Stealing Home with Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder… A Conversation About Bottom of the 9th


With baseball season cranking up I thought it would be cool to re-post my interview with Mike & Darrell about their awesome baseball game, Bottom Of The Ninth.

Enjoy.

 

This inning I’m joined by Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder, co-designers of the home run Bottom Of The Ninth.  We talk about the game, Unpub news, and what’s coming up for them both. Batter up!

bot9aTom: Let’s just dive right in. Bottom of the 9th. There’s an origin story there. Tell it.

Darrell: It all started with the KickStarter booth at PAX East 2014. They were giving away D6s that had a KickStarter K in place of the 6. I snagged 2 of them. Rolling them around throughout the day, I kept trying to think of a small game that could be played with them- being the Ks were on them the first thing I thought of was baseball (K means Strike out, 3 strikes, in Baseball). Mike Mullins was up at PAX with me, we were running the Unpub booth, and I told him of the idea I had- he and I then built the game and together we have made it evolve into what it is now. It really is a co-designed title and I’m damn proud of the work we put into it.

Tom: Talk about the game play some.

Mike: The gameplay is broken down into four phases, each designed to replicate some facet of the pitcher/batter duel. First is the Staredown, in which the batter tries to figure out where the pitcher is going to pitch in order to obtain bonus abilities. This is more than simply guessing high/low and inside/outside, because the batter is aware of the pitcher’s most powerful pitch, and the pitcher has to manage the fatigue track. Next, the pitcher rolls the dice to throw a pitch, using any abilities available to reroll or modify the result. The batter then does the same to try and either hit a ball in the strike zone, or lay off a bad pitch. Finally, if the batter does manage to make contact, there is a real-time Run phase, where both players roll a bot9fsingle die repeatedly to try and get a 5 or 6, either throwing the batter out or reaching base safely.

Tom: The Kickstarter was a smashing success. That is fantastic. What’s next for it?

Darrell: Well the KickStarter paved the way for the base game and the first 2 expansions. So now Mike and I will be diving back into Bottom of the 9th here shortly, to finish up a few more expansions we have in mind.

Tom: Tell me about your artist.

Mike: Darrell and I tell anyone who will listen that we thought of Adam the minute we realized we had a real game on our hands, and never considered another artist. I first noticed his work on Council of Verona, and he’s only improved from there, showing off an ability to capture different aesthetics that truly enhance the game. On top of that, the Coin Age KS video is my favorite one of all time – how could anyone not want to work with that guy?

Tom: Adam is the Scott Almes of game artists I think. He’s everywhere now. Which is fantastic cause he is so good.  Darrell, you are you still an employee of DHMG? With the merger, how has your role changed?

Darrell: Actually, I am an employee of Panda Game Manufacturing, I am their pre-press analyst. With DHMG I am doing some freelance work. Mainly helping with graphic design as well as DHMG inventory and product support. My main day-to-day job though is with Panda, looking over the design of great games to approve them for the factory to print. I love it.

Tom: You’re living the dream, man. Any cool games you’ve seen that you can talk about?bot9g

Darrell: I just completed prepress work for a game called New Salem (Overworld Games), I haven’t played it but the artwork and design are very well done, which of course makes me want to play it.

Tom: Mike, what’s your ‘day job’?

Mike: I’m a stay at home dad of two great kiddos. AJ is 7, and Hannah is 4. You can see both of them in Bottom of the 9th!

Tom: That is awesome and a difficult job but so important. Thanks for doing that. And you have fantastic gaming buddies built-in. Sweet!  Darrell, Update us on Compounded. What’s going on with the Geiger expansion? Anything else in the works?

Darrell: Geiger is at the printers still, and progressing VERY nicely. We expect it to be boarded on a boat very soon (if not already, depending on when this article is released). We expect it to be back in stores late summer. As for what is in the works, there are some BIG things in store for the future of Compounded… REALLY BIG. Some I can’t talk about yet, others (expansions, dice game) I can tease. Just like I did. 🙂

Tom: Ooo, I’m very intrigued. No chance of a leak?

Mike: Darrell won’t even tell me about this, so good luck getting anything out of him.

Tom: Do either you have any designs in the works?

Mike: I’m stepping back from design to man the development desk for a while. I have a few games from friends in the industry to work on.

Tom: That’s very cool. Let’s talk about Unpub a bit. Unpub 5 had a new, larger venue in a new city. That change seems to have helped as 5 was HUGE! (relatively speaking). Something like 92 designers and over 1000 playtesters. As THE Unpub guy Darrell, that must make you feel pretty good?unpub

Darrell: Unpub 5 was amazing- the bar keeps being raised by all of those that attend. Unpub 6 is already getting prepped and we are continously trying to find new ways to pull in the public and ensure everyone has a good time.

Tom: You had a good Unpub team too. Give them some press.

Darrell: Oh man, where to begin. Everyone helped make Unpub 5 what it was, from the designers, to the play testers, to the people who blew off their scheduled meetings/conventions to come take part in ours. Our staff was, again, the best so far!

Tom: Mike, what did you take to Unpub? How were your playtests?

Mike: I was staff at Unpub; my main job was to try to insulate Darrell from the limitless requests he got during the day (it didn’t work!). I did manage to get several tests of Bottom of the 9th in during Unpub After Dark.

Tom: Bravo to you sir! It’s been announced that Unpub 6 will be in Baltimore in April of 2016. I’m REALLY happy with the date change. But  why the date change?

Darrell: In one word, snow. The East coast always seems to be hammered by snow between January and early March, we wanted a move to avoid that. We wanted people to be able to walk from the convention center to their hotels and not be worried about frost bite. 🙂

Tom: I for one am very happy about that. Plus it will help avoid those pesky airline / weather issues. And people will be able to enjoy Baltimore more. Good decision.  You’re expanding the space too. That is awesome. I’m planning on attending, at least as a VIP playtester if not as a designer. What can I expect?

Darrell: One BIG happy family. Last year, due to the growth and demand from KickStarter we grew and had 2 separate rooms (total of ~8,000 sq. ft.). For Unpub 6 we now have 1 massive room (~13,000 sq. ft.) and we intend to have everyone together. We are closer to entrance (right in front) with Starbucks by the entrance. Just a BIG location upgrade- within the same confines of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Tom: That sounds fantastic. Having everything together is going to be great. You have Rob Daviau and Eric Lang as special guests. Sweet. Any other plans in the works?

Darrell: Yup! 🙂

Tom: Care to elaborate? Just a bit? Give me my first exclusive.

Darrell: One change is that we will have a separate space for panels on designer day, as well a separate gaming. So if you want to game, the panels won’t be distracting for you, and visa versa. We are also looking into having panels on Sunday of Unpub 6 for the public.

Tom: I’m really glad to hear both of these additions. The panels for the public is a stroke of genius. Must have been T.C.’s idea. HA!  What are some of your favorite games?

Mike:  So many! Some favorites to hit the table recently are Arkham Horror, Mage Knight (sprawling solo/co-ops), Lagoon (depth of decisions), Friday, and Biblios (lighter fare).bot9b

Darrell: Puerto Rico, Stone Age, Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, pretty much any puzzle and dexterity game. 🙂

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

Mike:  “What differentiates this from rolling dice and seeing who gets luckier?” – Jordan Martin, re: alpha Bottom of the 9th. He meant it quite literally about our hours-old game concept, but it serves as an important reminder to make sure the decisions players make in your game aren’t merely the trappings of a quality game.

Darrell: We showed the game to Richard Launius, and he liked it, but mentioned that the pitcher needs some restraint- otherwise it could be Ace pitches all the time. We agreed and Mike and I came up with the best inclusion to the game (in my opinion), the Fatigue Track.

Tom: What makes designing games so fun?

Mike: For me, it’s more than the act of creating something; I love the mental exercise. I have notebooks filled with design ideas, and sometimes I’ll pick one up and tinker with an existing idea. Other times something will occur to me and I’ll flip to a clean page and start sketching out an entirely new concept. Either way, “going into the tank” (as I’ve come to call it) is always satisfying, regardless of the design outcome.

Darrell: Playtesting. I love to play and see the reactions of players; good or bad, happy or sad- it’s the best and, arguably, one of the most important things to study when getting feedback.

Tom: Are you a ‘pare down’ or ‘add to’ designer?

Mike:  Luke Peterschmidt (Castle Dice, Epic PvP) described himself as the designer equivalent of a blacksmith. He takes a concept and bangs away at it via playtesting until it starts to take shape. I’m almost the complete opposite. I’ll turn something over and over in my head until I think I have it figured out before making even the most basic prototype. As a result, I’m probably in the “add to” camp. Incidentally, our different design methods is one of the reasons it has been so fun to work with Luke.

Darrell: Add to. TC gets on me for this- big time. I’ll add and add and then spend time to make my prototypes look pretty. Only to cut and cut and have to redo all the work. One day I’ll learn. One day.

Tom: What designers do you admire?

Mike:  Luke, for one. His experience in the industry is incredible, and yet he remains a humble and and gregarious guy who started Fun to 11  to making games he thinks are fun. I also love what Jason Tagmire does. He’s incredibly prolific, relishes taking chances in his designs, and as a result has created some truly unique games. FInally, I love Ignacy Trzewiczek’s vision of “Board Games That Tell Stories,” and the way it’s realized in his games. Voyage of the Beagle is way up there on my “jealous it wasn’t me” list.

Darrell: Richard Launius. The man is, literally, the nicest man on the planet. There is no ‘air’ about him, he is in this as he loves to play games. He’s super approachable and will never turn down a game invitation. His ideas are brilliant- he’s not the ‘King of Dice’ for nothing.bot9j

Tom: What was the most challenging part of designing?

Mike:  Knowing when to let something be. Maybe it’s because I started as a playtester, and graduated to a “developer,” but I constantly try to improve what’s in front of me. What’s important to realize is that at some point, changes you make might just be that, changes. You can absolutely be doing things that make a game different, not necessarily better or worse. At that point, it’s important to focus on your original goal and make the game you set out to make.

Darrell: What Mike said, that and admitting when Mike is right about something. Hurts so much. 🙂

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

Mike:  There are so many amazing articles about playtesting, I don’t know how much I could contribute! One thing I can absolutely say is that no matter how thorough and sure of your methodology you are, a fresh set of eyes is always welcome. Sometimes a new player will simply validate you, but other times you’ll be challenged.

Darrell: Time is hard to find- but thankfully making a game that we can play test in a cup holder of a car, on Skype, or over the phone has made Bottom of the 9th so much faster/easier to playtest than my previous designs.

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

Mike:  I can’t point to particular games that I’ve researched. It’s through Unpub and seeking out designers playing each others’ games at conventions that I’ve been able to learn as much as I have.bot9g

Darrell: I’d say every designer/game that has been through the Unpub program. I may be too busy to participate with a design now, but i still try and take the time to walk around and see all the new ideas and faces every event Unpub has. I admire the play testers and designers for being brave and embracing their creativity.

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

Mike:  That I’m wrong once in a great while (I wish I was kidding!).  Arrogance can be a major problem for designers. It’s crucial to know when to stick to your guns and when to admit another idea outstrips yours.

Darrell: Can’t please everyone. You may really like your game, others may like you game, but you will ALWAYS have that play test where it feels like you’ve kicked everyone in the gut and stole their candy. Those are the most informative- but most painful truths to play testing/designing new games. That and the Game Designer’s Fight Clu- ummm, nevermind.

Tom: What is the least fun part of designing a game?

Mike: I love to analyze games with math, often to a point that’s more personal exploration than game development. For example, I researched stochastic matrices and Markov chains while testing Monster Truck Mayhem just to see if I should drive over the car crush or the mud pit. If it’s not obvious, that was MAJOR overkill. However, as much as I love the analytical aspect, the initial valuations seem so arbitrary to me, and as a result that stage of building a game is my least favorite (and the design aspect I struggle with the most).

Darrell: Overhauls. It’s rough when you need to cut and redo, then cut and redo. You have played the game more than anyone- and you know you need to ‘trim the fat’, but it’s still part of your work/time that is being left on the floor. It sucks- but you have to constantly remind yourself that the game will be all the better for it.

Tom: So Mike, with Monster Truck, it sounds like you are doing some of the development of it. True or just helping out?

Darrell: Just a bit. I played it at Unpub 4, along with a few other Ridback games. They’ve since sent me protos for a bunch of different games; I love working with those guys. For MTM I had some ideas for new obstacles, and wanted to test out a few of the things I saw as possible “broken” aspects. Specifically, I thought that some obstacles should statistically always be chosen over others. While it is true, the margins aren’t all that significant. When faced with a dice roll result that could carry you into either obstacle at a fork, the stress of a real-time decision-making pretty much obviates the math.

Tom: Anything else y’all want to talk about?

Darrell: Unpub 6, April 2016! Also, that Compounded: Geiger Expansion should be in stores late Summer 2015. Lastly, for those attending GenCon this year, we will be having the first annual Bottom of the 9th World Series with some pretty slick prizes! So you’ll want to look for that when GenCon event sign-up becomes available.

Tom: How can people contact you?

Mike:  I’m easiest to reach on Twitter @bluedevilduke

Darrell: And you can find me on Twitter as @getlouder and @theunpub

Tom: Final words?

Mike:  Thank you so much for the opportunity to have a chat with you and promote Bottom of the 9th. Oh, and Go Sox!

Darrell: Sorry for being a schmuck about finishing this, but thank you for your willingness and patience to do this.

No, Darrell. You are not a schmuck. Thank you both for hanging out with me and talking about games with me. It was a lot of fun. I hope to get to see you both soon.

Readers, please look for Bottom of the 9th later this year in your Friendly Local Game Store or at the Dice Hate Me Games web store. And please leave a comment below or tweet about this article.bot9c

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


Joshua Mills

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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Pack O’ Fun – A Review of Pack O’ Games 2


I’ve discussed these games during my interview with Chris Handy recently but I wanted to give my brief inpressions of each game. I’m not going to get into how to play each game. You can find the rules for each here.

So to start off:

RUM – RUM is a set collection game at its heart with some interesting additional mechanics.  This is an easy to learn game. It has some thinkiness in trying to figure out what colors of bottles to collect vs. your opponents. This leads to a bit of strategy of playing off other players. It has decent player interaction in stealing of scoring cards. This mechanic is fun and leads to some “Oh MAN!” moments. The pirate theme is nice. I like the ‘trio’ rule because it is helpful as a catch-up mechanic or a ‘surprise’ point makers The game plays fast, has some decisions, and is my family’s third favorite of the set.

GYM – GYM has the best theme of the set in my opinion. It’s an area control game with more. The game mimics the theme very well. It has some actually good decisions with the event actions.  The coaches are an under-used/underappreciated mechanic that can make a big difference in the game. The bully mechanic is neat and a key to understand. GYM’s scoring is interesting in that you score the difference between your’s and your opponent’s score on each spot. The movement / advancement of the events is a nice mechanic for helping your own cause that is essential to get a handle on to do well. GYM has nice art. This game probably the most gamer-y of the set. This was second favorite of the 4 for my family and my personal favorite.

ORC– ORC is another nice area control / battle game. It is quick to play but deceptively strategic. In fact I believe it will take several plays to grasp all this game is. The main ‘issue’, if you want to call it that, is that you have to remember to save one or two types of orc for end game scoring. This can be hard to remember.  Decisions on where to place each turn can be difficult as you want to optimize placement. It is the second most gamer-y of the set but was my family’s least favorite of the set.

Lastly is SOW.
SOW – SOW’s mancala mechanic is very good and well developed. The game is easy to learn once you get the idea of the mancala. It has lots of think. There is some take that in moving flowers / seeds around or changing the mancala direction. SOW is fairly quick. There can be some strategy in moving the needed flowers around to your wheel barrow and away from your opponents’. The Action cards add a nice twist.  The ‘last card placed’ mechanic can really throw you for a loop as you have to plan well to avoid giving your opponents points. I liked this a lot. The art is nice as is the theme. This was my family’s favorite and my second favorite.

That’s my take on Pack O’ Games set 2. I enjoyed all the games and am impressed with how much game and fun is crammed into each. Thanks Chris for making these fun, pocket sized games.

The Kickstarter ends in a couple of days. You really should back these games. Do it here! AND ACTUALLY you will get 5 additional stretch goal games – DIG, BOO, SPY, BOX, and NUT! Nine games for $24. That’s a HUGE bargain.

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Full disclosure: Perplext Games supplied advanced copies of these games for review. This did not impact my impressions.

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 Pack O Fun – A Conversation With … Chris Handy of Perplext Games About Pack O Game 2


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Wee Strategy Games For On The Go Gamers!

In this episode Chris Handy of Perplext Games is my guest. Chris has been designing games for quite a few years and is known for Longshot, Plext, and Cinque Terre. He is also known for Pack O Game, a unique, innovative game format that he blasted onto the world last year. Pack O Game is games are 30 cards in a 1 x 3 inch size. That’s the same size as a pack of gum. Very portable and a lot of fun. Pack O Game Set 1 has a variety of game levels, from very casual to gamer targeted. They were well designed and accessible games.

Well Chris is back with Pack O Game 2! Same format but this set is more gamer level focused. GYM, SOW, ORC, and RUM are four very good games that fit in your shirt pocket. Chris sent me all to preview and their size is deceptive. They have meat. There are tough decisions in each. Each is interesting in different ways. I liked each of them. Not only did satisfy the game in me, my children liked them a lot too. You are going to want these.

They launched on Kickstarter today and are already +85% funded aleady. For only $20 ($24 after Friday) you get FOUR games + all stretch goals. And guess what the stretch goals are – more games! Yes, there is a potential to get up to 8 games for $20! You need to head over to Kickstarter and back these games so I can get all eight. The link is right here.

These are elepant sized games in a mouse sized package.

Oh, by the way. I did a podcast with Chris. We talk about all the Pack O Games. You can get it over on iTunes (leave a star or four) or check it out below.

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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!

 

A Conversation With … Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games


It’s been a very long time coming but I finally sat down with my friend Chris Kirkman (@dicehateme) of Dice Hate Me and Greater Than Games. We talk about comics, Club Zen and Don’t Get Eated, and what Chris is working on these days. It’s a fun  so download it here or at iTunes. Oh, and leave me a good review if you don’t mind.

 Next up: Shoot Again Games

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.