Last week, game designer Ben Rosset took a few minutes to answer all the burning questions we had about himself, his new game Mars Needs Mechanics, and the meaning of life. How did you become interested in designing board games?
I always loved playing board games from a young age. In junior high school, I asked my teacher if I could design a board game about a book instead of doing a book report. She said yes, and the game was a big hit! More recently, though, I need to credit my good friend Mike Swiryn, an amazing designer. We had been hanging out and playing games quite a bit (this was about 4 years ago). Then one day, he said, “Dude, check this out. I designed a game!” And that was it. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to get into board game design. I went home that night and wrote down some rules for an idea I had, and I was on my way. I haven’t stopped since.
What sparked the vision for Mars Needs Mechanics?
My goal was to make an easy to learn Economics game where players could only indirectly control the market price of goods, and where players would have to predict the behavior of everyone else in order to be successful. That led to the “Sales Order Line,” the driving force behind Mars Needs Mechanics. It’s a unique timing mechanism for controlling the price of the game’s components (Boilers, Wire, Lenses, Piping, etc), and it's what makes the game hum. People really love it. Its something new, and it’s a very simple system.
So, the Berkeley Breathed book and subsequent Disney film Mars Needs Moms didn't come into play? Or are you tired of being asked that?
No, Mars Needs Moms didn't come into play. To be honest, I didn't even know about that film (which I hear was a flop) before I named the game Mars Needs Mechanics. However, I did know about the 1967 film Mars Needs Women. It was more a play on that than the Disney film. And yes, people ask me this question a lot, but its ok...we invited the question when we decided on the name. If anything, its helped to spark a bit of interest in the game.
How did you land at Nevermore Games?
I was a slow-comer to social media, but I must credit Twitter here! Twitter recommended that I follow Nevermore Games. That’s how I first connected with them, about 3 weeks before PrezCon in February 2012. I met Bryan and John at PrezCon, they played the game, they loved it, and a week later they called me to say they wanted to publish it.
Mars Curiosity, legit, or TV studio production?
Legit all the way. I have faith that Curiosity is really on Mars. It would be too big of a production to fake it. They’d never keep everybody quiet. I’m now following the Curiosity Rover on Twitter, but I’m also following the Sarcastic Rover, a spoof of the real thing. They’re both great.
What are the top 5 games you're playing right now, and why?
With all the time we’ve been spending with Mars Needs Mechanics, I haven’t had much time to play other games. So I’ll give you three. First, I’m playing States: After the Fall. It’s an unpublished game by Mike Swiryn, Aaron Winkler, and David Golanty. I won’t give too much away about the game, but I know it's received tremendous feedback from publishers at conventions, and I suspect it will get picked up by a publisher very soon. After that, I’ll say For Sale, by Stefan Dorra. This is a game that has been on my list to try for quite a while, and I finally did a couple weeks ago. Short, simple, and addictive, I loved it right away. Third, Agricola is always on my list. Its still my favorite Euro game, and it's hard to imagine it ever getting knocked out of my top 5!
Is Mars Needs Mechanics your first game design, or are there others we should be checking out?
Its my first design that’s being published, but stay tuned. I’m working on others, and hope to be lucky enough to have more games published soon!
Other than "42," what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?
Wow, this is a great interview! I’m quite confident that I will get closer to the answer to this as I get older, though I’m humble enough not to believe I’ll ever know it all. But for me, the meaning of life is to contribute as much as we can toward the increasing of peace and happiness, and as much as we can toward the cessation of suffering in the world.
Ok, the next 5 questions only require a one word response. The answer will explain it all!
Star Wars, or Trek?
Marvel or DC?
DC (because I live there)
Aslan or Gandalf?
Favorite pizza topping?
Mars Needs Mechanics launches a Kickstarter campaign on midnight Aug. 31! As soon as we have a link, we'll post it here for you! But for now, click here if you want to check out Mars Needs Mechanics!