Posts Tagged ‘ Card Games ’


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 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:

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:

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: 

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:

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!


This past weekend I was able to get away to Columbus, Ohio to spend a few days at Origins Game Fair. Origins is one of the biggest tabletop gaming conventions in the United States featuring a slew of special events, a large exhibit hall, and a gigantic open gaming area.

I attended the convention, along with a handful of friends from Ann Arbor, on behalf of Cambridge Games Factory to demo and peddle their games in the exhibit hall. CGF had a slew of new releases available at the convention this year, including a few advanced copies of Glory To Rome: Black Box Edition, Montana, Pala, and my personal favoriteof the bunch Plato 3000, a rummy game where each meld gives players a special ability.

It’s always a blast demoing new games to people and getting to share a little love for my favorite hobby. Cambridge Games Factory has really turned a corner visually this year so it was neat to see people’s reactions to some of the new games and more specifically the art and design.

Aside from my time working the CGF booth here are a few more highlights:

Pirate Dice

On the first night we ran into some friends we met last year at Origins. One of these friends, Clint Herron, was rooming just across the hall from us in our hotel and getting things finalized to launch his Kickstarter campaign for Pirate Dice: Voyage on the Rolling Seas on Thursday morning. It was super excited to have a friend getting ready to take such a big step with one of his game designs. I was able to test the game last year and was stoked to hear that the game had since been picked up by Gryphon Games. The game is a neat race for treasure with, well…dice and pre-programmed movement that leads to a lot of chaos and fun. The Kickstarter for the game was fully funded before the close of Origins on Sunday! What a cool thing to watch unfolding for one of my new friends.

My First Math Trade

One of the cool things going on in the gaming scene for me has been trading. On you can post a trade list and a want list and let a program match them up so you can strike up deals for games from gamers all over the world. I have had some fun trading away nice thrift store games for other games on my wishlist. A cheap way, to feed the hobby hunger, to be sure. But what’s cooler than trading your games with someone?

Math Trade!

Someone way smarter than me developed a computer program to connect people’s trade lists and want lists to maximize trades between a larger group of people. You might not even give anything to the person who is giving you a game because you gave a game to someone else who gave a game to someone else who is giving another game to you. See, it’s math…I don’t get it either, it’s just cool. And cheap since we had a big meetup at Origins to avoid the shipping costs normally associated with trading games. I ended up trading away 10 games I didn’t really care for to get 12 or 14 new games to try.  Sounds sweet, eh? My wife is stoked that I spent less money at this convention than the others I’ve been to. Thank you math trade for keeping my family happy!

Gaming with New Friends

One of the best part of gaming conventions, for me, is getting to meet new people. I played some late night Werwolves with a big group of folks one night. We all went out to dinner together the next night where we all talked about relationships and the things about ourselves that annoy our significant others. It was nice, un-game related, and made me feel all fuzzy inside.

I also got to hang out for a bit in the Cartrunk Entertainment UNPUB area where folks were testing our unpublished and/or not-yet-published games. It was awesome feeling the energy surrounding all these new ideas. I even had the chance to sit down with the Dice Hate Me crew to show them one of my games. Cherilyn was flowing with creative ideas and Chris’ accent was contagious. I’ve been pretending to be from the South for days.

Wil Wheaton Got Knighted

They also occasionally have celebreties at these sorts of things. Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Bang Theory, and the Geek and Sundry Network’s new gaming show on youtube called Tabletop, was one the special guests. He’s a big gamer and fellow nerd so it was cool to see him roaming around the exhibit halls when he wasn’t signing autographs in the lobby.

When I stopped by the Mayfair Games booth to pick up a present for my daughter (I’m working on a complete set of Catanimals for her by purchasing one at each convention I attend), some of the Mayfair bigwigs pulled out a big wooden sword and dubbed Wil Wheaton a Knight of Catan. It was super nerdy…and awesome.

It was a great weekend getaway for me. It was filled with lots of fun games and friends, new and old. There is something special about connecting with real people around something you love. It doesn’t take long to find out that it’s the people, as much as the thing that brought you together in the first place, that makes anything really worthwhile. I am grateful for the opportunity and especially my wife for taking on the task of single motherhood for a few days to allow me to get away. Can’t wait to drag them along to Origins someday.

What do you love to do that brings you closer to people that you care about?

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