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Q&A met Bruce Allen
Geschreven door P.T. op di 14 sep 2010, 13:55
Dit artikel is 1795 bekeken
  • Can you tell us something more about the expansion of Tobago?
    'The good news:
    A fullfledged expansion exists that I submitted to the Zoch Verlag for final testing. I showed it to the developers and CEO during the Toy Fair in Nuremburg, and they were very interested. We actually worked together on it for about 2 hours changing and improving rules and they came up some good suggestions, too.
    All I want to tell about it for now is that it features a volcano...

    And there is a smaller expansion suited for inclusion as a freebie in a game magazine waiting at Zoch, too.

    The not so good news:
    Whether the big expansion will be published depends on how well Tobago sells. Zoch had quite high expectations for Tobago concerning the Spiel des Jahres (as with all their games, I guess) and are a bit reluctant, now. Tobago has been taken up by various publishers and is available in many countries -- such as the Netherlands as you might have noticed :wink: -- and I guess how wellknown it becomes in these countries will be the deciding factor.

  • Can we expect more games from your hand in the near future?
    If the publishers like them, yes.

    A Don Quixote - themed game is being tested by a publisher right now. Like Tobago it is a light family game. It is very different from the game "Don Quixote" recently published by Pegasus.

    A science fiction themed game is very nearly completed and hopefully the publisher I have shown an earlier version is still interested. It falls into the racing category.

    Right now, I am reworking my fantasy coop game (it is too close to "Defenders of the Realm" for my taste, so I am adapting it another theme and as I am not an "mechanics first, then theme" guy it is less an adaptation but more like a complete redesign).

    I have an idea for a childrens' game but that is a completely new field for me so I am very unsure about the outcome. Perhaps it won't be a childrens game at all but more a very light family game. I hope I'll manage to have the prototype ready for Essen.

    I have started on an egyptian themed game, too. It is in a very early stage: mostly spreadsheets in Excel, but the game pieces that inspired it are great.

  • How many time did Tobago take from the first idea untill it was published?
    Quite long, actually not so long, and then a lot longer than I expected.
    I plan to clarify this cryptic answer while answering a bit now and the rest during the next 3 answers.
    (That is the reason why the questions aren't in strict numerical order from now on).
    "Quite long":
    In 1992 we visited Egypt and I was so impressed by the temples there with the carved and painted columns I wanted to design a game about building a temple. But I only found the time around 2000. It had 36 column segments with pictures of egyptian gods and other things for building 12 columns but lacked a mechanic. After a while I had decided that I didn't want it to be a resource management game and had the idea that there were lots of accidents in the contruction place because the gods were angered if the column segments were placed insultingly, i.e. Horus above Osiris. So the players were to combine the clues given by the priests (not next to Isis, etc) to find the correct place for a given segment. Now I had the mechanic but game design kind of stalled, because finding a good way to score was difficult and the theme didn't help, so it sat for some years doing nothing.

    "actually not so long":
    In spring 2005 I bought a Heroscape Set. I had been designing a game set in the jungle using the statues and huts from MakaBana (a French game by Tilsit) and some jeeps -drive around, get tools in the huts, try to find out which statue belongs to which god (Cluedo-style) for some time. When I played around with the terrain tiles of Heroscape it all came together: mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, forrests all was there for an island with statues, huts, and palm trees on it and the clues would lead to hidden treasures and the scoring would be gold pieces. The title of the work in progress was simply "Piratenschatzinsel", the players would have jeeps and all would participate in the treasure found according to the clues they gave. The game was ready early in fall, so that felt really quick after the long time before.

  • Did you have to contact many publishers before you found one that would go for it?
    No, I only showed it Klaus Zoch at the Spiel in Essen in 2005 together with some other games of mine and he was interested right away. The final prototype and rules were handed over in November.

  • Did the publisher changed a lot compared to the prototype you made
    "then a lot longer than I expected": :(

    Someone told me if a game is published completely unchanged it is either a extremly simple game or by a design genius (or possibly both) or
    self-published (which might also include the aforementioned two).
    The developers of Zoch poured their heart into Tobago and I am very thankful for that.
    The board design is a result of their extensive playtesting, mine was modular and twosided, too, but they put the effort in to get it symmetrical and the largest space of each terrain unique, no matter how you arrange the board tiles. There were other changes which smoothed things out and I have learned a lot about tayloring a game to a target audience and most important about streamlining mechanics.
    After submitting the prototype I heard from Zoch again in spring 2008 (see quote above). They told me they had experimented a lot, e.g. with tool cards, but kept coming back to my design. From then on, I was part of the further development and it took until fall 2009 until Tobago was finally published.

  • Do you have children ? And if so, do they play Tobago?
    No, I haven't. But friends of ours have and especially two 9 year old daughters enjoy Tobago very much.

  • Do you go to a lot of fairs now to promote the game?
    Well, since the very start I have always been to the Spiel in Essen and last year was quite a change. I still managed to haul lots of great games back home but seeing Tobago being played by lots of gamers was absolutely thrilling. I have been to the game fair in Cannes as Tobago was nominated for the As d'Or and the awards were handed out there, but thankfully Zoch takes care of promoting Tobago at all kinds of fairs. I wouldn't have the time to do that and am absolutely impressed how small publishers (sometimes being one person shows) manage to do it.

  • What was first: Theme or Mechanic?
    So, it was kind of another theme first, then mechanic, then the (perhaps) most fitting theme. The way the design took off after I had the treasure island theme makes it feel like it was theme first to me even though it's not exactly true. :D

  • Don't you like conflict games, that you come up with this great game?
    Well, thanks for the praise. There has been talk about hybrid games (Euro meets Ameritrash in a good way) and sometimes I feel like a hybrid gamer. Whether a game tells a story and immerses the players in it is the most important aspect to me. Lots of American games naturally do, but -some might not agree here- Endeavor tells a story for me, too. Great mechanics is a plus and if the story is about confict then conflict it shall be. Nexus Ops is one of my favourites, besides it is one of the most balanced games, too. Antike comes to mind. Contemporary wargames are not for me, but if it is Fantasy or SF, no problem (No Memoir44, but Battlelore is ok).
    Over time I found that I can deal better with honest, out in the open conflict than with some of the indirect conflict around: I sit on your butchery for five rounds and you can't do anything with your cattle but I ain't hurting you, am I? :twisted:.....but I still do enjoy a lot of Euros if they have a decent theme and are not too long.
    Someone from the US at BGG said that Tobago has more direct conflict than most Euros he knows (he probably meant snatching amulets from under others, sending the treasure location out of reach for others. But as I don't know how many Euros he knows... :wink: )
    It was very important to me that everyone who contributed to the treasure map gets a share, it seemed a thing to encourage. That it lead to the "semicooperative feeling" of Tobago made me very happy, as I do love cooperative games (especially Ghost Stories and Spacealert).

  • Have you ever been to Tobago or Easter Island, or a similar island?
    Unfortunately not, just some islands around Great Britain and in the mediterranean sea. Of those I visited perhaps Elba is most like it.
    I cut up a map of the caribbean sea for a pirate game very long ago, does that qualify? :wink:
    The game never got completed but now I am looking forward to "Merchants & Marauders" by Zman Games and hope it makes it to Essen.

  • Do you think Tobago would be a success without it's great appearance?
    Tricky question! Tobago is targeted at families and casual gamers and anything that helps them over the hurdle and perhaps gets more people interested in gaming is very important and Zoch has realized that and all there have done a great job (I might have mentioned that already :clap: ).
    But many have commented that its gameplay feels very different from the other games they own and they enjoy it for that.
    And it is rumoured that even hardcore gamers might enjoy it as a filler if they accept it as a light game and are willing to take some risks. :wink:

  • Will the game be played/sold at Spiel?
    Yes, I think so. Zoch usually has not only their newest release available for playing but their older titles, too. Last year they were quite surprised as normally the new release is played on about half their tables but Tobago took over almost all of the roughly 30 tables. So I'm sure they will bring some. Zoch doesn't sell their games at their booth but there are lots of vendors in Essen both internet-based and from gamestores and they will probably stock it.

  • If so, what hall/booth will it be?
    Normally, Zoch is at the same place every year: Hall 11-15 just opposite of the huge Amigo area.

  • Your nickname: Arzach, does it mean something?
    Arzach is a comic-character by French author Jean 'Moebius' Giraud. The comic greatly impressed me when it came to Germany in the mid 70s. The stories were a bit surreal, no dialog, more like short stories, one doesn't know what happened before and all is quite puzzling.
    Arzach isn't as likeable as Snarf (from Snarfquest by Larry Elmore -the best humorous comic for fantasy roleplayers ever 8) ) but not as wellknown. So, instead of being "Snarf4711" I rather am Arzach.

  • What are your favourite games, besides Tobago? ;)
    Someone has proposed the term "Gametaster" for those like me who have lots of games not because of collecting games but because of wanting to play them. But there are so many new interesting games and not enough time in the world to play them often, so the gametaster is happy when he manages to play a game once or twice. If you define a favorite game as game you really want to play again the gametaster can have lots of favorites some of which he actually has played only once. Keep that in mind when you read my list. :wink:

    Played often:
    Tichu, Nexus Ops, Taluva, Citadels, Race for the Galaxy, Fauna, Endeavor
    Played a few times:
    Betrayal on House of the Hill, Kamisado, Giants, Dungeon Lords, Ghost Stories, Claim It, Galaxy Trucker, Zertz, Hossa, Mission Red Planet, Mordred, Antler Island, Rattus, Pony Express, Metropolys, Yspahan
    Played once but instant favorites:
    Navia Dratp, Claustrophobia, Senji, Liberté, Neuroshima Hex!, Through the Ages, Senjutsu

  • Do you have any useful tips for people who would like to start developing a boardgame?
    Well, the most important in my opinion is: Play lots of different games.
    Then: Inspiration can come from anywhere, if something grabs your interest think about what a game on that might look like.
    Try to do something new, during the design process old (great) solutions from other games will creep in automatically.
    More practical tips:
    Find a game you kind of like but think it could be improved, experiment with rules variations or design an add on for it.
    Learn to play a game alone as three or four players (obviously, you can't do that for blind bidding games or the like...well, if you really can do it it might be a good idea to think about getting professional help :wink: ). It will take a lot of strain out for your playtesters if you have ironed out most bugs before they try the game.
    Practice pleading to gamers to get them to test your prototypes. :think:

  • You showed the publisher your design of Tobago in 2005 and it took about 3 years until they got back to you. Have you never been afraid somebody else would come up with this game mechanism in the meantime?
    Not really, but that probably was a bit naive. One of the first reactions after Tobago had been released was Bruno Faiduttis review in which he told of his attempt with Serge Laget to design a very similar game (mechanism and theme) around 2006. :roll:
    I had grown a bit impatient and was just about to ask Zoch whether they might return the prototype when the email came that they would be targeting Essen for the release. Ich habe vor Freude die Deckenlampe umkreist. :D :D :D

  • What do you like about game designing in general?
    Finding new mechanisms that fit a given theme.
    Looking for new things that might be used as game components. Most of my games are inspired by them.
    Doing the graphic design for my prototypes, they often look like something a very very small publisher without the help of a professional artist might publish. I have the intention to challenge the publisher to improve the graphics and components of my prototype so that the game turns out really impressive.
    The moment when the playtesters like it and come up with great ideas to improve it.
    What I don't like is writing rules and waiting for the feedback from the publisher whether they like the game or not.

  • Is this something you've dreamt about for a long time, having seen published your first games?
    Yes, I started designing games about 30 years ago. At first it was just playing around but it turned more deliberate 15 years ago. When you tell someone you design games as a hobby everyone (really everyone) asks if a game of yours has been published. Probably if you write novels you will be asked the same. Now I can answer: yes and it feels even better than I imagined.

  • Who are your favorite board game designers and what do you like about them/their games?
    In the order they come into my chaotic mind:
    Friedemann Friese - wacky themes with solid mechanisms, some very unusual stuff
    Gordon and Fraser Lamont - the same, a bit lighter but always fun (not only the games)
    Andrea Meyer - great communication games, simple and clever
    Marcel-André Casasola Merkle - great variety and very original designs
    Vlaada Chvatil - astonishing track-record, very wide approach towards games, he seems to have played a lot of computer games and has the rare gift to convert them into really good board games.
    Bruno Faidutti - likes to experiment and (imo) introduces just the right amount of chaos into his games.
    Bruno Cathala & Ludovic Maublanc - lots of great games with a tremendous variety
    Antoine Bauza - new stuff and very promising
    Tom Wham - well, old stuff but downright crazy and loads of fun
    Urs Hostettler - all I say is "Kreml" and "Ein solches Ding" and there are lots of others

  • Isn't it "hard" to see people from the publishing company "touch your baby"?
    Well, as long as the changes they make are clearly improvements it doesn't feel bad. Most game developers I know have such a long track record that they are very experienced in improving a game by making small changes that lead to simpler rules or a better flow of the game while keeping the atmosphere intact. Recently, I have made greater changes to my own older designs which I had thought of as "finished". Sometimes it hurts a bit if I have to take out a feature that was part of why I wanted to design the game but turned out to be too rules-heavy or needing too much administration. I can imagine that it would be harder for me if a publisher were to change the theme of a game of mine , because I always start with a theme and try to find the best mechanisms for it.

  • Were you allowed to chose the designer or was that choice made by the publisher?
    No, that is the publisher's choice. Actually, there were two graphic designers at work on Tobago: Zoch's inhouse designer Oliver Richtberg came up with the three piece board design. Victor Boden did all the artwork. Zoch is known for doing very good graphics designs (Tobago and Victor Boden have been nominated for this year's "Graf Ludo", a German graphics design prize) and they usually include fancy game pieces in their games, too.

  • Why did you decide to change the name from "Pirateninsel" to "Tobago"?
    Well, the name of the game is generally chosen by the publisher. The marketing of the game is their responsibility and as Zoch aims for an international market and after they made the components of Tobago language-independent, they wanted its title to be language-independent, too. Most "pirate-y" titles were already taken. I suggested "Aruba", also an island in the Caribbean Sea (actually quite near to Tobago), among others, but Tobago sounds better.

  • Is living in Germany -the games country of Europe- an advantage for a game designer?
    Well, for me it definitely was, as I live near Marburg where the Deutsche Spielearchiv (German Games Archive) was located until recently. The Spielearchiv was founded by Dr. Bernward Thole, one of the initiators of the "Spiel des Jahres" and held biweekly gaming evenings where my gaming friends and I played the newest German games. I still bought many US and British games because of my interest in SF and Fantasy :) . I do believe that the Spiel des Jahres has taken gaming out of a small niche market into a bigger (ok, niche) market in Germany and the publishers are more open because of that. And it is in the middle of Europe, a Europe with many designers in lots of countries with different styles of games.
    And well, it is just a 3 hours drive to Essen :lol: .

  • What brings an American to Germany?
    A German-born mother and a father from the US and a devorce. I have been living in Germany since 1965. :wave:
    So my socialization is more German than American. :)

  • Do you go to Spiel in Essen as a game designer, a gamer or a game collectioner? Which 'role' do you like most?
    Now yes, big YES and small yes. Being a game designer with a new release in Essen is definitely the best, showing games to publishers is good if they like them otherwise it is beaten by being a gamer. :wink: I don't think of myself as a real collector but I do refer to the first day in Essen as the "Hunt". :twisted: Essen is just great no matter what brings you there.

  • Any chance that I can get your autograph on Tobago when I buy it at Spiel ? I haven't got a game with a signature yet, so you would be my first :lol:
    Sure, no problem. :D
    I'll be meeting Bart (Bartjes) in Essen at the White Goblin Games booth, but we haven't set a time yet. Perhaps we can meet there, too.

    You asked about buying Tobago in Essen and it just occured to me that you probably want the Dutch edition.
    My answer about its availability refered to the German edition. :(
    The publisher for the Dutch version is The Gamemaster NL. They have been in Essen the last years and have sold their games at their booth in Dutch, too, but it is probably best if you contact them directly, whether they will bring Dutch Tobagos with them.

  • Are there any titles in Essen you are looking forward too?
    I am just compiling my list for Essen, it isn't complete yet but I am very curious about
    7 Wonders (well, :D who isn't)
    the Space Alert Expansion
    the Rattus Expansion
    Isla Dorada
    Antics (I playtested it and can't wait to see the final version)
    Pressure Matrix
    Tikal II: The Lost Temple
    Road Kill Rally
    Cadwallon City of Thieves
    Mad Zeppelin
    I haven't read all the rules yet, so the list might change, but probably it will get longer :crazy:

  • I guess you have a lot of boardgames in your house. If someone decides that you have to sell all your boardgames, except one. Which one would you keep? (Excluding Tobago)
    :shock: ....First of all, I would hope that there is a special hell reserved for people who decide things like that! :wink:

    My first impulse was Nexus Ops as I really like it a lot, second one was Betrayal at House on the Hill because of the different scenarios (but probably the new edition coming out soon in which they corrected the mistakes) and then I remembered the scenarios I thought up for Heroscape and how much fun it was designing them. Ok, I would probably change the initiative rule but a game I can tinker with and create new scenarios is definitely the one I must go for. Only way to get infinite replayability. :D Perhaps one could even turn it into an area majority game. :twisted:
    So Heroscape it is - I am a bit astonished, too.

  • How big is your game collection by the way?
    I haven't counted it. When I entered it in BGG I went down the ranking list and suddenly had 570 games, but a lot of small card games are missing and some obscure games, too, so I estimate it at 650-700 games.

  • Which artists/board game illustrators do you like or admire?
    Artists: Dali, Franz Marc, van Gogh
    Cartoonists: Vaughn Bodé, Ralph Bakshi
    Game illustrators: Miguel Coimbra, Pierô, Lars-Arne "Maura" Kalusky, Bertrand Benoit, Mathieu Leyssenne, Victor Boden, Tom Wham

  • A difficult question: which question were you dying to answer, but hasn't been asked by anyone here so far? Is there anything you had hoped for we would ask you? Something you wanted to talk about?
    Well, you all asked lots of great (and sometimes tricky) questions and you asked about the expansion for Tobago. :D

    If you have played Tobago I have two questions for you:

    No. I: What do you think is the most important rule concerning the mechanisms in Tobago in my opinion? I don't mean the main reduction mechanism but a small often overlooked rule without the game wouldn't work.

    No. II: What would you like to see in an expansion for Tobago or another new game?

  • Does your education / profession is an advantage in developping games?
    Yes, I think so, when designing a software application you often have to think along the lines of:
    What will happen if the users do something strange, or which coincidents have lead to this situation which isn't covered by the programme yet and how do I fix it.
    Or in Database Design: How are the different things related, which information do I need where. So this is a lot like game design.
    But you can't "programme" fun into game, so that is totally different and what makes it exciting for me.

  • Which languages do you program in?
    Right now, I do more database design and project management than programming, so now it is mainly SQL and ABAP. Before that was lots of PL/SQL and the 4GL language of Oracle, and a long, long time before that Fortran. :)

  • Tobago is nominated for the "Nederlandse Spellenprijs" (Dutch game award), along with Brass, Dixit, Fresco, Funkenschlag, Roll Through The Ages, Steam and Vasco Da Gama. Which game do you think will win this award?
    Is the "Nederlandse Spellenprijs" decided by the vote of gamers? Then I guess it might be Funkenschlag because there will probably be more "heavy" gamers voting than casual gamers. That is the way with the Deutsche Spielepreis, but it might be different in the Netherlands. :)

  • If you were allowed to vote: which games would be your numbers 1, 2 and 3?
    As I only have played Funkenschlag, Dixit, Roll Through The Ages, Fresco and Tobago 8) yet, my list would be
    1 Tobago :wave:
    2 Roll Through The Ages and
    3 Dixit (for light mood)
    3 Funkenschlag (for heavy mood)
    I know that are 4 games. Number 3 would depend on my mood at the time I vote :shifty:.

  • Describe in 20 words why we should all vote for Tobago :D
    Perhaps because it works well as a gateway game but the only good reason is that you like it. :)

  • Tobago is also on the long list of the Gouden Ludo, the Flemish game award. Next month 4 games from this list will be nominated. Which 4 games would you nominate?
    Endeavor, Havanna, Rattus and ...Tobago :wave:

  • Have you already visited the Netherlands and Belgium? What did you like in our countries?
    We made a Fietsen(?) Tour in the Netherlands: Enschede, Apeldoorn, Lelystadt, Enkhuizen, Leeuwarden, Groningen, Beerta (these are the names I remember). I really enjoyed it. Everyone we met was very friendly to us (I guess the bicycles helped :wink: ). I remember an art museum in the woods with lots of van Goghs, swimming in the Ijsselmeer, lovely old town in Enkhuizen, wind always blowing against us :lol: , loempia. I visited Amsterdam, too. I spent half a day in the Van Gogh Museum and hours in the Stedelijk Museum (Modern Art) and in the Vondel park and shopping. I visited Brussels twice, the Rathaus impressed me as did the Atomium and the Erasmus house.

  • Do you know any Belgian or Dutch game designers?
    I met Fréderic Moyersoen from Belgium, he is a very nice guy and I talked to the guys at Repos Productions, they seem a bit crazy but in a good and friendly way :D.

Steekwoorden: Tobago, Bruce Allen, Q&A, V&A, The GamemasterDit artikel is laatst gewijzigd door Bart op wo 12 okt 2016, 21:55

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