Tag: Philip duBarry

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.

Rice, Rice Baby – A Conversation With…Philip duBarry and Kevin Brusky about Spirits of the Rice Paddy

I’m joined this time by Kevin Brusky of APE Games and Philip duBarry, the designer of Spirits of the Rice Paddy. Rice Paddy has just completed a very successful Kickstarter campaign so I thought I would talk to these guys about this very interesting game.


Tom: First, remind everyone who you are.

Philip: I’m Philip duBarry, designer of Revolution!, Courtier, and several other games.rrrrrr

Tom:Kevin, talk a minute about Ape Games. What it is? Who you are? What are your games?

Kevin: I’m the president of APE Games, publisher of such games as duck! duck! GO!, Order of the Stick, Kill the Overlord, Island Siege and RARRR!! It appears I like games with exclamation points in the title. I’ll need to rein that in some. I’ve been publishing games since 1997.

Tom: Now let’s talk about Rice Paddy. Philip, where did the idea come from?

Philip: I got the idea as I was reading through a Malcolm Gladwell (I think) book. He described the meticulous processes involved in creating and maintaining a rice paddy, activities that inform the work and life experiences of millions of people throughout the world. I love the idea of farming as a game theme (I’m a big Agricola fan), so I immediately tried to explore ways to make rice farming into a heavier eurogame.

Tom: Talk about the game itself. How does it play? What kind of feedback you have gotten?

Philip: The goal of the game is to produce the most rice over the seven rounds with a little help from the spirit world. The game features two card drafts (to get your six spirit cards with special abilities), and each round requires successful allocation of workers (not really worker-placement). Players will also usually have livestock (oxen for heavy-lifting and ducks for eating pests and fertilizing) to allocate. In addition to this, players must manage the flow of water (based on a Rain Card each round) from rice paddy1the first player (determined by spirit card number) to the last player.

Your rice paddies need to be flooded when they get planted and when they grow. However, they need the water to be released for weed-pulling, pest-eating, fertilizing, and harvesting. The bigger paddies you have, the bigger yield, but the harder it is to manage properly. The winner is the player who best manages access to water with finding good spirit cards that harmonize and allow for grabbing achievement tiles and producing lots of rice by the end.

Tom: It sounds like my kind of game. The worker allocation part intrigues me since you say it’s not worker placement. Is it more like action selection? How would you describe it?

Philip: It’s more like spending action points. You start with 10 workers and get more as the game progresses. Building a wall takes 3, pulling weeds is 1 per hex, planting is 1, harvesting is 2. Working that puzzle is a big part of the game. Often you just can’t quite do everything you need to do (which is how a game should be).

Tom: I’m gonna like this game! Action points is what I was thinking. Kevin, what made you want to sign Rice Paddy? How is it unique?

Kevin: One of my developers, Shawn, found the game at a con through a friend, back in 2012. We played one of our Friday night sessions at the local pizza restaurant, and I loved it immediately. My hunch was right – after playing with 2-3 other groups that loved the game, I decided to sign it.rice paddy2

It’s definitely the heaviest strategy game that I’ve ever signed, and my first Euro-style game. So what attracted me to it? I love the balance between Spirit card power and turn order. Turn order is so critically important in the game, yet the powerful Spirit cards are SOO nice. Unfortunately, the more powerful the Spirit card, the later you end up in turn order, and the later you are in turn order, the higher the chance you won’t get water.

Tom: The Kickstarter campaign went super great. Talk a bit about it.

Philip: I figured out that this is the seventh Kickstarter I’ve been involved with. This one has done the best, beating the previous high pledge amount of just under $40K (Fidelitas). I continue to be surprised by how excited people are about the game. My wife is just floored by it–she doesn’t enjoy heavier games, particularly obscure ones about farming!paddy1

Tom: I’m a Fidelitas backer. It’s a really fun game. Thanks! Wow, seven Kickstarters. You’re a KS vet then.

Philip: It’s been pretty crazy. I’ve not really had to do most of the work (except on Skyway Robbery), but it’s still been a bit stressful at times. The Fidelitas and Spirits campaigns are so much more fun than the ones you have to drag over the line (or the ones that just don’t make it).

Tom: Kevin, speaking of the Kickstarter campaign, you have an add-on of another game, Arcadia. It’s an amusement park building / management game. It reminds me of Roller Coaster Tycoon which I like a lot. And thank you for sending me the rules and for the review copy that’s on the way.  I’m VERY interested in it. So talk about Arcadia.

Kevin: Arcadia was designed by Phil Chase and Greg Bush. They showed it to me years ago at Gen Con as a fantasy fairy village building game. From there we re-themed it to a game of Mars colonization. Since this game definitely has potential as a family game, I wanted to theme to be more attractive to family audiences, hence the theme park. arcadia1

Keeping with the desire to make the game family-friendly, I contracted Kim Smith (tuckedaway.com), a children’s book illustrator. Her art was absolutely perfect for the game.

Arcadia is a game of collecting symbols from different Jobs cards and trading them in to build theme park attractions in four different categories – rides, midway, shows and food. There are four levels for each type of attraction, and players must build the previous level before building the next on top of it. Attractions provide victory points, but many also provide some abilities.

The game is played over four seasons. At the end, the player with the most victory points wins!

Tom: Daniel Solis is a friend of mine. How did you decide on him as the graphic designer on Rice Paddy?

Kevin: Good question! I don’t actually remember how I found Daniel, but he’s an absolutely brilliant graphic designer, a well as a pretty decent game designer. And if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he runs a fantastic design and graphic design blog at smartplaygames.blogspot.com.

Tom: What else would you like to say about Spirits of the Rice Paddy?

Kevin: The pre-production version of the game has reviewed really well, and the Kickstarter was extremely successful. I knew it was a special game, and I’m glad that others are having the same experience with it.

Tom: Philip, what’s next from you?

Philip: In just a few more weeks, my next Kickstarter will be launching. This time it will be with Tasty Minstrel as we seek to fund my new customizable micro-game, Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.

Tom: Yes, I remember you mentioning it on our last interview. We’re gonna talk about Battlecruisers pretty soon.

Philip: No problem!

Tom: Kevin, what is APE Games working on?

Kevin: Man, I’m so busy. I’ve got Mr. Cuddington working on art for my next TWO games – a pirate game by Andrew Federspiel (Knee Jerk), and a game about paleontology during the Bone Wars in the late 1800’s by Scott Almes (Tiny Epic Galaxies).

I’m also finishing up a hilarious card game called “This Game is S.T.U.P.I.D.” STUPID stands for Space Time Universal Police Investigation Division. This game was a finalist in the 2014 ION Awards, submitted by a group of students calling themselves Marshmallow Canoe.

And honestly, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

 Talk to me in another month or so, and I’ll give you details on some or all of these titles.

Tom: I would  definitely talk to you about all those games. And if you need any playtesters, I’m available. Any final words from you all?

 Kevin & Philip: Thanks for the interview – it’s been a lot of fun!

Tom: Thank you both for being my guests. Philip, I’ll send you some questions about Battlecruisers real soon. Kevin, let’s do an interview about Arcadia when you are ready. I am very interested in it.

Thank you once again readers. I hope you are having as much fun reading these interviews as we had doing them. There are more on the way – Scott Almes talking about Best Treehouse Ever, Grant Rodiek and Joshua Buergel about Hocus Poker and a few more. Leave a comment below if you don’t mind.