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Category Archives: Interview

Tumble Town live on Kickstarter

1.       Tell our readers who you are.

I’m Carla Kopp of Weird Giraffe Games and Galactic Raptor Games. I used to be a software engineer and now I design, develop, and publish games. I currently live in Huntsville, Alabama with three cats and my partner, Nick. When I’m not working or playing games, I love to travel and explore! I do have a passion for video games and I’ve been playing through the Tales series of games for the past few years.

2.       What was the first board game you remember playing?

I know I grew up with a board game about money that wasn’t monopoly that I played until the box and board fell apart, but I can’t remember what it is! The first hobby board game I remember playing is Agricola, as I know it’s my friend Sarah’s favorite game. It’s probably not the best way to get into the hobby, but I really enjoyed playing and I’ve been hooked ever since.

3.       What’s your favorite board game? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite is so hard to choose! There’s games I like for different moods and to play with different people. I think if I had to choose one game I really liked playing, it’d be Wingspan. I love that it has simple actions that build on each other and I love the artwork. Engine building is one of my favorite mechanics, as well.

4.       Tell us about Tumble Town.

Tumble Town is a town and engine building spatial puzzle game set in the Old West for 1-4 players that plays in about 45 minutes. In the game, you’re trying to win over the townspeople by constructing buildings and placing them in the best locations. Each building you construct will give you either a one time effect, dice manipulation powers to help make future construction easier, engine building powers to make getting dice easier, or new end game scoring conditions.

I love that there’s so many different directions you can go in while playing and at the end of every game, you can be proud of the town that you’ve constructed, as you’re physically constructing the town out of dice.

5.       What was your inspiration to create the game?

Kevin Russ designed the game and his job as a photographer is to travel around and take pictures of landscapes. He really enjoys going out to the West the most and one day, he was playing with dice and stacking them when he realized the dice kind of looked like a building. That’s all the inspiration that was needed, as he then went out to make the first version of Tumble Town!

6.       What are the most challenging issues that you’ve come across in designing a board game?

Knowing when the game is done is sometimes super hard. You want to make the best game that you can, but the most important part of that is actually finishing the game so that people can enjoy it. It’s also about making a product and knowing when to cut or add things that I personally might not enjoy, but doing so despite that to appeal to a greater audience. For example, at one time the building card backs of Tumble Town were all unique and there was a lot of replayability there. I ended up making the card backs super similar to each other as it made it so each player didn’t have to reevaluate the card backs each turn when a new one came up and it really streamlined the design and lowered the time between each player’s turn. This choice made the game better overall, even though I did enjoy having the card backs be really different. It’s finding all the small changes like that that together can really elevate the game to be fantastic.

7.       What aspects of board game designing do you enjoy the most?

I love being able to create an experience to give to people that they can enjoy. It’s always amazing to see players forget about everything but the game that they’re playing, even if it’s just for 45 minutes.

I also really enjoy the problem solving aspect of improving a game design. You play the game, get feedback, and have to identify the problem areas of the game and how to fix them. There’s so many things you can do and they might or might not fix the problem and you don’t know until you playtest again and see what happens. I love the feeling of fixing things and slowly getting to an amazing game.

8.       What were some hurdles you’ve overcome, as a woman, to get to where you are in the industry?

I think part of being a woman is getting people to respect you and to actually listen to what you have to say. It’s taken years of me creating games that people love, going to conventions, hitting deadlines, and being in the community, but I think I’m finally starting to be someone that people know and trust.

9.       What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Everytime I get a finished game in, it’s always amazing. Being able to have that first proof copy in my hands is such a great feeling, as I can see all the hard work that I’ve done in physical form. It’s also been super great whenever I see someone suggest one of my games to their friends or even a few times when someone has recommended all of my games!

Another really great moment was recently when I went to pitch one of my game designs to another publisher and it only took a day to go from sending the email talking about my design to getting a contract. It was such a good experience to know that another publisher thought so highly of me and my design that they’d sign it that fast.

10.   Do you have any other board games in development or currently available that you would like to share with our readers?

Big Easy Busking is my latest game! It’ll scheduled to hit retail this summer, but you can order it from me before then. Big Easy Busking is an area control game for 1-5 players set in New Orleans where the players are street performers trying to hit it big. It’s super bright and colorful, just like New Orleans, and it’s also the game that I’ve worked on that I lose the most. This is because songs take time to play; one one turn you decide which crowd you’re playing a song to and the next turn, you finish that song.  If you’ve matched the mood of the song you’re playing to the mood of the crowd, you get a choice when you finish your song; either put in all the energy that the song needed and gain extra tips OR put in only a few energy tokens and redistribute the remaining energy among your band members. This means that players can make you think that they’re trying to win over one crowd, but they can then change their mind and go for a different crowd and you’ll have to try to compensate for that change.

I’m also working on the Fire in the Library: the Card Game, which brings the press your luck and saving books of Fire in the Library to a smaller card game form. It’s going to hit Kickstarter later this year and I’m super excited about it, as it should be super portable, but just as fun and exhilarating as Fire in the Library is. 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/tumble-town/

http://weirdgiraffegames.com/

https://twitter.com/WeirdGiraffes

PAX Unplugged 2019: Castle Siege

At PAX Unplugged this year, we had the pleasure of meeting Bryan Staudt, the creator of a “no table needed” card game called Castle Siege. We asked him a few questions. Check out his answers below!

Q. Tell Us About Your Game.

A. Castle Siege is a “no table needed” pocket strategy game of castle building and destruction (2 players, ~10 minutes). It can be played without a table, perfect for standing in line, or waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Players build their castles in the spaces between fingers on their left hand, using catapults and siege trolls to attack the enemy’s castle, and using archers, boiling oil, and fireballs to defend their own!

Q. What was your inspiration to create the game?

A. I designed it for one of Button Shy’s 18-card challenges: Design a game with only 18 cards that can be played without a table. I thought, “If I can’t play cards onto a table, what if I play them into my own hand instead?” Using the spaces between fingers felt like constructing the tiers of a building, like a castle, and the rest of the design grew out of that.

Q. When should we expect to see it? OR, if already released, how has the response been since release?

A. Castle Siege is currently on a crowd sale through The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand website. List price is $15.99, but the sale starts at $13.99. For every 10 people who back the game, the price drops by almost 50 cents. When the sale ends on Sunday, December 15th, 2019, everyone gets the lowest achieved price! Check it out here.

You can learn more about the game here.

The crowd sale over on The Game Crafter started yesterday, Dec. 9th and will end on Sunday, Dec. 15th. Go check it out today!

Kickstarter Preview: Psi Wars

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It is the 37th century. Competing warlords have harnessed the knowledge of creation, using it to create powerful armies. This knowledge has spread across the galaxy unchecked causing mass-extinctions. Most of humanity has been wiped out. The Galactic Alliance has enlisted your help. Hyper-Card technology allows you to take part in planetary battles and help re-establish order in the galaxy.

In Psi Wars you’ll use advanced technologies to create an army of forces in order to fight for control of your planet. Creatures battle psyonically, physically, and through cyber attacks. To win, a player must use their army to crush their opponent’s forces and reduce their lab to 0.

Developed by Michael Wohl (a self professed old school gamer) and his son, Adeev (who usually wins their games), Psi Wars is a fast playing futuristic themed deck builder for 2-4 players. I chatted with the boys about Psi Wars and the game design process in anticipation of their Kickstarter launch.

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What prompted the development of Psi Wars?

Michael: My son Adeev and I have been playing games for years, including all sorts of card games. Since I have been a gamer for 40 years and an an entrepreneur for 30 (thanks to gaming) – I had a lot of experience to pull from, both as a gamer and a developer. I really felt games that had absolutes, such as games where a 5 always beat a 4) were missing important elements of life. A 5 has a better chance of beating a 4, but not 100%. In life there are no absolutes, which could be reflected in a game. We realized that we could create a multi-dimensional game that had relatively simple rules with tremendous degrees of freedom of decision-making. This would lead to highly creative strategies – a beautiful balance of creativity and reasoning. We went through so many iterations and refinements together. I like Decision-Making research, Game Theory, etc, which is at the heart of Psi Wars.

Adeev: My dad and I like to play a lot of games and watch movies together. We started bending rules of some games and really enjoyed the process. We thought we could expand this idea.

What did you think about the design/playtesting process? What did you like/dislike?

Adeev: It was a really fun and educational experience. I was able to create something from my imagination. I kept thinking of new cards and abilities and would share them with my dad. I created spreadsheets with tons of ideas. It was really fun doing this with my dad, we learned a lot together and I now know what it takes to launch a business.

 I was always a bit impatient about getting the game out there and always excited for new ideas. I even started counting down the days until launch. I even get to go to game conventions for ‘work.’ I mean, how cool is that?

Michael: The design and play testing was a highlight of the entire process. Our goal was a beautifully balanced game. Every time we changed a small rule it would change us and how we played. We’d see if there was a way to ‘game’ the rules, etc. Once it was refined, we sought highly sophisticated players of other strategic card games and their reaction was wonderful – nobody has played anything quite like Psi Wars. It was invigorating to recognize the excitement they found in playing our game. The other piece was working with all of the artists around the world to create an artistic vision that works also as 3D animated lenticular cards. We were lucky to work with some amazing people to produce outstanding art. Everyone flips out over the 3D cards. From the start, we wanted the game to be mesmerizing from an artistic and sensory perspective. I think holding back Psi Wars until it was really ready to launch was hard. We worked on it for over 2.5 years and we are dying for people to play it. We are very curious to see what all of the amazing minds in the world do when they start to construct/personalize their own decks and strategies. We have non-random expansion packs in the works.

What do you hope your audience gets/takes away from the game?

Michael: Really appreciating the card art while kicking some serious butt through mind-bending strategies that make you jump up and down and scream like we do when we play.  A new joy that playing Psi Wars brings through creative strategy and decision-making. Navigating the fog of war with perfectly imperfect information, which helps so much to understand how to thrive in the world.

Adeev: I hope they have as much fun and enjoyment as we do playing Psi Wars.

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Psi Wars is great intro to deck builders for new players and a intensely fast playing game for experienced ones with striking art that really evokes its sci-fi theme. Check it out on Kickstarter May 15th. Keep up with their progress and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

It Takes a Village – Board Game Grrrls and the Importance of Women Gaming Groups

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Games of all sorts are a fantastic way to connect with people whether they’re old friends or you’ve just met. Whenever my partner and I move to a new area our first priority is finding a local game group, and a few of those folks always wind up becoming good friends. For women this can be a little intimidating – sometimes game spaces seem very male dominated, or one or two of the members can be unintentionally (or intentionally) creepy. In the past decade gaming has seen the rise of girl-friendly or girl-only groups both to build positive space for established lady gamers and to create a welcoming environment for new ones. I caught up with Board Game Grrrls facebook group founder Saille Warner Norton this week to talk about games, grrrls, and the importance of  inclusive game spaces.

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Why did you start Board Game Grrrls?

I did it on a whim after Yet Another Awful Thread on another FB board game group. I’ve always been community orientated, and I am one of the admins on another female focused geek group, so it was an easy jump for me to create. I thought I’d maybe get a handful of other female gamers to chat with about gaming. I used “Grrrl” because I came of age during the Riot Grrrls movement of the 90’s, and I think that history and meaning is suitable for us today.

Whats your favorite game? Least favorite? Why?
I have yet to pinpoint my favorite game. I have a number of games that I will always play.  Currently, I’m on a Sagrada kick. I also love Tokaido and Karmaka. Both games are beautiful. My favorite games tend to be ones with gorgeous art and mechanics that match their themes. I also play quite a few 2 player abstract games, like Santorini and Onitama, with my eldest. He’s been playing chess since he was 7, and its one of the only ways I have a chance to beat him!  My least favorite is hands down, Cards Against Humanity. CAH allows people to bring out their worst selves under the guise of a game. It is all the -ists rolled into one. I really don’t understand the fun of that. Now that being said, I hold great respect for the company for putting their ill gotten gains towards a greater good. I’m just not sure the ends justifies the means in this case.
Do you feel like the game community is general welcoming towards women? How could it be improved?
My local community seems very welcoming, in general. Several of our local game stores are woman owned. But I know that is not the situation across the board. I hear reports all the time of women being treated poorly by both store employees and other gamers at the table. One would think in this highly competitive market stores at least would be more welcoming and inclusive. Private gaming groups seem to be much more welcoming. But issues still come up. I think awareness is the number one way to improve inclusiveness. We need men to step in and be the ones calling out misogyny and sexism in our gaming communities. Women need to know that our gaming spaces are safe and that should there be an issue, other players have our backs. Unfortunately, I think online communities still have a very long way to go.
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PAX Unplugged and The Roll Initiative

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses – I have recently returned from attending my first convention as an exhibitor. Thia the Bard was gracious enough to provide me some questions to answer about my experience.

How did you find out about The Roll Initiative?

I saw an ad posted by The Roll Initiative on a Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League facebook page looking for volunteer Dungeon Masters for PAX Unplugged. I’ve had experience playing in the AL and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to step up and DM, delving deeper into the league.

What is your favorite thing about TRI?

I like that it’s just starting out and this was the first event they were orchestrating. The entire lead team are also gamers and fans of D&D. I was able to be myself and ended meeting a lot of fun people. I hope I made a few friends along the way.

What are you most excited about for PAX Unplugged this year? 

Since this was an official D&D event, TRI was able to get Fai Chen to attend our RPG slots. (Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire is the D&D Adventures League trading post.) Players in the league can use Fai Chen at conventions to trade magical items they don’t have a use for. I’ve collected a few myself, and honestly that was my biggest goal in attending the convention. 

TRI

That’s our logo!

Did you get to attend any panels?

I was so busy running modules over the weekend I was unable to attend any of the panels. I would have liked to have seen the Critical Role gang.

What advice do you have for newbies headed to events like PAX Unplugged?

Be patient. The role playing game fandom is HUGE and sometimes the organizers underestimate how many wonderful people they’ll need to accommodate. The lines this year were incredible and this was the first year for both PAX Unplugged and for TRI’s RPG tables. Next year I’m sure everyone will have a much better experience.

Do you have any tips for gamers who are looking for a group like TRI?

TRI is growing, I can’t speak officially for them, but follow the link above and check them out. I’m sure they could use more DMs. You can also stay active on social media. Facebook has a lot of fan pages for DMs, players, item trades, and games with open slots. Also, if you find a page, or group you like…share it. Word of mouth is the best way to expand what we like about gaming.

Catlilli Games – When Science meets Board Gaming

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I had the good fortune to meet the driving force behind Catlilli Games at my first game demo at WashingCon last month. I was immediately hooked by Tacto, a programming in the guise of Tic-Tac-Toe that both teaches programming AND is genuinely fun to play. Catlilli Games has successfully bridged the gap between learning AND fun, developing educational games that are exciting to play in addition to teaching STEM.  Since the company was formed they’ve won numerous awards including awards from the Imagination Gaming Awards and three International Serious Play Awards this year. This week I sat down again with Catherine Swanwick to talk about women in games and game development.

What prompted you to get into game design, and why educational games?
I’ve loved board games my whole life.  I used to collect them and my parents would become exasperated when they took up so much room.  When I became a teacher, I started creating them (simple, short ones) whenever I could for the classroom.  One of my colleagues, Jon Nardolilli, did the same thing, and I discovered that not only was he a board game lover, too, but that he had designed his own actual full-length game.  I became inspired and started to design games, also.  We decided to form our own company, Catlilli Games (part of my first name and part of his last name).  We are both STEM teachers, and as a former scientist, I am passionate about educating the public about STEM concepts.  It’s the reason I became a teacher.  My company, Catlilli Games, is extremely mission-driven.  We want to transform STEM education with gaming.

How long have you been gaming?
I’ve collected/played/loved board games my entire life. I only started designing games in Jan. 2015 when Catlilli Games was founded.

Do you feel like the game design industry and tabletop community is positive towards women? Why?
Overall, I have to say that no, I don’t feel the game design industry/tabletop community is welcoming towards women.  I haven’t experienced outright animosity, but I am naturally excluded from gaming groups, and I do feel slightly uncomfortable when I want to attend game nights at stores but they are mostly men.  However, there are pockets of very welcoming communities, such as Labyrinth on Capitol Hill (Washington DC), where I have found men and women present in equal numbers and I have always felt a warm, friendly, accepting vibe toward women.

Whats your favorite game? Least favorite?
My favorite game is so very difficult to choose!  In general, I like cooperative games (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Mole Rats in Space – basically anything by Matt Leacock), although I do have a special place in my heart for Machi Koro.  My absolute LEAST favorite game is PieFace – I call it my archenemy.  It goes against everything I stand for as a game designer.

Why do you think educational games are beneficial/important?
Games are important for education because they are a natural way of engaging students.  They automatically stimulate their attention, and they let them interact with the material in a hands-on, creative, exciting way.  Even better, they allow students to talk through questions/problems and learn from each other in many ways.  I also believe that gaming experiences will help them retain the material for longer periods of time.

Whats your favorite stage of the design process?
My favorite part of the design process are the very earliest stages, when I or my former partner had the seed of an idea and knew it has the potential to make a great game, so we would sit for hours going through all the permutations to set up an initial prototype.  The excitement is indescribable.

Looking for an entertaining way to help a kid in your life with science? You can purchase Catlilli Games from their website. (And try Tacto – its outstanding!)

Interview with Joe Kerr Cosplay

Hello, lovelies! Rinshi here with another cosplay interview – just for you! This time I had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented Joe Kerr Cosplay. As you might imagine from his name, Joe Kerr specializes in cosplaying The Joker from the Batman universe, and believe me when I tell you that he’s one of the best I’ve seen. Do you doubt me? Then read on!

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