I hope that Boardgames in Blighty can be a place to promote and support the UK Board Game industry so with no further ado, let me introduce Jackson Pope of Reiver Games…
What is your view of boardgaming here in the UK? What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public? How do we compare to other places you’ve marketed your games?
I think boardgaming in the UK is still definitely a niche market, but gaining in popularity. A surprisingly large number of people have heard of modern games like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne. I still think there’s a long way to go before it’s as popular as it is in Germany though. I think board game clubs are a great way to introduce gaming to new people, and through them to grow the hobby.
How did you get into game design/publishing?
I played an extremely longer and painful game with some friends nearly ten years ago. At the end of the game (when we gave up) I thought I could make a less random game that played in a much shorter period of time. Unlike the bits of computer games I’d been making in my spare time up until then, a board game I could make on my own from scratch. That lead to my first game: Border Reivers. A couple of years after I thought I’d finished the game, I decided to try to make a few copies and sell them over the Internet. I made 100 copies by hand, and sold them all within a year. During that year Yehuda Berlinger, an Israeli games blogger contacted me, asking if I was interested in doing the same with his game. I made 300 copies of It’s Alive! and again they sold out within a year. At that point I quit my job in IT Project Management to make games full-time.
What has been your most successful design/published game so far? What kind of feedback have you received?
I get a lot of good feedback (and some less good of course!). It’s Alive! remains my most successful game (though it has been out the longest). I’ve sold well over 2,000 copies of It’s Alive!
Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the finished product? Tell us about the ups and downs, why you chose your mechanics and theme, etc.
I don’t do much of the designing myself. Usually a designer will send me a game that I’ll play a few times to get a feel of it. If I like it I’ll send it out to my playtest groups around the world. If the feedback from them makes me think the game will be a commercial success I license the game, contract an artist, do the graphic designer and send it to a printer. It’s usually another couple of months before I see the finished product. Collating the feedback is probably the most ‘up-and-down’ bit. Trying to sift through feedback from people who love it and people who hate it, trying to determine whether there’s a market for the game, and what you can do to make it more successful.
Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?
Printing small runs that you assemble yourself is a great way to start off and get a feel for the market without risking a lot of your own money. That, and playtest, playtest, playtest. Especially with people you don’t know and from the rulebook (without instruction).
What project(s) are you currently working on and can you give us a sense of what the theme, mechanics, etc. and when we should be able to purchase the game(s)?
I’ve a great silly, fun card game that I hope to be ready to announce in a few weeks, and release at the big games fair in Essen, Germany in October.
What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you hate?
I like ‘eurogames’ like Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Agricola and theme-heavy games like Battlestar Galactica and Space Hulk. I’m not a fan of wargames, or really heavy economic games.
Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?
I like most themes, especially sci-fi and anything unusual. Mechanics-wise, I like tile-laying and auctions, not such a fan of party games and roll-and-move games like Monopoly.
Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions?
I hope to be at Beer and Pretzels in Burton on Trent in May, the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June and Essen, Germany in October, the rest is a moveable feast 🙂
Thanks for interviewing me.