Today we welcome Saar Shai, the man behind the hit game The Agents. He’s just launched a new game on Kickstarter and he’s here to talk to us about it.
First, for people who don’t know who you are, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a gamer who designs games for a living. I love playing games and I love creating them. Luckily, I’m able to do both a lot of the time.
Your Agents campaign was wildly successful. What are some lessons you learned from that campaign that you’re carrying forward?
Campaigns are hard work, and I learned that the hard way. The success of The Agents was unexpected and I must say that I wasn’t prepared. While much has gone into designing the game and creating the campaign, the scale of support that we received on Kickstarter was amazing and sometimes overwhelming. Lesson number 1, then, is plan for every eventuality. Lesson number 2? Have fun! (Seriously, it helps.)
Your new game is King Down. What’s it about?
Ahhh, King Down, the epic struggle of 4 would-be kings to defeat each other, take the capitol and claim the crown. The deciding battle of the rightful heir to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. The perilous journey from the corners of the land to complete domination… What more can I say?
The game has some beautiful miniatures. What was the process for finding people to make those, and coming up with the designs?
Thanks. I’ve been working closely with Dream Catcher Studios to fill the world of King Down with wonderful visuals. Rafi and Nadav, the founders, were introduced to me by someone from my play-groups, and we immediately connected over our love for fantasy movies. Dream Catcher mainly produces visual effects, not art for games. However, it was interesting for them to take on the challenge of doing something different, and I believed that they could bring a new and exciting take to the development of the game.
It was such a great experience thinking of the designs for the characters and breathing life into the world of the game. We wanted the miniatures to look elegant and powerful, so that players can really connect with them during the game. We wanted them to have a unifying style but for each piece to have a unique twist to it. We wanted their appearance to tell a story. That defined the creative process for us.
So I’m sure people are wondering: What makes King Down different from chess?
Let me answer by noting what makes King Down similar to chess, and that’s not a lot, actually. The pieces can move in the same way as chess, and the board consists of 64 tiles, also like chess. But that’s where the similarity ends. The rules are completely different, adding more layers of theme and strategy. The pieces are subject to “calling cards” and “spell cards,” and there are new pieces (in the expansion “Keepers of the King” and future expansions) with exciting new behaviors and abilities. The board is now a vibrant land of different zones and terrains.
King Down is a completely new game that draws some inspiration from chess. It is less of a logical challenge (chess) and more of a tabletop game, with a colorful and rich theme and engaging social interactions.
What got you into game design and publishing in the first place?
I enjoy playing games. I love the fun experiences that they provide and the wonderful worlds that they inhabit. I also love thinking up fun experiences and wonderful worlds, so I always had a passion to take my ideas and form new games from them. Naturally, this led me to being a game designer as my profession.
Publishing games is not an easy endeavor. However, reaching publishers and convincing them to consider your games might be even harder, and much less rewarding. I wanted to be part of many of the stages of bringing a game to the hands of the players. I wanted to be able to control the final outcome as much as I could. I didn’t want to compromise. Luckily, the amazing Kickstarter community that supported The Agents and now supporting King Down has made it possible for me to realize this.
What are some recent board games that have captured your attention?
While I don’t get much time to play games other than King Down at the moment, I’ve recently developed an attraction to bluffing games, such as Werewolf, Resistance, Coup and their many variants. My next project is probably going to be a game that takes the basic formula behind these types of games and takes it to the next level.
What does tabletop gaming mean to you?
Friendship. It’s what I most like doing with friends, so for my tabletop gaming is what friends are for.
Are you done with the evocative world of The Agents, or can we expect more?
Far from it. Expect a board game (“The Agents: Tactics”, working title) that builds on the “Double-edged Cards” mechanic and applies it to not just the characters but also to the world around them. I can’t reveal any more information, as it is highly classified.
Lighting Round: Quick questions--even quicker answers!
1- Favorite army in King Down? Why?
The Dark Army, coming up as a new expansion. Why? Stay tuned for the big reveal!
Most famous person you’ve ever met?
I once saw Liam Neeson on the other side of the street. Does that count?
The thought of the new Star Wars film: fills you with dread or delight?
Big fan of J. J.; I’m sure he’ll do a good job.
Louis CK, hands down.
Favorite board game expansion?
Dark Army, King Down (Sorry, couldn’t resist picking one of my own.)
Thank to Saar for joining us. If you'd like to check out the King Down campaign, you can do that here.
Thanks for reading!