absorb all of that before we release more. The ideas are aplenty, believe me, but there are other irons in the fire we want to focus on for a bit first.

Fate of the Elder Gods is kind of a dream come true for you because you got to design with Richard Lanius. What was that like? Is he the Cthulhu encyclopedia he is touted to be?

Working with Richard is like working with a best friend who happens to be Einstein. He was amazing to work with, and we are eager to work together again. He brought so many good ideas to the table, but was also incredibly open to ideas from myself- and Kirkman of course. Richard is the perfect gentlemen and one of the rare instances of meeting a role model to be a good/positive thing. I can truly say that Fate’s game design is all equal parts Richard, Chris, and I.

That is awesome. I can’t imagine what it is like to work with a role model. And on something that he loves as much as you. What’s up with Compounded?

Well, I am finally working on a solid dice version of Compounded, entitled Compounded: Lab Notes. It’s a roll-n-write, but with a touch of a different take on it. I have had many versions out there blind playtesting (thanks everyone) and I’m getting close to having a ‘final’ build to send to Kirkman for his play and take. I will have this on me at GenCon- if you (or anyone) wants to meet up to play. 🙂

Better Chemistry Through Gaming!

I played one of those versions. It was pretty fun. I’m sorry if I didn’t get back to you on that. We enjoyed it is what I remember for now. What is the hardest part of designing a game for you?

Keeping it enjoyable. I only work/design games that I want to play. If I get bored play testing a game (or if it’s feeling forced) I shelve it. I never want to be a designer that sells half-assed games, or games partially finished to rely on the publisher to complete. That’s just not my style. I want to continue to make games that I enjoy playing, completely. Games I can always be proud of.

That is a great answer. An admirable stance. When do you know a game is done?

When it goes to the printer. Ha. Seriously, I work games and over work them at times (much to Kirkman’s chagrin). Typically, it reaches a point where everything just feels right and fluid.

Do you have a regular group that you playtest with?

Yes, the group is consistently my wife, and then friends that are random (depending who is around). My wife is the best sound board as she hasn’t led me wrong yet. Also we have a game rule in the house, that I can’t buy a board game unless it plays 2 players, so to ensure all my games are 2-player friendly is important to me.

What game is inside you trying to get out?

Right now, a game shelved a bit ago by T.C. Petty III and myself, Pirates of the Carbon Copy. Sailing the seas with pirate accountants. I have been slowly opening up the files and pouring over things a bit. I MIGHT have this on hand at GenCon- we shall see.

Yep. I’d Kickstart that. Let me know if you drag it back out. What game got out but should have stayed in?

I had a game idea I called ‘The Die’ that was a small pocket game that revolved around manipulated a shared D6. That game/prototype was burned, and I danced around that fire with glee. It was an idea, I tried it, it flopped. It may return far, far, far down the road- but i woudn’t count on it.

I just did that too with Get Out! – was going to be my GenCant entry but it kinda stunk. Are you actively working on any new games?

Well Pirates and Lab Notes, as mentioned above, but I’m also working on a new expansion for Fate of the Elder Gods (yes before the game is released). It’s REALLY rough right now, so I don’t want to go into details as a lot may change on that. I also have a dice game called DieScrapers (working title) about building skyscrapers with dice and contract cards. Shared points and building phases, etc. I’ll have this on me at GenCon as well. Excited for this one as it plays quickly and i enjoy it. It’s co-designed by my wife Lesley. So it’s been a lot of fun working on this with her.

DieScrapers sounds Cool. Fate of the Younger Gods?

Ok, let’s talk UnPub. For those who have been living in a cave, please let everyone know what it is.

Something everyone should know about, no explanation needed. Next question. Ok, fine. Unpub (short for The Unpublished Games Network) is a non-profit (501c3) organization that is dedicated to helping designers get their games playtested and reach publication. We hold many events around the world (yup, global) from game stores, to existing conventions, to our very own annual conventions.

What is your role?

I am the Director of Unpub.

Who are the other responsible parties?

We just had ‘elections’ for the board and our new roster is:

Darrell Louder, Director

Brad Smoley, Assistant Director

Christin Miller, Treasurer

Sarah Stanziano, Secretary

John Moller, Consigliare

We also have a committee which is:

Lesley Louder, Event Coordinator

TC Petty, Marketing/Sponsorships

Greg Miller, IT

Ben Begeal, Unpub Mini Mayor

How many games have been published as a result of an UnPub?

Oh man, this is a solid number we are working to get. It’s easily over 50 in the 7 years we have been running it. May even be close to 100. We are really proud of our Alumni and want to showcase them more.

John Moller started UnPub in 2010. It was really small then. What was the attendance this year?

When John started Unpub back in 2010 the attendance was about 24 people, that includes the designers. At Unpub 7 it was 1,800. So we have grown up a bit. 🙂

How many designers did you have?

We had 88 tables, and 120 designers in attendance last year at Unpub 7.

I’ve never heard any bad words from any designer about an UnPub. That is a real accomplishment.

Thank you. We send our surveys to all our designers at the end of every convention. We stress that Unpub is a prototype itself and we want feedback to help evolve it to make it better year after year.

You moved in 2015 to the Baltimore Convention Center. And you just announced Unpub 8 in a new venue. Talk about the move and what advantages has that move offered?

Well the move was first a cost thing. To be honest, convention centers nickel and dime EVERYTHING. We would get bills a year later out of the blue for this/that which they “forgot to charge us”. Plus, they have many other events going on the same time (most of which brings them far more money than us) so communication was lacking until the 11th hour. With that said, once we were there our contact(s) were amazing and incredibly helpful.

The move to the Hunt Valley Inn location just makes everything easier on Unpub from a logistics point of view as well as for the attendees. We know the costs for EVERYTHING up front, no surprises later.

Unpub 8 VIP Matt Leacock!

The fact we have the whole hotel for Unpub 8 means we get the attention and focus we have been looking for. This also means attendees can play games 24 hours a day, as we won’t have to close any halls. Add that with free parking, 40+ restaurants across the street, all the rooms above the gaming hall. It’s just a 1 stop package and it was perfect.

It has grown so much that there will be THREE big UnPub events in 2018 correct?

3?? No. We are running 2 this year, to see how it goes. We have Unpun Midwest in November 3-5 in Grand Rapids, MI. Everyone has been asking when we are doing Unpub West or Unpub South, and it’s a long process to do that. Marc Spector approached us with an idea and a way to try out Unpub Midwest, so we are on that. We’ll see.

I guess I’m being hopeful with the “three” cause I’d love an Unpub South here in Durham. Or maybe Asheville or Greenville, SC. Or a special TomPub? Would you come to that?

It’s funny you mentions Durham cause when we were looking to move from Delaware initially we scouted the Raleigh/Durham area. In the end we wanted to keep it close to HQ (Delaware) so Baltimore came to the aid. I’m down for doing something down south, we all are. It’s just time and funds.

Talk about UnPub Minis. How do they work? How easy are they to run?

Unpub Minis are where designers can submit to run their own little Unpub event inside a public location. Typically these have been in their local game stores, but we have also had them in universities, libraries, etc. They are 100% to run/attend, and it’s just bringing designers/playtesters together to play prototypes. It really is a mini version of the ‘big show’. They are very easy to run and to sign-up for. All through our website. 🙂

UnPub runs Proto Alley at many other cons too. How do you handle that?

Conventions will reach out to us to run a proto alley within their convention. Like minis these are free to attend, BUT you MUST have a badge for the convention to do so. These run very similarly to the minis, but with a massive built in attendence.

When do UnPub Prime 8 tickets go on sale, in August correct? Can I get a press pass? How many designers can you accommodate this time?

Tickets for Unpub 8 go on sale 8/8 at 8pm EST. We will be making press passes available this year- that is IF you actually show up this time. 🙂

We will have 80 designer tables this year, and are selling them as all TAG tables. This means designers who only purchase 1 of the 2 blocks will have their tables for 4 hours each day. Designers are allowed to purchase both blocks giving them a full-time table. So at max we could have 160 designers, at minimum 80.

What’s the latest grilling masterpiece?

As i touched on a bit above, I am working on a web series that encompasses both hobbies of grilling/smoking and board games. I’ll be showing off my techniques as well as helping others learn to grill/smoke. I’m really really excited for Meat the Meeples and you can look for the first episode to drop in August.

Meat The Meeples prep!

BTW, I’m still noodling with the BBQ Battle idea we had when I interviewed you before. I’ll keep you posted.

What is something interesting about you that most of us would not know?

So much. I would say i’m a huge fan of smoked meats, but that isn’t really a secret. Let me ask my wife, one moment…

Ok she said “you’re a thespian”. So there. In high school (and college) I was the drama/stage guy. My degree is in theater. I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland in High School to perform as Henry David Thoreau in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. I have also written shows that have been performed at area theaters/schools. So I’m a nerd for musicals, movies, and stage productions.

I discovered theater my senior year in high school. I was the Stage Manager in a production of Our Town and served as stage manager for Guys and Dolls and The Music Man. Guys and Dolls is such a fun show. Man, good memories. And I am a wantabe puppeteer.  I used to do puppets in church. THAT was interesting in a very small Southern Baptist church.

I played Harry the Horse in Guys & Dolls. Fond memories of that show indeed.

Anything else you would like to say?

Just for everyone to check out my Meat the Meeples show once it hits. It’s something my whole family has been excited for and working on. We are set building and everything. So I would love to share my love of games and grub with everyone. 🙂

You can also reach out to me on twitter:

@getlouder as well as @meatmeeples

Thanks for being my guest Darrell. It’s good to talk to you even if it is not in person. I hope you get to see me soon.

Readers, thank you for joining me again. As always you can reach me by email at or on Twitter @tomgurg. I’d love to hear from you.




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