Today we’re joined by Scott Caputo, designer of Völuspá, a Norse-themed tile-laying game from Stronghold Games.
Scott, thanks for hanging out with us. First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you, Scott, for the opportunity to talk with you. I am originally from Salem, Oregon, but now I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my wife, Melissa, and two young sons. I’m lucky to be able to be a game designer as my day job as well as my hobby. I work as a Game Design Manager at IGT where I manage a team of game designers making online slot games. So I design new slot games during the day and new board games at night!
So you recently came out with Order of the Gods, an expansion for your game Völuspá. Can you tell us about those games?
Völuspá is a game of Norse gods and creatures in which the goal is to cleverly place your tiles to score the most points. At the heart of the game, as you know, you are trying to place the highest number in a row or column to score points, but there are a variety of tile special powers, including from the latest Order of the Gods expansion, that shake things up and make things even more interesting.
Völuspá was originally released under the name Kachina, with a Native American theme. What made you decide to go in a different thematic direction with it? Yes, it’s true this game concept was originally published as Kachina by Bucephalus Games in 2009, but that company eventually went out of business. Later, White Goblin Games approached me about republishing the game, except they wanted a new theme. Kachina dolls might be (somewhat) familiar to folks here in the US, but it was a very foreign theme for Europeans. So White Goblin Games suggested I retheme the game with Norse mythology which led to the creation of Völuspá.
Do the games differ in any significant ways--other than theme?
Yes, I modified one small rule to the base game (Völuspá allows you to take a Dragon with a Skadi, something Kachina did not let you do), and I reduced the number of Troll (Ogre) tiles. The most significant change is the addition of the Saga of Edda expansion in the box. Back in the days of Kachina, Bucephalus Games had asked me to create an expansion for the game. I finished the expansion, but it was never published since that company went under. When White Goblin Games wanted to republish the game, I strongly suggested including the expansion in the box as I felt those tiles really made the game even more fun to play.
How did you first get into the hobby?
I have some good friends who live near me who have a big collection of games. Over many years, I visited them and played a great variety of games that I enjoyed a lot. Eventually, I started to buy my own games and start my own collection, which now numbers around 200 games. During those years, one friend was also an aspiring board game designer, and at some point, I decided to try my own hand at designing a board game. The result was Unearth, which I entered into the Kublacon Board Game Design in 2006 and amazingly it won! Despite many attempts, that game was never published, but I kept designing games. A year after entering Unearth, I entered Kachina into the same contest. The game didn’t win, but one of the judges liked the game so much that she introduced it to a friend of hers who was starting Bucephalus Games and they published Kachina the next year.
What are your five favorite games--and why?
My favorites are always changing, but here are 5 games I definitely enjoy a lot:
Dominion: Every game is so different and I love the challenge of finding the best way to use the 10 Kingdom cards chosen for that game. Plus, it’s a great game to play with my wife.
Pandemic: Still my favorite cooperative game, full of tension and suspense and another frequent game my wife and I play together.
Hamsterrolle: I like dexterity games a lot and this one has a definite “Wow” factor on the table. It’s fun to try to make pieces stay together hanging upside down.
The Resistance: A quick-playing party game for gamers, full of treachery and paranoia; it’s always tricky to try to read people.
Texas Hold’em Poker: A great risk-it-all game that never fails to create dramatic turning points. Who doesn’t like saying “All In!”?
According to your profile on Boardgamegeek, you’re Catholic. How has your faith affected you as a game designer--and a game player?
Given that I support my family from being a game designer, I feel like it is my calling to make games that make people happy. I believe it is a God-given talent I am trying to develop as best I can, but I still have so much to learn. As a game player, I certainly have organized many board game nights for my Catholic Young Adult group and it is a fun way for people of faith to play together. I have made home-made versions of Catholic Pictionary and Catholic Times Up! for retreats.
So are there any new games on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Recently, I signed a new game with a new publisher, but I think that is all I can say. It should be announced in 2015.
Okay, it’s our lightning round! Five quick questions--you answer with one word (or a short phrase). Go!
Favorite tile in Völuspá (or Order of the Gods)? Sea Serpent
Favorite John Coltrane album? Love Supreme
Favorite proverb? I am the vine and you are the branches.
Last good book you read? W S Merwin’s The Rain in the Trees
Farscape or Babylon 5? Babylon 5
Thanks, again, Scott for answering our goofy questions. You can check out our review of Völuspá right here. It’s good! Go get it!