I met up with Shaun at UK Games Expo 2010 where he had a stand promoting his World Cup 2010 Card Game which won the UK Expo award for 2010 Best Card Game of the year. He agreed to answer a few questions for Boardgames in Blighty. If you want to meet up with Shaun, he will be at ManorCon July 16/17.
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?
It’s hard not to be a little pessimistic about board gaming in the UK. Compared to countries like Germany and Netherlands, we have a general disregard for board games as being geeky! The reliance on computer games and TV to satisfy our leisure time highlights the idle minds of the majority. The lack of family and community spirit, particularly in urban areas detracts from the social connections that help board gaming thrive. Of course, there are thousands of people that do play board games in the UK, but it remains a ‘hobby’ rather than part of the social norm.
To change it would need a fundamental change in social attitudes as it is a cultural malaise rather than preferential decision making process on an individual basis. We live in a celebrity culture so getting ‘celebrities’ to play games and publicize would be a start! How about a few national powers cuts to extract people from electronic media!?
How did you get into game design/publishing?
I have loved board games since I was about 5 years old and won a game of Buccaneer against my parents at Christmas. I am not sure why I have such a fascination for cardboard and counters! I have always tinkered with game design from an early age so it has been an aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. Publication of my World Cup Game was a snap decision after the playtesting went so well.
What has been your most successful design/published game so far?
The World Cup Game and the Card Game for 2010 have both been successful. I have now almost sold out of the board game. I would say that The World Cup Game is the best football game of all as it is quite unique, covering the complete history of the World Cup with all the expansion sets.
Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the finished product?
It all started with a wall chart – the type you fill in as a tournament progresses. I have always thought it would be good to be able to complete one of these in a few hours by playing through the games. Of course, it could not be played match by match so all matches in each phase had to be played simultaneously. Once the playtesting had been done and I had decided to publish the game I searched for graphic designers and manufacturers which took a lot of time. My wife helped me out by doing a lot of ringing round, getting quotes and visiting potential suppliers. Markus Welbourne of JKLM Games was a helpful source of information and it was through him that I looked abroad for the manufacturing side. The graphic design was done by Martin Whelan, a local football fan. Quite a lot of hours spent with Martin in front of his Mac, creating the designs. I decided to get the game manufactured by Ludofact in Germany as their price was reasonable and the quality good.
Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing?
You need a lot of time and money. If you want your design to be published by a larger company, be prepared for a lot of negative comments. If you self publish you will need plenty of cash and you quickly need to find someone to distribute your game as internet sales alone will not be enough.
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)?
Four current projects.
1. The Rugby World Cup Game – similar mechanics to the World Cup football game but the scoring in Rugby is much harder to simulate. A few playtests have revealed a few problems but I am sure these will be overcome.
2. Imperialism: The zenith of Empires – a game covering the period from 1880 to 1920. It will be 5 to 7 players each taking the role of one of the imperialist powers of the time. The game will be card driven, similar to the GMT style of games e.g. Here I Stand, Napoleonic Wars. Lots of work to do on this one.
3. Tribes and Kingdoms – a history of Spain from the end of the Roman period to the creation of modern Spain in the early 16th century. A blind bidding style of game with appearance an disappearance of the various factions that conquered parts of the Iberian peninsula over the 100 years covered.
4. The Rugby World Cup Card Game – especially for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Not even started looking at this yet but it is likely to be released early next year.
What type of games do you like to play? Do you have any particular favourites? Are there any games that you just hate?
I enjoy all kinds of games. I love Diplomacy for its simplicity and sheer tension. I also like the Ticket to Ride series of games and its prequel, Union Pacific. My current favourite game is Here I Stand, a fabulous card-driven game covering the Renaissance period in Europe for 6 players. This is just so historically intense and very engaging. For more serious wargames I really liked ADG’s World in Flames – hardly get to play it as it is just so long! At the other end of the scale my favourite all time oldie is Buccaneer – the 6 player version which was so ahead of its time!
I really don’t like Railway Rivals any more. I used to play it a lot but it really is so tedious once the track laying is over.
What are your likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics?
Any dexterity games are off the play list. Merchants of Amsterdam is an example of game I just don’t like for the mechanics. Card driven games and games with a little luck I do like. However, there are so many economic games of buying commodities to sell to buy more to get a bigger commodity that they all seem to merge into one – there are too many of them. Once neat mechanic I did like was the dice tower in Wallenstein and Shogun.
Will you be attending any upcoming public demos, conventions?
ManorCon on 16/17 July weekend. I may have to miss Essen this year. I have been for the last 4 years, but I will not have a new game out for October, so no real need to go.