Let's start off by telling me a little bit about yourself and what it is you do.
I'm 49, live in Middletown, CT with my wife Tara and two daughters Kaitlyn and Jessica. I work at MassMutual, a large insurance company in the area of retirement income planning. I've been working there nearly 20 years.
49? Get outta here you don't look a day over 18!
Ha! Too kind, I'm young at heart, maybe that shaves 3 years off my appearance, or maybe that's just wishful thinking.
I'll take whatever I can get at this point. So tell me who you are in the tabletop industry.
I don't know if I'm a "person" in the tabletop industry. I've just always loved to design games ever since I was a kid. I was fortunate enough to get a lucky break in 2011 and get picked up by Lock n' Load Games who published Warparty and since then I've joined up with a couple of other folks, Carl Van Ostrand and Doug Hettrick to form a little LLC, called 2Ton Porcupine to design and publish games. Our first game Kapow! is scheduled to come out in November of this year.
I've played Kapow! and really enjoy it. Tell everyone a bit about it.
It is Doug Hettrick's baby, he is the lead designer. When we got together I fell in love with Kapow pretty quickly. It's a superhero vs super villain dice building game where you can build your own dice by adding and removing faces on some of the dice. The game is pretty quick, about 20 minutes and is typically played head to head as a 2 player game, all though there are other options for 3 players and even 4 players. It's suspenseful as your dice are placed behind a screen so your opponent doesn't know how you are allocating them. They can be placed on any combination of Attack, Defense, or Power Up (getting stronger and scaling for later in the game). What gives it a tremendous amount of replayability are the many different heroes and villains, each with their own set of unique powers. There is a surprising amount of strategy as you are trying to out-think your opponent, build your dice pool in the best way and knock your opponent out before they knock you out.
One thing I'd like to say about a dice game like this is that sometimes it's judged before it's played or even as someone sits down to play, they figure it must be very much luck based.
As there are so many dice, whats interesting though is that the dice don't have numerical values, they have symbols like a red fist (Might), or a Green Swirl (Agility) as examples, that are used to unlock various powers. It's not that Red is better than Green, they just allow you to take different types of actions. In addition, when you roll so many dice as you do in Kapow! there is "dice averaging" so even if someone wanted to assume there was a lot of luck, the average of rolling so many dice would even it out overtime.
How about Warparty. Was that your foray into design?
Actually, the first game I designed was an RPG called World of the Wicked Wombats back in 1983. My mother and I moved from CT to Hawaii and I had lost all my D&D books somehow in the move, so I had to design my own RPG. When I ended up moving back to CT a few years later the RPG came with me and I played it with my friends for many years after.
Warparty, on the other hand, was a project of passion for so many years and I never even thought about getting it published for at least 10 years after I made it. I played Axis and Allies for the first time in the early 90s and as soon as I played, I couldn't help but think how cool it was, but how it might be even better with a Fantasy theme. I remembered I still had some D&D miniatures in my grandparent's attic from when I was a kid and within a week Warparty was made. I had a group of friends that played it for years and years and it evolved from a 4 player game with a few dozen miniatures to a 6 player game with 8 different armies each consisting of hundreds of minis, played on board that spanned over a ping-pong sized table and the game would take half a summer to play.
Years later, I met a local gamer, Chris Orszak who was into all different kinds of games and he convinced me to boil my design down to something marketable, something that could be played in a few hours and could still be a lot of fun. We traded in our minis for chits and went on a long multi-year search for publishers, as we had absolutely no clue about the gaming industry at the time and finally we ended up with Lock n' Load offering us a contract. It was quite a journey, in which there are a ton more details about on our BoardGameGeek page (designer diary) if anyone cares to look into that.
What was the road to Lock n' Load like?
It was a tough road. We, my Co-Designer Hal Von Hofe and I, went to WBC - World Board Gaming Championships in PA in 2008.
We went with an ugly prototype and zero board gaming industry knowledge.
We set up a table and asked people to try Warparty. On the first day, we had one person play and we were pretty depressed, but it was a week-long convention and through the course of the week things got better. We got some great feedback and we went back to the drawing board
In 2009 with a better prototype we had more people play it and what was really cool is some people would come back and play again, at 3 hours a clip. We took their feedback on a form which we would ask them to fill out and fold up and slip into a closed box. We asked them to brutally honest so we can improve the game and then we walked away as they were giving the written feedback. We told everyone we wouldn't look at it or open the sealed box until the end of the week. I would recommend that process to anyone.
Somewhere along this time frame, we had interest from Uwe Eickert from Academy Games and also from Zev from Z-man. They both took quite a long time to finally say no to Warparty. Zev basically said it was a decent enough game, but it had to be done with minis and that would make it too expensive.
We were crushed, with so much good feedback, but no publishers. Finally, I met Mark Walker from LNL and he picked it up.
After signing with LNL we went back to WBC in 2011 for the last time. We had 4 prototypes and they were running all week long 3 out of 4, sometimes all 4.
We had many people play over and over again, it was incredibly rewarding. Finally, LNL did their very first KS and Warparty was born.
There is another tale about the actual KS process back in 2011, but I can save that for another day 🙂
Great story! We'll have to play someday.
I'd love to. Do you like fantasy wargames?
You might like Warparty, I think Undead Viking said it the best "Warparty is what Conquest of Nerath" (by Wizards of the Coast) should've been"
Sounds like I really would! I may have to review it myself 😉
So how did you end up with Carl and Doug?
Carl and Doug are local gamers. I met them at the Board Room in Middletown. They have many great ideas for games. They currently have a game they are under contract with for Eagle Gryphon, called This is Only a Test (KS coming later this year). We decided to band together, since we were all friends and try to help each other with our designs. I love working with them.
I remember playing This is Only a Test at CT-FIG. Also a game about making sausage.
Sausage Factory! Yes, they designed that as well. I hope that will get published someday.
What about you? Anything in the works?
Yes, I have a game I'm really excited about called "Conquest of the New World". It's about colonizing the Caribbean in the 1600s. It's a combination of a historical, area control, worker placement game with a very small touch of "Take That."
It's the first game I've ever made that doesn't use dice and where you can't directly attack your opponents
How far along are you?
Really pretty close. The game is developed and well playtested. I've received very positive feedback on it. There are just a few balance tweaks with some cards that we are working through the process on now. After that, I think I want to explore talking to a well-established publisher. We can always do it ourselves with 2Ton Porcupine, but the KS process can be painful for newer publishers. If I could find an established publisher that might be ideal.
Any details about the game you'd like to share?
Each player uses their individual player board to initiate their actions each turn. They take two actions per turn, however, if they eventually build a city, and then build a wharf upgrade, they can upgrade the entire city to a Port, and then have 3 actions per turn. While that sounds, ideal it is a lengthy and expensive process and is not at always the best path to victory.
Colonies are represented by tiles and are drawn and come out throughout the course of the game as players explore. A player can build either a Fort, Farm or Town on each tile. The Fort provides a free explorer each turn which is great because the player does not only not have to spend money to recruit the explorer but saves the action to do so as well. The Farm will allow the player to harvest sugar. Every turn a player with a farm or farms receives 1 sugar cube per farm. Each farm can hold up to 3 sugar cubes. When the player uses a harvest action they may sell all their sugar for 3 gold each. A player with single farm will be rich in the early stages of the game, however, they can build more farms to maintain wealth in the later stages of the game. Lastly, the town can be upgraded with Wharves, Roads, Lumber mills and Governors Manion. A town can further be upgraded to a city and a City to a Port or Capital. The player who starts by building a town on their first colony will have a lot of options.
The game ends when a player has 6 colonies and builds a capital city. Conquest Points are scored based on the number and quality of Colonies and any hidden National Objective cards you have scored.
I suppose that was more than just a little bit about the game and more like a brief rule summary overview. Of course, there is a lot more to it, like all the various actions that players can do and how they may contest each other for control of the various colonies. Since it is the Caribbean in the 1600s Pirates are a part of the game as well, since it is the Golden Age of piracy, however, the game is not about Pirates.
Sounds pretty awesome.
Thanks! I’m excited about it!
So we've covered quite a bit! Anything you'd like to add before we wrap up?
I think that just about covers it. Thank you for being an advocate for gaming!
About the Nor'easter Series
Nor'easters is a series of articles spotlighting a different tabletop game designer, publisher, or content creator from the Northeastern United States each week. The series was inspired by all the amazing people in the industry I've met over the years in my home region of the US.
Make sure to come back every week and see who is spotlighted next! To see a complete listing of the series' articles, click here.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.