We Interview Jesse Catron—Designer of Salmon Run

Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. Can you tell us a little about yourself?  Sure, I’m 35 years old and I live in Maryland with my wonderful wife and our 6 dogs.  I‘m an Optometrist by profession; my hobby is board gaming, and my passion is board game design. Your new game Salmon Run is a combination race game and deck-building game. What gave you the idea to combine those two types of games? Salmon Run was very much a theme-first design. The theme led me to develop it as a racing game.  The salmon would race each other upriver to spawn. The long and grueling nature of the salmon's journey upriver led me to develop the fatigue mechanic. Being more of a marathon than a sprint, I wanted to emulate the struggle the salmon endure and reward pacing. Having fatigue cards accumulate in each player's deck to slow them down by the end of the race seemed natural.  Having “rest” areas where players could remove fatigue also seemed logical. Since the movement (swim) deck was dynamic and changed over the course of the race, I layered in the other special cards that could be added along the way. This greatly enhanced the experience, allowing for more deck specialization and more player interaction.

What’s your favorite race game, and why? Not including my own, I have always been fond of Wolfgang Kramer’s racing system which includes Daytona 500, Top Race, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix. I really enjoy its simplicity and accessibility, its pre-race auction, and its card-driven movement. The dichotomy of controlling both your car(s) and your opponents is fascinating and makes for some interesting decisions and some light diplomacy.

What’s your favorite deck-building game, and why? I must preface my response by saying there are many DBGs I have yet to play, so my experience is limited. That being said, I will have to stay with the original: Dominion. Often imitated and enhanced, the simplicity and genius of the design still shines through. It's fast and accessible, with multiple strategies and great replayability.

How did you first discover Euro board games? I grew up playing a lot of board games like Risk, Monopoly, Axis and Allies, and the original Survive! Later on I got into collectible card games like Star Wars and the Star Trek CCG. Games were always an interest of mine and I never really stopped playing them. One year my brother bought me the Settlers of Catan for Christmas. Perhaps it was its dry theme but it sat on my self for about a year while I continued stupidly pouring money into CCGs. Eventually I played it and became hooked, and began to expand into other euro games.  Though it's not perfect, Settlers remains the game I've played the most and I still very much enjoy playing it when I can.

Who is your favorite game designer, and which of that designer’s games is your favorite? This is a very tough question to answer!  There are many designers that I respect and admire, and the reality is I have yet to play enough of their games to form a valid opinion. A few that come to mind are Wolfgang Kramer, Michael Schacht, Antoine Bauza, and Stefan Feld. However, at this time, my favorite is Martin Wallace. I enjoy his unforgiving economic mechanics and historical themes. I admire his innovative use of deck-building in a war game in A Few Acres of Snow (despite its flaws). My favorite game of his is Steam. Steam melds many mechanics together in a very smooth and refined package while keeping in track with its theme. 

One-word Response Questions:

Creamy or crunchy? Crunchy

Burger topping? BBQ-sauce

Favorite musician/band? (This can be more than one word, as necessary.) The Beatles

Trek or Wars? Wars

Batman or Superman? Batman

Thanks to Jesse for taking the time to answer our questions. Now go check out his Kickstarter campaign, Salmon Run! And as always, thanks for reading.