Jason (GameGobble): While fans of The Expanse series will enjoy how well the theme is integrated into the game, participants don’t have to know the story to have a fantastic playing experience. What were some of the game development decisions that made this possible?
Geoff (game designer): Part of it was a consequence of direction set by the authors, who I spoke to early on about what they wanted in the game. They’re both gamers, so they had definite ideas for the board game, and one of them was that they didn’t want it scripted to match the story of the show. One of the original concepts was to have gating events, or chapters, that moved through the story, but they wanted a game where the initial situation was set up, but it was up to the players to create the narrative.
Jason (GameGobble): War of the Ring revolves around The Lord of the Rings story by J. R. R. Tolkien. What was your approach in developing a game whose theme has such a huge and loyal fan base?
Roberto (game designer): I must admit that I actually came to the design of this specific game as a fan before I was a game designer. As a fan, I was unhappy about The Lord of the Rings game available at the time. As a game designer, I jumped on the opportunity to create one myself (together with Francesco and Marco). All the designers had a very good knowledge of the source material, and we wanted to create something which was strongly thematic, first and foremost. I don’t think we could have achieved what we did if we were not big fans ourselves. We simply created the game we wanted to play.
Jason (GameGobble): Apotheca is an abstract game, with most of the information available to all players. The exceptions are facedown potions, which are only known to the player that drew them from the restock action. Talk about how deduction factors into game strategy.
Andrew (game designer): In Apotheca, players use the restock action to place facedown potions in key positions on the board. These potions are later used to make 3-in-a-row matches once turned face-up, leading you to win the game. As such, deducing this information is crucial! Players must pay attention to their opponents’ apothecary powers to figure out what may be set up for the future, or what they may be bluffing about. This allows the player to counter effectively, enabling double-think mind games in the style of “do they know that I know they know?” If a player doesn’t actively try to deduce what her opponent has placed, she is doomed!
Jason (GameGobble): Manifest’s gameplay involves the ability to plan but also deal with unforeseen events. How would you describe the balance you wanted between strategy and luck?
Amanda (game designer): We wanted to give people enough flexibility and tools to deal with situations that arise in the game, whilst also allowing players that enjoy having grand plans to be able to focus on them and have a shot at completing them. Hence the variety of different Action Cards in Manifest, many of which you can combo with others to increase the effectiveness of your turns.
Jason (GameGobble): Your games company Smirk & Dagger has a tagline of “cause games are a lot more fun when you can stab a friend in the back.” What are some of the ways those gotcha moments appear in Nevermore?
Curt (game designer): The game is filled with them and it is baked right into the core drafting mechanic. To play well, you are not just drafting the best cards for your hand and purposes, but carefully minding what you pass to your opponent. By sending them cards that set an expectation – and then breaking the pattern to suddenly deprive them of what they need and hand them junk instead, you bust their hand. “Hate drafting” is often more important than actual drafting in this game – and they will curse you for it.
Jason (GameGobble): What kind of experience are you hoping players have after a game of Element?
Mike (game designer): Hopefully a good one! Honestly, we want people to find in Element a game they will be playing twenty years from now, a new classic if you will. More often than not people will play several games in a row since they are relatively short and games play very differently each time. Some games have players dodging large moving rivers because of the amount of water on the board, others have the players dealing with ever spreading fires more than anything else. Earth can create a frantic, claustrophobic game, and capricious winds require a lot of thinking ahead to guarantee capture. Each experience is unique, and the toolkit style allows for ever evolving tactics.
Jason (GameGobble): First, Portal was a successful video game series. Then came Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game which was a board game. What core elements from the video game appears in the board game?
Jeep (game designer): Portal takes a minimalist approach with its mechanics and characters, and builds complexity by recombining those elements in level design and writing. Since board game players will naturally remix these elements as they play, including only main characters from the games seemed ludicrously inadequate. So we pulled in absolutely every deep cut from Portal expansions, comics, and trailers for the most hardcore lore fanatics. Nearly every Aperture Science apparatus appears in the board game with a few notable omissions such as Hard Light Bridges and Mashy Spike Plates. The true core that bonds the board game with the series is its dark humor and crumbling retro aesthetic.
Jason (GameGobble): The game 7 Wonders came out in 2010. 7 Wonders Duel followed 5 years later, and while related, is considered a stand alone game. What are the best elements of 7 Wonders that are present in 7 Wonders Duel?
Bruno (game designer): First, i have to remind readers that 7 Wonders is a game designed by Antoine Bauza, alone. This game was a huge, huge success, winning the prestigious Spiel des Jahres Connoisseur-gamer Game of the Year. It’s playable from 3 to 7 players, including a variant for 2 players. But Antoine was never happy with this variant. It works but didn’t give the game experience he wanted. So he decided to develop a pure 2 player game, and he invited me to work with him on that project.
Our target was to capture the flavor of the basic 7 Wonders but in a 2 player game. All the basic elements of the initial game are included in 7 Wonders Duel, but specifically adapted to a 2 player fight.
Jason (GameGobble): Favor of the Pharaoh was a Mensa Select winner in 2016. Why do you think your game stood out?
Tom (game designer): It’s accessible, fairly quick to play, and offers interesting decisions without too much “analysis paralysis”, due to the strong random element and luck that dice games offer. Most important, it’s fun and often leaves the players wanting to play it again.