Posts Tagged ‘ board games ’

Designer on Designer: Jason Slingerland

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.

Here's a shot from our prototype, the artwork here is completed but the layout and backgrounds will be improved once our awesome Graphic Artist gets ahold of it.  In addition our artist is still working on another 40+ images that will be in the game.

Water Balloon Washout Prototype.

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?

Game shop is definitely Fanfare in Kalamazoo where I live. As for favorite gaming event, I would be after this year it will be GrandCon.

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!

CRASH GOES TO THE BEACH: A PARADISE FALLEN PREVIEW

I have never been to Hawaii, but if it’s anything like the post-apocalyptic vision from Crash Games’ upcoming title, Paradise Fallen, I think I’d rather stay away. The beauty of the islands call out to me but the lack of supplies, savage tribes, and disruptions in the natural order of time and space doesn’t make for the type of quaint vacation spot I’d hope for. While I’d be too much of a sissy to visit this fallen version of paradise for a little fun-in-the-sun, it does make a great theme for a board game! And a good one at that!

Box art mock-up for Paradise Fallen. Now on Kickstarter!

Box art mock-up for Paradise Fallen. Now on Kickstarter!

In Paradise Fallen, from Crash Games and first-time designer, Andrew Wright (II), players assume the role of tribesmen seeking to explore 9 islands in search of the mystical powers they provide in a not-too-distant-or-friendly-future. Think Lost meets The Hunger Games meets Indiana Jones…kinda.

Set-Up

Game set-up is a cinch. Shuffle the 9 island cards and place them in a 3 x 3 grid in the center of the table. Shuffle a deck of cards and deal 5 to each player. Place your player piece on the corner island closest to your seat. Dump the Kanaloa Tokens near the board. That’s it! You are ready to explore.

Boats on an island. (Not final components)

Boats on an island. (Not final components)

Game-play

Learning how the game works is almost as simple as the set-up. On a player’s turn they can move around the islands and play cards from their hand as much as they want as cards allow.

Movement

To move to an adjacent island you must play Ration Cards (Island Cards may also be used for 1 ration) that are equal to or greater than the cost specified on the island you wish to enter. Any rations above the specified amount are lost so it is necessary to plan your movement carefully and efficiently.

Play Cards

Discover an Island: A player can Discover an Island they are stopped on by playing an Island Card with a matching name, placing the card in front of them and placing a Kanaloa Token on the card that can be used one time to activate that island’s special ability. You can only spend one Kanaloa Token per turn but they can be very helpful if you time it right.

Aptitude Cards: Aptitude Cards are special action cards that breaks some of the basic rules and can be played to either help you help yourself or hinder your opponents. Each card is used once and discarded when you play it.

Aberration Cards: Aberration Cards are played on the island grid either on an island or in-between islands and can also help you or hinder your opponents. They can even hinder your own plans since the effects are applied to the player who placed them as well. So be thoughtful about where you decide to play these cards. Aberrations are cumulative so the more cards placed on a location the more the effect are amplified.

Winning The Game

Play continues until one player discovers a certain amount of islands. The number of islands is determined by the number of players in the game. Once someone discover the set amount of islands all other players get one more turn. The player who discovered the most islands wins. Ties are broken based on who has the most unused Kanaloa Tokens.

Sounds pretty simple, eh? But don’t let this simplicity of set-up and game-play fool you. There is a lot of game here. At it’s core the game is a medium-weight, hand-management game that involves luck, tactics, and strategy. At times the game feels very puzzle-y as players will have to figure out how to use their cards to optimize movement and make the most of the rations available. All of this works very well in a 30 minute time frame where the experience feels different with each game.

Little game. Big punch. (not final components)

Little game. Big punch. (Not final components)

Conclusions

My wife has this rule about the time of day that is acceptable for learning new games. On weeknights, if the sun looks like it’s thinking about going down in the next hour or two, she doesn’t want anything to do with anything new. But when I suggested giving Paradise Fallen a try a little after dark this week, she accepted my invitation when I told her it would only take a minute to learn the basics and be done in thirty minutes. After cruising through our first play she told me she really liked the game and was looking forward to playing it again. That is considered a huge win for me!

I’ve also got a soft spot for small games that pack a big punch. So much so that this was one of the design goals for my own game, The Great Heartland Hauling Co. I’d happily place Paradise Fallen in this category of games. Using a few simple components and a deck of cards, Crash Games and Wright have delivered a portable game that can be learned and played quickly. I can definitely see myself taking this game along when I am taking off for vacations to much less fallen paradises than the one explored in the game.

And what about the art and design? This game is gorgeous! Artist, Jason Carr, and designer, Darrell Louder (of Compounded fame!) have created a visual experience that captures the beauty of the islands with the chaos of the theme in a very functional way. This thing looks HOTT! The iconography depicted on the cards to illustrate special abilities allows the art to shine without being covered by an excess of words. The icons work but will probably take a couple plays to get all the details stuck in your head but once it clicks, it really clicks.

Paradise Fallen is a fun, quick game with an interesting, unique theme. It’s on Kickstarter, so get on board now. Just remember to be on the lookout for rogue tribes trying to get in the way of you harnessing the power of this fallen paradise…or something like that. Just do it. It’ll be fun.

A prototype of Paradise Fallen was provided for the purpose of this preview. I’m also friends with Patrick Nickell (owner of Crash Games) but I would tell you if this game sucked, which it doesn’t, so there.

MY GAME DESIGNING LIFE

Well, folks, Heartland is hauling.

My first tabletop game design ever has been released to the public! What a cool milestone for me. A few years ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be a published game designer but if I’ve learned anything over the years it is that things don’t always goes as planned and there are still good surprises in the world!

The game is being well-received and we’ve been getting some solid reviews. Check out this review by Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower:

I even spotted the game on the shelf of my local game store. It’s pretty neat. I am so glad that people are liking the game.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on the shelf at Gamer's Sanctuary in Flint.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on the shelf at Gamer’s Sanctuary in Flint.

There is this funny thing that happens when you are a creative type. When you are working on something that you feel is important, great stuff, you start to think about what’s next and wrestling with identity questions like “did I get lucky or am I good enough to do it again?” At least that’s how it works for me. I try not to get too stuck looking too far out in front of me but when things get rolling it feels important to keep building on the momentum that is already working for you. And when things get buzzing, I find that they’ll keep buzzing if I can keep up. I guess that’s what Jim Collin’s Flywheel Principle is all about, but I digress.

The difficulty for me is that one idea leads to another and then I have to decide which idea to pursue. Sometimes this is an easy decision but not always. And that’s the tough part, sometimes being creative feels like work and other times the muse drops an idea into your lap. And sometimes the best stuff comes from the stuff that feels like work while other times the stuff that just happens is the best stuff. It’s important for me to remember this when I get lazy. It’s then when I need to open up a blank Word document and just start typing until the page is filled. It’s then when I need to pick up a deck of cards and start shuffling and dealing and making pretty shapes until something clicks. And when the works feels grinding, I need to remember, too. I need to remember to step back and take a break because sometimes things come together when you aren’t even working on them directly. The tension is to remember and live in-between both places.

And I’m just talking about the creative part of designing games, or any other creative pursuit, here. This doesn’t take in to account the work involved in getting a game published, the business of the work. In between great ideas you have to learn to get a sense for when something is ready and then figure out how to pitch the idea and who to pitch it to. Or you have to decide if you want to produce it yourself. This is fun and creative in it’s own way, but it calls for a willingness to do your homework and listen, and I mean really listen. When people don’t like something about your game, or song, or story, or painting this can feel very personal like someone is saying your baby is ugly but if you are willing to listen you can learn, even if you disagree.

Maybe this sounds a little bit like chaos to you. But to me, it’s a very exciting process that gets me pumped up. I feel alive when I am bringing creative pursuits to life. Even when it hurts because it’s hard and frustrating, it still makes me feel alive, pain is like that sometimes. It jars us awake and aware and makes us present to the moment. When I remember thing part about the creative process being the thing that makes me feel alive, I can settle in and do the work I love to do because I’m free from having to worry about the final product. I no longer have to ask those questions about whether or not I’ll be a one-hit-wonder because getting published is just a perk that sometimes follows doing what you love.

These days I’m not so worried about whether or not I’ll have new ideas that are worth publishing, I am just focusing on the process and trying to enjoy each step along the way. And in the midst of that, some stuff will get published and some won’t but either way, I’m still having fun doing something that feels important and has potential to bring people together. For me, that is what makes this important work. Time to get back to it.

I AM NOT A WRITER

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here on The Green Couch. And I think a light bulb just went off that helps me understand why. Ready?

I am not a writer.

I know, I am writing now. There was once a blank space here and now there are words but when I say “I am not a writer” what I mean is that I don’t get this urge deep down to puts things down on paper or save them to my hard disk.

I can write. And a lot of the things I do involve writing. As a pastor, I craft 3000 word messages week after week to share with my community. As a musician, I jot down lyrics that explain an emotion or idea that I want to share in a song. As a game designer, I have to write clear instruction so people I don’t know can figure out how to play my games.

So, I write but I am not a writer. It’s not in my blood in the same way as real writers. You know the kind I am talking about. The ones who would be happy to spend much of their lives in a small, quiet office massaging the keyboard in a way that every word becomes a part of a sentence that forms a paragraph that makes you gasp for air because of the beauty and truth in what is being shared. Yeah, that’s not me. That’s someone else.

Don’t think I am being overly hard on myself. I am okay with this discovery. I am not a writer. I write. And I can even write well if I put my mind to it. There have been many times when I wanted to see myself as a writer because writers are important. And who doesn’t want to feel important?

I’ve noticed that the times I do write are always connected with doing something that connects me to the people around me.

I write a sermon each week to connect with the people of much church. I hope that what I share adds value to their everyday lives and, in the long run, to our community. We have to do something when we get together, right?

I write songs to help me communicate things that are hard to communicate. But I also write songs because I get to record them or play them in front of people. Music is about creating an experience.

And that weird board game thing I’m into? Well, that’s about creating an experience, too; bringing people together in a real life situation, face to face, using their brains, having fun, and making memories.

I don’t write just to write. I write when it leads to bringing something new into the world. I write when I see an opportunity to connect. I write so I can do.

I’m not a writer. And that’s okay. I’ll keep writing because it’s what gets me to the life I want, to the life I feel called to. I’ll keep writing because if I don’t there will be many things I want to see in the world that never come to be. Writing is a tool. Writing is a gift. I am not a writer. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t feel like writing.

LINK ROUND UP: THE GREAT HEARTLAND HAULING CO.

What a ride! We’re trucking toward 75% of our funding goal as I get this post ready. Thanks so much for your support so far.

In case this idea got lost in the social media mix, I wanted to make it clear that when you pledge at least $25.00 on Kickstarter you will get one of the first copies of The Great Heartland Hauling Co., hot off the production line and shipped to you anywhere in the U.S. or Canada (At $35 you get worldwide shipping!). So we’re not just asking to you to get our game going, you get something in return; a super fun, portable card game that plays with 2-4 players!

If that offer doesn’t whet your whistlein a major way, he are some of the latest links where you can learn more about the game and the process involved in putting the game together before you make your pledge:

Designer Diary on BoardGameGeek.com. This is a fairly in depth look at how I came up with Heartland Hauling and how the game made its was to Dice Hate Me Games for publication.

Futile Position Interview. I was interviewed by Michael for his site FutilePosition.com. We talked about the game and a little bit about my thoughts on game design in general.

The Green Couch. This is a link to my previous post that has even more link and info about the game, including my podcast appearance on The State of Games!

Here’s the video promoting the Kickstarter Campaign. I’m nervous that folks are missing my stellar acting but skimming past it on Kickstarter:

Heartland Hauling Video

Last but not least, here’s a link to the Kickstarter page where you can pledge your support, and get rewarded in games!!!

Thanks again for your support. There is much more to come if you are willing to hang with us. We’ve got reviews, and other exciting news coming down the pike!

WE’RE ROLLIN’ WITH THE GREAT HEARTLAND HAULING CO.

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night for the launch of The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on Kickstarter. Heartland Hauling is a card game I designed that is being published with Dice Hate Me Games, a company that puts out accessible tapletop games with interesting themes. Last night, July 31st, at 11:59p.m. we launched the game on Kickstarter which is a crowd-funding platform that helps people bring their ideas to life.

In the first few hours of the project we had more than 10% of our funding goal met but we have got a long way to go! I wanted to share some ways that you can help me make my dream a reality! Here are some ideas:
1. Pledge. Pledging on a Kickstarter project is safe and secure. Essentially, you are pledging your support by pre-ordering the game. Your credit or debit card will only be charged after the project closes and only if we reach our $10,000.00 goal to print the game. If you like fun, strategic games that don’t have a huge learning curve, you’ll love Heartland Hauling. To learn more about the game and publisher and pledge your support go here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dicehateme/the-great-heartland-hauling-co-a-card-game-for-2-4

2. Share. Please share the link to the Kickstarter project with people who you think would be interested. Marketing for this game is pretty grassroots so the more you share, the better chance we have of being successful! There’s even a link on the KS page where you can pin a cool infographic on Pinterest to help get the word out. Here’s that link again: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dicehateme/the-great-heartland-hauling-co-a-card-game-for-2-4

3. Learn. Get more info about the game and publisher by visiting the Dice Hate Me Game website. You can also visit the game’s page on BoardGameGeek, the best source on the planet for casual gamers and gaming enthusiasts. If you are a BGG user, please “thumb” our images and forums to make info about the game easier to find.

4. Listen. I was recently interviewed on The State of Games, a Dice Hate Me Podcast where we talked about Heartland Hauling and some other fun games you might be interested in. Check it out and share: http://dicehateme.com/2012/07/the-state-of-games-episode-33-the-one-about-the-heartland/ 

I will also be featured on a soon to be released podcast called Funding The Dream on Kickstarter with Richard Bliss, The Game Whisperer. Check back here and look for here it soon.

5. Follow. Stay up to date with all happenings related to The Great Heartland Hauling Co. by following us on social media:

facebook.com/jkotarski

facebook.com/dicehateme

facebook.com/heartlandhaulinggame

and on Twitter: @jasonkotarski, @dicehateme, @monkey238
Thanks so much for helping me to get this game rolling! We’ve got a long haul ahead of us so I hope you enjoy the ride, or at least the view from the passenger seat!

THE GREAT HEARTLAND HAULING CO. TO BE RELEASED BY DICE HATE ME GAMES

There’s some big news at The Green Couch today!

If you have been following me for long, you’ve probably heard about a little tabletop game I designed called Over the Road. About a year ago, I announced that I had signed on with a company called Cambridge Games Factory who wanted to release the game. After a year of waiting for the project to make it’s way up the long list of releases scheduled with CGF, I decided I was ready to move on. I requested that CGF terminate the contract we had entered into so I could explore other options for bringing my game to life. Ed Carter, owner of CGF, graciously released me immediately and wished me luck in finding a new publishing home.

Today, I am extremely excited to announce that it didn’t take long for the game to find a new home! On the very day I was released from my contract with CGF, I received a call from Chris and Cherilyn Kirkman who offered to pick up the game for publication with their company Dice Hate Me Games!

Chris and Cherilyn’s vision for the game is really exciting and I knew right away that Dice Hate Me Games would be a great for me and my game. With new art and a new name, the  game is headed to Kickstarter later this Summer and is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2013.

Here’s a sneak peak at the art and the official press release that went out today:

Dice Hate Me Games Keeps on Trucking

(Durham, NC) – Dice Hate Me Games is loaded up and ready to put the hammer down with its newest release – The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

In The Great Heartland Hauling Co. players take on the role of medium haul Midwest truck drivers doing their best to make a living by hauling goods for big suppliers. Players truck to various locations around America’s Heartland, picking up and dropping off goods using matching cards from their hands. Most locations have native goods that require fewer cards to load; other locations may pay a premium for those goods but may also require more fuel – and time – to get there with the cargo. With limited space in each trailer and only five cards in hand at a time, players will have to expertly manage their resources, as well as play the odds and press their luck to be the best trucker on the road.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. will offer a lot of replay value through the use of cards to create a variable board set-up each game. The game will include 60 goods cubes, 4 thick cardboard trucks, and 46 resource cards – required for pick-up and delivery – that are drawn from a shared draft board, as well as 20 fuel cards, which are used to move about the Heartland.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. is a game for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, and designed by Jason Kotarski. It is set for a late-summer Kickstarter campaign with a Q1 2013 release from Dice Hate Me Games.

For more information on The Great Heartland Hauling Co.Carnival, VivaJava and future Dice Hate Me Games releases, please visit www.dicehatemegames.com and sign up for our newsletter.

Keep watching here for more updates coming down the pike!

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