Hall of Fame

The Game Crafter's Hall of Fame represents a list of outstanding individuals that got their start in our community.

Who is inducted is at our discretion, but some of the ways to be considered for induction are to:

  • Get a game, produced first at TGC, picked up by a publisher.
  • Get a game, produced first at TGC, funded via a Kickstarter campaign.
  • Win a TGC sponsored game design contest.

Jason Miceli & Matt Plourde Inducted into TGC Hall of Fame

Jason Miceli & Matt Plourde were inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame because their game, Queen’s Quest, won the Gamehole Dungeon Crawler Challenge. Congratulations! Their designer interview is below.

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

Jason Miceli (JM): Ever since I garbage picked my first copy of Risk when I was 12, I’ve had the itch;)  Needless to say, I grew up a geek, before being a geek was cool. I remember creating (very lightweight) D&D campaigns in middle school, and I started designing my own board games by the time I was in high school (well over 20 years ago). I kicked off my first game design business during college, which turned out to be nothing more than a tremendous tax writeoff…  it wasn’t until 2012 that my business partner Matt and I had enough life experience, as well as readily available online resources such as The Game Crafter, to do finally something “for real.” Thus became Geek Fever Games.

Matt Plourde (MP): I think it started in middle school for me with a game called Hotels. We played it until the cardboard frayed, and then started making our own -bigger- versions of the game until we covered an entire ping-pong table (that version was a bit overboard and took weeks to play). I met my business partner (Jason Miceli) in high school and we designed many games together through the years. Finally, in 2012, we made it official and created Geek Fever Games.

Please tell us about Queen’s Quest.

JM: Queen’s Quest was designed to be the most authentic roguelike available on the tabletop. Authentic roguelike, right down to the use of ASCII graphics and original 16-color VGA RGB codes. Why? Well, mostly because we COULD, without hiring an artist. For Matt and I, the biggest area we lack skills in is illustration, so candidly the ASCII approach was originally little more than a nice convenience. However, Matt and I are both old-school gamers and devout lovers of the roguelike “genre,” so we quickly became super passionate about it, and ultimately felt it might actually have some legs in the marketplace.

MP: I’ll use Jason’s answer^^

Where did the idea for this game come from?

JM: Umm… I think I was simply trying to come up with styles/themes/genres that I haven’t seen done elsewhere. This just popped into my brain space. I came up with other interesting ideas at the same time, but this was the one that stuck out as both unique and something we could feasibly do ourselves. So it seemed prudent to pursue.

MP: Same as Jason’s answer ^^

What makes this game special/unique?

JM: Aside from the obvious untapped theme, we’re also proud to have devised a game framework that allows for asymmetric gameplay, a non-traditional game flow (players do not have individual turns in Queen’s Quest), a rich dungeon-crawler experience, and of course strict adherence to the authenticity of a true roguelike. That last part introduces elements such as: procedurally generated dungeons, tons of random monster possibilities, non-linear gameplay, random boss monsters, and perma-death.

MP: Same as Jason’s answer ^^

Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

JM: You bet! We created a WIP thread on BoardGameGeek here: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1813026/wip-queens-quest-tabletop-roguelike

MP: Same answer ^^

Did you already have the idea for Queen’s Quest in your head before the Gamehole Con Dungeon Crawler Challenge was announced?

JM: Yes. We hadn’t taken it much further than a playable combat system, but the overall concepts and design intent were there. We actually wanted to get it in the previous year’s Gamehole Gauntlet contest, and then again the TGC Big Box contest, but timing just didn’t work out in either case. Once I saw a Dungeon Crawler contest emerged, it was clear we owed it to ourselves to complete the game and get it submitted!

MP: I come from a long-history of tabletop RPG’ing, so I’ve always wanted to build a dungeon crawler that captured some of the best elements of a tabletop RPG, without the time commitment. Both Jason & I had disparate notes on how this should come together, and I think we successfully crafted a fantastic experience.

What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

JM: We knew from the start that we had something really special with Queen’s Quest. We felt we had a great shot at winning the contest, but even if we didn’t we knew we wanted to complete the game and see what could become of it. As with most TGC contests, the deadline helped force our hand to accomplish just that.

MP: Same answer ^^

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

JM: In this case, yes. Maybe not on the same timeline, but as mentioned above, this one was already gaining legs and deserved to be taken to the next level.

MP: Same answer ^^

Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

JM: I’m going to say no to this…  I think my own inspiration has been present and abundant since day 1 of starting Geek Fever Games, and it has only increased over time. If we didn’t win this contest, I think I would still be just as motivated to continue pushing, both with this game and countless others. I’m THRILLED we won, and that fact has already helped us with several publisher negotiations, but I don’t believe the win itself changed much for my own level of inspiration - I’m guess I’m driven by a primal need!

MP: Yes and no. On the “Yes” side, it was thrilling to win one of these contests and the Rodney is a great trophy. 😊  I do like designing to tight constraints, so I can see myself entering more contests.

On the “No” side, the reality is that we’re always working on multiple projects and something’s always in the hopper. Winning the contest didn’t help with motivation – the ideas need to get out somehow, and we’re in constant design-mode.

Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

JM: TGC has been immensely important to Geek Fever’s growth and success. The very presence of TGC was the primary reason we decided to kick off Geek Fever Games in 2012 (based on our understanding at the time, we figured it provided us a real shot), and since that time TGC has remained our strongest resource, partner, safety net, and friend in the industry. With the ability to create prototypes, print (self-)published games, sell games via TGC’s storefront, gain extra income through designer tables, gain PR opportunities through the podcast and other networking, participate in design contests, and most recently stay productive with the new component studio, how could any indie designer even exist these days without using TGC?

MP: ^^ same answer

What’s next for you?

JM: Until more recently my answer would have been “making it to Essen” with one of our games, getting a game reviewed by Tom Vasel / The Dice Tower, and printing a long-run with a mainstream publisher. With these milestones now behind us, next on the list would be having a game go to reprint (underway as we speak), launching an expansion to an existing published game (also underway), designing for a known IP / license (we’re pitching to acquire one or two soon), and eventually landing a game on the shelves at Target (some possibilities are in the works). Clearly some lofty goals in there, but we’re up to the challenge!

MP: I’m currently designing a tabletop RPG, which is a different animal altogether and something I’ve always wanted to do. Aside from that, I attend all the conventions with Geek Fever Games and/or one of our publishers – so feel free to drop by our booth in 2018, wherever we are. And, Geek Fever is constantly developing games, so I’m always helping my partners with their designs and such.

Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

JM: *Execution* is the key! Great ideas are a dime a dozen…  you gotta push push PUSH to drive your little gem through all these crazy obstacles and hurdles. You need to learn more stuff than you ever thought possible. You need to push your introverted self to new levels of discomfort. You need to grow the thickest skin and elicit painful but honest feedback about your game, and then you need to learn what to do with that feedback - not everything may be directly applicable, but some of it may be the most important feedback, even if that represents the need to strip your baby down to studs and rebuild. It’s super hard work…  but the rewards on the other end are otherworldly!

MP: It’s a saturated market, but there’s a reason it’s saturated – we’re in the midst of a Board Game Renaissance!! Embrace it! Enjoy it! My specific advice actually comes from my *brief* days as an author: Get in front of people! Even Stephen King *still* attends conventions, meets fans and signs books. He understands that to remain relevant, he needs to remain in front of people. Schlep yourself to conventions, unpubs and other events with your game(s). Talk to people. Play with people. And, eventually, demo your game with the aim to sell it to people. Stay relevant & active.

Cheers!


Benjamin Farahmand Inducted Into TGC Hall of Fame

Benjamin was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame because his game, FAZA, won the Big Box Challenge. Congratulations Benjamin! His designer interview is below.


Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

My wife and I live in a small town near Philadelphia, called Media. I’ve been designing digital learning experiences for the past 8 years, started designing board games in the last 2 years, and have been playing board games and video games since I was young child. 

In the past few years, I started designing board games because I was looking for a new challenge, which would get me away from looking at my computer screen  and pull me out of the house to meet new people.

Professionally, I work as a product manager and user experience designer for an education company called Tuva. As a means to building critical thinking and analytical skills for K-12 students, we create digital learning tools and curriculum content focused on data literacy and statistics. I also have a background in aerospace engineering, philosophy, and industrial design, which essentially means I love to design and make things, whether it’s physical or digital.

Please tell us about FAZA.

FAZA is a cooperative science fiction board game for 2-4 players, making their last stand to save humanity. In order to win the game, the players need to destroy the FAZA’s three motherships.

There are eight character roles, each possessing different skills within one of four areas of focus: tactical, medical, technological, and political. Players will utilize the unique skills of each member to fight for final victory over the alien Faza.

As players move across the board, they will be combating enemy drones and recruiting Rebel Faza to attack each mothership. Naturally, over the course of the game, the Faza will fight back: dropping off more troops in attempts to overwhelm, transforming the entire city to only be habitable to their kind, killing off the traitorous Rebel Faza to prevent players from attacking their motherships, and of course trying to kill each player.

Where did the idea for this game come from?

The inception for working on FAZA developed from two major frustrations. The first frustration is that many existing cooperative games feel too much like a puzzle, eventually making subsequent playthroughs not as interesting once the optimal strategy is discovered.

The second frustration that motivated me to start working on a cooperative game was my one issue with competitive games. I’m referring to the kinds of competitive board games that leave players so far behind that the game becomes boring. Players in last place are essentially waiting for the game to end and it’s no longer fun. 

With that in mind, I started with game mechanics I enjoyed from other board games and used them as a jumping off point for FAZA. The metaphor and story for FAZA stems from my love of science fiction, and began to emerge immediately after I picked a few game mechanics I wanted to test. The story and game mechanics then began to evolve together and inform one another.

What makes this game special/unique?

Multiple ideas and mechanics when brought together make FAZA special and unique. The variety and diversity of characters represented in the game makes for the empowerment of different ethnicities, ages, sexes, and species. 

The player’s all share a communal turn, which means actions can be used in any order that is advantageous to the group’s strategy. As a result of the communal turn, the game facilitates strategic group discussions, creating the feeling that everyone is a tactician preparing for skirmishes and war.

The algorithm that defines how the FAZA motherships move across the board creates a challenging game where the enemy dynamically adapts to the actions players take against them. As the FAZA retaliate, players will feel overwhelmed as if all hope is lost, but by working together they can overcome the challenges ahead. 

Finally, there’s a high degree of replayability, which stems from the number of characters players can choose from, the board that is setup differently every game, and the way the motherships adapt to player actions.

Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

My notes for designing FAZA are strewn across my computer and notebook, which I take with me to playtest sessions to write down observations and feedback. I’ve also written a long blog post highlighting my major take-aways throughout the game design process (http://www.thefaza.com/designing-for-fun/). I hope the post will be helpful to other game designers.

Did you already have the idea for FAZA in your head before the Big Box Challenge was announced?

Yes, I had been working on various iterations of FAZA for about a year prior to the Big Box Challenge. Progress was slow since making time to work on it while balancing other parts of my life was challenging.

What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

I wanted a deadline that was just far enough to light the fire and motivate me to refine and polish FAZA.

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

I definitely would have continued refining FAZA without the Big Box Challenge, but it would have taken me far longer if I were not motivated by the deadline of the competition.

Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

I have several more ideas for games and hope to enter future competitions, but for the time being my focus is on marketing FAZA and giving it the best chance for it to succeed.

I am also currently looking for other contests to enter FAZA so I can build greater awareness for the game.

Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

Creating a polished prototype goes a long way in communicating the experience you’re designing for people, which in turn influences the critical feedback you’re going to receive. A polished prototype also helps in gathering people’s attention as they’re walking by your demo table at a convention. The Game Crafter has been essential for giving a physical form to my ideas and creating an avenue for progression of the game mechanics.

What’s next for you?

If I’m able to find enough early interest in FAZA, my current plan is to kickstart FAZA in 2018. After that, if FAZA funds successfully, I’d like to continue exploring the FAZA storyline and release some of the expansion ideas I’ve been working on.

Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

Playtesting is the most important aspect of the design process and it’s also the most time intensive. To speed up that process, I highly recommend finding a local board game design group. In Philly, there’s the Game Makers Guild of Philadelphia. We’re game designers who get together twice a month to playtest each others board games and give each other feedback. 

If it were not for the continued playtesting and feedback from friends, family, and the Game Makers Guild of Philadelphia, I don’t think I would have been able to polish the game mechanics in a timely fashion.

After playtesting, persistence is paramount. Working through the challenges and problems uncovered through feedback takes time, dedication, and a patient and loving partner. Speaking of partners, marry one that’ll review and edit your rulebook. But in all seriousness, it’s vital to the success of your game to have a clear rulebook. So if your spouse won’t edit your rulebook or if you don’t have one, find a spouse that will or invest the money and have a professional editor revise your rules. ;)


Steven Aramini Inducted Into TGC Hall of Fame

Steven was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame because his game, Tricky Tides, won the Trick Taker Challenge. Congratulations Steven! His designer interview is below.


Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I live in Reno, Nevada with my wife, 2 dogs and 2 cats, and I am a Creative Director for an ad agency. I’ve been designing games since 2014, when my first game “Yardmaster” by Crash Games came out. Additionally I have designed or co-designed “Circle the Wagons” by Button Shy Games, “Barker’s Row” by Overworld Games, “Groves” by Letiman Games, “Coin & Crown” by Escape Velocity Games and, next up, “Tricky Tides” by Gold Seal Games. I also have a game that’s available in The Game Crafter’s shop called “Flipside,” a solo word game.

Please tell us about Tricky Tides.

Tricky Tides” was created for The Game Crafter’s Trick Taker Challenge. The game is a blend of trick-taking and pick-up-and-deliver. Players manage a hand of Navigation cards, trying to win tricks to sail from island to island, collecting goods and then delivering them to earn the most gold.

Where did the idea for this game come from?

I always wanted to do a nautical theme that used map monsters. I approached my friend Naomi Ferrall, the game’s illustrator, about this theme and she liked it and thought it would be a good way to explore her stippling style, which fit perfectly with the nautical look and feel.


What makes this game special/unique?

I think the fact that it takes a very traditional game mechanic – trick-taking – and uses it in a unique way that pulls it away from the traditional card game approach. Plus, because of the illustration style, it just looks so different than anything else on the table.

Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

No, I don’t have a formal design journal, although I do blog about my games and design approach on www.TheIndieGameReport.com in a recurring feature called “The Indie Jungle.”


Did you already have the idea for Tricky Tides in your head before the Trick Taker Challenge was announced?

No, after the contest was announced the theme just popped in my head. I remember that one of the earliest ideas I had was to create the Navigation cards with 8 compass directions, but you could only sail in directions that were highlighted, forcing you to not only try to win the trick but also strategize your whole hand to ensure you leave yourself in a good position later in the round.


What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

I love The Game Crafter contests for a few reasons. First, I have had great success with them, having entered three contests and won two (Sprue Challenge won with “Reign Makers” now titled “Coin & Crown”; Survival Challenge placed second with “ICELAND”; Trick-Taker Challenge won with “Tricky Tides”). These wins have led to two publishing contracts. Second, the deadlines force me into action to design something and not procrastinate. And finally, whatever the contest theme, it’s always been a really fun challenge that has gotten me involved in TGC/gaming community.

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

No, I probably wouldn’t have taken on the challenge of working trick-taking into a game, as trick-taking tends to not be my favorite game mechanic. But I’m so glad I did because I feel I was able to bring something fresh to that genre.


Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

I am fully addicted to game design now. I typically have six or more game designs in various states of development at any given time. Some move on to success, while others wither on the vine. I will probably enter the Cardboard Edison awards again in 2018. Last year, I was a finalist for one of my unpublished games and it was a great experience to have so many publishers and industry pros provide feedback on your game.


Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

The Game Crafter has had a huge impact. It has opened the doors to a lot of great relationships, from Mike Wokasch of Fairway 3 Games and The Indie Game Report to Dan Letzring of Letiman Games to Andrew Smith of Gold Seal Games to Jason Glover of Grey Gnome Games to Steven Cole of Escape Velocity Games, and many others. All of those relationships started through The Game Crafter and have been key for me to get my foot in the door in the gaming world.

What’s next for you?

“Tricky Tides” hits Kickstarter sometime in early 2018, but a date hasn’t been set yet. “Sprawlopolis” is a tile-laying style co-op game that is coming from Button Shy Games also in early 2018. I’m also hoping to revive “ICELAND” after a long time on the shelf, so you may see that one resurface in 2018, too. After that, who knows!

Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

Just keep at it, learn from every experience and try to play as many games as you can for inspiration and motivation. Hit Unpub and Protospiel events whenever you can. And don’t forget to have fun along the way!


Chris Romansky Inducted Into TGC Hall of Fame

Chris was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame because his game, 2-Bit Bandits, won the Adventure Challenge. Congratulations Chris! His designer interview is below for you to enjoy.

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I’m a civil engineer specializing in transit design out of a Twin Cities suburb in Minnesota. I live here with my wife and son. I’ve been designing games since I was around 7 or 8 years old with friends, but really got into prototyping and more finished game designing after college. My first big foray was an election game that took up the entire basement floor and was a weekend-and-then-most-of-the-next-week killer. That led me to The Game Crafter (TGC) after I was tired of the notecards and craft store prototyping. I found TGC a month after JT started things up, so I had some good timing in my search.

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Please tell us about 2-Bit Bandits.

In 2-Bit Bandits, the Bandit Shamandillos have stolen the mayor’s beloved horse, Princess. They have holed up in the desert and have dispatched their minions to guard the route. You decide to win the mayor’s favor by trying to find the Bandit Shamandillos and bring them to justice. Beware, each Shamandillo has learned to control a force of nature through lost desert magic. Rescue Princess and you’ll earn the admiration of the mayor and the town.

2-Bit Bandits is a game for 1 to 4 players where each player proceeds through five to seven levels of play, taking on the dreaded Bandit Shamandillos and their minions. Each level is divided into stages that you pass by rolling your way through a mini select-a-quest path structure. The game ends when the Bandit Shamandillos have been defeated or everybody loses their last life. Highest points at the end, wins the game.

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Where did the idea for this game come from?

2-Bit Bandits is my attempt to bring a platform video game to a board game format. It’s based pretty heavily on the prototypical Mario game, with a world to explore and levels to get through while you try to take down the bad guys and rescue the princess.

What makes this game special/unique?

There are a couple key mechanics that make this game unique. The first is that the levels get progressively difficult because the bar to beat the minions and Shamandillos goes up as the level goes up. You start out with a 90% chance to roll well enough to hit a bad guy, then by the time you are at the final boss you’re rolling at 30%. There are items you can collect to help you out, but the game gets tough quickly as you go. The second mechanic is the mini select-a-quest style levels. Players roll a 6-sided die for each card in the level and then assign them to a corresponding path on each card. Some of the paths pass through items, some through minions and some pass through course obstacles. You have to decide what you’re willing to take on. If you always take the easy path, you’ll survive, but may not win on points.

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Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

I did create a design journal. I have a hardbound notebook I design most of my games in. I don’t have a link, but I included a picture from the notebook.

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Did you already have the idea for 2-Bit Bandits in your head before the Adventure Challenge was announced?

I had this brewing for some time. I had a shelved game that I had put together on here back when games came in those cardboard Magic/baseball card boxes. It was about 600 cards, played horribly and cost over $100 with the updates that had happened since 2010. I scrapped 99% of that and came up with an entirely different game that really brought out what I wanted that first one to be, but was not able to fully get out at that time.

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What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

I enjoy entering most of the contests on TGC because it gives me a goal and I get to have some fun hitting the requirements. I’ve had a number of games I’ve developed, but the direction the contests provide help when I hit a designer’s block. I specifically entered this contest because I’ve had the itch to get a platform game designed, and what’s more of an adventure than running after a bad guy and fighting a pile of minions while trying to save a princess? It was a great fit for getting a project I’ve wanted to work on for a while to the forefront.

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

I might have gotten around to something like this, but I doubt it would have turned out as polished as it did with the contest constraints. The price was a good motivator to streamline and the deadline meant that I could prioritize 2-Bit Bandits over my other longer-term designs. It definitely helped motivate me to get it done.

Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

Winning the contest has inspired me to try to get one of my game designs to the next level. I have a number of games on TGC that I’ll casually market and get a few sales every now and again, but seeing that others enjoyed my gameplay enough to get the win, encouraged me to try to get something published on a larger scale. I’ve had a few semi-finalists, so it was great getting to the top on this one. I’m a bit of a contest junkie, so you’ll be seeing my entries around.

Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

Having been on The Game Crafter since a month after it started up, I’d say I’ve been developing as a designer as the site has been developing into what it is today. When I first got on, the pool of active designers wasn’t all that big and the competition for views was a lot smaller, so I was designing at about 75% of where I probably should have been on games I published here. Now there’s a lot of talented designers and some really incredible games being produced. That increase in competition and great discussion opportunities with other designers has helped me up my game designing abilities. I’d still be designing games if TGC wasn’t around, but my games wouldn’t be nearly as good. It’s developed into a great community.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on getting my MarioKart-style game Rumble Rally published, either through an existing publisher or on Kickstarter. That’s the one I want as my flagship game. If that one succeeds, I’ll likely try to make 2-Bit Bandits a reality on a larger scale. Otherwise, contests and more TGC prototyping are on the horizon.

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Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

Making a solid game takes a lot of work, but when you get something that clicks, it’s extremely rewarding. Listen to what people say when they offer advice. You don’t have to include everything, but keep an open mind, you may end up in a better place than if you reject all suggestions. Most importantly, have fun!


Mike Wokasch Inducted Into TGC Hall of Fame

Mike was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame after his game, Starving Artists, won The Survival Challenge. We’d like to congratulate him on this achievement and you can read our interview below.

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I’m a father of two little gamers, husband to a beautiful and exceedingly patient wife, and intellectual property lawyer. We live in Wisconsin, right by The Game Crafter. I love playing board games, and I write board game reviews for The Inquisitive Meeple.

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Please tell us about Starving Artists.

Starving Artists is my first foray into the wild world of Kickstarter. In the game, players are paint-by-cube artists trying to become famous and avoid running out of food. Players collect transparent cubes (their paint) and try to get enough of the right kinds to complete their great works of art. If they complete the paintings, they get food, more paint cubes and points. At its core, Starving Artists is a set collection game, but in many respects it’s just as much time management and a market/economics game. Players have to figure out how to make efficient use of their time and resources while selling their completed paintings at the right time.

One of the biggest draws of the game is the use of great works of art. Each of the canvases that players acquire and then paint are based on famous pieces of art.  Players then place the cubes on squares to fill in the painting.

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Where did the idea for this game come from?

It was mostly a joke at first when I asked myself, what’s a crazy idea for a “survival” game?” I knew that there was going to be a bunch of “survival” games that fit the standard mold: lost in the forest, drifting in deep space, or chased by zombies or angry bees. I thought, in order to win, I need to be different.  In fact, one of my first ideas was for a space survival game based on Apollo 13.  I went so far as to actually create a hand drawn version of the game.

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But it didn’t feel particularly novel or inventive.  It also followed some very common survival mechanics: fuel, oxygen, and power. By contrast, the starvation mechanism seemed a bit out there and a bit risque. And once I focused on starvation, my mind went to the phrase “starving artist.” From there, I was off to design the races: how do I represent starvation, how do I let players paint, what should they paint, etc.

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What makes this game special/unique?

There are two things. First, people react positively to the seamless use of beautiful works of art treated as a grown up version of paint-by-the-numbers. When I first brought the game to a Protospiel event, I got a number of people just to stop and look at the cards and the cubes. They were mesmerized by the players applying little cubes to squares.  I knew right then that there was something special about the game.

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Second, the entire Starving Artists world revolves around paint. While the artists don’t “eat the paint” like some people joke, the paint is the currency of the game. You buy new canvases with it, you use it to complete your canvases, and you earn more when you sell a completed painting. And true to the them, the game severely limits the market for paint-by-cube paintings sometimes forcing players to decide between eating and a paycheck.

Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

Not so much a design journal, but I plan to write a Kickstarter post mortem about Starving Artists that’ll go up at The Inquisitive Meeple where I write reviews. I’ve learned a lot in taking a design from concept all the way through a very successful campaign.

Did you already have the idea for Starving Artists in your head before the Learning Game Challenge was announced?

No. The basic game play mechanisms came together pretty quickly after I hit on the “starving artist” idea. In the end, I had a lot of ideas about what should be in the game that came bubbling out right after I got the idea. While most didn’t make it into the final game, some of the core aspects from that initial design are still there.

What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

I love The Game Crafter contests. I knew that I had a real shot at winning when I saw people’s reactions to early versions of the game and the game play.

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

I’m not sure that I would have picked a “survival” themed game but for the contest. I wasn’t really a fan of survival games, and that perhaps motivated me to find a way to break out of the standard survival game mold.

Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

Yes. I entered another game into the Learning Challenge with another designer, Michael Cofer. We worked collaboratively on a game called Happy Little Planets that took second place.  That game too might be headed for Kickstarter.

Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

The Game Crafter has let me make nice prototypes quickly and cheaply. I struggle to understand why people bring cut and pasted components to show other people. While there are a good many playtesters that can look past early prototypes and see the magic, I believe most don’t. And, at some level, I think the quality of the prototypes influences even the best play testers at some level.

The Game Crafter community is also incredibly helpful about everything from brainstorming to play testing. There are few other communities as helpful as the one that The Game Crafter has created.

What’s next for you?

The Starving Artists Kickstarter campaign wrapped up with more than 1300 backers and raised more than $50,000. I’ve got a lot of work to do to get it manufactured and out to backers.  After that, another of my designs is likely to be published by The Pericles Group (of Verba fame) and the plan is for a Kickstarter next year.  I am also working on another worker placement design.

Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind: there are lots of games out there. If you’re going to be successful or have a chance at winning a contest, you need to figure out what makes you different than the rest. Some of this is intuition, some of it is luck.


Alisha Volkman Inducted Into The TGC Hall of Fame

Alisha was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame after her game, The Underlings of UnderWing, won the the Learning Game Challenge. We’d like to congratulate her on this achievement and you can read our interview below.

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I’m just an art monkey from Saint Paul, MN. I spend most of my time drawing and only started designing game back in 2013. My first game ever was called Zambies The Card Game and it was definitely one of those “in hindsight” moments. I was able to run a successful Kickstarter with it which was what made me stick with game design.



Please tell us about Underlings of UnderWing!

Underlings of UnderWing is a game with a nice mix of Worker Placement and Set collections. In the game, you play as lead directors of your own little team of dragon egg building maniacs. You each want the big promotion so you spend the game collecting resources, building eggs and hatching them into crazy dragons. Through out the game, you will start picking up a few things about color theory. For Example, You have to place 2 Red Elements and a Black Element to get a Monochromatic egg. You also get to mix colors together to get other, more rare colors. It is great for all ages, but leaves enough room for the strategy.



Where did the idea for this game come from?

There was a joke going around about making a breeding game, and it just kind of hit me that making dragon eggs would be awesome! Plus, if there is something I can teach, it would be color theory.

What makes this game special/unique?

Hatching Dragons for sure! It seems to be peoples favorite thing, collecting an egg, nurturing it, and then being surprised at what pops out. It is a thrill all on its own. 

Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

I didn’t, but probably should have! I think it is something I will start to pickup.

Did you already have the idea for Underlings of UnderWing in your head before the Learning Game Challenge was announced?

I didn’t. I like to be inspired by the contests I enter, mechanics and all, it can really make it a race for time though. 

What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

Because contests are awesome! They help keep me on a schedule and work with deadlines. Without them, I would probably never finish a game.

Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

I think like most designers, I have a ton of games on back burners. While contests tend to help me make one a priority, I try to keep at least
1 game in the works. It can definitely be a struggle to be motivated with so much on one’s plate. 

Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

Yes! It showed me that I can actually make games people like, and it gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Plus some motivation to do better. 

Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

The Game Crafter has been one of the biggest influences! Even just flipping through all their new components and parts gives me ideas.
Plus, they have one of the best and most constructive communities I have found. Always great for bouncing ideas off of and getting feedback. 

What’s next for you?

WAR TORN! A game entered a few contests ago needs some TLC. It got some amazing feedback in Protospiel Milwaukee, and I would love to see it Kickstarter ready in the coming months.


Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

Don’t give up! Ask for help if you need it, I will be around chat if you need some words of encouragement or someone to bounce ideas off. If I can do it, so can you! <3


Andrew Smith Inducted Into the TGC Hall of Fame

Andrew was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame after his game, Honeywars, won the the Gamehole Board Game Challenge 2015 . We’d like to congratulate him on this awesome achievement. You can read our full interview with him below.


Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I live in beautiful Clearwater, Florida. I’m a University of Florida graduate and I work as an engineer, designing water filtration systems for cities. I would say I got my start in game design making custom settings for 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons when I was about 8 or 9. That was really my first foray into doing something game-wise that wasn’t simply out of a book, just following directions.

I tinkered around with concepts here and there, and tried out quick little ideas of my own design, but never really gave any of my ideas a lot of attention until I got out of college (after 9 grueling years) in 2011. So I’d say that’s about the time I really started designing games, and not just coming up with ideas.


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Please tell us about Honey Wars!

Honey Wars is a card game for 2-4 players that puts you in charge of hives of honey bees. You’re trying to accumulate honey and build new hives faster and more efficiently than your opponents while defending your hives against real-world threats to the bee population. On your turn, you roll an eight-sided die to defend your hives, harvest honey based on what hives you have, spend honey to attack your opponents, or hire helpful beekeeper buddies, and draw new cards. The first person to have 3 hives and at least 12 honey wins.


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Where did the idea for this game come from?

I think I saw several articles on social media about the declining honey bee population, and saw an opportunity to have a thematic game that served a purpose beyond just pure entertainment. The “Take That” requirement for the contest was the perfect mechanic to help build a bit of empathy for what the bees are going through.


What makes this game special/unique?

The theme itself is rather unique. There’s only a few other bee-themed games, and the most popular one, Hive, is pretty abstract. Honey Wars, on the other hand, allows the players to get a bit more exposure to the actual things that bees might struggle with.


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Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?

I feel like I should have. There were lots of things I learned in the process, not only design-wise, but also marketing and Kickstarter stuff. I’m planning on getting a design journal going for my next focused project, a real time co-op called “10 Minute Task Force.” It’ll be over on www.goldsealgames.com/blog


Did you already have the idea for Honey Wars in your head before the Gamehole Board Game Challenge 2015 was announced?

I probably did in the most basic of forms. It certainly was not anything even close to a finished idea.


What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

I’m competitive. Mostly with myself, actually. I looked at the contest as an opportunity to challenge myself, and to learn new things. The trophy is pretty cool too.


Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

I would say that committing to participating in the contest motivated me to fully realize the concept. The cost constraints of the contest pretty much forced me to pare down components and in the end allowed Honey Wars to be sold at a reasonable price. The end product is vastly different than what I started with, and I’m glad that I took the leap and gave the contest a shot. Without the contest, Honey Wars would have had some terrible art that I drew myself. The contest motivated me to spend money on art. Alisha Volkman did a great job.


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Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

It certainly has given me a bit more confidence in my design capabilities. I’d like to enter more contests in the future. Right now my focus is getting my Kickstarter fulfilled. I’m a pretty bummed I missed out on the educational game challenge and the worker placement challenge. I had some ideas for both, but I knew I couldn’t give them the proper attention. Hopefully soon though!


Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

I talked about this a little on the All Us Geek Podcast with Jeff King. I said that TGC is the single most influential community as far as my development as a designer goes. I joked that the people in the TGC community are “incredibly helpful, mostly respectful, and very knowledgeable.”

In all seriousness, The Game Crafter is a tremendously supportive and helpful community with a huge amount of combined experience and different skill-sets. I’ll give lots of credit to the regulars that haunt TGC chat. You folks have helped me a ton.


What’s next for you?

My next big focus is 10 Minute Task Force. I’ve already had some great play tests and awesome feedback. I’m excited to make some changes and get the next round of testing done.


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Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

You’re either “green and growing” or “brown and dying.” Don’t stop playing new games. Plant flowers. Meet new people so you can constantly grow your network, and constantly expand your thinking. Try new things. Eat your vegetables.


Jonathan Bouthilet Inducted Into The Hall of Fame

Jonathan was inducted into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame after his game, Siege of Sunfall, won the Killer Gamer’s Remorse Challenge. We’d like to congratulate him on this achievement and you can read his interview below. 

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

I’m from the Twin Cities in Minnesota and live with my loving wife. Luckily, she doesn’t mind my board game collection and all the prototyping supplies around the house.

I’ve loved board games since I was little. I made some designs when I was younger but nothing good. I started getting more involved in the community once Brian Henk of Overworld Games told me about the Building the Game podcast. I started making better prototypes and playtesting a little more once I started listening to them. Their enthusiasm got me putting more effort into my games. I found the Game Crafter and started making nicer prototypes to get friends to play. I started going to gaming events and now can’t enough of the community.

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Please tell us about Siege of Sunfall!

    Siege of Sunfall is a blind-bidding player elimination game. The premise of the game is that you and the other players are working together to defend your city. Everyone needs to provide resources for defense but those resources are also your points at the end of the game. Each round there will be attackers that the players must defeat by committing their resources. If they don’t commit enough for an attacker, then the player who put in the least is out for the rest of the round.

    Even with the player elimination you are never out of the game for long. There is constant player interaction and discussion for each bid.

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    Where did the idea for this game come from?

      The idea for this game came from playing other games that had a blind-bidding system. It was my favorite part of those games. Rather than having to wait for that part of the game to come, I wanted to make a game where that was all you did. Why wait for the bidding when it can be the entire game?

      What makes this game special/unique?

        The unique part of this game is the constant interaction. Aside from any eliminations, players are always taking their turns at the same time. Even while out for the round, which is never long, the game stays interesting. I tried to design a game that is even fun to watch and wouldn’t allow someone to sit on their phone while playing.

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        Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere?

          I didn’t make one specifically for Siege of Sunfall but I have a blog that talks about game ideas and other things at jonathanbouthilet.weebly.com. I need to maintain it better but I like to share ideas on there.

          Did you already have the idea for Siege of Sunfall in your head before the Killer Gamer’s Remorse Challenge was announced?

            No, it took a while to come up with an idea that had the player elimination. It started out as a group trying to survive in the woods where players were voted out of the round depending on the supplies. It was similar to Siege of Sunfall but was really clunky. I might try to adapt it to something better.

            What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

              I always tried to enter into the contests but I always ran out of time. I had a game for the Time Challenge contest but I didn’t get it finished in time. I still got to take it to Unpub and had a lot of fun with it. It’s called Meltdown and players are working together to prevent a meltdown.  I made sure I had extra time for this contest and tried to play test it make sure it played well. I missed the Game Hole contest but hoping to get into the next one though.

              Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

                I think having the contests definitely helps getting the games finished. I have a few games I am working on but without a set deadline they just sit there sometimes. Having the contest gives guidelines and a deadline and I think that is a great help in getting a game finished.

                Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

                  I wouldn’t say winning makes me enter more. I always like entering the contests. I just submitted my Meltdown game to the Greater Than Games dexterity challenge. I plan on entering more contests as well. Even if I don’t make the deadline, I still have the outline of a game that I continue to work on.

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                  Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

                    I think The Game Crafter has had a lot of influence. The contests help me stay on track to make games. Their quality and ability to print almost anything is a great help in making prototypes as well. The community is a great asset too. Everyone is always willing to help.

                    What’s next for you?

                      Right now I’m working on a take-that type game called Catch Diego. Players are trying to collect bounties in the Wild West. I missed the deadline for the contest but I’m still working on it. I also have the Meltdown game that I am trying to improve. I also signed a publishing deal for Siege of Sunfall with Grey Gnome Games and we’re expecting to run the Kickstarter campaign next Spring!

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                      Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

                        Don’t be afraid to give up on an idea if it isn’t working. You can always come back to it later or put it into another game. Don’t try to force a game together. It won’t be fun.

                        Play games as often as you can. Either playtest yours or play published games to get ideas. The more exposure you get for your games the better. People will know it exists and you’ll also get helpful feedback on how to make it better. Go to Cons and meet as many people as you can. We have a great community and everyone has great ideas and feedback.

                        Watch for Siege of Sunfall to be on Kickstarter next Spring!


                        Daniel Zaccaro Inducted Into The Hall of Fame

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                        Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

                        I started designing board games about four years ago when I got the idea for Castle Defenders. It’s something I never expected to get into, but as I learned more and became a part of the designer community it became a big part of my life. I’m addicted to problem solving, and game design constantly throws problems at me to work out.

                        When I’m not designing board games, I keep busy with my career as a school psychologist and hobbies like guitar, drums, singing, pool, and archery.

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                        Please tell us about Castle Defenders!

                        I like to think of Castle Defenders as a re-envisioned chess combined with RPG and tower defense elements (just don’t call it a chess variant!). You win the game by destroying either all enemy castles OR units, so you need to anticipate your opponent’s strategy and defend accordingly.  Experienced players will learn how to position units effectively and make the best attack/defense upgrade choices for each situation. Also, units have their own strengths and weaknesses so using them as a team is essential.

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                        Where did the idea for this game come from?

                        I played a video game that had great mechanics but it felt like they would work better as a physical board game. These mechanics provided the foundation for Castle Defenders, which developed with inspirations from other collectable card games like Magic: the Gathering and Ascension. The trick was combining these ideas in a way that provided a unique experience but was also easy to learn and kept familiar board game elements in place.

                        What makes this game special/unique?

                        What I like best about Castle Defenders is how you can look at the board and instantly see the status of each character. Other games either lay unit cards on the table (meaning enemy characters are upside down) or use figures with corresponding info mats (meaning you have to constantly look back and forth between the units on the board and the info mat).

                        To solve these problems, my unit cards are propped up on a stand, have a “mirror image” on the back, and use a plastic clip to show upgrades and health. Having all unit information on the board helps players plan their attacks and strategize much faster.

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                        Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere?

                        I’ve started keeping an online journal at www.tigerspygames.com, but regrettably did not start this from the beginning. The game has undergone so many major revisions and it would have been nice to look back to see how far it’s come. Documenting the whole process would also help me keep track of my mistakes and hopefully save others from making the same ones.

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                        Did you already have the idea for Castle Defenders in your head before the 5th Street Games contest was announced?

                        I had been working on Castle Defenders for a few years, but the 5th Street Games Contest motivated me to make some big changes so it was more approachable. For example, an early play test lasted 2 hours and I realized the game wouldn’t get far unless it was simplified. With the contest in mind, I shrunk the board, reduced the number of units, and simplified the combat values. Not only did this bring gameplay down to about 30 minutes, but it also cut the price in half!

                        What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

                        Although I love designing games, I’m not as experienced with the publishing and marketing process, so a guaranteed contract was very appealing. There were a record 62 entries for this contest so other designers must have thought the same thing!

                        Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

                        Absolutely not, I had been working off and on for a few years but the contest put some parameters in place which gave me a clear goal and reward. It really motivated me to finish the game in a hurry.

                        Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

                        Definitely…winning the contest validated my work as a designer and showed me that I can put together a good product. There are so many game ideas out there so it was hard to see mine as anything special, but winning showed me that other people enjoyed my game too. I also submitted a new game for the Killer Gamer’s Remorse Contest and it’s a completely different style, but hopefully it will do just as well!

                        Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

                        The Game Crafter has been a huge contributor to my success. I didn’t start making serious prototypes until I found your website, and the community taught me a lot about game design along with some mistakes to avoid. The Game Crafter costs 10% of what printing stores charge, and the quality is ten times better. I also like how TGC keeps adding new products, since knowing what’s available helps me plan for later games.

                        What’s next for you?

                        I was disappointed to learn that 5th Street Games was filing for bankruptcy, meaning Castle Defenders had lost its publisher. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking for another publisher to take his place but am prepared to self-publish as well. Even though the contest reward fell through, winning should give my game more credibility moving forward. Outside of Castle Defenders, I am working on a player elimination game with a spooky theme for the current contest.

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                        Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

                        Don’t worry too much about the artwork details until your game is almost finished. I wasted hundreds of hours perfecting graphics that ended up being scrapped anyway. Also, trust your instinct, and if you think “there’s got to be a better way to do this” you’re probably right! Just like with power tools, using the right tool for the job will save lots of time and end up giving you a better product.


                        David Sheppard Inducted Into The Hall of Fame

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                        Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been designing games.

                        I’ve always wanted to make games except I was focused on the digital variety. So I would come up with concepts, elaborate plotlines, and even mechanics for video games and then assemble or join small teams with the intent of making these games. So the dream was always there, it just lacked the ability to fully execute it. Group after group would break apart for various reasons so the games never really even got to the prototype stage. As I started getting into hobbyist games, I found a venue where my ambitions could come true. Whether I could finish a board or card game was solely on my own shoulders. So for a little over 4 years, I’ve been trying to make the best games I can, but finally in a venue where I can see them to completion.

                        Please tell us about Galaxy Dice!

                        Peter Jackson, the judge, said it best in his assessment that, “If you’ve played Yahtzee, you’ve basically played a less exciting version of Galaxy Dice.” The game utilizes 13 custom dice, 7 of which you get to roll for your turn. And after a set number of rolls, you’re trying to match a sequence on one of several cards in play. Using these cards, you’ll face down bosses and, should you succeed, you’ll unlock a more powerful die for use on future turns. While acquiring the easier cards helps you face down bosses quicker, chancing the more valuable cards could mean the difference between completing the game and winning it.

                        Where did the idea for this game come from?

                        This game has far too many influences to list and while some obvious ones stand out (Xaxxon, Guardian Legend, Xevious), the biggest influence was Gradius. In fact, the ship itself looks kind of like the Vic Viper and many of the bosses incorporate the iconic “Blast the gates to strike the core” visual appearance from that franchise. As for how to make the game itself work, I wanted to use the “Push your luck” die mechanics seen in games like Yahtzee: World Championship Edition (the one with the buzzer, sooo good), Suttaku, and even The Game Crafter’s own Train Maker by Chris Leder. But I also love the “upgrade” mechanic from Gradius (and especially relevant to the spinoff Salamander/Life Force) and decided to see if having bosses do something more than an end game condition would capture than feeling.

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                        Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere?

                        While I did document some of the work I went through, it has not been published on my website yet. Sadly, the website is still needing action shots and grammar checks on the many other games designs I’ve posted/bragged about there but I’m woefully behind on maintaining it. Over the next couple months, I’m sure Galaxy Dice, as well as a few others will be added there along with plenty of Action Shots. The website is www.twitchfactory.com and do mind the mess…

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                        Did you already have the idea for Galaxy Dice in your head before the Classic Arcade Challenge was announced?

                        Not really. I was already working on a series of games trying to replicate the feeling of the old arcades either by gameplay or feel but many were a dead end and the contest allowed me a chance to add another game to that lineup. While one is currently available, another is still months away due solely to the art demand.

                        What made you decide to enter your game into the contest?

                        I sat out the contest before simply because I lacked any real experience with miniatures games aside from a casual flirtation with Super Dungeon Explore and X-Wing: The Miniatures Game. Since I had made finalist in the three contests before that, I was looking for an excuse to enter another Game Crafter contest.

                        Would you have been motivated to work on the game as much as you did without the contest?

                        The game would not exist without the contest, period. You may notice Twitch Factory lists 25 different games, 6 more games are missing from being listed there. Most of my design work is done based purely on the whims of my mood. While this is great from a standpoint of just how many games I’ve designed (not necessarily finished), this also leads to many incomplete projects. The contests like those on The Game Crafter, help push me with deadlines and even force me to come up with new ideas.

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                        Has winning inspired you to enter more contests or design more games?

                        After having spent over 4 years working on card/board games, it’s kind of hard to just turn that off. Winning the contest has definitely been a confidence booster and I’ll be carrying that with me into the Microgame Design Competition as well as a local game design contest known as CudoPlays.

                        Could you describe any influence The Game Crafter has had on your success as a game designer?

                        When I started, I did super expensive prints at Staples that looked, at best, horrible. Because of that, it was difficult to get people to help playtest and while it took much longer for me to improve my game designs, The Game Crafter at least helped me make pretty enough prototypes to help entice playtesters. Since then, I’ve made a note of at least trying to design games around the various printables and components available on the site. As The Game Crafters services have improved, the look and feel of many of my designs have improved as well. While the ultimate goal is to make my games look as good as anything someone would buy off a shelf, I’ve had more than a few people tell me my Game Crafter Games have achieved that a while ago.

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                        What’s next for you?

                        I often have too many things I’m working on at any given moment. Currently I’m trying to learn to paint for my Microgame Contest Entry known as Percival Thistlewood’s Incredible Dungeoneering Dolls. I’m also trying to finish up the art for Pixel Bit Beatdown. I just started trying to play balance a train game with a fairly unique die mechanic as well as using a variant of this die mechanic in my team’s CudoPlays entry. I also need to improve the rulebook to Galaxy Dice but that also means increasing the price.

                        Any last words of encouragement or advice to all of the designers reading this?

                        My best advice is just to keep swinging. I made finalist 3 other times before I finally won. I’m an annoyingly consistent pessimist as the people in chat can tell you but I just kept swinging. Each failure was a lesson, each loss was fuel, and I kept at it. I’ll be keeping at it, bringing my focus back around to fixing past games but still working on it. Sometimes it’s hard when it seems like you’re not making any progress but you are. In the end, you have to design for yourself and it all comes down to whether or not you enjoy it.


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