I met first met Jon in 2015 during my first trip to PAX East. At the time Lay Waste Games was showing off early copies of Dragoon to help pump the Kickstarter for the game. After chatting up Jon & company I ended up previewing the game for Purple Pawn.
I would catch up again with Jon the next year at PAX East, then the next convention, and the next, and the next. It's become something I always look forward to whenever a convention rolls around.
Tell me a bit about who you are and what you do.
My name is Jon Ritter and I am one of the co-founders of Lay Waste Games, creators of Dragoon, Human Era, and soon Life Siphon. My job started as doing all the other stuff besides Art and Game Design. Now, I'm focused mainly on sales, operations, and manufacturing.
I also have two other businesses. One is a consulting company called Other Stuff. We are focused on helping creators make games by assisting them with all the other stuff they either don't know how to do or don't want to do.
The other is Eleven Metal, which manufactures metal stateside for boardgames.
What's your history with gaming? How did you get into the hobby, and how did you get into designing?
I grew up playing games, which is likely what everyone says haha. My childhood was full of games like Monopoly, Guess Who?, Risk, Candyland, and Uno. That shifted quickly into video games when I turned maybe 8/9, and I didn't come back to boardgames until I was in my 20s.
I never thought of creating games until some childhood friends (Jake and Zach Given) approached me with a game they designed. They had made something that was fun but didn't know how to make it a real thing. I was always a person who worked hard and figured things out, so I decided to take a shot at it. Kickstarter seemed like the logical choice given our position. But first, we reached out to an artist (Nick Nazzaro) who made this fun game visually badass. The Kickstarter was successful in March 2015 and I've been working in the industry ever since.
That first game was Dragoon?
Did Eleven Metal come out of the work done with all of Dragoon's awesome metal components?
It did! Kind of. My father has worked in the metal industry for years, so I always had the ability to make metal stateside. After we made the decision to make metal for Dragoon, other companies came to me asking for work. It just made sense to help them out, because of the more awesome metal stuff in games, the better!
That's really awesome. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Ohhhh too many! Haha. Most I can't discuss, but my involvement ranges from Lay Waste Games publishing and internal projects, production consulting, general advice, and a few metal projects here and there. One thing I make a point of doing is offering as much free advice and time to people who are just starting because that is what helped me so much in the beginning. Paying that forward is important to make this industry the best it can be.
So with everything you do, what's your typical day like?
A typical day doesn’t exist for me. In a given week, one day I might be driving to Rhode Island to pick up metal, another might be contacting distributors, another full of consulting calls. One day is usually set aside for random things like emails and research. One thing you need to quickly realize in this industry is you need to hustle. Unless you have a smash hit game which is rare, you will need to work your tail off doing. Hard work and respect for your peers is rewarded over time.
What about downtime? When do you take time to unwind, and what things do you do to recharge?
First off, downtime is hard to come by. Typical weeks are 60-80 hours. But when I have downtime, Overwatch on PS4, Netflix, and if I’m at a show/convention, board games with friends. There is a tight group of people I genuinely love playing board games with at shows. It happens maybe 6-8 times a year, and maybe 1-2 nights a show, but it gives me calm in the chaos of a convention. Favorites include Secret Hitler, Inheritance, Deep Sea Adventure, and even though we only did it once a few years back, Action Castle.
Let's talk a bit about Other Stuff. Can you give any examples of projects you're helping out on, and what you're helping with?
Yea! I’ve helped on a number projects recently in various capacities. Notable ones would be Trogdor, Streets of Steel, and the Tokyo Series. Everyone involved in those projects is amazingly talented and kind people. I tend to be hypersensitive to the types of people I work with, which I feel is incredibly important to the industry. I see us as part of a larger unit, and what we do effect everyone.
There are some others I’m super excited about but can’t discuss, unfortunately.
Aw, man. You suck.
So what's next for Lay Waste Games?
Next for Lay Waste is one secret thing and one not so secret thing. Guess which one I can discuss??
The not so secret thing is Life Siphon coming this Spring! Jake and Zach Given are working super hard developing the game. Art and 3D modeling have already started, so prepare for some really pretty stuff from Nick Nazzaro on social media. We will be showing off at one of our favorite shows BFIG in September where it is in the showcase.
I've seen a bit about Life Siphon and can't wait to try it out at BFIG! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today and I can't wait to catch up in person soon.
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 “Devar-TTY” Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of Devar-TTY’s Pawns Perspective, Dev now focuses mostly on video games and TTRPGs. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.