I know it’s hard to admit that I might have a problem, but I do. I love board games and I’m specially fond of card games. They’ve been a great gateway for my (now) 6 year old son, who started playing simple card games with me and is nowadays aiming for more complex stuff.
An additional problem I have (which descends from the main “problem” of hoarding board games) is that Kickstarter has been a great source of great and undiscovered games, and I’ve been pledging a lot until a couple of months. The idea of being able to help make a great game concept a reality is something that I’m always willing to dive into.
LONGBOAT was one of the games I’ve discovered and that I ended up playing through Tabletopia. A family oriented game with great artwork, and that is now on their final 24 hours stretch to get funded and it is missing just a few pledges to get funded.
Since I’ve only discovered the game a couple of days ago, I contacted its author, Mike Kay, game designer and illustrator, to talk about it.
He answered the interview while on his honeymoon, which makes me feel bad for interrupting it and also proves that as any creative mind he might have a slight madness for answering it now (I could only imagine what my wife would do to me if I answered an interview during our honeymoon). I can’t thank him enough for doing it and I double wish Mike the best: for the Kickstarter campaign and for the damage control on answering interviews during his honeymoon. Brave, brave man, you are.
I noticed from the Kickstarter campaign that this is your first game. Before putting everything on LONGBOAT, did you already have other projects to choose from?
When I quit my design job in December last year the aim was to kickstart a project called A Haunting at Sea which is an asymmetric horror game I’d been working on around my day job for about a year and a half.
I got as far as professional prototypes and things were looking very good. But, when I crunched the numbers I found I’d be looking at a target of at least £50,000. My research told me that first time kickstarters have more luck sticking to 4 figures, so in late January I went back to the drawing board. I had a few ideas that I was working on and longboat seemed the obvious choice. Being contained in a single deck of cards, it was achievable, and I felt it was a good idea with a lot of potential.
As a one man show you’re both game designer and illustrator. Which of those 2 do you identify the most?
It would have to be illustrator. I’ve been drawing my whole life and it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. Plus I haven’t officially released a game yet, so I only game design at an armature level thus far. But, if Longboat makes it (fingers crossed) I’ll have a game out there and I can take myself a little more seriously as a game designer!
LONGBOAT looks like a true family-oriented game. Did you test it with adults only? And how did they react to the game?
The game development was adults only until the rules were really locked down. I have some very supportive and patient friends who have been vital to the games development. But I always had in mind that I wanted it to be accessible to young players. I’ve since had contact with other test players via Instegram who have test played with their kids. And they’ve enjoyed it from what I understand, which was a relief.
As a father and an avid board gamer, I’m always looking into games that are mistakenly easy: with simple mechanics, but complex possibilities that could help improve a child’s way of thinking. Is LONGBOAT one of those?
I truly hope so! I have great memories of playing games with my family whilst growing up and would like to think they helped me develop problem solving skills and such. So, the idea of a kid getting some benefits from playing Longboat beyond just fun makes me very happy.
‘Simplicity mechanics but complex possibilities’ is exactly what I’ve been aiming for. We test played a lot of different rule sets and I was constantly trying to strip down and refine things. Getting rid of anything too fiddly so that the game flowed better and trying to focus on what makes it fun to play.
In terms of mechanics and “ease-of-access” what influences did you have?
It’s hard to pick one game. There are so many lovely games out there and I try my best to keep an eye on what’s going on. And, as much as I would love to think this is a wholy unique idea, it’s hard not to see influences when I look for them.
I’d defiantly have to say that I used Sushi Go as a bench mark. It’s simple but tactical and runs on a very minimal rule set. Plus it’s production value is superb (those lovely linen cards!). So that was something I kept coming back to as a comparison for a good family game.
What’s in the future for you and Wighthartgames?
Beyond this Kickstarter, I have another card game I’m working on with a good friend. It’s a slightly more mature concept which pushes negotiation and skulduggery. Plus we’re going with a retro sci-fi setting which will be great fun to illustrate!
I like the idea of focusing on card games for the time being. Producing compact but engaging games that you can take with you. Games are for sharing after all. Good games in small boxes.
But maybe I’ll get back to the bigger ideas some day…
Do you see yourself specializing in family oriented games?
In short, not specifically. As I mentioned earlier, I have great memories of playing games with family growing up. And the idea of giving families a game to make those memories too, makes me very happy. However, the game I was originally developing was a horror. Looking through my concept list it really does fluctuate between dark and serious, to light and whimsical. I’d hate to deliberately restrict myself to just one style.
LONGBOAT game’s photo credits to Alex Greatwich.