Bringing Together the Titans - An Interview with Ray Wehrs

Bringing Together the Titans - An Interview with Ray Wehrs

In every field of interest there are those who stand as giants among men, Peyton Manning, Lebron James, Steve Jobs. And even in the gaming world there are luminaries, such as Richard Garfield, Paul Peterson, Mike Elliott, and Eric Lang just to name a few…

Well one man has dared to harness the power of these titans into one giant campaign to end all campaigns: The Titan Series. That man is Ray Wehrs, and lucky for us he’s joining us today!

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Skyway 61 Revisited--An Interview With Philip duBarry

Skyway 61 Revisited--An Interview With Philip duBarry

Today we’re joined by Philip duBarry, renowned designer of such games as Revolution! and Kingdom of Solomon. 

Philip, thanks for joining us. First, tell us a little about yourself. 

By day I’m the children’s pastor at my church, a substitute teacher, and a tutor. By night (and sometimes by day, too) I design board games. I am married with four girls and a one-year-old boy. My girls are my #1 playtesters!

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Podcast Poll—And Blogiversary Giveaway #2: Sunrise City!

sunrisecitycoverWe're working away in the background to prepare, produce, and, of course, launch our very own podcast, but we thought we'd pause and get some thoughts from you! If you could take 5 seconds and fill out our poll, it would be much appreciated.

So, we'd like to know...

[polldaddy poll=7234366]

We're also happy to announce the next game we're giving away! Clever Mojo Games has graciously donated a copy of Sunrise City! We'll give it away on Saturday, and all you have to do to be eligible is subscribe over on the right---->. One other thing we have to mention is that this contest is only open to those living in the US. We're really sorry about that, but we just don't have the funds to mail a copy of a game around the world. If we pick your name and you live outside the US, the only option is for you to pay shipping. Otherwise we're picking a new name. Also, if you've already won something in this round of giveaways, you're not eligible to win again this round. The chances are small, but still...

An Interview with Jamey Stegmaier—Designer of Viticulture

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, Jamey. Could you tell us a little about yourself? I’m the co-founder of Stonemaier Games in St. Louis, along with my friend Alan Stone. I LOVE board games—I’ve been playing and designing board games since I was 8 years old (I’m a haggard, weather-worn 31 now). I’m an avid reader and writer; I play soccer, and I have two cats that keep me on my toes. They were not helpful in creating Viticulture.

What was your inspiration for creating your new game Viticulture?

A few factors played into the inspiration for creating Viticulture. I had a few key mechanics that I wanted to use in a game, and I was fascinated by both the romanticism and complexity of running a vineyard. So I combined the two into a vineyard in a box.

Would someone who didn’t like wine still find something to love about your game?

Oh, definitely. At heart, this is a worker-placement game with some hand management and production optimizing, so if you enjoy those mechanics... I also think that regardless of your interest in wine, people who enjoy the following elements of gaming will really enjoy Viticulture:

  1. Scalability: Viticulture is a 2-6 person game. Depending on the number of players, different numbers of worker placement spots on the game board are available. Thus the game feels the same whether you’re playing with 2 players or a larger group.
  2. Conflict Without Hostility: I designed the game so that people would walk away feeling elated, not frustrated. Thus you can’t block people in Viticulture unless you can actually take the action you’re claiming. There is conflict—after all, there are a limited number of spots on the board—but no hostility.
  3. Flow: Have you ever played a game where you have to wait 10 minutes with nothing to do before it’s your turn? Viticulture is not one of those games. Players place workers one at a time (not all workers for one player, then all for the next), so you have a constant stream of choices to make.

Not really a question, but I’ve never seen a money-back guarantee on a Kickstarter board game before. That’s a great idea!

Thanks! My backers are placing their trust in me to create a great game (and they’re pledging funds so that my game can be a reality), so I want to reciprocate their trust and generosity by offering their money back if they return the game within a month of receiving it. It’s my way of standing behind the Viticulture experience I’m creating.

I noticed that 3 of your top 5 games are worker placement games. Do you like any other type of games or game mechanisms? Which ones?

Sure, definitely. Dominion (deckbuilding) is high on that list, as is Ra (auctioning). I also enjoy games that feature drafting, and I love the idea behind tile-placement games (but have yet to find one that completely fulfills what I want—I might have to design it myself).

What was your gateway game?

There have been a number of gateway games in my life, each to a new level of gaming. I’d say that the biggest gateways were chess, then Risk, then Settlers of Catan, then Agricola. And lots in between. I feel like every innovative game opens a new gate.

One-Word Answers:

Buffy or Angel?


Coffee: Iced, hot, or neither?

Neither (I drink the occasional Frappucino, but that’s it)

Favorite author?

I’m an avid reader in a variety of genres, so this question is near impossible to answer. I’ll say that my favorite author right now is Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One.

Favorite place you’ve visited?

Man, you want a one-word answer for this? So many amazing places out there! I’m trying to decide between Stonehenge or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Stonehenge has been around for thousands of years, so it’s not going anywhere. Thus I’ll say Fallingwater, because it probably won’t last nearly as long.

The judges have decided to deduct 5 points for not keeping your answers to only one word. Nevertheless, thanks again for answering our questions!

Thank you! Your blog is one of the first gaming blogs I started reading, so it’s an honor to participate in an interview as a designer here.


Make sure you hit up Jamey's Kickstarter campaign for Viticulture. There are only four days left! And thanks for reading!

When We Last Left Our Heroes...

Well, we said it at the beginning of the week... This will be a very light week, and in terms of posts this week has been fairly light. We did give you a heads up about the new expansion of King of Tokyo called Power Up! We unfortunately did not have opportunity to shoot any video during the week, but it doesn't mean we haven't been working hard behind the scenes! Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we are currently working on no less than 4 great interviews with game designers, of some games that we are pretty excited about!

Thanks as always for reading, and of course you can expect more gaming news, reviews and general mayhem, here at Theology of Games!

Mars Needs Mechanics Hits Kickstarter!

Well if you joined us earlier this week for our interview with game designer Ben Rosset. You know that today is the day that the newest title from Nevermore Games - Mars Needs Mechanics - hits Kickstarter. You can check out and back the campaign RIGHT HERE! While you're there you can see a few different videos about the game including some gameplay demos.

You can see the full interview with Ben Rosset here.

They're up and running and off to a good start, best of luck guys!

Thanks for reading and have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Mars Needs Mechanics--An Interview with Ben Rosset

Last week, game designer Ben Rosset took a few minutes to answer all the burning questions we had about himself, his new game Mars Needs Mechanics, and the meaning of life. How did you become interested in designing board games?

I always loved playing board games from a young age. In junior high school, I asked my teacher if I could design a board game about a book instead of doing a book report. She said yes, and the game was a big hit! More recently, though, I need to credit my good friend Mike Swiryn, an amazing designer. We had been hanging out and playing games quite a bit (this was about 4 years ago). Then one day, he said, “Dude, check this out. I designed a game!” And that was it. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to get into board game design. I went home that night and wrote down some rules for an idea I had, and I was on my way. I haven’t stopped since.

What sparked the vision for Mars Needs Mechanics?

My goal was to make an easy to learn Economics game where players could only indirectly control the market price of goods, and where players would have to predict the behavior of everyone else in order to be successful. That led to the “Sales Order Line,” the driving force behind Mars Needs Mechanics. It’s a unique timing mechanism for controlling the price of the game’s components (Boilers, Wire, Lenses, Piping, etc), and it's what makes the game hum. People really love it. Its something new, and it’s a very simple system.

So, the Berkeley Breathed book and subsequent Disney film Mars Needs Moms didn't come into play? Or are you tired of being asked that?

No, Mars Needs Moms didn't come into play. To be honest, I didn't even know about that film (which I hear was a flop) before I named the game Mars Needs Mechanics. However, I did know about the 1967 film Mars Needs Women. It was more a play on that than the Disney film. And yes, people ask me this question a lot, but its ok...we invited the question when we decided on the name. If anything, its helped to spark a bit of interest in the game.

How did you land at Nevermore Games?

I was a slow-comer to social media, but I must credit Twitter here! Twitter recommended that I follow Nevermore Games. That’s how I first connected with them, about 3 weeks before PrezCon in February 2012. I met Bryan and John at PrezCon, they played the game, they loved it, and a week later they called me to say they wanted to publish it.

Mars Curiosity, legit, or TV studio production?

Legit all the way. I have faith that Curiosity is really on Mars. It would be too big of a production to fake it. They’d never keep everybody quiet. I’m now following the Curiosity Rover on Twitter, but I’m also following the Sarcastic Rover, a spoof of the real thing. They’re both great.

What are the top 5 games you're playing right now, and why?

With all the time we’ve been spending with Mars Needs Mechanics, I haven’t had much time to play other games. So I’ll give you three. First, I’m playing States: After the Fall. It’s an unpublished game by Mike Swiryn, Aaron Winkler, and David Golanty. I won’t give too much away about the game, but I know it's received tremendous feedback from publishers at conventions, and I suspect it will get picked up by a publisher very soon. After that, I’ll say For Sale, by Stefan Dorra. This is a game that has been on my list to try for quite a while, and I finally did a couple weeks ago. Short, simple, and addictive, I loved it right away. Third, Agricola is always on my list. Its still my favorite Euro game, and it's hard to imagine it ever getting knocked out of my top 5!

Is Mars Needs Mechanics your first game design, or are there others we should be checking out?

Its my first design that’s being published, but stay tuned. I’m working on others, and hope to be lucky enough to have more games published soon!

Other than "42," what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

Wow, this is a great interview! I’m quite confident that I will get closer to the answer to this as I get older, though I’m humble enough not to believe I’ll ever know it all. But for me, the meaning of life is to contribute as much as we can toward the increasing of peace and happiness, and as much as we can toward the cessation of suffering in the world.

Ok, the next 5 questions only require a one word response. The answer will explain it all!

Star Wars, or Trek?


Favorite color?


Marvel or DC?

DC (because I live there)

Aslan or Gandalf?


Favorite pizza topping?



Mars Needs Mechanics launches a Kickstarter campaign on midnight Aug. 31! As soon as we have a link, we'll post it here for you! But for now, click here if you want to check out Mars Needs Mechanics!

Our thanks goes out to Nevermore Games and Ben Rosset, you can follow them both on Twitter, @BenjaminRosset and @NevermoreGames. And of course we thank you, our readers, for your support!

An interview with Jason Kotarski, designer of The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

Jason Kotarski is a pastor in Michigan; he and his wife have a young daughter, and another on the way. His first game design recently debuted on Kickstarter, and as I type this, he’s 80% of the way to being fully funded. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions from us. How did you first discover Euros?

My wife and I were out Christmas shopping one night at a local mall and we stopped to look at a kiosk that was selling games and puzzles. Her face lit-up when she spotted a little game called Settlers of Catan. She got super excited and told me it was an awesome game that she had played in college and that we had to buy it right then and there. We finally got it to the table some time later after we rounded up another couple to play with and I fell in the love with the game. I liked it because everyone played to the end and that game wasn’t focused on being mean and eliminating the other players. I had a bad experience with my brother-in-law taking the role of world dictator a little too seriously in Risk, so it was a nice change of pace to play a game that was about doing your best without dealing with direct conflict. After playing Settlers for a while, I remember I went to a local hobby shop because I thought I saw some more weird board games there. I ran into a friend from high school who worked at the shop and he convinced me to try Carcassonne and told me about a Web site called Then, I Googled  “board games” and stumbled on the Dice Tower and the Board Games with Scott videos and I was hooked. I felt like I had discovered that secret clubhouse of awesome and started amassing my collection. I’ve come to see gaming as a social outlet and something interesting to bring people together. It’s also a nice option to have something other than flipping on the television as a form of entertainment. It’s good clean fun, you know?

What are your Top 5 games, and why?

This is such a tough question for me. I am one of those people who loves ideas and all kinds of different stuff so it is really hard to narrow down my favorites to 5 but I’ll do my best.

In no particular order:

  • Ticket To Ride: Marklin Edition—This one is the first Ticket to Ride games I played. I love how easy it is to teach and the streamlined game-play. I played a lot of Rummy growing up so the set-collection aspect of the game felt very familiar to me while the building train routes and hidden goals felt very fresh to me. You never have enough time to do everything you want to in this game so it always leaves me wanting to play just a little more. It’s also one of the go-to games for sharing hobby games with more casual folks.
  • Incan Gold—I love this game because it works with larger groups of people, is easy to teach, and it provides a very tense, engaging experience. It’s a great combination of press-your-luck and social experiment. It’s a game that allows you to learn a little something about the people you are playing with. The theme is great! Who doesn’t want to pretend they are an Indiana Jones-esque explorer for a few minutes with friends?
  • Pandemic—Pandemic sort of defined the cooperative game genre and it still holds up for me. Players work together to save that world from deadly diseases that are breaking out in epic proportion around the globe. This game also introduced me to variant player powers that give each player a unique ability. There is a lot to explore in this game. I love the rewarding feeling you get when you actually manage to save the world.
  • Carcassonne—This is my wife’s favorite game hands-down. We've played this more than any other game in our collection. It’s another one of those classic gateways that really leaves an impression and begs to be played again and again due to its simple rules and ever-changing play area. The expansions have really helped the game to grow with me as a gamer. We usually throw in Inns and Cathedrals along with Traders and Builders when we play this. It’s beautiful to look at, too. Great game.
  •  Stone Age—I remember playing this one pretty early on and loved how it built on the civilization expansion of Settlers of Catan with newer mechanics. I love sending my little caveman workers out to hunt and gather and help feed my little tribe. Stone Age is a great game to look at when you want to take a baby step or two up from Settlers.

Tell us the genesis (no pun intended) of The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

Ha! I was actually chatting with a truck driver who was bringing food to my church for a food ministry we were doing at the time. He told me that the company that hired him to bring up the food was paying him less per mile than what it cost to operate his truck. He then told me the only reason he took the job was to get most of his expenses paid on the way up so he could cross over to the other side of the state to pick up some greens to take to Florida. The job on the way to Florida paid him twice as much so he was still able to make a profit on the trip. When he was talking, I instantly thought there was a game somewhere in his story, so I went home and made one. It turned out pretty good, so I took it to a design contest and got some great feedback that launched me into a search for a publisher that eventually landed with Dice Hate Me Games.

How did you connect with Dice Hate Me Games?

I had heard about them through their Kickstarter campaign for Carnival and was struck by design work Chris Kirkman did for the game. They got my attention with the look of their games. I didn’t end up backing the game but I checked out the Dice Hate Me booth at Origins this year, met Chris and Monkey, and we just hit it off. I showed them my game and told them that I was going to request to be released from a contract I had previously made with another company called Cambridge Games Factory after some long delays. Dice Hate Me had a pretty full release schedule but they were enthusiastic about my game and offered to help me explore some other publishing options if I ended up leaving my previous publisher. They told me that they really couldn’t take anything else on but I was convinced after meeting them that it was time for me to move on. I did decide to move on and Chris and Cherilyn ended up showing the game to some friends that told them they had to publish it so I got a phone call the day I terminated my contract with Cambridge Games Factory and Dice Hate Me offered to publish the game and get it on the fast track to publication. Now the game is on Kickstarter headed for a January 2013 release and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s turning out.

What’s your favorite mechanism in The Great Heartland Hauling Co.?

Heartland Hauling is essentially a game of hand management with a bare bones pick-up-and-deliver system played out on a modular playing area. I think the mechanic I like the most is the simple pick-up-and-deliver component. In the game you use gas cards, or points, to move around the Heartland to pick up wooden cubes of freight (using goods cards), to deliver them (also, using goods cards) to different locations trying to earn the most profit. It’s a very tactile experience. You move your little truck, hand in the cards, and move around little wooden cubes. I had never really played pick-up-and-deliver games before so I didn’t have much to go on besides the name of a mechanic I had heard about that seemed to fit the theme of the game. I just made it up as I went along and I think it represents the theme well and has an interesting take on a familiar mechanic (at least to train gamers) that is fleshed out in a new way.

Is this your first attempt at game design?

This is my first design, which actually kind of blows me away when I think about it. I mean, who gets to publish their first game with a great company that puts out interesting games and has such a solid reputation? It’s super exciting for me and is really driving me to continue to stretch my creative wings. I have a few others designs in the works and one game that is currently being considered by a publisher in Europe. It’s a fun way to get to contribute to the hobby I love in such a big way.

Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars all the way! I mean, I dig the J.J. Abrams Trek reboot but I grew up on Star Wars. I’m pretty sure my first crush was Princess Leia so that shows you just how nerdy I really am!

Were you disappointed that Dice Hate Me decided to change the theme from your beloved Michigan to a broader “heartland” theme?

The theme didn’t really change at all, just the art and the name. The prototype, originally called Over The Road, had a darker, grittier feel to it. It looked a lot more like the game had an urban setting but that wasn’t the intent. Chris Kirkman brightened up the color pallet and gave it an Americana feel which I think goes with the new name, The Great Heartland Hauling Co., really well. I think the new art and name really captures the original inspiration for the game so I’m quite pleased. I’m just glad they didn’t want me to add aliens, or something like that, to the game. I wanted that Euro-game-meets-Middle-America feeling and I think we kinda nailed it!

How has being a pastor influenced you as a game designer—if at all.

I think that being a pastor has helped me grow as a thinker and as a person that can take an idea and bring it to life. I work a lot with communicating abstract ideas and planning concrete events in my church work, so I think the two kinds of work are similar in that way. I get to stretch my brain in all kinds of different ways as a pastor and as a game designer. And for me, the community aspects of gaming and the church are hugely important to me, so I think they fit together nicely. I’ve said this before, but the thing I love about games is the way that they bring people together in real life. I don’t think we have enough of that. Relationships are really important to me because people are really important to me. So if my games, or my church, can bring people together in meaningful ways, I believe that I am engaging in meaningful work.

Build your perfect sandwich for us.

I actually think I just had the perfect sandwich at a grilled cheese restaurant in Cleveland called Melt. The sandwich was called The Melt Pig Roast and it had Muenster cheese, chipotle pulled pork, fried sweet potatoes, and a spicy coleslaw. I’m pretty sure it changed my life.


Many thanks to Jason for answering our questions. Head on over to Kickstarter and check out The Great Heartland Hauling Co. for yourself! And thanks for reading!