Are You Not Entertained? An Interview with Luke Seinen, Co-Designer of Carthage

Thanks for joining us on Theology of Games. Today we're chatting with Luke Seinen, co-designer of Carthage, which has just hit Kickstarter!

Luke! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us today!

Thanks for having me, Jeremiah! Loving what you guys are doing, bringing faith and games together like this!

First let's jump right into Carthage--give us the rundown.

Carthage is basically an all-out, fast-paced, fun, and chaotic gladiator match! If you were to take Dominion and Spartacus and mash them together, you might be close to seeing what we’ve accomplished with this game! We are calling it a “combat deckbuilder.” Using the cheers of the crowd you battle it out in the Theater of Carthage, using the favor gained to develop your deck of cards into some sweet actions to unleash on your opponents. It’s a unique deckbuilder that uses turn-order card-play creating a tactical battle.

So you're the “co-designer” of this game, but you didn't have a typical co-designer--tell us more about that!

I’ve been a Youth and Young Adults Pastor for almost 10 years, and one of my passions has always been connecting with kids in fun and fresh ways through games! I started off working with both Young Life and church kids, and sometimes all you can do to connect with kids (or get them off their phones) is engage them in something cooler and interactive. Board games have found a huge place in the relational ministry work we do with kids. And over the past year, through our regular Board Game Youth Nights and just inviting kids over to hang out and playtest this game, we’ve created something awesome! Some of the youth have had awesome ideas and contributed to a lot of playtesting and backstory creation. Furthermore our Young Adults had an even deeper hand in helping with the design process and were willing “test subjects” for new game modes, mechanics, and wild ideas that I came up with.

So walk us through the design process. Was it more of a weekly gathering to go over ideas/revisions, or did you work electronically via shared docs, etc?

A lot of it has been through just opening up my house and my personal life/hobby to the youth. Over the years I was intentional about including several kids into my personal hobby/downtime and it’s paid off by creating a bunch of high school and college students who are just as passionate about creativity and games as I am. We love just spending time together playing board games!

Over the course of playtesting this game I’ve had the chance to include them all in the design process, and every week I’d get awesome texts, messages, or ideas blasted at me. They all really felt like they were part of the design process--something Carthage has really benefited from.

Having a group of passionate gamers to run ideas by and playtest with is the greatest asset any game designer can have, and I was super blessed to have it in our youth group! It was so much fun to include them in this process.

It’s actually been a really cool example of a principle that I always like to instill in our ministries at church. This idea of “taking others along the journey with you,” that incarnational way of living your life and taking steps together in faith and discovery, is something that can be so impactful in not only the disciple, but also the disciple-maker's life!

How did this all happen? I mean, did you have the idea to design a game and later thought to bring in teens and young adults to help? Or was it an intentional project that you brainstormed?

Like I said, we play games a lot in our youth group. I’ve even run a 3-day “Tabletop Summer Camp” out of one of the local board game stores, which was such a blast.

But last year, mostly as a fun connecting point, I designed a Werewolf "clone" type of game for our young adults house group. It was mostly a tweak on the game, but with a cheeky reskin called “Church Order” and I customized every card, using pictures and ideas about every one of our house group members. It was lots of fun to play it and get stuff like the “Disrespectful Millennial” or the “Church Janitor” cards.

While I was putting that together, I started thinking of the idea that quickly turned into Carthage. After some quick prototyping and playing with family, I brought it to some guys in our youth group and they loved it! From there it just snowballed, and a lot of youth and young adults wanted to try it out and kept giving me ideas about it. I even got a group of college students to record themselves learning and playing it, which was really helpful (even though it was full of sassy jokes about me).

The initial idea came from my own crazy youth pastor brain, but the development and refining was definitely a combined effort from all the youth, young adults, and friends around me. I am so grateful for the hours and hours these guys have put into helping me make this game!

Is this the first time you've used board games to connect with the next generation? Or do you use the hobby in other ways?

I have used board games in so many ways to connect with the next generations. I've found it to be the number one way that you can get youth to put their phones away and engage! We have a collection of games at youth that are just geared towards getting kids talking. Over the years, games such as Apples To Apples, or Would You Rather, or even Werewolf/Mafia are great ways to open up paths of communication.

Also, they're fun. So much fun. I cannot tell you how much I’ve been blessed by playing board games and experiencing a shy 12-year-old's competitive side come alive, or a quiet 16-year-old open up about their passions for art and design after seeing some of the cool thematic games our hobby has to offer.

What can tell us about the Kickstarter campaign? Stretch goals etc?

Yeah! Carthage is now live on Kickstarter!

We're really hoping to raise enough to get this thing manufactured and produced. My wife and I also run a small graphic design company, so we’ve been working really hard to make sure this looks great!

We have a lot planned for stretch goals, but I can’t tell you a lot about them yet… ;) What I can tell you is that a lot of people have been asking for a solo/co-op mode and that is very much something we really want to offer and something we are playtesting right now!

Lightning round! Quick questions and quick answers!

Favorite A-Team member?

Mr T, of course. Come on, give me a harder question.

Favorite Netflix show?

I loved Stranger Things so much! It was so epic! The best part about it was that it celebrated those old school geeks like me. We live in a new era where nerds are mainstream, but back then we hid in basements!

Favorite Star Wars movie?

AHHHHHHHHH I can’t answer this, it's too hard. I LOVE STAR WARS TOO MUCH! (You really did give a harder question.) It has to be Return of the Jedi - the title alone, and the culmination of Anakin's redemption story through sacrifice just gets me in tears every time… If you want to hear me cry through a sermon I wrote on Star Wars, you can check our our church's sermon podcast. (Actually there are two sermons, because I had to preach on The Force Awakens as well.)

Last movie you saw in a theater?

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Favorite book series?

Cormac Mccarthy's Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, etc.) Was I supposed to answer The Bible here?

Thanks for joining us, Luke! And thanks to you for reading! You can check out the Carthage campaign right here