Category Archives: game interviews

Latest GMS Magazine podcast featuring an interview with Backspindle Games

Latest GMS Magazine podcast featuring an interview with Backspindle Games

One of the cool games that came out in 2011 was Guards! Guards!, the Terry Pratchet inspired extravaganza.

Paco and I talk to the two minds and talents responsible for bringing you a game with chaos, tons of characters, spells, dragons, back-stabbing action, racing, pox and, most importantly The Luggage!

In this interview we bring you details on how the game was created, how long it took, and many details that you’ll find most interesting.

But don’t let me delay you any longer. Enjoy the show!

http://www.gmsmagazine.com/podcasts/the-gms-magazine-podcast-27-boardgame-ed

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Does the future of Board Games rest with families? – An Interview – Nigel Scarfe of Imagination Gaming

Does the future of Board Games rests with families – An Interview – Nigel Scarfe of Imagination Gaming

I’ve known about Imagination Gaming for a while now as one of my gaming buddies works with them. I also have seen the impressive beehive of activity in the Children’s Zone at UK Expo that is run by the very committed team led by Nigel Scarfe. All indications and comments that I have come across indicate that Nigel and his team are absolutely convinced that families are key to the future of our board gaming hobby.

Imagination Gaming specializes in using modern board and card games to engage and educate both children and adults in a fun and entertaining environment. From one off events to continuing projects, they have an extensive portfolio of education and community based organisations that they have worked with.

In a nutshell they work to stimulate and motivate both individuals and communities, of all ages and abilities, to experience the social and educational benefits of traditional style gaming. Working with schools and other organisations they create a willingness to learn matched with an eagerness to engage and show how everyone has something to offer.

I really like what these guys are doing and I thought that it would be great to find out more about what they have to offer.

 

Hi Nigel,

Tell us the story of Imagination Gaming. How long have you been established? Who are the principals and what are their backgrounds? What sets you apart as a unique service? How is your service beneficial to our hobby?

Where did Imagination Gaming begin? I guess you would have to go back to when I was at High school. I didn’t have a great time whilst there and struggled in many of the lessons. During my early years in High School I was introduced to the Dungeons & Dragons game by my cousin along with a WW2 war game. It blew me away. I had suddenly discovered the pastime that was to dominate most of my spare time for many years to come. It not only excited me but, due to the number of books I started reading on the game, the characters I created etc, I suddenly found myself improving in both my maths and English.

I left education after a year at sixth form and spent the next decade in retail, working my way up in various management roles. I then spent a few years working at a company that worked in schools producing and installing playground equipment. This got me thinking about the feasibility of bringing games directly into schools. We piloted a scheme whilst there and it proved to be relatively successful, although the company at that time had other priorities and it never amounted to anything. I left them shortly after and spent a couple of months working out what I wanted to do next and it was at that time that I decided to give the idea a go.

I spent the next twelve months earning absolutely nothing and giving demonstrations and networking myself into a position where I could seriously launch the ideas into schools. This was all about four years ago now and the business has grown and changed tremendously since then. We always had a general idea of what we wanted to do with the games but kept an open mind as to what the school would have in mind and this has proved to be an important consideration. No two schools we have done have ever been the same but this flexibility has been a key factor in showing the schools that we can use the games in a variety of ways to solve different problems that they might have.

I now have a business partner, Christopher Standley, who works with me full time and another colleague, Kevin O’Sullivan, who works with us on more of a part time basis. Both of them believe as I do that games can and do make a huge difference in the learning outcomes of children and adults alike. Both of them have made a huge difference in how we approach, the way we deliver and the way we get the message of what we do out there.

As a service provider within education there is no-one doing anything similar to what we do but much of that is down to how we now deliver our service. It is much more focused around the curriculum and is tied in with government initiatives and aims. At the core of what we do are a range of great games but how we use them, who we use them with and most importantly how we engage and interact with everyone involved is something that makes it difficult for anyone else to follow in our steps.

How are we beneficial to the hobby? I truly believe that if we don’t start showing the younger generation what our hobby is all about, what it has to offer and why it can still be cool, we may no longer have one in the UK in the next ten years. We go out of our way to show the children not only what we do but to give them a glimpse of what is out there in the way of gaming shops and the games they stock. Hobby stores have a key role to play in the survival of the hobby and their survival is an important if we are to get the message across about this new generation of games that are out there.

 

Why do you do it? What do you guys get out of it?

I do it because I love it. I am good with kids, young people, disaffected youths, families, parents, teachers and so on. People skills is essential in what we do. Simply liking games is no good. Knowing the rules is irrelevant if no-one wants to listen to you. You have to like people and believe you can make a difference to them. That sounds very grand but I am very passionate about it and know firsthand what playing games like this can do for someone’s confidence and self esteem, not to mention making new friends. What do I get out of it? I have the best job in the world. I have never enjoyed myself as much as I do now and I try to make others feel the same way, although I’m sure my colleagues would disagree from time to time!

 

Your services cover working with schools, libraries, clubs & community groups, and events & festivals. Can you give us a few case study examples what the work you have been doing? Perhaps beginning with your recent work at the UK Games Expo.

Games Expo came about after being a regular visitor there and seeing a similar audience as could be found at other conventions but I saw it had the potential to be much more. They were about interaction and participation. They had a schools tournament going on but at the time it was more focused around the games designed by the organiser and was a winner takes all approach. The first year I took over I wanted to make everyone attending feel like they had won. Expo were able to put together lots of prizes including hats and dice and we had a selection of games that we knew would work well with all of the kids. I took a more light hearted approach to the day and during the presentations at the end made sure everyone had a chance to get up and take home a prize. It proved very popular with both the kids, the teachers and the parents. It has just grown since then. We have now changed the format to make it more of an open activity in which people can come and go as they please. We have a terrific Expo this year and I am confident that next year will be even better and bigger!

Rather than go into too much detail on any of our work  in particular I will put up a link so that people can go to our website and see the info for themselves, should they wish to, but in summary here are just a few examples of some of work we have done recently in a variety of areas.

 

http://imaginationgaming.co.uk/testimonials.php

 

Children’s University – School Cluster Games Tournament

We were asked by the Children’s University to come up with a format of activities that would encourage children to join in after school activities that were challenging and that could help with cohesion between schools. We came up with a friendly games tournament that ran over the course of several weeks. The kids loved it and although they thought we would struggle with numbers we quickly became oversubscribed for the activity. Friendly competition at it best.

 

Learning Year – Maths Challenge

This project ran across 15 schools in Sheffield and focused on improving attainment and perception of the usefulness of mathematics in schools. We ran a full day of activities within each of the schools and took data on the effect the work was having. The organization was over the moon with the results and the schools were delighted with the improvements that were made there. In addition each of the schools received a pack of games, where using maths was an essential part of playing the game, so that they were able to sustain the work we had done and they still do to this day.

 

Primary & High Schools – Zombie Diaries

We use a variety of themed games for this work in order to emphasise the importance of using the imagination and inspiring new ideas. It is based around encouraging the children into creative writing and the activity is another run over several weeks. Developing their imaginations and creative juices is what this is all about and we not only play the games but make our own cards and locations for them, write short stories and finally design comics based upon them. To finish things off we work with local libraries to display the work done and encourage the young people to visit these important resources and get themselves reading.

 

Friday night Project Leeds – Kids D&D

We were given the go ahead to run a series of one off D&D games at youth clubs across Leeds to see if the kids became as excited about D&D as I did when I was younger and to help them play together more cooperatively. The aim was to have the children mix with kids they didn’t know and to encourage the team ethic through the game. Although we found it hard to bring the kids across the city to non-local venues, those that played loved it and the feedback we got from them was fantastic. Unexpectedly we had a large number of young girls play and like all of the others had never done anything like it before. Running a game for these groups was great fun and it was fascinating to see how the girls behaved quite differently from the boys. It was a great success and I am only sad that this has now finished.

We have lots of other projects we have done and would be happy to hear from anyone that would like to know more about the different groups that we have worked with.

 

Can you give us a flavor of the kind of feedback you have received from the attendees and also your clients?

To date we have been delighted to find that all of the feedback we have had is extremely positive. Whether it is a head teacher, a teaching assistant, a parent or most importantly the child. All of them have really enjoyed our activities and have felt they benefitted from it.

Here is a VERY small selection of the feedback we have had: –

 

“The impact of Imagination Gaming on the children has been quite amazing “

Margaret Delee, Higher Learning Teacher

 

“Many thanks for a fantastic day. I’m not sure who enjoyed themselves more, me or the children! Chris was very enthusiastic and clear in his instructions and had great control of the group. The games were simple to play but cleverly designed with great learning potential, development of social skills and above all fun!”

Emma Danby, Mill Lane Primary

 

“We had Imagination Gaming in as part of our Math’s week within school. They were professional, helpful and provided us with a fantastic day. The children all loved the games and didn’t feel as if they were actually working, although they did recognise the learning that took place! We recently set up a Math’s club at dinner times due to the popular demand of the games, and are looking forward to having them back to our school in the future.”

Amanda Crowder, Math’s Coordinator

 

“Nigel has worked with some of the most challenging students in year 10/11, we teach the students ourselves for the whole day and his sessions with them are helpful in order to break up the day. The students enjoy the games sessions immensely with Nigel, they always come back to class talking about the different games that they have played and how they can’t wait till the next session. They interact well with each other and are always learning new skills in a fun and unusual way.”

Glenys Hallas, Learning Mentor

 

This is only a very small sample and we intend to publish most if not all of it on to our website over the next few months. There is already quite a bit on there, listed next to the games where appropriate or on our testimonials page. Much of it is focused on individual games that someone may have played and we do intend to make sure that each of the manufacturers of these games get to read the positive feedback on their games and what the end users thought. It’s surprising just what a six year old will say about a game sometimes!

 

What are the most popular games that children really enjoyed and families as well?

Difficult question to answer really. We have around 140 games in the portfolio now and I think we have pulled together a terrific range that caters for a wide age range, covers a number of areas of learning and that’s fits in with what we do. Depending upon who we are working with the range will vary immensely, imagine for example the difference in the range between those games we would take in to a Special Needs school to that of a Primary school or to a High school. The needs of all of them and their abilities vary greatly and the games need to mirror that.

However, all our games try to fit within three golden rules: –

1)      We can explain it in 30 seconds.

2)      It can be played in 5-10 minutes, a school break time.

3)      It must have lots of replay value.

 

Some of those that have had great feedback include: –

1)      Straw – Card game from AEG.

2)      Take It Easy – Board games from Burley Games

3)      Apples to Apples – Word association from Out of the Box.

4)      Katamino – Puzzle with two player variant from Gigamic.

5)      Zeus on the Loose – Card game from Gamewright.

6)      Catch the Match – Card game from Playroom Entertainment.

7)      Incan Gold – Risk management game from Eagle Games.

There are lots more I could and perhaps should name that we use but these are amongst the favourites from our range with the people we work with.

 

What is your view of the UK board games market? What are some of the challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome to strengthen the hobby in the UK?

I think the UK market at the moment is in a difficult place and I speak as an owner of an independent game store. There has never been a better time to discover new games, the range out there is simply huge but there are some real difficulties out there that game stores face.

Pricing is becoming a BIG issue and has been problematic for a while now. It is difficult for me to balance what I need to sell a game at to make a decent mark up, to cover all of my overheads, when I have online retailers selling games for what is sometimes my cost price. How do I persuade a customer that spending those extra pounds with me is worth it. I put on game nights for them, run events and tournaments but the gap between what I need to sell it at and what they can get it for seems to be widening and so I rely more and more on my loyal customers that understand what I am trying to do for them. Many customers will only worry about the price and we have to accept that but I feel it is our duty to remind our customers that I cannot imagine Amazon running a role-play night at a local store, free of charge in to the early hours of the morning. We do and we want to because we love our hobby and we want people to be part of it.

I often hear from people that it is market forces at work. This is correct. Unfortunately the market forces, the distributors and the customers, seem to be ok whereas in the middle, the hobby stores and stuck in a situation that is becoming more and more difficult. Would it help if there were more distributors within the UK? I believe it would but wonder whether the market is big enough. It is worrying that I can only buy certain products from one company, who have exclusivity on an item and that item is one of my biggest selling lines that I then make very little profit off.

The hobby is still a fractured one and is one that desperately needs a makeover. I would marry a Hollywood leading lady if I thought it would help make the hobby cool to the mainstream and we could begin selling games in larger quantities! Why are games looked upon so negatively in this country? I don’t find that when I go to Europe. Why do some of the families I work with recoil in fear when I ask them if I want to play a board game. We have let it go on unchanged for such a long time that it has become the norm. We need to change these perceptions and show the public why we like our hobby so much. We need to look at ourselves first and make sure that as store owners we are presentable, our store is clean and that we are extremely polite and helpful but we also need to get out there from behind our desks and hand out flyers, attend local fairs, work with youth groups and speak to the libraries about how we can help them increase the numbers they get through their doors. We have to start treating the hobby in which we work as a business and start making things happen. I think we have become a little complacent and find it very easy to point the finger and blame others when times are slow. I do think the industry missed a trick many years ago when computer games first emerged. They took the marketing of games to a different level and we have not followed suit. It is not easy to do any of this and to change the way we work but if we don’t try then it will fall down around us.

In the light of all this negativity I can see aspects of the hobby coming together and I think this article is just one example of this. There are a number of people within the industry networking, discussing how we can change this situation. I can tell everyone that if people are put in a position where they can see and play the games they will like them and they will buy them. I know, I see it every day. It’s just a case of getting the message out there..

 

Have you been involved in the Play in Public campaign? If so, how?

We are aware of it but have been so only recently. We are not currently involved in any way which is something we hope to put right very soon. We will get in touch and see what we can do to help out with this as its goals and aims mirror ours and we always try to work alongside campaigns such as this or other organizations whose aims can integrate with ours.

 

How can we gamers get involved if we would like to?

I guess there are a number of ways in which people can help us out and get involved.

If you know of any schools, libraries or youth clubs, in fact any organizations for that matter, that you think would appreciate our involvement at their venue then tell them to get in touch or direct them to our website. Our reputation is a strong one and we are very highly thought of across all of our customers so we can confidently put them in touch with similar organizations so they may discuss with them what we have done first hand.

If you are or know of a games store that would be interested in linking in with us then do the same. Where possible we try to make our customers aware of local games stores when we go in to an area so that there is somewhere that can sustain their interest in gaming after we have done our work there. Get in touch. Tell us what’s happening in your area.

 

What are your plans for the future development of Imagination Gaming?

To become more established nationwide is the first priority. To establish a network of school game clubs across the country and to host events between them is another burning ambition and one that we have already done albeit in limited areas so far. A big aim of the company is to change the perception of gaming across the country. Gaming in the UK has a bad rep but one that it has not tried very hard to get rid of. The stereotype of gamers and gaming stores does not help. The label of geek that we get given when we mention board games in schools comes from somewhere, we just need to find out where that comes from and make it cool again. We have never had one single person not enjoy the games we have take into a venue, not one. Maybe not every game was their cup of tea but every person we have worked with has always enjoyed at least some of the games and usually says that it was much better than they expected. Just how do we get this message out to everyone else?

I would like us to get involved at more shows and events, both gaming and non-gaming, and to be the face and destination of gaming for the younger generation and families. We would then act as the window to the incredible world of hobby gaming that we all know is out there.

 

How and when did you get into gaming?

Age 12 when my cousin showed me the original red box D&D and a WW2 tank battle. Hooked from that moment on. Since then I have played a huge number of games and had a fascination with the hobby.

 

What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you dislike?

I love most types of games and really enjoy understanding the mechanics behind the game rules. I play for sitting around the table with my friends and laughing about the situations that arise.

 

My current favorites and ongoing games include: –

The Arkham horror board game from Fantasy Flight

Legend of the Five Rings CCG from AEG, just played War of Honor for the first time last night and loved it!!

Mijnlieff from Hopwood games.

Great Dalmuti from Wizards of the Coast.

Saboteur from Z-Man games.

Gobblet from Gigamic games.

World of Warcraft TCG from Cryptozoic games

I am also just about to finish running a 4th Edition D&D campaign that I have run for over three years now with 8 difficult players. It feels like a jail sentence some weeks! The final battle is looming so we are planning something special with fancy dress etc and so videos and photos will no doubt follow soon.

Generally, I like any game in which total strangers can meet up and have a great time together in a very short space of time. Most recent memory of this was running a game of the Great Dalmuti at the Games Expo 2011, 7 players all wearing stupid hats that had never met before and they loved every minute of it, as did I. Several of them are now following us on Twitter so I hope they will see where we are next or come along next year and give it another go.

 

Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?

I really don’t mind any game mechanics or themes I just tend to fall out with any player that takes a game a little too seriously. It one of those things that puts new gamers, young people and families off and there is just no need for it. It is after all a game.

 

I remember several years ago, when I played Magic competitively for a while, that I entered one tournament and got matched up against an older guy with a unusual head of hair. I said hi, told him my name and asked him what sort of a day he had so far. His reply was to ignore what I had said, told me to remove all sleeves from my cards, in case I had marked them, and then told me he wanted to see me shuffle my cards afterwards. My reaction, which was very unprofessional at the time, was to pick up my deck, drop it on top of him and tell him to do it himself, as he had nothing better to do with his life, while I went to the toilet. Upon my return I picked up my cards, declared him one of the saddest people I had ever met and went home. I have stopped playing Magic competitively since. I just hate the fact that people like that spoil what should be a fantastic, competitive but still socially enjoyable occasion. This game did not seem to have improved his social skills. Perhaps he should have stuck to a cooperative board game instead?

 

Tell us where we can meet you this year.

We don’t generally do a huge amount of public events and the recent funding cuts from the government will no doubt affected this further. Many councils are still not sure if and when the funding will appear with which to organise and run their yearly fairs and carnivals. As and when we do begin scheduling them in we will post them on our website, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Alternatively just drop us an email or give us a ring. It would be nice to hear from people who are organizing events who feel we could bring our games along and show people something different.

I will however be at Essen this year again, looking for the next selection of games we can introduce to the UK public if anyone wants to meet up there?

 

What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public?

I think I have covered some of this off in what I have said previously but think that the time may be right to organise a meeting of like minded people within the industry to see if we can find a way forward that will help all of us. There are enough of us out there that want to make a difference that I’m sure we can come up with a strategy that, over the course of a couple of years, can begin changing the way people look at our hobby. I know I would want to be part of that and will do everything I can to effect that change.

 

Thanks for your time and giving me the chance to air my views. I know they won’t be shared by everyone but if it gets us talking that’s a start.

Thanks very much Nigel!

For more information about Imagination Gaming, go to – http://www.imaginationgaming.co.uk/index.php

Folks, please add your comments to Nigel’s interview. There is a lot of food for thought here and a great opportunity to discuss how to take our hobby forward.

 

 

 

 

 

Interview – Meet the guys from Albe Pavo

Interview – Meet the guys from Albe Pavo

Another interview for your enjoyment. This time we talk to Matteo Santus and Jocularis from Albe Pavo, another fresh faced company from Italia!

Their key release in 2010 was Munera: Familia Gladitoria which is a simulation of the world of Roman gladiators and their first expansion about to be released is MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi

My review is here – http://bdg.ms/ae69

Hello Matteo and Jocularis,

Congratulations on the publication of Munera Gladiatoria and your first expansion – MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi

MS: Thank you very much Mark!
J: Hi Mark!

Can we start by having you tell us about the Munera Gladiatoria. What is the basic premise? Can you describe the general game play and objectives? Is it a family game or more for the hobby gamer?

MS: I’ve always loved history and I’ve always founded the gladiators’ world really interesting, so I’ve studied them and decided to make a managerial game, because there were none existing! We wanted to do a solid game that could be played by anyone (even the youngest) to learn something about the real history of gladiator and having fun doing this! We designed a game in which each player takes the role of a lanista, an ancient world entrepreneur who decided to invest his wealth in building a gladiator’s gymnasium to train the greatest champions of the arena, conquering eternal glory!

J: It is for sure a game for hobby gamers, not a family game. It is focused on a great historic research, and for this reason I think it could be a good game to have a new point of view from learning history, and a really enjoyable one!

Can you tell us the story about how and when the idea for the game came to you and the process you have went through to publish the game?

MS: The first idea came to me when I was studying the history and I thought it would be great to have such a game! Published games on the same topic had terrible historic flaws, so we decided to do it by ourself giving birth to ALBE PAVO! It was very difficult at the beginning, because we had no idea about how to do it, and the game passed continuous reviews because at the beginning we were designing but not taking a look at the production, but the very need of good production improved our game, pushing us to think it through again and again and to improve it in a more essential way.
J: the first ideas sometimes are good, anyway only with a lot of playtesting the game can be ready for publishing. It is like a good novel, some idea could be strong but only through  proofreading it could be a brought to a good point of equilibrium.

Your new expansion, MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi, changes things somewhat.  Tell us what players can expect.


MS: I think that Ars Dimicandi it’s a great improvement to Familia Gladiatoria. It changes the way in which the duels are resolved, it gives to the players a new Pugna (battle) deck and reviews the managerial aspects of the game. I think it is very fun and very tactical! Not just for the new way to manage duels, but also for the managerial choices it gives to the Players.

J: Simple change: cards are used instead of dice. This is one of the core parts of the expansion, but I think this can add a great level of depth to the game

What kind of research did you have to do for these games? How historically accurate are they and what is the balance you had to achieve to be faithful to the historical events and making a fun, playable game?

MS: I studied a lot of the history. Indeed I thought it is not absolutely difficult for a game to be historically accurate, because history is so full of interesting and logical things and you have just to portray them! You have to study the history, you need to find what existed and you only have to think about its purpose and its reason to simply integrate it into the game mechanics, and the job is done!

What were the main challenges in designing all the Munera series of games?

MS: The main challenge is to create games not completely independent from the others but also playable as a stand-alone. That’s our purpose for future projects on Munera, but it’s not an easy one, I know!
J: for this year we need to concentrate on some different projects but of course we would like to work again on the Munera series. It depends on the customers requests and feedback. We are very close to our community.
Have there been any particular surprises in designing the game?
MS: It surprised me how a game can be improved when you think there is no more chance of improvement. Never cease to playtest, always playtest with different people!
J: well, I was surprised about how many graphic changes a game could have!!! Even the smallest particular detail is important to comprehend a game deeply.  

How did you arrive at your key design decisions and mechanics?

MS: It was a clear path, right from the beginning. The game came out pretty much as it is now when I first designed it. Of course it took a long time to tune it, to make it smarter and easier!

What kind of feedback have you received?

MS: We’ve received two kinds of feedback. Those who said “We really love this game, it is great!” and those who said “The game is really interesting, but I don’t like the dice”. Now, with MUNERA: Ars Dimicandi the expansion could change their opinion… and that’s great for us!!

How long have you been gaming yourself? How did you get started?


MS: I cannot remember where it all started. Maybe with Risiko when i was a little kid.. Then came Hero Quest, then I discovered Battletech, then a whole world opened before my eyes when I started playing games from all over the world. It was great, especially because here in Italy gaming is not so developed as I see it is in many other countries!!!
J: I started with RPG games, but that was only the beginning. When I discovered the incredible variety of boardgames It was a real blast to my mind! I’ve always loved well illustrated games, and on board games this aspect comes to a greater level of complexity!
What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you avoid?
MS: I love all games in which theme is strongly connected to mechanics. I love history games, war games and strategic games. But I also love other games. The only important thing is that they have to give me strong feelings and that they need to have funny and smart mechanics! I usually avoid abstract games or games that are too much in a “german-style” where theme is sometimes pasted on a good, but cold mechanic. Talking about titles I love, there are many. i can say for example the wonderful “Twilight Struggle”.
J: I need to play games where theme is the core part of the game, not only the mechanics. This can be done with a good illustration too, but the game mechanics are important: I usually avoid abstract games, but sometimes even the simpliest game can provide great surprises! (I recently bought “Dixit”, genius! )

How did you get into game design?

MS: I’ve always designed games for passion. Since I was very very young. I remember that my first game was about combat between aircraft on squared paper where you had to erase your plane and write it in another square to move.. When ALBE PAVO came to birth, we were already designing games together for many years! 

Do you have a specific design philosophy that you subscribe to?

MS: I would like to design something that players can feel, something with a strong theme that feed your minds and your feelings.
Do you have any particular game designers and/or designs that you admire?
MS: Not one particularly, but I admire good ideas and I love good games!

Tell us about your future plans? Will there be wider distribution of your games in Europe and the USA?

MS: We already have distribution in many countries. RAVEN DISTRIBUTION is our distributor in Italy, SPIRAL GALAXY GAMES in UK, INTRAFIN in Belgium, REBEL in Poland, these are just some companies in Europe, on the other side of the Ocean we work with MINDSPORT DISTRIBUTION in Canada and MAYDAY GAMES in USA, who  furnished us the card sleeves included in every MUNERA: Familia Gladiatoria box. About our future projects, we are planning to release two other games this year: WINTER TALES and SAKE & SAMURAI.. we will mail you soon information about that!!!
Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?

MS: Three things to do! One: always keep an eye to production when you design a game! Two: go to fairs and have no fear to talk to any distributor! Three: playtest, playtest, playtest it!!!

J: oh, and forth: playtest it!!!

Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions? Do you have a website?

MS: Sure, we have a webiste. www.albepavo.com, both in italian and english language! Surely we will be in Lucca fair (around the 1st of November) and maybe our games will be in ESSEN (but I doubt we could be there in person.. Triste Emoticon).

J: thanks for your support Mark!!!


Amy’s Board Game Day Adventure – by my boardgame buddy – Alan Hatcher

Amy’s Board Game Day Adventure – by my boardgame buddy – Alan Hatcher

This is my second piece for Boardgames in Blighty about my gaming experiences with the kids, who continue their adventures into the world of board games. This time we head full throttle into a whole day of board game joy; although I have to say that it was with a great deal of nervousness that Amy, age six and three quarters, and I head to the Pasteboard and Plastic Games Day at the Saltdean Scout hut.

This was also my first time at this mini convention and I had arranged to meet a few of the gaming group there. We settled in quite quickly and first up was Forbidden Island; a great game for the family and gamers alike and we had a great time at it. Amy really gets this game and you can see and hear the excitement as she’s working out what to do and tells everyone where to go to save the sinking Island. When the flood cards come up we just love the tension of watching the Island sink away. This is a favourite in our house and both the kids throw themselves into it.

Next up was Antigua, which is one of the Adlungspiele big games in a tiny box. You each play a pirate ship captain navigating you way around a sea made of cards laid out in a grid. The game utilises a role selection mechanism that allows your ship card to move, explore the cards (if you turn over a card and find an Island you get to take treasure), attack another ship, recruit pirates or swap the roles around. The cards have a threefold purpose, they have a picture of a pirate with a coloured border to the card which donates its role, a number for treasure, and a number of cannon balls to donate its attack value. This is another game that the family and friends like, plays quickly and has loads of interaction; particularly if you do all the pirate voices. We get a lot of mileage out of the Adlungspiele games and they go past largely unnoticed on Boardgameek.com; if you want to drive yourself really mad, in a good way, try Spot but I’ll save that for another review.

The highlight of the day was the raffle because Amy got second choice at the prizes, to a round of applause from the crowd, which made her day. She chose a copy of Dungeon Quest, an old D&D basic role playing game with a huge map board. I never thought I’d find my self running a D&D game for a 6 and 9 year old but we have had great fun with it at home… my poor wife. Amy is very proud of her win and shows everyone her game when they come round.

In the afternoon we played Fresco again. Amy really enjoyed this, the collection of the cubes and the mechanism that determines order by what time you get out of bed. Colourful components and good game play.

Overall a great day and Amy amazed me by her patience and engagement with the games. Everyone was very welcoming and she was the only child at the day so she did great; considering we were there for five hours. I think the lesson for me is that our kids are capable of engaging with good games for long periods if they are the right games played in the right way. Admittedly Amy is very into her games but I think kids are capable of learning quite complex games if they engage with the theme and it can be a great learning experience they aren’t even aware they are having.

Alan

Bricks and Mortar, Inside the FLGS – An interview with Michelle Davis of Rules of Play

Bricks and Mortar, Inside the FLGS – An interview with Michelle Davis of Rules of Play

RESPECT! That’s all I can say to those who own Friendly Local Game Shops (FLGS) and any other type of small board game retailers as well. Especially in the current state of the world’s economy.

I guess I’d have to say that one of my Bucket List items is to own a FLGS. Maybe some day… But its never as simple as it sounds so I thought that it would be a great idea to get the real inside scoop from someone in the know. So here is my interview with Michelle Davis of Rules of Play, located in Cardiff, Wales…

Thanks for talking to Boardgames in Blighty Michelle!

1) First off, tell us the story of Rules of Play! Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the launch of the shop? Tell us about the ups and downs.

It all happened very quickly; in February last year we discovered that our local games shop was to close down after not being able to find a suitable premises to relocate to in Cardiff. Three of us had a conversation starting with ‘isn’t it a shame there won’t be a games shop in Cardiff’ and ending up with ‘why don’t we open up our own’! We went from business plan to opening the shop in around eleven weeks – not an experience I’d wish to repeat!

In many ways it was not at all the ideal time to be starting a new business venture – Ian (my husband) is tied up full time with our coffee shop, while I was busy doing the admin side of the business as well as looking after our three children (the youngest wasn’t even four months at that point) and Steve was about to start a postgrad in Environment and Development at LSE. But we figured that we couldn’t have a perfect opportunity AND perfect timing, so we took the decision to go ahead.


2) Tell us about your shop. Location. Why Cardiff? Space for gaming? Do you run game events? If so, what have been your most successful game events so far? What kind of feedback have you received?


We chose a city centre location, in one of the Victorian arcades in Cardiff’s Castle Quarter. Partly through practicalities – it is near to our coffee shop and also near to the site of the old games shop, so customers could be redirected easily. But also – we didn’t to be in a large, anonymous shopping centre – we felt that Rules of Play would be much better suited to the Castle Quarter, with its myriad independent shops and businesses. And finally, we felt that the fact with Games Workshop, Forbidden Planet and ModelZone all within 2 minutes walk there would be a real synergy for customers and businesses – and so it has proved. There is very little product overlap between our four shops, so we are all happy to refer customers to each other – and help each other out if needed.

3) Tell us about your Unique Selling Points – what advantages do you present to customers as an FLGS?


We are trying to create a store which appeals to serious gamers, with knowledgeable staff and a wide range of games available including new releases , but which also offers a welcoming and unintimidating environment for people who simply like to play the occasional game. Its important for us to be accessible to everyone – whatever your age or taste there’s a good chance we’ll have a game for you – its our job to provide informed and honest recommendations and advice, whether you’ve been playing games for years or haven’t played anything other than Ludo!  For us success means that we provide as good a service to the person looking for a gift as for the experienced games player.

We chose a unit that has a downstairs playing area, with a loo and facilities for making tea, coffee etc, so that people can come and hang out, play games (either their own or one from the store’s growing library) – and we encourage people to use this area whether or not they are planning on making a purchase that day. We also have as many demo copies of games as we can beg, borrow, or steal from our respective homes(!) so that wherever possible people can have a proper look/play with what they are buying.

As well as offering a space for casual play, we have a busy programme of events – from tournaments to ‘Learn to Play’ events to Open Boardgaming days – and even themed games days, for instance our Spooky Games Night at Halloween took place in the Arcade itself, which is indeed spooky after dark, and served our players a menu of Vampire Soup, Goblin Fingers and Hard Boiled Eyeballs!

Of course the one thing a bricks and mortar store can’t compete on is price, both in comparison to internet sellers or to large chains like WHSmith, Waterstones or John Lewis. We have to stick to RRP – but we work very hard to make sure our customers feel they are getting value over and above the purchase price in terms of advice, demos, events, and just general fun!  All of us at Rules of Play love playing games, and we’ll never try and sell you something which we don’t believe is right for you.



4) What type of games do you and your partners like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you dislike?


Our criteria for playing at home is that we can play them after the kids are asleep and before we conk out , games that are easy to set up, not too long and also work well for two players. At the moment we’re playing Hive, Rising Kings, Carcassonne, Ascension, San Juan – and Rat a Tat Cat and Too Many Monkeys with the kids! But I get to escape to a games group once a week – recently we’ve played  The Resistance, K2, Havana, Settlers, Pandemic, London, Smallworld, Power Grid, Dixit and a LOT of Saboteur – for some reason it’s always the game we end the evening on! Ian also gets to escape once a week – he tends to go to one of the Magic the Gathering nights at Rules of Play; since he’s discovered Magic he has become annoyingly good at it!
Steve plays a lot of games with friends in London, they’re currently playing a lot of Troyes, Dominant Species and Dominion – with exams on the way the all-day epic games are on hold for a while!

5) Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?


Steve loves Euro-style strategy and worker placement games – the more small wooden cubes the better! Ian likes anything with a historical/political theme – he is forever trying to find someone to play Twilight Struggle with! As for me, I’ll try anything and tend to be quite fickle in my favourites – but the game I’ve enjoyed most in the last couple of months and want to play more of is London.

6) What is your view of the board gaming scene here in the UK? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities?


From talking to our customers, it seems that there is a real resurgence of interest in board and card games in the UK – particularly driven by families. They appreciate the opportunities that gaming as a family bring – with younger kids it’s about having fun as a family and also picking up valuable social skills – negotiation, how to lose gracefully, how to take turns and so forth.  There are some great games out there which different ages can relate to in different ways – with even the most surly teenagers happily getting involved, which is great to be part of!
However, many people only real think of Monopoly and Scrabble when they think of board games. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve shown customers Ticket to Ride, Lost Cities, or Carcassonne – and their reaction has been one of “wow, I just didn’t realise there was anything so accessible and FUN out there!’  Our Learn to Play events are designed to help get people to know some of the really fantastic games that are available, and get a chance to play them and see if they like them. Its a great chance for people to do something different and meet some new friends, and they’re something we’d really like to expand on.
Cardiff has a really great gaming community, who are very welcoming, and we’re increasingly involved with and would love to support more.  We’re trying to open up gaming as a hobby to a wide an audience as possible. I’m currently looking at doing a games evening in a local cafe, also running games evenings for PTAs, and helping younger kids develop an interest in games – Rules of Play lends different games to the local school’s Chess club, so they get a chance to play something different while waiting for each other to finish matches.


7) What advice would you give to anyone thinking about opening up a FLGS?
Unless you want to be permanently exhausted, don’t do it if you already have a cafe and three kids under five and a full time postgrad course between the three of you!!!

Make the most of local advice – we had some incredibly useful sessions with local gamers before deciding to take the plunge. Make sure that your team is well-rounded – a high level of gaming knowledge is essential within a games shop – but you also need to make sure there is a mix of customer service/ administrative/communication/business skills too.


Finally don’t underestimate the power of social media in building awareness and building a brand – I’m still a learner in this area but, using Facebook, Twitter and WordPress has made a big difference to our profile. (www.facebook.com/rulesofplay, www.twitter.com/rulesofplaygame, www.rulescardiff.wordpress.com).

8) Tell us how you are involved with the local community

We all three of us believe that as a local business, supported by local people, we should be supporting our community in return; the local primary school benefits from an end of year donation of 10% of the sales to parents; we also offer gift vouchers as prizes for charity events.


I’m also very excited about our First Birthday – to celebrate making a full year (keep your fingers crossed, few weeks to go yet!!) we are holding ‘Cardiff Unplugged Games Day 2011 – in support of Ty Hafan, our local children’s hospice.  We have booked three rooms at the Chapter Arts Centre, and will be gaming gaming gaming from 10am to 10pm, with entry by donation and all proceeds going directly to Ty Hafen. I can’t wait for this event, as I am hopeful that we’ll attract lots of families, younger games players and people completely new to the hobby – as well as generating support from Cardiff’s existing gaming community. For more details, ‘like’ this page:
http://www.facebook.com/GamesDay


9) How can Game publishers and distributors support the success of the FLGS?

Well. A person who defines themself as a ‘non gamer’ isn’t going to suddenly go online, research available games, and make a purchase. However, that same ‘non-gamer’ may end up in an FLGS – perhaps to buy a present, perhaps because his/her kids have badgered them, perhaps for no reason other than it’s raining. And that’s where you have a real chance to talk to them about what games they may like, invite them to an event, possibly sell them a game – and possibly, create an interest that means they continue to buy games. And that’s why I firmly believe distributors and manufacturers should do all they can to support bricks and mortar stores – because we are a major source of NEW games customers. Support could come in a variety of ways – a bricks and mortar only discount is one; promos or expansions ONLY available at bricks and mortar stores is another; also, committing a proportion of their inventory to be available as demonstration copies would be really useful.

 

 

Spotlight on – Up and Coming Game Designer – Filip Milunski

I am very pleased to introduce you Filip Milunski from Poland. I have had the pleasure of playing and reviewing 2 of his designs – Mali Powstancy and Na Grunwald and was very impressed with his talent. Now with the publication of Magnum Sal which he has co-designed with Marcin Krupinski, I felt it was time to showcase him on Boardgames in Blighty as an up and coming game designer. I predict that Filip will become a noted and leading game designer. You heard it here first!

Hello Filip,

Congratulations on the publication of Magnum Sal, Mali Powstancy and Na Grunwald!.

Hello. Thank you!

Can we start by having you tell us about the Magnum Sal, your newest design. What is the basic premise? Can you describe the general game play and objectives? Is it a family game or more for the hobby gamer?

Magnum Sal, designed together with my friend Marcin Krupinski, is definitely closer to a gamer’s game that to a family game. In this game you take a role of a foreman, a manager of a mining team. Your goal is to extract salt from one of the biggest and oldest salt mines in the world, which is in Wieliczka, in Poland. This is an economic game – at the end the richest player is the winner. The main mechanics are pick up and delivery and worker placement with a nice twist which we called a chain rule. Briefly it gives you a choice: do you want to dig fast but then you have to pay a lot to other players who are transporting your salt to the surface or maybe do you want to plan the extraction carefully but you won’t be first there and probably the best salt might be already extracted.

Can you tell us the story about how and when the idea for the game came to you and the journey you have traveled up to the launch at Essen?

It was Marcin’s idea to make a game about Wieliczka. He told me about it and I encouraged him to start working on it. After some time he asked me to help him and finally we decided to make it together. What is quite unusual is that we did most of the brainstorming on instant messenger sitting in our offices (please do not tell our bosses about it 😉 ).

The whole design process took about a year and a half. Magnum Sal is quite a complex game so we needed a lot of play testing to find the balance, but we are pleased by the result.

Your other designs, Mali Powstancy and Na Grunwald! are based on important events in Poland’s history.  Why did you choose these topics?

When I started designing boardgames few years ago I asked myself a question: What should I do to interest Poles in modern boardgames? Unfortunately boardgames are not so popular in my country like in Germany or the USA. Most of the people know only about Monopoly and Scrabble. I thought a bit about it for some time and my answer was: you should pick a familiar theme, topic which is important for the polish people. Another game about banana plantations or castle building probably won’t catch their attention. And I have to tell you that Poles love history. We can talk about it all of the time and historical events are very important to us. Sometimes even too important ;). So I started looking for a historical theme and then the idea of a game about a scout military post popped  up when I was visiting the Warsaw Rising Museum.

What kind of research did you have to do for these games? How historically accurate are they and what is the balance you had to achieve to be faithful to the historical events and making a fun, playable game?

This is a crucial question because in my opinion it is also the biggest challenge! How to make a boardgame which is thematic and historically accurate and playable at the same time?  And I am not sure there is a simple answer to it 😉 .

My attitude is to build a game around the theme. Generally I do not like pasted on themes. When I start work on some title I read about the topic first. In the case of Mali Powstancy my source was the Warsaw Rising Museum. Then I looked for the most important process or idea which should be reflected by the game. In Powstancy it is a fight against time.

It is impossible to completely reflect a complex historical event or situation in a boardgame so you need to find that kind of key idea, or process and then try to find a game mechanic which will suit it.

When I worked on Na Grunwald I had help of a historian who was checking my ideas and if they were historically correct.

What were the main challenges in designing all three games? I’ve heard that you had little time to organize the Na Grunwald! project and get it published. The story of the Mali Powstancy’s young insurgents is a powerful story of bravery of these young children.

The main challenge in the process is patience and careful testing. It is the longest part of designing but also the most important. It is sometimes hard for a designer to find again and again something that is not working properly so you need patience and good testers! Help of other people is crucial. A boardgame designer without testers can not do anything. The thing I like the least in designing is writing the rulebook. ;(

Yes I had only two months for designing Na Grunwald so it was hard time. There were days when we were performing 5 or 6 playtest of it so when it was finished I almost hated my newborn child 😉

Were there any particular surprises along the way?
Probably the biggest surprise was how easy it was to find a publisher for my first game. I e-mailed him and the same day I received an answer that he wanted to read the rulebook. Week later we met and he started playtests, and another month later Egmont decided to publish it. I was really surprised because I heard a lot stories how hard it is to interest a publisher in your game.

How did you arrive at your key design decisions and mechanics?

As I told before I almost every time start from the theme. I read about the topic and then I am give myself some time to work on the ideas. I think about them when I am riding my bike to work, washing dishes and walking with my dog. If the topic is interesting sooner or later some ideas appear in my head and I start to work on them. This process reminds me of a puzzle and is imo the most fascinating part of design. I am collecting the pieces of mechanics in my head and then I try to make them fit with each other. Many designers do this work on paper which is called “rapid prototyping”. I prefer to do it in my head and the first prototype is created when everything seems to work. And the most common mistake is for me to create the first prototype too fast. You need some time to make the pieces of a puzzle fit with each other 😉

What kind of feedback have you received?

I received a lot of positive feedback which makes me really happy and motivates me to work hard on my next games. Of course there were people who don’t like my games (they always will be there, somewhere;)) and I appreciate their opinions because negative feedback is not nice for the designer but it is the best one when you look at it as a tool. If it is only constructive there’s no better learning tool for designer then the negative feedback!

How long have you been gaming yourself? How did you get started?

I started four years ago when my sister decided to buy “Shadows over Camelot”. We played it several times during Christmas and I was amazed that there were games like these. So I discovered eurogames. Polish boardgame forum and BGG and the geekiness started 😉

What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you avoid?

I play many different games. The type I enjoy the most is middle-weight eurogames but I also like more complicated economic games and some of the good ameritrash. My all time favorites are Dominion, Through the Ages and Stone Age. I generally avoid most complicated train games like 18XX and wargames which are too long for me and then less fun.

How did you get into game design?

I always was a creative type so when I started to play a lot I really soon thought about designing. My first game wasn’t good but I  knew  less about games and mechanics then. It is important to know what are the most common types of games and games mechanics first and then to think about design.

Do you have any particular game designers and/or designs that you admire?

I admire Vlaada Chvatil. He is really talented designer and has this rare ability of designing really fresh mechanics that suits the theme well like in Galaxy Trucker or Travel Blog. Through the Ages is one of my favorite games and I never refuse to play it. I very much like the feel of Achitocca games. Egizia and Comuni are really great titles. I still wonder how these guys are able to work together in group of four people.

Tell us about your future plans? Will there be wider distribution of your games in Europe and the USA?

I am working on several titles. Two of them are ready for publishing and they probably will appear on the market in 2011. One is a family game about the Baltic Sea, another is a card driven, party wordgame. I also started to work on our next economic game with Marcin Krupinski. I can say that this one will be about XIX century and industry. I am also looking for a publisher for the two player card game set in the world of Battlestar Galactica TV series. It will probably need a re-theme because of a license issues but I really count on that one because it is a game I worked two years on and is greatly developed.

I also designed a game for one of the polish NGO’s and this is also a direction I want to follow – to design games for institutions and companies as a learning tools or support of company’s PR.

About distribution of my games in Europe and USA. The problem with Mali Powstancy and Na Grunwald is that foreign publishers are not so interested in polish theme. Magnum Sal is still looking for a foreign publisher and we are definitely open for propositions.

Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?

Do it if you really love playing. Play at least 50 modern boardgames before you start designing. Be patient, listen to your testers and last but not least, enjoy every moment of it!

Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions? Do you have a website?

The only place outside Poland when you can meet me will be the Essen Fair. I do not have a website yet but I’ve started the process of making it. It should be ready in first quarter of 2011 at www.milunski.pl

Thanks for the interview!

Spolight on – Richard Denning, Designer of The Great Fire of London 1666, and Medusa Games

Having reviewed The Great Fire of London 1666, I thought I’d catch up with Richard Denning, designer of this interesting board game…

Hello Richard,

Congratulations on the launch of The Great Fire of London 1666.

Many thanks.

Can we start by having you tell us about the game. What is the basic premise? Can you describe the general game play and objectives? Is it a family game or more for the hobby gamer?

In Great Fire, players are landowners around London owning houses in the city. They are trying to protect as many of those as possible. They are also trying to preserve some of the significant locations around the city such as the Tower of London and St Pauls. They earn points for all that. They also gain points from fighting fire. The twist is that the players each get a chance to move the fire and manipulate which way it goes. It is a light to medium weight game that can be played by gamers but also should be accessible to a wider audience.

It seems like you’ve been on a bit of a journey to get it published. Can you tell us the story about how and when the idea for the game came to you and the journey you have traveled up to the launch at Essen?

Late at night in a bar at Essen in 2007 several members of my club fell into a discussion common no doubt to the many gamers who attend – ideas for board games. Most of the ideas lead nowhere, but I had a beginnings of an concept for a game involving some disaster and trying to survive it. The initial idea was far from a game about the great fire of London – it was actually about British soldiers trying to escape the collapse of the army at Isandlwana on the eve of the battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879. That game never seemed to work but whilst I was working on it the following year the Great Fire of London popped into my mind.

I actually had a prototype played on the boat to Essen in 2008 but it was June 2009 before a solid version of the game up and running and December 2009 before a final version was ready. By then Markus of what is now Prime games was taking on he production of the game. We had hoped to have it out at Expo but in the end took a bit longer and got even better artwork in the final version.

Why the Great Fire as a topic? Were you concerned that it might be a depressing topic?

The Great Fire has always been a subject of fascination to me. It features not only in my board game but in my Historical Fantasy Novel The Last Seal (in a major way) and in a lesser way in my Sci FI adventure, Tomorrow’s Guardian. (Which by the way is coming out in paperback in December) I guess a GP being fascinated by the subject might raise a few eyebrows. Mind you, the Great Fire was widely seen as curing the plague by virtue of exterminating the rat infestation that was rampant in London and had spread the contagion via the fleas that lived on them. Perhaps, however, I would have some difficulty prescribing a similar course of treatment today (Even with NHS funding under intense pressure!)

Seriously though a lot of games we play are about disasters, wars and strife just as many books and films are.

What kind of research did you have to do for the game? How historically accurate is it and what is the balance you had to achieve to be faithful to the historical events and making a fun, playable game?


I read two very good books on the subject, bought several maps about it and visited the London Museum. So as much as I could I tried to make the game mechanics truthful to the theme and also try and get the Geography correct.

What were the main challenges in designing the game?

Great Fire involves trying to simulate the way fire moves and behaves. That I think was the main thrust of the design. It had to feel chaotic and random and out of control BUT players had to feel they had some influence.  Once we had that correct I think the other time consuming bit was balancing objectives.

Any particular surprises along the way?

I think the way the fire can behave in totally different ways from one game to the next. That is quite gratifying.

How did you arrive at your design decisions in replicating the movement of the fire and how it could be controlled?

Really I thought what made the fire move – wind. So let’s have the players play cards simulating the wind moving. Then I thought how do we KEEP fire moving. From there the Fire Priority rules AND the intensify the fire rules came in.

What kind of feedback have you received? 

A lot more positive than negative. You will always get folk who like to knock anything just for the sake of it. You always get folk who don’t like a certain type of game. And you get guys who tend to pick on this or that aspect that did not go quite right with production and harp on about it. That is fine. That is the world. If a LOT of people say something you take notice. But if say ¾ of people you talk to like – or say they like – the game I am content.

How long have you been gaming yourself? How did you get started?

I started gaming having seen a American movie with a wargame in in 1980. I bought a couple of boxes of Airfix figures at the age of maybe 11 and have not stopped since. I have played Roleplaying games – far too many systems to count and many wargames. Board games started with Talisman and Diplomacy when I was about 16 or 17. But I think playing Settlers in the mind 90s started me on Euro style games. Went to Essen first in 2006 and that led to starting up UK Games Expo in 2007.
What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you hate?

I have played many games and I will still play a wargame from time to time and love some roleplaying. But of late I would day 80% of my gaming is board games. Favourites might include Agricola, Coliseum, Age of Steam, Small World. I don’t like abstract games much. I like games with a strong theme.

How did you get into game design/publishing?


Following that moderately drunk discussion at Essen although I have tinkered with game ideas for years. Having run UK Games Expo and seen all the new games you think CANT I do that?

Do you have a specific design philosophy that you subscribe to?

I come up with a theme first and then try and make a mechanism to make that work. I like player choice, interaction to some extent and the ability to “do the dirty” on occasion.

Do you have any particular game designers and/or designs that you admire?

Any designer that can bring out new games every year like Martin Wallace has to be admired. But I also like to keep an eye on smaller companies like Fragor’s yearly offerings as Snow Tails was great fun. I find Days of Wonder produce gorgeous and fun games and usually enjoy all of their games. However it is more the case that if a game has good looking components, an engaging theme and is fun I will play it and so I am looking for that combination.

Tell us about Medusa games. What are your plans?


Medusa is a group of us in Birmingham who like to try out game designs. Some just don’t work. Some have promise. Great Fire was our first to move on to publication. WE are not tied to a specific publisher so we will find a publisher to fit the game and who is excited by it. We MIGHT produce our own at some stage.

Do you have any future plans for Great Fire or do you have any other designs in the pipeline that you can whet our appetite about?

Not as yet. Having hauled the game into production  I am recovering from the experience! I don’t plans for expansions as yet.
We have 3 or 4  in development but none are yet beyond the basic prototype stage. I would hope to have a couple of these at Expo in 2011.
Probably one of my designs and maybe one from one of the others if we can iron out the problems that occur with all games early in the process.

Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?

You need to have a lot of patience. Designing games takes a lot of effort and time. Moreover you must grow a thick skin because in the play testing you WILL get negative comments. The trick is to listen and try and pull out the genuine flaws and problems from the random moans that happen when someone had a bad game! You have to play test a lot and that can cause problems because you can get mighty sick of playing the same games. Get the game to a convention like Midcon, Manorcon or Expo and get feedback. Polish it a bit and then get a publisher to have a look.

What is your view of the current board gaming scene here in the UK?

I think it is fairly strong despite the challenge from electronic gaming and the recession. We have some talented companies like Treefrog, Surprised Stare, Ragnar, Fragor, prime Games and some good designers. Expo was very busy this year especially on Saturday so I think folk want to play board games well enough.

What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the British public?

This is hard. I think if schools can run board game clubs it helps to expose people to games that are not just on a computer. Gamers can help by having little local gaming events and of course coming to Expo, Midcon and Manorcon and the other convention helps to support the hobby,

Tell us about the UK Games Expo and perhaps about your plans for Expo 2011

It is early days in the plans but UK Games Expo is 3rd to 5th June. We will be at the same venue with open gaming on Friday all day and Saturday evening in the Strathallan and the main trade show sat and sun day time in the Clarendon. We have interest from most of last year’s traders and indication of possible new games from Treefrog, Games for the World, Cubiko and SSG and others. Medusa will have some new prototypes as well I hope. I am hopeful too that we will have some overseas companies along – interest was good at Essen. We are also looking to incorporate more talks and seminars – a feature that went down well. One way to support the hobby is attend and play and maybe buy the new games because that is what keeps the traders coming. If we get the crowds it gets easier to attract German, Italian, US companies etc.

Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions?

I am attending Midcon this weekend, Dragonmeet the Saturday after but as a gamer rather than with Great Fire. I may have a prototype of a game or two at Midcon.

I will also be at the Tolkien Weekend in Birmingham in May with the games and books, Expo of course, possibly Manorcon and the Essen. Keep an eye on the Medusa website. Those interested might also meet up with me at certain book festival events where I am happy to talk about games as well as my books. I will put up those dates also on http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/.

For more information about Medusa Games go to – http://www.medusagames.co.uk/

For more information about UK Games Expo go to – http://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/