Well, the gaming world was rocked by another bomb dropped by the Arizona-based publisher Gamelyn Games, as they announced an expansion to last year’s smash hit Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Joining us today are Michael Coe, founder and big cheese of Gamelyn, and Scott Almes, designer extraordinaire, to chat with us about the new expansion, and all things Gamelyn and Tiny… and epic…Read More
Today’s interview is with Alex of Mage Company who recently Kickstarted 12 Realms and Hoyuk, and is currently Kickstarting Raid & Trade, a post-apocalyptic adventure/sandbox game.
Alex thanks for joining us today!Read More
Today we're having a chat with designer, Lance Hill, who is currently running a campaign for Kings of Israel, a co-op game set in ancient Israel.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us!
Thank you for having me!
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Lance and I am a full-time stay-at-home dad for our three small children, and part-time game designer. In my previous life I was a systems analyst for small businesses (IT guy). I've been a gamer all my life, and the family game growing up was multi-player solitaire. The game misses the nuance of most euro games, but does allow for more trash talking.
You have a new game on Kickstarter called Kings Of Israel. Tell us about that game.
Kings of Israel takes place during the reign of kings in Israel, which is about 3,000 years ago. Each player takes the role of a line of prophets that, together as a team, are trying to keep evil out of Israel while building the needed altars to win the game. Every turn evil spreads and good or bad events occur, depending on whether the team is living during the reign of a good or bad king. If the players run out of sin cubes or idols, or if Israel is destroyed by Assyria before the altars are built, then the team loses.
Did you set out to make a religious game, and then add the gameplay elements? Or did you first set out to create a fun game, and then add the religious theme?
My original goal was to make a fun game that I could use to teach geography to the teen Bible study I was leading. During the summer session we didn't have a set plan to follow for our studies so I wanted to integrate a game into the studies, but I hit a wall. There are very few biblical-themed games that are actually fun to play, and with the few that are enjoyable the theme is usually light and has nothing to teach. I tried using Settlers of Canaan with pasted-on labels for important locations in roughly the right area, but it was way too abstracted and not very useful. I did have one student go out and buy Settlers of Catan right after the game was done, though! So I decided to start working on my own game to teach geography. Originally it was going to be a resource-delivery game, and I probably still have all my notes of what resources are where in Israel. But then I started to lean towards a "12 tribes of Israel" game with each player taking on a tribe or two, but it started to feel a little bit too cutthroat for a game that's to be used in a Bible study. Then I finally started to think about the spread of disease in Pandemic and started to think how that mechanic could be adapted as a way to show the spread of evil in Israel.
And so Kings of Israel was born! Eventually!
I would say a family game is the closest category, but I tried to make Kings of Israel scalable to the type of group you are playing with. Playing with teens or a family who has never played a real strategy game before? Start them off with either the Basic or Easy version, depending on time and mental constraints. Playing with a group that enjoys gateway games? Play the normal version of Kings of Israel. Group of gamers? Play the Expert mode with the false prophet to grind the team down.
One of the “accusations” leveled against you is that this is just Pandemic with a religious theme. What makes Kings Of Israel unique?
I believe the spreading mechanic in Pandemic should be put in the same category of mechanics as deck-building and worker-placement games. It is a brilliant design that lends itself to many purposes.
Evil spreads in a way similar to Pandemic but it varies in many ways. Instead of needing three cubes before something spreads, an idol is needed for evil to spread in Kings of Israel. Idols can be created when a third (or more) sin cube is added to a location or as the result of a bad event. This causes two issues in-game. First, two cubes in one location is a dangerous spot since it's one away from an idol, and idols are harder to remove than sin cubes. Secondly, since the idols can appear because of bad events, the players cannot depend on just certain areas being the ones to hover around. There is a lot of movement in the game.
There are also dangerous regions on the map based on their proximity to outside nations. Nation cards within the location deck can cause one card to hit multiple areas with sin cubes at once if that nation is connected to those areas. A single area can be hit multiple times in a turn if its location and an adjacent nation are drawn together.
Building altars to win the game is not their only purpose. Altars can be used to make sacrifices if you have the proper resources. A proper sacrifice can remove multiple cubes of sin in a region with one action, and the team cannot win without properly timed sacrifices. Good placement of altars is very important to win the game.
Additionally, the resources needed for altars, and other purposes, are not given to you each turn as it does in Pandemic. Instead a player must use an action to draw a resource card. This big difference alone, I believe, really adjusts the feel to the game. Instead of waiting around for the cards a player needs to win the game, they can go out there and get them! But if a player uses too many actions to acquire those resources instead of removing sin cubes and idols, then they can quickly become overwhelmed and lose. There is a bit of push-your-luck to Kings of Israel in knowing when to try to draw that card you need to do something, or when to just remove that troubled spot that might explode the next turn.
There are many other differences! There is no limit to how many cubes can be in one spot—I've seen six reached at one point. The difficulty can vary each turn depending on the king and how many good or bad events have occurred. Traveling is different, reshuffling the deck occurs but not seeded the way it is in Pandemic, and so on.
Do you think this game would still appeal to atheists? Why or why not?
I think Kings of Israel is also a fun game for atheists. One of the big concerns I imagine an atheist would have is whether Kings of Israel preaches to the player, which is common in biblical-themed games. It does not. If the player likes to sacrifice their children to Molech, then maybe it does talk down a little to the player, but that's about it. There are Bible passages used on the cards but they are flavor text that are applicable to what the card does. To try to alleviate some concern by atheists, I decided that one of my reviews should be done by an atheist, as a “neutral party,” if you will. Richard of “Rahdo Runs Through…” mentioned at one point in a Geeklist that Kings of Israel might be interesting to check out. After confirming he was an atheist I asked him to review a copy of the game, and he agreed! He ended up enjoying Kings of Israel and encouraged others to try it and not be put off by the theme. That review is available on Youtube here if interested.
How did you first get into modern Euros?
I was always interested in gaming and about 10 years ago I came across Boardgamegeek. I knew I had to try some of the highly ranked games, and I did have a roommate that was interested too, so I went to the mall and purchased the best two-player games that I could find. I believe my first Euro games were Alhambra, Attica, Lost Cities, and Settlers of Catan: The Card Game. And it just exploded from there!
What are some of your favorite board games?
I do enjoy a good worker-placement or area-control game, so my top 5 at the moment is probably:
- Die Macher
- Dominant Species
- Through the Ages
- Le Havre
Are there any other games you’re working on?
I do have a couple ideas going around in my head, one of which is far enough along that I am playtesting it right now. It is a little different from Kings of Israel in that it is a game about building pre-fab homes called “Prefabulous!”
Hmm, tough call on that one. I do remember the time another chaperone and I took our youth group camping for the first time in mid-February. I decided that, since we're from Wisconsin, we could survive the colder season in Texas just fine and that everyone would just bundle up. Well, turned out it was going to be one of the coldest days of the year, and it was going to freeze overnight! So we went out camping with all of the poor Texans bundled in layer-upon-layer of clothing. It all went fine until we had to move away from the campfire into our tents. It was around 3AM when I woke up to the sound of the guys next to me shivering. I ended up giving them my blankets while I went outside and walked around until the sun came up!
Now it’s time for the lightning round: 5 questions; 1-word (or phrase) answers.
Favorite Old Testament Prophet?
Last great book you read?
In Cold Blood
Name you would have given your son Isaac if he’d been a girl instead?
Favorite sports team?
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Lance!
And thank you!
Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoyed this interview with Lance Hill! Please check out Kings of Israel on Kickstarter, RIGHT HERE! And don't forget to subscribe to the blog over on the right!
Oh, and did we mention there is still time to get in on the Pixel Lincoln Contest? There is! Just click HERE!
Hey gang! In case you missed it, last week we uploaded our second episode of the Theology of Games Podcast! In this episode we talk about the spectacle that was GenCon, a few games we're looking forward too, and we do our first ever Double-Take review on the podcast! Our featured review game for this episode is Railways Express, from Eagle Games!
Now, for some more news, we're getting ready to record the next episode, and one of the segments we're excited about is our "Mailbag" or "Tweet" bag, or whatever we should call it segment, where we answer questions from readers and listeners just like you. That is, of course, if you're the type of reader or listener who writes us and asks a question to be answered on the show!
So, have a question about gaming? Faith? What kind of razors we use to shave our heads? Fire away! You can leave them here in the comments, or post them on our Facebook page, or Tweet 'em at us! Also, if you have a question and wish to remain anonymous you can email them to us at TheologyofGames@Gmail.com and request anonymity, which we would be glad to grant you! We can't stress enough how much we enjoy and appreciate our interaction with you, so we hope you'll join us and be a part of what we're doing!
If you haven't given the podcast a listen here are some links for ya:
You can find the podcast right here.
And you can subscribe using this RSS feed - http://theologyofgames.libsyn.com/rss
We plan to record this week, and this podcast will feature our first "on air" interview as well! We're a little excited about the whole thing!
Michael, thanks for chatting with us!
So, tell us a little of the Gamelyn Games story; how did you arrive on the gaming scene?
Gamelyn Games is a rapidly growing games and toys company based out of Arizona. My wife Brittany and I started Gamelyn Games shorty after I transitioned out of Crash Games, the publishing company I had previously founded with Patrick Nickell. Brittany and I are both family focused individuals and we actually just started a family of our own! We truly share a passion for providing families and friends with awesome games and toys. We both grew up as gamers and little inventors and I’ve had a burning passion all my life to create games and share my ancient ideas… yes, I’m getting old, so we set out to make our dreams come true!
We’ve started to hear the buzz coming out of Gencon about Fantasy Frontier, but for those who don’t know the game, can you give us a quick overview?
Absolutely! Fantasy Frontier is a 2-4 player euro game that delivers an epic airship experience! Players compete for victory points by creating geographic patterns, building settlements and through aerial combat. The game boasts a synergetic package of tile placement, pattern recognition, worker placement and resource gathering.
What inspired the creation and design of Fantasy Frontier?
It all started when I was about 5 years old with The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin! I say that jokingly but maybe there is some truth to it. I did absolutely love the airship toy and I had the whole crew! I’d be lying if I didn’t say that ever since then I had an affinity for airships. It seems every time one showed up in a new video game that game quickly became my favorite; Mario Bros. 3, Final Fantasy 2, Chrono Trigger, Warcraft 2 and many others.
In addition to my love for airships, I love map making. I began playing D&D at eleven and once I had a turn at being the DM I was hooked. I would create my own worlds vast with adventure. I’d spend hours creating maps of the worlds and their key areas and then bring them to the table for players to explore.
Fantasy Frontier is a product of my dreams to create a game of airships and cartography!
What is the “hook” for Fantasy Frontier? That is to say, what one thing about the game sets it apart from other games?
The emphasis on map making from atop a fantastic airship sets Fantasy Frontier apart! Also, the theme; as much as people have been calling it steampunk (and I take no offense to that) it is actually high-fantasy. Naomi Robinson has done a magnificent job capturing that theme.
Lastly, the integration and execution of a euro game with optional take-that elements.
Like so many indie (and established) game publishers, you’re funding this title through Kickstarter; you’ve also had plenty of success in the past bringing games to market through crowd funding. What bit of advice would you give an up-and-comer looking to kickstart a project?
Create a complete project plan that includes a pre-production schedule, marketing strategies, a production schedule, and a post-production plan. Do your research about Kickstarter, taxes, production and shipping costs, marketing costs etc. Sound overwhelming? It can be, but remember a wall is built one brick at a time.
Your BGG bio says you’re also a professional actor! Whoah! Do you still act, or are you just making games for a living?
I haven’t acted in some time, but I still love it! I plan to return to acting once I am able to make games full time. I work an average of 80-100 hours a week between my day job and Gamelyn Games. Once I can cut out my day job, I’d love to return to acting.
Hypothetically speaking, if you were trying to impress someone at a party or social gathering while talking about your acting career, whose name would you drop when listing off folks you’ve worked with?
Kathy Bates, Kate Mara, Gregory Smith, Chris Pratt… I’ve been very blessed to have worked with some really awesome and really talented people in the acting industry.
What are some of your favorite games to play right now? and why?
Board Games: Chess, Carcassonne, and Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. I really enjoy many others but these are recent visitors to the game table. Chess for the epitome in strategy and tactics that it is, Carcassonne for capturing medieval landlording in an approachable package, and Agricola All Creatures… for the breeding…lol =D
Video Games: Legend of Zelda (NES), Adventures of Link (NES) and Pilot Wings (SNES)… why? Because it they make me feel like a kid again alright, you want the truth? There it is!
Word on the street has it that Eric Vale, of Dragon Ball Z fame, will be doing (or has done by now) the voice work for the Kickstarter video of Fantasy Frontier. Any other cool surprises you can tell us about coming during the campaign?
The coolness of Eric Vale doing Fantasy Frontier is a hard act to follow. I am working on some fun ideas for the campaign stretch goals but can’t let the cat out of the bag quite yet.
We’ve had some conversations offline about the review we wrote for Dungeon Heroes. We wanted again to thank you for understanding our point of view. We’re also very curious if there are any plans for the future of Dungeon Heroes? Dungeon Heroes has a very bright future! The game has been received tremendously and the stores can’t keep it on the shelf. This is all fuel for the 4 player version I am currently working on. I’m also exploring additional expansions to the current 2 player system. So, lots of good stuff in development. Dungeon Heroes lends itself well to expandability and my well of creativity for it is deep.
So what does “down time” look like for the Coe family? Or do you get much of that? I make time for “down time” because that is the time I get with my wife and daughter, the two most meaningful aspects of my life. We spend time going to the park, the mall, going out for dinner and even sometimes the arcade, Jolene (my daughter, 10 months old) loves going out and meeting other kids and seeing the wonderful world we live in. We also spend good quality time at home just relaxing and playing with Jolene, teaching her new things. She just took her first two steps the other day! Good times!
Okay...5 Questions/5 Words (or very short phrases) to answer them! Aaaand GO!
• Favorite dirigible? Ooo… that’s tough… I’m going to cop out and say that I love them all equally. They are all my babies after all. =)
• Favorite urban legend you wish was actually true? LOL! I don’t wish any were true! That’s just macabre! There are lots of fairy tales I wish were true though.
• Best part of an Oreo—Cookie or Stuffing? The 10 year old me would have said the stuffing, but the current me has grown an appreciation for the synergy that the stuffing and cookie have together.
• Favorite toy when you were a kid? Wow, that’s a hard question. I was big into toys as a kid, but I think I loved my Ninja Turtles and Jurassic Park collections the most.
• Name of your first RPG character? Jolene, a Paladin in D&D advanced 2nd edition. Also, the name of my mother and now my daughter. ROFL… wow I’m a geek, bad!
Michael, thanks so much for taking some time for us, and congratulations on all of your success so far!
Today we're once again joined by our good friend Jason Tagmire. You may know him as the guy who designed Pixel Lincoln and Maximum Throwdown, but today he’s wearing a different hat: developer of a new game by Kevin Kulp, titled PigPen. And look! He’s brought along designer Kevin to talk about PigPen, and the roles that each have had in preparing the game to get it to market.
Jason, Kevin, thanks for joining us today!
KEVIN: Oddville, actually just picked it up. I got to play it at Metatopia and really loved how much game they packed into a small package. There are games that really get my mind going toward design, and this was one of them. I love how the game mechanics work together. I can't wait to play this at my local gaming group.
Well, you know I (Jeremiah) have a thing for pirate games, so when we saw the large Scallywags International banners unfurled in the exhibit hall, we made it a point to go and see what was going on. Darren J. Gendron of Scallywags International (which does much more than board games!) sat down and chatted about the high seas and pirates of days gone by! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8bCvvfvuZM&w=560&h=315] Thanks for reading the blog, thanks for watching the videos, and thanks for making our 1-year blogiversary celebration so awesome this month!
We spent a considerable amount of time with the folks from Dice Hate Me at Origins this year. You've already seen our visit with Heartland Hauling designer Jason Kotarski, today we bring you, not one, not two, but THREE videos from the Dice Hate Me stable of designers, including a chat with Mr. Dice Hate Me himself, Chris Kirkman.
The buzz around the Dice Hate Me booth was real, and palpable, so much so, that we had a few audio issues while shooting our chats. Hang in there they are only momentary and getting a look at these great titles and the folks who brought them to market is worth the interruption!
Chris Kirkman - We chatted with Chris about the convention experience this year and how it differed from last year's experience at Origins, as well as a quick look at the future of Dice Hate Me for 2013.
TC Petty III - TC shared Viva Java the Coffee Game, and an advanced look at Viva Java the Coffee Game the Dice Game! (And in the middle of it all you'll hear Jason Kotarski start to explain how to play Lucky Dice as he chases down a passer by)
Darrell Louder - We chatted a few months ago with Darrell about his game Compounded, today we get to see some prototypes of the very soon to be released title!
Thanks as always for reading (and now watching!) we get all excited when folks subscribe to the blog by typing their email address in the box on the right! Also join in the party on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! And you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel too!
Game designer extraordinaire Paul Peterson is at it again with yet another expansion for the smash title Smash Up! Paul, being the friend of the blog he is, agreed to once again have a cyber chat with us about Smash Up, and he brought along Todd Rowland, Director of Marketing and Senior Brand Manager for Alderac Entertainment Group.
Paul, thanks again for visiting us here at TOG, we’re glad to bring you back for another chat!
And Todd, welcome to the party! Glad you could make it!
So it got leaked a little earlier than AEG had planned. But the cat has escaped the confines of the bag, and word on the street has it that the next Smash Up! expansion will be a Cthulhu theme.
When the this was revealed, some folks were a little critical of the idea that the expansion is so singular in its focus—that is, that it all revolves around the Cthulhu Mythos. What is the thought process behind that decision, and what would you say to the nay sayers?
Todd: Well, one thing we know that we want to do over time with Smash Up is include the occasional themed-release mixed in among “normal” mixed up releases. Smash Up relies on tropes (even our own twist on them) and Cthulhu is probably the biggest trope in hobby gaming. So we took on the mythos and put our own spin on it, cracked a few jokes, and weaved it into the Smash Up universe.
Paul: It’s also a mythos that has a lot of room to explore. It’s not all Cthulhu, there’s other elder gods, the ancient races, and the human factions with different goals.
You’re also adding a new card type to the game; what can you tell us about that?
Paul: Anyone who’s ever read Lovecraft or played a Cthulhu game knows how deeply the theme of madness runs, so I wanted to try to capture that, and a themed expansion seemed like a good place to explore some new mechanics for the game. So we added a new card type; Madness cards. No one starts with Madness cards in their deck, they only get added by other cards.
Madness cards are bad for the player. At the end of the game a player gets one less Victory Point for every two Madness cards in their deck, so some factions try to put them into other player’s decks as an attack. However, this isn’t always a bad thing. Madness cards can be played as an action to draw 2 cards, so you could end up helping the player if they embrace the cards. Also, as an action a player can get rid of the card altogether, so some factions will just do that to negate the penalty.
Just making them attacks in all four of these factions would have been a little boring, so I made several of the factions actually want them. Cthulhu has cards that are more powerful, but they have to take a Madness as a penalty, and Miskatonic takes them and then burns them to power their cards.
Todd: Our intention at the moment is to have two expansions per year. We aren’t married to that and it may change, but that’s the working plan right now. Usually around early spring and September.
What are your favorite factions in Awesome Level 9000? (My [Firestone] 8-year-old’s favorite is definitely the Bears...)
Todd: I like Dinosaur-anything. Though Dinosaur-Elder Things is a massive power surge.
Paul: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but at the moment I think I’m having the most fun with Steampunk.
Paul, last time we checked in with you, you had a few things in the works—something that involved rolling dice... Any news on that front?
Paul: I have a bunch of projects going on right now, and the stack just keeps getting bigger. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game that I helped develop should be out soon. I’m still working on the dice game you mentioned, but I keep making massive changes to it, so who knows what will happen with it. And of course, there’s more Smash Up on the way!
Todd, we chatted with Jason Tagmire about the upcoming release of Maximum Throwdown. We’re super excited about that. Is there anything else exciting coming down the line from Alderac that you can share with us?
Todd: Well we have Maximum Throwdown which is a blast. We also have Agent Hunter from Mike Elliot which is a fun, fast deduction game for two players. We have our Big In Japan line which includes Trains, Love Letter, and many more coming soon such as Cheaty Mages, Sail to India, Mai Star, and... yep Lost Legacy. People were expecting that I think. We also have some new games we’re discussing with other designers from Japan. And finally we have our own AEG stuff we’re working on for 2014 but it’s way too soon to spill on those yet.
Todd, you recently announced the Eastern Skies expansion for Nightfall. Can you tell us what that one brings to the table?
Todd: Eastern Skies is very cool! It introduces some new starting minions, but the main new effect is known as “Link”. Cards with Link have an effect the moment the are placed in the chain, rather than when it is resolving. There is also a new wound effect.
5-Questions 5-words to answer them -
Captain America or Thor?
Todd: Captain America all the way.
Autobots or Dinobots?
Todd: Dinobots are a smash up.
Paul: Me, Grimlock, likes Dinobots!
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
Todd: Cesar Romero was best Joker.
Paul: Only the blood moon.
Classic Star Trek, The New Generation or J. J. Abrams?
Todd: I really prefer Star Wars.
Paul: I like them all.
Favorite bacon-based meal?
Todd: Mushroom Chicken wrapped in bacon.
Paul: Bacon wrapped prawns.
Gentlemen, thanks so much for talking with us. We’re excited to see what you have in store for us in the future!
Thanks for joining us for this special interview here on TOG, we had a chance to catch up with Paul during the Origins Game Fair, and we'll be posting that video soon as well!
Guys, thanks so much for taking some time for us today!
First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, and how Foxtrot Games came to be? RH: My name's Randy Hoyt, and I work professionally as a Web developer and a technology educator. I teach Web development for a startup called Treehouse. I live in Orlando, Florida, with my wife and two boys, ages 6 and 1.
TS: I’m Tyler Segel. I am the Creative Director and co-owner of Factory North, a graphic design studio in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy playing board games with my wife and our friends, going to Timbers soccer games, and camping in the Pacific Northwest.
We have a family reunion every summer, and Randy and I always bring a few board games from our collections. Last summer, we struggled to convince the rest of our family to play games with us. We realized that there was a gap in the market for a game that was easy to learn and had a relatively short play time, but still had enough strategy to hold the interest of Randy and me. We brainstormed quite a bit during that weekend, and then Randy took off with our idea and came up with some solid mechanics. Being in the creative field, it was really important to me that the game looked good. There are so many fun games out there that just look slapped together. I really appreciate when game designers pay attention to those little details.
How did you first get into board gaming? What game sealed the deal for you as a gamer?
RH: I've been playing board games and card games for as long as I can remember. Every year at Christmas we would get a new family board game: games like Clue, Life, and Yahtzee. I would often play games by myself, physically moving around the table each turn and playing each player separately. I remember doing that with an old copy of Risk I found at my grandma's house; I still have that copy. I still love playing cards, the combinations of suits and ranks, plus the possibilities for amazing artwork on the face cards.
I took a bit of a break from board games during and shortly after college, but I'd have to credit two games with bringing me back into it. The first was Texas Hold 'Em. I couldn't believe that people were watching others play cards on television, and I had a lot of poker nights. And then Settlers of Catan. That was my first Euro-style game, I suppose, and I've since been playing the new ones as they come out.
TS: I grew up playing games like Monopoly here and there with my family, but I first got hooked on Euro-style games about 6 or 7 years ago. I was hanging out with some friends, and someone brought Settlers of Catan. I was immediately drawn to the mechanics and strategy of the game. There was so much going on and it was so interesting. That game really opened the door for me to board games.
Have you ever gone on an expedition of your own? Or are you both just big fans of Indiana Jones?
TS: I can’t say I’ve ever been on an expedition. I liked Indiana Jones when I was a kid, and I really thought that the jungle theme was fun and accessible for our game. I’ve always been intrigued by vintage comics, and I had seen some with a jungle theme that I had in mind for our game. There’s something about that aesthetic that really attracted me.
RH: I actually never really got into Indiana Jones; The Empire Strikes Back and Back to the Future are my favorite movies from the '80s. Space travel and time travel appeal to me more than hacking my way through a jungle with a machete. I probably wouldn't make it one day on a real relic expedition!
Take us through the design process of Relic Expedition; were there any games that influenced or inspired your design?
RH: In that initial brainstorming session at the family reunion Tyler mentioned, we came up with most of the concepts in the final game: the expanding jungle board, the backpack constraint, the wild animals, the geographic features. (We had lots of other ideas that I felt needed to be pushed off to future expansions, such as roles with special abilities as in Pandemic.) We knew there would be collectible treasures but hadn't really worked out how someone would win. I didn't want the sheer quantity of treasures collected to matter; I wanted something more subtle than that. My love of playing cards, with their two attributes (rank and suit), came through here, I think, and I gave each treasure two different attributes (color and symbol). We talk about set collection at our house a lot, both the game mechanic and the psychological principle. Having that as the core mechanic for victory really appealed to me.
I made a few different prototypes. The first was made out of cardstock and pieces cannibalized from other games. I played that with widely different rules a dozen times over two weeks, about one game a day. It was a fun process of seeing what was working and what was still lacking. I'll give you one example. In the first few games, players had to get all the way back to the basecamp board in the middle to win, and players would explore different parts of the jungle independently. I added helicopter clearings to jungle tiles for the sixth game; they really worked with the theme and really helped both of those issues.
After about a dozen games, I had a decent idea of how many tiles, animals, supplies, and treasures would make the game work best. I ordered wooden hexagon tiles from some craft Web site, and lots of game pieces from The Game Crafter, and then I cut out the tile boards from the cardboard of an Amazon shipping box. I shipped Tyler the first prototype to play—
TS: I'm the younger brother. I get his hand-me-downs.
RH: — Yeah, Tyler got the hand-me-down prototype. There were still lots of small modifications to the pieces and the mechanics. I played with the number of supplies, the amount of dense jungle, and lots of other things, swapping out pieces and changing stickers and what-not.
TS: I started by researching and referencing illustrations and digging through tons of vintage jungle comics to find the look that I wanted. After that, it just became a matter of incorporating that look into the game from a functional perspective—figuring out how to illustrate all of the pieces of the game to keep gameplay running smoothly, while keeping the aesthetic that I wanted. I feel like we achieved a good balance of everything looking good but still serving a function.
I had fun designing the animeeples. I thought it would add more to the game to have animal-shaped figures as opposed to wood blocks with stickers or cardboard.
What is it about Relic Expedition that sets it apart from other games in the genre?
TS: I think the main thing that sets it apart is its accessibility. I play board games with a lot of people, and usually at least one person in the group is playing a game for the first time. If a game is difficult to learn, it’s not very fun the first time around for the person learning it. I think Relic Expedition is easy enough to get the hang of that it is fun that first time you play it, and it just keeps getting more interesting as your understanding and strategy develop. I also like that it plays in less than an hour and that you can play it with just two people. There’s not many games out there like that.
RH: Yeah, with so many games, the first few times through feel like trial runs or practice rounds while new players learn the rules. But with Relic Expedition, the tougher strategic choices really start once you have a full backpack. This gives new players a few turns to get oriented and to understand the mechanics, and then they can fully participate and enjoy that first game.
A lot of people comment that the game is like Carcassonne because the board is made by laying out tiles, with that board having a different shape each game. But it's quite different in Relic Expedition because your explorer is actually moving from tile to tile, revealing new tiles as he explores. I'm really happy with how well the variable board mechanic and the explorer theme work together.
Give us your top three games of all time, and why you like them so much.
7 Wonders: Simultaneous action, multiple approaches for victory points, lots of depth packed into a one-hour game.
Tamsk: Abstract game with timers that you move.
Yahtzee: Managing probability and risk; reconsidering your strategy with each roll.
BONUS: Relic Expedition: Great theme, easy to learn, lots of replayability. I think it's now the game I've played the most number of times in my life.
Through the Ages: Civilization building game. There’s a lot of depth in trying to balance so many moving parts.
Pandemic: Working together to save the world! The cooperative mechanic is my favorite part about the game.
Citadels: Fun 2-4 player card game. It has a really fun balance of strategy and luck and super-fast game play.
Gaming is great—and we enjoy it thoroughly—but what matters most to you outside of gaming? Or is life just another big game we’re all trying to win?
TS: What matters most to me is to enjoy my life with the people I care about and create experiences with them. Gaming fits into this because it is a way to connect with my friends and family. I appreciate the opportunity to unplug, turn of the TV, and use our imaginations.
RH: Well, I do believe life is a game, an asymmetrical game where players start from different places and have different objectives—with skills and objectives changing multiple times throughout the game! I think playing tabletop games teaches you (on a small scale) many of the skills you need to be successful in life: managing resources, recognizing patterns, planning ahead, and cooperating or negotiating with others.
But for me, games are primarily about spending time with family and friends. I see making a game as a serious responsibility and a great honor. It's almost magical or religious, taking unrelated bits of wood and cardboard and transforming them into something that brings laughter and joy to people I've never met. I have been so inspired by some of the feedback reviewers have been publishing over the last couple of weeks. One player said to me in an email, "The game has made my children and friends very happy. Not sure what more you can ask for out of a game or of life."
Ok, now it’s time for the 1 word questions! Not that the questions are only one word, but that the answers should only be 1 word (or phrase)!
Oreo or Hydrox?
Galadriel or Arwen?
Heads or Tails?
Favorite Batman Villain?
K.I.T.T. or the General Lee?
TS: General Lee
We would like to thank Randy and Tyler for taking the time to answer our questions and share a little more about Relic Expedition with us! Their campaign is about 65% funded, so head on over and consider backing it!
We have also been supplied with P&P prototypes of the game and will be posting our reviews of the game shortly, so stay tuned for that!