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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A Conversation With…A.J. Porfirio About Salvation Road

I’m really happy to have A. J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games with me this time. Van Ryder Games has a new game on Kickstarter and AJ agreed to tell me about it. Let’s find out more about Salvation Road.

salv road1

Tom: AJ, it’s good to have you back on as my guest. Update us on what’s going on with Van Ryder Games.  Tell me more about Salvation Road.

AJ: I discovered Salvation Road at UnPub 2014… I think that was UnPub 3? The year helps me more than the number… anyway, I digress. To be honest I was a bit disappointed with the lack of Thematic games at that years UnPub. I was feeling like I wouldn’t be signing a game when our mutual friend, Chris Kirkman, tipped me off to a game in the corner called Salvation Road. We sat down with a 3rd player and just had a real blast playing it. I evaluated the game for a month or two and decided to sign it.

Tom: Tell me about the game play.

AJ: You control characters moving around in an abandoned town looking for resources. The game uses an action system and you get 2 per character per turn. You need to gather up food, ammo, med kits, and fuel to make the trip to Salvation. Marauders and Apocalyptic events make doing this a lot more difficult than it sounds. Plus the more you get wounded, the fewer resources you can hold!

Tom: What is unique about it?
The wound system – you flip wounds if they go untreated and get some nasty effect. Your inventory space is directly tied to your health. The dynamic of Heroes and Survivors is particularly innovative in my opinion. Heroes have beneficial abilities, but survivors have hindrances.

Tom: That sounds really neat. Very RPG. I like it. Tell me about the designers.
AJ: Mike and Peter are a design team. They have a real passion for games and it comes through in their designs. Together with artist, Venessa (mike’s wife), they make up the design studio – MVP Boardgames.

Tom: Yep. I’m reaching out to them for an interview. Salvation Road is pretty timely what with Mad Max: Fury Road just hitting theaters. How Mad Max is it?

AJ: It is definitely in the same vein and inspired by Mad Max. In all honesty, the timing has worked out just right to launch the game on May 11 just prior to Fury Road hitting theaters. We hope that fans of the movie will give the game a look!

Tom: Do you have a favorite part of Salvation Road?

AJ: My favorite mechanic in Salvation Road is the climatic Travel Phase at the end of the game. Building up resources all game and then finding out if you’ve done enough to make it into Salvation is REALLY exciting.

Tom: That’s cool. Tell me about your artist.salvroad5

AJ:  Venessa Kelley. Wow what can’t she do? I have had the pleasure of working with some extremely talented artists. Venessa is an excellent communicator which I consider vital. And her talent is extraordinary for both illustration AND graphic design.

Tom: Let’s talk about AJ a minute. What are some of your favorite games?

AJ: Robinson Crusoe is way up on my list right now. I love Descent 2, and I recently played Android, the epic one,  not Netrunner- and just loved it. If folks like the Crossroads mechanic in Dead of Winter, they should try Android because that game did it first.

Tom: I’ve heard good things about Android. I’ll have to try it out. What is the best piece of feedback you’ve received from a playtester on any of your games?

AJ: How could I choose just one? Every piece of feedback is valuable… even when it is not. Chew on that one! I think recognizing your own bias and not letting it get in the way is huge.

Tom: What makes designing games so fun?salvroad3

AJ: It is a creative art. It really is like inventing your own creation. And making something fun is, well, fun!

Tom: I totally agree. I need a creative outlet and game design is a unique one. As a publisher: Mechanics or theme? Which is most important?

AJ: FUN. Ok I know that wasn’t a choice, but ultimately people play games for fun. Obviously for me Theme is a very important aspect of what we publish. But the game has to stand tall beyond just its theme. Aren’t the best games the ones that integrate Theme and Mechanics equally well? That is what we strive for.

Tom: There’s been some talk in the community lately about FUN. Interesting. Tell us about a ‘Eureka!’ moment. Was there a moment when you went ‘Yeah, this is a game I want to publish.’?

AJ: At UnPub when I met the designers (of Salvation Road). I still had to evaluate the game beyond that first play, but I loved Michael and Peter’s vision for the game and I could tell we would work well together.

 Tom: What designers do you admire?

AJ: I am a big fan of Ignacy from Portal, Bruno Cathala, Kevin Wilson, Richard Launius, Rob Daviau, and many more.salvroad6

Tom: I like almost everything Cathala does. Launius too. So, how do you decide when a game is done?

AJ: Well as a publisher it is when people are able to buy it off a store shelf, quite simply.

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

AJ: It is laborious, annoying, redundant, not glamorous, and most of all ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

Tom: What’s in the queue from designer AJ?

AJ: Hostage Negotiator Abductor packs! Beyond that, most designing I do these days is what most would call development of games I’ve signed.

Tom: Put your publisher hat back on for a minute. What do you look for in a game?

AJ: Most of all is it FUN?  2nd of all is it thematic and does it tell a story?

Tom: Do you get a steady stream of submissions?

AJ: I get them here and there. I wouldn’t call it steady.

Tom: What do you dislike the most about being a publisher?salvroad7

AJ: Dealing with manufacturers..

Tom: What is the most rewarding part of being a publisher?

AJ: The money. I’m making a killing! All kidding aside, it is really just about bringing games to life.

Tom: You have signed Gunslinging Ramblers from Jason Slingerland. Tell us about it briefly. (I have Jason on the hook for an interview closer to launch btw.)

AJ: Ramblers is an awesome game that lets you Drink booze, gamble, and have gunfights without ever actually being in real danger. That’s all I will say for now, but look for more info later this year.

Tom: What about it made you go ‘Yeah, I have to have this.”?

AJ: I liked that when I played it, I really felt like I was in a saloon shooting whiskey shots and playing cards with some outlaws across the table. It has card play and dice chucking.

Tom: You’ve also signed Saloon Tycoon from Jason’s co-host on Building The Game, Rob Couch. Tell us about briefly too. (I’ve got Rob too.)

AJ: Yeah this is our newest signee. What an excellent game with a visually stunning presence. Players will love seeing their Saloon develop on the board into a 3d structure. It has simple but engaging game play and people just love it. It was  a real hit at this year’s UnPub.

Tom: If you have a favorite cartoon what is it?

AJ: I grew up on Transformers, so I will go with that.

Tom: Lastly, who would win a fight between…Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek) and Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)?

AJ: Mal hands down. I never was a trekkie, but I’ll be a browncoat as long as I’m still breathing.
Tom: Thanks for joining me once again AJ. It was a blast talking to you.

Readers, You can find Salvation Road right here. Take a look and support it if you can. It looks like a lot of fun.

salv road1

Leave a comment below or tweet one about this interview. #goforthandgame

Hostage (pause) Negotiator! A Conversation with … AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games

It’s a tense situation. A terrorist has taken control of the opera. Hundreds of people are held under the threat of being blown to bits. The police have surrounded the complex and are trying to figure out how free the hostages. They wait desperately for the one person who can save those people. Enter the Hostage Negotiator!


Tom: Hi AJ. We talked not too long ago about what Van Ryder Games is up to but I wanted to bring you back on to focus on Hostage Negotiator. So remind everyone what HN is about.

AJ: The game puts you in the role of a Hostage Negotiator that needs to negotiate with a Hostage Taker (or Abductor as we call it) to successfully save the hostages. The game is for solitaire play and plays in under half an hour. It really simulates that tension filled situation quite nicely.

Tom: I’ve played an early prototype. Man, you are right. This game really delivers the tension. I like that a lot. Where did the concept come from?

AJ: From my crazy brain. I was brainstorming underutilized themes and Hostage Negotiation came to mind. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything out there and then I realized how sensitive the subject is and that who would want to play as a Hostage Taker? But as a solitaire game no one has to, so it fit perfectly.


Tom: I spoke about the early pnp of the game. About a year ago. It was really fun and pretty well baked at that time. What’s changed since then?

AJ: Mostly balance tweeks, but I’m not sure if Pivotal events existed then or the additional abductors. And of course the artwork has all been updated since then.

Tom: Nope. Those are new. I can’t wait to see what they add.  What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

AJ: The reception has been really great. People just seem to really enjoy the game. I am very excited and confident that Hostage Negotiator will take the solitaire gaming community by storm.

Tom: The game looks pretty slick. Who is the artist? Who is the graphic designer?

AJ: Kristi Kirisberg did all of the artwork including the brilliant cover. She also did most of the graphic design, but my friend Chase Williams has also done some as well.

Tom: How’s the Kickstarter campaign going? Where do we stand right now?

hn6AJ: We just passed $15k which means we’ll get meeple hostages so that is pretty exciting. There is still 20 days or so left so there is still time to take that even further!

(Update: The KS is currently at $27,000+!!!! Amazing!)

Tom: I like the ‘Instant Rewards’ idea. That is sweet. Where that come from?

AJ: Well that was something I thought up. You know I was thinking that as a backer it can sometime feel like a project dangles the proverbial carrot so to speak. Wouldn’t it hn8be cool to get some extras without having to badger my friends on twitter or Facebook to back the game? So I thought let’s just do it, let’s just give them something more just for being there. And so the instant reward was born.

Tom: Talk about the rewards a bit.

AJ: Mostly it is just the game at each level, but there are bulk levels and there are levels to add other Van Ryder Games products. Also there are 4 Abductor packs that can be added on that wiigd1ill expand Hostage Negotiator even more!


(Update #2: Every game will now come with the Negotiator pack!)

Tom: I recommend both Tessen and If I’m Going Down…. Both are very fun games. The Comments section of the KS is very active. What’s going on there?

AJ: Just friends talking. We are all really excited about the project and game, so we share with one another. Backers have been really responsive and engaged which has been great!

Tom: Who will be producing HN?

AJ: Quality Playing Cards. They did a great job on Tessen and I really like what they do with small box games, so it is a natural fit for them to manufacture Hostage Negotiator.

Tom: When is your hoped for delivery date estimate?

AJ: Well I’ve put February 2015 on the KS delivery estimate. So hopefully we can meet or beat that.

Tom: Anything to tease?

AJ: Not at this time.

Update #3 – I forgot to let AJ talk about the Abductor packs. These are add-on expansions for Hostage Negotiator. What is an Abductor pack? At set intervals following the official release of the game, we will release Abductor packs that will serve to add more variety to the game and provide new challenges. Abductor packs will contain a new Abductor with his/her own Demands and other game content such as new Terror Cards or other surprises. Each Abductor pack will add 15 (or so) cards to your Hostage Negotiator experience. These packs are Add-Ons that are purchased separately for $5 each or $15 for the set. They do not come in the base game. AND the MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. hn9 You can find out more about that on the KS campaign site.

Thanks AJ. It was great talking to you again.

I have to say this game really delivers. There are few games that build real tension. This one does it. I very highly recommend Hostage Negotiator. Do yourself a favor and back it. You only have a few days left. Go there right NOW!

I’ll leave you with the explanation of the title of the interview. I always hear the Priceline theme song/tagline and put in the game title.   Hostage (pause) Negotiator!


A Conversation With … A.J. Porifirio of Van Ryder Games

I’m once again joined by AJ Porifirio of Van Ryder Games. AJ has a couple of games coming up. And we talk about If I’m Going Down, VRG’s first game.


Let’s talk about Tessen and Cardboard Edison for a minute.  How did you find out about Tessen?

AJ: I went to UnPub 3 in January to test a game and check out games from other designers. I had a mission to sign a game from UnPub and it wasn’t until the very end of the event when I found Tessen.

Tom: Give us a brief rundown?

AJ: Tessen is a real-time 2 player card game where each player is drawing and playing animals in front of them as fast as they can. Once they have 3 or more of the same animal in a pile, they can save those animals to their score pile. But here is where it gets interesting… each player has warriors they can use to “attack” his opponents warriors and take the animals if the opponent is unable to defend with a warrior of their own.

Tom: What about it made you want to bring it into the Van Ryder Games family?

AJ: It was just a great game, but most importantly the designers were great people. Chris and Suzanne Zinsli have such a great attitude. They are confident, humble, and very open to feedback and criticism.

Tom: What’s unique about it?Tessen-Cover2

AJ: I think the way it mixes the key elements is what makes it unique. None of the elements on their own is necessarily new, but how they have been combined makes it the best real-time card game there is in my opinion. It is a great blend of set collection, hand management, real-time play, and an interesting theme.

Tom: Chris and Suzanne were recently guests on Go Forth. How has it been working with them? How’s the Kickstarter going?

AJ: Chris and Suzanne are amazing to work with. We’ve had frequent conference calls to discuss the project and they have done whatever I’ve asked. But it is mostly just us collaborating to make Tessen what it is today. I am very proud of them for the game they have created and how they have represented Van Ryder Games.

Tom: All right, let’s talk about Hostage Negotiator. First, tell us about it.Proto-Cover2

AJ: Hostage Negotiator is a solo game that pits you against an abductor who has taken hostages for some reason. It is your job to save the hostages and eliminate or capture the abductor. The game uses a sort of deck building mechanic with a twist… there is no deck, the cards go straight into your hand.

Tom: I’ve played an early version and REALLY like it. It’s a lot of fun and difficult.

AJ: Thanks, I have gotten the same reception from most of the folks who have tried it out. There is even one of my testers that is doing a 100 game challenge with the game! http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/142757/item/2775755#item2775755

Tom: This is your second solo game, counting IIGD’s solo mode. Why the focus on solo games? Why this theme?

AJ: I got back into gaming because of solo play. A lot of my game design ideas work best with solo play. It is just something I enjoy, the freedom to get a game out and play it at any time with no dependency on others. The Hostage Negotiator theme was just one that I thought of and I couldn’t think of any games using that theme. When you think about it, it is an amazing theme and particularly suited for solo play.

Tom: Give us a IIGD update.If-Im-Going-Down-Cover-1024x1024

AJ: IIGD is doing pretty well. I’m going to make some decisions soon on whether the demand justifies a reprint and/or expansion but I’ve nothing to give you on that front at this point. I will say there is a very special Promo character for IIGD that backers of Tessen can get as part of the Kickstarter campaign.

Tom: You’re pretty active in the game design community. What do you see as the greatest benefit of being a part of it?

AJ: The connections made and the mutual support we all give one another. It is quite incredible what people are willing to do with no expectation of anything in return.

Tom: What would you like to see happen in the design community?

AJ: I’d like to see it continue to grow.

Tom: Next projects – what’s in the hopper for VRG?

AJ: Nothing I can talk about yet, but there have been several exciting developments.

Tom: What blogs and podcasts do you follow?

AJ: Oh gosh putting me on the spot here… well yours of course 🙂  I listen to a lot of podcasts but my favorites are The Secret Cabal and Building the Game.

Tom: Any last words?TessenTournamentBanner

AJ: Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you…and everyone go back Tessen! it is just $12 for a great game you will get a lot of use out of! http://kck.st/14dQuyF

Tom: What’s one thing the general public would not know about AJ Porfirio?

AJ: Despite my Italian name, I am also Cajun and LOVE crawfish. If anyone has a boil, hit me up!

It was awesome talking to you AJ. I appreciate you taking time out to give us an update. I am looking forward to Tessen and Hostage Negotiator.


And thank you for visiting. Come on back for more interviews and reviews.


A Conversation With…AJ Porifino of Van Ryder Games-UPDATED!

Today AJ Porfirio, Owner and Chief Game Designer of Van Ryder Games joins me to talk about his company and games, Organized Chaos and If I’m Going Down…

Tom: So AJ welcome.  What would you like to tell us about yourself?

AJ: Well, let’s see I am a hard-working guy with an entrepreneurial spirit. I absolutely love Halloween and everything that goes with it. Grew up a gamer and have always played games of some sort. A few facts about me people might be interested to know:

    1. Played in the 2002 College World Series for the Rice Owls

    2. Had a short Minor League career with the Toronto Blue Jays

    3. Hold an MBA from Lipscomb University

    4. Father of 2 boys (2 and 3.5) and husband to a loving wife

    5. Van Ryder” is derived from the middle names of my boys (not sure what I will do if we have a third…)

Tom: That’s a pretty impressive list. Two young boys must surely keep you busy. How in the world did you have time to start-up a game company?

AJ: I recently got back into board gaming and joined a fantastic board game group which rekindled my spirit for the subject. The timing was such that another business venture was ending and I thought to myself, I am pretty creative, I bet I could make a fun game or two. So I just started researching everything I could on board game design, publishing, etc. etc.

Tom: Ok, give us the run down on Organized Chaos.

AJ: Van Ryder Games first release! Where do I begin? Well, I like to call Organized Chaos (OC) a “deck destroying” game. (If that term ever becomes as common place as “deck building” I will be a happy man haha). Anyway, the game is a casual but strategic game for 2-4 players. Each player starts with a deck of 40 cards which all have the same makeup. The object of the game is to be the last one to have any cards left in your draw pile.

The game makes use of dual sided cards so that you have to decide on which side of the card you will use when you play it. Typically, one side of the card will have an offensive ability – something that makes your opponents lose cards, and the other side will have a defensive ability, something that lets you preserve or protect your own cards. For example one of the most common card types is “Burn/Refresh.” If you played a “Burn” card you would choose an opponent and that opponent would flip the number of card specified straight from their draw pile into their discard pile with no effect. You would hear something like “Tom, burn 5.” The other side of the card “Refresh” allows you to take the specified number of cards from your discard pile and place them back underneath your draw pile in any order. How you decide to order the cards could come back into play sooner or later.

There are other special cards that can really cause havoc and change the game. For example, there is a card that let’s you Switch your entire deck including cards in hand with another player. People always ask ‘well can’t you just gang up on one player?’ The answer is yes, but that can quickly backfire with one ‘Switch.’ There are other cards as well that add levels of strategy to the game. For example, and this is my personal favorite, Reset/Restart gives you the choice to either: “Place your entire discard pile back underneath your draw pile (Restart)” or “Force an opponent to permanently remove their entire discard pile from the game (Reset)” Reset/Restart is an amazingly powerful card and there are all sorts of strategies of not only how to play it, but also how to get it back into your hand. One thing I might not have made clear yet is that there are many ways to get cards from your discard pile back into your hand. This makes Reset a strong option especially if an opponent has a good volume of cards in their discard pile or a number of strong cards. The value of Restart is a bit more obvious, if you are low on cards and have a bunch in your discard pile, well you can play Restart to essentially bring your deck back to full.

What you get in the box.

Each deck has one “Organized” card and one “Chaos” card. These are the only cards that remain in play and you are forced to play them immediately upon drawing one. Separately they have different individual abilities, but together they form the most powerful combination in the game allowing you to win if you run out of cards (this would normally make you lose) and giving you immunity against “Switch.” The catch is only one of each card may be in play at anytime. So your opponents must alter their strategy to try to get one of their copies in play, forcing you to discard yours.

The last thing worth mentioning that I really love about the game is that it can have a very intriguing meta-game. It really gets interesting when players start to try to convince others what they should do, who they should go after, or not go after etc. It is all part of the game and if you can verbally manipulate others, more power to you.

OC is a really fun game and one of the things I still find myself amazes at is the frequency at which the game literally comes down to the last card. You are really never out of the game until your last card is gone.

Tom: I can feel your enthusiasm for OC. You’ve put a lot of time into it. I can see from your description how the Chaos part came in. ‘Deck destroying game’ – interesting. I’ve not come across that before. How much did the game change from inception to production?

AJ: You know I tell people this and they think I am not giving myself enough credit, but I really think I got quite luck with how the game works. I honestly did not make a ton of major changes. I tried to find the holes in the game and plug them. The biggest change was after the very first play test. I originally had it so that you were trying to burn your own cards and be the first one to run out of cards. It was a total bust and did not work at all. Once I changed it to preserving your own cards and burning everyone else’s it worked much better.

Another change I made, was adding card abilities to prevent someone from simply holding a Switch card the entire game as insurance if they got low. Redirect – your typical bounce back and Replace – Forces all opponents to discard their hand, work perfectly to accomplish that end.

Other than that it was making sure the right mix of Burn/Refresh and special cards was there. I knew the Burn numbers had to be higher on average than the Refresh numbers otherwise the game could go on forever or at least a very long time.

Tom: I listen to a lot of gaming podcasts. That’s how I find out about many of my guests. How important have podcasts and/or BGG been to Van Ryder?

AJ: These marketing channels are very important to Van Ryder. I have supplied a lot of information on BGG and a few other websites. The game is very new (and the company for that matter), so we are doing all we can in the available time we have to get the word out and get exposure for our games. A good friend was kind enough to take OC to Balticon and demo the game. It also could be making an appearance at a smaller con in Austin,Texas in August.

Playing Organized Chaos

So far OC has not been discussed on any podcasts that I am aware of, but I am excited at the prospect of a review by Chris aka DiceHateMe on his website dicehateme.com and/or his podcast. Chris has been very supportive and I really admire his and Monkey’s approach and willingness to help out others in the industry.

Tom: Chris and Monkey are friends and we game together as much as possible. They have a fantastic podcast. From the video (link below) I see that this is a pretty substantial game. Four decks of cards, tokens. What problems, if any, have you had with production?

AJ: No major ones. Currently, we use The Game Crafter to print the games. We then repackage in a tuck box and ship them ourselves. What few printing issues we have had have been quickly corrected by the fine staff at TGC. Ultimately, we’d love get to a point where we feel there is enough demand for a 500-1000 copy print run of the game.

Four decks, four tokens, one box

Tom: So here come the standard questions. What do you think is the hardest part of designing a game?

AJ: Honestly, for me it is balancing the time I spend on it. I am so heavily engrossed in this now that I easily spend full nights working on my designs. I work tirelessly and harder than you could imagine to create great and unique games. I have had to recognize when a break is needed not just for myself, but for making time for my family as well.

Tom: How do you handle play testing a game?

AJ: I tend to play test in my head constantly. I am pretty good at thinking about the possible situations and how things will be affected. For example, when OC was play tested the core rules and mechanics held up very well through the first round of play testing. So much so, that (to my astonishment) only handful of minor tweaks were needed from then through final play testing (again I chalk this up mostly to luck).

I have a great group of family and friends from my game group that are really great at helping me to play test my creations. I also spend a lot of time just self testing and “playing” for each “player.”

Our upcoming title “If I’m Going Down…” (more on this in a minute) has a solitaire option so I have been able to test that part on my own quite a bit.

Tom: What’s the coolest part of being a game designer?

AJ: For me it is the freedom. You are only really limited by your imagination. I love that I can create something, anything, put a theme and a set of rules to it and create a source of entertainment.

Tom: I’m interested in learning what gamers think makes a good player. What do you think?

AJ: To me, a good player is someone who is patient, does not take game events personally, but still has a desire to win. I am the kind of guy that will try anything once. You never can tell about something until you have at least tried it. And I am all for being competitive, but in my opinion it is senseless to get angry over a board game. I was surprised after one play test session to hear OC described as “cutthroat” because to me the actions of the game are not malicious. I have heard the cutthroat comment a few times since and now understand why some folks think that, but the way I look at things I just didn’t see it as such from my own reference point.

Tom: There are SO many games out now. So many different mechanics, themes, etc. In your opinion, what do it take to make a game good?

AJ: Above all else what makes a great game is that it is fun! Well maybe I should say that it invokes emotion from the players. If a game makes you laugh out loud that is a great emotion and I’d say the game did its job. If it scares the crap out of you, keeps you on the edge of your seat in suspense, or makes you not want to quit until you’ve “got it”, it is a good game.

Balance is also a key. I love both simple and complicated games, but it is a major buzz kill to me when a game is “broken” mechanically. In a recent session of a game it seemed our team did everything right only to face an impossible task at the end of the game due to circumstance. As much fun as I had playing the game it stunk that the end came down to that.

Finally, I like rules and events in games to somewhat realistically mirror what might happen (relatively speaking). It is a quality that I think really shows that the designer thought about what is realistic and what isn’t. The example popping in my head is the backpack in D&D. I don’t know about you, but back when I played it was amazing how many weapons, items, and gold pieces my backpack could hold.

In fairness, the trump card is fun. I would rather have an unrealistic mechanic or rule and it be fun than a realistic one that isn’t or breaks the game. A good example of this is hit points or life points found in many games. A lot of games wouldn’t be nearly as fun if a gunshot, for example, killed you right away.

Tom: With so many games out there, whose work in the industry do you admire the most?

AJ: I greatly admire the big name publishers that kick out so many excellent games each year. But even more than that I admire the independent designers out there and the small time publishers trying to make a name for themselves. I admire the crowd funding sites like Kickstarter that are evening out the playing field between the two by giving gamers the power to choose what games they want to see come to life.

 Tom: Kickstarter is indeed a game changer, pardon the pun. I see good and bad potential for it.

What do you think of crowd funding efforts like Kickstarter and Springboard?  Boon or bane for the game industry?

AJ: Absolutely, unequivocally think that crowd funding is nothing but positive for the industry. In fact, our upcoming title “If I’m Going Down…” will be showing up on Kickstarter sometime in the next few months. You can sign up to be notified of the launch on the Van Ryder website.

Now that the plug is out of the way 😉 No in all seriousness, I think that crowd funding allows creative folks that would not traditionally have the resources to produce a game. It is amazing and I follow the offerings on KickStarter daily. This gives the gaming community, the players, more power than they have ever had before to choose what games they’d like to see before they are ever produced! It is really amazing. And for the independent designers out there, it evens the playing field a bit. Just great! I look forward to seeing, backing, and pimping  more games on KickStarter and Springboard in the future!

Tom: What makes your current games unique?  What makes it stand out?

The Dying Card Game logo

What makes Organized Chaos unique I think is the dual sided cards, the juxtaposition and relation between the draw and discard piles, and the fact that you literally never out of the game until your last card is gone. I have played many rounds of the game and am still astounded how frequently the game comes down to the last card. That is what I love most about the game/

Without giving too much away about “If I’m Going Down…”, it is clearly unique in that it is the only zombie card game that I am aware of where surviving is not the goal. In fact, it is a Dying Card Game (TM) so your character(s) ARE going to die! It is a certainty. There are quite a few other things about the game that I believe make it unique, but I’m not quite ready to share that at this point. Keep an eye out for this game, you are going to love it.

Tom: I agree with you about Kickstarter will absolutely allow some very good games to see the light of day. I was listening to The State of Games podcast about Kickstarter and was reminded of what Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games has said about Kickstarter. To paraphrase he said ‘the cream will rise’ and I really agree. Your description of OC’s unique aspects is interesting. The fact that you are in the game until the very end is a great aspect. And IIGD is fun.  What are you currently playing?

AJ: Anything I can get my hands on! I am playing (play testing really) a LOT of “If I’m Going Down…” (more on this coming, I promise ), Trade Fleet a simple but brilliant little resource card game by independent IcePack Games, Forbidden Island, Last Night on Earth, and Small World to name a few. I just want that list to get a lot bigger. I love playing games!

Tom: Tell us about your other projects. Anything in the pipeline you’d like to talk about?

AJ: Oh yes! Ok so I have been referring to “If I’m Going Down…” (IIGD) in some previous answers. Let me tell you about this game which I am really passionate about. I believe IIGD has the potential to be the best Zombie game on the market! We are currently planning to launch a KickStarter campaign to help fund the game once it nears completion.

 IIGD is the very first Dying Card Game™ or DCG, which is a game in which your character(s) WILL die by the end of the game. Most if not all zombie games in pretty much any genre are about surviving. That is your character’s goal too, but what you know that your character does not, is that their situation (like in many zombie infested worlds) has become hopeless. The goal has changed from surviving to taking down as many as the abominations as possible.


 IIGD has a tower defense like mechanic where your character is stationary and the zombies just keep coming. You can search for and find weapons and resources that will help you dispose of the vile things, but eventually, if you are lucky enough to survive that long, the resources will run out. In the end, it is about how many zombies were you able to kill and were you able to complete any other actions that gave you bonus points. I am also toying with some other ideas that add another layer into the game as far as your objective goes.

 One of the things that makes IIGD different than any other zombie game is that the zombie illustrations have character and detail that you won’t find elsewhere. This is one reason why I decided to use cards even though you might think it makes more since to use miniatures. I want players to see the zombie card and wonder, ‘what was her story?’ ‘What happened to him?’ ‘I wonder how the zombies finally got them?’ I can promise you that you will be amazed at the zombie art in this game.

 The last thing I would say about IIGD is that it will be created to give some level of creative control to the player(s). You can develop your own scenarios to play.

We also have another game in the works called “Componegotiate™” which is an interesting game where each player is trying to collect a different set of components. While there are general ways to acquire the components, the game will have an important negotiating aspect to it that gives the best negotiator (or perhaps the worst depending on your viewpoint) the best chance to win.

 The other games are too far away to mention at this point but I promise you I have some other great ideas in my head.

 Tom: I’m happy to see that there are more games on the way from Van Ryder. Are there any links or sites you want to direct us to?

AJ: The Van Ryder Games website is  www.vanrydergames.com and our shop www.shop.vanrydergames.com. Here is the link to the videos describing Organized Chaos… http://www.vanrydergames.com/html/oc_videos.html

Find our games at Game Crafter as well. www.thegamecrafter.com.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Van-Ryder-Games/125210427555009

Lastly here is the link to the Kickstarter page for If I’m Going Down… http://www.vanrydergames.com/html/if_i_m_going_down.html

Thanks a bunch for talking to me A.J.  And Componegotiate™ sounds fun. Please stay in touch.

Well guys and gals that’s it for another Go Forth And Game interview. Leave a comment below. Please visit Van Ryder Games, check out their games.