Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Essen 2018 demo space

6 years ago, Michael and I attended Essen for the first time. I've been back a few times since (I missed out last year, and maybe one other year since 2012). Over time, TMG has grown and has striven to become a well known publisher, not just in the US, but overseas as well.

In recent Essen outings, we have teamed up and shared space with European partners, affording us a bigger presence, better demo space, and in some cases a small office to share for meetings. This year appears to be TMG's biggest Essen presence yet! This time we're partnering with Game Brewer, with whom we have several co-publications.

Check out these awesome pics of the TMG/Game Brewer space!

This panoramic pic is the demo space, with 15 tables (room for 30 demos, probably). People will be playing TMG and Game Brewer games there non-stop for the next 4 days straight. You can see the giant banners for games like Trade on the Tigris and Ghosts of the Moor (TMG original titles), Gentes (an import we did a deluxe version of), and on the far right you can see a TMG logo suspended above our sales area. On the left you can see giant posters for some of those same games, plus Chimera Station (which I worked on heavily) and other co-publications such as Gugong.

This is the TMG product area being set up, where people will be able to buy our games. I worked heavily on Pioneer Days (in the middle on the bottom 2 shelves), and on Steam Works (upper right shelf, left side, as well as the bottom right shelf, behind that big box). And of course on the right-middle shelf you can see a bunch of my card game, Eminent Domain, and expansions (Escalation, Exotica, and Oblivion).

I can also spot some of our other titles, such as Scoville, Guilds of London, Exodus Fleet, Okey DokeyThief's Market, Zooscape, Balloon Pop, Cthulhu Realms, and the Essen release, Ghosts of the Moor.

Dargon sits atop everything, standing guard :)

At Essen, some of the bigger booth areas have little office spaces, for meetings and to store things. TMG has shared an office space in the past with another company. I believe this year we have this one all to ourselves. The giant posters are for some of our games -- Ghosts of the Moor is a brand new title releasing at Essen by some of the most famous designers in Germany. Jungli-La came out earlier this year, by a well known Asian designer that we've worked with before. Both are light, small box, family friendly games.

This is one of the things that Mike and I have been working towards since we first went to Essen 6 years ago, and in a way for the last 9.5 years since we started publishing games. I started this journey 15 years ago when I first dipped my toes into game design. I am sad to miss out on Essen this year, but I hope to be able to go back soon!

Podcast appearances

I've mentioned before that I enjoy listening to podcasts -- especially game industry and design focused ones. I've even entertained the thought of getting into it myself, though not much became of that for a while. But eventually it led to The Argument Hour with Seth and TC. We've only done two episodes so far, and then my schedule went a little bit awry when my baby was born.

Not too long ago, I hit the podcast circuit to promote TMG's upcoming 10th anniversary, and the accompanying kickstarter for Homesteaders 10th Anniversary Edition and the New Beginnings expansion. And I've been invited on a few other podcasts in the past as well. Here's a list of all of them, mostly so I can find and share them easily. Feel free to have a listen and enjoy them!

On Board Games: The Argument Hour

With Seth and TC

I mentioned that TC and I have done 2 episodes of The Argument Hour:

5/07/18: In the first Argument Hour, TC and I threw down about "the Alpha Player problem," and I explained a distinction I see between 2 types of cooperative games. Afterwards we talked about Kingdomino, how it works, and the types of people who may or may not enjoy it.

6/07/18: In the second Argument Hour, TC and I got into it about different forms of "going back to the well" -- iterating on a design, honing the mechanisms, and standing on the shoulders of giants, vs lazy rehashing, or downright plagiarism. Afterwards we went over The Voyages of Marco Polo.

On 10/5/18 TC and I took a bit of a break when my son Corbin was born, but we just recorded a 3rd episode about the use of mechanics that rely on loss aversion in games, such as loans, and we mentioned a related (?) topic, scoring leftovers at the end of a game. We ran out of time to do a game review, so we skipped it this time. I'm not sure when that one will air, hopefully I'll remember to come back and link it when it does.
(podcast went live 12/3/18)

On 10/17/18 we recorded another episode about cognitive load, spurred by this blog post by Jeff Warrender. We ran long again, and couldn't really decide on a game to review, so we skipped that segment again. Since I haven't really been playing many games lately, we might just reserve the review segment until we actually have something we'd like to talk about.
(podcast went live 2/18/19)

The TMG Podcast

With Lance Myxter

I've actually been on The TMG Podcast several times:

5/26/17: On episode 003 I joined Lance to talk about How I got into game design, about several of my early designs, and about what led to founding TMG

6/30/17: On Episode 007 I joined Lance again to talk about the Origins convention, testing out new games, and my latest creation (that was on Kickstarter at the time), Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.

10/27/17: On my third sit-down with Lance, we discussed Essen 2017 releases in general, and TMG's offerings: Exodus Fleet, Harvest, and Pioneer Days, with a few detours to discuss some of TMG's older games as well.

4/13/18: I was on the podcast one more time ahead of the kickstarter project for Homesteaders 10th Anniversary Edition, as well as the New Beginnings expansion. We talked about the beginnings of TMG, as well as plans for TMG's 10th anniversary, such as the revival of our launch titles, Homesteaders, and my game Terra Prime, which is coming back as Eminent Domain Origins. I also explained Ultimate Frisbee to Lance, who seemed to confuse it with disc golf :)

10/5/18: I came back on the podcast to talk about game development in general, but specifically about Belfort, as the kickstarter for the Belfort reprint (with the Expansion expansion and a brand new expansion) was ongoing.

10/8/18: Tasty Take #1: Since Halloween is coming up. Lance asked me if I like scary movies, and if so, which is my favorite.

10/10/18: Tasty Take #2: I talked about playing Eminent Domain and Dice Forge on

And speaking of TMG's 10th anniversary...

TMG 10th Anniversary Promotion

I got myself invited onto a handful of podcasts to promote the 10th anniversary of TMG, and the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of Homesteaders. Here are those appearances:

Hooked On Geek

With Greg Dixon and Stephanie 

4/23/18: In episode 17 of Hooked on Geek, I talked to Greg Dixon and Meeple Lady about everything from how I got into gaming and the game industry, to my engineering background and how that relates to game design and development, to the few published games I've been able to play lately (Bunny Kingdom, Santa Maria), to TMG's 10th anniversary.

Who, What, Why

With Mike Bonet

4/22/18: Season 19, episode 1 of the Who, What, Why podcast began with me reminiscing about the biggest disappointment of my game design career thus far, a Three Musketeers themed game called All For One that I worked on with the original designer David Brain, and how that game basically launched my career as a game developer, and shaped the process I use to develop games. We talked a little about my game design blog, some of my design articles (such as the one on game end dynamics), and about the upcoming reboot of Terra Prime as Eminent Domain Origins

The Brawling Brothers

With Josh and Brandon

5/1/18: For a short segment in the middle of episode 72, the Brawling Brothers took a break from talking about The Grimm Forest and IPs in board games to talk to me about TMG and the Homesteaders 10th anniversary edition / expansion kickstarter.

The State of Games

With Chris Kirkman, Darrel Louder, and TC Petty 

5/1/18: This was a long one, and we covered a lot of miscellaneous topics, but the meat of the podcast was about special, deluxe, or limited editions of games. Also, TC explains why everyone should just enjoy Avengers: Infinity War rather than be critical about it.

The Good, the Board, and the Ugly

With Joe Sallen and T.C. 

5/2/18: After Joe reviewed Eminent Domain and Oblivion, I explained some of the background thinking behind both the base game and the new expansion. I also told some of my favorite amusing stories about the game, and I described my Eminent Domain Legacy tournament format.

What I'm Playing Now Podcast

With Joe Leuzzi

5/6/18: Joe interviewed me on some more obscure history, including my thoughts on role playing games, the 30+ hour holiday game marathons I used to host, and the first real game I worked on: All For One, and another of my prototypes: Alter Ego. The topic of Ultimate Frisbee came up, and I explained the challenges I see with trying to capture the feel of a sport in a tabletop game. And of course I promoted Homesteaders, New Beginnings, and Terra Prime / Eminent Domain Origins.

Go Forth and Game

With Tom Gurganus 

5/18/18: I talked with Tom a little bit about the upcoming TMG titles I was working on at the time (Embark, Old West Empresario), as well as the history of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (and a little about the expansion I was working on at the time). Then we talked about the difference between game design and game development, and due to lack of specificity in the term "developer," I proposed a new term to replace it: "gamegineer." Next, I explained my philosophy that games ought to stand up to competitive play -- not all games are meant to, but all things being equal, a game is only better if it DOES hold up to competitive play. And finally, I offered some tips for pitching to publishers, and ran down a few of the games I'm working on (Alter Ego, Riders of the Pony Express, AutomatownDeities and Demigods, and the next TMG project I'm working on: Back To Earth)

Views From The Outer Rim

With Clive Lovett 

5/21/18: Views from the Outer Rim is less a gaming podcast and more of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy podcast. I knew Clive from back in my BGDF chat days, and he invited me on to talk about my sci-fi themed games. I ended up talking about a wide variety of things on that podcast!

Older podcast appearances

Breaking Into Board Games

With Gil Hova, Ian Zang, and Tony Miller 

12/30/15: Gil, Ian, and Tony asked me about how I broke into the industry, specifically into game development.

Board Games Insider - Interview

With Ignacy Trzewik 

9/21/16: Ignacy interviewed me for a special interview series, and we talked about the difference between new and novel mechanisms, and refined versions of existing ones. I got my first chance to mention Crusaders at the end, which had only just been green lit at the time.

Board Game Design Lab

With Gabe Barrett 

6/28/17: Gabe asked me some questions about ways to take a game from good to great.

Board Game Design Lab - Bonus Round

With Gabe Barrett 

6/30/17: Gabe and I discussed the value of playing games more than once each, both as a player, and as a designer.

On Board Games

With Isaac Shalev 

9/18/17: Isaac and I discussed a proposed entry into the game designer glossary he's putting together: Fragility in games (and the opposite, which would be "robust"). We discussed some older/classic games such as Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, Container, and A Few Acres of Snow, as well as more contemporary titles such as Hanabi, Pandemic, Dominion, and others. Isaac prompted me to talk about an instance where I, as a developer, removed a source of fragility from Scoville, and we also talked about what we can do as designers to add or avoid fragility in our games.

Let's Level Up

With Rick 

2/2/14: Rick asked me about my creative process, and what TMG had planned for 2014 (and beyond).

A Dash of Science

With Chris Birkinbine 

9/5/17: Chris had me on his not-game-centered podcast to talk about "the science of game design," creating and developing board games.

Wurfel Reviews interview on YouTube

With Alina

10/20/16: Alina prompted me with interview questions (she did her homework!) about the difference between design and development, kickstarter and what games are suitable for it, and my upcoming games.

Meeple Nation

With Ryan, Brent, and Nathan 

4/27/16: The Meeple Nation guys interviewed Michael, Andy, at SaltCon 2016, which began with me talking about my upcoming games: the plan to revamp Terra Prime as Eminent Domain Origins, and my next non-Eminent Domain related game, Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.

4/28/15: This SaltCon 2015 interview went into detail about Eminent Domain and the at-the-time upcoming expansion, Exotica.

I, Geek podcast

With Mark and Sten 

11/29/15: At BGGcon 2015, I sat down with Mark and Sten to talk everything gaming... from what gateway game got me into the hobby, to inspirations for games I've designed, to a sneak peak at the games I was developing at the time.

Legends of Tabletop on YouTube

With John Haremza

7/28/17: In the summer of 2017, I was on the Legends of Tabletop to talk about my upcoming game, Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done, which was on kickstarter at the time.

Legends of Tabletop on YouTube

With John Haremza on YouTube

11/01/16: We stated this interview talking about Rincon, the game convention I ran for 5 years, which had just occurred at the time. Then we bounced around between my history at TMG, "competition" in the game industry, how I got into game design and how I go about it, what exactly a game developer does, do I have a design style?, some games I was working on at the time, and various other topics.

Arizona Public Media

11/29/15: A public radio station interviewed Karen Arnold Ewing and I about Rincon 2016, the game convention I started up in 2012. That was the last year I was the convention chair before handing the reins over to Karen and her husband Tony, who have made the convention bigger and better than I ever did!

Written interviews

Go Forth And Game

With Tom Gurganus 

10/11/17: Tom got me talking about publishing Deluxified games, designing games in general, and specifically about upcoming EmDo content.

Go Forth And Game

With Tom Gurganus 

4/1/14: Tom interviewed Michael and I about 5 years of TMG.

Dice Hate Me / Go Forth And Game

With Tom Gurganus 

12/14/11: Tom, in conjunction with Dice Hate Me Games, interviewed me way back in 2011 about design advice, how different parts of Eminent Domain came to pass, what it was like to be on kickstarter (at the time it was less ubiquitous), and what other games I was working on, both for TMG and my own designs.

Go Play Listen

With Chris Marling 

12/19/16: Chris does a series of Q&A interviews called Designer's Dozen, where he'll ask a designer a dozen questions about designers they admire, the best and worst aspects of designing, tips, and other miscellaneous design related stuff. 

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Games are more than a main mechanism!

One of my favorite genres of game is the typical middle weight Euro. You know, those games that generally last about 45-60 minutes, have a clever main mechanism, a few supporting mechanisms, and not much else. Many games like this come out every year, some recent examples are Ulm with its sliding action tile grid, Barenpark with its tetromino placement, and Noria with its action wheel. Some of the games I've worked on recently fall squarely in this category as well, such as Pioneer Days with its dice draft, and my own Crusaders: Thy Will be Done with its Mancala-rondel. I like these games because it's fun to see clever new mechanics, and this genre often gets right to the point, showcasing the central mechanism in a fairly elegant way.

The down side of this genre is that so many games in it lack longevity, they're kind of disposable. Often times you play a middle weight Euro, and you find it pleasant enough. You enjoy it, maybe you play it a second time, but then you move on. The creme of the crop in this genre may stick with you, but many of these games are fairly forgettable. That doesn't mean they weren't good fun when you played them, and it doesn't mean that they're bad games or aren't worth your time, it just means that they didn't stand out among the crowd of new games. Blame it on the Cult of the New if you'd like, but it's a rare game in this category that continues to be played once the hype of its release has died down.

That's the thing about these middle weight Euros... the main mechanism can be very clever, but whether the game shines or not, whether the game is memorable or not, depends on how the supporting mechanisms work. As a designer, once you come up with a fantastic main mechanism, it's easy to get so focused on that hook that the rest of the game falls by the wayside and doesn't live up to its potential.

Nowadays, a new and clever central mechanism could satisfy the Cult of the New, garner positive reviews from board game media influencers in a rush to get their review up first, or even win awards from judges who just play once or twice. But for a game to have real longevity, that's not enough. The supporting mechanisms, and the rest of the game, need to be good and polished as well. So if you're designing a game in this genre, take this to heart... no matter how new, novel or clever your central mechanism is, don't neglect the rest of the game!

Come November, Crusaders will finally be hitting store shelves. I'm confident the Mancala-rondel mechanism is strong. I just hope I've done a good enough job with the rest of the game that it rises to the top of the genre rather than fading into obscurity!