Eduardo Baraf is a game maker from Mountain View, California and the founder of Pencil First Games, LLC. His love of games has driven him to design and develop numerous board and card games. Eduardo also has a game review and industry YouTube channel: Gaming with Edo.
The following interview is about the board game Herbaceous, a game he developed with designers Steve Finn and Keith Matejka.
Jason (GameGobble): Herbaceous is a push-your-luck card game that doesn’t take long to learn (Your mom explained the basic rules in less than four minutes!) What do you consider some of the defining characteristics of Herbaceous that make it different from other games in the same niche?
Ed: The defining characteristic of Herbaceous is that it is simple. Simple and beautiful.
“Do I want the card I just drew into my hand?” or “Do I want the next one?” That micro push-your-luck moment is then reinforced by the macro “Do I score now?” or “Do I want to score more later (risking others taking the pot)?” Sometimes a game doesn’t need a ton mechanics to have interesting choices and dynamic moments.
Jason: The look and feel of Herbaceous work really well with the game’s mechanics. Talk about how the artwork and theme came together during development.
Ed: Herbaceous was art/audience first, mechanics second. Beth Sobel had posted a number of the herbs as part of a Bonanza reskin and I felt there could be an incredible game there for a casual, non-gamer audience. Steve Finn understood the idea and designed a game to deliver that. We iterated a bunch, but the audience always was paramount.
Jason: You’ve mentioned that Herbaceous started as a pure solitaire game, became a game for 2 – 4 players, then eventually included a 1 player variant. Can you share the details of that story?
Ed: I first thought we’d make a Sunday, sun room, solo/solitaire game to play with a cup of tea/coffee. I tried to bring the design together, but never got there. I reached out to Steve and he knew what I was going for, but he focused on multiplayer experiences. He nailed it, so it was 2-4 players. Months later, I was lamenting to Keith Matejka that we never ended up with that original vision. He understood the vision and felt he could make a great solo game. He certainly succeeded 🙂
Jason: Talk about the overall gaming experience you were trying to create when designing Herbaceous.
Ed: Herbaceous is a gorgeous, after dinner or lazy Sunday, filler game you can play with your kids or your parents.
Jason: What is one thing you want players to know about Herbaceous?
Ed: If you want to get the parents/grandparents into gaming – few games do as smooth a job as Herbaceous 🙂