Sometimes, when you are interested in something a little off-center of mainstream culture, say like board games for instance, it can feel a little lonely. You spend times learning as much as you can about your exciting interest and find that when you get the nerve to share it with someone they aren’t as enthusiastic as you are. (For shame!) But then you find your tribe. The worlds gets smaller through the innovative technology and you begin to find pockets of your people spread across the world-wide-web. And occasionally you find out that some of these kindred spirits live in your own backyard. This is the case for me and my friend, Jason Slingerland. Jason is a cool dude who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He’s into board games, too. He’s also into designing board games. He even has a cool podcast where he and another Michigander get together to talk about designing board games! As a person who is always on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow from the experience of others’ I was able to ask Jason a few questions. We talked about his show, Building The Game, and a game he’s self-publishing with the help of Kickstarter called Water Balloon Washout. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen in on our conversation. He’s good people.
Hi Jason, tell me a little bit about yourself. You have a new game up on Kickstarter that you are self-publishing and you are the co-host of a lovely podcast. Tell people about that!
I’ve been playing games my whole life and in the last year and I half, I have really gotten into designing. Around that time I started doing a podcast with Rob Couch called Building the Game. On the show we discuss talk about what we have been playing, discuss mechanics and then we pitch new game ideas each week. The show started as a way to track our progress from being complete newbies at designing to hopefully experienced designers. We try on the podcast to really show the process of design from conception through publication. Some many people feel like game design is inaccessible when really it’s quite the opposite. There are so many people willing to help out new designers.
My new card game, Water Balloon Washout is now on Kickstarter through August 11. It’s a light strategy game for 2-4 players that revolves around kids having a water balloon fight. It’s a simple that only takes a couple of minutes to learn to play but as you move through the game you find that there is a good level of strategy involved and also a lot of replayability.
So I know in the beginning of the Building the Game Podcast you and Rob set out to document the process of becoming published game designers. How has the podcast been successful to those ends?
We are making good progress towards that goal. I sold a card game design to Hat Trick Games last fall called Gunslingin’ Ramblers and it’s due out next year. That has really given Rob and I some insight into that process of working closely with a publisher. We are constantly getting great feedback from listeners that really encourages us. Our audience has been consistently growing and we really feel like we are making a difference and helping newer designers. In the process, it’s also been very helpful to Rob and I as designers.
Now that you guys are starting to get your games out to the world, how will this change the content/concept of Building the Game?
I think overall it doesn’t change up the show all that much. Maybe having games out there gives us a little more street cred but really we have had very experienced designers telling us from the beginning that our ideas were valid. I think that goes to show how open the community is to new people. I can say for sure that our format won’t change. Just our level of experience.
Let’s talk a little bit about Water Balloon Washout. How did this game come to be? What made you decide to try this one out of all of your ideas to be the one to self-publish with the help of Kickstarter?
This game came to be when I wanted to design a game that captured a neighborhood snowball fight in a way that felt like you were really in the thick of it but still have the game be very simple and easy to learn. Over time the game changed a bit and became Water Balloon Washout. The core was still the same but the theme changed from Winter to Summer. One of the side goals that came about from designing this game was that I realized I had created something that was simple enough kids could play but it had enough strategy baked in, that adults, specifically gamers would find it fun and replayable. This is something I am really proud of about the game because I think that’s a tough thing to do. Having playtested the game with kids and also adult gamers, I have found it equally enjoyable for them yet on very different levels.
As for why I decided to self publish the game… I have always been interested in that model and this game being a 90 card deck in a tuck box seemed like a low risk way to test the waters. Also, it allowed for Rob and I to get that insider experience into publishing via Kickstarter.
What have you learned so far through the process of building a Kickstarter campaign for your game?
I knew there was a lot to be done but I figure I spent about 60 hours just working on my Kickstarter page and laying things out. I couldn’t believe it took that long. I have also learned that waiting for more backers to come on board can be nerve wracking!
I really love getting to talk to other designer’s about the design process. Everybody seems to have their own system or approach. Tell me a little bit about yours.
I am a very theme oriented person, so I generally find myself coming up with a theme and then trying to find mechanics that really mesh well with that theme. I usually take copious notes in an Excel spreadsheet trying to balance the game before making a prototype. Once I make a prototype I have a core group of people that I test with.
You live in my home state, the lovely mitten; Michigan! What is your favorite game shop or gaming event in Michigan?
How about a little more in general; what is your favorite thing about living in Michigan?
Michigan is a beautiful state with 4 full seasons and so many different landscapes to see. I love camping and nature so this is a good place for it.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. I wish you much success with your Kickstarter campaign, the podcast, and your upcoming game Gunslingin’ Ramblers. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
Thanks for chatting with me. If anyone would like to contact me about the show or the Kickstarter the best places are @JASlingerland on twitter or email me at Buildingthegamepodcast@gmail.com
Thanks so much man! This was fun!
You can back Water Balloon Washout on Kickstarter right here!