Guest Interview

January Guest Interview – Dave Burke

Written by Matt Pavlovich

karmakaLast September, I attended the Boston Festival of Indie Games, a regional gathering of developers of both tabletop games and video games. The highlight of the experience was being able to play games in various stages of development at the Showcase, and one of my favorites was Karmaka from Hemisphere Games. Evidently, the wisdom of the crowd agreed with me, and Karmaka took home the Best Artwork and Best in Show awards in the tabletop category. Karmaka is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to fund its first printing.

Our current article series, Mid-Game Structures, is all about the mechanics and other design elements associated with the transitions and turning points in games. Karmaka’s design centers around moving up the karmic ladder, where each rung represents both reincarnation as a higher life form and a new phase of the game, so we thought it was a perfect fit for our Mid-Game Structures series. Today, we’ll be speaking to Dave Burke, one of the developers of Karmaka, about his design.

Games Precipice: Welcome! Thanks for taking some time out of your busy Kickstarter schedule to talk to us. Before we dig deep into the mechanics, I wanted to talk about your theme–how did you decide on something as ambitious as reincarnation?

Dave: The idea of karma has long-appealed to us (co-designer Eddy Boxerman and I) as a thematic idea to build a game around, particularly a card game.  “What goes around, comes around.”  “You reap what you sow.”  “An eye for an eye.”  That kind of stuff.  Conceptually it’s a really straightforward economy: what I do, comes back at me.  So from a design perspective, it’s simple, everyone understands it and so you’ve got a theme that people can grok quickly — you have only to mention ‘karma’ and the light bulbs start switching on in people’s minds.

karmakacards3So how to take it further?  What else does karma evoke that could inspire a mechanic in a game?  We’re not very well versed in eastern religion, but the high-level idea of living multiple lives and reincarnation maps really well onto a card game, where each life is a round of cards, say.

Or even more interestingly, what if your life ended when *you* are out of cards — but other players could play on if they still have cards.  And so everyone’s life ends at staggered times, depending on when they run out of cards, how quickly they play, etc.

And so on.  But it started from that “what goes around, comes around” pop-culture notion of karma as a simple economic model, and went from there on towards reincarnation, the Karmic Ladder, etc.


January Guest Interview – Professor Chris Hlas

Written by Alex Harkey

chalkboardOne of the most amazing benefits we have as a game design blog is the chance to talk with individuals from all corners of game design. When we saw an opportunity to learn more about an academic approach to game design we jumped at the opportunity.

We are thrilled to be joined by Professor Chris Hlas who has given us a chance to learn his approach to teaching game design. Chris is professor of mathematics and also teaches a course in game design. Let’s jump right in.

Games Precipice: Welcome Chris, thank you for joining us. You might be my new favorite professor, and I’ve never been fortunate enough to take one of your courses. What can you share with us about yourself and how did you get involved in board games?

Thanks for the compliment. I am a professor of mathematics education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. My background in mathematics means I teach the typical mathematics classes (algebra, precalculus, calculus, modern geometry) and my background in education allows me to work with preservice teachers (math for elementary teachers, technology for teachers, math methods). My research focuses on motivation in mathematics classes. As such, I have turned to games for inspiration about what is motivating in the classroom.


November Guest Interview – Tom Lehmann

Written by Alex Harkey

rftgThis month we’re extremely excited to be joined by Tom Lehmann who joins us to chat about his design philosophy, collaborations with other designers and a few of his upcoming projects including Roll for the Galaxy. There is so much I want to cover so let’s jump right in.

Games Precipice: Welcome Tom, thank you for taking the time to join us. I’m curious, what initially sparked your passion for board games?

Thank for asking. I grew up overseas (Tunisia, Indonesia, and Korea) and around DC. We had very few board games, so we played them to death and invented house rules for them. This segued naturally into designing games when I was 14.

GP: What were your initial steps into a career in designing games? How did you transition into designing full-time?

Initially, I tried to be a publisher/designer, with Prism Games back in the 90s. I was a better designer than businessman, so I shifted to free-lance design, working on games one day a week while working 80% in high tech. With Race for the Galaxy‘s success, I became a full-time designer in 2008.


September Guest Interview – Vital Lacerda

Written by Alex Harkey

One of our initiatives at Games Precipice is to learn from established game designers and learn from their design decisions and thought process as their latest work achieves publication.

kanban2This month we’re excited to bring you an interview with a game designer that has stood out to us for his work with interesting themes. Vital Lacerda has emerged in recent years as a designer of heavy Eurogames with the published success of both Vinhos in 2010 and CO2 in 2012. Vital invests a great deal of time into each of his designs and so I was thrilled when he agreed to my interview opportunity in advance of the release of his title Kanban: Automotive Revolution from Stronghold Games next month at Essen.

Vital lives in Oeiras, Portugal with his wife and two daughters and has been playing games all his life. He works as a freelance graphic designer (he does the amazing 3D artwork for Kanban and his other projects).

Games Precipice: Welcome Vital, thank you for taking the time to join us. For those who are not yet familiar with your published and upcoming work, who is Vital Lacerda?

Thank you, I’m glad to talk to you guys; and I thank you for all the support.

Most of all, I consider myself a gamer. After that I’m a wannabe designer, who had the luck of having a few publishers who believe in my games. I published Vinhos in 2010 and CO2 two years later. Both games were well accepted by a few gamers, so two years later I’m releasing Kanban. It will be my 3rd game in the complex games line and its official presentation will be in Essen.

I have a tendency to design complex thinking games, because those are the types of games I love to play. My favorite game is Brass. I love Imperial, Die Macher, Age of Steam and Terra Mystica. My top games. My designs are greatly inspired by those great games.


March Guest Interview – Jamey Stegmaier

Written by Alex Harkey

One of our initiatives at Games Precipice is to learn from established game designers and learn from their design decisions and thought process as their work achieves publication.


This month we are thrilled to be joined by game designer and Kickstarter trailblazer Jamey Stegmaier. In the fall of 2012 he co-founded Stonemaier Games with fellow designer Alan Stone as a result of the success of their first game on Kickstarter entitled Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking.

Last year, Jamey ran a record setting campaign of Euphoria: Building A Better Dystopia. Stonemaier games spent the remainder of 2013 publishing and delivering on their promises for both Viticulture and Euphoria.

Over the past 18 months, Jamey has written a series of in-depth Kickstarter lessons to help prospective campaign managers organize and deliver successful projects, using the same proven approach of Stonemaier Games.


January Guest Interview – Scott Almes

Written by Alex Harkey

One of our initiatives at Games Precipice is to learn from established game designers and learn from their design decisions and thought process as their work gets published.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

This month game designer Scott Almes was generous enough to squeeze us into his very active schedule to discuss two current projects and our January monthly topic of balance in game design. Scott is known for his recent designs of Martian Dice and Kings of Air and Steam.

Already in 2014, Tiny Epic Kingdoms which will be published by Gamelyn Games has reached incredible success on Kickstarter and there is still time to be a part of it until it ends on February 8th. Scott has ten games scheduled for publishing in 2014 so we will be excited to see what else he has in store for us this year.