Tag: Eminent Domain

Battlecruising Together – A Conversation With…Philip duBarry


This time Philip duBarry joins me to talk about the newest addition to the Eminent Domain Universe – Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.battlecruisers3

Tom: First, you have a new addition to your family. Tell us about him.

Philip: Ian is boy #2, child #6, and he was born June 2. He gave us just a little scare by having to go to the NICU for a few days due to an above-normal breathing rate. But we all got to come home before too long, and he and his mom are both doing well. And he’s ridiculously cute.

Tom: What do you look for in a game?

Philip: I want to see something clever that has a smooth feel, a complete and enjoyable experience. I’d like some interesting choices with not too much “take that” in something like 45-90 minutes.

Tom: What are some of your favorite games?

Philip: Dominion, Splendor, 7 Wonders, Innovation.

Tom: What’s the story behind Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers? Where did the idea come from?

Philip: The idea came to me while I was trying to go to sleep–this happens occasionally. I’d been looking into micro games and figured out the main mechanic in this big flash. I got up and wrote it all out. Then we tried it out in the morning and it worked! I soon figured out that the theme could be space (which I’ve wanted to do for a while) and there could be many more cards.

Tom: What was the original setting?

Philip: The theme started out as Middle Eastern / Persian, but it was quite dry.

Tom: Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad it got changed. How is it to work with Tasty Minstrel Games? How much input did Seth and Andy have on Battlecruisers?

Philip: It has been great! They are a class act all the way. My initial design still had a few kinks to work out, and they got them out. Seth and Andy both have such amazing, analytical brains for connecting all the dots and tying up loose ends.

Tom: I don’t think that way so it’s nice to have some analytical brains around. Give us the elevator pitch for the game.battlecruisers3

Philip: You are the captain of a battlecruiser deep in space locked in combat with other ships. You have only minutes to kill or be killed. Battlecruisers is a customizable micro game–it contains upwards of 30 different cards, but only 5 or 6 are used each 5-10 minute game. Players play a card face down. If it’s different from all the others, you get the good thing on the card. If you clash with an opponent, you both get the bad thing on the card. You win by having 15VP or being the last player with cards.

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

Philip: The roughest part is the period of time after you’ve been working on it for a while but before it really works like it does in your head. You never quite know if it’s going to be great or be a flop. Another less fun time is trying to get people to play it just before it gets released or launched on Kickstarter, but after it’s 99% set.

Tom: Yeah, getting that thing in your head out and working right is hard. What is the best piece of feedback you’ve received from a playtester on Battlecruisers?

Philip:The playtesters did an amazing job on this game. Andy set up a nice BGG guild (Tasty Testers) to explore the game and find the bugs. And they found quite a few. We were able to eliminate some infinite loops (this can still happen, but not as often). They also figured out some of the more fun prefab combinations to play.

Tom: That was a good idea Andy had – BBG guild for playtesters of a certain game. Nice.

Philip: Probably the biggest improvement to the game itself was Seth’s addition of a “Recovery Zone”, a place for your previously played card to cool down before it goes back into your hand. This also helps other players better assess the risk involved in playing the next card, since they know you can’t play the recovery zone card.battlecruisers2

Tom: Interesting. What makes designing games so fun?

Philip: It’s just a fun little puzzle figuring all the different strands you want in a game then weaving them together into a cohesive whole. There is a magic moment when the game becomes more than the sum of its parts. I just love that!

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

Philip: Definitely an ‘add to’ designer. I’m always afraid there isn’t enough in my designs, but I need to know that it works in a stripped-down form before I get too excited about adding more complexity.

Tom: What designers do you admire?

Philip: Carl Chudyk, Antoine Bauza, Uwe Rosenberg, Ryan Laukat, quite a few others.

Tom: How do you decide when a game is done?

Philip: We always joke that it’s when my daughter #3 starts crying during the game and/or I can win most of the time but still enjoy it. I think that indicates it’s just a bit harder than a clever 7-8-year-old can manage, so it’s pretty accessible and it’s “my” kind of game. And I like it. Or course, then you get it into the hands of a publisher and the next development and fine-tuning stage begins. A lot of this is the publisher translating the game into something that better fits with their existing catalogue and fan base but is still “my” game. Then we ship it and it’s done. Then I think of x, y, and z I could have done to make it better. It’s tough to let go.

Tom: What was the most challenging part of designing Battlecruisers?

Philip:Realizing that it wasn’t as awesome as I thought it was when TMG signed it. That middle-of-the-night flash happened about a week before I pitched it to Michael. Of course that’s very unusual. Something like that makes you feel like you are the most awesome designer ever! But then you realize that games take a while to come together for a reason. It’s not about luck and brilliant insight–it’s about the hard work of day-by-day progress.

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

Philip: I love card drafting. I hate real-time dice (but I’m working on one that I’d like to play).

Tom: What are some things that you have learned about playtesting?battlecruisers1

Philip: The biggest thing is just developing a sense of what comments to embrace and which to ignore. I’ve gotten better at figuring out what type of players my different testers are and putting their comments in that context. For example, if have a eurosnob (which I sort of am) play your cutthroat take-that dice-rolling luckfest game, they are going to say they hate it. Taken in that context, “I hate it” becomes a great endorsement of what you are trying to do with your game!

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

Philip: I think most new games these days add something to your catalogue of ideas about how to approach design. I did make an effort to play through a lot of the classics when I first got into the hobby back in the mid-2000s. I would suggest working through some of the top older games ranked highly on BGG. And playing lots of different games, even ones that you might not like.

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

Philip: I’ve learned that not every game I make is good. My early success with Revolution! tempted me to think of myself as some kind of board game prodigy. However, this is far from true. I am not exempt from doing the hard work it takes to bring a good game to life. I don’t think you ever just “arrive”. it’s a battle every time–a battle you are going to lose sometimes.

Tom: Favorite cartoon?

Philip: Animaniacs

Tom: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Philip: This is the one I have on my blog:

“What people really need and demand from life is not wealth, comfort or esteem, but games worth playing. Having found the game, play it with intensity. If life does not seem to offer a game worth playing, then invent one.”

~Robert de Ropp

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

Philip: I have in the past played a number of musical instruments including the violin, clarinet, and trumpet. I enjoyed them, but I just don’t have the time to devote to them presently.

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

Philip: My blog is www.phantasiogames.net. I am also on twitter @pdubarry.

Tom: Do you have anything else to say?

Philip: I’m looking forward to GenCon, but I’ll only be there for Friday. I’d love to meet some new folks!

Tom: Lastly, given equal knowledge and resources, who would win – Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison?

Philip: Edison–he’d work just a bit harder and be less distracted.

Thanks for joining me again Philip. It was fun to talk to you about Battlecruisers.

Readers, you have only a few more days to support this great game. Cruise on over here and land some of your $$ on Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.

A Small Conversation With…Seth Jaffee About Eminent Domain: Microcosm


Tom: Hi Seth, It’s good to talk to you again. Remind us of your gamer cred.

Seth: My first published title was Terra Prime. My better known title is Eminent Domain, for which an expansioisle of trainsn (Escalation) came out early this year. I’ve also got a game coming out from Dice Hate Me (co-designed with Dan Keltner) based on the Dice Hate Me 54 Card Challenge, but I’m mostly known for my affiliation with Michael Mindes and TMG.

In addition to publishing my games, I’ve done extensive development work on many TMG titles, including Ground Floor, Belfort, Kings of Air and Steam, and the upcoming Captains of Industry to name a few.

I’ve also got an iPad game (free download!) called Seth Jaffee’s Brain Freeze.

Tom: You have a new microgame out. Tell us all about it.

Seth: Eminent Domain: Microcosm is a 2 player microgame. It plays in 10-15 minutes, but is packed with what I feel are interesting choices. It’s reminiscent of Eminent Domain, but definitely distinct.EmDoM1

Tom: Where did the idea blossom from?

Seth: I saw microgames blowing up, and I figured I’d try my hand at making one. I usually feel like microgames don’t have enough depth for my liking, so I tried to make a microgame that I would enjoy playing. I think Microcosm packs more decision density and depth (and therefore replayability) into the small package (34 cards) than I see in some of the other small games out there, so I’m happy about that.

Where did it come from? Good question… I like multi-use cards, and I remember drawing out a grid of cards and thinking that each row could have a particular action, each column could have a particular symbol, and each diagonal could have a particular color. That way I could make a set collection game where going for 1 set necessarily meant not getting another set. In other words, you can get cards with the same action but different icons, or cards with the same icons but different actions… meaning in this case that you could either do that action more often but in a weaker way, or less often but in a stronger way.

I liked the symmetry of that, and I went from there.

Tom: Why did you set it in the Eminent Domain universe?

Seth: I originally wanted to avoid the EmDo universe – I’d done that already! But in the end, the feel of the game did match the EmDo family –  many players said so. And when Michael suggested retheming for marketing purposes, I couldn’t argue. It really is an Eminent Domain game.

Tom: The Kickstarter is doing well. It’s 900% funded! WOW! The game is only $10 so very affordable. Do you have any overfunding goals.

Seth: There aren’t any overfunding goals for this project. Instead they’re sort of built-in… we’re including promos for 3 other games:

  • 5 New Base Games Scenarios for Eminent Domain (plus 3 Politics cards to go with them)
  • 5 cards for the upcoming Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers by Philip duBarry
  • 1 Time Traveling hero for Dungeon Roll

These promos are intended to (a) add value to Microcosm for everyone, and (b) help introduce Microcosm backers/players to other TMG games, as well as introduce players of those games to Microcosm (and thereby Eminent Domain).EmDoM2

I have seen some comments from people who backed Microcosm for the Dungeon Roll promo, for example, and are now going to see what Microcosm is all about. I’m sure not ALL Dungeon Roll players will be interested in Microcosm, and vice versa, but I’m sure there’s a decent amount of overlap.

Tom: You’re off to Essen like tomorrow. What are you looking forward to there?

Seth: I have just come off of a weekend running Rincon. I’ve got a great staff to help me out, but honestly I’ve had little time to think about anything related to Essen. I’m lucky my passport is up to date!

In the little Essen coverage I’ve seen and read, I am a little interested in that new game by Andreas Steading: The Staufer Dynasty. I can’t tell if I’ll like it a lot or not, but I might give it a shot.

At Rincon I picked up a used Japanese copy of Tragedy Looper with paste ups – I’d like to see how that one works. I’m a sucker for time travel 🙂

Tom: What is next for you? Any more games in the queue?

Seth: Yes, of course! Mostly I’m working on development of TMG games at the moment, but there are a couple of in-house TMG designs that I’ve got my fingers in (even something Zombie themed, I’m almost ashamed to say… they’re popular, but in general I really dislike zombies!), and I’ve got several old projects I’d like to get back to.

And of course I’m wrapping up Exotica, the next EmDo expansion. I’m soliciting Print And Play feedback on that one in the BGG Tasty Testers forums.

One new project I’ve started is another game, much different from Eminent Domain, using the Deck Learning mechanism. This one is a network building/delivery game, like Railroad Tycoon.

Thanks for the interview! I should probably get to packing for Essen (I leave in less than 14 hours as of this writing!)spiel 2014

Tom: Thank you Seth! It’s great to talk to you again. Have fun at Essen and bring back some cool stuff!

Readers, you can find Eminent Domain: Microcosm here. Please consider backing it.