Born in Chicago Joe realized it gets too cold, so he, his wife and dog moved to San Diego. Joe started as a graphic designer and illustrator, but always loved board games. After creating a few prototypes, he got the game design itch and is lucky to do it full time now.
The following interview is about his board game The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31.
Jason (GameGobble): The theme of The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is based on John Carpenter’s 1982 movie. How did that decision affect your approach to game design?
Joe: The first thing I did even before I started developing the game was watch the movie a few times in a row. I really wanted to get the rhythm down, and that really helped drive the arc of the game. Starting with source material is kind of a double edged sword. On one hand you have an obvious starting point, on the other it can limit what you do. I tried to find the balance between feeling like this is a 1:1 retelling of the movie and a story that lives parallel to the original.
Jason: The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is a deduction game, where most players are cooperating while the hidden “Imitation” has opposing objectives. How did you come up with the mechanics to create the feelings of tension and paranoia?
Joe: I was extremely fortunate to have a ton of help on both the Usaopoly and Mondo teams. I started super bare bones: get an identity, go on a mission, pass or fail. And the game evolved from there. We added the map, the flame thrower, the rope, etc. Any time I was stuck I would go watch the movie.
Jason: The game can be played with 4 – 8 players. With more players, it’s easier for the Imitation’s identify to remain hidden. How does gameplay change with fewer players?
Joe: Fewer players is much, much harder. I think the sweet spot is probably around 7. For those gaming groups that only have four or so I would say learn to read your friends. Look for those small tells. Even if an Imitation is playing clean, with a lot of people you can still read their body language.
Jason: What kind of experience did you want players to have by playing The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31?
Joe: Paranoia first and foremost was the most important thing. I want people to be able to scream at their friends during the game, then get a good laugh after.
Jason: What is one thing you want gamers to know about The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31?
Joe: I think I would want people to check out the work of Justin Erickson, the artist on the game. He puts out so much amazing work, and really killed it on the game!