At Board Game Gumbo, we celebrate gaming in the Deep South, with a Louisiana flavor. I’ve befriended another Southerner on Twitter, and here is his story…
Derik Duley was raised near New Orleans (coincidentally in the same town as Mike Becnel, designer of Battle Roads Miniatures) but made his way to the big city of Los Angeles. He is the designer of Hot Pursuit, a card game coming out from his company, Lagniappe Games, in 2017. We had an interesting email chat about his gaming experiences, his ongoing projects, and his love of andouille sausage. Hope you enjoy!
Derik, thanks for chatting! How did a Louisiana native end up in The City of Angels?
Howdy! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Well, long story: my father owned Hit Videos, a video store chain that spread from Destrehan and Luling, across to LaPlace and Reserve, and all the way out to Gonzales. Unfortunately, in 1999 the competition with Blockbuster and a few unsuccessful business gambles led to our downfall. So, we fell back on our financial safety net: his parents. My twin-brother, father, and I moved in with Grandma at the northern edge of L.A. county, finished high school, and carried on with our lives.
Are you a full time designer or do you have another career?
I wish but I’m definitely not full-time, yet. For the time being, NASA pays the bills in exchange for working as part of the “Protective Services”. The job sounds awesome and involves a LOT of training, but is actually quite boring.
How long have you been into hobby gaming?
This is a tough question for me. I grew up only playing Uno as a family bonding exercise or getting my butt handed to me in Monopoly by my “youth champion” older brother. In ’95 I was finally introduced to a real game: Magic: The Gathering, but didn’t really get to play much until Freshman year of High School. In college, I REALLY learned how to play tactically. Daily, eight of us would push the lunch tables together and do our best to finally beat the guy with the “Power 9” deck. However, I was a broke college student, so I didn’t get to do the big tournaments. Then, I grew up and got a job… which required me to work over the weekend. Without friendly competition and chances to burn my brain on dynamic problem solving exercises, I was left with a gaping hole in my life.
Like most of the country, I didn’t know there was anything outside of mass-market games until 4 years ago. Thank God, I made some new friends at hockey who introduced my wife and me to Carcassonne, Stone Age, and (one of my favorites) 7 Wonders. Now, I’m all over BBG and Kickstarter (130 backed projects).
What kind of games tickle your acquisition disorder?
I enjoy strategic games but LOVE tactical games – making the most of what I’m dealt to overcome the odds with a big win is what gets my heart thumping. Gruff, X-Wing (for the dog-fights, not the miniatures), and most drafting games are my cup of tea. Asymmetry really grabs my attention, too. I’m so jealous of your Gen-Con party because you got to play and/or buy almost everything at the top of my wish-list right now.
The Krewe de Gumbo definitely had a great time at Gen Con 2016! So, how is the board game scene in LA? With that big of a city, it would seem pretty easy to game every night if you chose.
Unfortunately, “L.A. is big” is a misconception – L.A. County is pretty huge, though. The city proper is more interested in industry, music, booze, and t.v./movies. I used to be in a small group (max 8 guys) here but it has recently collapsed thanks to everyone either moving away or receiving new work schedules. I’ve tried to get everyone at work involved, but it’s just not their thing. The board game scene, like the hockey scene, is nowhere near me We only have a tiny, struggling game store in town. However, I’ve met some guys with good size groups roughly 2 hours east and south from me, and there’s a great Unpub group down in San Diego. Starting to think I’ll have to make the commute if I want to keep playing – not having any more testers to work with is really killing me.
Are you a con-goer?
So far, I’ve only been to small conventions. Strategicon is a local organization that puts on 3 cons a year at the Hilton just outside of LAX Airport. The first year I went to play and meet. This year I went trying to publicize Hot Pursuit just before the Kickstarter campaign. It uh… well… unless you have an existing, hyped up game to sell, it’s a lot of time and money for little return. Next year, I will DEFINITELY be at Gen Con and BGG Con – not just because I need to publicize, but because I desperately want to enjoy new games and meet these designers I’ve talked to on Twitter. Hopefully, I can even find you guys and we can spread some southern fun 😉
Absolutely! Do you get to travel back to Louisiana and game?
No. Because of my job, I don’t get to go back often, and when I do, it’s to visit family, eat food, show my wife the sights, and stuff my luggage full of andouille (11 lbs on the last trip) <ed. note: andouille sausage, a traditional spicy pork and beef sausage made in Acadiana>. However, I’m really hoping to visit Avery Island on our next trip. It’d be awesome if I could talk my wife into a slight detour through Lafayette.
Definitely, come by and we’ll sample some Lafayette cooking.
Hot Pursuit was a crowdsourced game that did not quite make its goal. I read on an interview with The Inquisitive Meeple that you compared it to a “big” version of Love Letter. How long have you spent working on Hot Pursuit? Tell us some of your design influences that led to the creation.
I love that you read that interview! Hot Pursuit has only existed for roughly a year-and-a-half and has changed very little in the last year. I was specifically looking to make a party style game – something simple enough for lots of table-talk and able to scale up for large player counts. After 4 different ideas ballooned into bigger, Dark Moon sized games, I was venting to my lead tester. As a huge fan of Love Letter, his best suggestion was a bigger version of that. Well, I couldn’t do THAT, but his desire for a “secret” card that players were trying to find and hide led to the base of Hot Pursuit (bringing together 2 “key” cards). I can’t say any other game influenced this particular design – I just focused on the design goals: I didn’t want players to draw/discard/play because working from a finite deck severely limits scalability; if players had to get two specific cards together, I had to limit their ability to hoard; and so on.
You sound like a big fan of Jamey Stegmaier and Colby Dauch in your blog. How much have they influenced your work as an independent, up-and-coming publisher?
Mr. Stegmaier was HUGE for my initial growth and education in the business side of crowdfunding as an indie-publisher. I read that guy’s blog every day! Like probably every indie-publisher, I’d love to follow his example in building a successful company that can employ me full-time. (*Side note: he also spoiled me. He offers a subscription option for his blog so that I can get every post in my mailbox. I can’t remember to keep up with blogs I can’t subscribe to). Mr. Dauch, on the other hand, I kept up with for morale purposes. I don’t have a group of nerds to geek out over games with. So, listening to him and the crew on the Plaid Hat Podcast talk about games, and conventions, and design challenges kept me excited. In addition to these two “pillars” I get to look up to, I’ve been a fairly regular follower of Mr. Grant Rodiek’s blog at Hyperbole Games (the designer behind Farmageddon, Hocus, and Cry Havoc). He runs his blog exactly how I’d like to and has the same exact goals for his company and game designs that I do. It’s been pretty reassuring following him – like I might not be completely out of my mind 🙂
I read a good quote from Jamey Stegmaier, something about not funding a Kickstarter project can be as useful or important as funding one (I am paraphrasing of course.) What is the top lesson you learned from Hot Pursuit’s Kickstarter campaign, and what are your plans to change?
Yes sir, NOT funding can be a crucial lesson. In this case, I was able to see that, although I had a bigger support group than I expected, it wasn’t very far reaching. A surprising number of the backers I didn’t know came from Kickstarter and other outside sources – not referrals. The two biggest problems with the game itself (not my marketing/advertising) were the very polarizing artwork and the gimmicky sounding player count (1 – 10 players). Now, I’m no dummy. I completely understand that such a wide player count is a huge red flag for most backers – it looks like I’m either over-reaching or just a terrible designer. For now, I’m working on improving my marketing material and publishing “How-to-play” videos to help people see how the game works. If people can see that I HAVE tested the crap out of it, that it IS fun, I think I’ll be able to get a lot more traction next time. Also, Dawson Cowals has stepped up to help redo/improve the look of the game – which can only help.
I am fascinated by play testing. How has your experience been with Hot Pursuit or your other projects? Frustrating or good feedback?
Playtesting is one the biggest hurdles for new designers. We can NOT put out great games without thorough testing, but, without a reputation, it can be quite challenging to collect together a sufficiently large group. I cannot adequately explain how helpful constructive criticism is for a designer. Boy, could I tell you stories of observations, comments, and thoughts from testers that completely saved my games! Unfortunately, with Hot Pursuit, my feedback has been…weird. The form responses always felt like the writers are being polite, but I’ve managed to pick up a few hardcore fans, too. That being said, playtesting is the only reason I still believe in Hot Pursuit’s viability. The plays have been great! The laughing, the trash-talking… the way the table goes silent with thought and then lights up again with smiles, nudges, and knowing nods, is just amazing. The fact that I can put together a great experience for any number of players who were willing to sit down with me has been wonderful.
Any favorite designers out there? Is there anyone that secretly you consider an “insta-buy” if you see their name on the box?
Man, that darn Scott Almes guy… I just can’t stop buying his Tiny Epic games. Tiny Epic Galaxies has a little bit of everything I love in a small box. Because of my “dead” group and videogame loving wife, I can’t really auto-buy any designer. However, Ryan Laukat (Red Raven Games), Teale Fristoe(Nothing Sacred Games), Grant Rodiek (Hyperbole Games), and Jonathan Gilmour definitely have my attention.
All right, time for some quick questions. Robert Crais or James Lee Burke?
Uh… I ain’t read either. Don’t hate me! I have a lot of free time at work and I’ll definitely be checking in to Deputy Dave Robicheaux, though. I’ve actually been looking for novels exactly like these!
Boudin or beignets?
Fried boudin balls with remoulade on french bread! Any other way, though? Beignets win.
Best place to get authentic street Mexican food in L.A.?
Vallarta (a hispanic grocery chain). San Diego has some great restaurants, though.
Any juicy rumors you can give us about your upcoming projects? What should we be on the lookout for with Lagniappe Games?
Hot Pursuit is coming again at the beginning of next year. I already have a distributor interested and am excited to share the new art.
*Juicy rumor-ville* I love Hot Pursuit, but I’m literally trying to get it “out of the way” so I can bring out Into a New World (a tile laying, abstract strategy, territory control game for 2 – 4) and SPACE BACON (*yes, you have to yell it like that*, a space racing card game for 2 – 4). Into a New World is my absolute FAVORITE game. Period. I’m not very good at perfect information strategy games like this, but I just can’t play it enough and no tester has been happy with only 1 game. Space Bacon is from a long time friend of mine. I commented to him that I wanted to make a racing card game. This is what he came back with. After a couple of games, I knew somebody HAD to publish that thing. Thankfully, he’s trusting it to me Assuming I can get enough testers to make sure the games are as good as I think, they’ll be seeing Kickstarter in the second half of 2017.
Sounds great! Can’t wait to keep an eye out for Lagniappe Games. Thanks for your time and you are always welcome to come game with us when you make it to Acadiana. Laissez les bon temps rouler!