Flavor Text

The last few weeks have been a blur in gaming, mostly centered around opening up, bagging, and playing the Kickstarter edition of Near and Far by Red Raven Games. I plan to talk more about the game in another blog post, once I have a few more plays in, but spoiler alert — I really love this game.img_2986

Story telling games have always fascinated me, perhaps from my love of choose your own adventure books and RPGs as a young man. Above and Below, Red Raven’s earlier attempt at a world building story telling game, was a big hit with me and my two sons, and in all honesty, winning was in second place to exploring the underground in that game.

I had yet to bring my wife into the fantastical world of Red Raven Games and Ryan Laukat’s whimsical art, so I thought Islebound would be a good place to start. Islebound is a 2016 release where players sail ships around a modular board conquering and/or negotiating treaties with towns and ports, all in an effort to score journey points along the way.  I was excited to introduce her to a mechanic that I really like in Red Raven’s last three games.

The thing that I like about this “trilogy” of games (Above and Below, Islebound, and Near and Far) is that each one has story elements built in, albeit in different ways.  If the games had been published in order from Islebound to Near and Far, you might even say that there was a bit of an advancement in the way Laukat implements the story mechanic. In Islebound, the story elements are mainly found in the “troubadour” cards (as my wife calls them) and “event” cards. These cards, found on the side board, allow you to increase your renown and influence by meeting certain objectives, and on each one is a little story about why you need to take that action or about the reward you will get.

Laukat took that concept to a higher level in Above and Below, where you are presented choices in the story mode of the game.  You have to make decisions in choose-your-own-adventure fashion, and choose between two or three actions. The consequences of your choice can make a difference in terms of your rewards (although there is some valid criticism about the connection between the stories and rewards, and the rather abrupt way most stories end.)

The ultimate is the way Near and Far integrates the stories into the game at every level. The story elements are clearly interconnected to each map and even throughout the campaign.

So, I thought I would read the flavor text each time when we finally brought Islebound to the table, as a good introduction to the world. But each time I read the cards, she waved her hands dismissively and said to move on to the action.

That frankly shocked me a bit. My wife loves stories, movies and music, so the concept of make believe does not bother her. So why didn’t she enjoy the text? I was not expecting her to reject this part of the game.

When I asked her about it after the game ended (victoriously in her case, again), she said that the stories did not really seem connected to what we were doing at the time. To her, it was just a bunch of “fluff.”

That got me thinking about flavor text in games. Why do I enjoy well written flavor text?  I grew up playing D&D, and moved to Magic in 1993-94. Magic cards are notorious for having great flavor text. Even in today’s modern board games, I am always on the look out for extra flavor. We’ve been playing a lot of Clank! lately, and if you look at those cards, you will see a lot of humorous text to go with the illustrations on the cards.

To me, you miss out a lot if you don’t at least glance at the text, and see how the theme interacts with the gameplay. But, maybe she is correct? Does Islebound really need the flavor text? Would it be just as good of a game with less emphasis on the story elements (small that they may be)?  Does a game need to integrate meaningful decisions if the designer wants players to take the flavor text seriously?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me a reply in the comments below or a tweet @boardgamegumbo.

Until the next time we met up in Arzium, Laissez les bon temps rouler!


Kickstarter Preview: Click Click Boom by Thing 12 Games

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that we have all kinds of gamers show up to our Gumbo game nights.  Some of our friends come to play deep strategy games that take two or three hours to develop. Some gamers are looking for complete immersion in highly thematic games. And some come just looking to play the newest hotness on BGG.

But there is one common trait — at the start and end of the night, we typically like to play a fast moving game that can be taught quickly and scales well as people drop in and out.
Do your game groups like bluffing games that play quickly? Do you enjoy push your luck games where the players can wield unique special powers? We do, and we found a great game to add to any game night….Click Click Boom by Thing 12 games.

Click Click Boom — coming out on Kickstarter June 6 — is billed as a “Bluffing Game of Russian Roulette”. It was designed by Sean Epperson with art from Diony Cook Rouse. (You may recall Thing 12 Games from their indie hit, Dice of Crowns, designed by Sean and Brander “Badger” Roullett.) This is essentially a card game with special powers for each player that plays over three rounds in about a half hour.


We were provided a reviewer’s version of the game, and the components, art, text and rule were not finalized yet. However, the art we saw on the cards was whimsical and serviceable. The game consists of 36 playing cards of three types: two with “clicks” (where your character survives) with different coin events and one with “boom” (which knocks your character out of the round.) The game also comes with unique character power cards, a double sided turn card, and 78 plastic coins.


The rules are simple and easy to teach. Imagine Hanabi but in a competitive, bluffing, knock-each-other-out implementation and that’s close to what Click Click Boom is. Each player is given a mini-deck of three “Click: Pay 1 coin” cards; two Click: 2 coins stolen” cards, a “Boom” card, your character (which stays face up until you are knocked out by playing a boom card, and an optional power card (which changes the rules of the game in each player’s favor.) Each player starts with 13 coins.

Players shuffle the cards, and then fan them out in front of them with the fronts of the cards facing the other players. No one is allowed during the round to look at their cards, so the information you will get from the other players is…well…suspect at best and malicious at worst!

The object? Survive the round and score some coins! After three rounds, the player with the most money wins.img_2782

After each player antes up, the first phase of the game, the “Ask” phase, takes place. Each player asks the player on their left, and then the player on the right (this rotates depending on the front of the double sided turn card) which card they should play. The player was was asked must choose a card, but does not have to answer any questions, although a skilled player will know what to say and when.

Once all players have asked the players to their left and right, the selected cards are placed face down on the table, and then at the same time, all players reveal ONE of the two cards. That’s right…you have less than a minute to decide which of your “friends” is being friendly and helpful, and which one is just trying to blow you up.

If a player reveals a click card, then that player stays in the game and does the action on the card, either paying one coin to the pot at the center of the table, or giving two coins to the player on the left or right depending on which card you chose. If a player reveals a “boom” card — well, better luck next time, pardner.

All players that survive then pass a FACE DOWN card to the player on the left or right, depending upon the orientation of the turn card, all without looking at any of the cards. That is an excellent time for you to pass a boom card to your “friend”, but expect the same friendly treatment in return!

This continues until one player is left or all players have only one card. The loot is divided, and another round begins with all players back in the game and anteing into the pot again (one coin for losers, two coins for the winner).

The designer recommends that the first round be played without special powers, but we enjoyed the rollicking chaos that ensues with the special powers. Some of these are more over powered than others, but that also puts a big fat target on the back of any player with a powerful card. Plus, each card can only be played once per round, and is turned over once played to signify, which equals out the powers.


As gamers, we are all looking for games that can be introduced to newcomers to the hobby that still give experienced gamers some depth of play. Plus, every game night needs a good game that can play 3-6 players even if players are joining in as they walk in. Click Click Boom fits both bills. The rules are very simple, yet there is a lot of strategy in deciding when to use your special power, deciding when to help someone or finish them off, and looking at all of the cards in all of the players’ hands to guess at whether people are helping or hurting you.

My favorite memories at game night involve laughter, and Click Click Boom provides it in spades. The very first time we saw two boom cards presented by one of the players in their fanned out hands was an absolute laugh-out-loud moment that lasted for a long time. The first time a trusted player turns on you and convinces you to choose a “boom” card is another bust your gut moment that still resonates in my mind.

Yes, there are some “mean” elements in this game, and even the dreaded “player elimination”, but the turns go by very quickly. Each player takes turns helping and hurting neighbors which mitigates the meanness, and the downtime out of the game when you choose a “boom” card is very short. If you like Dead Last, you will probably enjoy this game, too, and if you thought Dead Last was a little too mean spirited but like the concept of bluffing games and hidden information, then this game will scratch that itch without creating the hidden alliances that sometimes break down other games in this category.

How mean do you like your bluffing, take that games? Leave a comment below or post in Twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

Beignets & Boardgames — Preview of Moonshine Run coming to Kickstarter in June

(Editor’s note: We thank A Madman Or Two Games for providing us with a preview copy of Moonshine Run. The artwork, by Starcat Games, is presented here with permission of Zack Ringler. Here’s Bradly with the preview:)Webbed.jpg

Recently the Krewe de Gumbo got their hands on a game going up on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017 called Moonshine Run.

Developed by Zack Ringler from A Madman or Two Games, Moonshine Run is a card driven, push your luck game where you are attempting to get your white lightning down from the mountains where it is made into town where it can be sold.

PrintThe game itself is simple and has a small footprint. Essentially, it is a deck of cards which includes a round tracker and a turn order card for each player, alongside a collection of markers denoting money, and a rule book. Each round players will draw a card from the top of the deck equal to the round they are in (so 1 card for round 1, 2 for round 2, etc). Players then get the option to buy additional cards from the deck; one card for one dollar (and you start with $10). Cards drawn from the deck, whether free or bought, are placed face down in front of the player who drew them in the order they were drawn.

Someone pushed their luck too far?
That is when the push your luck element comes in. The cards in the main deck come in several flavors. There are stash cards, hazards, quality cards and item cards.


XXX Quality x4
An example of the artwork from the “quality” cards
Stash cards are ultimately how you earn money. Each card is a representation of the moonshine you are trying to sneak past the police. You will earn money depending upon how much moonshine you can safely transport to town without getting caught. Hazards are things like the police stopping you on the road, rival moonshiners looking to steal your stash, or even something as simple as a fallen tree.


The ole Tommy Gun…
Quality cards change the value of your liquor when you sell it. They can either make it more valuable, or less. And finally item cards come in several types, like the Tommy Gun
which either lets you fight off Rival Moonshiners or attack other players and steal their stash.

Is that a place to stash some booze?
The game play is easy to pick up. One by one, on their respective turns, the active players will reveal the cards in front of them, each time deciding if they are happy with what has been revealed already, or if they are going to risk the next turn of the line up. The round continues until a player either chooses to stop, reveals all of their cards, or runs into something that ends their turn.


Round Tracker
Handy turn order card
For a push your luck game, Moonshine Run is both entertaining and small enough that you can have it on you for quick filler games. Most of the problems the Krewe had revolved around the quality of the copy we played, but that is likely due to the fact that we had a review copy. There were some places we saw where definitions of rules could be better or organized in a better manner, but we are hoping that ultimately these minor glitches will be fixed in the actual production copy.


The game was fun for all of us that tested it, and not surprisingly, many of the Krewe wanted to purchase a copy for themselves as soon as it comes out especially if the production quality is increased.

Look for it on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017.


Spice it up! With Baseball Highlights: 2045

I love baseball, and I love board games. I have been searching for years for a game that combines both of my favorite pastimes, and I will tell you all about my find today. Before we get to the discussion, this is a great time to do a quick review of Baseball Highlights:2045, because we should note that Eagle-Gryphon Games has made it easy to introduce the game to any audience.  Right now, there is a Kickstarter going on for three new expansions to the base game– but for new payers, there is also a “Spring Training” edition of the game. It is priced right at under $20 per copy, and gives enough cards for two players to learn and play the game. The box will be delivered to your door in September, just in time for the playoffs.  Play ball! 

I can still remember the smell of fresh cut grass and the feel of wet blades stuck to the bottom of my trousers. It was my first season coaching t-ball to my oldest child. I had not been at my hometown ballpark since I myself was just a wee lad. There were more fields now, and the bleachers seemed a little more worn down, but I slowly did a 360 degree turn and saw the entire park filled with happy children chasing each other in brightly colored uniforms.

Baseball. America’s favorite past time.

Now that Daylight Savings Time has ended, the nation’s eyes turn toward shiny ball parks in Arizona and Florida. It is spring training down there, and hundreds of players are stretching, spitting, and stealing bases in hopes of making it to The Show.

Is there a board game that can give players the excitement and tension of a real live major league baseball game? Are your game nights getting a little stale playing the same old wizards and zombie themed games?

Well then, Spice it up with Baseball Highlights: 2045!

Baseball Highlights is a “tactical card game with deck building elements” (as Sean Ramirez from The Dukes of Dice likes to say) by Mike Fitzgerald published by Eagle-Gryphon Games in 2014. I talked a little bit about the game in January in discussing Clank!, another deck building game that used deck building as the mechanic to help players explore a dungeon.

This month, let’s talk about a card game that simulates a futuristic style of baseball played with cyborgs, robots, and regular ole’ humans (called “naturals” in the game, because they do not have any augmented body parts like cyborgs do). Fitzgerald uses the deck building mechanic as a way to enhance the development of each team and to power the six-inning, seven game series of ball games.

Player board with Player Aid — four boards provided in the Deluxe Edition


The year is 2045, and America has long since passed on the glory days of its favorite past-time. In an effort to revitalize the sport, the powers-that-be brought in robots (with amazing hitting prowess) and cyborgs (with amazing pitching arms) to bring excitement to the stands. The theme is carried through the beautiful artwork, the full color player boards, and especially through the player cards. Each card in the free agent deck has unique names that evoke well known baseball players (for the naturals), funky robotic names from the future, or cartoon style cyborg names.

I recommend you get the big box deluxe edition, which comes with the base game plus seven small expansions.  Each expansion not only adds tons of replayability to the game, but also has different themes like added cards for each of the types of players or combo cards that can really change the play style. I especially like the Rally cards which give teams a chance to mount a comeback or kill a rally.

Naturals, Cyborgs and Robots from the Free Agent Deck


Baseball Highlights: 2045 brings out a number of innovations. Sure, at first glance, it looks like another take on the deck building mechanic, but unlike the dry theme of Dominion, Baseball Highlights 2045 evokes the theme of baseball well.  It was one of the first card games that I played that used deck building as just a mechanic rather than the entire scheme, as in Dominion.  Instead of being the sole focus of gameplay, deck building here allows players to flesh out their teams with a dizzying array of free agent cards.

The game also is innovative in the way that Fitzgerald developed the cards and the game play.  It really feels like you are pitching and hitting against another team. Each side plays one card at a time, and the cards have varying effects which automatically stack depending upon the type of action.


Rookie cards from Boston and L.A.
Veterans from the base decks of New York and San Francisco
The game of baseball can be a bit long for some people, and would not translate well into a normal deck builder. That’s why Mike Fitzgerald came up with the idea of reducing the game to six innings (or six card hands.) It works really well in this format, and allows players to attack each other quickly over a seven game series.  The regular rules of baseball (steals, double plays, etc.) are generally used, although they come mostly in the form of immediate actions that are found on the cards.


The game is surprisingly easy to teach.  Players start out with a small deck of 15 cards consisting of ‘veterans’ and ‘rookies.’ These are low powered cards of hitters and pitchers that have basic abilities.  Players play head to head over seven games, playing baseball player cards out of their hand and deck, trying to score more runs than the other player in only six innings.

The designer suggests that the two players play a three game mini-series. Each player during the game take turns laying down one of the six cards in their hand, and “threatening” hits like singles, doubles or even home runs. If the other player cannot counter that action, then the hit takes place, and runners are moved around the bases.

At the end of six innings (when the cards run out), the visiting player has a chance to “save the day” if he or she is behind, by playing a card from their pinch hit pile or a random card off the top of the deck. This always creates tension in the game, especially if the score is tied and the home team is about to rally for a walk off win.

At the end of each game, the players totally up each of their cards’ “buy value” and then hop into the free agent market. There, six cards are displayed, which offers the players better players, more abilities, better buy values, and stronger hitting or pitching. The player take turns buying the free agents. Once purchased, the card goes right onto the deck to be used in the very next game, which adds some strategy considerations since the other player has to decide whether to counter the card now, or continue with his or her own deck building strategy.  Of course, purchasing free agents also lets you tighten your deck, since you must discard one of the just used player cards right out of the game for every card you buy. Looks like Fitzgerald was serious about limiting each deck to only fifteen cards! Once the buy phase is completed, the next game starts until the World Series is decided (usually by winning four out of seven games).


There will be plenty of joy in Cardville after playing this game. I have introduced Baseball Highlights:2045 to gamers, even those who don’t find any joy in the game of baseball, and it has been a big hit. There is something about the quick games, the take that card play, and period artwork that combine to make it a great expression of the beautiful game of baseball.  Throw in the free agent pool, where there are so many decisions as to what to buy to fill out your deck, and you have a real winner with plenty of deep strategy as well as emotional experiences.

Without a doubt, Mike Fitzgerald hit a home run with Baseball Highlights:2045. If your game nights are getting bland, or you are looking for a great two player card game (or even four player card game if you and three friends play side by side with the winners taking on each other), leg out a double to your Friendly Local Game Store and pick up a copy of Baseball Highlights: 2045. Or hit that Kickstarter for a great way to introduce yourself to the game. At only $19, it is a….steal!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!!

— B.J.




Beignets & Boardgames: First Look at Simurgh

Back in 1983, three teenage boys in Grand Mamou who were looking for a new video game experience for the Commodore 64 stumbled upon Dragonriders of Pern. Designed by Jim Connelly of Epyx Games, it was different from other space and shoot-em-up games. It had negotiation. It had action. But most of all, it had a theme tied to the book series of the same name by Anne McAffrey.

That series of books, centered around dragon riding heroes on the planet Pern who battle the “Thread”, a deadly micro alien organism attacking the planet, was a huge seller and a big influence on F&SF reading teenagers in the 1980s.


The graphics in the electronic game about Pern were rudimentary, the game play was admittedly unusual for the day, but the theme was just cool. It was a chance to be the leader of the “weyr” (dragon hold) and build alliances with other weyrs to save the planet.

So, any time a board game company publishes a board game with dragons as a theme, it inevitably harkens me back to those books and that game.  Obviously, game play and graphic design have come a long way since then, but is there any game out there that can recreate that feeling?

NSKN created a sensation about a year ago with a Kickstarter for a dragon based game called Simurgh as well as its expansion. We finally got a copy of the game and have played it a few times recently. Although we agreed that we have not played the game enough to give a final rating, we have played it enough to know what we like and what we don’t like about Simurgh. Spoiler alert — if you are looking for negotiations among the great houses as you ally yourself against The Evil, better try to find a copy of Dragonriders of Pern and an old C-64 instead.


Simurgh is a worker placement, action tile laying game from NSKN Legendary Games (NSKN Games) in 2015. The game was designed by Pierluca Zizzi, and is built around the legend of families raising dragons and training dragon riders to beat back the forces of Evil. The game has three levels in length, and the average game takes about an hour to play.



Simurgh looks on the surface to be your standard worker placement fare, but there are some definitely unusual twists.  Players, who control one of five different dragon rearing houses, start with a dragon rider meeple and a spearman meeple, called collectively “vassals.”  The players use the vassals (and they can train more with the right resources) to develop resources, buy action tiles (where the majority of resources can be generated), explore the “wilds” and work on long term objectives like training real dragons and scoring big end game points.

The twist is two fold — first, the vassals can either be  placed or taken back into the player’s hand, but you can’t do both on the same turn. The second twist is that the board contains relatively few juicy actions at the start, because most of the research, production, exploring, and technology actions are on tiles that you must buy and play.  Anytime a tile is filled to the brim with vassals, or is emptied, that tile moves to the “chronicle” — which is one of the end game conditions. In a medium length game, we play to 11 tiles. (The other end game is when the objective tiles — either four or five spaces, depending upon player count — fills up.)


Here is where Simurgh gets really interesting. NSKN put in a lot of work bringing the game to its fans, and the material choices are — well, different to say the least.  First, you have the beautiful laser cut acrylic vassals, which are unlike anything I have ever seen. They stand out from your usually blob of wood and are easily distinguishable. There’s even plenty of wooden tokens representing two of the resources, and then strangely, wooden blocks representing two more of the resources, and then strangely again, cardboard tokens representing the remaining resources. Strange choices, indeed, but at least they are all good quality.

Next, there is the tile and board art. The artists, Enggar AdirasaAgnieszka Kopera, and Odysseas Stamoglou, knocked it out of the park with their depictions of the city, the dragons themselves, and the artwork all over the box. You can tell that a lot of heart and time were spent fleshing out the visual aspects of this beautiful world.

Unfortunately, that same desire to cram more artwork on the board than the Vatican has on its museum walls can go overboard. In this case, the board and artwork on the cards are so chock full of dragon goodness that it can be very overwhelming. Plus, the artwork is in some ways inconsistent. While having great looking dragons is a plus, some of them are very hard to distinguish on their respective dragon cards, which makes it very difficult to choose your dragon. Plus the artwork on the board and cards might be fine as decorations on a twelve year old’s room, but the fonts are way too small and the iconography far less than intuitive.


I have played two five player games so far, and unfortunately, both plays were hampered by the very obtuse rule set given in the game. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we spent 30% of our time in the game looking up the rules and diving into BGG to get the answers to some very specific questions. The rule book is in serious need of revision, editing and glossification.

Yes, but how did the game play? I loved the gameplay, ignoring for a second the confusion about the terms and turns and play. There are so many juicy decisions to be made. Do I start by increasing my team of vassals? Do I choose to go exploring or build tiles, or recruit more dragons? Am I resource hound, or will I do my work on other people’s tiles? All of these create tensions, especially as the timer to the end of the game keeps tick, tick, ticking away.

img_1502I think Bradly from the Krewe de Gumbo said it best:

It actually has a very interesting mechanic for a worker placement. Essentially the players are responsible for putting out the resource generating tiles. Most of the initial tiles are resource spending ones. And then if too many people se those player placed tiles, or if no one is one them, they go away. So a lot of the game is timing — keeping tiles out that others place (by placing vassals on them), and then waiting to put out your own tiles when no one can use them. 


Couple of quick comments from the Krewe before I share my final thoughts:

Carlos: Cool theme and artwork, but a complete hot mess to see what’s going on; sitting from the other side of the table from the tiles is ridiculous

Bryan: Board is pretty, but too busy and hard to read

Dave: Funny name, board is way too messy

BJ: I like Simurgh a lot, but the rules are terrible and the icons are just not intuitive. NKSN needs to bring the #CarlosGraphicDesignHammer to the board and tiles

Bradly: Simurgh is good, not great; the board is needlessly busy and the rules stink

With only a couple of plays, it is too early to tell where Simurgh stands in the pantheon of board games played in the last few years. As Dustin always says (who has yet to play the game by the way), a game has to be great to stand out. The good news is that Simurgh has interesting mechanics, beautiful artwork, and has lots of juicy decisions and tension but can still be wrapped up in about an hour. That makes it more likely that it will come back to the table, and I think Simurgh deserves that. I can’t help feeling that there is so much under the hood in this game that can be explored. I am ready to watch these dragons soar again.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.



Spotlight on Southern Designers: Derik Duley of Lagniappe Games

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…

profile_pic-originalDerik 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 CarcassonneStone 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. GruffX-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.

Card in HandThe 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 Side BarHot 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 FarmageddonHocus, 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?Project Image 2

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.

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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.

Web Banner*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.spacebacon_final_boxtop 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!


Spice it up! With Near and Far –Kickstarter info

Since I discovered hobby games, I have kept my eye on each new wave of young designers. I have enjoyed watching them push the limits of creativity. They are blurring the lines between mechanics and game styles, they are pushing the envelope on art direction and theming, and in general they are raising the standards by which all others games will be made.

One of those designers is a big favorite of mine, Ryan Laukat, with Red Raven Games.

a9f8c9764b13c7e9694c6fc755866126_originalWell, in all honesty, I’ve only played one game, but it is one that I own in my collection and I plan to keep for a long time:  Above and Below. The sheer elegance of the storytelling-meets-worker-placement game, combined with the whimsical artwork and the intriguing premise has put all of Ryan’s recent and upcoming designs on my radar.

So what is new in Raven Raven’s world? How about a sequel of sorts to Above and Below, appropriately called Near and Far. The Kickstarter for it launched on Monday July 18, 2016 to very good success. It shattered the goal of $25,000 for funding (pretty meager goal in my opinion) in just a few minutes, and then hurdled three or four major stretch goals in the first twelve hours. be3f6c0e8dce77c394566a600a92302e_original

Why is Near and Far spicier than Above and Below? First, let’s remember that I am speculating, because I have not actually put crawfish claws on the actual product. But  three main differences between the two games really sets this new game apart and makes it one in which I want to support:

A. Campaign setting.

Ryan has been quick to state that the new system is not a legacy system like Pandemic Legacy or SeaFall. No cards will be torn up, no game boards will be changed. But based on the pictures on the Kickstarter page and Ryan’s own descriptions, it appears that your character can develop and grow after each game. I am anxious to see how this system works out in practice.

B. Storybook changes.

One of the complaints I heard from some of the reviewers on the various podcasts is also addressed. There has been a complaint that the stories in Above and Below do not mesh well. In other words, what happens in one story does not seem to have any connection with any other story. In fact, sometimes the stories slightly contradict each other. More importantly, there is not usually any payoff in the story. What I mean by that is when someone completes the adventure, the reward is usually a trinket or two or maybe even something valuable but with no real resolution of the story itself.

Near and Far seems to fix that. Ryan’s descriptions on the Kickstarter page suggest that what you decide to do and what results from that decision could affect the ongoing gameplay and future stories. That is super intriguing to me. Again I want to see how it works in execution.

C. More content.

This is another big change. Not only do fans of Above and Below get additional content for their game with certain backer and reward levels, but there also appears to be oodles more adventures for Near and Far built right in. Changes to the way the maps are done include a separate book just for the maps (which acts as a game board). The game also contains “arcade “cards which can do away with the storybooks and give you even more variability.


This could be just hype. It could be all marketing. But I don’t think so — Ryan has gotten better and better with each offering and this newest release seems to up the ante.

So, if your Above and Beliw game sessions have gotten a little bland, spice it up in May of 2017 by backing the Kickstarter offering from Red Raven Games, Near and Far. I did!

By the way, if you are going to Gen Con, it looks like Red Raven Games will be there at booth 2657. I am hoping to make it and say hello to Ryan and company.


Until next time, Laissez les bons temps rouler!


(Note: all images taken from public images posted by Red Raven Games.)