Hocus Focus… A Conversation With Grant Rodiek


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Hi everyone. I’m back. It has been a while. I apologize for that. It has been graduation time in my household – one daughter from UNC-CH and one from high school. So it has been very busy here. And no time to record. But that’s over now and I should be back on schedule in the next week or so.

This time out I have Grant Rodiek. Grant is the fantastic game designer of Hocus, Farmageddon, and Cry Havoc coming very soon from Portal Games. We talk about each of these games as well as Grant’s super website, Hyperbole Games. You can find out more about Hyperbole Games here. This is a fun and informative interview. I hope you like it. If so please leave a comment.

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With A Cherry On Top…A Conversation With Josh Mills


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This episode I’m talking to up-and-coming game designer Josh Mills. We talk about Josh’s game, Rocky Road A La Mode, coming soon from Green Couch Games. We also discuss being part of a game design group, Unpub, and some of Josh’s in-progress games. And we are joined by my son, Zachary. It’s a really fun show.

If you enjoyed the show, why not leave a comment or a tweet telling me so. You can contact me at goforthandgame@gmail.com and @goforthandgame or @tomgurg. Thanks!!

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Smokin’ – A Conversation With… Darrell Louder, the designer of Compounded & co-designer of Bottom of the 9th. Oh, and Chris Kirkman too.


This time I’m talking with game designer Darrell Louder, creator of Compounded and co-designer of Bottom of the Ninth. Darrell and I chat about those games, bbq, and a new game he is co-designing with only Richard Lanius. Yeah, Darrell’s pretty jazzed about that. Oh, and Chris Kirkman joins us too.

So head on over to ITunes and grab the episode and subscribe to the podcast while you are at it. Leave some review stars too if you don’t mind. Or listen right here. http://traffic.libsyn.com/goforthandgame/Darrell_Louder_2016.mp3

A Conversation With…AJ Porifirio of Van Ryder Games & Rob Couch About Saloon Tycoon


Box for date announcementThis episode I talk to AJ Porifirio and Rob Couch about their new game, Saloon Tycoon. AJ’s company, Van Ryder Games, is publishing through Kickstarter. The episode was recorded prior to the Kickstarter launch. In this show we talk about game design, Hostage Negotiator, and several other things. Saloon Tycoon has already funded so it will be produced. You should check it out here. And head over to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast.

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Thanks for reading and listening. Tell your friends!

A Conversation With…Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games


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This time Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games talks with me. We discuss Conspiracy!, Shoot Again’s newest game. There’s talk about Bigfoot, artifacts, men in black, and string. This was a really fun interview. The Conspiracy! campaign is fully funded but ends in three days so head over here to support it.

 

Please head over to iTunes and subscribe to Go Forth And Game Podcast.

Next up: Saloon Tycoon!

 

Down In Flames – A Conversation With…Dan Letzring About Dirigible Disaster


In this episode I talk to Letiman Games head honcho Dan Letzring. Dan and I discuss his previous game, Dino Dude Ranch (which is fun!) and delve into Dirigible Disaster, Letiman’s most recent. Dirigible Disaster is in its last couple of weeks on Kickstarter. It’s funded so it will be produced. Here over here to check it out.

A Conversation With … Michael Knight About VENOM Assault


My guest this time is Michael Knight, the co-designer of VENOM Assault. VENOM Assault is a co-op about a special ops team battling the evil, world-spanning organization VENOM. It’s a really fun interview with a pretty cool guy. VENOM Assault is currently on Kickstarter right here.  You’ll find the interview below or on iTunes.

Please consider subscribing to the podcast on iTunes and even leave a nice rating. I would appreciate that.

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.

Paperize


Well, it’s been a long time. Things have been quite busy lately. I have had this interview in the queue for a while. But life gets in the way. I have three more posts in the queue all from Jamey Stegmaier that I have had since April that I’m prepping for you. I thought I had posted them but hadn’t. It’s probably the best interview ever. In the meantime here is one with the creators of a super cool prototyping tool, Paperize.

Tom: Hi guys, tell us about yourselves.

Loren: I’m a serial entrepreneur and startup engineer who has bounced between startups, consulting gigs, and day jobs for about the past 15 years. A few years ago I had my “quarter-life crisis” and realized that chasing money wasn’t fulfilling in itself, and that I needed to actually follow the ideas I was passionate about. Oil & Rope is my attempt to slow down and care about something.

Clint: I’m a graphic and experience designer who’s been a “maker” all my life. I’m passionate about supporting myself doing work that I love and helping others do the same. In addition to games I enjoy chilling with my lady and our “weasels”, drinking craft beer and playing disc golf.

Tom: What’s your gamer cred?

Loren: You know that gamer friend who owns every. single. game. and somehow always wants to play, despite their spouse and children and day job? Yeah. That’s not me. I’m just a long-time video gamer (more strategic than twitch) who has always wished for more tabletop options.

Then, some time in the last 10 years, I actually looked into it and discovered this ongoing tabletop renaissance. My knowledge-worker background has me laser focused on the design of these games, and building processes around that.

Clint: I still remember the exact moment I saw my first Magic card when I was 12. I was instantly hooked. It’s still one of my favorite games even though I don’t play it near as much as I used to. Loren and I had been acquaintances since college but I found myself moving into his neighborhood a few years ago and we had both just caught the board gaming bug. It didn’t take long before we were nailing a projector to his ceiling to project our dynamically generated animated Mage Knight board. We were in deep.

Loren:  Cred? You’ll find that in our Game Design Workshops we put on, as well as in the playtest credits for Dead of Winter, Vault Wars, and (soon), Scythe.

Tom: All right. Paperize. What is it and where did the idea come from?

Loren: Paperize started life a couple of years ago as an internal, supporting tool for our first game, Flip the Script. We had a dozen collaborators working on cards for this game because it was born out of our Game Design Workshop process and it needed lots of content at the outset.

Google Sheets was a no-brainer for such collaboration, and once we had a spreadsheet full of content we needed a way to turn that into a PDF, fast and repeatedly. A weekend sprint churned out 50ish lines of code that did this for us, and we’ve been updating and maintaining it ever since. At some point, we slapped a web interface on it, and the rest is history!

Tom: I’ve started using Paperize for prototyping on Duck Blind. It is fantastic. I was using InDesign with data merge. That works great, if you can get everything done within the trial period or can afford Creative Cloud. But I can’t. So when Eugene (of Most Glorious Comrade fame. ) told us (GDoNC) about Paperize I was excited. It does basically the same thing and more. Is easier to use. And is specifically for prototyping cards. Awesome! It’s in beta right now. What are the plans for it?

Loren: That’s awesome, Tom! We love seeing all the prototypes being put into Paperize during the early adopter period. It’s so obvious already that people “get it”, so we’re encouraged to keep working on features and usability.

We are passionate about seeing more, better games on shelves and tabletops everywhere. This passion drives everything we do, from our games to our workshops and tools. We envision Paperize on that spectrum: a tool focused on achieving quality game designs through iteration that happens early, often, and with as much feedback as possible.

Right now, we are seeing people get hung up just trying to get started. So many new voices could enter our industry if there were fewer barriers to entry. So we’re looking at existing tools, taking the good and culling the bad, and bundling it up in a usable package that is drastically more approachable to people.

Some examples of ways that existing tools are failing new designers:

  • platform dependence (PC? Mac? How about web!)
  • usability (“just learn Photoshop/Illustrator” is no place to start!)
  • programming experience required (broad tools, narrow audience)
  • not focused on tabletop games, or rapid prototyping

So what do those tools do right? What is the irreducible feature set that helps game designers move fast, get a design to the table, iterate until it needs testing, then share far and wide?

Tom: You’ve been incredibly responsive to your beta testers, building out suggestions and answering questions. Even troubleshooting files for people that is fantastic. What are the next upgrades?

Loren: I’m glad you feel that way! I always feel like we haven’t done enough, and our work is never done, so it is nice to be appreciated at this early stage. We have to be careful because it is so fun and rewarding just to do “free labor” on other people’s games all day, but then we’d never ship anything!

Right now, we’ve just finished getting invites out to everyone who signed up for early access. This process has naturally generated a lot of maintenance work as we’re learning just where the bugs are. And it’s important to note that bugs don’t have to just be technical in nature: user experience is key as well! So we’ve been very reactive in the past month.

Some things we’re working on now are server upgrades for performance and stability, layout changes and instruction text to make it easier to understand, and R&D on some top secret stuff we want to launch this Fall that people really, really want.

Tom: I’m guessing you’re going to commercialize Paperize at some point. What’s the plan for that? Will it be less expensive than InDesign?

Loren: Ah, the million dollar question! Of course the answer is “we don’t know” or “it depends”, but we can talk about some of the possibilities here.

The first thing I ask people is “What is your time worth?” Next, we try to ballpark the time that Paperize could potentially save game designers. Is it 5 or 10 hours a week? A month? Or maybe 10 hour per iteration? If that’s true, and you’re going to work on games in a serious fashion, can you really afford not to do this?

That said, there is probably always some free feature set we’ll make available for people to use. Your print jobs get bumped by paying customers, you can’t access all of the art we make available for pro accounts, your cards have a watermark on them, etc, but you can get started designing nonetheless.

Things get more interesting as the higher-level features roll out. Playtester management, forums and wikis, store pages, versioning, Kickstarter support, TheGameCrafter.com support, etc. We don’t even know what these things necessarily mean as they are still just dreams, but there are probably reasonable ways to charge for these services that can lessen the monetary burden on the core Paperize product.

A lot of this is going to be driven by what makes sense to our users, too. Many have expressed understanding that our time has value, too! And servers. Servers cost money.

Tom: If I’m a designer, what can you do for me?

Clint: That’s a great question because it’s one we try to answer every day. Our goal isn’t “to make a tool that turns spreadsheets into cards”, it’s “make you a better game designer.”

That means creating tools specifically geared towards game designers. We got our start doing a game design workshop which we’ve continued to improve over the last year and a half. It’s focused collaborative brainstorming and paper prototyping, and people walk away with a prototype after just an hour. We’ve already had hundreds of professional and wannabe designers take the workshop, and the feedback has been fantastic!

Tom: How important has BGG been for you?

Clint: Honestly it hasn’t been. It’s a great resource for current game information but Reddit has been invaluable for us both in r/boardgames and r/tabletopgamedesign. I’m also a fan of BGDF.com but I just lurk there mostly.

Tom: Let’s switch gears and talk about Oil & Rope Games. First, where did that name come from?

Clint: A few years back we were in a Pathfinder campaign, it was the first time many of us had done any kind of roleplaying. Being rules lawyers we often got into lengthy discussions when we came to scenarios that we needed resources for. You’d hear comments like “Surely we picked up some rope after that last raid” or we’d ask the DM “How much lamp oil do we have?” This became an ongoing joke, especially after a battle where we used those items to defeat a mini-boss.

It just so happened that O&R started focusing more on tools than our own game designs, so that really cemented that it was a perfect name for us. We sometimes joke that we’re “selling picks and shovels to gold miners.”

Tom: I’m guessing you have games in the works. Talk about them.

Clint: Our first game is called “Flip The Script”, it’s a storytelling party game in the grimy world of Hollywood, CA. Each round, one player is the writer trying to sell a script and the rest are producers trying to interject their own ideas. The fun comes from pandering to the producers to get paid as well as from the player aid which makes anyone into an amazing screenwriter.

Our second game is tentatively called “Crossing The Sahara.” Watership Down is my favorite book and it borrows from that source material, but it’s about fennec foxes in the Sahara. Mechanically it plays like a mix of Star Realms and Mage Knight, but after reading Keith Burgun’s excellent “Clockwork Game Design” I’m considering changing the core mechanics. That book really spoke to me.

Tom: Anything else you would like to talk about?

Clint: Please check out http://paperize.io and tell us what you think! You can tweet at us @oilandrope or email us directly at contact@oilandrope.com, and read our game design blog on http://oilandrope.com .

Tom: Thank you both for being my guests on Go Forth And Game.

Readers, please visit Paperize and Oil & Rope Games. Paperize is a fantastic prototyping tool and the guys are always open for discussion.

Stay tuned. There are big things in store.

 

 

 

 

A Most Glorious Interview – A Conversation With…Eugene Shenderov About Comrades and Patriots


I’m joined by fellow Game Designers of North Carolina member Eugene Shenderov. Eugene is the driving force behind This And That Games. They have two new games on Kickstarter right now – Most Glorious Comrade and Most Incorruptible Patriot. We talk about each and some other interesting things. I hope you enjoy.

Tom: First, let’s talk about This And That Games?ThisThatGames-1

Eugene: This and That Games is a new tabletop publishing company. We like to make games that teach through fun gameplay, and hopefully get people to explore the games’ subject matter more.

Tom: Now let’s talk about Most Glorious Comrade and Most Incorruptible Patriot. Give us the elevator pitch for the games.

Eugene: MGC and MIP are two games of Cold War satire. Each player is a leader from the Cold War- Lenin, Nixon- with a special leader power. Everyone is trying to get to 10 million Voters or Proletariat, based on your leader. The games are also playable together.

Tom: Why did you choose this theme?

Eugene: I’m Russian, and I had an idea for making a game where players are using Proletariat as both points and currency. The leader powers and actions came naturally comrades1through game development; it adds more interesting choice and variability to the game.

Tom: The game plays up to 12 players. Why did you choose to go so high on the player count?

Eugene: We came up with 6 leaders for each side of the Cold War; total, it goes up to 12 players. The game is simple enough and turns fast enough for this to work, though of course the game will be closer to 30-45 minutes with that many players.

Tom: I’ve played Comrade. I liked it. It was easy to learn and quick to play. How did you balance the powers on the character cards?

Eugene: Glad you enjoyed it! We playtested the powers with a few different playtest groups and saw what worked and what didn’t. Some abilities seem strong at first glance, but because of the gameplay and the take that cards, it balances out nicely.

Tom: Who is the artist?

Eugene: The artist is Charlie Wilcher. He is great! He graduated a year after I did from UNC Chapel Hill. We work closely on all of our titles to make sure gameplay and graphics work well together.

Tom: Charlie is the second part of This And That Games correct?

Tom: I know you have several other games in the queue. Talk a bit about each if you don’t mind.

Eugene: So our closer to release titles are Sea Turtle Scurry (working title) and Space Race: To The Moon. In Sea Turtle Scurry, you are baby turtles crawling towards the ocean. You draw two cards every turn, and then use one as an action or multiple cards to scurry; if you scurry, you get to place a tile. One of the last 5 tiles is the ocean, which is the goal!

In Space Race, each player has a rocket with variable player powers. Players are NASA. Russia, China, and SpaceR. The first half of the game is bidding for parts which go on your rockets, and the second half is moving along a track to the moon and encountering events and sabotages to gain you points or take points from your opponents.

We also have more titles we are working on, but they are still very much in early development!

Tom: I’ve played the Turtles prototype and I think it has a lot of potential. It was fun and had some interesting mechanics. Good theme too. Space Race sounds neat. I look forward to playing it.

Put on your publisher hat. We’ve talked a bit at our Game Designers of Carolina meetings about your publishing strategy. Would you mind talking about that some?

Eugene:  We started with a Print on Demand service to raise awareness of our games and our company. We are now working on Kickstarting small print runs of our games and expanding our brand name! We like games that make people think more about the thematic elements of the game, and hopefully interest people in history and science!comrades2

Tom: Now for some general gamer questions. What do you look for in a game?

Eugene: I like games to have meaningful choices, and to teach me something I didn’t know, or a new way to think about problems.

Tom: What are some of your favorite games?

Eugene: Innovation, Race for the Galaxy, Sheriff of Nottingham… there are many more, but those three come to mind first!

Tom: Now for some general designer questions. What is the least fun part of designing a game?

Eugene: The rulebook, unfortunately. It needs to tell players how to play your game, so it must be done well, but it is not so fun to take a rules set you have in your head and put it on paper in a way that players will understand it easily. It can be done, and we do it, but it is not very fun for me.

Tom: What is the best piece of feedback you’ve received from a playtester on Battlecruisers?

Eugene: I assume this was meant to be about Comrades and Patriots? The best piece of feedback was one playtester who said that Mao Zedong’s ability was the gold standard for what leader abilities were in the game in terms of power level. It was a good point that one ability can be used as a measure for the strength of the other leader abilities; it’s a useful trick for deciding how to power different cards in a game. Set a baseline, and work from there!

Tom: What makes designing games so fun?

Eugene: You are creating an entirely new entity. You may be using some rules and mechanics used in previous games, as much of design is iterative, but each game offers a unique play experience. And as designers, we craft many experiences! It is also gratifying that there are many people out there, playing and enjoying something I made 🙂

Tom: I like the creative aspect also. Are you a ‘pare down’ or ‘add to’ designer?

Eugene: Pare down. I tend to have a lot of stuff in my original designs, and some of it needs to be cut down to simplify the game. If people want more of that game, then expansions can add more complexity!

Tom: What designers do you admire?comrades5

Eugene: Gary Gygax, Richard Garfield, Carl Chudik. Designers who are well known, and are great at crafting unique new experiences.

Tom: Interesting how Gygax has been mentioned twice in the last interviews. I suspect his influence is very widespread. Are you an rpg player too? How do you decide when a game is done?

Eugene: A game is never done; you stop iterating at some point. The closest to a game being ‘done’ is when it works well, and when you make a change it breaks the game. That’s when you know that the balance is probably fine tuned, and it is time to let your baby into the wild.

Tom: Do you have a favorite mechanic? Least favorite?

Eugene: I really enjoy variable player powers, as is probably obvious from my own designs. I think it can make interesting choices more likely to flourish, and gives players, especially new players, some guidance on what they can work towards. My least favorite is player elimination. Some games can do it well (usually short ones), but I don’t like games to have some players have to stop playing before others. Breaks the magic circle a bit.

Tom: What are some things that you have learned about playtesting?

Eugene: Listen to your playtesters! They may not always know the reason something doesn’t work, but they can definitely tell you it ain’t workin’.

Tom: What games have you admired or researched in order to understand game design better?

Eugene: It has been a heuristic approach for me, honestly. Games I admire- Settlers, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic- help me see what makes a game better, and games I dislike help me see what to avoid in my designs.

Tom: What has been the hardest lesson for you to learn as a game designer?

Eugene: My games will never work/be perfect the first time around. They will be profoundly broken or a little broken; the first couple playtests help show if there is a good game in the concept or not.

Tom: Favorite cartoon?

Eugene: A Russian one called Nu Pogodi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nu,_pogodi! It’s like Tom and Jerry, except Russian, made earlier (I think, maybe same time period?) and had great music.

Tom: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Eugene: A few; “Do or do not; there is no try.” Yoda “Imagination is more important than knowledge” Einstein and “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics” (Mark Twain, and I love a lot of what he writes). That last one is great as I got a BS in Psychology, which involved a lot of stats. So I know when and how often they are misused.

Tom: Excellent quotes! What is something we would not know about you but you don’t mind telling us?

Eugene: As can be gathered from this interview, I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and am bilingual from birth; Russian and English.

Tom: Once again, how do we communicate with you?

Eugene: You can find me on facebook, and my email is eugeneshenderov@gmail.com. Always happy to talk game design and publishing!

Tom: Do you have anything else to say?

Eugene: Good questions! Interesting interview format. I enjoyed it quite a bit! Our website, by the way, is www.thisandthatgames.com, and we have a currently active Kickstarter campaign that could use some love. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thisandthatgames/comrades-and-patriots Thanks for the interview! It’s been fun.

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