Kraken Games (Christian)

Who are you?
At 37 this month (June), there’s a lot I can say to that. As far as the boardgame community is concerned, I’m co-founder of Kraken Games and co-designer of 2 boardgames, Evil Intent and Asking for Trobils. I also write for the League of Gamemakers (www.leagueofgamemakers).

What is your process for designing a game?
I like to start with the player’s experience. What do I want a player to feel when they’re playing. Then I work backwards from there. The theme comes pretty fast from that. After I define the theme and feel I want for the game, I then try to find and create the mechanics that fit into that set of challenges.

What brought your interest towards tabletop gaming?
I’ve been gaming since I was a little kid. My brother is 7 years older than me, so I played the games he did. I remember playing RPG’s and Talisman when I was 9 years old. I eventually spread out to all kinds of games. I proudly call myself an Omnigamer, loving both euros and american-themed games.

Most difficult part of development?
There’s always a part in development in any game that hits a snag. Usually it’s after you play the first index card and notebook paper version of your game and feel that something’s missing. Usually I have 4 or 5 different methods of fixing an issue, it’s finding the right one that is a challenge.

Any themes you would be interested in trying next?
I’m excited about exploring themes that are original or a twist on old themes. I like zombie, pirate, viking gamesas much as the next, but those already exist. When making a game, a designer should always ask if the game needs to be made. If there’s a game that already serves its purpose and does it well, leave that theme be.

Ever have a theme change during game development?
Actually yes. The game we’re going to be coming out with next came about because we were working on another game entirely. I was trying to figure out a fix for an issue we had with it, when I came up with a really interesting mechanic I wanted to explore. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit the theme, so we shelved that theme and added a new theme that better fit the new mechanic.

Any philosophy behind the game or your development?
Always be open to change. Always be open to new ways of doing something. Always be open to the idea that you’re wrong, and learn from every time you are. I think the creative process is best served when you can remove the creator’s ego from the project. That way, you get the best possible game, rather than the game that creator was determined to make.

Any themes or mechanics that did or did not make it to your game?
Asking for Trobils has cards in there called Riffraff cards. As with any deck of cards, there’s a random element to them. Erin (co-designer) was weary of adding them to the game because adding random to a game is a very tricky thing. It is often the single drop of too much or not enough that makes or breaks a game. Luckily, she helped me reign in the random element by mitigating and dispersing the effects of the cards. It helped keep the euro feel tot he mechanics, while adding an american-themed feel to the play of the game.

Any themes or mechanics you think have been over-saturated and could perhaps use a rest?
I would never say not to do a theme. Absolutes are very serious statements. There are always exceptions. What I would say though, is never do a theme you think sells. Do a theme you want to play because you can’t find that theme or feeling anywhere else. If you’ve tried all the pirate games you can and still haven’t found the feel you’re looking for, then by all means, make that game. However, if you’re making a zombie game that’s very much like yada yada but with a twist… don’t do that. Make a game you want to play, not one you think others would. Designers a gamers too, and there are others like you that want to play the same games.

Select one of your games, where did the idea come from?
With Asking for Trobils, we first started off wanting to make a light, worker-placement game. When we discussed theme, I wanted to do a wacky, space theme that wasn’t like any other. We designed a universe that we could have fun with and enjoy.

How long did play testing take for this one to feel right?
Playtesting for me has 3 stages: Stage 1, between designers, family and friends. Stage 2, players we know and strangers. Stage 3, blind-playtesting with strangers. The first stage took a while. The game changed a lot then. I’d say about 3 months. The second and third stages were blended some, but that took about 2 months. Playtesting feels right when you can have several blind-playtestings where no one can give much advice about how to change it because they enjoyed it so much.

Favorite game at the moment?
At the moment, Tajemnicze Domostwo (Mysterium) by Portal Games. They’re quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers after Imperial Settlers. I’d love to work with them someday.

Anything you’d wish you designed yourself?
I wish I had the experience of designing Dead of Winter. Writing all of those scenarios and playing it out over and over. You have to remember that when you design a game, you’re going to be playing it hundreds of times. You had better hope it’s a game you would want to do that with.

Any advice for running a successful kickstarter?
Do your homework for months. Seriously, it will take a long time to get it all right. I’m still trying to do that. Read articles, join Facebook groups, talk to other designers on Kickstarter. If you have a question, find people who know the answer. You’ll be amazed by the amount of help all of the designers and publishers offer for free. That’s why I write for the League of Gamemakers. We all want to give something back and help the hobby grow.

Any suggestions for new designers?
Play 200 different games before designing 1. That’s not a joke. Play games you know you won’t like. Play them all the way through. Find out why you don’t like them. Ask how you’d fix what you don’t like. Ask others what game is better, play that. Play games. Play every day if you can. You’ll be a world better than you ever knew if you do.

Last one, What would you consider a success for your game?
As a designer, when people get excited and play twice or even three times in a row, that’s a success. In the end, a designer just wants to bring the excitement he imagines everyone having while he creates a game. If that happens, it’s a success.

Joseph Nicholas

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Indietabletop. Communication major. Favorite mechanics include: Bluffing and Deduction, modular boards, and action point allowance. Favorite video game genres are Rpgs, Puzzles games, and Sim/Tycoons.

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